I am disdainful of electric bikes. Perhaps not a surprising attitude for a roadie.
Mostly this is because I don’t understand why they exist. OK, not quite. I can see there is a market for those who want to ride a bike but, for some unfortunate medical or age related reason lack the physical capacity to do so. They can help some people lead a more fulfilled 2-wheeled life; riding to the shops or for leisure with family and friends. Otherwise they are strictly for the indolent. The former is probably a niche market, sadly the later probably isn’t it.
An issue with e-bikes is their speed, or rather, their lack of it. In the UK, Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles, to give them their full legal name, when using the power assist are restricted to 15mph (CTC have a good summary article on what is allowed for e-bikes). You can go faster, but you must do so under your own steam. But, if you can go faster why would you want to carry around the dead weight of a battery and motor? A regular cyclists on a good bike (I have in mind a practical hybrid, rather than a cheap, heavy full suspension mountain bike, complete with squeaky chain) should be able to approach speeds of 15mph. When you factor in the stop start nature of urban riding I would expect average speeds between a normal bike and an e-bike to pretty similar.
You don’t buy an e-bike for speed. If speed is your need, surely you would buy a moped or learn to ride harder?
Fitness is a common reason for riding a bike. Cycling gives you an excellent cardio-vascular workout and, if you take it seriously, will shift excess lard fast. Electric motors do not exercise your body or help you to lose weight.
I suppose there is an environmental argument. E-bikes are emission free and probably more fuel efficient than a car. They help reduce congestion too. But these arguments also apply to proper bikes. Furthermore, proper bikes don’t require plugging in to a power socket with their emissions transferred to a power station. Neither do proper bikes have gigantic Lithium-ion batteries, bringing with them the associated environmental costs of mining, refining and disposal (I did briefly research this, but it is a topic deserving of more attention, a blog for a future date). If you want a mode of transport to assuage your environmental guilt, ride a bike, not an e-bike.
Finally, e-bikes look ridiculous. However, I hadn’t realised just how ridiculous they can look until I saw this parked at the train station:
It is a Metro A2B E-bike and it has an astonishing specification. Specifically full-suspension and 3″ wide tyres. Why, really, why? 3″ tyres; is it designed for trekking across powdery snow plains and sandy deserts? And with full-suspension! You do not need full-suspension for urban riding. Full-suspension is for downhilling, freeriding, hard technical mountain biking, not tarmac. Besides, the anatomies riding such bikes will have sufficient cushioning to negate the marginal comfort benefits of full-suspension and 3″ tyres.
It takes 4-5 hours to charge up and has a range of 40 miles. I can enjoy a bowl of pasta in 15 minutes and, with on the go refuels, have a range of at least 120 miles. I expect my engine to outlast many an e-bike battery-motor combo.
It’s assisted speed limit is 15mph. On the right bike and given a bit of time and effort, speeds in the range 12-16mph are easily achievable. Regular riding builds strength, speed and confidence.
It has a moped style stand.
It retails for £2,499.99. You can buy a good hybrid or tourer and keep a lot of change for that much money. Protected by a cheap Oxford chain, the owner must be confident in their vehicles total undesirability.
So come on e-bike owners, if laziness and lardiness is your excuse, it’s time to harden-up, dump the battery packs and use your legs like the owner of this:
It is not difficult to engage your muscles and turn a pedal…. Or is this what you are waiting for fatty?