We think about technologies that have changed the world, and how we function and exist in it, when certain ones come to mind. For example, the automobile, the computer, and the smartphone.
Meanwhile, another technology is quietly flourishing and spreading around us without drawing nearly as much attention. It is the electric bicycle, which has the potential to change the world.
In Asia, the world's largest e-bike market, there are 200 million e-bikes in use. More than a quarter of all bicycles in the country are owned by them.
Currently, the numbers are lower in the United States. However, more and more people are becoming aware of them, and adoption rates are rising.
By the time we look back on our search for the personal mobility solution in 20 years, we will probably not remember the world before e-bikes, just like it has become harder to remember the world before smartphones.
The Back Story
Electric vehicles have been around for over a century. The gasoline-powered versions predate them by several decades. In fact, if someone had to bet on the future of cars in 1900, they would have bet on electricity.
Despite the first patents for something resembling a bicycle dating back to the 1890s, the modern electric bike is only about 20 years old and has gained popularity in the last few years. In the early modern era, e-bikes suffered from the same issue as their vintage counterpart - both used heavy, short-lived and expensive batteries - similar to lead-acid technology, which made them heavy, unreliable and impractical.
The recent technological revolution is finally causing things to shake up. Due to the rapid growth of laptops, cell phones, and other mobile electronic devices, a much lighter and more durable battery became affordable - lithium-ion. Batteries that used to weigh 20 lbs and provided only a few miles of range now weigh less than 10 lbs and provide more than 60 miles. These batteries are used in most electric bicycles today.
After a century of being little more than fringe ideas, e-bikes are finally taking off and becoming mainstream. With the maturing technology, e-bikes are becoming a reliable form of transportation and recreation for the masses.
People began to wonder how an electric bike differed from a regular bicycle.
Why people choose to get an electric bike.
Many people wonder why someone would buy an electric bike instead of a regular bike when they learn about them. Their doubts revolve around:
- What's the difference between the two?
- What are the advantages of electric bikes?
- Doesn't the point of riding a bike to get exercise?
- Why are they so much more expensive than regular bikes?
All of these are valid and compelling questions we often find ourselves answering to customers. After all, there is a lot of confusion surrounding them. It's a whole new type of transportation, so people aren't familiar with it yet.
Don't worry. By the end of this post, you'll understand the difference between an electric bike and a regular bike. You will also know if an electric bike is right for you.
What are the technical differences between a regular bike and an electric one?
To help you decide which type of bike is right for you, we've compared electric bikes to regular bikes. This way, you can see how and why they differ, and which parts are similar.
Appearance and mechanics
You'll notice that electric bikes look a lot like regular bikes at first glance. The most common myth about e-bikes is that they're like scooters, but they're really just bicycles with electric motors.
Electric bikes have the same wheels, handlebars, and body geometry as mechanical bikes. All mechanical elements, including the pedals and brakes, work the same way.
The only difference is the electrical drive system. There is an electric motor, a battery, and a display screen or controller. Pedaling helps propel the bike forward with the help of the motor, which is powered by the battery. For more information on their electric system, see our post on how e-bikes work.
Maintenance and repairs
Almost all the components of an e-bike are the same as those of a regular bike. The maintenance of an e-bike is pretty much the same as that of a regular bike. This includes servicing, maintenance, and repairs.
You can take an electric bike to the same repair shop as a regular bike if anything goes wrong with the wheels or brakes. The cost of these repairs should also be the same.
The only time this changes is if something goes wrong with the electric components - then a specialist must be consulted. But there are very few faults with the electrical system, and it is covered by a warranty.
For most people, this is the big question! What is it like to ride an e-bike? What makes it different from a regular bike? Cycling on an e-bike is a lot like riding any other bike.
When you get on and start pedaling, the electric motor kicks in. The transition is usually so smooth you won't notice it. Cycling on an electric bike isn't any different from cycling on a regular bike - it just feels easier. You will be pedaling gently as you ride along. Starting from a standing position becomes effortless. It's easy to glide up hills without getting out of breath and face headwinds with ease.
The pedal assistance provided by the motor can also be adjusted, changing how the e-bike feels to ride. By reducing the power, your legs do most of the work. When it's set to maximum power, you can pedal along with your legs, essentially going through the pedaling motions, and still move quickly and easily.
Considering all that electrical assistance, does that mean e-bikes are faster than regular bikes? That depends on how fast you normally ride.
In line with EU regulations, the e-bike motor will enable you to reach speeds of up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph). If you go faster than this, the motor will cut out and you'll have to pedal by yourself.
If you want to go very fast, the electric motor will not help you. Electric bikes, for example, do not provide assistance in a race, which is one of the many reasons why riding one is not "cheating".
However, if you aren't racing, e-bikes might make your ride faster. The reason for this is that they make pedaling feel effortless, so you don't get tired as fast. Also, they make it easier to maintain a constant speed and get back up to speed after stopping, which can reduce the time you spend on the road. However, e-bikes are designed for easy cycling, not for breaking speed records.
Rules and regulations
People are also concerned that e-bikes are subject to rules and regulations. The fact is that electric bikes are considered motorised transport, unlike regular bikes. They are, therefore, subject to some government regulations pertaining to their speed and power. As a rider, however, you won't be affected by those regulations.
The only requirement for riding an electric bike is that you must be at least 14 years old. Apart from that, electric bikes follow the same rules as regular bicycles. They don't need to be registered or insured, nor do you need a license to ride one. E-bikes can be ridden on all cycle paths and anywhere else a bicycle can be ridden.
Which is right for me?
You might want an electric bike if you're using it for long distance travel or commuting. Likewise, if you're not as fit as you once were, or your local area is filled with steep hills, electric bikes make cycling feel more manageable and less daunting. For those rides where you don't want to push yourself to exhaustion, e-bikes are perfect.
Nevertheless, if you're looking for a bike that you can get out and ride during the summer months, or if you won't be travelling far, a regular bike may be all you need. Additionally, electric bikes are more expensive than regular bikes.
Thus, choosing the right bike depends on your preferences. You might want to try an electric bike and a regular bike to see which you prefer. During your visit to our E-bike centers, you can try out the bikes yourself.