Are Electric Bikes Practical?

Are Electric Bikes Practical?

Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

Electric bikes are gaining popularity across the globe, and as a result, I’ve received a lot of questions about whether or not an e-bike is practical. Of course, if you’ve never ridden one, that’s a fair question, but you’ll quickly realize how much e-bikes have to offer once you hop on.

Take everything that makes a regular bicycle fun and practical, then make it better. That’s what you get from an e-bike. Electric bikes are super enjoyable and still offer plenty of exercise while delivering greater ride flexibility. It’s also worth mentioning some go really fast, while others are energy-efficient. Plus, an e-bike can potentially replace a car for certain commutes, saving you money.

An e-bike can quickly become more expensive than your typical 21-speed. But, at the same time, we’re seeing excellent options for as low as $600 hit the streets and trails. So, if you’re wondering how practical an e-bike is, here are a few thoughts.

How Do E-Bikes Work?

Bosch e-bike motor assembly
Bosch

An electric bike is not a scooter, although some operate similarly. Most e-bikes on the market are highly similar to a bicycle but with a few notable additions. Take a regular bike, add electrical components, including a motor, hub assembly, a battery pack, better brakes, and a controller, and combine them into the design. That’s essentially an e-bike.

Electric bikes use a motor to assist the movement of the pedals or wheel, making them easier to ride and less strenuous. Some have the motor inside the petal assembly, while other brands put it inside the rear tire. Depending on the e-bike, the motor will assist you while you pedal, but specific models can go forward on their own without pedaling and come equipped with a throttle.

The type of bike you can get depends on where you live, and in the U.S., there are three main e-bike classes to consider.

  • Class 1: Pedal-assisted bike while the user pedals at speeds upwards of 20 MPH.
  • Class 2: These e-bikes may have pedals but can also use just the motor to travel up to 20 MPH.
  • Class 3: The most popular (and fastest style) provides motorized assistance while the rider pedals and reaches speeds upwards of 28 MPH.

And while these are the main e-bike classes available stateside, many brands offer packages that extend well beyond these speeds and limits for off-road use. The options are endless.

Practical Capabilities & More Flexibility

Rad Power Bikes RadRunner
Cory Gunther

Whether you want to ride on blacktop, backroads, gravel, or the dirt, there’s an e-bike available to buy. As a result, e-bikes are extremely capable and can handle any terrain, just like a regular bike. As you can see from the different class levels mentioned earlier, there’s certainly a bike that’ll be useful and practical for your daily needs.

However, what makes e-bikes stand out is their flexibility. With an e-bike, you can go farther than before, faster, and likely have more fun doing it. This is especially true for people out of shape, older, or have health conditions. In addition, it brings all the practicality of a bike to those that couldn’t otherwise ride.

Even if you are in shape, an e-bike allows more flexibility for the rider to hit different trails, longer trails, or not have to worry so much about getting tired on the adventure. You will have to keep battery life in mind, but most can go at least 20+ miles on a charge, so that’s not too much concern.

Schwinn bike riders in the mountains
Schwinn

Another thing I want to mention is exercise and the misconception that e-bikes do all the heavy lifting, meaning you won’t get much of a workout while riding. Many people get a bike for cardio and exercise but don’t ever consider an e-bike.

Some e-bikes make rides easy, but almost all allow users to control how much the bike helps. This means you can dial it back, pedal, and get your heart rate up, while still enjoying the benefits and increased range of an e-bike.

Furthermore, recent studies suggest that e-bike riders get just as much exercise or potentially more than if they had a regular bike. Why? Because many e-bike owners use it more frequently than a traditional bicycle and go on longer rides. This results in more activity and exercise. Of course, your mileage may vary with that study, but it’s an interesting thought.

Either way, an e-bike gives more people the opportunity to ride a bike and offers greater flexibility or rideability for owners.

Can an E-Bike Replace a Car?

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Tern

If you don’t like gas prices, ride a bike. While this comment is technically a joke, depending on the situation and needs of the user, an e-bike can absolutely be a viable replacement for a vehicle. For example, if you live in a city or have a short commute, an e-bike could save you money on maintenance, parking, and gas.

Gas is expensive. The average price of electricity in the United States is $0.10 per kWh. Typical e-bikes on the market get roughly 15-20 Wh/mile. To make that easier to understand, you can ride about 5-miles for one penny or 20-miles for under a nickel. Try doing that in your gas-guzzler or electric car.

We get it, though. Not everyone wants to deal with the outdoor elements while navigating to work, not to mention get all sweaty from pedaling a few miles. With select e-bikes, you don’t have to pedal, making it a practical solution over a vehicle or a regular bike.

If you need to get to work quickly or make a quick trip to the corner store, there are several low-cost electric bikes that have a handle throttle perfect for quick and easy transportation. That way it’s more like a moped or scooter, yet still has pedals for times you want to increase range and enjoy some exercise and wind in your hair.

Keep in mind that they are a bit heavier than a regular bike, so hauling one up apartment steps or into an office building isn’t ideal. Then again, there are folding portable e-bikes for that.

Better Than a Regular Bike?

A Cannondale Supersix Evo in black, silver, and orange
Cameron Summerson

So, is an e-bike better than a regular bike, and are they practical? This last section is pretty subjective, as everyone has different wants and needs. And for those die-hard road warriors out there (like Cameron who rides the Cannondale above) don’t get offended. I own a Trek Fuel EX8 mountain bike and a commuter e-bike, and I love them both equally.

When you consider an e-bike can do just about everything a regular bike can, plus a lot more, it makes it pretty easy to see why so many people are falling in love with them.

Yes. Electric bikes are very practical and have plenty to offer for both new and experienced riders. There are several great reasons to own an e-bike, and hopefully, a few of the ones we detailed above will convince you to give one a try.


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