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May is the month of the Giro d’Italia. Not only the traditional one: this year, in parallel, the first official edition of the Giro Elettrico takes place, the race with the pedal assisted bicycles. With lots of stages, participating teams and ranking, a way to make even non-professionals live the experience of pedaling over the days and along the same roads as the two-wheeled champions.

This event demonstrates the success of the electric bike which, since it first established itself on the market, has halved the fatigue and doubled the number of cyclists. Halved, however, does not mean canceled: “Do not be deceived, it does not take you around as if it were a moped”, explains Mariano Pettavino, mtb instructor and cycling guide in Val d’Aosta (montblancaventure.it).

«It helps, but it does not replace pedaling which, on the other hand, is entirely up to you, to the point that when you stop pushing with your legs the engine stops and you don’t move. However, it allows you to overcome some difficulties such as headwinds, long distances or challenging climbs: what was previously an obstacle is now a possibility ».

Everyone wants it today

Having grasped its potential, the Italians have begun to “e-pedal”. And if a few years ago the e-bike was liquidated as a vehicle for cyclists in poor shape, today the assisted pedaling is “on the run”: according to the ANCMA (the National Association of cycle, motorcycle and accessories), in 2018 the sales of traditional bicycles in our country have suffered a slowdown of 7.6% compared to the previous year, however offset by an increase of 16.8% in e-bikes, which already had double-digit growth in 2017.

«Significant numbers, which photograph everyday reality: by now the majority of those who want to plan a day on the pedals ask for the assisted version», confirms Pettavino. “And if before it was mainly the ladies who used it, perhaps to follow her husband, now the user is generalized and transversal: everyone really wants it ».

The first models, however practically unknown, were mostly urban and intended for elderly people: an extremely limited market. So much so that companies, in an attempt to look for a new type of consumer, younger and more active, they applied the motor to the most popular type of bike, mountain bikes, in order to allow a greater number of enthusiasts access to those dirt roads, paths and off-road climbs that were previously reserved for those who were really fit.

However, it was not love at first pedaling: the e-mtb were seen by purists with poorly concealed sufficiency, but the versatility of the electric soon won over even the champions, who began to use it in the unloading sessions as a cool-down. The mass diffusion, then, did the rest, to the point that pedal assistance was soon transferred to road, racing and touring models as well.

Today there is as well the version for the family, with child seats or trolleys, also equipped with rain protection.

It offers many benefits

This new trend also has positive repercussions on public health, because it has dramatically expanded the audience of those who enjoy the benefits of aerobic activity. A recent study by the Sports Medicine Department of the University of Basel, Switzerland, involved 32 untrained and overweight people and showed that the results of e-bike training are comparable to those of traditional cycling.

The researchers also noted that cardiorespiratory improvements had already been achieved within a month and the benefits recorded were even daily. Professor Arno Schmidt-Trucksaess, one of the promoters of the study, explained that those who use pedal assistance enjoy permanent benefits: blood pressure is regularized, fat metabolism increases, as well as general well-being.

How to use it to the best

The pedal assistance is not immediate like that of the normal bike.

«Nothing difficult, mind you. But the first few times it is advisable to contact a professional guide, who will help you understand how to use the various assistance modes (Eco, Tour, Turbo) in order to avoid running out of battery. And above all he advises you what to do downhill, a situation in which a little technique is required », explains Mariano Pettavino, mtb instructor.

The e-bike has a remarkable inertial speed due to its weight, which is around 20 kg, and requires caution. You descend keeping your feet parallel to the ground, often getting up on the pedals and compensating for the slope by moving the pelvis back on the saddle. You have to keep a speed that always gives you a feeling of control and safety of the vehicle, so it is important to acquire good confidence with the brakes.

To modulate braking and prevent the front wheel from jamming, the pressure on the lever must be adjusted to the braking power of the disc ».

Once you have learned the fundamentals, a world opens up for you to explore by pedal, even without the need for an instructor.

The climbs of the tour within everyone’s reach

The spread of e-bikes has allowed everyone to reach the sacred places of cycling, starting from Ghisallo, between the two branches of Lake Como, where the Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna dei Ciclisti, commissioned by Pope Pius XII in 1948 and the Cycling Museum. This year the Giro d’Italia passes through it during the 15th stage, on May 26th.

The day before, the riders tackle another climb not to be missed with assisted pedaling: Colle San Carlo da Morgex, in Val d’Aosta. Another two-wheeled legend is the Stelvio Pass, between Lombardy (starting from Bormio) and Alto Adige (going up from Prato allo Stelvio).

Just like the Dolomites, with an almost infinite network of off-road itineraries from hut to hut, starting from the Sella Ronda, the famous tour of the Pordoi, Gardena, Sella and Campolongo Passes.

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Article published in fitness-inc.com n ° 23 on newsstands from 21 May 2019

Tag: electric bike, e-bike.