Are you wondering if an electric bike is the right choice for you? Consider the following 15 reasons to get an electric bike. I wanted to make this a list of 10, but there are just so many great reasons to get an electric bike that I could not stop at 10. Reasons for getting an ebike range from having fun to getting fit to … getting to work!
No. 1: Ebikes are Incredibly Good Fun!
Do yourself a favor and go watch some people test-riding electric bikes. Almost every one of them reacts the same when they set off for the first time – a momentary look of surprise, followed by a giant smile and sometimes even a whoop of joy! You can see exactly this response on the faces of the people in this video:
This is a reaction to suddenly feeling as if you have super powers! And once you are out riding, you are freed up to have fun and explore and enjoy.
I remember thinking, “I wonder what’s at the bottom of that hill?” and then deciding I was not going to go and find out, because then I would have to climb back up that very intimidating hill. With an electric bike, I can ride wherever I like! And that goes for everybody, because options like electric trikes and electric recumbents mean it is possible for almost anyone to have fun on an electric bike.
No. 2: Electric Bikes Enhance Health and Fitness, even if You Have Challenges
You’d think a regular bike would keep you fitter than an electric bike – and you’d be right, if you rode the regular bike as much as you rode the electric bike. But trust me, the average cyclist just will not ride a regular bike as much as an electric bike. Would I ride my regular bike up the steep hill I live on just to buy a bottle of wine or a loaf of bread? Would I ride it when I’m hauling 50 pounds? Not likely – I’d take transit. Sadly, this would not make me fitter. But my electric bike will make me fitter.
And I’m not the only one – the latest research shows a third of regular bikes are used less than 25 times a year, with 46% being used a paltry once or twice a week. However, 30% of people with electric bikes use them at least once a day, and a whopping 81% ride their bikes at least once a week. Bottom line, as verified by the Transport Research Laboratory in the United Kingdom: electric bikes are used at least twice as often as regular bikes. And as we all know from the workout machines that serve as laundry dryers in basements all over this great continent of ours, machines only make you fit if you actually use them. Aslak Fyhri at the Institute of Transport Economics summarized:
“People travel twice as much on the electric bike [as on a regular bike], both in terms of kilometres, amount of trips, and as part of the total transportation. The effect of having an electric bike was particularly strong among women. They did far more trips with their e-bikes than men did. Men, on the other hand, often went for longer trips once they were out cycling.”
My electric bike has made it possible for me to live mostly car-free, and for most people, that is just not possible on a regular bike. I do most of my every-day commuting on my electric bike. So despite the fact that I am a strong cyclist and often have a lot of fun on my regular bikes, my very high level of fitness is mainly the result of my electric bike, not my regular bikes. The same applies to Maggie. And together, we can even use our electric bikes for the grocery shopping!
My electric bike uses a combination of pedaling and electric assistance – it’s called a Pedelec system, and gives you assistance in proportion to how much you pedal. The exercise you will get on an electric bike like this is good, low-intensity cardio exercise, often of long duration. For example, commuting to work on an electric bike might provide you with 30 to 60 minutes of low-intensity cardio, twice a day, five days a week – for a possible total of 12 hours per week of exercise. This adds up to a whopping amount of exercise done and calories burned – all in the time you would normally have done nothing but grow old, depressed, stressed and fat while trapped in traffic in your car.
While the motor of your electric bike will help you out, you will still be getting regular, consistent exercise on your electric bike – and all doctors agree that regular, consistent exercise is key to good cardiovascular, general, and mental health.
And let’s not forget that electric bikes make cycling possible for people with serious health challenges, so that they can fight the debilitating effects of their illness. Here’s an email I got from a 72-year-old man in New Zealand:
“I have recently brought an E-bike. What a wonderful invention. I have five stents in my heart after a heart attack. I have had a stroke and bowel cancer. My health is improving daily as I cycle about 10 km each day. And thanks for your book on E-bikes. Best wishes from New Zealand.”
Bottom line: Deciding to buy an electric bike is not just a transport decision – it’s a decision to enrich the quality and length of your life by getting healthier and fitter.
