Why everything you ever thought about electric bikes is probably wrong

‘They’re not fun’, ‘they need to be insured’, ‘they’re just for people who can’t ride a normal bike’. These are just a few of the many common e-bike misconceptions. We explain why they’re often wide of the mark.

 

Electric bikes aren’t ‘proper’ bikes

OK, the old misconception. So what constitutes a ‘proper’ bike? It’s a machine that you have to pedal which features a frame, a saddle, brakes, a handlebar, two wheels, gears and a chain. An e-bike has all those factors, it just has a few more bits as well, such as a motor, battery and control unit. The important thing to realise is that electric bikes as we now know them aren’t electric mopeds where you twist the throttle and speed away, they are more correctly known as ‘pedal assist’ bikes. This means you still have to power them and spin your legs, it’s just that the electric motor will give you some help to stay at speed, or get away from traffic lights, or cycle up hills.

 

I had a go on an e-bike years ago and it didn’t feel very natural to ride

The ride quality of electric bikes is something that has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. For a long time most e-bikes had their motors placed in one of the wheel hubs — and more affordable e-bikes still use this system — so when the motors kick into action it does have a slightly strange feel. However, modern systems such as those from market leaders Bosch or Shimano have the motor placed at the bottom bracket. Very clever sensors and computers feel how much effort you’re putting into the pedals and then, after taking into account the level of assistance you’ve selected, add some more power. But rather than feeling like you’re hanging on to a self-propelled machine, it simply seems like you have developed Superman’s legs.

 

>> Electric Bikes: Past, Present and Future <<

 

OK then, it sounds like electric bikes are just for people who find it difficult to ride a proper bike.

It’s certainly true that e-bikes are a great help for people trying to rediscover their fitness or who think the challenges of riding an unassisted bike are too great. However, e-bikes are available in such a wide variety of forms — commuting e-bikes, leisure e-bikes, trekking e-bikes, even off-road mountain bike e-bikes — that it would be very close-minded to think they are just for people who would otherwise be non-cyclists. Leisure e-bikes let any rider enjoy the experience of cycling without compromises. Commuting e-bikes let any cyclists get to work quickly, efficiently and perhaps a little less sweaty than otherwise. And eMTBs make technical climbs more achievable and fire roads less of a drag, so you’ll have more energy to enjoy the real fun.

 

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>> Introducing Haibike: Pioneers of ePerformance <<

 

I’ve heard that some e-bikes are so powerful you need to get them taxed and insured and riders need to wear a motorbike helmet.

There is a new generation of ‘S-Pedelecs’ in Europe that would require all those things, but those bikes aren’t yet legal in the UK. Over here UK electric bike laws are very simple: you must be 14 years or older to ride one; all pedal assisted e-bikes must not exceed a power rating of 250w; and e-bikes must have a maximum speed of 15.5mph (25kph). Otherwise, e-bikes have to comply with all the normal safety standards and testing found on any other bike. So you don’t need a license, insurance or documentation for your e-bike — but you do have to follow the Highway Code.

 

E-bikes are still a niche product with no support from the bike industry.

Well, you’re reading an article about electric bikes on the blog of one of the UK’s biggest dedicated bicycle retailers, so that probably puts the lie to that idea ;). It is true to say that here in Britain the e-bike market is still in its infancy. However, global bike brands such as Specialized, Scott, Cannondale, Cube and Trek are all putting money into e-bikes and there are already five main manufactures of e-bike motors and batteries. So be assured, electric bikes are here to stay and multiply.

 

If I’m using powered transport, I might as well drive a car instead of riding an electric bike.

Why drive a car to be stuck in traffic, contributing to pollution levels, and watching your wealth evaporate which each puff puff of exhaust fumes? The average cost of running an e-bike is less than half a penny per mile compared to a car that costs a whopping 12 pence per mile. Meanwhile, the average traffic speed across London at peak times last year was 8mph; an e-bike will assist you to 15.5mph and, thanks to the new Cycle Super Highways, there will be fewer hold-ups.

 

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But in a car, I can find a petrol station easily — I don’t want to be left high a dry with no battery power.

Remember what we said at the start: e-bikes are ‘proper’ bikes, so you’ll never be left completely high and dry, you can still pedal it even without any battery assistance. In any case, modern e-bikes have very accurate and clear handlebar-mounted displays showing how much battery power is left, so you can adjust the level of electric assistance you use to ensure you never completely run out of power. And don’t forget that electric bikes have quite impressive ranges these days, which are improving all the time as battery technology develops.

