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I rode an electric bike to work, and here's what I learned
After having a blast riding electric scooters all summer, I wanted to try my hand at riding an electric bike. Not only are e-bikes more sturdy and noticeable for riding in between traffic, but they can also carry more cargo. While I still have fun riding electric scooters, they are a leisurely activity that doesn’t require much physical effort. I figured an e-bike would bring a healthy balance to my riding with the benefit of exercise and rest when needed. Was it all it was cracked up to be? Here’s what I learned from riding an electric bike.
Getting to know an e-bike
I tested the Lectric XP 2.0, featured in our buyer’s guide as the go-to starter electric bike. The e-bike arrived fully assembled out of the box; all I needed to do was inflate the tires and wait for the battery to charge fully. On first impression, it’s a chunky machine, bigger than my usual bicycle, but it is foldable to help save space when storing. Still, the 64lbs of steel are a bit heavy to haul up a flight of stairs.
The logistics of the e-bike’s dashboard are easy to wrap my head around. There’s an On button near the left handlebar with + and – symbols to cycle through the power assistance levels. An LCD screen at the center displays useful data, such as battery life, current speed, and distance traveled. On the right side is a gear shifter, easy to use with one thumb. And, of course, there are the familiar handbrakes that reliably bring the machine to a halt.
The biggest learning curve with the Lectric XP 2.0 was a key that’s essential to turn on the battery. The tricky part is that the keyhole is located underneath the central frame, which requires getting down on the floor to see where to insert the key. After my first few rides, I’d be tired from the trip, turn the bike off, lock it up, and walk away, often forgetting I left the key in. What was intended as a safety measure became an afterthought hidden behind the gears. Luckily no one stole it, but if they had, I only had one spare, and if that weren’t with me, I’d have no electricity to power me home.
A reliable ride that roars
Sitting on the bike feels safe and comfortable. The size and weight are a confidence booster, as the thick frame and fat tires give me the security to ride alongside traffic. I feel much less exposed than riding on an electric scooter, even if the bike can match a car’s speed. The wide handlebars also make maneuvering the bike easy, even at top speeds, letting it take sharper turns than a typical scooter could handle.
The size and weight is a confidence booster and gave me the security to ride alongside traffic on the road.
The battery and motor of an electric bike are designed to relieve you of some of the pedaling effort — or so I thought. Rather than merely providing gentle assistance, even the lower levels of pedal assist had me blasting off like a rocket. Of course, my inner child had to test the maximum power output immediately, and boy, is it fun. It’s a strange sensation to cover twice the distance as you normally would from the same amount of pedaling, but I quickly became accustomed to the extra “oomph.”
The Lectric XP 2.0 has a default top speed of 20 mph, but you can unlock it to max out at 28 mph. It doesn’t take long to hit those speeds either; a quick twist of the throttle had me soaring as soon as the light turned green. The size of the bike made it a little harder to weave around other riders in the bike lane, but the motor is powerful enough to put you ahead of the pack when you find an opening.
Pedal-assist provides enough power to put you ahead of fellow riders.
Legality was less of a grey area than riding my scooter, at least here in Canada. I could ride the e-bike pretty much wherever regular bikes rode and more. Offroad riding was especially comfortable thanks to the front suspension fork, allowing me to travel smoothly over grass and gravel. For comparison, most e-scooters with suspension cost upwards of two grand, but this bike only cost half that at $999.
After riding around the streets and parks of the city, I wanted to see how the bike handled uphill.
Sheepish slopes and newfound horizons
There it was — the Burrard bridge with its intimidating slope that normally would kill my legs climbing. Impossible to traverse without breaking a sweat. But this time around, I had a 500W motor with 850W of peak pick-up to propel me over. I chose the highest power assist level to provide more matching power output per pedal turn. As with gears, you’ll generally want higher numbers going uphill and lower numbers going downhill. I took a deep breath and pushed forward.
Now, it’s not like I still didn’t break a sweat reaching the bridge’s peak, but my thighs weren’t burning, and I got there twice as fast. At first, the ease with which I passed other struggling cyclists up the incline made me feel guilty. I did sense some judgment from darted eyes at the sound of my motor as I passed them, especially from the colorful spandex-wearing crowd. In conversation with my peers and elders, I found that many are quick to call electric bikes cheating or a way to escape exercising.
At first, the ease with which I could climb hills made me feel guilty, but that only fueled me to go further than before.
Perhaps conquering that hill was not as rewarding as using my brute strength. And I’ll admit, it is tempting to rely on the assist to coast along flat surfaces when I could just as easily pedal. But ultimately, allowing my legs to rest when tired encouraged me to travel longer distances and steeper slopes. Conserving my energy allowed me to explore terrain I would never have on a basic bicycle, such as the sandy shores when the tide was out or visiting stores atop high hills. In short, I used that sense of guilt to push myself further.
The benefits of an e-bike
Besides reaching far-off destinations, the electric bike really came in clutch when I was in a rush or after a long day. Rather than driving my car, the e-bike proved to be the quickest way through the city while avoiding traffic and parking frustrations. I can use the assistance when I need to zip up and down the streets in a pinch without producing any pollution. Instead of shame, I eventually felt excitement about exploring new horizons and was proud to have done so in an eco-friendly fashion.
It was the quickest way to get through the city while avoiding traffic and parking frustrations.
The pedal-assist also makes electric bikes more accessible to those unable to ride conventional two-wheelers. For example, I spoke with an elderly rider with arthritis in his knees who said he wouldn’t be able to cycle at all if it weren’t for his e-bike. He was grateful for the assisted exercise in his retirement. Another friend of mine who struggles with mental health issues said she wouldn’t be able to make it to school without one. She avoids the claustrophobic bus rides of students packed like sardines while carrying all her books in a cargo basket. In these cases and more, electric bikes serve many needs. Plus, they can still perform as a traditional bicycle when wanted.
There’s no doubt that many will find electric bikes useful. They make long, challenging trips more accessible to many people. They also entice people who wouldn’t otherwise get on a bike. I’m already seeing more ride-sharing options for electric bikes becoming immensely popular as a way for anyone to get from A to B quickly. Renting an e-bike from companies like Lime or Spin can be a great way to test one for yourself.
Electric bikes make longer and steeper journeys more accessible to more people.
For owners like myself, the extra cargo capacity makes it easier to conquer my daily commute to and from work while carrying everything I need. As we enter the fall season, I’ll rely more on my Lectric XP 2.0, as it’s much more stable and waterproof than an e-scooter to ride in wet conditions. If you’re looking for an affordable first e-bike that doesn’t compromise on quality, hit the widget below.
For more news and reviews of micro-mobile electric vehicles, visit our sister site Green Authority.