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Electric Bikes – The Rise And Rise Of E-Bikes

Why Ride An Electric Bike ?

electric bike

Prodeco V3 Outlaw

If your interest in electric bikes is to ease the pressure on the environment then it will please you to know they are growing in popularity – according to a recent report from Navigant Research

The number of Electric bike sales are expected to triple in the next six years from 53,000 in 2012 to 265,000 in 2018, even with this increase in popularity, electric bike sales in the US have a long way to go to catch up to Europe or China…

Though they are gaining acceptance within a broader audience in the US.

This acceptance is due in no small part to improvements in e-bike technology, these improvements are both real and cosmetic with the improved range or mileage from the latest  Lithium-ion batteries being the most sort after and talked about.

As well as, quicker charge times, better quality controllers and more efficient electric motors, add to this the stylish design and sexy look of the latest electric bikes… all these developments work together to make the modern electric bike a viable, fun bike to own and ride.

The growing need for alternative forms of transport to alleviate traffic congestion and pollution in large cities is a major factor driving the increase in bike sales, with Worldwide sales in 2012 of  30 million units (90% being in China) this indicates the  53,000 electric bicycles sold within the US is quite low in comparison, showing there is potential for huge growth in e-bike sales in the US.

The increasing Global sales will almost certainly encourage competing  manufacturers to produce a wider range of even better, more efficient bikes for sale in the future.

Types Of Electric Bikes :

  • With pedal-assist, the electric motor is regulated by pedalling. The pedal-assist augments the efforts of the rider when they are pedaling. These e-bikes – called pedelecs – have a sensor to detect the pedaling speed, the pedaling force, or both. Brake activation is sensed to disable the motor as well.
  • With power-on-demand, the motor is activated by a throttle, usually handlebar-mounted just like on most motorcycles or scooters. (source: Wikipedia )

Electric Bikes come in many shapes and forms :

  • Folding Electric Bike
  • Electric Mountain Bike
  • Hybrid Electric Bike
  • Electric Road Bike

Whatever your demands or expectations with a little research you are sure to find an e-bike to suit you.

E-Bike Commuting :

e- bike

Prodeco V3 Phantom

So you are ready to ditch your car and commute by bicycle ? Not many of us are hardcore enough to pedal a mountain bike to work day after day, struggling up hills, battered by a head wind ?  Some days we are just too tired, the weather is against us, or… the excuses soon add up, as well the reality of arriving at the office hot, tired, and sweaty, deters most arm-chair  road warriors from commuting by bike – whatever the benefits may be.

But with an electric bike most of these excuses fade away, though there are two obvious negatives :

  • you are always vulnerable  to weather changes when relying on any bike for transport
  • the initial purchase price of your shiny new e-bike – they are not cheap to buy.

A good electric bike can cost as much as a scooter or small motorbike, though the ongoing running costs are very low, with each battery charge costing around 10 cents, and regular maintenance checks similar to a road bike.

The initial purchase price is quite quickly offset as you release yourself from the increasing costs of commuting to work, as well as the hard to measure – ” feel good factor” from reducing your impact on the environment plus the improvement in your fitness.

The rising costs of driving a vehicle  is creating the demand for alternative forms of transport, whether for the daily commute or weekend recreation. One of the few alternatives to burning fossil fuels is the electric bike. using electricity to drive your transport, is a great option  to reduce reliance on  fossil fuels.

If you are at the stage of seeking alternative transport ? an  electric bike with pedal assist could be the answer ? or at least a suitable  compromise as we grudgingly adapt to the changing face of transport,

Riding an e-bike releases you from…

  • commuting restrictions
  • increasing parking  fees
  • environmental concerns
  • you no longer contribute to traffic congestion/smog
  • increasing  gas prices…

“There is a myriad of practical reasons to ride an electric bike  – but the best reason seldom mentioned in electric bike reviews – They Are A Blast To Ride ! Fun is the best reason… whatever the type of electric bike you choose I guarantee it will put a smile on your face every time you ride it” !

It is getting easier to commute by bike in many Cities throughout the US  including New York, Chicago, Washington, and Los Angeles as they are in the process of building dedicated bike lanes, with the aim of making  commuting by bike safer and easier.

