In the past few years the stigma surrounding the subject of electrically powered bikes, or e-bikes, has slowly started to fade. According to Bike Europe e-bike sales grew in 2017 by 9% in the Netherlands, 19% in Germany and a whopping 30% in France. Their popularity is recognition of the different ways in which people are using the bike nowadays – not just as a tool for exercise, but also as a form of everyday transport that can alleviate the pressure on our creaking transport infrastructure.
What is an e-bike? Essentially it’s a normal bike but with battery-powered assistance when you need it. When you push the pedals on a pedal-assist e-bike, a small electric motor engages and gives you a boost, so you can zip up hills and cruise over tough terrain without gassing yourself. Most models allow you to set the level of assistance, though in the UK the motor will only assist up to 25km/hr (15.5 miles/hr).
So, what’s changed? Well, there’s some serious endorsement for starters. Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton launched her own e-bike last year, saying at the time “They really are a game-changer. They are like confidence building machines. They provide a genuine opportunity to persuade non-cyclists – motorists and commuters, as well as those who’ve not ridden in years – to switch to pedal power.” Sir Chris Hoy is also an advocate, and Halfords dubbed 2017 “the year of the e-bike”.
Meanwhile mountain biking legend, Wade Simmons, was blown away by his experience, proclaiming to MBR magazine, “I realised I wasn’t riding an e-MTB to make my riding any easier, I was riding an e-MTB to open doors to things a regular bike couldn’t. This old dog is learning some new tricks, finding new lines on old trails, and having a blast. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!”
And while the biggest buyers of e-bikes to date have tended to be those who would otherwise not cycle (Halfords sells 65% of its e-bikes to the over 55 market) there’s a growing interest from existing riders. Big manufacturers such as Specialized and Trek make some seriously cool looking and highly capable e-MTBs, marketing them as a tool for hardcore riders to go further and ride new terrain. Great designs and modern lightweight batteries are making e-bikes more user-friendly and exciting to ride.
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The concept isn’t for everyone, we recognise that, but they are a great option for people who might otherwise not get out on the bike at all.
For commuters looking to ride to work there are immediate benefits to the bank account. Although an e-bike may be more expensive than a conventional model, compared to running a car the costs are minimal. Even public transport can cost up to 30p per mile. To fully power the battery on an e-bike costs a few pence and it could take you as far as 100 miles between charges.
E-bikes can be ridden anywhere that bikes are normally allowed, so you can take advantage of the jam-beating cycle lanes and easily park them close to work – no more hunting for a parking space or waiting for a delayed train. At PedalCover we treat electric bikes exactly the same as traditional bikes, meaning you get the same great cover whether your bike is battery powered or not.
Research suggests that e-biking is as healthy as traditional biking. Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness, reduces body fat, builds strength, and improves circulation. It also reduces the risk of developing diabetes and cancer. The mental health benefits of riding a bike apply whether you’re straining up a hill or pootling up it: physical activity can be as effective as medication and counselling in overcoming and even preventing anxiety and depression.
With the evolution of electric bikes continuing to gather pace they are becoming ever more desirable and therefore unfortunately this is also means a target for thieves. It goes without saying that having insurance for your e-Bike is not only sensible, but nigh-on a necessity. However, getting cover might not be quite as easy as you think. Many insurance providers have strict rules surrounding the insuring of these bikes, with often high premiums to match. Likewise, relying on your standard home insurance is unlikely to provide you with a sufficient level of cover for your electric bike. At Pedalcover we treat electric bikes as we would any other bike, meaning our electric bike insurance has the same features and benefits as our policies for traditional pedal cycles.
Not too long ago, e-bikes were heavy, pretty clunky and not that much fun to ride. Technological advancements in e-bike technology mean they’re now lighter and more fun than ever before, and they’re increasingly indistinguishable in appearance from conventional bicycles. Take a look at the Pinarello Nytro road bike and you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference.
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There’s a new series of bike races involving e-bikes beginning to take shape as well. Following hot on the heels of the UCI’s recent news that it will host the first World e-MTB World Championships in summer 2019 in the Canadian ski resort of Mont-Sainte-Anne, an e-bike world series has been announced. Starting in Monaco in April 2019 the four-race WES aims to have the world’s best riders compete in both enduro and cross-country disciplines.
Even the old guard is taking note. General Motors is hardly a name you’d associate with sustainable modes of transport, but even they’ve joined the party, producing two e-bikes in recognition of the viability of e-bikes as a tool for everyday transport.
Whatever you might think about e-bikes there’s no doubt they’re here to stay. More people on bikes is a good thing right? What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts.