I remember growing up I had little choice but to believe that cycling was a holy pastime that required serious displays of commitment from its disciples, which is why my father got up each day horrifically early, donned his cycling leotard, and braved the cold.
Needless to say, he impressed upon me from a young age that bikes and cycling was a thing to be enjoyed but done seriously – no sparkly bikes for me – I got solid, sturdy mountain bikes, and I never rode a tricycle; falling was part of the experience, and I learnt fast. I can still hear him say “There are only two kinds of cyclists; those that have crashed, and those that are going to.”
The point is that cycling was taught to me as a serious sport and while fun, to be treated with solemn respect and dedication, so the idea of hopping on a bike and letting it do all the work was entirely foreign to me. A bit like expecting a paperback to read itself to me, or my food to be pre-masticated.
But childish me got a little less snobby about biking when I commuted to work via bike for an entire summer, and realized that arriving sweat covered and perspiring was not professional. There are definitive areas where an electric bike is a serious advantage and others where the classic bike shines. We’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of electric bikes in the following categories: commuting, exercise, errands, pleasure, and time allotment.
Commuting on an E-Bike
The commuter rides a bike, not as a form of exercise, but as a form of transportation. Depending on your locale, transportation is typically dependent on a few key sources: a private car, taxi, metro, or bus. All of these private and public options provide a consistent, easy commute but require either frequent or daily payouts, which anyone who lives in a city knows, rack up very quickly to quite a percentage of your paycheck.
This also assumes that these resources are feasible; people living in a city can’t afford a car or have no place to park. Those living in more remote areas can access public transportation only infrequently, if at all. Therefore, finding a smaller, more independent means of transportation is necessary. A bike’s speed capability makes a lot of logistical sense for a commuter because it significantly cuts down on time en route.
When only weighing the pros and cons of an electric bike for commuting, a motorized form of transportation is sensible, as it gets you where you need to go in a comparatively short stretch of time, and doesn’t require that you overexert yourself to reach your destination.
A professional on a nice road bike can get up to 25-28 mph or 40-45 kmh on a flat road – with downhill and descents, a good cyclist can touch 40 mph (64 kmh), a fact that terrifies my mother to this day. However, most of us are not professional cyclists, and for the Average Joe, the approached speed is usually between 10-18 mph (16-29 kmh), depending on how much he trains and how new he is to the sport.
An e-bike, on the other hand, can ostensibly reach any speed, as a motorized vehicle has no limit on theoretical power output. However, most countries have a legal cap on how fast an electric bike can go and still be considered a bicycle instead of a motorbike or motorcycle.
Generally, the legal cap for unassisted throttle speed is between 20-28 mph or up to 45kmh, which means that the motor will cease to assist the rider if the bike is travelling above these specified speeds.
The e-bikes top speed is significantly higher than the approached speed of an average biker, meaning that for those trying to find an affordable means of getting to work and back, the e-bike significantly cuts down on their travel time.
Additionally, the e-bike provides another benefit, namely, not arriving at work looking like trash. Depending on your work environment, this is more or less problematic. Some people work in places with built-in showers like a gym or some of the cushier big companies. However, for most, arriving at work demands certain professionalism not supported by armpit stains and odour.
The e-bike provides a serious advantage here. With partial or even full throttle, the rider has the option of easy pedalling, or not pedalling at all and just taking it easy, arriving at work refreshed by the breeze and not dying from the strain. In situations where the commute is uphill, this is only exacerbated, and the aid that the e-bike provides is a major plus for anyone looking to get to work in a timely, presentable manner, In terms of commuting, the electric bike takes the medal over the classic bicycle on the more convenient of the two for transportation.
Exercise on an E-Bike
On the topic of exercise, the debate is not so cut and dry as one would suppose. Cycling fanatics and even the average person would likely say that e-biking is cheating and that to get really good exercise, it’s best to ride a bike not subsidized with a battery pack. This is not entirely fair.
As discussed for the commuting issue, an electric bike can provide moderate to 100% throttle assistance, making the ride easier. This means that two riders of similar fitness levels travelling at the same speed for the same distance on the same terrain, the one on a classic bike will have a much better workout than the one cruising on his e-bike with minor throttle assistance.
