Electric bicycles or E-bikes—which are part bicycle, part motorized vehicle—are becoming hugely popular for all uses, including commuting, recreational cycling, and touring. E-bikes provide many of the same benefits as regular bikes, with a few impressive perks.
While they may sound completely modern, hybrid bikes date all the way back to the early 1900s. Today, they continue to gain fans with their ability to help cyclists ride farther and faster: e-bike sales grew by 145% between 2019 and 2020, despite supply chain issues and a pandemic.
At Outfitter Bicycle Tours, we love electric bikes for experiencing our favorite destinations across both the US and Europe. We also get numerous questions from curious guests of ours who are eager to learn more about the pros and cons of e-bikes. Today we will answer those questions, comparing facts and dispelling the most common myths and misconceptions about e-bikes.
What do E-Bikes and Regular bikes have in common?
E-bikes and regular bikes have much in common. Besides their two wheels and general functionality:
- Both are convenient and safe transportation alternatives. The overall design and function of e-bikes and regular push bikes are nearly identical. As human-powered wheeled “vehicles,” both are used for transportation and recreation – getting you where you need to go in a way that is more energy efficient than walking or sometimes driving.
- Both have benefits for your health and fitness. The science speaks for itself—regular cycling can increase cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and joint mobility; improve posture and coordination; and decrease body fat and stress levels. Beyond this there are also the mental health benefits of knowing that they’re also good for our wallets. Each time we bike instead of driving we are saving money and causing less wear and tear on our cars.
- Both have benefits for the Earth. Compared to fuel-burning motorized vehicles, bicycles have a much smaller carbon footprint. It’s quieter, cleaner and greener—reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air contaminants while lowering noise pollution and traffic congestion. Bikes also last; they are easily repairable, may be used for decades, and are generally passed on to others. When it comes to e-bikes, there’s an emerging recycling market for lithium batteries.
- Both are susceptible to theft. Most people are surprised to find out that e-bikes don’t have higher rates of theft than regular bikes; this is most likely due to more careful and protected locking by their owners, and because a thief would need to have a charger and key for the bike to resell it. You should take all the same precautions you would to keep a standard bike safe, such as using a sturdy, gold-rated U-bolt folding to attach your front wheel and frame to an immovable object.
- Both need to be stored appropriately. All bikes are water resistant, but not waterproof, so they need to be stored and treated as such. To protect the longevity of your bike, it’s always best to store it indoors away from humidity and the elements.
- Both need regular mechanical and tire maintenance. There is some basic maintenance that you can do for your bikes such as keeping your tires properly inflated and lubricating your chain. Some may find that e-bike parts might wear a little faster than equivalent parks on regular bikes, but that’s likely because most people ride more miles when they have an e-bike.
- Both require proper safety precautions. Getting into a collision at bike speed can be fatal. To ride safely and legally, always wear a helmet to protect your head: it is likely to save your life in the event of a serious accident. Safety is particularly important when it comes to e-bikes as they move faster than regular bikes, and you may not realize how quickly you are moving.
What are the advantages of E-Bikes?
E-bikes can be considered superior to regular bikes for a variety of reasons:
- They can help you go faster and farther. Electric bikes have motors and other mechanical components which provide the rider assistance on longer treks, when climbing hills or riding against a strong wind. With less effort needed to ride equivalent distances, most e-bike owners cycle more miles and make more use of their bicycle, such as for errands. Their speed also helps: depending on your e-bike and how you choose to ride, you can travel up to 28mph without much effort!
- They can be easier on your body. The electric motor and battery make cycling far less strenuous, which is especially useful in conquering steep hills or covering long distances. The motorized power results in less physical impact on your body, reducing demands on joints, knees, hips, and lungs.
- They are better for work commutes. A less sweaty ride means you won’t feel a need to shower once you reach your destination—perfect for those who want to use a bike to commute to the office.
- They can be safer. When you don’t have to focus on propelling your bike, and aren’t overly tired out with exertion, you can focus your energy on safer riding. E-bikes also allow for an easier, more controlled start from stopped positions, allowing you to navigate traffic, intersections, and hills steadier and faster.