 

Well, e-bikes are just not as much fun as riding a ‘normal’ bike.

Really? Then you obviously haven’t tried riding a modern e-bike. The ‘fun factor’ of e-bike riding is off the charts. Let’s suppose you’re not a sado-masochistic road rider who searches out every climb within 20 miles of home and rides them consecutively everyday before breakfast. What is it that you like about cycling? The freedom? The fresh air? The glorious sights? The efficiency and time-saving commute? Now imagine all that where you didn’t have to fear any big hills, or where you could adjust your effort to suit how you’re feeling. Or where you could actually ride for longer because you don’t get as fatigued as quickly. You’re still having some exercise and you’re still reaping all the same enjoyment of cycling, but doesn’t that actually sound like more fun?

 

>> Browse Evans Cycles full range of e-bikes here <<

 

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Comments

Roger Bourne 21/04/2017

I am virtually 70, had one knee replaced, other holding on to. I am on my third e bike, (sorry its a Kalkhoff) but dont underestimate the pleasure of beng able to do 30-40 miles on Scottish roads; often remote areas, in all weathers throughout the year, and keep yourself reasonably fit. I still use a roadbike sometimes, really enjoy it, but now have to be realistic about what I can tackle!

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John Bullard 21/04/2017

I have to agree. I have had mine for a month now and am really enjoying using it. I was concerned when I bought it that it would make me lazy and to a degree it probably does but I generally find that I cycle further and faster. I’ve got the speed of my road bike with the comfortable riding stance of my mountain bike. What’s not to like? I am 76 but I’m now able to keep up with much younger companions. Now that everyday journeys are easier my car doesn’t come out of the garage very frequently!

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Damien 22/04/2017

Great article . I personally love my ebike I started on one with a motor in the wheel I liked it but was rear heavy . I upgraded to a Haibike sduro hardnine rc which has the yamaha crank engine . This was a major game changer for me and I love to get out on my ebike any chance I can . And can say the best bits of my working week are commuting on it 6211 miles in under 2 years riding . Find somewhere to test drive one you won’t regret it.

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Phil Fouracre 26/04/2017

Nice article – Don’t tell me what I already know , already sold on them, have converted tourer and full suss mtb, horses for courses! Both great fun, lots of interest from others, asking the same questions that you have answered.

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Richard 13/05/2017

There is still a lot of ignorance concerning e-bikes which i’m sure won’t exist in another two years from now.
Raleigh recently reported that last year they sold more e-bikes than non e-bikes for the first time ever.
Change is in the air my friends!
After a very nasty motorcycling accident 7 years ago, i didn’t think i would ever be able to get back on a bike.
I purchased a Kalkhoff Pro-Connect e-bike just over a year ago and have now cycled more than 1800 miles on it. Apart from the weight loss and increased fitness, the ability to strengthen my knee and leg muscles led me to buy a Cannondale Mountain bike a few months ago and i now use this for cycle touring instead of the e-bike.
I still use the e-bike for my 26 mile round trip work commute each day as i can get to work quicker, but I would challenge anyone who has an opinion on e-bikes without having any actual experience of riding one!

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Mark 24/05/2017

I have owned by Haibike Sduro AllMTN Plus for about 12 months and it is the best bike I’ve ever bought. I used to have a ‘normal’ full-suss bike 650b and still own a 29er hardtail. I ride trails in Darwen, Rivington (lancs) and trail centres in Gisburn and Llandegla.

The ebike just makes riding so much more pleasurable other than at speeds above 15.5mph. Over this speed, you can really feel the 23kg weight. That said, these moments are generally few and far between.

The e-assist allows you to keep speed and cadence on uphills and muddy / technical flat sections. The extra weight of the bike makes it feel much more sure-footed when going downhill.

The 3″ wide ‘Plus’ tyres on my bike also allow you to take liberties that I wouldn’t have taken on my old full-susser with 2.35″ tyres. My riding mates have all commented on how much faster I am now.

Other benefits – Llandegla used to take 2hrs 30 mins with my friends. It now takes me 1 hour by myself.
As for fitness, you don’t burn as many calories in the same distance. That said, I tested myself around Gisburn with a chest mounted heart rate monitor on my full-susser against the same ride on an ebike. The ebike ride took less time and burned less calories overall but the calorie burn per minute was 17% more. I presume that is because you just keep pushing on an ebike whereas you stop on a normal MTB.

I’m a 46 year old man and, despite the mickey-taking from my mates, I don’t regret buying my ebike. Just wish I’d done it earlier!!

