I live in an extremely flat city that lies about 15m above sea level. One has to drive an hour or two to reach even rolling hills.

Several decades ago, I rode quite a bit, and accumulated a decent "sport touring" road bike, a mountain bike, and a track bike. Then I stopped riding for a couple decades.

Now I have returned to riding casually and found BSE, and it's full of questions about electric bikes, which didn't exist when I was riding before.

I'm healthy for my age. When I ride, I want to be burning all the calories I can. My commute is only 3-4 km. Why would I want an e-bike? What advantages do they offer?

  • I searched for this question because I couldn't believe it didn't exist already. If it does, please flag this one as a dup. – shoover Nov 14 '18 at 22:31
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    Because steam-powered bikes are such a pain to operate. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 14 '18 at 22:38
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    I think the advantages should be obvious. You can go further or faster, for less effort. If those advantages are contrary to your goals, you probably don't want one. They're considerably heavier and more expensive. – Greg Hewgill Nov 14 '18 at 22:56
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    Also, if you are fit enough, you can easily go 25 km/h on a normal bike, which is the max support speed for many E-bikes (most in my country, at least, and the once that have higher support, well, they are not bikes, they are motorbikes, imho). Once you reach this speed, the motor just won't help anymore. So, for fit people like myself, an E-bike would just make those 25 km/h feel like a wall: No effort biking below it, full effort above it. That's not a very attractive thought to me, so I will stay with 100% human power. It's better for the environment anyway. – cmaster - reinstate monica Nov 14 '18 at 23:56
  • @shoover you expected someone else to wonder why you should use an electric bike? – IMil Nov 15 '18 at 3:40

I don't (yet) own an E-Bike, but have spoken to my LBS a few times to find out whats happening in the market. My interest is Mountain biking more than road riding, but the observations probably apply more or less to the same extent.

1) People who are less fit / non-cyclists get into riding who otherwise would not. This does not appear to apply to you.

2) In many cases price competitive to non-electric bike - I had trouble taking this seriously then had it explained. People go into a bike shop looking for a bike to lighten their wallet. Evey cyclists knows you quickly get into the $/gram game and end up spending hundreds to save a few grams. Many buyers then turn to the E-Bike rack, and work out they could have a 'decent enough' e-bike made with mid range components for around the price of the light weight racer they are looking at.

3) Further and longer translates to more fun for the same effort. A recurring theme is cyclists on E-Bikes head out and ride for longer - 4 hours instead of 2, 8 hours instead of 6. The main reason is they are still enjoying riding at the end of a long day because they have not worn themselves out.

4) Diverse groups - many people worry they are the one holding everyone up, and do not wants to be 'that guy' (or girl). Rather than join a group they don't ride. A recent event some mates did was a 70km, 2 day MTB ride with a diverse group from diehard's to tag along partners who struggle with 20km rides. The less fit/confident/skilled in the group rode E-Bikes. The end result was the group rode together, stopped and rested together and no one felt pressured or held up. The ride converted some hardcore 'Box before E-Bike' types to 'Not till I am old and slow'

5) Fitness - evidence is building that people who buy E-Bikes gain more fitness than those buying traditional bikes, because they ride more often and longer. I suspect there is an element of the starting point of many E-Bike riders is very low.

Everyone is different - me, 20 years ao, would have lef tthe E-Bike on teh rack. Now over 50, if buying a new bike, my ego says its too soon.... Couple of long hard rides I might get it to change its mind.

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    E-MTBs are an interesting case, making riding much more fun for some people whose skill exceeds their fitness. I'm the other way round (lack of skill but road fit) and we can enjoy riding trails together with decent sustained climbs. I've also seen one old on-road model that according to its original owner kept him off a mobility scooter for a decade by allowing short trips to be made at low effort. – Chris H Nov 15 '18 at 6:44
  • This looks like a good list of reasons for getting (or not getting) an e-bike. – shoover Nov 19 '18 at 19:28

I'm healthy for my age. When I ride, I want to be burning all the calories I can. My commute is only 3-4 km. Why would I want an e-bike?

You probably wouldn't. E-bikes are for helping you go farther or faster* than you could on your own. Since you don't seem to need that, an e-bike doesn't seem to have any advantage for you.

* In most countries, e-bikes have to cut out the assistance at around 25km/h (16mph) so "faster" only applies if you're cyling slower than that.

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I don't have an e-bike. But some acquantances do or do/did think about getting one:

  • One lives in a flat region as well, and tries to convert from car-driving to work to e-biking. Emphasis is on not arriving sweaty (possibility to change, but not to shower), but still in a reasonable time.
    So, no reason for you.

  • One other acquantance who was thinking about an e-bike lives in a hilly region with the "flattest" possibility to get to work being 150 m elevation gain (half of that in a steep ascend just before arriving) and 225 m elevation gain on the way back.
    I do see far more e-bikes in hilly regions. Again, no reason for you.

  • I've been living with 150 m difference in elevation from work for a couple of years, but fortunately that was almost exclusively down in the morning and up on the way home. The thought of an e-bike was somewhat tempting, but not that much: if I didn't feel like the 20 % incline on the usual way, there was another (longer) way that didn't require that much residual will power after long working days (or a party).

  • I've heard as an argument for e-bike: in urban settings, bikers (just as everyone else) have to stop frequently, and get going again. This acceleration is the annoying and power-consuming part of biking in cities (particularly if you carry kids and possibly groceries around). An e-bike may help with that.
    Don't know whether that could be a reason for you, probably not, though, if your emphasis is on maximising your energy output.

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I had an e-bike conversion - it was a replacement front wheel with a hub motor, and a battery pack in the main triangle.

After a year I sold the kit on - the bike was simply too fast, and I wasn't getting the exercise. Plus I was smashing through strava KOMs which wasn't really fair to those who worked hard.

Another negative for that conversion was that a fat rider on an old 90s steel MTB shouldn't be going 45 km/h, and cars would routinely pull out in front of me, or open car doors. Also, the bike's cantilever brakes were not really specified or rated for hauling down 30 kilos of bike plus a hundred kilos of rider and whatever I was moving. Brake pads lasted a couple of months tops.

The final straw was general traction. On any slightly damp day I got wheel spin when accelerating - the pedal action unweighted the front wheel and made it loose traction. The bike was incredibly keen to slip sideways, especially if I came into a turn or corner a bit fast (which was often) And while I never fell or had a collision, there were multiple times I took a corner too fast and ended up on the wrong side of the road. Some of that was doubtless my... enthusiasm for going fast, which could have been unlearned.

So an ebike makes riding easier and less work, which is less exercise overall. For me, riding faster than others was the attraction, but it wore off over time and now I ride a road bike and a recumbent bike faster and further than that electrified one.

Question really becomes - why do you ride ?

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    Good point about traffic not anticipating your speed, do you mean “shouldn’t” or “wouldn’t normally” be goingthat speed? – Swifty Mar 19 '19 at 9:28
  • @Swifty I was certainly pedalling for it, and the extra 300W got me to those high speeds. I missed a point about brakes, adding now. – Criggie Mar 19 '19 at 10:42
  • Strava has a specific activity you can select as E-Bike ride which should stop you from knocking others off the KOM for regular bike rides. – Kibbee Mar 19 '19 at 16:18
  • @Kibbee back in 2014 that was not an option - they only supported run/ride/walk at that point. – Criggie Mar 19 '19 at 18:49
  • I can not imagine a bike being too fast. "After a year I sold the kit on - the bike was simply too fast, and I wasn't getting the exercise." :-) – fixit7 Mar 20 '19 at 15:02

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