Electric bikes are growing quickly in popularity, so having answered the fundamental question what is an ebike?, the next subject to consider is, what are the benefits of adding a motor to your pedal power?
Whether you’re new to cycling or are already a regular rider, there are a number of reasons why you might want to try an electric bike, from health and fitness through to financial and environmental benefits.
From riding to work, to fast-tracking your route to the top of mountain bike trails, here are 14 benefits of riding an electric bike.
An ebike will improve your fitness
Despite what some may believe, you can ride an electric bike for fitness.
The effort required to keep yourself moving may be less than on a non-assisted bike, but you’ll still be turning the pedals and putting in a significant amount of the energy required to move yourself along.
Studies have suggested that ebike riders’ hearts can be working at more than 90 per cent the level of riders of non-assisted bikes, but riders may perceive less effort.
Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah monitored the heart rates of seasoned mountain bikers riding ebikes and bikes without motors.
The participants on e-MTBs reached 94 per cent of the average heart rate they did when riding purely pedal-powered on a 10-kilometre test circuit. This effort placed them in training zone four.
The same scientists concluded that riding an electric hybrid bike to work brought most of the benefits of commuting. Riders on ebikes averaged 89 per cent of the mean beats per minute they recorded riding without a motor.
Bell says: “You can still push as hard as you like on an ebike, you just have added assistance.
“So, although it can be used to make climbing and riding in general easier if you want to back off, it’s also possible to put in a lot of effort but just go faster for that effort.”
The exercise will strengthen your muscles and up the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, so you’ll be able to do more off the bike and feel fresher too.
An ebike will help you keep up with your mates
One of the major benefits of electric bikes cited by their users is the ability to keep pace with faster riders. It makes riding in a group more enjoyable, because less fit riders don’t feel they’re holding fitter ones back. It’s also good for family rides, where abilities may differ.
That also makes them a social form of exercise, meaning you can chat with your friends as you ride.
For those who ride adaptive bikes, it’s a good way to get out and get fit with less exertion and frustration.
Ebikes make it easier to get up hills
Many cyclists struggle on hills, and even if you’re a climbing ace, your speed is likely to drop below 15mph on many climbs. That means the motor will cut in and provide assistance, with the amount dependent on the level of support you’ve selected.
Once you’ve crested a climb, you’ll be fresher too, so you’re less likely to want to stop to recoup and more likely to press on.
An ebike will enable you to ride faster, regardless of your fitness level. That’s down to quicker acceleration and faster hill climbing.
Electric bike laws dictate that a bike’s motor will cut out once you ride over 25kph/15.5mph in most countries (although that increases to 20mph in the USA), so you might find you’re riding unassisted if you’re already quite fit and riding a performance machine, particularly if you’re riding an electric road bike.
But even so, unless you ride somewhere absolutely pan flat, your speed is likely to increase overall.
An ebike will help you explore new places
An ebike – particularly the best electric gravel bikes – should enable you to ride further too.
An analysis of health and transport data from seven European cities found ebike riders took longer trips than cyclists without motors. Therefore, ebikers gained a similar amount of fitness gains to pedal-powered cyclists.
Range varies hugely between bikes, but you have the option of fitting a second battery to extend it. This enables you to take in places further afield, while the assistance will help you get up climbs and into terrain that you might not have been able to reach before.
An ebike motor will help you get up to speed from a standstill, cutting in to help you accelerate faster and with less effort. That means it’s easier and less stressful to keep in the traffic flow at junctions and lights.
You’ll ride cooler, as your effort level can be less thanks to the motor. If you’re commuting, that means you’ll arrive at work less hot than if you were riding a non-assisted bike.
Less muscle strain
Extra assistance means less strain on your muscles and joints, particularly since the motor will give you most support on hills and accelerations, when most effort is needed. That means you should need less recovery time and you’ll be fresher for another ride.
It’s helpful if you’re just getting into cycling, too, and maybe haven’t yet developed the muscles and beginner’s cycling skills you need to move fluently on the bike.
Less stress on the heart
Your heart will be less stressed riding an ebike than a normal bike.
The motor helps smooth out the periods of harder exertion, but you’ll still get an aerobic workout from riding. Evidence from a Norwegian scientific paper backs this up.
Better mental health
Any form of cycling, or indeed any form of exercise, has big benefits for your mental health.
British Cycling quotes five mental health benefits of cycling, including reduced anxiety and stress, and greater happiness. It says exercising outdoors delivers these benefits better than in a gym.
You should sleep better too, thanks to the anxiety-busting effect of cycling, along with the exercise and fresh air.
An ebike is cheaper (and faster) than a car or other transport
For short-to-medium length journeys, an ebike is more efficient and less expensive than using a car. You don’t need to tax an ebike to ride it, and although it might be a good idea to buy electric bike insurance, this will be far cheaper than car insurance.
The cost per mile is also tiny relative to a car and for urban trips an ebike is often faster. Plus, it’s non-polluting, so it’s better for the environment.
If you need to get to the shops for a top-up, an ebike may get you there faster than a car journey, and there’s not the hassle of finding and perhaps having to pay for parking. Once you’ve shopped, the motor helps with carrying the extra weight of your purchases home.
An ebike journey is cheaper than public transport as well, and it’s point to point, so you probably won’t need to walk as far at either end of your trip.
For example, according to ebike maker Volt, owning one of its Metro ebikes is about £10 a day cheaper than a one-day Transport for London Travelcard for Zones 1-3.
While you still have to maintain an ebike, the costs of repairing one will be far lower than keeping a car running day to day.
Easy to store
If you’re tight on space (who isn’t?), the best folding electric bikes pack down into small packages that you can store under the stairs or in a cupboard.
Even a non-folding electric hybrid bike will be a lot easier to find a space for than a car, if you live somewhere without off-street parking.
Most ebikes are heavier than their non-assisted counterparts, which is worth bearing in mind if you have to carry it up any stairs.
Ebikes can be tax efficient
There’s a significant price premium for an ebike over a normal bike, due to the extra cost of the motor and battery.
But you can reduce that by buying your electric bike using the Cycle to Work scheme, which has now been extended to include purchases over the £1,000 mark.
Buying an ebike using Cycle to Work is tax efficient, because you make monthly payments over several years by salary sacrifice, reducing your gross pay and hence the tax and National Insurance you pay. At the end of the plan period, you can re-lease the ebike for a further period, pay its market value or return it.
If you live in Scotland, you can also take advantage of a scheme funded by Transport Scotland with the Energy Saving Trust. This offers an interest-free loan of up to £6,000 to buy an ebike.
If you can’t afford a dedicated ebike, it may be worth investigating whether an electric bike conversion kit is right for you.
Ebikes are quiet
The best electric bikes are a quiet way to get around, enabling you to relax and enjoy your surroundings.
There’s usually a faint whirr as you accelerate or when climbing hills; the rest of the time, an ebike makes little noise, so there’s no noise pollution or atmospheric pollution.