After nearly 3,000 km (2000 miles) on an electric bike on roads and trails, it seems like the right time to share how much it costs to ride one: bike, accessories, clothes, repairs… How much does it really cost to own an electric bike?
Of course, electric mobility comes with an initial cost: the electric bike you choose, depending on your needs and budget. But buying an electric bike is only part of the expense. If you want to make a bike a versatile, daily means of transportation, you’ll need to be fully equipped.
Read also: How to choose an electric bike? 10 criteria to consider before buying. And, What is the ideal e-bike? Must have features on any electric bike.
The reason for this is simple: at any given time, you don’t want to think about whether or not you’re able to take a ride or whether the e-bike will be the most suitable mode of transportation.
Buying an electric bike as a permanent and daily mobility solution already answers the issues of effort and drudgery, but there are other parameters to consider when you get on your e-bike.
This 3,000 km e-bike riding experience, converted into related e-bike ownership costs, hopefully, would allow you to see roughly what to expect in order to feel at ease in the city or outside, both in terms of comfort and as well as in terms of efficiency.
Choosing a durable and repairable electric bicycle
We often emphasize the importance of making the right choice. If you are choosing an electric bike as your primary means of transportation, consider it the same as buying a car. A bike is faster in the city, more environmentally friendly, and it allows more freedom than a four-wheeled vehicle: just because its engine is limited to 25 km/h (15 mph) does not mean it is less efficient.
Therefore, like a car, you should not think of gadgets but instead of durability and requirements. If you invest in a good electric bike, you’re getting a bike that will last for ten years or so. The options at around 2,000 dollars or euros, before any government financial aid, start to have an excellent quality-to-price ratio.
Below that price, the components are more fragile, less comfortable, and less tried-and-tested. Above that price, the add-ons and modifications are for comfort and pleasure.
Finally, if your goal is to have a durable e-bike, go for a model with a classic structure. Startups sell electronics, homemade automatic gears, homemade motors, digital dashboards, and other gadgets that will only result in one outcome: no one will know how to fix them and the parts will very often be proprietary models.
Read also: Why are electric bikes so expensive? And, Does it make sense to buy the cheapest electric bicycle?
A manufacturer who procures parts from established suppliers and designs a simple electric bike will allow for inexpensive and easy maintenance at home or in any store.
Safety of your electric bicycle
In the city, the main obstacle for a person wishing to start cycling is the fear of theft. An electric bike is heavy and is often not able to be carried upstairs, so it has to stay either in a parking lot or in the street overnight.
To avoid any theft-related stress, make sure you secure everything that could be removed from your e-bike. Starting with the e-bike itself.
Abus 1060 Chain Lock, around 170 $/€. Abus lock is a benchmark for security (and my bike wasn’t stolen so far, which is reassuring), but it’s also very heavy. It adds between 2 and 3 kilos (4 to 7 pounds), depending on the size chosen, which is a lot. On top of that, it’s quite unwieldy and takes up a lot of space.
If I had to buy a new lock today, I would rather choose an Abus Bordo Granit lock (100 $/€): according to Abus it’s just as secure (15/15), but lighter and more portable.
Abus NutFix Seatpost Lock, 30 $/€. This is a seat clamp with a lever that makes it simple to adjust the saddle height on the fly. But it also makes stealing the saddle easy for thieves. A saddle lock allows you to not only adjust the seat to your height but also secure it when leaving your e-bike parked. An ideal combination.
Abus NutFix Wheel Lock, 60 $/€ for both wheels. The same concept as the saddle lock, but with your wheels. The quick-release levers are great for changing a tire when you go for a ride, but in the city, it’s an open invitation to steal your wheels.
It is possible to do without the wheel and seat locks by adding one or more Kryptonite KryptoFlex cables (15 $/€ each), but it does take a long time to lock up and then unlock your e-bike, which isn’t ideal since we’re trying to help make your biking experience as smooth as possible.
Read also: Are electric bikes dangerous? What are e-bike risks? And, How safe are electric bikes?