- They can help you connect with others. If you have a riding partner that rides at a different pace than you, an e-bike can even out the playing field, allowing you to stay together and enjoy the ride, creating memories and community.
- They can be monitored electronically. Some e-bike systems can be paired with a companion mobile phone app that allows you to monitor unauthorized movement for theft prevention, or track where your bike is if it’s loaned out to a friend.
- They can be more fun! Try it once and you’ll see. E-bikes allow you to relax and enjoy the scenery of your surroundings. This is particularly advantageous when on a bike tour or cycling vacation.
What are the downsides of E-Bikes?
- They can be more expensive. E-bikes are significantly more expensive to manufacture: the minerals in their batteries, particularly lithium and cobalt, are valuable and supply is limited. You’re also paying for greater mechanical complexity including an added motor, controller, display hardware, drivetrain, and commensurate upgrades such as stronger wheels and high-end brakes.
- They can be heavier. Electric bikes are typically heavier than regular bikes due to the addition of motorized components. A non-electric bike normally weighs somewhere between 30 and 35 pounds, whereas an electric version of a similar model may weigh about 45 to 50 pounds. That said, this added weight is typically only noticed when lifting or carrying your bicycle. A more subtle difference is in stopping distance: an e-bike’s extra weight may increase the distance you need to come to a stop when compared to a lightweight pedal-powered bike.
- They need to be charged. All e-bikes come with a power adaptor and cable to charge the battery in a regular power outlet. An e-bike requires access to a reliable electricity source and a fully depleted battery will take anywhere from ~3 to 6 hours to fully recharge. Because of this it’s important to plan ahead to make sure your bicycle is fully charged before you depart for your day.
- The battery should be secured to avoid theft. Unfortunately, some thieves will steal e-bike batteries because they’re the most expensive and valuable part of this type of bicycle. To mitigate this problem, we recommend looking for a model with a removable battery that includes a lock and key to secure it to the frame.
Who are E-bikes best for?
You don’t have to be an avid cyclist to enjoy e-bicycling; the ease of using an e-bike means they can be embraced by almost anyone who can ride a bike. There are a few groups in particular that they may be a great fit for:
- Tourists and Travelers. If you love adventure and sightseeing, e-bikes are perfect for creating a memorable and meaningful vacation experience. You can safely and comfortably cover long distances while relaxing, enjoying the attractions of your destination and the company of your fellow travelers.
- Those with Physical Limitations. Those physically challenged by cycling due to age, a specific disability, or other fitness limitations will enjoy e-bikes because they require less physical effort than traditional bicycles.
- Groups. E-bikes are commonly referred to as “the great equalizer” because they’re perfect for pairs or groups of people who want to share a recreational experience but have different cycling skill levels or health/ fitness levels.
- Commuters. Electric bikes are perfect for climbing inclines and going greater distances to the office, allowing you to arrive at your workplace less sweaty and more energized.
Where can I try an E-Bike before I buy one?
We highly recommend trying out an e-bike in person before you decide to take the plunge and commit to buying one! This will allow you to get the feel of the bicycle, get more comfortable with the pedal assist features, and, of course, ask any questions or alleviate any concerns.
While there are many reputable retailers able to assist with your future e-bike purchase, it is likely that you’ll need more than a quick spin to tell you what you need to know. One of the best ways to try an e-bicycle before you invest in one is by booking a vacation through a licensed bicycle tour company.
Outfitter Bicycle Tours offers e-bikes tours of a number of ideal international bike vacation destinations including France, Italy and the US. The bikes we use on our tours are quality manufactured from reputable global brands, thoroughly tested in advance, and maintained by local professionals, such as our friends at Albion Cycles in Provence, France. The impressive inventory and knowledge at small independent bike shops allows us to offer excellent performance and a comfortable, safe and secure ride to cycling newbies and novices alike.
Ready to try out an e-bike for the long haul? Book your e-bike cycling tour today!
Recommended E-bike Tours
Check out the following tour options for an epic e-bike experience!
- 4 Night (Relaxed)
- 5 Night Thermal Spa
- 6 Night (Relaxed))
- 7 Night (Relaxed)
- 8 Night
- 10 Night (Relaxed))
In our next post we dive deeper, sharing the anatomy and parts of an e-bike and how they work! Check it out!