What Is an E-Bike? Your Complete Guide to Understanding
The e-bike sector is set to continue to evolve and its growth is impressive. As of September 2021, sales of e-bikes had surged 240 percent in one year from two years earlier, according to market research firm NPD Group. The industry was worth nearly $27 billion last year, and the momentum shows no sign of abating.
With this kind of growth momentum, there are concerns that e-bikes will overshadow traditional bicycles and make them a thing of the past. Rest assured, however, e-bikes will not replace our human-powered lifestyles. On the contrary, they may enhance our lifestyles, especially in the ever-changing travel and commuting landscape following the pandemic. As we prepare for peak riding season, here’s a comprehensive guide to the e-bike revolution.
Enhancing Pedal Power
The basic function of an e-bike is to equip the bike with a battery-powered assist device to supplement pedaling and, in some cases, a throttle system. By depressing the pedals of a pedal-assist e-bike, a small electric motor kicks in to provide a boost that enables fast uphill travel and easy traversal of challenging terrain. According to the insights of Ed Benjamin, Senior Managing Director of eCycleElectric Consulting, these “pedal-assist bikes” offer a familiar bicycle riding experience, but enhanced.” He emphasizes, “You can control the speed with your feet, just like a regular bike.” You will feel very powerful and accelerate easily.”
There is also a segment of e-bikes equipped with throttles that activate the motor by pressing a button. However, this category of e-bikes deviates from the pure riding experience and is banned in some places. Interestingly, Benjamin noticed that if one is not an avid cyclist, they will initially gravitate towards the throttle bikes, but then opt for the pedal-assisted models in subsequent purchases.
When you pedal harder, the boost is amplified and you get faster over a range of speeds. While e-bikes provide a brisk ride, they shouldn’t be confused with motorcycles, as speeds won’t reach a whopping 45 mph. Depending on the bike model, the motor stops propelling once the speed reaches 20 to 28 mph. This allows you to save time on your commute (I saved about three minutes on a five-mile trip) while still enjoying your surroundings.
In addition, you can control the level of assist. Most e-bikes come with a power selector for adjusting the assist setting from “eco” (light) to “turbo” (high), which is especially effective when conquering steep hills.
A catalyst for more riding
A survey of nearly 1,800 ebike owners in North America revealed that purchasing an e-bike can greatly increase the frequency of riding. Initially, 55% of respondents claimed they rode their e-bike daily or weekly. That percentage skyrocketed to 91% with an e-bike. The reasoning for this is obvious: even if you’re in great shape, you can get fatigued (usually from training or racing), and getting back on a bike can seem daunting. With an e-bike, you can keep riding while giving your tired legs a moment’s rest. Additionally, the faster speeds can entice you to take longer rides, even when time is limited.
For those who don’t ride bicycles regularly, e-bikes open up new possibilities. Even if you’re not used to biking five to ten miles in a single breath, electric assistance makes it easy to reach those distances. Surveys show that 94% of non-cyclists start riding daily or weekly after using an e-bike.
Tailor each ride
Consider a style of riding, and it’s time to choose an electric bicycle that’s customized for that experience. If an electric road bike doesn’t resonate with you, a high-capacity electric cargo bike will capture your heart, capable of hauling up to 400 pounds of cargo while cruising comfortably at 15 miles per hour. E-bikes come in many varieties: fat, cargo, commuter, recreational, hardtail, full-suspension mountain, and even high-performance road bikes. In that regard, explore the best e-bikes for each type of rider.
“E-bikes are being seen as an alternative to automobile travel,” says Benjamin. The data supports this view: 28% of respondents purchased an e-bike for the express purpose of commuting instead of a car. Benjamin cites other reasons for wanting to use an e-bike, including carrying cargo and children, avoiding parking and traffic jams, and environmental concerns, as indicative of a desire to get out of the car. In addition, e-bikes eliminate the need to change clothes or freshen up when they arrive at their destination because there is less sweating.
It is worth noting that more than half of all automobile trips are under 10 miles, with the survey showing an average single trip distance of about 5.95 miles. This distance is clearly ideal for e-bike trips. The survey also showed that 46% of car commutes and 30% of car trips were replaced by e-bikes. With a fully equipped commuter bag, you can carry the essentials with you and be ready to go.
Physical activity still exists
While e-bikes can help you make the effort, they still help with physical activity, especially for those who are sedentary. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that when 20 inactive people rode an e-bike for about 40 minutes three days a week, their cardiovascular health and blood sugar improved within a month. Benjamin noted that many people are not fit enough to ride a bike for long periods of time, which can have significant health and fitness benefits.” Put them on an e-bike and they can ride for an hour and get a lot of exercise
Ever-advancing battery technology
There’s no denying that e-bikes need to be charged. Currently, batteries have a range of 35 to 100 miles before needing to be recharged. Battery capacity and motor power determine where you fall in that range. If you consistently use the “turbo” mode, you will deplete your battery faster than if you use the lower, more efficient modes. Battery performance is expected to improve on future e-bikes.
E-bikes are still a topic of debate in the mountain biking world. Currently, certain non-motorized trails may be off-limits to e-bikes, thus limiting their use. However, the situation seems to be moving in a more lenient direction. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), a prominent advocate for the sport, shifted its stance in 2017 to advocate for restricting access to some pedal-assisted e-bikes (which can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour) on certain trails. With leading manufacturers of electric mountain bikes on board, more electric mountain bikes could be on the horizon.” Benjamin predicts, “In a few years, people will realize that electric mountain bikes don’t affect the trails any more than regular mountain bikes.
Expensive, but good value for money
At the moment, buying an inexpensive e-bike can be a challenge. However, reducing the number of times you use the bike will save money on maintenance and fuel costs, and may also result in fewer sick days due to increased exercise. Prices for e-bikes vary widely, starting at about $1,500 for an entry-level e-bike. For premium bikes with motor systems from major manufacturers such as Bosch, Shimano, or Yamaha, expect to invest more ($2,500 to $5,500) for superior quality.
Solving the weight problem
When presented with a new bike, the usual reaction is to use a lift to measure its weight. However, doing so on an e-bike can lead to surprises. An e-bike’s battery, motor, auxiliary components and reinforced frame give it extra weight – about 20 pounds more – compared to a standard model. Still, modern design and engineering allow the e-bike to maneuver with such weight. When pedaling, the electric assist offsets the added load, making the extra weight less noticeable. Still, a little extra effort is recommended when putting them on a frame or climbing stairs.
All in all, the e-bike sector is a fascinating area full of innovation and change. From enhanced pedaling capabilities to an enhanced riding experience, e-bikes cater to different preferences and lifestyles. E-bikes meet a wider range of riding needs, are a sustainable alternative, have health benefits and expand the horizons of mobility. As the technology continues to evolve, we eagerly anticipate the continued evolution of e-bikes and see them as a key player in reshaping transportation and recreation.
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