Date Published: 4 February 2016

Why are e-bikes becoming so popular ?

E-bikes are on the rise. In the Netherlands where cycling is more popular than over here in the UK a large percentage of new bikes sold is already now of the electric variety. Here in the UK we have a little catching up to do but there are now quite a few of them in the wild even if this is not always immediately obvious as a lot of the newer models look very “normal”.

If you are at all curious about these bikes you should go and try one. Most such bikes sold in the UK are so called ‘pedelecs’. This means they aren’t like mopeds where you go faster by turning a throttle. Instead they provide ‘assistance’. The electrical system senses the amount of power the cyclist is putting through the pedals and it matches or supplements it with extra power of it’s own. The amount of power added by motor usually depends on a setting you can adjust from the handlebars. The result is that the bike acts very normally. If you pedal it goes. If you stop pedalling it coasts and eventually stops. The magical bit is that the force the rider is applying to the pedals is multiplied as if the rider were suddenly ‘bionic’. The force of gravity appears to be reduced when zipping uphill and gale force headwinds feel almost silly when pedalling along normally with the wind whistling round your ears. To appreciate the effect you have to go and try one of these bikes at your local bike store.

There is some debate on the health benefits of e-bikes. The argument against would seem to be that having an electric motor on a bike reduces the amount of exercise by the cyclist. The same could of course be said about the use of gears or even pneumatic tyres. You would undoubtably burn a lot more calories commuting to work or to the shops if you used a Penny-farthing.

There are two pertinent observations to be made about use of e-bikes:

  • The fact you can get the bike to help you out to whatever extent you choose is a tremendous excuse remover. If feeling a little sniffly, a tad limp or worried about potential wind blowing later you can go out knowing you have the option of letting the bike help you out. In some if not most cases it of course turns out that you’re perfectly OK once you’ve been out a bit and you can ride at a low assistance level anyway. In any case getting out and riding will get you more exercise than you would have had had you not ridden at all.
  • As mentioned above an e-bike isn’t a moped. It only amplifies the power that the rider puts in. If the rides feels up to it he can very naturally pedal just as vigorously as before but now proceeding more quickly, maybe cheating just a little bit on that one big hill on the way to work. It may not be the best way to train for the Tour de France but burning as many or more calories as you would have on an ordinary bike is perfectly possible.

As you may have gathered from the above I am an e-bike fan and last year I bought my first one which I have been using daily as a mode of transport in all weather. Because of this I went for a model with panniers and mudguards, A Haibike XDuro Trekking RX model. More about this in the next article in this series.

Article by Roger Francis

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