Electric bikes a.k.a. Pedelecs are the boom segment in the cycling branch. They have already acquired a market share of 10 %, which increases to a good 20 % when taking sports equipment and children's bikes into account. But why are people so keen for a bit of powerful assistance? pressedienst-fahrrad ("cycling press service") has summarised the ten key arguments.
- E-bikes get you moving – in everyday life
An E-bike boosts your life. The Pedelec principle ensures that the motor produces power as soon as you push the pedals. Your physical effort feels like a gentle ride while the motor adds a more athletic effect. According to Gunnar Fehlau, head of pressedienstfahrrad and co-author of a book about E-bikes, this phenomenon is the main reason why modern E-bikes are so successful. After all, there are already a good 1.3 million E-bikes on German roads. "More than half of all car journeys are less than five kilometres. Instead of getting frustrated by traffic jams and the struggle to find a parking space, Pedelec users enjoy these short rides as part of everyday life", he adds. Fun is the main aspect, rather than traffic-related fundamental ecology and ideology.
- A need becomes a want – a change in image
Just a few years ago, E-bikes were for senior citizens in need of assistance. But their image has changed. They have become an accepted feature of daily life, just like vacuum cleaners, escalators, percolators or smart phones: they are popular devices that help us through every single day. The range of Pedelecs is almost as varied as percolators: there's an E-version for every kind of bike, even racing bikes, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes, folding bikes or tandems. But most E-bikes are city bikes and trekking bikes. And in terms of design, Pedelecs have become status symbols.
- Pedelecs: the affordable second car
A good Pedelec cannot really be had for less than € 1,500. The average sales price in Germany is about € 2,300. "This is the entry price for robust, universal E-bikes", explains Fehlau, who adds that the price for a good everyday or touring bike will only be just € 1,000 less. Comparing the price of a Pedelec with a car makes the Pedelec an even better proposition.
- Sufficient range
The fear of running out of fuel always accompanies the car driver, but not the Pedelec user. On the one hand, modern batteries produce enough power to cycle between 30 and 100 kilometres. On the other hand - and this is where the Pedelec really scores over an E-car - every (!) Pedelec will get you home even without motor assistance.
- Setting off safely
The first few metres after setting off on a bike are the wobbliest, particularly uphill. Modern Pedelecs are designed to eliminate this problem, with the control offering strong harmonious support as soon as the first pedal is pushed. In brief, it's much easier and safer to set off on a Pedelec than on a normal bike, even uphill.
- Getting there without sweating
While sweating is all part of the fun for racing cyclists, for most other cyclists it is an undesirable side-effect. But Pedelec cyclists don't have this problem: the peak loads, to quote sports scientists, are provided by the motor. The cyclist enjoys a relaxed but swift ride, and arrives at the office or theatre without breaking a sweat.
- Integrated tailwind
If we're honest, cycling is most fun with a tailwind downhill. However, everyday cycling reality also includes the headwind and the uphill climb. But not with the Pedelec: "Most models offer different support modes", explains Fehlau. "When there's a headwind or a gradient ahead, the cyclist simply selects the strongest support mode to send him sailing against the wind or uphill."
- Practical, pleasant cruising speed
The key thing about getting somewhere quickly is not the absolute maximum speed but travelling at a constant rate. The Pedelec helps when starting off, when there's a headwind and when coping with big and little hills. And so the cyclist rides along swiftly without the cruising speed deviating greatly from his powers of perception. This is a totally enriching experience: new impressions on familiar routes are the rewards that Pedelec pilots enjoy!
- Sustainability: individual pleasure with a clear conscience
In contrast to spontaneous city trips half-way round the world, thirsty roadsters or guzzling take-away meals with all the waste these leave behind, the Pedelec is definitely a sustainable pastime. A Pedelec recharged with eco-electricity may even have a better carbon footprint than when riding some classic bicycles, as illustrated by the cycling culture magazine "fahrstil" (www.fahrstilmagazin.de) in its issue 06. In any case, the Pedelec has an excellent ecological balance sheet and symbolises individual joie de vivre without remorse. The green aspects of the Pedelec are further underlined by the fact that the batteries withstand more than 1,000 recharging cycles (i.e. on average 40,000 kilometres), while general component wear is comparable to that of a conventional bike.
- Almost no loss in value
A good Pedelec is a good investment, Fehlau knows this - a fact illustrated by the high prices on the limited market for second-hand Pedelecs. "Someone who buys the right Pedelec for his needs in robust quality will often keep it for many years. Someone who has made the wrong choice of bike will be able to sell it again for a good price."
For Fehlau and more than 400,000 Pedelec purchasers each year, it's quite clear: a Pedelec takes the pain out of the passion of cycling, soon pays off in many respects and puts a smile back on many faces.