The cyclist’s equipment and gear
As far as my own gear is concerned, my case was more reactive than proactive. In the first cold spell, I froze. In the first rain shower, I got soaked. In the first heat wave, my back was fried. Bit by bit, I bought what I needed.
A Kask Lifestyle Urban Helmet, 150 $/€. After one year of wearing a helmet that I got on promotion using an offer I found on a desk at the editorial office, I reached my limit. It was uncomfortable, the foam padding was coming off, and it only offered average protection.
A good helmet is the guarantee to keep you alive in case of a dumb accident: your head won’t hit the ground. The Italian brand, Kask, has helmets that are comfortable, robust, and have a visor. I naively considered removing it, but now I can’t do without it: it protects you from wind, pollen, and rain, and it gives an extra feeling of security.
Read also: What to take with you an an e-biking trip? And, Can an e-bike pull a trailer?
Rains waterproof pants, 70 $/€. You can find much cheaper rain pants, but I preferred those from a specialist. These pants are warm and have the benefit of not being completely ugly. Knowing that it is made to be worn over your clothes, you can take them off when you arrive at your destination, therefore they should last quite long.
A rain jacket, 70 $/€. There are dozens of waterproof jackets on the market. Mine is no longer sold, but it has some good features: pockets, reflective materials, and some warmth without being stuffy. Alternatively, you can go to the mountaineering department in sports stores: a light mountaineering jacket can be a great buy for cycling (and they look good too).
Gore-Tex gloves, 30-50 $/€. Yes, Gore-Tex has invented revolutionary technical material. Yes, this technical material is overpriced. But, if a classic Gore-Tex jacket can be 300 $/€, these gloves are a good value for money (especially when on offer). I bought some very thin ones so I could use my smartphone with them and they lasted me all winter. On the coldest days, I lined them with wool gloves and I didn’t get cold.
A fleece choker, 10 $/€. I bought mine at a local sports shop and I don’t regret it at all. It protects you from the cold much better than a scarf.
A pannier/basket. 50-150 $/€. When it’s hot, not having a backpack is a lifesaver. A pannier such as, for example, Ortlieb QL3, which is easy to detach, is an incredible item, so it’s hard to do without. Would I make this choice again? Never. I made a rash decision and I should never have spent 150 € on a pannier, especially when Ortlieb sells two for the same price or even half the price. In short, a pannier is a very good investment. This pannier is not.
Read also: Selection of our favorite e-bike accessories to help you find the right gear for your needs.
Maintenance of an electric bicycle
All of the above expenses can be amortized. If you take good care of them, you can keep them (and the e-bike) for 10 years or more, which, in terms of cost per year, is very low compared to other transport. City transport passes can cost 500-1000 $/€ per year.
But, in addition to these expenses, you do need to add two or even three lines to the ledger: maintenance, repairs, and insurance.
On the maintenance side, you’ll soon buy a maintenance kit with brushes and grease and a foot pump. An electric bike wears out its components faster than a mechanical bike, mainly because the forces exerted on the components are greater (this is the role of the motor). Therefore, you will need to count on one in-store service per year (free the first year, then 60 to 70 $/€ per year afterward) to get the e-bike back in shape.
Read also: How to maintain your e-bike when you know nothing about it – in this article and this article. And, How to store your electric bike.
These overhauls may involve repairs in addition to adjustments. If you have an electric model designed with standard components, you’ll be happy to know that entry or mid-range parts are not expensive (the low weight of materials is what drives up the bill on muscle bikes and this factor is less important when you have a huge motor on an already heavy bicycle).
In almost 3,000 km (2000 miles), I had so far did not have any major repairs (lucky me!). Budgeting about 100 $/€ a year in parts, as I do, is a good estimate for a well-maintained e-bike.
The last expense will be the insurance: accident, breakage, and theft. It often disappears between the 2nd and 3rd year (most insurers only insure new or almost new bikes). It’s up to you to decide if you want to cover your purchase.
Read also: Buy the right e-bike insurance (with analysis and examples). And, Does it make sense to buy specialized e-bike insurance?