What Are E-Bikes and Should YOU Try One?

Throughout the year, our staff members will be providing blog readers with maintenance and mechanics articles on different skills, knowledge, and tips for safe riding.

In this article, Andrew Magill informs us on E-Bikes.

E-Bikes, or electric assist bicycles, are rapidly becoming a more common sight on streets and bike trails. They have already been popular in Europe and some parts of Asia and Australia. But what exactly is an E-Bike? It is a bicycle with a battery-powered motor that either assists the rider while they are generating force from pedaling or may power the bike without pedaling (up to specified speeds). While the motor is active, these bikes won’t travel faster than 28 mph.    E-Bikes use rechargeable batteries and small computer systems that function as information and control modules. There are E-commuting bikes, E-mountain bikes, E-adult tricycles, E-cargo bikes, and more. Motors will either be integrated into one of the bicycle’s wheels (usually the rear) or can provide torque to the pedals through the bottom bracket (this setup is often called mid-drive). Batteries are also affixed to the bicycle in various locations depending on the model.

E-Bikes are designed to handle almost exactly like traditional bicycles, however, the electric motor means that users may travel with less effort and cover more distance in less time. E- Bikes can be an excellent choice for those using a bike for transit, and make riding easier for anyone who might shy away from using a bike for reasons such as health, fitness level, age, disability, or the need to carry heavy cargo.

E-Bikes do come with some interesting challenges. They are more expensive to buy than their non-electric counterparts. Also, batteries need to be charged regularly and occasional maintenance or repairs will be needed to the drive units and computer systems. This requires some education for users and bicycle repair shops. E-Bikes are often much heavier than traditional bicycles due to the motor and batteries, so lifting them up stairs can be challenging. However, many E-Bikes have “walk modes” which allow the motor to assist the user in pushing the bike up a steep hill or ramp. The frequency with which the user will need to charge an E-Bike battery depends on the specific battery and motor, as well as the duration and load that are required from these components, but they can usually run for multiple trips. The batteries can be charged in almost any electrical outlet, however, manufacturers recommend using the specific charger designed for their battery.

The hope of individuals and advocacy groups who support bicycling is that E-Bikes will mean that more people can bike more regularly for fun, transit, or fitness benefits. This can increase public health, reduce traffic congestion, and reduce vehicle emissions. It can make it possible for friends and families to bike together as a group. Another goal is to ensure that E-Bikes remain classified as bicycles and are not confused with other electric-powered vehicles such as electric scooters or E-Motorcycles. If you find E-Bikes fascinating or want more information, stay tuned. Expect to see E-Bikes available for rent or demo in the near future at locations around the Twin Cities. Alternatively, stop in at our 2010 26th Ave South location. I’d love to talk with you about E-Bikes. After recently attending a four-day E-Bike design and repair training, I am really charged up about this topic!