E-bikes and older riders: Could a silver tsunami change the face of cycling?

ebike derestricted

There’s a quiet revolution going on in the world of cycling. Not too long ago talk was of e-bikes of being a cheat, but more often than not critics had yet to try an electric bicycle for themselves. Truth is, you only have to cover 100 metres on an electric bike to understand their potential to broaden the appeal of cycling. It’s the reason that these days, ebikes are not only mainstream, they’re taking over.

Five million e bikes…and counting

You need look no further than the spiritual home of cycling to witness how popular battery-assisted cycling has become. The Netherlands now has five million e-bikes representing a market value of almost €10 billion. Broken down by e-bike category, this eye-watering sum comprises electric city bikes (75%), hybrid bicycles (17%), speed ​​pedelecs ( ebikes that can travel up to 30mph – 2%), e-cargo bikes (2%), mountain bikes (2%), folders (1%) and trikes (1%).

According to a poll by Multiscope among the one-in-three Dutch who’ve bought an e-bike, owners are often older than fifty.

This electrifying of the bike market driven by an older demographic isn’t confined to cycle-friendly nations. According to the  Light Electric Vehicle Association, the US imported almost 800,000 e-bikes in 2021, a significant increase from the nearly 450,000 e bikes imported the year before. It’s almost three years since e-bike sales outpaced conventional bicycles.

It’s easy to understand why an older demographic is driving the surge in e-bike sales. E-bikes Direct says 40% of its customers are over 50 and is one of a growing number of outlets promoting the benefits of battery-assisted bikes to an ageing population.

For older folk in particular, e-bikes boost cardio vascular health, stimulate the mind and can be a sociable activity – all with the comfort of knowing the electric motor can offer help when needed. And for those with balance issues, there’s always electric assist tricycles.

Those of us waiting patiently for widespread, good quality cycling infrastructure may benefit directly from a shift to e-bikes by the older generation. Might the views, but more importantly votes, held by this traditionally politically-engaged group hasten a new age of pro-cycling policies?

Bike ownership by age

girl wheeling her bicycle away from school

We’re most likely to own, or have access to, a bicycle here in the UK aged 5-10

We’re most likely to own, or have access to, a bicycle here in the UK aged 5-10. According to Statista, 88 per cent of kids at that age have a bike – a figure that dwindles over time to around a third of us by the time we reach our late twenties. According to their research access to a bike peaks in our 40s at 58 per cent before tailing off to about a quarter in our retirement years.

E-biking into old age

We are proud to say that Ernest Slade stills holds the record as our oldest cycle insurance customer. When he made a claim against his policy a few years back, he invited us to his home for a cup of tea and a natter about the bikes he’s owned over the years – brands like BSA, Rudge and Hercules.

When Ernest retired (28 years prior to our chat), he traded his car for an e-bike, which became his daily transport. When he wasn’t off to the local lake for a sail, he used it for local errands – including the one-and-a-half miles to his GP.

People often overlook the benefits of a bicycle as a mobility aid, but as Ernest explained to me, his electric-assist bicycle allowed him to travel for miles. And as he pointed out, “It’s quicker by bike than it is by car”.

It was a privilege to meet Ernest. Listen to our chat in full below.

Insurance for e-bikes

We’ve been providing specialist cycle cover for over 30 years and we’re proud to be rated as Britain’s most ethical provider by The Good Shopping Guide.

We cover all road-legal electric bicycles as standard. If the output of your electric bicycle does not exceed 250 W/15.5 mph, we’ll cover it under our cycle insurance at no additional cost.

We also include Cycle Rescue as standard. If your ebike develops a mechanical fault, you can call on our breakdown team 24/7.

Every cycle insurance policy of ours includes the following as standard:

• Theft, accidental damage & vandalism
• E bike battery theft cover
• Cycle Rescue (breakdown cover for your electric bicycle and you)
• No devaluation of your bike over time
• £2m third party PLUS £20,000 personal accident cover
• Shed and garage storage
• Low standard excess of 5% (£50 minimum)

Read a full list of everything we include as standard.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.


  1. Alan O’Brien


    I bought an e-bike seven years ago, and I’ve hardly ever ridden it. Before that, I tried a Brompton, but my average on the Brompton is 6 miles a year.

    The reasons are that cycling is just too scary. It was OK when I lived in flat northern Germany nearly 50 years ago, but I’ve hardly done any cycling since moving to hilly northern England, although I can still get up these hills without assistance. The last time I rode the Brompton it took me 45 minutes to do a journey which takes 5 minutes by car, simply because the roads were so crowded and I felt really vulnerable. Paying almost £2,000 for an e-bike didn’t make any difference. I also find I can’t ride in a straight line, and was once accused by a faster passing cyclist of deliberately obstructing him.

    I also don’t know anyone else who would ride a bike in traffic.

    I still pay insurance premiums to the ETA every year, thinking maybe I’ll try again one day, but to be candid: it’s too much trouble getting ready to go out in protective gear; the default weather round here is rain; there are too many hills; there is too much traffic; there are too many people ready to shout at me even when I’m in the right; I don’t feel safe; and for local journeys it’s actually quicker to walk anyway; e-bikes don’t improve any of those things. So no more cycling for me.

  2. Eric Robertson


    I did think of taking out cycle insurance with you. However because of the price of my e-bike I’d have to use a gold standard padlock to lock it up outside. These padlocks are very heavy indeed and would considerably increase the overall weight of my cycle which is heavy anyway. Since these padlocks are just as easy to cut off as a silver padlock by determined thieves with an angle grinder I find it difficult to see why you insist on this. Several insurance companies who cover house insurance seem to appreciate this and don’t demand the use of a gold standard padlock when they’re covering the loss of more expensive cycles.cycles.

    Your approach in this matter doesn’t seem to fit well with your ethical claims!

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