In February 2019, EVELO Electric Bicycles’ director of customer service, Bill Cummings, presented to an audience of Recreational Vehicle (RV) owners at the Southeast Area RV Rally in Florida. You can watch his complete Electric Bikes 101 presentation on video or read your way through the partial transcript provided below.
So what is an electric bicycle? It’s a bicycle that has a motor and a battery. Very simply, you get to choose how much you pedal.
Some people believe you won’t get any exercise on an electric bike. You actually can. We have customers that have lost a 100 pounds riding our e-bikes, so it’s not cheating and we refer to them as a hill flattener.
What is an Electric Bike?
- A hill flattener.
- A bicycle with an electric motor and a battery.
- You decide how much you pedal.
That hill that was an obstacle, the kind of thing you look at and think about walking up on a regular bike, that’s not the case anymore. The electric bike flattens that hill. You couple the motor with your pedaling efforts and you go right up to the top. So they’re very utilitarian in that way.
International Popularity Impacts Where Electric Bikes are Manufactured
E-bikes have been really popular in Europe and Asia for a very long time. They’re really starting to get traction here in the U.S. I’ve seen the growth personally in my time with the company. I can tell you that one of the things about the Asia market is the population of countries like China is so huge that the e-bike is a very real transportation alternative.
Because they sell millions of electric bikes each year in China the nexus of manufacturing electric bikes is there.
So a lot of people think, “oh, bikes are built in China because it’s cheap.” It’s also where all the manufacturing is located because that’s where most electric bikes are being sold.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there is not a market for electric bikes in the United States. Rather electric bikes are gaining popularity in the U.S. But the leading manufacturing center is still in Asia with the vast majority of demand.
Who Uses Electric Bikes?
The answer, as you might expect, varies. There are recreational riders. People that simply just want to go out see the sunset, ride the bike, that kind of thing.
Commuters, so increasingly in urban environments, especially where there is intense congestion. Commuting on an electric bike extends the distance you can ride, making bicycle commuting a viable alternative to driving into work. So commuters are using them. And what’s more, parking is not an issue. I don’t know where you folks live, but in a big city, you could be late for work because you couldn’t find a parking spot.
Of course, there are the RVers, right. Electric bikes are highly transportable. You can put them in your RV.
Lastly, we see a lot of folks that are returning to riding after many years. Sometimes it’s a recommendation from their physician, “you need to go out and get some exercise, you need to move that artificial hip, that artificial knee.” But what’s nice about the electric bike is that if you start having discomfort or whatever, the motor can get you home. So it really is a therapeutic device for a lot of people.
So what is it that makes electric bikes unique?
Electric bikes have power on demand. It makes it easier to climb hills. You could travel further without worrying about “oh geez can I get home if I got too far.”
Now with a regular bicycle, the propulsion is done just by the rider. You have no help.
What’s similar about them are their looks, how they handle and the maneuverability and most repairs. With the one caveat, there is an electrical system that there’s sometimes service issues related to the electrical system. So that is something that is unique to the electric bikes. But most repairs, brakes adjustments, flat tires, all that stuff, the same across both.
So there is a difference between electric bikes and motorized scooters. Electric bikes have pedals, it’s actually one of the definitions of an electric bike, it must have fully functioning pedals.
There are three classifications now for electric bikes. Class one and class three are very similar in that they are pedal assist only which means there is no throttle on them. The difference between one and three is that class one is capped at 20 miles an hour whereas a class three e-bike can go up to 28 miles an hour.
Class two electric bikes are bikes that have pedal assist and sometimes throttle and pedal assist. So as you’re going down the road you can be pedaling and there is a switching mechanism that detects your pedaling action and will activate the motor. So it’s your effort plus the motor together get the total output at the rear wheel.
No License Required
One of the great things about e-bikes is they don’t require a license, registration or insurance so for some folks that’s useful. We sometimes have folks that reach out to us, “I lost my drivers license, I don’t pass the vision test so I can’t drive anymore but I still need to get around.” So it’s a way to kind of continue your independence that way.
I already mentioned electric bikes have a legal top speed of 28 in the U.S. Some classifications it’s just 20. Now motorized scooters are considered class four e-bikes. They typically don’t have pedals, they do require license and registration and they are treated similarly to a motorcycle. So there’s an additional expense with the license, registration and so forth and you need to be passing vision tests and so forth.
RV Specific Advantages
Electric bikes are simple and efficient transportation at your destination so it’s easy to bring with you. It can literally replace a bike or a car.
Imagine that you didn’t have to tow a car behind your RV, what would that mean for your mileage as you’re moving across the country? What would that mean for just backing up alone? Right? If you didn’t have to deal with that tow behind. So it’s pretty nice if you don’t have to bring a car with you.
You definitely can get exercise on an electric bike, too. You know you’re away from your home gym, you don’t have your usual workout and you can definitely get exercise while you’re out and traveling. You can get just the right amount of exercise for you, whether you choose your level of pedal assist or how much you rely on the throttle to get you where you need to go. You get to select how much exercise you do or don’t get.
Popular Activity for Couples
So this is something that really stands out a lot of times bikes are bought in pairs. Kind of the “his and her” thing. Now if you think about being on a traditional bicycle, you’re like “hey honey, let’s go for a bike ride.”
Naturally, one person is stronger and faster than the other and typically it turns into this situation where somebody is three blocks ahead going “ah, hurry up.” The other person is behind going “I feel bad and would you slow down.” Then they finally meet up and then there’s maybe a little bit of conflict and that romanticized view of a bike ride together suddenly turns into a conversation and nobody’s having any fun.
That changes on an electric bike. You could choose, one person could use the motor less, one person can use the motor more and suddenly you’re rolling down the beach together going look at the beautiful sunset. It really is transformational and it becomes that idealistic view of a bike ride together that we all think of when you head out.
You really don’t have to worry about hills or distance especially in places you don’t know. You’re in an unfamiliar area, it might just be as simple as the park that you’ve got your camp set up and you don’t know where you’re going. You can afford to get lost for a few miles because you’ve got his motor and battery that are going to get you back to where you need to be.