It seems like they’re suddenly everywhere! People cruising along with ease on electric bikes. But, how do electric bikes work? Are they easier to ride than a regular bike? What is “electric” about an electric bike? What skills do you need to ride one? How fast can you go on an electric bike? Are you still getting exercise on an electric bike?
Electric bikes have motors attached, typically to the rear wheel, that provide assistance to the rider as they pedal. Power is supplied to the motor via an electric battery. Most electric bikes use a cadence sensor to decide when to apply power to the wheel. This type of sensor pays attention to how fast or slow you are pedaling. If you are pedaling slower, the bike assumes you could use a little help and provides some boost from the motor.
Many electric bikes also have a throttle on the handlebars, just like a motorcycle. This is another way the rider can get some boost from the motor. Or you can skip pedaling all together and just let the bike do the work!
Most electric bikes use a battery to supply power to an electric motor. These motors come in different sizes/strengths. When comparing bikes, you will notice a number like 750W. This means the motor has 750 watts of power, which will make cruising up a hill super easy! It also means that it uses a lot of power when it is on, so you might not get as far as you would with a lower power 250W motor. Like everything in life, there are trade offs!
Most e-bikes also have LCD screens. The screens tell you important information like how much battery life is left, how fast you’re going, and what distance you’ve traveled. Some electric bikes also have built in headlights and tail lights, making them safe to ride at night.
So, with the built in electric motor, who can ride electric bikes? The answer is anyone who can ride a regular bike should have no trouble riding an electric bike. Riders need to have the same balancing abilities and need to be able to operate the pedals with their legs. Many e-bikes, including our rental e-bikes, have a lower step-over height than a traditional bicycle. This means riders that would have difficulty mounting a regular bicycle can more easily get on and off one of our electric bikes.
So, you’ve got your legs working and now you have the help of an electric motor. So, how fast can you go on an electric bike? In the United States, there are rules for manufacturers about how fast an electric bike can go. Most e-bikes sold are either Class 2 or Class 3 bikes. Let’s break that down:
Class 2 e-bikes are ones that have a pedal assist and a throttle, like the ones we rent. Class 2 bikes have a top speed of 20mph in throttle only mode.
Class 3 e-bikes don’t have a throttle, but can hit a top speed of 28mph with pedal assist.
Can you still get exercise from riding an electric bike? That all depends on how you use it! If you’re cruising around on throttle only mode, you’re probably not getting a whole lot of activity from riding the bike. However, if you’re using the pedals and only relying on the motor for an extra boost on steep hills, you’re definitely getting some exercise from riding your electric bike. Either way, you’ll be outside getting some fresh air, so that’s a benefit regardless of how much you’re exerting yourself.