It isn’t that long ago that e-biking was frowned upon by keen cyclists, including yours truly. It was seen as the easy option.
And the general consensus was that it was a waste of time, unless you were in some way incapacitated or just ‘of a certain age’. There was evidently an element of stigma attached to turning up for a bike ride or holiday on an e-bike.
But the tide seems to be changing. Industry experts claim a recent increase in sales of e-bikes of over 50%. An impressive figure but not necessarily much of a surprise. After all, during the recent periods of lockdown, many took to two wheels to relieve the tedium and to promote their physical and mental wellbeing. And, with the vociferous debates over our impact on the environment, many more have adopted e-bikes in favour of cars for their daily commute.
I don’t profess to be an expert, but I have personally witnessed a noticeable change in attitude towards e-biking amongst my own cycling community.
Three years ago, I didn’t know one person in possession of an e-bike. Now I know at least 10. And, without exception, they all say it’s the best decision they made.
David Hooton, a cycling companion from Olhão, enthuses: “I love my e-bike. I fought against it for a long time, thinking that it was wimping out, but no. I now ride easier, quicker, faster and more often. I should have done it a long time back. I’m 75 in a few weeks and it’s enabling me to extend my range and still stay with the pack and sometimes even outpace them. With an e-bike, I can choose my own level of workout from no power full workout through the different power-assist settings, up to easy cruise. Love it!”
So what is all the fuss about? And is it something more of us should consider?
The assistance provided by the motor on an e-bike obviously makes it easier to ride. But this, in itself, is not a true advantage. In fact, it could be seen as a disadvantage if burning calories is your main motivation for getting in the saddle.
But the fact is, you can cover far more ground in less time. This allows for greater flexibility in planning your routes. You can take longer trips without them eating entirely into your day. You’re more likely to go out on your e-bike regularly when you know you can tackle a respectable distance every time.
And, whilst you may not eat up as many kilojoules/hour on an e-bike as you do on a regular one, you can still achieve your goals by putting the extra effort in, just as you would with any form of exercise. Ride faster. Choose hillier terrain. Go out more often. All of these are easy strategies to adopt, and you are far less likely to bite off more than you can chew with an e-bike.
Apart from anything else, you need to make sure you cycle within the life of your battery. So you are more inclined to plan your route and ensure you don’t come unstuck half way around. The bottom line is, you can get fitter.
An e-bike gives you more flexibility. You needn’t be concerned about hills, because the moment it becomes too much, you just turn up the assistance. Equally, you can turn it down or off if you don’t feel you need it. You can explore further afield as the confidence you have in your own ability opens up new horizons for you.
You build up less of a sweat, a factor that is particularly pertinent to the sunny climes of the Algarve. So, your journey is overall more comfortable and pleasant.
E-bikes are also helpful for those with physical challenges. You may have a limiting injury, or you are returning to cycling after a long break. It’s fantastic to hear how many people refer to a renewed passion for cycling, all down to their e-bikes. I’m one of those people. My husband purchased one two years ago and it wasn’t long before I got “e-bike envy” and we ended up with twin Orbeas. We haven’t looked back.
And the downsides? They’re heavier, so not so easy to transport. They’re more expensive (and maintenance can be costly compared to a conventional bike). Distance is limited by battery life. And you need to incorporate ‘battery charging time’ into your routine. Plus, of course, you need somewhere convenient to plug them in!
But these arguments aside, it would appear that e-bikes are here to stay, as Paul Beesley, co-owner of Algarve Bike Holidays, says: “Whether you’re in a group of fellow e-bikers or you’re the only one, it can add to your ride experience. It’s easier to pedal, you can gain momentum up hills. You can’t help but get a buzz out of it! And with e-versions of road, touring and mountain bikes, there is something for everyone…”
As technology advances, e-bikes are looking more like conventional bikes. It is often hard to tell the difference, thus even if there remains a hint of disdain amongst the purists, the chances are they won’t even know!
So back to the question: To “e” or not to “e”? Well, it’s a ‘yes’ from me.