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Derek 24/05/2017

I live in Brighton which is hilly and windy for seemingly 11 months in the year!

I have no idea why the concept of cycling should be associated with struggle and pain, like you have more “status” the more difficult your ride. Of course it’s an achievement and it’s rewarding when you climb a long hill without stopping, or make it to your destination into a strong headwind all the way. But quite frankly, nobody really cares apart from you.

E-bikes are brilliant and a great compromise between doing nothing but just sit there and doing everything yourself. My E-bike basically gets me through the Autumn gales and the Winter snow each year and is an absolute life-saver.

Like many cyclists, I also have other bikes (a MTB for commuting and two Bromptons for shopping in town) and the E-bike is more of a back up machine for extreme weather conditions and/or very hilly destinations. But I can’t imagine life without one now and would thoroughly recommend that everyone have one (and ditch the car!).

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    Jim 12/02/2018

    Just read this article and the comments following – enlightening and fascinating in equal measure, thank you. Having cycle commuted for my entire working life, I can empathise with this fellow cyclist. You’ve hit the nail on the head: I do get great satisfaction from battling the elements (also a Brightonian), but as I’ve hit middle age I’m becoming more interested in getting a bit of assistance. May see you out on the road – maybe even when I’m test riding a e-bike.

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John Byrnes 24/05/2017

Agree re e bikes are great. Now able on my Trek MTB to keep up with the guys 20 years younger than me I am 73 soon. Gets me out in the fresh air and keeps me fit. Really now enjoy the hill challenges

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Cosyloft 25/05/2017

Hi all bikers

Ebikes are great for heart patients who have things like tiredness breathlessness the ebike allows them to get back on the hills like they did before there had the heart condition
So I say yes to progress anyone who says no to ebikes may need them as they get older

Thanks
A riders in the sky

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David 20/06/2017

I totally agree with all the past comments. I use my Ebike for a regular 20 mile round trip commute and you can put in as much or as little effort as possible depending on how much of a workout you want. I get the usual comments from my work colleagues that it’s not a proper bike but at 20kg and very steep hills it just takes the sting out of what would be a fairly challenging ride both ways. I’m contemplating getting my old Claud Butler up and running for leisurely rides but wouldn’t use it for the commute as the Ebike is so quick as It only takes 15 minutes longer than the car.

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Colin morris 21/09/2017

Hi,
I’ve been a roadie of one form or another for forty odd years and enjoyed every excruciating minute of it . Up until recently had a great chain gang that levy me in the gutter every Tuesday and Thursday- but still loved it . Just over 12 months ago diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – one of the nastier cancer with serious life expectancy . Two choices – throw in the towel and woe is me , or buy an E bike and dish back the dirt ! That’s what I’ve done – I’m like what of the old fashioned durnie fiders ( minus peaked cap ) it means for however long I can stay fit enough I can continue to kick ass . One slight negative is number of so called bikies who turn their noses up at the cafe stop viewing me as some sort of cheat – go on try one !

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Sarah 15/10/2017

Love my e-bike! Makes 30 mile round trip commute feasible rather than overly long. Highly recommend Volt Pulse (though an independent brand not sold through Evans)

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John S 19/11/2017

Absolutely smitten with my home build of a Bafang mid drive on a Surly Straggler! Love it so much I’m going to add one to my Rohloff hubbed fat bike, my 29+ and my ageing full susser so that it can grow old and still fight the fight (like me). The revolution is here and there’s something in the air… fresher armpits 😉

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Christopher Webster 11/02/2018

Great article, I’ve had an e bike for 11 months now and use it for commuting. I commute down very busy 3 lane A roads into Manchester, including 1 big uphill. It mainly helps me from traffic lights and up hill.
Yes I can go faster on my road bike than my Ebike but I get to work less sweaty. I can now do the 8 miles home in 33 minutes rather than the hour + it takes in the car.
It does get hard to push the bike over 15.5 mph it weighs a ton and is very tricky to repair a rear puncture.
But not arriving home sressed out is a massive plus.
Done 2400 miles in 11 months, bike cost £920 so the savings on petrol are good too.
Yes you get snotty looks off road bikers but hey how.

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Jimmy 11/02/2018

I’m glad the 70 something’s with replaced hips or knees are getting ebikes and getting out and riding, I just hope the trend doesn’t take off for youngsters , get a bike and get fit, you don’t need peddle assist to get up hills, eat less pies and ride more..

