What is the problem with ebikes? That's a slightly non-grammatically-correct question that the denizens of Google are asking, and I will attempt to answer it for you. First off, let me say that I'm a big fan of ebikes. They let me do all the cycling I enjoy, without all that pesky effort that I don't always enjoy. They're a great, semi-effortless way of getting around. However there are some drawbacks to electric bikes. You should be aware of them, before you head to the ebike shop clutching a suitcase full of crisp banknotes.
Once you've picked up something from our guide to the best electric bike to buy, please be wary of the mistakes everyone makes with ebikes – and also the mistakes everyone makes with bikes, most of which are also relevant to electric bikers.
1. They are expensive
You could easily pick up a traditional bike for a few hundred quid and have a perfectly fun time on it, so long as your cycling habits aren't too demanding. For an ebike to be of any quality, you'll need to spend in the region of £1,000/$1,000/AU$1,500, at the very least.
2. They are also expensive to service and repair
A reasonably competent person can maintain a standard bike themselves and make minor repairs such as to the chain, brakes, cables etc. Or you can take it to the local bike shop and get someone properly competent to do it for a reasonably low fee.
Ebikes are a whole different ball game. Unless you are a qualified mechanic you are not going to be able to mend or service the motor, battery, power buttons and screen, and repairs to these parts can be pricey.
If you've plumped for an ebike from a less well-known brand, chances are there will be nobody specifically qualified to service these parts, unless you live in Shenzen. This could get expensive and problematic fast, if you are unlucky with breakdowns.
3. The battery WILL die
You know how your phone battery life gradually gets worse and worse over the years that you own it? Sure you do; that's one key reason why so many people replace their mobile every 1-3 years. Well, your ebike battery will suffer exactly the same fate. Sure it'll take longer, and the effect will be less pronounced in the short term, but that's just because an ebike battery is enormous compared to a phone one.
You can expect noticeable loss of range within 5 years and effective battery death within 10. Replacing the battery may not be possible by then, and if it is, that will be another expense to chalk up.
4. The range will be less than stated
Most ebike brands give a rather broad interpretation of how far their bikes will take you on a full charge. This shouldn't be a problem for anyone doing a 10-mile daily commute – just keep an eye on the battery gauge and recharge once you're down to, say, 20% capacity.
Anyone thinking of taking on a cycling camping vacation somewhere remote will need to be much more aware that when the guy sold you an ebike with a '50-mile range', what he meant was '50 miles on the lowest assistance setting, with the lights off, in optimum weather conditions, without too many hills.'
If you habitually use the top power setting on your ebike – and surely practically everybody does – and you need to take on lots of steep inclines and less than perfect road conditions, you should assume the maximum range will be 50-75% of the quoted one, and plan your recharging accordingly.
5. You won't get as many health and fitness benefits as with a standard bike
This pretty much goes without saying. And many would add that it is, in fact, the point of getting an ebike instead of a standard bike. The good news is that if you go from being sedentary to riding an ebike, you will certainly gain some health and fitness benefits in the initial months of riding regularly. The less good news is that this will not then ramp up in the way that it would if you were regularly taking a road bike up a hill using only the power of your legs and cardio vascular system. You get a lot less sweaty, though.
In the name of balance, I will just add this. I have been told many times by established bike brands that have ventured into making ebikes that their electric bike users just love to turn the power off and ride their ebike like a normal bike, to get a proper workout. I get the distinct impression they are bullshitting me, but this is theoretically possible. Funnily enough, no brand that only makes ebikes has ever made this claim to me, presumably because they know their clientele is less puritanical and ascetic.
6. Other cyclists may not like you
Cyclists, especially of the hardcore variety, have long been suspicious of ebikes. That is finally changing, but there are still a few situations where you may not be very popular with them. Primarily this may occur if you have an ebike that either a) doesn't look like a bike or b) has had its speed limiter hacked – yes, some naughty people have been known to do this – and you are using a designated cycle lane or a popular mountain bike trail, in the case of E-MTB.
Sure, nobody is likely to assault you or anything like that, but you may receive some karmically devastating bad vibes. Also, if your road manners and technical proficiency are not perfect, some cyclists may not be shy about letting you know, if you are an ebike interloper. You'll have the last laugh when they're sweating their way up a hill, or grinding away from the lights at the same speed as a pensioner walking on the pavement beside them.
- Want to know more?
- Should I buy an electric bike?
- Should the ebike speed limit be raised?
- What to look for when buying an ebike
Here are some fine ebikes at great prices
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