It’s 2020 and cycling is probably more accessible than it has ever been before. With better infrastructure (although we still have a long way to go), more trails, more clubs and ever-increasing types of bike on the market, it has never been easier to pick up a bike and ride than the present.
One such type of bicycle that has been making waves in this packed market is of course, the E-bike. Now coming in all shapes and sizes, it seems that various bike companies have finally cracked the code on how to make a power-assisted bicycle that rides well and doesn’t financially cripple your family for three generations.
You can now get an E-bike for every type of terrain, whether it be a road bike, mountain bike or even gravel bike – this last combining the two biggest trends of recent years. And they look good too. When power-assisted bikes first emerged, they were generally quite clunky, ‘steampunk’-looking machines, but with the integrated models that have hit the market in the last two years, it can be difficult to distinguish them from standard bikes. Indeed, the slicker, swisher contemporary E-bike is possibly the closest we have got to making Blade Runner’s world of flying cars and synthetic humans (set in 2019) a reality – well, that and anything Elon Musk dreams up.
E Road Bike: On the road
The ones we will be focussing on here though are probably the best looking, most difficult to distinguish models of E-bike, motor-driven performance road bikes. These are fantastic bits of kit and have helped to make the sport increasingly accessible to riders who would otherwise have left behind – or never picked up – the freeing enjoyment of riding a bicycle on the road.
Historically, E-bikes were mostly used for commuting, so they didn’t have much of a performance angle. The next genre to gain prominence was the E-MTB, which promised the rider the chance to ride more trails by saving them effort on the uphill. Now, the E-road enters the fray.
Here at YellowJersey, we are seeing a huge increase in E-bike cycle insurance policies being sold and we suspect 2020 might just be the year of the road E-bike.
We asked ourselves, what are the pros and cons of this ever-growing side of the bike industry?
There are a lot of myths about road E-bikes, misconceptions about how they ride and their safety, mainly. In our experience though, the latest generation of E-road machines are not unwieldy, twitchy monsters that are difficult to control, but rather they feel exactly like a standard road bike, just your legs are on a really, really good day. You still get back the effort you put in and, in that respect, riding a power-assisted road bike can be quite liberating.
We’ve found that road E-bikes are just as fun – and at times more enjoyable – than riding a standard road bike. Although there is an image that E-bikes are just for non-serious or older riders looking for a bit of assistance, this is largely untrue. Although E-bikes are very beneficial to these schools of rider, anyone can swing their leg over one and get powering up some hills or facing down harsh headwinds. They have in-built speed limiters as well, so you won’t actually get to the point of going uncontrollably quick.
One advantage of the E-road bike is it’s a great way to keep up with your speedier friends when out training, or just to ride for further and longer than you may have previously thought possible.
You can socialise on your long rides a little better as well. As you are not putting as much lung-busting effort in as usual, you enjoy your ride a bit more and the company you keep on it. For older riders, the use of a road E-bike can be incredibly useful, as the riding tends not to be as strenuous, thus helping riders keep their fitness without becoming a slog. For these reasons, we are expecting to see a rise in the use of E-road bikes in 2020 as more riders strive to ride further and longer than ever before.
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Of course, the rise of the use of road E-bikes does not come without issues. Concern about their use in competition for example and how the technology can be abused. The likes of the Femke Van den Driessche motor doping case at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder, and the regular UCI X-Ray bike checks, are very real issues that the pro peloton faces now which could/may well have already, trickled down into the amateur where there are no such checks. The technology used in commercial E-bikes is obviously different, but it’s getting ever more hard to spot as integration and minimisation improve year-on-year.
One complaint that does arise from time to time – which we feel may need to be taken with a tiny pinch of salt – is the idea that people might use their new electric-assist road machine to take the hard-earned Strava KOMs of other riders doing it ‘au natural’. We’re not sure how likely this is to actually happen, or really how much it matters in the grand scheme, but we do know that Strava has added a feature where the user can hide their own times from segment leaderboards. If E-road bikers are using that feature, we don’t see a problem. Maybe one day soon Strava could implement a separate E-bike leader board.
On the whole, E-road bikes are a positive addition to the market. Naturally, over time the technology and engineering behind E-bikes will develop and evolve and could well take us to a point where is no discernible difference between the E-road bike and a top-notch performance road bike. E-bikes are very much in their infancy and it remains unknown whether legislation is changed or brought in that will affect their use in the future.
In short, yes, we may well look back on 2020 as the year we all went E-road bike crazy. Watch out Strava segments, we’re going to make mincemeat out of you.