Electric bicycles have become more popular every year since their first surge in popularity in 2010. Since then, electric bicycles have gotten cheaper, better, and have a wider variety of types of electric bicycles. Initially, electric bicycles were designed for city commuters looking for a cheaper alternative for getting around. Nowadays, there are electric bicycles for every form of riding, from city commuting to off-road and electric mountain bikes. But are electric bicycles worth it?
Traditional bicycle riders worldwide have been converting to electric bicycles, and for a good reason. Electric bicycles travel faster than traditional bicycles while requiring the rider to put in less effort, thanks to motor assistance that nearly every e-bike comes with. Furthermore, you can have one for every occasion with the myriad of electric bicycle types. In short, if you are thinking about purchasing an electric bicycle, there is no better time to do so than now.
As you continue to read this article, we will cover the many different types of electric bicycles. Furthermore, we will cover many reasons you should give e-biking a shot. Finally, we will discuss some of the more significant downsides of owning an electric bicycle, allowing you to decide if owning an e-bike is right for you.
Types Of Electric Bicycles
If you are considering purchasing an electric bicycle, there are quite a few things you need to consider first. Electric bicycles have several models to choose from that differ depending on the battery, motor, and pedal-assist configuration. With that said, each type of electric bicycle is designed to meet specific bike riders’ needs.
There are three main types of pedal assist that you should know about, pedal-assist, throttle, and speed pedelec.
1. Pedal Assistance
Pedal-assist electric bicycles are by far the most common. Pedal-assist e-bikes can be configured to meet your needs. Pedal-assist electric bicycles work in conjunction with the rider to move forward quickly. As you pedal, the motor will assist you, essentially allowing you to go faster with less effort. Even pedal-assist e-bikes have motors that detect the angle of the road you are riding on and will work harder to allow you to ride up steep roads much easier than on a traditional bike.
Pedal-assist bicycles can assist the rider to travel at speeds up to 20 to 28 miles per hour in the United States. However, the assistance only works while the rider is pedaling. With that said, depending on the state in which you live, there may be laws that may require you to have a license, permit, or wear a helmet depending on the electric bicycle’s class or the motor’s power.
Electric bicycles that use a throttle work more like motorcycles than traditional bicycles. Instead of requiring the rider to be pedaling in order for the motor to work, the rider may use the throttle in the handlebar instead. This throttle works precisely like a motorcycle throttle in the sense that you need to twist the throttle to engage the motor. Throttle-powered electric bicycles provide a carefree way of traveling that does not require the rider to put in any effort other than keeping balance.
However, some electric bicycles use a throttle that still requires you to pedal. This is the case for all-electric bicycles that have a throttle in Europe.
What happens if my battery dies on my throttle-powered electric bicycle? One of the best parts about throttle-powered electric bicycles is that they still have pedals, so if your battery dies, you are not stranded.
Electric bicycles that have a throttle will travel at speeds up to 20 to 28 miles per hour.
3. Speed Pedelec
Speed pedelec electric bicycles work very similarly to pedal-assist e-bikes as they both require the rider to pedal in order to engage the motor. However, while the motor in pedal-assist e-bikes gauge how fast it needs to propel the rider based on how fast they are pedaling, speed pedelec electric bicycle riders can manually set the speed they wish to go.
Speed pedelec electric bicycles tend to be faster than the others and will have a maximum speed of around 25 to 28 miles per hour.
When it comes to choosing your electric bicycle, there are two different types of battery positions, rack-mounted and down tube batteries. The only difference between the two different placements of batteries is weight distribution.
Rack-mounted batteries are placed above the rear wheel under a rack typically used to haul things around. While transporting stuff on your electric bicycles, the rear rack with a rack-mounted battery can put added pressure on the back wheel, which will need to be changed more often than the front.
On the other hand, down tube-mounted batteries are located in the center of the bicycle. This provides overall better weight distribution while also giving the rider slightly better control over e-bikes with rack-mounted batteries.
With that said, nearly all electric bicycle batteries are lithium-ion, which provides a better life span for your battery while also charging faster and holding its charge for longer. However, some electric bicycles use lead-acid batteries, which are generally less expensive but have a shorter life span and don’t hold a charge as well as lithium-ion batteries.
There are three primary placements for motors on electric bicycles, mid-drive, rear hub, and front hub. The only difference you need to know is that you can only find mid-drive motors on pedal-assist bicycles, front hub motors are typically for throttle e-bikes, and rear hub motors are most commonly found on speed pedelec bikes.
While each of these motors works in slightly different ways, each of these motors provides the same function to help propel the rider.
Commuter, Cruiser, And Mountain E-Bikes
Now that you have all of the relevant information about the different configurations of electric bicycles, we can talk about the different types of electric bicycles. There are three main types of e-bikes, commuter, cruiser, and mountain/off-road. Each of these electric bicycles can have any orientation of the parts we talked about above. However, where they differ is how they are best used.
Commuter Electric Bicycles
Commuter electric bicycles are often referred to as hybrid e-bikes. Commuter e-bikes are perfect for those who need to travel long distances or who often have busy days with tons of errands. Commuter bicycles are fantastic for traveling to work or school and will usually have a rear rack where you can carry your backpack, groceries, or other items you need to bring with you.
Commuter electric bicycles are pretty quick, and many of these e-bikes can travel up to 28 miles per hour, making these bikes a fantastic alternative to a car.
Cruiser Electric Bicycles
Cruiser electric bicycles work best for people who are looking for comfort and control. Cruiser e-bikes are perfect for those who just like to ride around or need to go on short commutes.
