Comment of the Week: Legs of steel and the e-bike

Family columnist Shannon Johnson hit the ball out of the park last week with her post about wanting “legs of steel” despite the constraint of biking with five young ‘uns. She was thinking of switching from her e-bike back to a regular bike, and asked for your advice. And boy did you all respond. Seems like everybody wants to talk about bikes on this site, go figure.

For me, what gave her post some depth was that Shannon’s dilemma is universal, and comes down to how to accommodate change — that’s a problem that runs through life, including successfully aging in place. So the responses were intimate, sort of a peek into how other people live.

This is one of those threads that is worth reading from top to bottom, and Jonathan led it off. But don’t miss Taylor too. And for some reason, the comments which made my short list were all written by people whose name begins with an “M.” So definitely read all “M—” comments.

Here’s some good advice from ML:

I am a mom of 2 (3.5 yrs and 11 mos) and don’t think I would trade either of my e-bikes. For the daycare run and weekend excursions, the primary benefit is that I can always get up to speed and have more maneuverability in traffic.

I would definitely recommend test riding a bunch of things, maybe borrowing or renting for several days if possible. If you’re looking for the feeling of working harder or think you might be happy with (a) switching to a 2-wheeled long tail ebike that can carry your 2-3 youngest kids only, and/or (b) getting your own non-electric bike. On my Tern HSD I found it surprisingly comfortable to ride around on Low most of the time, whereas with a bulkier bike I always wanted to add more assist.

It is 100% worth figuring out childcare arrangements so you have time (even if it’s just twice a month) to ride separately from the kids on their own bikes, and you can control your own speed.

I think a 2-wheeled e-bike might be a good compromise of your family carrying needs + personal desire to feel zippier and pedal harder. I’m registered for a 50 mile mountain bike race this summer and plan to do a significant portion (maybe 1/3) of my training time on an e-bike carrying the kids. Between my kids I got decent fitness doing one 2-hour group ride a week on my road bike plus one 2-3 hour e-bike bike with the toddler (mostly on the low setting, but motor off if I was feeling extra zesty). The smaller 2-wheeled bikes feel a lot better with zero/no motor than trikes.

I also wanted to say I bet you already have legs of steel! Absolute power isn’t tied to weight or size, and I have gotten absolutely smoked in bike races by people much bigger, especially on flat terrain. If you want to lose weight specifically, I recently had good luck working with a nutritionist to do it in a sustainable, science-based way where I never felt hungry – it did involve tracking all my food in an app and aiming for specific macronutrient ratios.

There are lots of pieces to this puzzle but my favorite is that you and your family all enjoy riding together. Hope you get some good experiments in to figure out how your equipment evolves to support your goals!

Thank you ML. You can read ML’s comment, and all the others starting at the top with Jonathan’s.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at

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