The largest demographic of buyers of electric bikes in America are those aged 50+, and as someone who is in her early 50s, I know that needs change. I’m a lot stiffer in the morning, my balance isn’t as good as it used to be, and I’m dealing with old injuries. But riding an ebike keeps me healthier, both mentally and physically, so they are a great choice for those who want to continue enjoying the outdoors or commute by bike. So, I put together a few things to look for in an electric bike if you’re an older rider, and a list of some of the best ebikes for older people to buy.
Here Are the Features to Look For:
- Step-Thru Frame
- Bike Has a Throttle
- Motor Has Smooth Uptake
- Upright Riding Position
- Cadence Sensor
- Bike Fits Your Height
- Feet Can Touch the Ground
- Fat Tires
- Hydraulic Brakes
The bike you choose doesn’t have to have all of these features, but you need to consider what features you need the most. If you have balance issues, a step-thru frame is a must. If you have knee sensitivity, you will find that a cadence sensor requires much less pressure when pedaling over a torque sensor.
Many seniors can ride bikes with a standard frame and skinnier tires. My dad is almost 80 and can out-pedal me! We’re all different, but knowing and having met many older riders myself, I know that certain features are most appreciated by older riders.
A step-thru frame is probably the most appreciated. Electric bike step-thru frames aren’t considered women’s bikes. Many men choose them, because they make so much sense. Since electric bikes are heavier and motorized, it is essential that you have good control of them. Being able to straddle the frame when stopped is ideal.
Many older riders also appreciate having a throttle. Not only can a throttle give you a break when you need it, but they’re just fun. That’s something that I’ve definitely learned about older people, and I can include myself in that group, is that they/we like having fun! I don’t want a boring bike. I just want one that’s fun and safe to ride.
Some of the most fun ebikes are fat tire ebikes. Many have 20″ wheels which bring you closer to the ground. 4-inch wide fat tires provide better stability and comfort than more narrow tires. Many ebikes in this category also have folding frames, so you can transport the bike to wherever you want to ride more easily.
If you have arthritis in your hands, hydraulic brakes are recommended because you don’t have to pull the brake levers as far or with as much force. I also prefer hydraulic brakes because they require far less maintenance since there’s no cable stretching, and they generally have better braking power over mechanical brakes.
Most of all, ebikes that are safer to ride are those that have smoother takeoffs. Some ebikes are herky jerky when the motor kicks in, or are too sensitive when you begin pedaling, or, on the other hand, too unresponsive. A good quality cadence sensor will detect your pedaling fairly quickly, but it’s the bike’s controller that will determine how much power the motor will deliver when you begin pedaling, and what speed the bike will reach at each pedal assist level.
Some ebike displays will allow you to customize those power settings. Many ebikes from Ride1Up have displays that allow you to specify how much power the motor provides at each pedal assist level. I wish all ebikes had this.
Electric Bikes That I Would Recommend for Older Riders
Below is the Ride1Up 700 Series in a step-thru frame and the Ride1Up 500 Series in a step-over frame. Both bikes are available in both frame styles. I love how power is delivered on both of these bikes. They are both very comfortable full-size ebikes to ride and great for a pedaling enthusiast, like myself.
Below is the Ride1Up Prodigy ST. This is a mid-step, mid-drive ebike with an incredibly stable ride due to its stiff frame. This is the best pedaling bike I’ve ever ridden. The Brose motor delivers a smooth takeoff and a natural pedaling experience.
Even at only 5’1″ tall, I’m able to mount the bike very easily and safely, and get a foot down when stopped. The motor is also the quietest motor I’ve used, which I appreciate when riding in natural areas and around other riders.
The Prodigy does have a torque sensor, but even with a sensitive knee from a past surgery, I don’t develop any pain from pedaling the bike. I think a lot of that is due to good frame geometry which allows for proper leg extension, and a terrific Brose mid-drive motor with sophisticated sensors. The Prodigy is also available as a standard frame, and with front suspension, as an option. You can read my full review of the Prodigy here.
I’ve also found that bikes from Rad Power Bikes are very good at power delivery, in that they have smoother takeoffs. The RadRunner and RadExpand 5 are both favorites of many senior riders.
Pictured below is the RadRunner, and boy do I miss that bike! I loved cruising around on it, just using the throttle. It reminded me of a cool-looking little moped, but one that I could take on the bike trail and pedal comfortably. The RadRunner is also highly customizable with many available accessories through Rad Power Bikes and third-party companies. As an electric cargo bike, it can haul quite a bit, even a passenger! It also has smooth takeoffs and good brakes.
The only issue I had with it was that it was a little too tall for me. Again, I’m short at 5’1″ with a 28-inch inseam, so if you’re petite the RadRunner might not be the best choice. For nearly anyone else, it’s a great option.
What is a great choice for shorter and/or older riders is the RadExpand 5. It’s a very approachable bike with a step-thru frame, low standover height, fat tires, handlebars that are adjustable for reach (as are the handlebars on the RadRunner), and safe takeoffs. It’s also more nimble and weighs less than the RadRunner. The RadExpand 5 is also available in black, which looks really cool. I think it looks like a little motorcycle!
Another electric bike that I think is very good for older riders is the Buzz Centris. Like the RadExpand 5, it is also a folding bike with 4″ wide fat tires, but with a little more affordable price. I’ve found it to be very safe on takeoffs, smooth, stable, especially with its knobby tires, and with very good braking ability. It has mechanical brakes, but some of the best mechanical brakes that I have used. It also has a very comfortable riding position and a wide step-thru frame for easily getting on and off the bike. You can do some off-roading with the Centris, too. Its knobby tires and front suspension do a good job on gravel and dirt trials. You can read my full review of the Buzz Centris here.
While many reviewers also include the Lectric XP 2.0 on such a list, I think it might be a little much for some older riders. It has a faster takeoff from a dead stop, and if you’re in any pedal assist level higher than level one, when you’re going around a corner and turn the pedals, the motor might provide more power than you can handle.
Many older riders love the Lectric XP 2.0, so I want to include it, but just wanted to add my personal experiences with it, as an older and shorter rider myself. I think the better option for a lot of older riders is the Lectric XP Lite. It’s more lightweight and more nimble than the XP 2.0. That makes it more practical to fold and lift, but also easier to control when riding. It’s also one of the most affordable ebikes on the market.
I hope this has been a helpful guide and list to help you choose the best bike for you. There are many great choices out there, but I only included bikes that I have actually ridden or owned myself. I think the above bikes are great for anyone of any age, but suit older riders well.
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