Local Electric Bike Shop Answers the Question, “Are Electric Bikes Worth It?”
So, for 2017 we really decided to hit the bikes to the pavement and bring them around Michigan. This really was to gain more information on the public’s perception of electric bikes as well as to expose the public to ebikes. A common question I received was, “Are electric bikes worth it?” In part, I think that it was a question to help justify the pricing of the bikes. Understandably, electric bikes are expensive and should have proper thought before getting in line at the cash register. I decided to dig into the question a little further.
First off, what’s an electric bike?
For those who are starting their electric bike researching journey, an electric bike is a bicycle frame that consists of three main components:
- Acceleration Mode
Many bikes can travel around 20 miles per hour and have an average distance of 35 miles. Although, there are bike brands that have much longer distances. For example, the Stromer ST2 S electric bike can travel up to 110 miles.
Many bike brands use Lithium-Ion batteries, although some started off with lead-based batteries. The batteries weigh anywhere between 5 to 9 pounds and bicycle frames range anywhere between 25 to 60 pounds.
In general, the motor can either be in the hub of the wheel (front or back) or at the base of the bike, closer to the pedals (the motor type is “mid-drive”). Both have their benefits and considerations, so it’s best to do your research on which one will be the best option.
The acceleration modes mentioned are typically pedal assist or throttle. In pedal assist, you’ll be combining your own power plus the motor. Pedal assist is typically activated using a monitor or a display, and there are typically 4 or 5 levels of assist (the higher the assist, the more your bike is working for you). Throttle is just like a moped, where you twist a throttle for acceleration and do not have to pedal at all.
Who rides electric bikes?
Everyone! I’m not just saying that to sound cute, either. As long as you follow the laws in your respective state or country, electric bikes can be ridden by just about everyone. I’ve seen 16-year-olds come through out shop looking for an electric bike to commute to school up to the mountain biker aficionado who needs a little help getting up the mountains.
Electric bikes are great for anyone with an injury, like myself. To be honest, I have an ankle injury that I obtained after longboarding. After having a bad sprain and not the proper treatment, I’ve found that whenever I want to do anything active, my ankle always seems to hold me back. I LOVE biking, but now it seemed like a chore. When we brought electric bikes into our shop in 2015, I gave one a try and it seemed like my life was changed. I love our electric bikes, and I’m glad they’ve given me a new sense of activity.
I’ve met plenty of customers and visitors to our store who have had the same situation. The nice thing is that, no matter your activity level or bike usage, there seems to be an electric bike for everyone - trikes, cargo, tandem, fat tire bikes, I’ve seen them all.
Benefits of an electric bike
E-Bikes are great for commuting. The average commuter travels 15 miles (one way) to work.For me, I’m thankful enough to live close to work. I can either take about 45 minutes to walk to work, take 5 minutes to drive, or 12 minutes to bike (without a motor). On an electric bike, my 2.3 mile commute is about 8 - 10 minutes. Our boss, Steve, has claimed that it takes him about 6 minutes to drive 2.8 miles at top speeds on an electric bike. In Grand Haven, you’re never too far from work. However, Pedego has released customer stories that have seen people riding 9 miles or more on their electric bikes to work (one way)! When you have a battery that can travel an average of 35 miles, you have plenty of juice to get to work and back.
Electric bikes can make you healthier. The crazy thing is that, even though you’re using a motor, you’re still being subjected to pedaling (more than likely). The New York Times reported a study where those who were previously sedentary had to ride an electric bike at least three times a week for 40 minutes and they saw increased heart rates during their workout, longer riding times, improved cardiovascular health, and even less body fat. While we can’t guarantee immediate success, it doesn’t hurt burning some extra calories while out for a ride.
It’s cheaper than paying for gas in your car.According to AAA, the average amount of fuel paid for a sedan is $1,681.50 per year (and it just creeps up from there). Electric bike savings are going to be different depending on your current car, the amount that you drive, and how often you charge your electric bike. Also, rates from electric companies are different as well. However, considering the fact that you’re only charging a small battery instead of a huge car, the savings is there. There have been studies saying that it costs roughly 8 cents (Electric Bike Reports claims 0.0625 to 0.245 cents per mile) to charge an electric bike battery.
To give you an idea, one of my favorite bikes to commute to and from work is the Pedego City Commuter. I can get about 35 miles (on average) on one battery charge. That means, based on the cents per mile rate, it costs me approximately 2.1 to 8.5 cents per bike charge. I only ride about 6 miles per day (to commute) and charge my bike every 5 days or so. So, I’ll charge my bike battery around 6 times a month. That means I’m paying around 51 cents a month to charge my bike battery. Considering I pay about $25 a week to fill up my Mazda Tribute, I’m saving a considerable amount every month. If I were to be using only my electric bike, I would be saving almost $100 a month in expenses. Now, I don’t always ride my electric bike, but I’m still saving more gas in my car and in my wallet than what I would be driving only a car.
But, they’re expensive!
Electric bikes range from $1000 upwards to over $15,000. It’s no doubt that they’re worth a pretty penny. But, let’s take a look as to why they might be so expensive.
You get what you pay for. This isn’t true for all cases, as we have seen some incredible electric bikes at really good price points, but what we’ve noticed is that the components are often a little cheaper to manufacture. You should always do your research on what is on the bike to make sure it’s the most value for your money. Thankfully, we stand behind our bikes and ride them ourselves to be able to give you honest reviews.
Lithium Ion batteries are expensive. Li-Ion batteries help provide electric bikes the distance and power that riders enjoy. Unfortunately, the materials are expensive. In fact, 60% of the total cost for manufacturers of Li-Ion batteries are the materials. Thankfully, the cost of lithium-ion batteries are declining every year with more and more advances in mining and production, so hopefully we’ll see declines in e-bike prices as well.
Shipping is so expensive. Bikes cost hundreds of dollars to ship across the country. They’re heavy (many between 40 to 60 pounds), come in big packages, and are often shipped on freight trucks. Even if an electric bike company ships directly to your home, they’re still eating probably $200 to $300 in shipping costs. Of course, this all depends on the size of the bike package, the weight of that package, and with whom they’re shipping that package.
Deciding whether or not an electric bike is worth the money is ultimately up to the user. Even in our shop we had a couple of skeptics - in fact, I couldn’t get one of our staff to ride them for an entire year. But whenever I’ve ridden with skeptics, I’ve noticed one consistent thing during riding, the smile; not just any smile, but the famed “electric smile”. It’s one that only occurs during (and after) riding an electric bike.
The biggest takeaway from all of this is that the best way to determine whether or not an electric bike is worth it is to ride one. If you’re in the West Michigan area, we have a multi-terrain track as well as electric bike rentals. If you’re not in the West Michigan area, I suggest going to an electric bike dealer, getting properly fitted, and being able to test ride one yourself. I can’t guarantee you’ll jump in and buy one, but I can guarantee you’ll have a better understanding of the potential benefits of an electric bike.
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