Posted by: Mike Rubbo | October 20, 2009

Electric Bikes. Are They Cheating?

I’ve been riding an electric bike for about a year now. Indeed, I have two, each a slightly different system.

One is a hub motor and the other a crank motor.

If you are not riding to race or to train, I can’t see how these bikes can be called cheating.

In training, you could say you were cheating yourself out of a tougher workout, and if racing, that would only be interesting, electric against electric.

So, if getting around efficiently, avoiding gas pumps, and all without too much strain is your goal, I think they are great. I describe the ride as; effort without the pain.

Another way to to imagine the ride is to think of it as tandem. You are riding tandem with a small motor, the motor approx. doubling your effort.

So, maybe we can call E bikes, motor tandems and it’ll be clearer.

That said, how much advantage do they give over a regular bike?

Scott Dickason, who supplied my first bike (EVs is his company) asked me to film a test for him.

Here it is.

What I didn’t know, was that he was planning to test me too.

What is perhaps remarkable is that I’m doing well, and yet sitting upright in a supposedly inefficient posture.

The next test I’d like to do is to have Steve do the same hill on his road bike and then on a motor-less comfort bike, one about the same weight with the same number of gears.

I know the latter will be slower, but how much slower?

Scott wanted to pay me for making the film. I said, no, because I want to be free to recommend any bike I like, not just his. which I do think are pretty good.



  1. It’s only cheating if you think that cycling has to be exercise. It’s a very narrow way of thinking though.

    For most cyclist in Europe, cycling is not exercise. Cycling is simply a form of transport, just like walking is. No need for special clothes, bright jacket or a helmet. Just hop on a bicycle & go. For many, it is as natural as walking, except that you can go a lot further for the same effort. The bicycle can also carry your shopping. No parking problems. Much easier. Considering that many people here drive to the local shops because they don’t like carrying heavy shopping bags, cycling could be really helpful in those situations.

    Australia is really strange that cycling isn’t use that much for transport, even though it could easily be used for short trips. There is so little infrastructure for cycling here that it takes a committed person to cycle. On top of it, helmets discourage cycling.

    Electric bicycles look really interesting. I know many people who would cycle, except they really don’t like the occasional hill. Electric bikes are perfect, to give them a boost on hills, so that they don’t seem to be unsurmountable obstacles. A bicycle that could recover energy from braking or downhills is also great to smooth out the effort. it makes cycling more constant, more like flat ground everywhere. A fully recharged electric bicycle can also extend the range that an occasional rider would be comfortable doing from, say 10k to 20k. it can extend the range of bicycle usage.

    A fantastic invention. I hope it catches on.

    How much does an electric bike cost?

  2. I agree, too many hyper-macho cyclists think along the lines of ‘if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not good enough’ – if electric bikes mean that more people who are otherwise too unfit or elderly or ill to cycle a ‘normal’ bike then why not? Gentle exercise is a fantastic way for people to improve their fitness (especially if they are doing no exercise ie. driving a car, beforehand) Just don’t be surprised if I grab hold of you for a tow up the bigger hills!


  3. If an electric assisted bike is “cheating”, then what’s a motorbike or a car ?

  4. Fabulous video…. and fabulous site. Enjoyed it so much we’ve shared it with our readers in North America on the . My wife Penny has a delta trike with electric assist and everything you say rings true with us. We’ve added you RSS so we will keep us with you blog.

    Rob and Penny Mackenzie
    Olds, Alberta Canada

  5. 18 minutes! Not bad! E-bikes are not cheating. This is bike riding, there is no cheating. Whatever gets you out of your car and moving for yourself is a great thing! Especially after a heart attack and a stent.

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