Electric bikes have been around for decades, but in the past, the technology meant the batteries were heavy and inefficient. This made the decision between buying an e-bike or a regular bike an easy one because regular bikes were a lot better!
However, technology has completely changed things. Not only have bike frames got lighter and stronger, but battery technology has improved so they are also much lighter, and last a lot longer before they need charging. This means that when you’re choosing between an e-bike and a regular bike, it comes down to preference.
What is an e-bike?
An e-bike looks like an ordinary bicycle, and it works in the same way, albeit with one major difference - it has an electric motor which helps you turn the pedals more easily, making cycling not only easier, but also more enjoyable. An e-bike is not the same as a motorbike as, on an e-bike, you have to be pedalling in order to take advantage of the pedal assist - it won’t work if you don’t!
The amount the motor will help you depends on how hard you’re pedalling - it can take you up to a speed of 25km an hour, which means you’ll be able to pedal uphill like a Tour de France pro without too much trouble. However, e-bikes are not built for racing and if you’re travelling at more than 25km an hour, the electric motor will turn itself off and you’ll be left pedalling a heavier bike which is much harder work.
Luckily, you can extend the length of the battery life when you’re on your journey by changing the power settings on the control screen on your handlebars. Maximum power will help you get to the top of the hill quickly and easily, but it’ll use more power. For flatter roads, you can have it on eco power, and for downhill stretches, you can turn it off completely.
What about charging the battery?
If you don’t have a handy plug socket in the place where you store your e-bike, don’t worry. The battery can easily be unlocked and removed, so you can charge it at home, at work or in the cafe while you take a break during a long cycle ride.
The best ways to use your e-bike
E-bikes are perfect if you need to do a lot of uphill pedalling or carry a heavy load - whether that’s shopping or the kids - or simply have a long way to travel. And this means you’ll enjoy the ride far more and for longer distances and are therefore more likely to use the bike as your preferred form of transport.
Commuting is a very common reason for getting an e-bike. You’ll be able to get to work quicker - and in gridlocked towns and cities, you will probably be quicker on a bicycle than going by car. The help you’ll get from the electric motor will mean you arrive office-ready, rather than out of breath and sweaty. Clearly this is a fair-weather scenario - if it’s raining, you’ll arrive just as wet as if you were on a regular bike.
In terms of leisure use, e-bikes are also great if you want to build up your fitness by getting out into the countryside. You might want to join a road cycling club, but you know that initially you won’t be able to keep pace with the more experienced cyclists. With an e-bike, you’ll be able to cycle along with everyone else, enjoy their company and benefit from their encouragement until you’re ready to switch to a regular bike and still keep up.
If mountain biking is more your thing, then an e-mountain bike will get you further into the hills and trails. You can cycle yourself to the top of hills without needing the assistance of a van or a chairlift, which gives you even more freedom to go wherever you want. You’ll also benefit from, and enjoy, that part of the ride rather than feel it’s simply something you have to do.
So, what kind of bike would you prefer?
Some cycling purists claim that e-bikes are cheating, but they’re not. They provide a different mode of transport for different functions. If you’re buying a bicycle to get as fit as possible, then you won’t want an e-bike. But the fact is that many people enjoy cycling more with the help of an e-bike and therefore do more exercise as a result. Surely anything that encourages people to leave the car at home and get out and about in the fresh air has got to be a good thing - both for their general health and the health of the planet.