As you’ve likely already guessed from the name, an E-Bike is very similar to an everyday bicycle. The main difference being it has an electric powered motor to assist your pedalling when needed.
You can operate an E-Bike by pedaling alone exactly the same as you would a normal bike, but you also have the option of using the motor when you choose. There are many reasons why E-Bikes are great, but they’re particularly handy for helping you get up steep or lengthy hills, deal with a headwind or getting extra power when you’re too worn-out to pedal anymore. More importantly for some though, E-Bikes make it possible for you to go cycling with friends and family you might not normally consider riding with, due to struggling to keep up when relying on your leg power alone. Not any more though…
A common misconception is that E-Bikes are the same as a scooter or a motorcycle. Though they do share some similarities, particularly when it comes to the benefits they give you, unlike their more cumbersom motorized cousins, an E-Bike still has the option of being powered manually. A vital detail that makes all the difference for many people who want the benefits of motor assistance but without all the extra effort, responsiblity and risk that until only recently has always had to come with it. That’s not the case any more though.
E-bikes can either come purpose built with their motor built in, or it’s also possible to convert an everyday bicycle to an e-bike by using an E-Bike conversion kit or e-wheels.
E-bikes vary greatly in price, from a few hundred dollars right up to some premium models costing many thousands. However on average, when compared with other personal transport options such as a car, E-Bikes are actually surprisingly affordable and becoming more so every year.
They’re also cheaper to maintain than a car, more environmentally friendly and perhaps most importantly, E-Bikes are much better for your health. No doubt the clincher for most when purchasing one. Moreover, with ever improving technology making E-bikes both look and feel increasingly like a normal bike, as well as increasingly affordable prices, it’s no wonder E-Bikes are becoming so popular.
From a logistics point of view, the main difference between an e-bike and traditional bike is the motor and battery. These can cause a weight increase of around twenty to forty pounds more than a normal bike. If you need to carry the bike on a regular basis, lift it up flights of stairs etc, this may be a problem. However the additional weight makes little difference to riding, whether with or without the motor supporting. In the event you are left without power though, charging the battery in full normally takes around two hours to fully recharge, although this time can vary.
Different Types Of E-Bike
There are various different types of electric bikes, all having their advantages or disadvantages depending on your location and situation.
As the name suggests, these bikes are particularly good for moving around cities and towns. Although they have much less power than a traditional motorbike, it’s still more than enough to move at a good speed, plus the reduced weight means they brake well, and have great acceleration making traffic lights and other potential hindrances much less of a problem. Though a great option for all towns and cities, some municipalities have placed restrictions for the use of E-Bikes on bike paths, bike lanes, and streets. To be sure whether you’re allowed to use an E-Bike where you live check our guide to E-Bike Law by State
Some traditionalists consider this cheating, but other cyclists have found the electronic version gives them the ability to ride to places they couldn’t previously reach. They have more power on average and tend to have higher capacity batteries so you can go mountain biking for much longer than usual. As a result these e-bikes have become increasingly popular in places like Switzerland where people regularly use them to cycle some of the Alps highest inclines.
Tricycles & Pedicabs
Popular in tourist traps where they’re used as a novel form of taxi, many pedicabs are still pedal powered, but this is considered more of a novelty. Nowadays it’s becoming increasingly common for drivers to merge the novelty of being peddled with the added power of a small motor, turning these charming bikes into a surprisingly efficient alternative to other forms of urban public transport.
These are often just street bikes that fold up, making them much easier to carry between uses, and much easier to store. If you live in an apartment block, or have to climb stairs on a regular basis, foldable E-Bikes are a great option.
The most common E-Bikes you’ll see are street, mountain, and folding. Pedicabs are far more expensive and tricycles are often marketed as scooters.