8 Min Read – In the last 5 years, the popularity of e-bikes has exploded. It’s estimated that by 2023, another 130 million e-bikes will be sold. We made our purchase 4 months ago. That puts us among the growing number of e-bike converts. Despite their popularity, I have friends that ask “Are e-bikes cheating?” The short answer is no. Having an E-bike simply lets you go faster & farther, while still getting exercise. More importantly, they are so much fun to get around on. E-bikes are good for the mind and body.
Are E-Bikes Cheating?
You’re absolutely not cheating when riding an e-bike. A 2019 study from Brigham Young University found that the average heart rate of the test subjects was 94% of those riding conventional bikes, on the same course. You still get your exercise while extending the distance you can travel. More distance covered means you get to tour a wider area.
Touring & Socializing
With an average of 40 miles per charge, it’s far easier to extend the distance you’d normally travel on a bike. Touring areas more extensively is now within reach when you’re getting an assist from the bike. Tackling hills or other tough stretches of road is now in everyone’s wheel house. Also, e-biking with friends and family is a healthy way to socialize while being socially distant.
The Great Equalizer
As a couple’s activity, e-bikes are the great equalizer, allowing each rider to decide just how much effort to put into the outing. You may decide today’s the day to work hard & burn calories or simply turn up the pedal assist & enjoy the scenery. Either way, everyone ends up at the same destination. E-bikes accommodate everyone’s riding style, letting all participate in the fun.
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Where to Start? Rent First
Rent & test ride multiple e-bikes first, to find what’s right for you. There are bike shops & resorts all over the country that will gladly rent you an e-bike. This is a great way to decide if you’ll enjoy e-biking enough to take the next step. Also, sampling various bike frames and types of pedal assist will help to find the best fit.
Online Purchase or Local Retailer?
We purchased our bikes online, through Rad Power Bikes & the experience was great. That said, the bikes come about 85% assembled, leaving the remainder to the buyer. Rad also provides the tools & easy step by step videos. While it wasn’t difficult, it did take a couple hours to set up both bikes. If assembly isn’t your thing, Rad offers “white glove” service, which delivers the bike fully tuned & assembled, for an extra fee. A assist from a local e-bike shop is also a good option. Ultimately, we needed to establish a relationship with a local shop to take care of our bikes anyways.
I went with the Rad Rover 5 “Fat Tire” A fun cruiser Bike
Build a Relationship with a Local Bike Shop
Even if you buy your e-bike online, take the time to develop a relationship with a bike shop in your area. Bike repairs and regular maintenance will make your e-bike experience safe and enjoyable for years to come.
Make sure your new e-bike comes with a minimum 1 or 2-year warranty.
E Bike Features We Like
Many e-bikes have the features we discuss below. Each manufacturer may offer slight variations, so be sure before you make a purchase. Also, we don’t have a relationship with any e-bike manufacturers.
Adjustable Pedal Assist
Using pedal assist literally shares the pedaling load with the rider. In the case of our bikes, we can choose pedal assist from level 0 (no help) to level 8 (the bike battery is pretty much doing most of the work). The pedal assist motor is typically located on the back wheel axle or a mid drive motor, between the pedal cranks. We’ve ridden both types of pedal assist, prior to making our purchase. While the feel is slightly different, it essentially does the same thing. Finally, pedal assist only works when you’re actually pedaling the bike. Yep, you’re obligated to a least put some effort into propelling the bike!
40+ miles per charge
On average, E-bike batteries provide 40 miles of range, before requiring a recharge. Depending on the size of the rider, how you ride & the terrain, you can also extend that number. The more effort you put into pedaling, the longer battery life you’ll have. It all adds up to a lot of quality riding time, before needing to recharge.
Hill Slayer Throttle!
Our bikes come with a throttle, just to the inside of the right hand grip. A slight twist of the throttle provides a burst of energy, making uphill stretches a breeze. Working with the throttle, you decide just how much assistance you’d like. It’s easy to strike a balance between getting great exercise & progressing on your journey. The throttle is also a great way to get going from a cold stop. A little throttle gets the bike rolling.
Many E-bikes have a throttle governor, that limits acceleration to 20 MPH. That doesn’t mean you can’t pedal your way to greater speeds or go way past 20MPH when going downhill. It’s just that the bike won’t let you continuously speed up… for safety. Don’t underestimate 20PMH on a bike! That’s pretty fast & it will feel that way.
Head Lights, Tail Lights
Most E-bikes come with headlights & tail lights. Making sure cars see you is always a good thing & lights certainly help; especially at dawn and dusk. The lights, of course, run off the battery. Much like a car or motorcycle, the tail light comes on when you squeeze your brakes. There’s even a tail light “flicker” feature you can turn on when riding at night. This provides a little extra visibility.