Cruiser e-bikes offer the most comfort out of the three types of electric bicycles. They tend to have a very comfortable seat positioned, so it feels like you’re sitting in a chair. Furthermore, most cruiser electric bicycles have a step-through frame that allows the rider to mount and dismount their e-bike easier.
With that said, cruiser e-bikes make for an excellent choice for older people and those who have some joint issues. Cruiser electric bicycles provide a smooth ride that provides exercise without putting excess stress on your joints and muscles. This allows people to go on longer commutes without feeling tired once they reach their destination.
Mountain/Off-Road Electric Bicycles
This type of electric bicycle works exactly how you think it does. Mountain e-bikes offer riders the choice to take their electric bicycles off-road and on mountain trails. Mountain e-bikes tend to have a more robust and more precise motor, making tackling hills and dirt trails easier. Furthermore, this electric bicycle is always fitted with wheels that have stronger spokes and tires designed for off-road biking.
Are Electric Bicycles Worth It?
Now that we have covered all of the basics of electric bicycles let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Are e-bikes worth it?
We say yes, electric bicycles have many benefits that make up for the few downsides. For example, electric bicycles provide faster transportation than traditional pedal bikes that are cheaper than purchasing a car.
However, when compared to traditional pedal bicycles, electric bikes can cost you quite a bit more. While you can still get an ok workout while riding your e-bike, riding a traditional pedal bike provides much more in that category.
With that said, do electric bicycles provide you with more benefits than cons? We think so, and here’s why.
Compared to a traditional pedal bicycle, electric bicycles can take you to your destination faster and with less effort. When traveling to work or school on an electric bicycle, you will appreciate the speed you get there. Furthermore, if you live in a city, you might notice how hard it is to find a decent place to park sometimes; however, with an electric bicycle, parking is a breeze.
Motor Assisted Cycling
The motors on electric bicycles are designed to provide a faster ride that will help prevent some pain in your knees, hips, and back. With that said, thanks to the motors, riding an electric bicycle will allow you to travel the same distance as a traditional pedal bike without feeling tired.
Furthermore, riding uphill on an electric bicycle is leagues easier than on a traditional pedal bike. This is because most motors have a built-in sensor that will detect how steep the rider’s surface is and accommodate for these instances by providing extra power. Moreover, the motors in mountain e-bikes provide even more stability and control with this built-in sensor, allowing you to tackle more challenging trails.
With that said, these benefits of motor-assisted cycling allow elderly and overweight people to get the exercise they need to stay healthy without straining their joints or back.
A More Affordable Commuting Option
While electric bicycles are more expensive than traditional pedal bikes, they are still vastly cheaper than purchasing a car. Furthermore, electric bicycles run on electric batteries that will need to be charged every day or two. The costs of charging your bike’s battery pale in comparison to gas prices. On average, you can expect to pay less than $2 worth of electricity vs. the near $150 to $200 you can spend on gas per month.
Furthermore, maintenance on an electric bicycle is cheaper than on a car. Purchasing a new battery every three to five years will cost you $60 to $80. New tiers are roughly $20 to $35, and bike chains are even cheaper. With a car, you need to monitor and replace oil, get oil changes, replace tiers, and other maintenance costs that can cost as much or more than an electric bicycle costs to purchase.
E-Biking Offers A Green Option
Electric bicycles run 100% off of electricity, which positively impacts air quality by having 0 emissions. Compared to other motorized travel forms, electric bicycles produce vastly less pollution per mile traveled.
The Cons Of Electric Bicycles
Everything has pros and cons, and electric bicycles are no exception. Electric bicycles have many benefits, some of which we didn’t mention, and have a few cons. Some of the cons we will list below vary in severity depending on the person, and it is the cons that will allow you to decide if electric bicycles are worth it or not.
Electric Bicycle Prices
When compared to traditional pedal bikes, electric bicycles cost a lot more. While you can get a fantastic pedal bike for $500 to $600, you are getting the bottom of the barrel if you pay this much for an electric bicycle. There are cheaper electric bicycles that are around $200 and even cheaper, but we advise that you stay away from these e-bikes because they are not built with longevity in mind.
If you want an electric bicycle that will last you for many years to come, then you should be looking at e-bikes that cost around $1,000 to $3,000, depending on what you want your electric bicycle to specialize in. Electric bicycles in this range are great bikes built with quality and long-lasting parts. With that said, there are even some electric bicycles that cost $8,000 or more. But these e-bikes are meant for people who are invested in the hobby.
If you know how to ride a pedal bike, some people will say you can ride an electric bicycle with ease. However, this is not the case, electric bicycles are roughly 15 to 25 pounds heavier than a traditional bike, and this extra weight can throw people off. Furthermore, electric bicycles accelerate much faster than traditional bikes, which will take some time to get used to.
Electric Bicycle Laws
While not a huge deal, electric bicycle laws can be confusing. In the United States, electric bicycles have three classifications which are determined by speed, type of motor assistance, and if the bike has a speedometer or not. Furthermore, each state can have wildly different laws regarding the use of electric bicycles.
For example, in Alabama, laws state that you need to be at least 14 to ride an electric bicycle, and all riders 17 years old or younger require a helmet. You will also need to purchase a special license to operate an e-bike in Alabama legally. On the other hand, in Arizona, there are no laws requiring you to be a certain age or wear a helmet, nor is there a law requiring you to have a certain license or permit to operate an electric bicycle legally.
With that said, if you are considering purchasing an electric bicycle, research your state’s laws before you do so. This way, you are well prepared when you finally get your e-bike
While we think electric bicycles are worth it, the final decision comes down to you. If you consider any of the cons we listed to be too much, then you should stay away from e-bikes. However, if you think that the benefits outweigh the cons, then we think you should give e-biking a shot.