The pandemic created many winners and losers. Amid all our technological advances in the transport sector, one rather massive winner was the humble world of cycling. The great bike boom of 2020 saw cycling numbers as much as triple in the UK and, despite normality threatening to return sometime soon, the cycling industry doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down as sales and activity figures remain high in 2021.
The cycling industry has not been without its own technological innovations in recent years, however, and perhaps one of the unsung heroes in cycling’s rise to stardom over the last 12-15 months is the electric bike, or the e-bike as it’s more commonly known. With electric cars rapidly taking over the automotive space, it’s only logical to think that e-bikes will begin to play more of a role in the wider cycling community, and they’ve undoubtedly made cycling more accessible for some corners of the British demographic.
Here, we’ll look at how e-bikes work, how they can help and whether they’re a shoo-in to stick around for the long haul.
What is an e-bike?
In simple terms, an electric bike, or an electrically assisted pedal bike, is a normal bike with an electric motor and battery attached. The electric motor is used to assist the rider while they pedal to make the process less strenuous, and its assistance levels can be adjusted according to rider preference and the difficulty of the ride.
The motor will not power the bike on its own, but it will make your life at lot easier as the rider. It’s also has its limits according to the law, so once you reach a speed of 15.5mph the motor will stop assisting – and if you wish to pedal faster than that you are welcome to, but the motor will only kick back in at slower speeds.
How are e-bikes helping?
While cycling is widely considered an accessible pastime thanks to its affordability, any time, any place usability and widespread popularity, there’s still no getting away from the fact it can be quite hard work, especially if you’re older or not in great shape.
With cycling having become a cornerstone of health and fitness over the lockdown period, e-bikes have allowed those who find themselves at the lower end of the strength or aerobic spectrum to get involved in the sport. The electric motor assistance that e-bikes provide has made general riding much more accessible and less daunting to the elderly, those lacking in fitness or even inexperienced riders. On an electric bike you needn’t worry about encountering a hilly area, taking on an extended ride or riding with other, more seasoned cyclists.
In essence, e-bikes have made cycling more appealing to those sat outside the normal target demographic of the industry. And considering how numbers of cyclists skyrocketed over lockdown, there’s no doubt that at least a small part of that new cyclist crowd wouldn’t have been there if not for e-bike options being available.
Are e-bikes here to stay?
The question of the place of e-bikes both in the cycling industry and wider transport world is an interesting one. Unlike electric cars, which are set to become the only method of automotive transport in due course, e-bikes have to contend with the fact that cycling as a hobby, to most involved with it at least, is based largely around the sporting, competitive and fitness related appeal of traditional pedal biking.
Thus, e-biking isn’t going to eliminate normal cycling from the equation like EVs will with combustion powered cars. Nor is it likely to become the dominant cycling format. However, neither of those hypotheses mean there isn’t a sizeable place for e-bikes in the modern market. The efficient, easy, sustainable and fun nature of e-biking appeals to a few different crowds – not only the traditionally non-cycling community we’ve already discussed, but also those who use their bikes for functional purposes, like commuters and delivery riders.
E-biking may in fact effect some considerable changes on the cycling hobby as a whole. The profile of your average cyclist will likely change, the insurance market will grow as people look to protect more expensive purchases, and, who knows, we might even see e-bike related sporting events in the future, just as we’ve seen with the rise of Formula E.
Is e-biking here to stay, then? The answer is almost certainly, absolutely yes – and its own success will only help the cause of the wider cycling industry over the next few years.