With improving performance and falling prices, electric bikes are better than ever. Here are a few more reasons you should ride an e-bike…

Wondering if – and why – you should ride an e-bike? Like it or loathe it, the best electric bikes are here to stay. One in 20 people in the UK now owns one, and e-bikes now account for 25% of all new bike purchases. In the US e-bikes are the best-selling electric vehicle – surpassing electric cars. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that e-bikes have suddenly exploded onto the scene, but that’s not exactly true. The first patent for an electric bike was made as early as 1885. It’s only over the past decade, though, that e-bikes have been mass-developed. Big manufacturers such as Trek and Specialized have made huge strides in R&D. But they’ve had to raise their game to compete with new dedicated e-bike companies like Haibike.

The global e-bike market now offers a wide range of mountain bike, road and hybrid versions, to suit a variety of budgets. It’s projected that sales will soar throughout 2023, meaning there will be over 300-million e-bikes in circulation. 

This widespread adoption of e-bikes has happened primarily because they’ve become more practical and affordable. Batteries are getting smaller, motors are more efficient and prices are no longer at their early eye-watering levels.

So what exactly is an e-bike? Essentially, it’s a bike with an electric motor, powered by a battery incorporated into the bike. The motor simply assists the user pedalling, rather than powering the bike on its own.

The control unit on an e-bike's handlebars

The rider can select a number of power settings, which governs how much assistance is given. They can even turn the motor off, which turns the bike into a conventional, albeit heavier, pedal cycle. Some bikes, such as the Volt London e-bike, even have torque sensors that detect when you pedal harder and give assistance accordingly.

Why you should ride an e-bike

More than a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport sector (and half of this from cars and taxis). E-bikes can help meet the growing demand for more sustainable and efficient forms of urban transportation.

So by embracing the e-bike revolution, you’d be doing your bit to promote environmentally friendly transport. Of course regular bikes have no harmful emissions either, but more and more e-bike purchasers in cities are doing so to replace their car.

They can do so because e-bikes are faster and more efficient than regular bikes. Commuting with electric motor assistance means you’ll arrive at the office quicker but less tired than you would have under your own steam.

Combine that efficiency with large capacity batteries that can have a range of 60 miles (90km) or more, and it’s easy to see why e-bike journeys tends to be longer than normal bikes. Basically, you can ride further and travel faster than you can of a regular bike, without expending more energy – all of these are key reasons why you should ride an e-bike.

E-bike regulations

While not as heavily regulated as e-scooters, there’s still legislation governing the use of e-bikes. For instance, to be road-legal the motor must cut out at 15.5mph (25kmph) and can be no more than 250W. However, they don’t need to be taxed or insured and a rider doesn’t need a license to use one.  

E-bikes are more attractive options for users who have physical barriers to exercise, such as those who are older, overweight or suffer from mobility issues. They allow a rider who can’t use a conventional bike, or doesn’t feel confident in their own fitness, the opportunity to get out and exercise. It’s a much more inclusive method of transport and exercise. 

Yet there are still some negative attitudes around their use. One of the biggest is the notion that using an electric bike is ‘cheating’. Yet the belief that a rider won’t get the same benefits as those who use a conventional pedal cycle is untrue. When riding for the same amount of time, on average e-bike riders still burn 80% of the calories that regular bike riders would. So like exercise bikes, they’re a useful tool for weight loss.

Can e-bikes provide a good workout?

If you’re hoping to improve your fitness, you might still be looking for reasons why you should ride an e-bike. Well, a study published in the JMIR Public Health and Surveillance Journal examined the effects, both mentally and physically, on a group of participants who were given e-bikes or conventional cycles to use. It initially found that most participants believed a conventional bike would more likely benefit their physical health than an e-bike.

However, it concluded that those on e-bikes maintained 89% of the cardiovascular benefits that users of the conventional bikes enjoyed. The study also found that e-bikes met the threshold to be considered for cardiovascular fitness and training. 

Over a 10-mile course, the e-bike users completed the distance on average 14 minutes 34 seconds quicker than those on conventional bikes. Their average speed was 16.4mph (26.4kmph), over 4mph quicker than the conventional bike. Despite being quicker, average heart rate was also lower for electric bike riders. 

Of course you have the option to dial in the amount of assistance, allowing for good workout variations. Turn down the assistance to minimum (many e-bikes have a low-power ‘eco’ mode) for a more intense session where you really need to push the gears. Or turn it up full for an easier recovery ride.

One of the less obvious benefits isn’t physical though. Matthew Jackson, director of the Cadence Cycling Club‘s six clubhouses in the south of England, says more and more e-bike riders are joining his organised social rides, and enjoying their mental health benefits.

“You stick together on a ride – some of the users will have their power up whilst others will have it down,” he says. “For that reason, e-bikes are great levellers.” 

Main image: Specialized / Chris Teagles

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