Do you want to buy a bike but hesitate between classic mechanical and electric bikes? Cycling to work is good for your health and the environment; sometimes, it saves time.
Using your bike to go to work may be one of your New Year’s resolutions. But once you’ve made that decision, the hard part is finding the right bike for you.
There are thousands of different models available today, whether designed for the city, the road, the mountains, or the trails, whether they are foldable, with disc brakes or not… And the question of the moment quickly arises: should you opt for an electrically-assisted bicycle or a classic, so-called “mechanical” bike?
The motorized bicycle is more expensive and less durable
The commitment of many municipalities to finance the purchase of an electrically-assisted bicycle up to a few hundred dollars or euros may encourage investment in an electric bike, even though the average purchase price is five times higher than that of a conventional bike.
Although the average purchase price of a “mechanical” bike is around 350 $/€, the lowest prices of traditional bikes in large stores are around 200 $/€.
As for the e-bike, even with a discount of a few hundred dollars/euros, you will still have to spend at least about 1,200 dollars/euros to get your e-bike. The average purchase price is around 1,750 $/€.
The maintenance of electric-assist bikes is also a little more expensive. When doing an annual check-up of an electric-assist bike, one needs to check the motor and do the updates, which does not need to be done on a classic mechanical bike.
It costs about 50 to 60 $/€ more per year for an e-bike than for a conventional bike. Moreover, the battery of an e-bike does not last forever. E-bike batteries work between 7 and 8 years and must then be changed. And this also has a cost: about 500 $/€.
A classic mechanical bike, if well-maintained, can last almost a lifetime.
No real-time savings with an electric bike
In 2017, a study by the University of Adger in Norway showed that you save an average of 6 minutes on a 30-minute commute if you use an electric-assist bike rather than a conventional bike.
On the other hand, the more uneven the route is, the faster you will be on an electric bike.
Another test, done in Paris, on a relatively flat route of about 5 km (3.1 miles) showed only 30 seconds difference between the e-bike and regular bicycle.
In fact, in the city, unless you have extensive bicycle paths without traffic lights or interruptions, the average speed of a bicycle is 15 km/h (around 9-10 mph).
The electric bike is also a sport!
One of the common stereotypes about electrically-assisted bicycles is that “it’s for old people”.
But be careful, an e-bike is not a scooter: you have to pedal to move forward. The intensity of effort could certainly be 30 to 50% lower than the classic bicycle, but the effects on health are precisely the same: reduction of cardiovascular and osteoarticular risks, increase in immunity, neurological benefits, and well-being.
Cycling, whether electric or mechanical, reduces the risk of stroke by about 30%. The e-bike is a potentiator of the classic bicycle, it allows people who would never have cycled to do so. It’s not worse than the classic bike; it’s just different.
And it can even be used by the greatest athletes to recover after intense competitions.
The impact of the manufacturing of e-bike batteries
If you decide to go for “work on a bike” for ecological reasons, it is also necessary to remember the impact of the production of batteries. Lithium, used in the composition of most electric batteries today, is mainly extracted in South America, particularly in Argentina and Bolivia.
And if the industrialists pride themselves on “clean” exploitation, the extraction of this metal requires drastic quantities of water in often desert environments.
Cobalt, another essential metal for manufacturing batteries, is extracted almost exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So, again, these are not only environmental impacts. Amnesty International has been denouncing the exploitation of many children in these mines for years.
Riding, testing, and writing about e-bikes since 2017.