eBikes Change Lives: Rahsaan Bahati

Rahsaan Bahati walking with his Raleigh Electric Redux iE commuter electric bike

Electric bikes are an exciting and relatively new phenomenon in the bicycle world. One part bike and one part electric motor machine, they are revolutionizing the way many think about traveling and recreating on two wheels. Like regular bicycles, they rely on the rider's pedaling input to move forward, but the bonus is the added thrust provided by the battery-powered electric motor that ramps up the ability to cover ground and go faster.

E-bikes have caught some folks off guard, as they don't quite know what to make of them yet. Like any emerging technology, they have met some resistance because they might seem foreign to some people or they are perceived as a threat to the traditional bicycle. That's to be expected, really, but once people get to try a quality electric bike for the first time, the tide often turns and they leave the experience thinking, 'Wow! That was really fun!'

That was the case with former professional road racer, Rahsaan Bahati, sort of. He was at an event years ago with his mother when they came across a display for e-bikes. She was genuinely interested thinking they might be a good way for her to get around. He figured he might as well try one too, but at the time he wasn't too impressed with the way it rode. "All right, that's kind of cool," he thought. "But it was sort of in one ear and out the other, and I never thought about an e-bike again," he confessed.

Rahsaan Bahati chilling with his Raleigh Electric Redux iE commuter eBike

Several years later, Rahsaan had retired from the professional racing circuit and got the chance to try a more modern and refined electric bike. That was all it took. His entire outlook on e-bikes was changed in that one test ride. "I thought, this thing is tight!" he recalled of the experience. And why? Because it was so much fun of course. He explained it this way, "You take three pedal strokes and it feels like someone is giving you a push in the back to go even faster. Now that's fun!"

"You take three pedal strokes and it feels like someone is giving you a push in the back to go even faster. Now that's fun!"

Since then, Rahsaan has relied on an e-bike for his own transportation. It's certainly more entertaining than sitting in a car and it cuts time off his commute affording him extra time with his three daughters. "That extra hour is so precious to me," he says of the time he saves commuting on his Raleigh Electric Redux iE. "I could be doing so many other things. Homework is the first thing that I get on with my kids when I get home. That's important."

Rahsaan Bahati test riding his new custom Raleigh Electric Redux iE

But more than freeing up time to help his kids with their homework, electric bikes have also given them a new way to connect as a family. Rahsaan's daughters are budding track runners, but keeping up with dad on a bike might still be a tall order for them. Bringing home an e-bike for the girls to try sparked a new sense of adventure for them. Running errands or making a trip to the store with their dad turned into exciting escapades, to say nothing of the fun potential on weekend excursions. The electric bikes became an activity they could do together without the individual fitness gaps sometimes associated with riding, and as he said, "My daughter sees it as a way to go farther, faster, and it's so true. And they absolutely love it!"

"My daughter sees it as a way to go farther, faster, and it's so true. And they absolutely love it!"

The fitness barrier is something often encountered when cyclists try to introduce others to riding. Electric bikes help remove the limitations of physical abilities, opening the door to enjoying riding with others because of their equalizing effect. The 'tailwind' feeling created by the pedal assistance of electric bikes can get just about anyone up to speed and let them experience the exhilaration of riding bikes. And it doesn't have to be all about keeping up with others, either. It can enable individuals to take up or maintain their riding in a way that's most approachable for them.

This said, the question often asked is, can e-bikes open the door to broader bicycling participation? In his work at a local bike shop in Santa Monica, Rahsaan met a guy who had just moved out from Minnesota, and he wanted to ride a bike to get around but was too intimidated by the idea of trying to ride a bike in traffic on the hilly streets there. Rahsaan talked him into testing an e-bike. "The best way to get someone to understand it is to ride it. There really is no other way," he said. "If you could only use visual and verbal ways to express how awesome e-bikes are, there's really only one or two things you can say: One, you can get from point A to point B faster. Two, they're so much fun!" And he was right. The E-bike removed the intimidation factor the customer had been feeling and he left with a bolstered sense of confidence and anticipation knowing that he could indeed ride a bike in his new surroundings and have fun doing it.

Rahsaan Bahati commuting on his Raleigh Electric Redux iE

E-bikes can be a great equalizer enabling folks of all fitness levels and physical condition to enjoy the freedom and camaraderie of bicycling. Whether it's someone who might otherwise struggle to keep up with the group on an after work mountain bike mini-epic, or a grandparent who just needs a little more energy to keep up with the grandkids, the confidence and added propulsion provided by an electric bike can make all the difference to folks who just need a little extra help on occasion to keep doing the things they enjoy.

The benefits e-bikes can bring in situations like these are enormous and should have us all thinking about the role they can play in our lives and the lives of others. The power of technology is undoubtedly changing the way we think about things, and while the next chapter has yet to be written about electric bikes, they will certainly bring enjoyment and help unite and inspire people for years to come.