Why You May Want to Prefer Traditional Bicycle Over E-bike?

Easy E-Biking - Decathlon ELOPS 500 low frame e-bike, helping to make electric biking practical and fun
Photo courtesy of Decathlon

Cycling has generated unprecedented interest during the health crisis and lockdown.

“There is one small downside that grieves all bike lovers. In the sales of new bikes, one out of every two is electric,” says Gilles Goetghebuer. While for many bike lovers, “a bicycle is a magnificent invention that doesn’t need to be denatured by a motor”.

An electric bicycle – yes, but not if you’re in a great shape

Of course, some people need an electric bicycle, especially those who have to carry children up hills or those who are not physically fit, for example.

“With these particular profiles, the electric bicycle fulfills its mission,” Gilles Goetghebuer says.

The problem is the opposite, according to Gilles Goetghebuer: “There are plenty of people who buy electric bikes and who are in great shape”. You even have to differentiate between the types of bicycles nowadays when talking about electric bikes on one side and muscle bikes on the other.

Read also: Are electric bikes good for exercise? – in this article. And, can I use an e-bike to get fit or for weight loss? – in this article.

He gives the following example: “The muse of the French electric bike brand Moustache, is Julien Absalon, he is 39 years old and is twice Olympic mountain bike champion, not the kind to have a motor to ride a bike in the forest”.

“The most disappointing thing for me is that now we already have electric motor bicycles for children,” he adds.

Read also: Why Olympic champions chose electric bicycles? – in this article. And, how to select the best kids’ e-bike? – in this article.

A reverse effect

For cyclists loyal to traditional bicycles, there is perhaps frustration of being overtaken on a hill by electric bicycles that do not make the slightest physical effort. The other problem with the above two examples is that the electric bicycle has lost its original meaning. 

Gilles Goetghebuer explains: “Initially, the electric bicycle’s task was to get the most sedentary part of the population to do some sport. The electric bicycle was therefore intended to be a footboard between a car and a traditional bike”. But we have seen rather the opposite: there are many regular cyclists who have switched to electric bikes, so the goal is not achieved.

Easy E-Biking - Vanmoof e-bike, helping to make electric biking practical and fun
Photo courtesy of Vanmoof

The worry is, therefore, the following: “What is likely to happen is that e-bike riders will go down a path of more and more comfort, taking slightly more powerful models with every choice they make. There are already speed e-bikes that go up to 45 km/h. 

We are, therefore, coming to the situation, which is completely the opposite to what was intended.  Initially, the electric bike proposed to add a little bit of sport to those, who did not have enough and remove a bit of pollution. In the end, what do we see? For a lot of new e-bike riders, e-bikes have removed a bit of sport and added a bit of pollution”.

A difference in pollution

Gilles Goetghebuer, editor-in-chief of the magazine Sport et vie, has devoted a study in an article he is developing on whether or not electric bicycles pollute more than traditional fully human-powered bikes. I.e. is there more pollution linked to the manufacturing of each type of bicycle. 

For the classic bicycle, “a kilo of a bicycle is approximately 5 kilos of carbon dioxide, equivalent carbon dioxide because it is necessary to find a unit of measurement which is a unified measure of the pollution” specifies Gilles.

So if we take an example of a bicycle weighing 12 kilos, it would have required 60 kilos of CO2. “If we assume that the bike will travel 24,000 km, the average lifetime of a bicycle is 2.5 grams of CO2 per kilometer traveled”, summarizes Gilles.

For the electric bicycle, it already weighs more and includes a battery. “To make a 0.5 kW/hour battery it takes 100 kilos of carbon dioxide. It must be changed regularly and recharged,” says the columnist. The calculation is therefore more complicated than for a traditional muscle bike. 

“Taking into account energy production, if we produce electricity with nuclear, gas, or coal, all that impacts the calculation.  In total, an electric bicycle does not pollute that much compared to a car, for example. A small car emits 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer and an electric bicycle pollutes around 15, 20, 25 grams of CO2 per kilometer” he reveals.

In conclusion, yes, it may make sense for some riders to use an e-bike, but it pollutes 6, 8 to 10 times more than the classic bicycle, and a classic bicycle will always keep you in shape.

Read also: Are electric bikes cheating? – in this article. And, which muscles work when riding an electric bike? – in this article.

Here is a quick video comparing a traditional bicycle and an electric version:

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