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Pros and cons of electric bikes, Part 1: Pros

In my series on bike categories, I listed the four primary types of bikes: road, mountain, gravel, and hybrid. My conclusion was that hybrid bikes are the best bet for the majority of RVers.

Hybrid bikes, like the others listed, come in two primary variations: electric and non-electric. The electric style has a motor that’s powered by a battery and provides pedaling assistance. In some types of ebikes, you can zip along without pedaling at all, just using a throttle (like a motorcycle). Other types only provide help when you’re pedaling.

This column is the first of a two-parter on the pros and cons of having an ebike vs. a muscle-power-only bike. We’ll focus on the good stuff today, and next week we’ll look at the downsides of ebikes. (Remember that this list isn’t exhaustive. I’ll just be covering the main benefits, although there are others.)

Pro No. 1: Less stress. You’ll get there faster and easier on an ebike. If you’re going up and down hills, either on the road or offroad, this can make a huge difference. As we age, it gets harder to do big, sustained efforts, and having that assistance becomes more and more necessary.

No. 2: Going farther. You can see a lot more of the countryside when you’re on an ebike. You can take bigger loops. And since being outside, seeing lots of beautiful places, is why you have an RV in the first place, this will allow you to enjoy even more of that beauty.

No. 3: Car replacement. Not everyone does this, but for an increasing number of RVers, an ebike can replace dragging a car along behind you, or unhitching your tow vehicle every time you need to run to the store to get more coffee. Ebikes are great at hauling stuff, and most hybrid ebikes have rear racks and other types of racks for carrying even more.

No. 4: Injuries and disabilities. Many folks recovering from injury simply can’t pedal a bike with their own power. And for those with physical disabilities, it can be a lifelong issue. In those situations, an ebike can be just what the doctor ordered.

No. 5: Good for the environment. Ebikes produce no emissions, unlike cars. They have motors, yes, but no combustion engines like those in cars and motorcycles. (That environmental boost also means more money in your pocket, since you’re not using gas.)

No. 6: Keeping up with your significant other. This is a less-obvious and less-common benefit, but more useful than you might think. Often one partner will be a stronger rider than the other, and it can be challenging to ride together when one is a lot faster. An ebike can eliminate those disparities, and let you ride side-by-side with your sweetheart.

As you can see, there are lots of good reasons to consider an ebike over a non-powered bike. Next time, we’ll take a look at the other side of that coin. Until then, happy riding!

Keith Ward, a veteran journalist, writes about cycling, health, and the intersection of the two at thediabeticcyclist.substack.com. If you like ebikes and cycling, sign up for his newsletter here. You’ll get great content about all aspects of cycling life, and even learn a thing or two! He’s all about helping you improve your life through an improved diet and exercise.

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rvgrandma
1 month ago

I love my ebike. I have a knee I am trying to prevent knee replacement. I can’t do a lot of walking but I can do 20 miles on my bike – combo of just pedaling, motor or both. On a regular bike I could do probably 4-5 miles before my knee would be hurting. I have 7 gears on my bike (Lectric) and use them all depending on the terrain and how I am feeling.

I grew up on a bike, road one for many years as an adult with my kids (use to do 100 miles a week with daughter) then life happened to end it. I missed the wind blowing my hair – just like a motorcycle rider. There is a freedom out there on a bike – regular or ebike. Why rob someone of that pleasure and feeling of freedom?

Just remember a helmet. I crashed on mine 2 months ago. If I had not had my helmet would have had more than bruised knees and hands. Thankfully even though I am 70, I escaped any broken bones.

Suru
1 month ago

E-bikes have been a game-changer for us. My previously very athletic and outdoorsy husband is now disabled due to an accident. He can’t walk very far or stand up for very long. However, he can sit and ride his e-bike with very little pain. We now get to explore while camping like we never could before. Honestly, one of the best purchases we ever made.

Kirt
1 month ago

Good for the environment? I think not. I own two ebikes and I love them, but they are not good for the environment. You have to think about where these minerals in the battery come from which are extracted from mines overseas where there are no or minimal environmental regulations and child labor laws. We are also getting our electricity from coal. Also look at all these battery plants that are being built across our country destroying thousands of acres of natural lands. These things never seem to get mentioned when we talk about electric bikes or cars.

rvgrandma
1 month ago
Reply to  Kirt

I agree. I love my ebike but there are the damage to environment making the batteries. I will never own an electric car. Do I have a 2001 Prius which I love but would never buy another hybrid – the state is taxing me extra to build charging stations I can’t use. Thankfully the hybrid batteries that we were told would last 5 years are still going strong.

