For decades, owning a car in any US city was a given. This is quite different from the old continent, where many countries depend heavily on bikes for transportation. This trend has been slowly changing in the past decade, thanks to the introduction of electric bikes.
City dwellers probably top the list of the ebike community. Typically, a 26-min commute is far easier with an ebike than with any other method of transport. It’s also a lot more pleasant and relaxing.
Electric bikes also enticed a huge demographic into embracing this healthy lifestyle. Middle-aged athletes, elderly people, or just the folks who aren’t big fans of strenuous exercise. The assisted mode of driving certainly had its allure.
ebikes are becoming more powerful and more affordable, and that’s always a huge plus. There are many more reasons why they’re selling like hotcakes. We’ll talk about all that in detail below, starting with the very basic question: what’s an ebike?
What Is an ebike?
An Electric bike, or ebike for short, is a regular bike with a battery-operated motor. The motor provides extra power, thus the rider wouldn’t have to pedal full-load.
There are various levels of electric assistance that ebikes can have. Starting from a little push that makes a hill a little easier to scale, all the way to the throttle assist power boost, which makes a steep slope feel like a walk in the park.
Ebikes are capable of achieving pedaling speeds that aren’t usual for regular bikes. Moreover, with the pedal-assist; a biker would be able to travel much farther. Thus, the experience of pedaling takes a whole other dimension.
There are various models of ebikes that cater to various popular uses. The urban and mountain ebikes are probably the most familiar. But there are also cruisers, cargo, folding, commuter, and snow bikes.
How Is an ebike Different From a Regular Bike?
E-bikes are different from regular bikes in some basic points:
- ebikes have a battery, motor, and control units
- ebikes are faster and could cover much longer distances
- ebikes are often far more expensive than regular bikes
- Regular bikes are often lighter in weight
- Regular bikes don’t need recharging
- ebikes need more maintenance
- There are several sporting events exclusive to regular bikes
- Regular bikes have a longer and more nuanced history
- It takes a lot more fitness to man a regular bike!
Having seen the differences between the automated and the classical forms; some folks might wonder whether the new would replace the old? In a word, no. That’s highly unlikely. Pretty much the same way we still tune in to radios, which were invented in the 1890s.
How Do ebikes Work?
Electric bikes contain battery packs that power up drive motors. These in turn perform a function similar to mechanical pedaling; they turn the wheels. That’s the working principle that ebikes employ.
Electricity can’t just flow at will, naturally. So there are some advanced controllers to provide various degrees of power and speed to the bikers. There are two basic forms of powering up the bike. One assists the biker just a bit, while the other takes over completely, much like a motorbike.
Once the battery is depleted, then the ebike becomes a regular one, with no extra assistance at all. At that point, you’d need to recharge in a domestic mains outlet. In about 3-5 hours the juices should flow back into the battery, and the ebike would be ready for the next run.
What Are the Types of ebikes?
E-bikes can be classified using several perspectives.
The Types of ebikes by Capability
Since the conception of ebikes they were categorized into:
- Pedal-assist: the motor provides partial assistance only, to make the drive a bit easier.
- Throttle assist: the motor can take over completely. A real pleasure to cruise with this one!
There are significant differences in price between the two since the second often requires a more powerful motor and a battery of a much higher capacity.
The Types of Electric bikes by Class
This is concerned with regulations, and it differs from one state to another. Also, every country has its own laws regarding the max speed, max power, essential safety gear, as well as the minimum age of the rider.
Some places also add restrictions related to where the ebike can go, and where it shouldn’t. Some shopping areas actually ban ebikes and skating boards on their premises.
These classes are I, II, and III. The first is often the one with the least restrictions, and the last has the most.
The Types of ebikes by Motor Placement
The motor can be placed inside a hub in the front or rear of the bike, or it could be placed centrally within the pedal gearbox. Normally you’d have the following options:
- Front hub
- Rear hub
- Central drive
Each arrangement has its best usage, the most suitable terrain, and naturally a bunch of pros & cons. There’s also personal preference, which should always count. As expected, they all come at different price points, with the central placement being the premium.
The Types of ebikes by Utility
ebikes are designed for a wide variety of uses. And as you might expect, what would work nicely on a rough off-road trail, could be quite clumsy in the sleek city roads.