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    Will 20/02/2018

    This is a misconception. You still get fit on an ebike. You just go faster in the process. Remember, the rider can change the level of assistance on the computer display at any time. This gives you the flexibility to tackle hills with no or low assist, or if it’s been a long day at work and it’s raining and you just want to get home, then you can crank the assistance up to full.

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Helen Bradley 11/02/2018

I have had a Haibike Sduro now for 4 months, I have a regular mountain bike and road bike. The E MTB is so much fun , that is what I bought it for fun !!! It does not disappoint this will be the future and I still get a great work out. I generally keep it on ECo mode and get a really good workout and can so get so much further in half the time. With a busy job and not much time this is ideal.

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Morag Cowe 14/03/2018

Arthritis in both hip meant I don’t have the same power in my legs for getting up any serious hills. My ebike has opened up the road again for me. I live in the west of Scotland so very few routes without hills. I got my ebike last summer and my husband has now got one too as he was fed up being left behind. All my friends who have had a go agree it is great fun. Before I got my ebike most of the enjoyment had gone out of cycling for me. I have to admit that I still feel a bit of a fraud and envy those who zoom by on their road bikes. A big advantage of the power assistance is the ability to get away from junctions quickly. I also feel safer in traffic especially when riding up hill. The best decision I have made in a long time.

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Aaron grimmer 7/08/2018

As an avid mountain biker and who cycle commutes to work daily I wash dubious. The weight was a big thing for me. Extra 10kg on my full suss. But as we moved and my commute became a 25 mile round trip, plus doing a manual days graft…I soon came round to idea. Got my self a reconditioned bike…from them guys who bring you other household appliances. ..not to sure bout the 30 miles…but I am a big guy and always head wind on the way home. Still feel like I’ve done a good ride…and keeps me fit n legs in shape for the weekend when I got the trails. Looking forward to see how they are in 10 years…is less weight etc when my knees probably need one.

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Drew T 27/08/2018

I only started cycling 5 yrs ago but great fun. Then realised I was getting slower and wobbly. Long and short it was Parkinson’s disease. Then this year ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Thought I’d never cycle again but after trying an e-bike I was hooked. Just done a 35 mike loop today with a few hills and into a 20mph wind and feel great. Stayed out much longer than I would have on my gravel bike.
I haven’t given up on my normal bike and in fact completed the Trans Pennine Trail on it last weekend.
But for sheer fun and all weather cycling I love my Vado.

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Bion X Biker 24/10/2018

I been biking all seasons daily since 2006 Keeps me out of the Phsychratic ward

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John 20/11/2018

Good vibes from all… how can anyone criticise this amazing leap in the cycling evolution?! Ex forces and I used to be super fit. Now I am suffering from bipolar disorder, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, multiple bouts of whiplash, neck, shoulder and back injuries leaving me in constant pain and with numb fingers, insulin controlled diabetes and my thyroid packed up. On bad days, the thought of the ride not being an unhappy slog is enough to get me behind the wheel and help me feel better for the rest the day (and even contemplate some cycle touring). Shame on all the naysayers on blogs calling ebikers lazy and saying that there’s no justification for them! I hope they end up like me and have to eat their words!

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John 13/01/2019

Don’t be put off by the ‘experts’, my new ebike is a revelation. As a 68 year old man with arthritis in both knees, I was struggling with my conventional tourer, and the thought of hills and head-winds was preventing me from getting the bike out, particularly as the winter began to set in.
I bought the ebike and a good set of waterproofs, and I’m out every day, and it’s fantastic. I still get the exercise, my knees are feeling the benefit, and riding is a joy again. No more looking out of the window to check on the weather, or putting off journeys that involve hills, the ebike has given me back my freedom, and my physical and mental health.
The ebike is here to stay, and the worst elements of the purist lycra-brigade ( who thankfully are in the minority ) would do well to suck it up, they don’t own cycling, it’s for everyone, no matter how they choose to do it.
Get yourself an ebike… you’ll love it.

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David 22/01/2019

love it just came back from a beautiful twenty five mile mountain bike ride. I will get on my E-Bike in the the morning and ride to work all smiles. they also are great for disabled people

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Jennie 1/04/2019

After a lifetime in the saddle (Equestrian) I had a lot of historic injuries, starting to give me pain. I also have asthma, so don’t have the stamina I used to. I got an ebike, and …Oh what fun! I can get out in the lanes, and use the assist, if my ankle and hip start screaming. I’m thinking about some sort of off road jobbie, to go down the footpaths and tracks as I used to

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