No. 3: You Can Lose Weight on an Electric Bike
Commuting by electric bike is an excellent way to lose weight, because it burns SO many calories!
In general, cycling is a great way to burn calories, because you’re so focused on the journey and the fun that you can easily spend several hours exercising.
You burn a lot of calories on an electric bike, because although you have assistance, you are also moving a heavier bike. It doesn’t completely balance out, but you can be sure that you are burning at least two-thirds as many calories on your electric bike as you are on a regular bike.
I developed this calculation to help you work out how many calories you burn in an hour on an electric bike, cycling at an easy pace:
- Start with your weight in pounds, e.g. 250 pounds
- Divide this by 2.2 to give you your weight in kg, in this case, 113.6 kg
- Multiply 113.6 by 6, to give you 632 calories per hour on a regular bike
- Multiply 632 by 66%, to allow for the help from your electric bike
- … equals 417 calories burned in 1 hour
So if you weigh 250 pounds and you’re spending 2 hours per day, five days a week, commuting on your electric bike, you are burning an extra 4,170 extra calories every week. If you do this 49 weeks per year (allowing for 3 weeks’ vacation), you’re burning 204,330 extra calories per year. You have to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound – which means that switching from a car to an electric bike could result in a weight loss of about 58 pounds in one year. Not to mention that even after you park your electric bike in your garage you continue to burn more calories, because you have revved up your metabolism by cycling.
My own experience bears this out. I have spent my entire life trying not to be fat. However, my body has done its utmost to stay fat. I have never managed to turn the tide in that battle – until ten years ago, when I started doing most of my commuting on an electric bike. How did the electric bike turn the tide? In a nutshell, it keeps me consistently exercising. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resolved to hit the gym five times a week, or swim twice a week, or get back into soccer. Usually it happens for a few weeks and then … stops. On the other hand, since I resolved to commute by electric bike, exercise just inevitably happens. I have to get to work, and once I’m there, I have to get back.
Thanks to my electric bike I am now down 60 pounds, and my wife actually referred to my body the other day as “wiry”. Wow – I never thought I’d ever hear the word “wiry” applied to me!
No. 4: Faster Travel – Electric Bikes are Faster than Cars!
This is one of my favorite fun facts: although modern cars can achieve speeds up to 50 times greater than cars at the turn of the twentieth century, average car speed in traffic has not increased at all. I find that mildly hilarious. The reason is obvious to anyone who has ever sat in traffic gridlock: it doesn’t help to have a car that is capable of traveling at 200 miles per hour, if the 50,000 gridlocked cars in front of you are managing a death-defying ten miles per hour.
On your electric bike you will be able to cycle faster than the average cyclist, yet still use the cycle routes that cars and motorcycles cannot use. As a result, you may well find that your electric bike is your fastest way to get to work.
Personally I have never had a single commute on my electric bike where I did not at some point whiz past a car as if it was standing still. Usually I pass hundreds of almost stationary cars. Every time I drive past a car I am reminded of how much I loathe the experience of driving a car: locked in a tin can, getting mad at other drivers and having them get mad at me. When I am forced to drive I find myself staring wistfully at the cyclists whizzing past me, obviously full of joy and exercise-induced endorphins, and find myself seriously questioning one of the fundamental myths of modern society: the notion that the motor car represents convenience and freedom.
As I inch along in traffic gridlock, all I can think is: “HOW exactly is this convenience and freedom?”
No. 5: No Sweat – An Electric Bike Makes Bike Commuting Possible Even For Those with Tough Commutes
Sweat is an important issue if you’re cycling to work, and most people aren’t lucky enough to have shower facilities at the office. People sweat less on electric bikes, because they don’t have to pedal as hard, and because the higher speed means there is more wind to keep you cool. I loved this story, told by a committed cyclist who somewhat grudgingly tried out an electric bike:
“I changed my tune about electric bikes after my first long commute. I had mounted Schwinn’s top-of-the-line Tailwind e-bike in leafy Brooklyn, dubious of the proposition of a battery-powered bicycle. Cyclists, after all, ride to exercise. This seemed like cheating.
