A hot debate has been sizzling just below the surface of mainstream cycling about the pros and cons of e-bikes compared to traditional bikes. Many riders find electric bikes to be incredible examples of innovation and 21st-century engineering on display. Some people have heard of e-bikes but are not sure if they’ve ever seen them because they can blend in so well with traditional bikes. And a few bike riders are convinced that they will never ride an electric bike out of principle. So, who is right?
As with all interesting topics and big questions, especially those about new technology, the answer is almost certainly, “It depends.” Honbike riders and readers of our blog here know that we delight in tackling these types of topics because there are so many different perspectives and opinions to consider. When comparing electric bikes vs. regular bikes, it can help to take a step back and examine the subject from across time and from across lifestyles. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
History of Regular Bikes
Many fans of regular bikes may not know the history of their rise to fame. In fact, traditional bicycles date all the way back to the earliest years of the 19th century. Sometime around 18187, a German civil servant is said to have patented the first-ever bicycle as we think of them today. The first iteration was slow, made almost entirely of wood, and rather dangerous! Due to the numerous accidents and kinks yet to be ironed out, the popularity of the first bicycle faded away for a while. But as with all new technology, it only took a few more years for improved versions to start popping up everywhere.
History of Electric bikes
Perhaps just as interesting as the adoption of the traditional bicycle back in the 1800s is the revolution we are currently experiencing due to electric versions of traditional bikes. The micro-mobility market, as it’s called, has been a response to the inefficient and expensive market of gasoline cars and trucks. This includes electric versions of scooters and bicycles, and skateboards. However, it’s clear that e-bikes have taken the early lead, and for good reasons, which we will cover in a later section.
Due to manufacturing challenges and high costs, the electric bike would fall in popularity for decades before resurfacing in the early 2000s. And now, thanks to hyper-speed improvements in technology, advanced engineering, award-winning design, and superior battery technology, electric bikes are being adopted the world over.
Differences Between E-bikes and Regular Bikes
To the outside observer, it can be difficult to spot the differences between these two versions of bicycle. They both have two wheels, a handlebar, a frame, and pedals. But that’s about where the similarities end.
Electric bikes come equipped with an electric motor, often in the hub of the rear wheel or the center of the frame. This motor is then powered by a juiced-up battery that must be charged when it gets low. The battery may be visible on the frame, or it may be hidden inside. E-bikes can go faster than regular bikes with the same amount of input power from the rider. This is because they have pedal-assist which is discussed in the e-bike benefits section. Finally, e-bikes almost always come equipped with a display to indicate speed, battery life, and an odometer.
Regular bikes, by contrast, do not need to be charged. This is both a positive and a negative because while charging can take time and planning, it also makes riding more fun and efficient. Regular bikes do not have motors, batteries, or integrated LCD screens. They may weigh less on average due to these missing components. They are also sold at more stores and locations because they do not require much specialized knowledge.
Benefits of Regular Bikes
The main benefit to traditional bikes is the low-cost options that are available. With no need for motors, batteries, or computer systems to manage them, regular bikes can be mass-produced and sold at big box retailers very cheaply. However, you get what you pay for when it comes to quality. Additionally, regular bikes are non-motorized and thus are allowed on all trails and bike paths where bikes are allowed. This can be a benefit if you know you only want to ride on those marked paths.
Benefits of Electric Bikes
There are almost too many benefits of electric bikes to name all in one article, but we’ll highlight the top features to be aware of for any rider. Topping our list of benefits is the sheer amount of options the rider has to customize their riding experience. With an e-bike’s pedal-assist (common to most models), the rider can choose the level of assistance the bike provides from none at all, all the way up to maximum assistance. This optionality cannot be obtained from a regular bike.
Another benefit to be aware of with electric bikes is the ability to ride routes that may be difficult or impossible for some riders on a traditional bicycle. For example, long paths or steep hills in the city can be daunting, but with the extra confidence from an e-bike’s power, you can be sure to make it to the top without stopping. Never again arrive at your destination with sweaty clothes and out of breath when you’ve got electricity on your side. And ebikes like the commuter-friendly Honbike U4 come equipped with gyroscopes to make hill climbs even easier.
E-bikes occupy the narrow sweet spot of efficiency and sustainability. Unlike a regular bike, you can easily get where you need to go at whatever difficulty level you choose. And unlike a gas-powered cars, e-bikes are far better for the environment per mile. Without powering all the extra weight of the car frame and engine, the energy needed to travel one mile on an e-bike is orders of magnitude less than the energy needed to travel one mile in a car. Using the “right size” mode of transportation for your needs is the ultimate sustainable advantage.
Which Bike is Right for You?
To sum up, it all depends on what you need out of your ride, but we believe that the most universally beneficial choice is the electric bike due to its many different settings and convenience factors. With an e-bike, minor injuries which may prohibit you from riding a regular bike can be alleviated, allowing you to experience riding once again.
Looking for a tough workout? With an e-bike, you can turn the pedal assist off or low and pedal away. Just want to get where you’re going quickly and easily and in comfort? Crank the e-bike pedal-assist setting to the max.
Don’t need to transport a ton of luggage or people? Then don’t drive a car with four empty seats; take an e-bike as a climate-friendly alternative.
Although we prefer the many advantages of e-bike ownership, there are a few pros to traditional bikes as well. We hope you’ve enjoyed this short crash course on regular bikes vs. e-bikes. As you can see, commuter e-bikes don’t just live up to the hype; they exceed it. Join the revolution today!