These are some of the more popular ebike types as categorized by utility:
- Mountain bikes
- Urban bikes
- Cargo bikes
- Snow bikes
- Folding bikes
How to Select the Right ebike
There are some important features that you’d need to check out in your future ebike. But before that, you should decide on what you’d be using it for exactly.
Once that is settled, you might want to try different bikes for fit, comfort, and how far you like the frame geometry. Next, try to look for the best values for:
- Motor power
- Battery capacity
- Control panel displayed parameters
- Type of front and rear suspension
- Type of brakes
Do You Need a Motorized Bike?
An ebike could cost north of $5000, with the luxury ebikes crossing the $150,000 mark. And still, people buy them in droves. There must be a good motive, or maybe a bunch of motives behind that. Let’s see now some of the best reasons to own an ebike.
- You are a commuter: You can commute to far distances without being flustered and out of breath as you reach your destination.
- You Need to scale slopes: You can enjoy pedaling downhill, knowing that you wouldn’t need to paddle back up. The motor could do the honors.
- You like long rides: You can spend much longer on off-road trails with your friends. The bumpy ride wouldn’t be as hard on your muscles and general physique.
- You like the outdoors: You can reach outdoor locations that are off-limits for vehicles or motorcycles.
- You don’t want to pollute the woods: When you take an ebike into nature, you wouldn’t add any toxic wastes.
- You don’t want to make a noise: You wouldn’t disturb the wildlife with the rumbling noises of a motor or the obnoxious smells of the exhaust. There are plenty of environmental benefits to using ebikes.
- You’d like to spend less on fuel: You can enjoy the city life without spending half your salary on Uber or car fuel.
- You like a simpler lifestyle: You wouldn’t need to circle the streets for hours looking for a parking spot. These things fold, and you carry them up into your apartment or office.
- You want a convenient solution: Recharging the battery of an ebike is just like charging your smartphone. You just plug it in.
- You want to explore something new: It’s a fun-filled sport, and you get to buy shiny new gear!
- You love biking but don’t have the muscle for it: around 25% of the US population is baby boomers who love cycling but need some assistance to keep up. The elderly also benefit a lot from powered bikes.
- You work in a delivery business: an electric bike would be perfect to maximize your efficiency and minimize your effort. More profits for you.
The only requirements you need is knowing how to ride a bicycle and enjoying the act of pedaling. Riding an ebike doesn’t require a license the way vehicles or motorcycles do. In fact, there’s a regulation in several countries that cuts the power off before reaching 15.5 mph. This way, you get plenty of the perks of riding a motorbike, without much of the hassles.
In places where there’s no cap on the speed limit and motor power of your ebike, you can reach some incredible speeds. Moreover, the available range on a single charge is also considerably higher in the newer models. As for the off-road folks, they have the nice habit of bringing along an extra battery. They get double the range just by doing that!
The Benefits of Owning an ebike
If you have the choice of buying a regular bike, an electric bike, or a motorbike; what would you pick? Informed decisions require hearing out the full arguments in favor and against each selection.
Here we’ll cover the part about why it’s amazing to have an ebike.
Affordable and Economic
A good ebike could cost anything from around $500 to $10,000. The lower-range bikes are great for running errands, while the higher-end ones are pro-grade off-road or racing bikes.
You can get a remarkable urban ebike for around $2000, which is a great price compared to the $15,000 you’d need for a motorcycle. A regular bicycle sells for much less, of course. But it also comes with far limited capabilities.
The running costs of owning an ebike are also quite economic. You don’t need to fuel it every week, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on parking arrangements. In addition to that, the maintenance costs of an ebike are peanuts compared to other vehicles.
Using an ebike for exercise might seem a bit like cheating, however, it does have some documented health benefits. That’s mainly because ebikes attracted several users who had a previous aversion to exercise. The pedal assist function provided the encouragement they needed to hop on a bike and hit the roads.
The sunshine, consistent physical exercise, and the cheer of meeting like-minded folks, all have positive effects. Thus, people observe an overall enhancement in their health and well-being after a few months of driving an ebike.
Several observations show that ebike riders get a boost of self-esteem, become more tolerant of stressful situations, have improved mental acuity, and feel generally good about life.