In this instance, the classic non-electric road bike is significantly better as a source of exercise. While this is certainly true, to arrive at that kind of situational comparison, some key assumptions are made – namely, that the fitness levels are the same, that both riders are riding for the same length of time over the same distance, and that their terrain is at all similar.
People of different fitness levels have very different approaches to exercise, and their exercise regimens have lots of room for variation. An athlete might work out every day, while someone who is generally fit might work out three or four times a week, while a third person might be the one sitting on a couch writing articles, and not working out at all!
The way they work out will greatly affect their attitudes to exercise. The athlete will be comfortable and have complete faith in his body and his ability to push it to the max; however, the person who doesn’t have a consistent workout schedule or never has might be very intimidated by the idea of committing to long, serious rides.
This is where an e-bike really shines. For those who are intimidated by exercise and who might otherwise choose not to go out at all, an e-bike provides that extra security, making them feel more comfortable and capable of accomplishing the workout.
Additionally, because of the assistance the motor provides, someone less exercise inclined will likely ride for a longer distance than they would have otherwise, thus still getting a tough workout by moving their body for a longer period of time than they would naturally have been inclined to.
Finally, even assuming the fitness and riding distance is the same, differences in terrain could make an e-bike more appropriate for one user when it comes to exercise than another. If you live in a very hilly area, even with an exercise bike, you will need to pedal uphill, and the e-bike could be the difference between you putting in the exercise or calling a cab.
These are all ways that an e-bike can be a great form of exercise. The con with the e-bike is that it requires its rider to be actively invested – to want to work out. If the rider does not or is not strong-willed, then the downside of the e-bike is that it is very tempting to let the bike carry you, instead of forcing yourself not to rely completely on the motor.
Running Errands on an E-Bike
When running your errands, the goal is not a single destination, it is often multiple, and your interest is not breaking a sweat. Also, running errands often involves dropping some things off or picking stuff up, which means that at least for part of the day, your bike will be weighed down by more than just you.
It is a huge strain to be lugging around lots of weight in these instances, especially on those uphill climbs. In this case, the electric bike comes in very handy, as the motor compensates for the extra weight. Additionally, as there never seems to be enough time for errands, the speed and dependency of the e-bike are helpful, in the effort to get errands done as quickly as possible.
Pleasure – Are E-Bikes Enjoyable?
If your purpose is to ride as an enjoyable diversion – to take a turn around the lake with family and friends, or get some fresh air after being trapped in the house or behind a desk all day, the debate over the suitability of an electric bike for you depend on what you consider to be pleasant.
Sitting behind a desk all day can make you restless, in which case you will want to burn off some energy during your relatively short and easy-going bike ride with friends, making having an assisted ride unnecessary.
However, the flip side, of course, is that you might not want to exercise and could just be craving some refreshing air – if so, then the electric bike much more precisely meets your needs than the standard bike, which requires more effort to achieve and maintain the same speed. In this case, the electric bike is much more suited to this sort of pastime, as the electric bike allows you to coast without needing to exert too much energy.
Time Allotment – Will an E-Bike Save you Time?
The time you have to dedicate to riding also plays a huge part in the calculated benefits and disadvantages of an electric bike. If you don’t have much time, then all the benefits discussed above play a huge part – commutes and errands are accomplished in a shorter time frame, pleasant outings don’t drag on too long, and even exercise can be accomplished on your e-bike, by not using the throttle motor assist. In all these instances, the advantages of having an electric bike are genuine and are tied closely to the amount of time one has to dedicate to riding, which for so many of us, is not much.
Quick – Pros & Cons of Electric Bikes
- Can be used as a regular bike or as an electric bike
- Quicker than an average cyclist
- Quicker commute time and less winded upon arrival at work.
- Errands are done more efficiently.
- Easier to carry extra weight with you
- Encourages riders to go for long bike rides
- Provides a relaxing way to get some fresh air
- Heavy, so difficult to carry up large flights of stairs
- Needs to be recharged, a full recharge takes approximately 3 hours.
- Battery wears down after approximately three years.
- Can tempt riders to rely fully on the motor instead of exerting some effort
- Cost more that a regular bike
As you can see, there are plenty of advantages of using an electric bike, whether it be for exercise, commuting or just in your everyday life. E-Bikes are becoming more popular all the time, with different models available to suit most budgets.
If you are still not convinced, maybe think about renting one and seeing how you get on with it. I’m sure once you try one out, you’ll soon be converted and want one.