by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking
Recovering from hip or knee surgery can actually be fun when adding an electric-assist bike to the post-rehab process. After my second hip replacement and talking to others with hip or knee procedures, an e-bike can make the rehab process easier. Helping to achieve full-joint motion and an active lifestyle after surgery. Especially with the improvements in electric bike technologies in the last few years.
This time around, I used an e-bike from Tern Bicycles that helped me keep a comfortable cadence regardless of the terrain. A huge help in low-impact exercise to aid both the hip and knee rehabilitation process.
Incorporating an e-bike into your post-rehab process
Using an e-bike in the post-rehab process can be a great exercise. Ask your doctor or physical therapist (PT) if it is right for your specific condition. Then, once you have full movement on a stationary bike, add some light resistance with an e-bike outdoors. Usually, within four to six weeks, this will help improve the strength around the joint(s) you had replaced. Your therapist can help you determine the right amount of resistance settings when it’s time to convert to an e-bike. Just remember, if you start feeling a sharp pain, inform your therapist and decrease the resistance or stop.
Going from a stationary bike to an e-bike in the post-rehab process
During my hip rehabilitation, I had the opportunity to talk to several physical therapists at Twin Cities Orthopedics. They all recommended using a stationary bicycle for two to three weeks to help reduce the swelling. Especially after a total knee replacement, some procedures may take a bit longer before starting to ride outdoors.
After two to six weeks of using a stationary bike and a regular walking regimen, you should be cleared to start riding your bike outside.
Advancing to the e-bike outdoors
Once your physician clears you to start riding, take it slow and stop if you feel any sharp pain. Most e-bikes allow you to control the amount of electric assistance you use to gain a steady pedal rhythm or cadence. Start with the highest level of assistance in a low gear and gently spin. This will ensure that you don’t stress your rehabilitated joint. As you progress, you can gradually decrease the level of assistance for a more robust workout.
The advantages of using e-bikes as compared to other sports
As you can see in this video, riding an e-bike after knee replacement surgery provides the perfect balance in making a complete recovery. This is because a bicycle can strengthen your muscles and increase your mobility without putting too much strain on your joints when exercising. With the pedal-assist of electric power, the e-bike requires less physical intensity and allows you to retain a normal cadence level to heal faster.
Finding the perfect gear for cadence
Finding the perfect e-bicycle that allows you to pedal comfortably after surgery can be a challenge. We all have a natural cadence pace, and the body performs best as the bicycle’s crank spins with steady yet comfortable resistance. The goal with an e-bike is to allow you to shift gears and motor speed to allow you to pedal at a steady and comfortable pace even as the topography changes.
Plus, stopping, starting, or accelerating with an e-bike maximizes your chances of a full recovery and a rapid return to normal activity.
Electric bike technologies will improve the post-rehab process.
As I mention above, e-bikes are continuously changing for the better. After replacing my right hip in 2014, there were very few e-bikes available on the market. At the time, they either came with a front or rear hub motor. Like the Curry I-zip I used on back then.
Now, with mid-drive motors mounted directly into the crank, you have a balanced power movement from the pedals to the drivetrain. Making the Tern HSD E-bike with a class 1 Bosch motor system perfect for my recent left hip post-rehab process. Thanks to Perennial Cycles, in Minneapolis, for their assistance.
Some added e-bike buying tips for the post-rehab process.
After talking to others who have used an e-bike post-rehab process, here are a few more suggestions when looking for an e-bike that fits your needs and budget:
- Look for a pedal-assist motor – Class 1 system – stay away from throttle bikes
- Avoid rear bub motors – the off-balance weight and throttle will kill your progress
- Make sure the e-bike has a dropper seat post (especially for knees), as adjustments will need to be made through the rehab process
- Also recommended, riser or adjustable handlebars, so you sit upright instead of leaning forward
- Use a non-slip pedal – a Chester pedal with pins works great and still allows you to quickly dismount to move your foot to the ground and stabilize your balance.