We may be in the depths of winter in most parts of the northern hemisphere, but that doesn't mean getting around on two wheels is out of the question. In fact, this is exactly the right time to buy an electric bicycle. Here's why.
Switching from four wheels to two wheels makes a huge amount of sense to those of us who live in European cities where traffic is horrendous and cycle infrastructure is improving. I'm not suggesting every city can be like Amsterdam, where there are 1.91 bicycles per household, but there are still some, particularly in my homeland (The UK), who are resistant to switching their cars for a bicycle - even in urban areas. Here are my top five reasons why you, wherever you live, should be looking at buying an e-bike this spring.
It's an obvious place to start, but it's the most important. Two cars per household and driving absolutely everywhere you visit is just not sustainable. Australia is on fire, Venice is underwater, and children and skipping school to let us know they'd quite like a planet to live on in another couple of decades - if that's not too much trouble!
The figures for the UK are promising. Cycling has increased every year since 2008, but it's the e-bike that I think can really be the key to converting those who are resistant to the lycra-clad cycling image that boomed during Bradley Wiggins' rise to fame. Riding an e-bike to work takes away a lot of the inconveniences of commuting in on a regular bicycle, such as being able to wear your regular work clothes and not turning up drenched in sweat, for example. Which leads me onto my next point.
2. Still a great workout
The beauty of electronic bicycles is that you can work as hard or a little as you like. Sure, if you are coasting into work in the morning and you don't want to work up a sweat you can switch the power to its highest level and take it easy without reducing yourself to moving along at a snail's pace. However, if the weekend rolls around and you want to burn some calories, you can reduce the amount of work the electrical motor does and really put your back into it. This flexibility is one of the great things about owning an e-bike.
3. They're faster than cars
OK, I admit this one is a little bit naughty, but I've got a point to make here. In the city, traveling around on an electronic bike is more often than not faster than driving a car or taking a taxi. Take London for example, where the average speed of a car in the city center is 7.4mph (12km/h). You can easily get up to 15mph (24km/h) on an e-bike and with the right infrastructure, cycling is often the quickest way to get around the city.
I once raced Shu from the VanMoof store in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, to our old office in Pankow - me on the e-bike and him in his car - and we finished almost neck and neck. This was in the middle of the afternoon too, during rush hour I would have easily won. I was still first back into the office as he had to park.
4. Improved security
One of the biggest reasons I hear for people not wanting to invest in a good bicycle is the fear of theft. Bicycle theft is an issue in a lot of major cities, especially when you have to leave your wheels on the street. However, with e-bikes, you'll get additional security measures that you simply won't find on regular bikes. You'll often find built-in GPS tracking and some e-bikes even come with a SIM card. Many e-bikes connect to a smartphone app via Bluetooth and can be disabled or locked remotely. VanMoof employs Bike Hunters who will find your bike if it gets stolen. Of course, ordinary measures such as using a high-quality bicycle lock and parking it in a sensible place must still be used, but owning an e-bike does not have to be a paranoia-filled experience.
5. They're incredibly fun to ride
Riding an electronic bicycle can be unbelievably good fun. It's not just in the city, where zipping through the streets can make you feel alive, and it's not just the ease at which you can ride at higher speeds for longer periods of time that often gets adrenaline junkies going. Electronic bicycles can bring the fun of cycling to those unable to enjoy a regular bicycle for various reasons.
If you struggle with hills or live in a particularly mountainous area, the thought of having to take on those slopes on a regular bicycle might be daunting, but e-bikes can flatten hills like you wouldn't believe, making cycling in hilly regions fun again. They're also great for those just getting started on their fitness journey, allowing you to cycle further without overstretching yourself physically. Check out our long-term review of the Unimoke e-bike, and tell me that doesn't look like fun to ride!
Start shopping now for spring
As a final tip, I want to point out that winter is actually a good time to go shopping for an electronic bicycle. Sure, you could wait until the spring when the weather picks up and everyone else starts thinking about cycling to work or going for long rides at the weekend, but that's when competition on the second-hand market increases and prices rise. The smart option is to start looking at the market now. You can often find deals during the times of the year when people think it's too cold, too wet, or too dark to use a bicycle.
Do you use an electric bicycle yet? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.