Seven miles later, by the time I got to Times Square, it dawned on me. The e-bike isn’t about exercise, strictly. It’s about commuting. The bike’s electric motor helped me climb up to the Brooklyn Bridge, and then ascend a long incline from the Hudson River to the traffic-choked heart of Manhattan. The Tailwind transformed a normally sweaty bike commute into a pleasant, energizing spin. Indeed, I had given up on bike commuting to work because the ride left me drenched, and with no shower at work, it was a no go. The e-bike made bike commuting possible again.”
(Adam Aston, “The Schwinn Tailwind: An E-bike for Commuters”, Bloomberg Business Week)
No 6: Electric Bikes are Safer
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel … the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” (Susan B. Anthony, 1820-1906, abolitionist and leader of the American women’s suffrage movement.)
It is well known that male cyclists outnumber female cyclists pretty much everywhere (except in the Netherlands, where cycling is so safe that even small kids can commute by bike). Research indicates this has much to do with safety: cycling is perceived as unsafe, and because of this, many women don’t want to cycle (perhaps because of a sense of responsibility towards the many people that most women take care of). This is very unfortunate, not least because bike riding is so liberating (as Susan B. Anthony noticed a long time ago).
In this respect, I have a lot of hope for the potential of electric bikes. An electric bike is less dangerous than a regular bike in traffic. As soon as you start riding one, you will notice how the ability to quickly accelerate, and to occasionally keep up with motorized traffic, both help to keep you out of danger. You are less likely to be rear ended because motorists have more time to see you. Intersections are the scene of most collisions, and the fast acceleration of electric bikes gets you out of the danger zone faster. The fewer cars have to overtake you, the safer you are. Plus, because you have power to help you go up hills, you don’t have the temptation to go downhill at high speeds to get your speed up for the upcoming ascent – definitely a useful safety feature. Also, cyclists on electric bikes are more likely to stop at stop signs and red lights, because they have the power to easily pull off again.
Also, the power source on electric bike is often used to power lights and horns. You can have a bike light that is 20 times stronger than a regular bike light, which of course makes you much more visible and hence much safer.
Related: Complete Guide to Bike Lights
In case you’re reading this and thinking that nothing will make bikes safer than cars, consider this: cars are the number one killer of people under 35 in the USA (including children). The danger posed by cars is so extreme that some people have suggested that cars should carry warning labels, just as cigarettes do.
No 7: It is Easy to Climb Hills on Electric Bikes
Most electric cyclists remember the first time they ever tackled a serious hill. It’s a wonderful moment, a sudden feeling of almost superhuman ability. Electric bikes flatten hills out, so that the cyclist does not have to dread them. Depending on the power of your bike, you may still have to put in a fair amount of effort – but it will be much less than when doing hills without an electric assist. As an older cyclist, when I first started cycling I often had to resort to the embarrassing get-off-and-push maneuver, but once I got an electric bike that became a thing of the past. Even in the incredibly hilly city in which I live, I never have to dismount and push.
No. 8: You Can Save Money with an Electric Bike
Most people need some form of transport. In the Western world this is often a private car, occupied most of the time by just one person. The cost of this luxury is enormous, and in fact cars are usually the second biggest expense in most people’s budgets (after housing). Imagine the vacations you could afford if you could massively reduce this enormous expense. An electric bike will enable you to be completely or partly car-free, which will enable enormous savings.
It is true that buying an electric bike will cost you more than buying a regular bike. Your upkeep costs will be much the same as for a regular bike, but for electric bikes, an extra expense comes from battery depreciation – they don’t last forever, and the replacement cost for a good battery is usually pretty high. Thus, all in all, electric bikes are definitely more expensive to run than regular bikes.
However, once the running costs of electric bikes are compared to cars or even transit, the picture is much brighter. Electric bikes are definitely the most fuel-efficient mode of transport in everyday use. In fact, some people have done the math to prove that electric bikes are more fuel-efficient than humans. One thing is for sure: it is cheaper to run my electric bike than to run a car. I don’t even notice the cost of recharging my battery on my electric bill – it’s basically negligible. No one can say that about the cost of gas for a car. And of course I recharge the battery at work, at negligible cost to my employer. This is a very different scenario from the years of expensive car-owning I have gone through.