Going to work with that mindset is certainly positioning oneself for the possible performance. The same applies to returning back home after a long day at the office. The relaxed content feelings that come with moderate exercise would soon reflect on the whole household.
Learning how to drive a car could take months. And getting used to harnessing the power of a motorcycle is no quick-and-easy feat either. Luckily, you don’t need to spend weeks or months learning how to drive an ebike. ‘It’s as easy as riding a bike’; literally!
Most ebikes are easily portable, and some are foldable, so you can actually carry them around and park them at your home or office. This portability advantage also plays out so well when you’re traveling, going to the beach, or camping.
Most pedal-assist ebikes don’t require licensing at all. They’re often available for all ages, and have very few helmet and safety gear regulations. Moreover, they’re rarely restricted within any urban or off-road locations.
The ebikes that come with throttle assist, high-power motors, or high speeds, could have some regulations though. These laws differ by country and by state, so you’d need to check the local rules before purchasing an ebike.
Generally speaking, ebikes give you speed without the extra complications of regulations, taxes, insurance, and all the similar essentials when you own a vehicle.
Electric vehicles in general are considered much more environment-friendly than gas-fueled ones. By simply choosing to commute on an ebike; you decrease the carbon footprint significantly. Pollution from gas combustion is another toxic factor that you can eliminate by going electric.
In addition, you’d decrease the ambient noise that comes with the buzz of regular motors. The health benefits of quieter places might not be obvious at first glance, but they are quite substantial. By similar reasoning, there are some huge downsides to living in noisy surroundings.
Fun Social Activity
Harley Bikers, Jeep owners, and RVers are all well-known societies. And taking part in the events and social media groups associated with them is often incredibly enjoyable.
Likewise, there are several social hubs related to owning an ebike. Some of the extra exciting groups are the ones that revamp old models, or boost the performance of new ones. There are also several travel routes for ebike riders, where you can explore novel places and get to know new people.
The Few Things You Could Miss While Using an ebike
Bike riders often find that cycling from place to place the best possible method of transport. Interestingly, even when they have an alternative vehicle, they still leave the big cars in the garage and take their bikes out on the ride.
Protection from the Sun, Wind, and Rain
The main downside of commuting with an ebike is being subject to the elements at all times. You’ll experience the seasons up close and personal. Which is something your car protects you from completely.
There’s No Passenger Seat
Furthermore, you wouldn’t be able to invite people into your sporty means of transportation. As it doesn’t have a passenger seat, a companion would need to grab another bike and pedal alongside yours. There are tandems for couples who would like to feel connected at all times, but that’s not too frequent.
The Bike Storage Space Is Rather Limited
There’s also that thing about storage, an ebike typically has enough storage space for your bottle of water.
You can add extra accessories for front or back storage, but that’ll be sufficient for a backpack. If you’re one of these folks who travel with loads of stuff, then then you might need to make some changes as you start commuting with an ebike.
Traveling Far and Away
The average car takes the trip from Boston to New York in about 41/2 hours. This same 215 miles trail could take roughly 10 days on an electric bike.
The pleasure factor is debatable, of course. And so is the fact that you get to experience the road in a very different manner while using the bike. However, reaching a far destination might still be a bit out of scope for a bike. Cars, trains, buses, RVs, and planes are still nice options.
A Fair Assessment of the Pros & Cons
Having said all that, I’ll admit with all openness, that the perks of commuting with an ebike far exceed any shortcomings. The price of an ebike compared to a vehicle or motorcycle is also a deciding factor here.
And if you need to travel to a particularly distant location, you can rent a car as needed. In addition to the multitude of options available in public transport.
The very first time an engineer dabbled with the concept of an electric bicycle was in the middle of the industrial revolution.
Around 1870 sketches came out detailing the use of an internal combustion engine to power the bike. That never materialized though, and neither did a series of inventions that were too bulky or too expensive to manufacture.
Much later, in the 1990s, the torque motors saw the light. Soon to be followed with power controllers and large capacity batteries. In 1992, the first ebike tested the appetite of the market. And in the next ten years, it was clear that there was a huge demand for these bikes.
Today, the sales of ebikes are soaring everywhere, and it’s expected that they’d keep on doing so in the foreseeable future. They’re fast, simple, affordable, eco-friendly, and there’s something so cool about driving an ebike!