Are e-bikes cheating? Let's go! When I am out on my e-bike I am often asked “are e-bikes cheating?”. When I think back to my first encounter with e-bikes, I might have considered this to be the case…. … I was pedalling up a hill in a low gear on my regular (non-electric) mountain bike when an older cyclist on an upright heavy-looking bike cruised past me at speed. My first thought was “ I must be so unfit” until… I realised that he was riding an e-bike. In that moment, I might have considered e-bikes to be cheating but filled with curiosity, I decided to go and try one for myself …. Since March 2020 I have been the VERY happy owner of a Cube 500 mountain e-bike and I feel better qualified to respond to the ‘are e-bikes cheating’ question and others that I get regularly asked. Assumption...I don't need one Some people assume that you have to be unfit, old or infirm to ride an e-bike. From cycling my e-bike for over a year I can confirm that you can put as much (and sometimes more) effort into riding an e-bike as you would a normal bicycle, it depends how you use them: An e-bike is not like a moped – you have to keep pedalling or they stop, just like a regular bike. You can free-wheel on them, just as you can on a regular bike. E-bikes are heavier than an equivalent regular bike and the electrical assistance they can provide cuts out between 15 and 16 MPH. At speeds greater than this, they are harder to pedal than a regular bike because of their additional weight. If speed is your thing then I wouldn’t recommend them – get a regular road bike. For increasing the scope and distance of where you can go by bike, for versatility and for fun, and for cycling up hills, in my view an e-bike cannot be beaten no matter your age or level of fitness. If you can ride a normal bike with gears, you can ride an e-bike although you do have to be over 14 years old in the UK. How often do you have to charge them? How many miles you can go on a single charge depends on how big your battery is and on how much electrical assistance you choose to use. My e-bike provides ECO (lowest level of assistance), TOUR, EMTB (electric mountain bike) and TURBO (highest level of assistance) settings; the more time you spend in the lowest ECO setting (a bit like having the wind behind you rather than in your face), the further you can go without having to recharge your battery. You can also choose to turn the electrical assistance OFF (no assistance from the electric motor), which means that you are riding a normal bike, albeit a bike with the additional weight of a battery and motor. There is no such thing as ‘range-anxiety’ on an e-bike providing you don’t make long trips in EMTB or TURBO mode. If you underestimate how much charge is in your battery and you run out of power on your ride, you can ride home using your regular gears because without electrical assistance, you are riding a regular bike. What's the best thing about your e-bike? The bike as transport – I ditched the car for short journeys, reducing my transport carbon footprint at the same time as reducing fuel costs and traffic congestion. We have reduced our annual car mileage from 3000 to 900 miles since getting my e-bike. I charge the battery up with renewable energy. The bike for exercise – These days, I never consider taking the car unless I have more to carry than I can fit in my bike paniers. This means I get regular exercise without even thinking about it – that’s my type of exercise! The bike for stress reduction – No more cruising for a parking place on Ely Market Day when all the carparks are full nor having to worry about moving my car after my 3 hours free parking is up. ‘Parking anxiety’ is now a thing of the past as I can lock my bike up in a range of convenient places for as long as I like. There’s nothing more stressful then sitting in a traffic jam when you have a tight deadline to meet. Take the stress-free way on the cycle path or road – take the bike. 15-20 minutes from Witchford into Ely by regular bike let alone e-bike. The e-bike for exploration – As my e-bike is a mountain bike, I use it to explore new routes on public byways and bridleways wherever possible to minimize the amount of time I have to be around traffic. Witchford is at the epicentre of an incredible network of public rights of way for bicycles yet I rarely meet any other cyclists using them. It helps that my e-bike has front suspension, fat tyres and awesome disc brakes. You can be at one with nature rather than trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible on a tarmacked surface with the sound of traffic in your ears. The e-bike for versatility – If you are going to work or somewhere where you can’t arrive in a dishevelled mess, keep your speed to under 15 MPH, choose ‘TOUR’ assistance rather than ‘ECO’ and let the bike do the work. If you want to achieve an unbeatable workout, turn your electrical assistance ‘OFF’ or choose ‘ECO’ and pedal as hard as you like, taking in as many hilly routes as you wish. I swear (although my husband would not agree) that you can achieve a much better work out on an e-bike than you can on a carbon-fibre racing bike. You will be using the bike’s gears on both types of bikes but without electrical assistance, you are pushing a heavier load on an e-bike. If you want to explore your locality, you can legally take an e-bike anywhere that a regular bike is permitted to go, including marked cycle/pedestrian routes, public byways and bridlepaths, all roads (except motorways). With a mountain e-bike choose ‘EMTB’ on difficult terrain such as bridleways with tractor ruts – and have the best fun ever. The verdict – beyond any doubt, my e-bike has been my most favourite purchase ever. Considering that I now do twice as much annual mileage on my bikes as I do in my car, such a bargain! It has opened up a new world of exploration on my doorstep and gives me the motivation I need to make more journeys by bike rather than car. I tried out an e-bike for free at Rutland Cycles, Histon and never looked back. Written by WCAG volunteer, Jill Merchant.