E-bikes are a polarizing topic. People either love them or hate them. Some say they’re a life-saver, a way to extend their range or allow them to ride when they couldn’t before. Others call it “cheating.” Whatever camp you fall into, there is one thing for certain: E-bikes are here to stay.
Whether you’re into them or not, they’re getting more and more people out of their cars. So let’s clear up some misconceptions and see where this trend is taking us.
What are E-Bikes?
The thing to remember here is riding an e-bike is just like riding a regular bike. It’s not some magical unicorn, it’s just a bicycle that’s a little easier to pedal. There is a switch on the handlebar that controls the amount of assistance the motor delivers. Less power means better battery life and increased range, more assist equals more speed, up to a point. By law, the motors are limited, usually to around 25 mph. You can go faster under your own power just like a standard bike.
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How Do They Work?
Most e-bikes are pedal assist, meaning as you pedal, a battery-powered, electric motor engages and offers up some help based on your cadence and speed. But they are not motorcycles—you can’t just twist a throttle and have the bike go without pedaling. You may find a few models like that, but they are the exception.
What are the Advantages?
For some people, riding a bike is about the challenge. They love nothing more than reaching the top of some long, brutal climb, sweat stinging their eyes, quads burning, lungs gasping for air. Others just want to see what’s on the other side of that hill. This is where e-bikes excel. It allows all the same fun without the suffering.
An e-bike can also be a great equalizer. The extra range and power enable people of disparate fitness to ride together. Husbands and wives, parents and kids, experts and beginners can now all ride together. That’s something to celebrate, isn’t it?
Who Are They For?
Really, anyone interested in any kind of cycling at all. E-bikes come in all varieties, from bike-path cruisers to full-on mountain bikes. There are electrified fat bikes to tackle snow and sand. There are cargo e-bikes that make hauling full coolers, a surfboard, the kids, or all your worldly belongings a piece of cake. Even roadies have electric options now.
E-bikes are gaining converts as a daily commuter. Imagine bypassing cars stuck in traffic as you glide past them on your bike. Best of all, you arrive at the office sweat free! Bikes designed for commuting tend to have upright, nimble geometry so you can get a good look ahead and navigate through traffic. They can be equipped with racks or panniers to hold a laptop, a bagged lunch, or even your haul from a run to the farmer’s market on the weekend. With no pack to carry, no sweaty back!
As a mountain bike, a key advantage is that it takes people places they may not have been able to get to on their own because of fitness or time constraints. For enduro riders and downhillers, it means they can ditch the car shuttles and ski lifts, pedal to the top under their own power, and still enjoy ripping the descent.
Counterintuitively, an e-bike can allow novices to actually pedal more. Imagine a steep, loose uphill. On a standard bike, a beginner would attempt to pedal up it, get about six feet and bobble, then have to push to the top. On an e-bike, they are more likely to make it with the extra boost. It opens up more terrain.
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What Does the Future Hold?
As consumers warm up to e-bikes, manufacturers are investing in the technology. We’re already seeing the benefits with better functionality and more streamlined designs. (On some models, you won’t even notice it’s an e-bike without a really close look.) Battery tech is improving by leaps and bounds, with batteries becoming smaller and lighter while increasing power. Charge times are decreasing as well. All this means the average cost will continue its downward trend.
Don’t Forget the Gear
With your new e-bike, the proper gear is essential. Forward-thinking clothing manufacturers have taken 37.5’s technology and applied it to well-thought-out cycling clothing for every flavor of rider. For the serious everyday rider, look to Bontrager’s Velocis line. You can find clothing from head-to-toe for both men and women, including bibs, tights, jerseys, socks and full-on cycling jackets. Even their helmet liners are equipped with 37.5 tech. Never let ’em see you sweat.
For women who don’t have the body of a stereotypical roadie, Rsport offers a full range of tops for all shapes and sizes. If commuting and wanting to just go from bike to office, great offerings from Banana Republic and Kenneth Cole keep you looking as cool as you feel.
No matter how you enjoy riding, an e-bike lets you do more of it.
Written by Shaine Smith for RootsRated Media in partnership with 37.5.
Featured image provided by Richard Masoner