But, ebikes are good because it does get many out exercising that would never do it before. And they take a lot less batteries than hybrid or electric cars.

Crowman
1 month ago
Reply to  rvgrandma

For every EV car battery pack 250 TONS of earth has to be mined.

Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Kirt

You think your car or rv is any less bad for the environment. I think riding an e-bike is less damaging than cars or rv’s. Just my humble opinion

Eldon
1 month ago

I get it. Some people can’t pedal a bike. But there are a lot of people who can but decide not to. Just like taking a golf cart to a campground. Oh we just like to buzz around while we’re here. So to me that’s more of a status point than a necessity. So when you’re told to plug either in to your camper and not the pedestal to recharge them, don’t argue with the owners.

Seann Fox
1 month ago

Fluff piece so far. No pollution?? Where does the electricity come from? Dirty coal power station?

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Seann Fox

You’re not suppose to bring up statistics like that, just the end result is spoken! Lol

Kirt
1 month ago
Reply to  Seann Fox

Good for the environment? I think not. I own two ebikes and I love them, but they are not good for the environment. You have to think about where these minerals in the battery come from which are extracted from mines overseas where there are no or minimal environmental regulations and child labor laws. We are also getting our electricity from coal. Also look at all these battery plants that are being built across our country destroying thousands of acres of natural lands. These things never seem to get mentioned when we talk about electric bikes or cars.

KellyR
1 month ago
Reply to  Kirt

I understand environmental concerns, but we have been mining and tearing up the earth for a looong time. We mine for iron ore and aluminum and refine it with the heat from coal, to make any kind of bike, or car, or RV., or ….. Let’s stop ALL of this mining that tears up our earth. We don’t need iron, aluminum, copper, silicon (chips and even glass), gold, silver, coal or oil or plastics, all of which rapes our earth and takes heat generated by some kind of fossil fuel to refine. We have been doing this since man, so why is it now that lithium has become the bad guy that pollutes this earth? Initially we could not recycle, paper, glass, aluminum, water ;;;;; But we won’t eventually figure out lithium? Oh … the plants we have destroyed for medicine! The mined phosphorus to fertilize our crops? Chicken Little’s sky has been falling for a looong time

Leonard
1 month ago

Sorry, but I see the whole e-bike industry as a lazy person’s way to think they are out getting exercise!
Almost everyone I see on an e-bike is not pedaling, no matter the grade they are on. To put a spin on a current phrase, I see this as “excercise-washing”! lol. That is until I am too old to pedal under my own steam. IMHO.

Billinois
1 month ago
Reply to  Leonard

What a self-serving judgmental reply. For many, an ebike means the difference between sitting around and doing little and actually getting out there and enjoying life. I see many seniors (myself included) who had to give up biking because of arthritis, bad knees, hips, etc. Ebikes allow them to get out and move.
And who are you to judge whether someone is “lazy”? Have some compassion for the those who are less physically capable.

M D-B
1 month ago
Reply to  Billinois

Agree!

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Leonard

That’s me!

TIM MCRAE
1 month ago
Reply to  Leonard

Hey Leonard, you have a valid opinion but I wonder, do you have a non electric bike and how often do you ride.

I am definitely lazy and would never have a pedal only bike. But we do have two electric (Lectric Brand) and we use them on every trip. Maybe not much exercise, but sure get a lot of sightseeing and exploring than before we had them!

Cookie P
1 month ago
Reply to  Leonard

Here’s an article that shows you can get a workout on an e-bike, if you want.
https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/fitness-and-training/electric-bike-fitness/

Also, not everyone is physically able to pedal a bike. I would love it if I could, but severe arthritis has limited my range of motion in my knees.

I don’t see e-bikes as a lazy way to get exercise. I see them as an assistive device to go farther and see more on hiking paths.

M D-B
1 month ago
Reply to  Leonard

I’m happy for you that you can pedal under your own steam but many can’t any longer. I’m not lazy, I’m disabled. I can no longer balance on a 2 wheel bike so now have an electric recumbent. I pedal the entire time.

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