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Pedaling with Comfort: Are E-bikes a Good Choice for People with Bad Knees?

knee bike
Are you looking for a comfortable and practical solution to keep up a healthy exercise habit even if you have bad knees? Discover how e-bikes can provide a gentle and efficient option for you.
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Written by Alyssa Chau
Taylor Moon
Edited by Taylor Moon
Managing Editor

If you live in a crowded city, you’ve likely seen many people resort to scooters and electric bikes through the years. E-bikes have become a more affordable and practical solution, especially for those who experience regular traffic delays.

While e-bikes offer a lot of convenience, you may wonder if it is a good fit for older people or those with bad knees. Will they help you or make your condition worse? If you have been wondering the same thing, learn how to ride e-bikes comfortably, even if your body’s physical condition isn’t so good.

In this article, we’ll explore how e-bikes work and how they can benefit individuals with bad knees, bad hips, or a bad back. We’ll also discuss critical considerations and precautions so you can have a safe and enjoyable riding experience.

Understanding E-bikes: A Good Fit for Bad Knees?

To understand whether e-bikes are a good fit for those with bad knees or mobility issues, we need to look at how they work.

How E-bikes Work

Motor

Electric bikes have a motor on their front or rear hub (known as a hub motor) or in the center (known as a mid-drive motor). E-bikes with a mid-drive engine are more powerful as they engage the bike’s drivetrain. The power it generates spins the back wheel, making it easier to pedal uphill. It is, however, more expensive than an e-bike with a rear-hub motor.

Pedal Assistance

How effortless it is to pedal on an e-bike sets the electronic bike apart from a regular one. E-bikes come with a pedal assist system (PAS) that boosts your power whenever you pedal. The two main types of pedal assist systems in e-bikes are cadence and torque-based. Cadence-based assistance provides power based on the rhythm of your pedaling. Torque-based assistance provides power based on how much force you apply when you push the pedals.

Why E-bikes Could be Suitable for People with Bad Knees

If you have knee pain, WebMD recommends doing low-impact exercises like swimming, stretching, and biking.

E-bikes could be a gentler option than traditional bikes, especially for people with bad knees. By providing electric help, e-bikes can help reduce knee strain, giving you both mobility and comfort. Pedaling becomes a less strenuous and more comfortable task, and some e-bikes also come with adjustable seat height and handlebars. You can customize your riding position to what feels most comfortable.

Benefits of E-bikes for People with Knee Issues

E-bikes have much more to offer than your traditional bike. These enhancements greatly benefit users, especially those with knee issues.

Adjustable Pedal Assistance

Most e-bikes usually have three to five levels of assistance which you can select or switch between via its controller. While the e-bike’s motor won’t take over completely, you’ll still be able to get enough power without exerting as much effort as you would in a regular bike.

Low-Impact Exercise Option

Biking is a top-notch cardio workout. The good news is it’s also gentle on the back, hips, knees, and ankles. With motor and pedal assistance, an e-bike removes a lot of pressure from your joints. If you recently underwent surgery or are recovering from a knee injury, an e-bike is a great place to start your recovery.

Encouraging an Active Lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle can significantly threaten any person’s long-term health. You need regular physical activity to strengthen your body, reduce possible diseases, help manage your weight, and more. Biking is one way to do that, and with your e-bike, you can have a more active lifestyle, even if you’re suffering from bad knees.

Precautions and Considerations for People with Bad Knees

Before you get an e-bike, you need to keep some things in mind:

Starting Slowly and Gradually

When riding your e-bike, going slow and steady is the key. Go at a comfortable pace, and don’t exert effort beyond what you are capable of. Pain is a good indicator. If it hurts too much to continue, stop for a while and pick it up again the next day.

Importance of Correct Bike Setup

When choosing e-bikes for knee or back pain, you must consider your current physical condition. If you’ve got bad knees or hips, you’ll want to go with e-bike models for sensitive knees that are comfortable and easy to ride.

Before you buy your e-bike, be sure to check for comfort-focused electric bike features. You may want to consider bikes with low step-through frames so it’s easy for you to get on and off. Bikes with step-through frames have a low step-over height, so you can easily mount and dismount.

Consider getting one with a lightweight frame, like a folding e-bike, as these are easily manageable. Plus, it weighs only about 20 to 40 pounds. Get one with a suspension fork (such as the Aventon Sinch 2), so it absorbs bumps and vibrations. You can also look at options where the riding position is more upright and casual (like in the RadRunner 2), so you can bike more comfortably.

Expert Insights and User Experiences

What do experts and e-bike users say?

Expert Opinions on E-bikes and Knee Health

For people with knee pain, there’s always the fear that biking may worsen their condition. Chris Cherry, a University of Tennessee civil and environmental engineering professor, has studied the use of e-bikes and says, “The most powerful thing that e-bikes do is that they take the most painful parts of bike riding away.” 

Compared to running, biking is preferable for those with joint problems, according to Melissa Gallatin, a physical therapist at The Ohio State University. “If you have knee osteoarthritis, that places more pressure on the joint, versus just pedaling, which there’s not so much of that impact,” she says. “It can build the muscles around the joint without having the trauma of the impact.”

Even if riding an e-bike has lower intensity, you still get the necessary exercise. Jennifer Dill, Ph.D., planning and director of the Transportation Research Education at Portland State University, says that research has found that people who use e-bikes “still are in that range of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, which is what the health recommendations are for adults.”

Real-life Experiences of E-bike Users with Bad Knees

Take it from us and some real-life riders:

  • “The beginning stages of a (worn out) knee replacement has made it difficult to ride for a long distance. Thanks to my e-bike, I’m able to ride all day again.”
    Anthony M.
  • “Six years ago, I had a severe motorcycle accident [that] resulted in my right tibia being replaced by a Tibia Nail. All my life, I have had some form of bike or scooter. After my accident, I feared it came to an end. I tried riding and commuting on a normal MTB, but [the] pain and strain was unbearable. I decided to sell my MTB and purchase an e-bike…and it’s improved my mobility tremendously. Without my e-bike, the future was looking grim. I use it every day, and commuting to work got easier…”
    Paul B.
  • “I bought an e-bike over a year ago because of multiple hip and knee surgeries. Recently retired and wanted to have fun along with some exercise. This is my second e-bike since I needed something to try the trails out in Colorado. Too much fun!!!”
    Bill B.

Final Thoughts

Recovering from a knee injury or exercising when you have bad knees or hips can be a challenge, but with the help of an e-bike, it’s doable. Engaging in a more active lifestyle can strengthen your body, reduce the risk of diseases, and improve your health. If you’re thinking of incorporating an e-bike into your daily exercise or using it as a practical means to get around, it’s essential to find the electric bike that would best suit your needs and take it one step at a time.

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About Our Editorial Team

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Written by Alyssa Chau
Alyssa Chua is a freelance writer, event planner, and avid traveler. When she's not busy writing articles for clients or her own blogs, you'll find her reading books, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, or playing tennis. She embraces a quiet, slow lifestyle and enjoys the beauty of ordinary days.
Taylor Moon
Edited by Taylor Moon
Managing Editor
Taylor Moon is a seasoned editor and content marketer with a diverse background spanning journalism, entertainment, travel, B2B SaaS, technology, and digital and creative marketing. Outside of her professional realm, she cherishes moments with her husband, daughter, and two dogs, drawing inspiration from both her work and family life.

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