Most of us are seduced by the ads that tell us that a shiny new car will cost us just a couple of hundred dollars a month. However, this does not factor in all of the following costs:
- A high cost price, no matter how you pay it. You could buy the most expensive electric bike on the planet, and it would still only cost about half the price of the cheapest new car. My own high-end electric bike cost 10% of what my last car cost (around $3,000 for the bike and $30,000 for the car).
- High insurance costs
- Constantly increasing gas prices
- High and sometimes crippling repair charges (on my last car, just replacing the clutch cost $2,000 – I could have bought a very good electric bike for that price.)
- High maintenance charges for services and oil changes
Young people in particular have to pay very high vehicle insurance prices, so they could save thousands of dollars and get around more quickly in cities by choosing an electric bike. In 2010 it was calculated that the running costs of a car are 60 times the running cost of an electric bike – and the cost of running cars is climbing steeply due to the relentlessly rising cost of gas.
Urban cities are becoming more and more congested and difficult to navigate in cars. On an electric bike, you move around quickly and cheaply, and park for free. So you will also avoid the cost of parking tickets.
For most people the thought of surviving without a personal car is daunting, and many people believe it is entirely impossible. However, when an electric bike is combined with transit and/or car hire, or co-op car schemes, or taxis, it becomes quite easy. Check to see what options are available in your area. For example, renting a car once a month for a day of shopping would cost just a tiny fraction of what it costs to own a car all the time.
No. 9: Electric Bikes Cut Out the Red Tape
In most jurisdictions electric bikes are regarded as regular bicycles, so you are not forced to get a license, or to pay taxes and insurance. You cannot be convicted for cycling under the influence of alcohol, either (although it is NOT a good idea to drink and cycle). You can take out insurance on your bike, and for third-party liability, and personally I would recommend it. But unlike almost everything to do with cars, it’s optional.
Because electric bikes are categorized as bicycles, they can be ridden in bike lanes and on bike routes, giving riders a huge advantage over cars.
Note: you should be aware of the prevailing legislation in your own country, as there are some differences. For example, speed limits and power limitations are different in different countries.
No 10: On an Electric Bike You Are Saving the World, One Commute at a Time …
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” (H.G. Wells, novelist)
As a father and a grandfather, I am very happy to be reducing my carbon footprint by riding an electric bike most of the time. Every time I do a trip on my electric bike instead of a car, I feel like a green warrior, doing my tiny bit to preserve the planet for the upcoming generations.
Of course, we live in a society that has been structured around motorized transport. This makes it close to impossible to avoid cars completely – for example, I cannot take my daughters to horse camp on a bicycle, because getting there involves 50 miles of highway, and I can’t really see any of my kids sitting on my cross bar for that long.
On the other hand, there are many situations in which one might think one needs a car, but really doesn’t. For example, I saw a bike parked outside a local coffee bar the other day. The bike had a home-made trailer attached, and the trailer contained a large dog and a pile of shopping. Clearly the owner of that bike did not let the fact that he had to transport a dog and groceries deter him from using a bike. And that was just a regular bike, not even an electric bike. Sights like that make me resolve to reduce my dependency on cars even more.
It is true that there are some inefficiencies in the production and distribution of electricity. However, the impact on the environment per mile of an electric bike remains negligible compared to the impact of a car. In fact, the amount of electricity required to run an electric bike is so low that it is feasible that in the future we will be able to recharge them with home-based solar power units. This would never suffice for the massive energy needs of a car.
It is surprising but true that electric bike power actually has less impact on the environment than human power.
This surprised me, as I assumed that I have zero emissions (apart from the usual biological functions). However, once one factors in all the energy and emissions that comprise our food chain, it appears that producing human energy in a person eating a typical Western diet does in fact result in significant emissions – up to five times as much as result from producing and running an electric bike. (Remember that in order for us to have enough energy to ride a regular bike or walk, an entire chain of activities is required, including farming, transport, refrigeration and cooking.) In short, human power is not as green as one might think, while the electric bike is the greenest, most efficient transport mode we have.
