Electric bicycles offer the same great benefits as traditional bicycles including saving costs PLUS you don’t have to have a license and insurance is purely optional.
One of the biggest advantages of having an E-bike is how efficiently it climbs hills and helps you struggle a bit less cycling against a strong wind. If you suffer from knee pain or asthma, for example, an E-bike could breathe new life into cycling for you. It might convince others to join you out on the trails more often or it might enable you to commute to work without sweating as much.
E-bikes remove a lot of the roadblocks and challenges people face with traditional bicycles. Here’s why you should get one.
What Types of Riding Is An E-Bikes Best For?
Today it is possible to dive headfirst into E-bikes or dip your toe in for just a little feel. In some places, you can rent E-bikes allowing you to get a better feel for them. For the best experience, purpose-built E-bikes are the way to go. These are bikes that were designed and sold as electric bikes, not converted to one later. They are lighter, tougher, and more capable than a converted bike.
Whether you need a folding bike to stow away in compact spaces, a tandem bike to rent and ride with your friend on vacation, or a downhill bomber for free-riding on mountain trails there is an E-bike out there for whatever you could want a traditional bike to do and more. There are even some bizarre-looking bikes, such as the Rungu Dualie that offer you more than your average E-bike. It has TWO wheels in the front and one in the back eliminating the problem of digging into the ground and slipping making it a master of soft sand, mud, ice, and snow.
What Are the Different Kinds of Electric Bikes?
The main uses include E-bikes for neighborhood use, urban commuting, kid hauling, grocery shopping, tandem, chilled cruising, road biking, mountain biking, trail riding, sand and snow (these have fatter tires), touring or trekking, traveling (folding options are available), even cargo hauling.
Some have very small wheels and are designed to be easy to pick up and carry onto trains or busses and even planes (if the battery is under 300 watt-hours) while others are almost like motorcycles with 100+ mile range capability and even offer regenerative braking.
How Far Can You Go on a Charge?
An easy way to calculate this is to divide watt-hours by 20. E-bike batteries have voltage and amp-hours. In the US right now this is typically 36 volts of power with 10 amp hours, allowing for 360 watt-hours total. 360 divided by 20 gives you 18 miles. This can go up as pedal power and gears are to increase the total distance per charge, but this is a good estimate of how far you can go on just one charge.
Some electric bikes with that same 360 watt-hour battery capacity can reach up to 50+ miles per charge on a low level of assistance. It’s all about learning to ride your E-bike efficiently.
Are E-Bikes Faster Than Regular Bikes?
Not really. Most low-speed electric bikes can’t go over 20 mph with motor power alone. You could always pedal faster than that or go down a steep hill but there are regulations that limit top speed in exchange for the continued use of classifications such as “bicycle”. Recently compromises have been made that allow pedal-assisted E-bikes to reach approximately 28 miles per hour when they are being assisted but this is only possible with some vigorous pedaling.
It should be worth noting that efficiency drops quite significantly as riders pick up speed. This is due to drag. As you go beyond 15 mph on an E-bike, drag cuts into the range you can achieve causing that speed to come at a bit of a steep price.
Can I Do DIY Maintenance on My Electric Bike?
Many stores that sell both traditional and E-bikes will tell you that the electric cousin sees around 10 times the use of its original counterpart. People just ride E-bicycles more, and further, and faster and that causes more wear and tear faster. Some of this wear and tear can be serviced by you at home if you are tech-savvy enough, but when it comes to throttles, batteries, and computer systems things can get tricky and it’s time to see a mechanic.
Electric bikes are a combination of mechanical systems with sophisticated software and electrical complexities. Specialized knowledge and a specific toolset are required to correctly and safely maintain your E-bike. The most basic E-bike may be self-serviceable, but the more purpose-built options really should be seen by a professional and often have locked computers with special diagnostic tools, much like modern cars.
As far as E-bikes go, the prices really vary. The lower end models start at around $1,000 while in the upper end of the E-bike world there are products selling for upwards of $50k+. This is the more outrageous price of the upper end, but they still exist.
Right now, $1,500 is the lowest level worth investing in. There have been too many unhappy customers who purchased an E-bike online, thinking they were getting a deal and are now struggling to find a replacement battery pack because the cells they got were of low quality, or they are unable to find the parts in order to fix a throttle mechanism. There have even been fires when cheap batteries are damaged, or overloaded and there was not an electronic management system in place to prevent it.
For around $4,000 you can get a high-quality engineered product with +/- two years of comprehensive warranty support. Bikes like this offer integrated dynamo lights, fenders intuitive controls, and racks, and a beautiful aesthetic.
E-bikes in premium class typically range up to $7,000. At this level, you are offered pro-level components and while that may shock some, it is actually not far off from pro-level pedal-powered bicycles.
Now let’s go back to the middle-range and dig a bit deeper into costs.
People are regularly upset by the perceived high price of E-bikes, often claiming that a used car would be cheaper. But with this mentality one often fails to recognize the higher prices of car repairs, maintenance like oil and belt changes, insurance costs, licensing and its renewal (costing you time and money), and parking. Cars and E-bikes are as much of an investment as they are tools and toys that depreciate with use.
Let us do a quick example of the costs between a car and an E-bike. Hypothetically, if you took all of the car maintenance away and just looked at a $3k brand new car vs. a $3k brand new E-bike and left gas at $2 per gallon, an average electric bike gets around about 20 miles per charge which costs less than $0.15 to fill. So if we were to say that your car gets 30 miles per gallon and a gallon is $2 but your bike gets 20 miles per charge and a charge is $0.15, the bike is a way cheaper option. Right? But that’s not the whole story. A premium electric bike battery costs anywhere from $500 to $800 to replace and lasts 1,000+ charges. If you were to treat this like a fuel cost and divide $500 by 1,000 charges you get $0.50. So if we add the $0.15 charge cost to the $0.50 battery use cost you get $0.65, which is still cheaper than the cost of fuel.
Putting the complicated maths aside, an electric bike is basically about three times less expensive to operate than cars are under the current fuel climate. And if you take into account future advances in battery technology and energy efficiency, electric bikes will be even cheaper to use.
Beyond being a cheaper alternative they are also a cleaner alternative. They don’t create localized pollution which contributes to health issues and spoil our views. E-bikes are awesome but so are electric cars and even when electric cars replace the costs of ownership and reduce pollution, there are still enormous health benefits and social value to cycling.
There has never been a better time to invest in a bicycle than right now. Electric bikes are remarkable because they complement the human body and mind while connecting us with others and assist in keeping us a little more in-touch with the environment. Biking in general is empowering, but this takes that level of freedom to a whole new height.
In addition to offering many of the same benefits that regular cycling does you have an added kick of speed on board, to help you travel greater distances and ride for longer, without getting as tired. E-bikes enable you to go further, faster, and longer.
Two wheels, a path, and a helmet are all that you need in order to get from point A to point B.