As you might imagine, electric bikes are kind of our thing, but we’re not blind to the difficulties of owning one over a standard pedal-powered bicycle.
There are positives and negatives to explore with electric bikes, including the sensitive subject of pricing, maintenance, pollution, and more.
Before you dive headfirst into the world of electric bikes, take a look at all the good, the bad, and the fun aspects of owning one.
Electric Bikes Benefits
On average, it only costs about ten to twenty cents to fully charge your electric bike from empty all the way to full. Let’s say you work seven days a week and charge your bike every night: you’re not paying more than $1.40 maximum per week in transportation costs.
That’s cheaper than a single gallon of gas was, even as early as 1974. With constant innovation and exploration into renewable energy, electricity costs have the potential to go down, but gas prices are never going to be that low again.
In terms of charging, it’s very inexpensive, and as we’ll talk about in a moment, it’s ridiculously cheaper than owning and maintaining a car.
Arrive Sweat-Free for Work
If you’re upgrading from a traditional bicycle, then you’re going to really appreciate how fresh and clean you’ll still be when you arrive at work.
Even if you’re only travelling two miles from your home to work, that’s 10-20 minutes where you’re working your body into a sweat. The exercise is a great thing, but you don’t want to get fired or “spoken to” about body odor at work.
Far Cheaper Than Owning a Car
The average American spends about $817 per year to maintain their vehicle(s). You can find electric bikes that don’t even come close to that cost, with much cheaper maintenance options available.
Even if you had to outright replace your electric bike, you can still do that for far less than it costs to rebuild an engine block, repair a head gasket, or even replace an air conditioner in a car.
The cost changes are vastly different, and if you live in an area where you can make the switch from a car to an electric bike, you’ll be saving yourself a ton of money.
You could even sell the car and use the proceeds as an emergency fund for repairs and replacements of your electric bike.
Using an electric bike is better for you than driving a car, and that’s a fact. Flip it from full throttle mode (solely using the motor to propel you forward) and pedal for five minutes during your morning commute, and you’ll already be getting more exercise than you ever could during a car ride.
Since some electric bikes can charge from you pedaling, you can reduce your weekly transportation costs by even more, while getting in a workout.
Consistent cardio exercise can improve your memory, metabolism, increase productivity and boost the feel-good hormone in the brain, serotonin.
There’s no reason not to put in a few minutes of exercise while you’re headed to work in the morning.
Leisurely Travel or Work Commuting
We’ve talked a lot about using your electric bike for getting to and from work, but who says you’re limited to work transit?
You can decide to use this for leisurely rides or commuting, the choice is completely up to you.
Electric bikes have their place in leisurely riding because they offer ways to boost you past certain obstacles, like extremely steep hills or through a muddy area that would normally stop your bike dead in its tracks.
If you were ambitious and bit off more than you could chew by attacking a long biking trail on your day off, just kick on the electric assist and cruise on home in style.
Better for the Environment
The environmental impact is certainly a relevant reason as to why everyone should hop on an electric bike and kick their car to the curb.
The argument against any electric form of transportation is that you’re still charging it through your home’s power, and you’re forcing coal-burning power plants to create more energy.
That’s not quite how it works. It would take one-hundred charges of your electric bike to meet the same emissions as a five-minute car ride in a Hybrid. Electric transportation is better for the environment no matter which way you look at it.
Reduced Joint Pain
Been riding your bike for a long time? While it’s nowhere near as high-impact as other sports, it’s still going to affect your joints to some extent.
Electric assist on your ebike makes it far more relaxing and convenient to travel between destinations without causing further harm or irritation.
No Insurance or License Costs
You know what’s terrible? DMV lines. You know what you don’t have to stand in when you only use an electric bike?
You guessed it. There’s no certifications, licenses, or monthly vehicle insurance premiums required to own and operate an electric bike.
For your own protection it’s still good to have a form of personal insurance, but this is just another way that electric bikes can help you save money if you’re making the switch.
Some electric bikes come with regenerative pedaling and regenerative braking features. This means that when you swap off the throttle and start pedaling, that you’ll be adding charge to your battery from the kinetic energy you’re creating.
This also works if you begin lightly braking while going downhill, which effectively throws your bike motor into reverse mode where it starts taking in a charge and storing it in the battery.
These aren’t necessarily going to replace plugging in your bike at the end of the day, but every little bit helps.
Electric Bikes Cons
Heavier Than Standard Bicycles
A traditional aluminum frame bicycle weighs, on average, somewhere between 26 and 33 lbs. Even if you get a lightweight electric bike, it’s going to hover somewhere around the 35-40 lb mark.
That makes physically moving your bike from place to place much more difficult. If you’re bringing your bicycle indoors (which you should do regardless of which type it is), that’s more stress on your back and joints to maneuver it in and out of doors and up stairs.
High Upfront Costs
If you look at a brand new mountain bike online and compare it against a low-cost electric bike, the price differences are plain as day.
One has a lithium-ion battery, motor and digital display, and the other simply doesn’t. Electric bike prices can fluctuate in a wide range, and definitely require a bigger monetary commitment right from the start.
More Involved Repairs and Maintenance
It costs more to repair the drivetrain on an electric bike than it does on a traditional bicycle. Replacing lithium-ion batteries is a simple fix, but not on your wallet.
All maintenance on your electric bike is more involved and frequent. One major thing that you should consider is that due to the excess weight, electric bike tires tend to lose PSI faster than traditional bicycles.
Gray Areas of the Law
Some electric bikes exceed speeds of 20 MPH, which is awesome… until you get a speeding ticket. If you go through a school zone in the morning while riding, you can be fined.
