Whether you love them or hate them, electric bikes are becoming increasingly popular on streets and trails around the US. First embraced across Asia and storming their way across Europe for the last decade, e-bikes are now exploding in popularity in North America.
But while you’ll see plenty of people espousing the supposed advantages of electric bikes, it’s important to keep in mind some of the hidden costs of owning and using these two-wheeled electric vehicles.
The physical exertion of e-bikes
A lot of people think of electric bikes as effortless since there’s an electric motor and battery to assist you. But in actuality, you’ll likely be getting more exercise than you expected.
Pedal-assist e-bikes (the ones without a hand throttle) require to you to pedal in order to active the motor. And even on throttle-controlled e-bikes, most riders end up pedaling some portion of the time as well, whether to help the motor on hills, ride even faster, or just because they ultimately find it fun to pedal when they aren’t forced to do all of the hard work themselves.
This could mean that you have a higher calorie expenditure each day and increase your cardiovascular fitness. Studies have shown that you may even lose weight if you start using an e-bike. If you don’t already have smaller holes in your belt, you’ll probably have to buy a new one.
Plus, you might find that your gym membership goes unused. We all know that the great thing about gym memberships is that when you sign up for one, you definitely always use it. Well, when people get an electric bike, they often get increased exercise without even realizing it, meaning they could end up making their gym membership redundant. What a waste!
E-bikes can really impact your wallet
You might not have known this going in, but you’d be well advised to take a second look at your finances if you’re considering getting an electric bike. A lot of people don’t realize how much of an effect on their bank account an e-bike can have.
If you’re leaving your car in the garage more often and using an e-bike for shorter trips around town such as meeting friends or light grocery shopping, you’re going to end up with a lot of extra gas money savings. There’s also the reduced wear and tear on your car to consider, plus savings from the reduced car maintenance. And before you start thinking that charging your e-bike might make up for the difference, you should know that most e-bikes can travel between 250-500 miles (400-800 km) on just US $1.00 of electricity.
If you’re replacing public transit, then you won’t be spending money on daily, weekly, or monthly bus passes or subway fares. And don’t even get me started on saving money on those expensive Uber and Lyft rides.
When it comes to parking, forget about it! You’ll almost never need to pay for parking. Be prepared to have your pockets always weighed down by extra quarters since you won’t be feeding parking meters any more.
And with all of that extra moderate-intensity exercise you’ll be getting – the exact kind that doctors say you should be getting at least three times a week – you’ll end up saving money on healthcare as well. What’s the point of being one of the lucky Americans with health insurance if you don’t even get a chance to use it?
When it comes to these savings, we aren’t talking about chump change. It’s more than just a few bucks of gas money you could be saving. Some people have literally saved tens of thousands of dollars over the years by switching to an e-bike. If you’re not careful, that could be you.
You’re going to have some serious homework to do when your monthly budget is thrown so out of whack by all of those savings. Better go get some extra batteries for that calculator.
Consider the effect of outdoor exposure
Instead of being held in the climate-controlled cocoon of a typical passenger car, an electric bike is going to force you to get a lot more fresh air than you’re used to. Unlike the recirculated air you breath all day in the office and in your car, fresh air is going to smack you in the face like a rude awakening.
Add to that the sudden shock of seeing the scenery around you, listening to the sounds of nature or your vibrant city, and feeling the wind in your hair, and you’re likely in for a bolt from the blue.
E-bikes are going to make you change your schedule
You might not have realized this, but riding an electric bike in a city is usually much faster than traveling by car or public transit. If you’ve got your daily commute already planned out, then an e-bike is going to send you back to the drawing board.
E-bikes have the advantage of traveling either in the road or in bike lanes, and so they have many more routes to slice through city traffic. And when cars or buses get held up in congestion, e-bikes slip on by. If you don’t account for this, you could very well find yourself arriving on time or even embarrassingly early.
One possible solution could be to just sleep in longer in the mornings before work. But the problem with that is obvious to anyone who has ever read an airport self-help book: All the best life coach gurus say the key common trait among successful people is that they wake up early. That’s right, you’re screwed with all that extra sleeping in you’ll get.
Don’t forget about forced interactions
Here’s another one you probably didn’t consider: forced friendliness. When you ride an e-bike, you usually see other cyclists on the trails or in the bike lane. The thing about people on bikes is that for some reason they tend to be measurably friendlier and more outgoing than the average person. There’s just something about riding a bike that puts that annoying little skip in people’s step and brightens their day.
That means you’re going to have more little waves, more smile-and-nods, and more “how’s it going?”s than you’ve probably ever seen before.
We all know that humans are inherently non-social beings that achieve their peak mental health levels when devoid of interaction. So if the thought of having several brief yet pleasant encounters with nice people throughout your day scares you, then think twice about riding an electric bike.
Yeah, you’re welcome.
A lack of crushing guilt about global emissions
(Sarcasm aside for the next couple paragraphs.) Here’s the thing. I don’t know if you’ve looked around at the world lately, but give it a try real quick. Really look. Check the world news. Hell, check the weather.
That’s right, every day is slightly worse than the day before. Global problems aren’t getting better. In fact, they’re slowly but perceptively getting more severe each day. Literally every summer is a bit hotter than the one before. Every storm season is a bit more intense and lethal. Every wildfire burns a bit more of the state. And every one of us is contributing at some level to those global changes, each in our ways.
The thing is that if you switch to riding an e-bike, you’ll be having a considerably lower impact on that collective destructive effort. If the weight of crushing guilt is something motivates you, then you’re going to have to find something else to get you moving. That’s because electric bike riders contribute to such extreme reductions in transportation-based emissions that it’s almost as if they’re not even playing a role in the destruction of our climate at all.
Ugh, freakin’ freeloaders…
Think twice about riding an electric bike
This article isn’t meant to scare anyone; it’s just that there are a lot of hidden costs to riding an e-bike that many people don’t initially realize. It may feel like fun the first time you throw your leg over an electric bike, and the second time and third time, but these devices can have a serious impact on not just your wallet, but also your life.
It’s an important personal decision to make, and far be it for me to tell anyone how to live.
So I’ll just leave you with this: Riding an e-bike is going to result in some serious changes for you. It’s impossible to escape the impacts. Think long and hard about whether you want those changes in your life.
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