It is up to e-bike riders to show consideration to others on the cycle lanes to ensure they remain legally entitled to use cycle only lanes – for the moment e-bikes are able to travel on bike lanes this is a great safety factor for electric bike commuters, but there is a growing resistance to e-bikes accessing bike lanes because of the speed they travel at, and the attitude of some e-bike riders.

What Is An Electric Bike ?

electric bike charger

24-volt charger

– what defines an electric bike ?

Electric Hub Motor: one of the most popular types of motor, is built directly into the rear or front wheel. It is quieter and more efficient than chain driven motors.

The power of an electric bike is measured in Watts the higher the Wattage the faster your bike will go, but check your local regulations before buying the fastest bike in the shop, if you over power your bike you may need a license for the bike and the rider.

Pedal assist… this is the major selling point for most people who buy electric bikes, most of these bikes offer various levels of assistance, some using  a throttle lever mounted on the handlebars. This allows you to control the level of assistance depending on the terrain or your level of fitness.

An electric bike with pedal-assist is more than a bicycle – but it is not quite a scooter or a motorbike. Pedal assist  requires you to pedal  (but with very little effort) in order to make the electric motor engage, instead of power on demand from just twisting the throttle and using the battery power alone to drive the bike.

In practice, the electric bike has many of the advantages of a petrol drive scooter without any of the obvious disadvantages, like the need for fuel or even a drivers license.

An electric bicycle can use either battery power solely via a throttle or pedal assist or you can use both battery power and pedals together. When the battery power is being used, you can expect the bike to travel at speeds over twenty miles per hour and will do so without belching harmful emissions.

Batteries :  most but not all electric bikes sold in Europe and the United States use Lithium-ion batteries  giving 20 – 40-mile range with assisted pedaling and recharge in 3-5 hours depending on the battery and charger type. the cheaper bikes made for the Chinese market would normally run an SLA or sealed lead-acid battery to save cost but SLA batteries require longer charge times with a reduction in miles per charge – Lithium-ion batteries are the best choice.

Electric Motor : a hub motor is my preference when choosing a bike to buy they tend to feel more balanced to ride and often prove to be more durable

Electric bicycles are available in several different styles, and just like normal bikes, there are various sizes of frames which in many cases are adjustable to fit different riders and riding styles. Some are designed for an upright, relaxed ride – similar to a beach cruiser, while others are designed for more active riders, with a sportier riding position.

To truly understand what  an electric bicycle is, think of your basic bike such as a Hybrid Bike with a few different speeds

Then you add three more parts – a battery, an electric motor and a controller which regulates and activates the power and electric assistance. When you combine those three items with a bike, you have the beginnings of an electric bike.

A factory built electric bike is a basic but very solid bicycle similar to a mountain bike or hybrid bike which has electric components installed on it. It will pedal like a normal bike and function the same as well. Mostly, it will have all the same parts of a typical bike and is made to be thought of and used like a bicycle, not a motorcycle.

Electric bikes with pedal assist are designed to heighten human power, not totally take its place, they are not about traveling at high speeds; instead, think of an electric bike as something that is just easier to use than a regular bike

Electric bikes have both supporters and detractors – some of the negatives often cited by detractors

  • unproven technology
  • toys for those who can afford them.
  • cycling purists think electric bike riders are a sad joke.
  • policymakers struggle with, how to regulate all the different types of electric bikes
  • one hotly debated question often asked; should e-bikes be allowed to share bicycle lanes ?
  • most electric bikes are too heavy for a roof mounted bike racks even with the battery removed, some are too heavy for bike hitch racks that are designed for conventional bicycles – so you may need a bike trailer when transporting electric bikes.
  • can’t ride them in the rain ? but plenty of people do without a problem.

 Laws Controlling Electric Bikes

Federal law Governing electric bikes is quite broad, in that they designate, electric bikes should have a top speed of less than 20 mph (32 km/h) with a motor less than 750 W (1.01 hp)… but each State in the US seems to be constantly amending their own set of laws.