Step through Frames
Bev went with the Rad City Step Through with easy on & off
Bev’s bike has a brilliant, step through frame, which makes mounting and dismounting the bike safer and easier. This unisex feature is really one of the best advancements in bike technology. Starting and stopping are effortless.
Shocks to Smooth the Ride
Both of our bikes have front shock absorbers, to smooth out the ride. They’re adjustable, allowing you to customize the kind of ride you prefer or adapt to the terrain.
Comfortable, Cruiser Orientation
Unlike traditional road bikes, the E-bike seat & handlebars are more up right. This makes the ride position more oriented to cruising or touring, rather than hunched over the handlebars, for efficiency. This makes a longer ride more comfortable & let’s you enjoy the scenery.
E-bikes have easily visible instrument panels to monitor your trip. You can keep an eye on your speed, distance (miles or kilometers) traveled & watts expended.
Most important of all, the instrument panel keeps track of just how much battery life you have remaining, during your trip.
Plug into any Outlet
The E-bikes come with a battery charger, that you can plug in to recharge. If you’re going for a really long, hilly ride, you could always take your charger with you, for a battery boost before heading back.
The Rad Mission is a slick, stylish single speed for city commuters
Key Lock Battery
The battery system comes with keys, so you can shut the power off when you leave the bike. The keys also let you take a battery off the bike, should you prefer to charge the battery away from the bike.
Multiple Racking and Basket Systems
Allows you to safely carry quite a bit of stuff on your bikes. Take the bike to the grocery store? Pack a jacket or carry a picnic basket? No problem.
Things to Consider
- E-Bikes are Pricey – Our bikes ran about $1400 a piece. Others can run into the thousands of dollars, depending upon features.
- E-bike Popularity -Some brands are back ordered as they try to manage the demand. Our bikes took two months to arrive. Get your order in sooner than later!
- E-bikes are Heavy – Our bikes weigh about 65lbs a piece. The upside is you can keep the pedal assist low & which offers more vigorous exercise. The potential downside? Don’t get swept up in the rapture of your bike trip & let the battery die. Just watch the gauge. Pedaling a long way home without any battery power might be more than you signed up for.
- E-bike Theft – E-bike are a popular target. Have a good lock with you if you’re getting off the bikes for any period of time. Also, maybe consider attaching a Tile Tracker Chip, to help track your bike, should it go missing.
- Watch the brake pads – Because the bikes are heavy & are ridden faster, the disc brake pads tend to wear out a little quicker. Regular maintenance is probably a good idea. If the brakes seem to be less grippy, have the brake pads replaced.
- Wear a Sexy helmet – Wearing a bike helmet is just a good idea. Going a little faster on an e-bike should be extra inspiration for head protection. Bike helmets have gotten way cooler looking & offer enhanced protection. No reason to skip.
- Beefier Bike Rack – You’ll need a more industrial bike rack should you decide to transport the bikes. 40 to 70lbs per bike is pretty heavy!
Accessories We Like
As comfort is part of the draw of E-bike cruising, the right accessories only add to your enjoyment & safety.
Protect with the compact but cut proof FoldyLock.
We found this lock on the 2nd try. Our first lock was too short & cumbersome to carry. The foldylock extends out nicely, is cut proof & folds up into it’s storage tray, which attaches to the bike frame.
Pack everything you need for your ride with TimBukTu Pennier BackPack
Universal Bike Mount Phone Holder
This holder easily attaches to your handlebars & provides a quick glance at your phone as you make your way. I often play music or listen to podcasts on my ride. Having the phone handy lets me quickly change podcasts or tunes…. in addition to seeing whose calling me. Every 6th or 7th call is actually someone I know. 🙂
Bring the tunes with Olafus Speaker Bike Mount
I haven’t tried this one yet. However, a friend & fellow e-biker raves about it. Easy attach to the handle bars, ruggedized design & premium sound make this a fun option.
Make your Tush Happy with a TonBux Gel Seat
It’s all about the comfort. If your’re dwelling on your rear, your missing out on the fun. The gel seat is super kushy!
Hafny Bike RearView Mirror
Bev swears by this mirror. On the bike path or roads, when there’s lots of activity, a quick glance in your rear view is WAY safer than looking over your shoulder… especially when your going a few miles an hour faster, on your E-bike. Fits any handlebars & a two minute install.
E-bikes offer a new twist on an activity you’ve been doing since you were a kid. The opportunity to exercise, socialize, include everyone & tour farther makes e-biking worth looking into. Are E-Bikes cheating? That’s a hard NO!
Exercise? Check. Fun? Check. Social? Check. Feel like a kid again? Check. Stick a playing card in the spokes? Why not…. 🙂
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