If you fly through a construction zone where signs are posted, you can be fined. It’s a very gray area of the law, because the speed limit never said it specifically applied to cars.
Some cities with designated bicycles lanes in the roads have guidelines for cyclist speeds, and prefer that you don’t use electric bikes that go over a certain speed.
Travelling Can Be a Hassle
If you’re traveling on a plane or train, you’re about to get hit with some big fees. We talked about these being heavyweight earlier, and that comes back to bite you when you’re checking luggage at the airport terminal.
Your electric bike and your associated accessories are likely to exceed the 50 lb luggage bracket that most airlines have, which increases the cost of storing it on board.
Not only that, but there are TSA restrictions on lithium-ion batteries that could require you to take a certification course, or disassemble sections of your electric bike and have them checked in a carry-on bag instead.
Long Charging Times
It’s the one thing that people don’t tend to talk about, but electric bikes take a while to charge. Charging lithium-ion batteries is an imperfect science: we know that it’s effective, but that effectiveness varies due to the unstable nature of electricity.
If you’re looking at a specific electric bike that you want to buy, look at the charging time on the sales page, and note how there’s a gap of a few hours in the charging time.
That’s because they’re accounting for the imperfect way that these batteries are going to charge. When you rely on your bike to get you to and from work, this can be a big issue.
Relatively No Resale Value
Some of us want to invest more than others, and when you sink a couple thousand dollars into a great ebike, you might want to upgrade in a year or two.
Nobody wants to shell out a few thousand every year, so you look for resale value. Electric bikes can usually only be resold for 30-40% of their original value, even if you’ve only lightly used them.
The batteries have a life expectancy, the motor has a life expectancy, and nobody can confirm exactly how much use it has gotten, so that drops the price immediately after your first use.
Electric Bikes Are Not Waterproof
Your traditional aluminum frame bicycle is more waterproof than an electric bike. We obviously don’t want to get the display, battery or motor wet because they would get wrecked.
On top of that, ebike manufacturers are using different production methods than traditional bicycle makers, so you’re more likely to see rust and corrosion on the non-electric sections of your ebike after a rainstorm.
Electrical Repairs Need to be Outsourced
Even if you fancy yourself a minor electrician, it’s not in your best interest (or the best interest of the bike) to try and perform maintenance on the electric components by yourself.
This includes the display screen, the drivetrain and any of the connecting cables that go to the battery. If it affects the electrical parts, don’t touch it.
You can find a certified local electric bike repair shop or service to handle it for you. It’s not going to be as cheap as a YouTube tutorial and an inexpensive purchase on Amazon, but it is going to ensure quality of work over everything else, and get your bike back to you in one piece
Many Benefits and Setbacks Revolve Around Modern Day Transportation
You won’t pay for parking an electric bike, but you can’t drive on the highway. You’ll save hundreds in repairs and oil changes, but you’ll have to replace your battery every 3-5 years depending on use.
For every argument for electric bikes, there is an argument against them. Look at your electric bike as a hybrid between leisurely riding and a vehicle for commuting, and you’ll be able to see the benefits manifest soon enough.
Are All Electric Bikes the Same?
There are different price ranges and performance gaps that exist across every brand and style of electric bikes. No two bikes are built the same.
From regenerative braking and pedaling to the safer battery and motor housings, different display features, electric assist adjustment levels and enclosures for your drivetrain, just about every electric bike brand and model has something unique to offer you that their competition can’t.
The landscape of electric bikes has exploded in recent years. Now that people are looking to alternative means of transportation to avoid further environmental damage, electric bike brands are popping up all over the place, and each of them is looking to solve the problems that the previous guys couldn’t.
There have never been more choices for electric bikes, no matter what riding style you have.
Are Electric Bikes a Replacement for Conventional Bicycles?
Conventional bicycles obviously still have their place. At the end of the day, you have to put all of your energy into a traditional bike, and they will be the better of the two options for cardio exercise.
Traditional bikes are more lightweight, and you’re very unlikely to get a speeding ticket even if you zip around on a standard bicycle.
You also won’t see someone who considers themselves a serious cyclist on an electric bike. One has become more for sport, where the other has a hybrid approach.
The Flip Side of Electric Bikes and Environmental Impact
It’s more environmentally sound to use an electric bike for a bunch of different reasons. No immediate emissions, no fuel costs, minimal impact due to small electrical recharges.
But there is a flip side to the environmental impact that your electric bike has. Lithium-ion batteries and motor components aren’t exactly cheap to make, and most of those products have very environmentally heavy production processes.
There are endless articles about improper mining techniques to gather lithium and the effects that it has on bodies of water and land, but we’re going to look at the direct impact that you can help prevent.
Your lithium-ion battery is only going to be good for so long. For electric bikes, they last for about three to five years on average, if you’re using your bicycle on a daily basis.
When it comes time to swap those batteries out, ensure that they get recycled properly. Improper disposal of batteries, motors and other electronic pieces are heavily contributing to environmental disaster.
Should I Still Get an Electric Bike?
It’s all about weighing the pros and cons of your own personal lifestyle. We went toe-to-toe on nine different pros and cons here to help you decide, but it ultimately comes down to what’s best for your lifestyle.
We wanted to give you the full scoop on the good and the bad, but if you compare them all side to side, you’ll see that some of the negatives are very situational and won’t impact your daily life.
Electric bikes are about more than just environmentally friendly commuting: it’s a lifestyle alteration that you bring with you to as many places as possible.
We have an affinity for electric bikes, and once you hop on one, we’re certain that you will as well. For all the minor things that could go wrong, getting an electric bike is absolutely worth the wild ride(s) you’ll go on.