Legally, if your electric bike is under 750W and uses pedal assist they are not regulated as strictly as a petrol drive scooter or motorbike, regulations regarding electric bikes vary State to State, check your own State Laws before you buy your bike

For an outline of  State Laws governing electric bikes have a look here  Take these State Laws as a guide only as they are changing constantly as lawmakers react to public pressure to regulate electric bikes more strictly, as well as, they respond to the increasing numbers of electric bikes on our roads and cycle lanes.

That is another cool thing about e-bikes, at the moment they are legally allowed on cycle lanes,  so there is less chance of you getting hit by a car or taken out by an opening car door as you commute to work.

Buying An Electric Bike :

One way to choose the best bike for you, is to ride it first… ride as many electric bikes as you can before reaching for your credit card, most bike shops who specialize in electric bikes will have a demo bike or two, many bike shops offer bike rentals, take the time to rent a bike. make sure you test the bike on a steep hill to be sure it has enough power for your body size, a test ride could save you a lot of money and disappointment, it is all too easy to make the wrong choice based on web reviews or under the influence of  enthusiastic  shop assistants.

e-bikes

Not all electric bikes are created equal !

They also come in a variety of different speeds, and with various components just like normal bicycles.
Electric bikes do vary when it comes to the electric parts that were previously mentioned – the motor, controller and rechargeable battery.

Range, or how far you can ride on a single charge is one key consideration when buying  e-bikes, and is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, efficiency of the driving electronics, aerodynamics, the number of hills on your chosen route and weight of the bike and rider. The range of an e-bike is usually stated as somewhere between 7 km to 70 km and is highly dependent on whether or not the bike is ridden on flat roads or hills

Some of these bikes have an external motor that is chain-driven and mounted on the side of the bike. However, the majority have an internal motor that is found in the front  hub or rear wheel. When it’s in the hub you will see a package that is more streamlined, and the bike will be less obvious that it is electric.

There is a variety of power ratings, all the way from 200W to 700W. You could need a motor that is more powerful depending on your intended use or it might be totally unnecessary for you.

The controllers and batteries will give you different options that you can choose depending upon your use for the bike. All in all, electric bicycles are easy to ride, use and maintain.

They do not require a lot of maintenance besides the normal bicycle type repairs. They are used for all kinds of different purposes, so deciding the best electric bike for you will largely depend on how much you want to spend and what your end use will be, one essential accessory that should be at the top of your “Must Buy List” is a secure bike lock if you are commuting on a daily basis you need a bike lock that will deter thieves…

Who Should Buy An Electric Bike ?

Electric bikes attract people from all backgrounds and age groups, they are a fun way to enjoy bike riding  whatever your level of fitness, they especially suit people like me – an avid, but aging cyclist with knee trouble, who would normally have to give up cycling.

At the other end of the scale novice riders of all ages and fitness levels are buying electric bikes, people who would never consider riding a road bike or mountain bike are discovering  electric bikes are  a fun easy way to  commute to work or enjoy a weekend bike ride, they have discovered the benefits of pedal assist… giving you the rider a sense of super human powers  (without raising a sweat) as you easily summit the steepest hills or race along your favorite single track.

Once you decide on the primary use for your e-bike and understand all of your options, it will become easier for you to choose which electric bicycle is best for you… then in no time at all, you will be out there, with the wind whistling through your helmet, enthralled with the effortless  power of your new electric bike.

About the Author Ian

Ian is the Chief editor here at OnlineBikesShop, a reformed Cycle Traveler… now a dedicated stay-at-home dad of a very active 3 yr old, a keen mountain biker with a passion for all types of bikes, the outdoors, and keeping fit…

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2 comments
Watler says

We use our bikes as a vehicle and medium to experience thrilling adventures, and meet new people along the way. We also use it for daily transport when we do errands, go to school, and to travel from one place to another. Ebikes are very good upgrade to our regular bikes. It takes most of the effort off from the rider, are still environment friendly compared to diesel powered vehicles and still a good way of exercise.

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You Moch says

This is really an awesome post about E-Bike. I can see lots of people who are using E-bike and It’s good to have one.

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