No 11: You Can Escape Gas Dependency with an Electric Bike!
“Those who wish to control their own lives and move beyond existence as mere clients and consumers – those people ride a bike.” (Wolfgang Sachs, of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and the former Chairman of Greenpeace, Germany)
The horrific BP oil spill in 2010 showed us that the gas on which we all depend is a very vulnerable commodity. And soaring prices constantly remind us that gas is a finite resource. But at the same time, over 90% of Americans still commute by car, and 77% of those drivers commute ALONE in their vehicles. We are devouring our expensive oil supplies like they will last forever – but they WON’T. Of course not everyone is going to stop driving cars completely – I know I haven’t. But if a lot more of us use an electric bike at least some of the time, we can certainly reduce oil consumption, and help to make our oil last longer.
No 12: You Can Escape Parking Problems when you Ride an Electric Bike
You can park 20 bikes in the space it takes to park one car. Wherever I go, I can park my electric bike for free, usually right outside my destination. This ease of parking is one important reason why electric bikes often get travelers to their destination even faster than cars – the electric bike rider is already in the building, while the motorist is still driving around in frustrating circles, trying to find somewhere to (expensively) park their car.
No. 13: You Can Stop Supporting Terrorists when You Ride an Electric Bike
I came across this fascinating account by a man called Bryan A. Thompson. He owns a V8 Corvette, but has switched to using an electric bike for most of his traveling. Here he explains why:
“Recent attacks against my country culminating in the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy have revealed that the folks that sell Americans more oil than any other country also sponsored (and largely provided) the terrorists responsible for those attacks. That country is Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, because of America’s dependence on oil, we have shown reluctance to pursue these terrorists into Saudi Arabia. When I learned of the Saudi’s sponsorship of the terrorists responsible for killing close to 7000 Americans, I decided to do everything I could to keep as much money out of their hands as possible. It may not be much, but I’ve reduced my oil consumption by at least 40% – a level sustainable without Saudi oil.”
No 14: You Can Experience Stress Relief and Feel Good on an Electric Bike
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought of anything but the ride you are taking.” (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Riding a bike makes you feel good. Period. Studies have shown that people who cycle to work have the highest levels of satisfaction with their commute (followed closely by walkers). My own experience bears this out. As a cyclist, the best part of my workday is usually my commute. It invigorates me in the morning and de-stresses me in the evening. Researchers have concluded that the answer to commuter stress is not to build bigger, faster highways, but rather to provide safer bike routes so that people can get to work under their own power.
When I bike to work I arrive feeling fresh, energized and happy. (Which is very different from the way I used to feel when I would drive to work, and had to deal with traffic and road rage.) When I bike home, I can literally feel the stress falling off me with every passing mile, until I arrive home feeling rejuvenated and ready to enjoy my evening. Cycling on an electric bike is sufficiently brisk exercise that it raises endorphin levels, causing me to quite often break out into raucous singing while cycling! You don’t have to go this far, but I promise you, riding an electric bike will make you feel great.
No 15: You Can Work on your Tan while Commuting on an Electric Bike!
One of the things I have discovered about cycle commuting is that it’s an excellent way to tan. I was lying in a pool at a water park the other day, and noticed that I was the brownest Caucasian person there – just purely because I commute by bike. And it’s a healthy tan, because I acquire it very slowly. If you think about it, cycle commuting usually means that you are out in the sun in the early morning and the late afternoon, which are the best times to slowly acquire a deep, healthy tan.
This may sound like a frivolous reason, but I think most people will relate. Exercising on an electric bike helps you to stay strong, toned, tanned, healthy, and fit – and who doesn’t want that?
Thinking of buying an Electric Bike? Check out my new 2017 edition of How to Buy the Best Electric Bike! Buy it here.
Read all about How to Buy the Best Electric Bike here.
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