The Unvarnished Truth About E-Bikes

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Edit: you can follow the discussion on Hacker News here and Reddit here.

E-bikes are a popular topic of discussion these days. With traffic getting worse by the minute and cities continuing to grow beyond the bounds of their infrastructure people are looking for personal, mobile, electric transportation solutions that are cheaper than electric cars. Enter electric bikes. 

E-bikes are far more than just transportation – they are a means to: freedom, entertainment and exercise all in one. 

Whether you want to acess backcountry wilderness, do a craft beer or winery tour, see the sights with your friends and family or just go for a cruise in the city an electric bike can help you do all those things and more!

The News Isn’t All Good Though…

As with any new technology e-bikes have gone through their share of hiccups, and some continue today. 

E-bikes do have risks and dangers associated with them, but the good news is most, if not all of these issues can be overcome with a sensible maintenance regime.

You wouldn’t avoid buying a car because some have problems on occasion, and the same goes for e-bikes. 

The Technology is Proven

It’s not like e-bikes were invented yesterday. Manufacturers have been researching, testing and perfecting their products for well over a decade now, so you can be confident that they know their stuff.

This article is not meant to repel you from buying an electric bike. The purpose of this piece is to shed light on common e-bike risks and dangers so you can make an informed decision about researching and potentially purchasing one. 

Read on to learn more! 

E-Bike Risks, Issues & Problems

Riding an e-bike is no more dangerous than going for a walk or getting into your car and going for a drive.

You wouldn’t stop driving due to fear of an accident, so the same logic can be applied to electric. They are safe, reliable and fun – as long as you ride sensibly and take care of them properly.   

We should preface this list with a caveat – many of the problems with e-bikes can be distilled down to a couple of simple things – reckless riding and poor maintenance. If you take those out the equation many of the following issues cease to be a problem. 

E-Bike Dangers (That Do Not Apply to Regular Cycling) 

Problem : Excessive Power Leading to Dangerous Levels of Speed 

This one is entirely within the rider’s control, and is not a ‘flaw’ with e-bikes in general. 

Solution : Obey Regulations & Ride Carefully

Ensure your e-bike battery and controller wattage are within the legal limit of your jurisdiction. This will minimize your acceleration and speed, and thus your chances of an accident occurring. 

———

Problem: Too Much Throttle, Too Quickly

If you do this it can cause the e-bike to ‘pop a wheelie’ and throw you on to your back. Again, this is something that’s in the rider’s control, and there are ways to avoid this. 

Solution: Take a Lesson Or Rent First 

By renting an e-bike or going on a guided tour you will be shown by the tour guide how to operate your electric bike properly. This could be a smart idea for people who enjoy learning from others in a group situation or one-on-one.

Solution: Apply Throttle Gradually & Lean Forward 

Apply your e-bike’s throttle very gradually. Lean as far forward as you can. This will keep your weight in the correct place on the bike.

Solution: Use a Thumb Throttle

A thumb throttle enables slower and more subtle acceleration. Compared to other e-bike throttle types such as half twist throttles or full twist (like on a dirtbike) a thumb throttle does not interfere with the operation of gears and brakes.  

——

Problem: E-Bike Parked & Turned ‘On’ – Throttle Pushed Accidentally

If you forget to turn your electric bicycle off after it’s parked and you accidentally activate the throttle your e-bike can get out of control.

Solution: Always Turn Your E-Bike ‘Off’ Before Parking It 

This problem ceases to be an issue if you always remember to turn the power switch ‘off’ on your electric bike before parking it. 

——

Problem: Improper Battery Management ( E-Bike Lithium Battery Pack)

E-bike battery problems including fires happen most commonly with do-it-yourself (DIY) e-bike conversion kits with home made bikes and homespun lithium battery packs. That said, here are some ways to minimize the odds of having problems your electric bike’s lithium battery pack. 

Solution: Proper Charging

Avoid overcharging your electric bike’s battery, and do not deplete it too much (over-discharge). There is a sweet spot for e-bike battery usage. The details of this are beyond the scope of this post. 

Solution: Battery Protection

A battery management system (BMS) enables you to monitor charging and battery usage, and is highly recommended. In addition, you may want to add an additional case onto your lithium battery pack to make it even more puncture proof. The chemicals inside lithium battery packs are nasty and you don’t want a leak to ever occur. Lastly, protect your battery by always storing your e-bike in a dry indoor environment if possible, and do a proper post-ride maintenance routine. 

Solution: Avoid  DIY / Home Made Battery Packs

To minimize the chance of battery issues we recommend that you trust the engineering of established e-bike manufacturers rather than doing your own e-bike conversion. If you choose the do-it-yourself e-bike route make sure to do a ton of research first to ensure you do everything properly.  

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Problem: Throttle Sticking In the ‘On’ Position 

This is another one of those issues that are highly unlikely for the vast majority of riders. However, it has happened a few times. 

Solution: Emergency ‘Off’ Switch & Super Strong Brakes  

Having a switch that enables you to cut power to your e-bikes motor will prevent this from being an issue. Also, if you choose to have extremely strong, high quality hydraulic disc brakes you can stop your electric bicycle even when the throttle is fully ‘on’. 

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Problem: Being Silent 

E-bikes are extremely quiet, and are difficult to hear coming. If an e-bike is travelling at high speeds and passes a pedestrian or other car silently the potential exists for an accident to occur. 

Solution: Slow Down & Make Noise

Slow down around others. Make some type of noise to ensure pedestrians and other cyclists can hear you. You can use a combination of your voice: “On your left” or “on your right” plus a bicycle bell or bike horn. If you make enough noise and slow down enough you greatly decrease the odds of a collision with people out walking or other cyclists.  

Biggest Dangers of Regular Cycling (Not E-Bikes) 

There are dangers involved with many things in life – including going out for a walk.

Regular biking is no different. Here is a list of common risks, issues and dangers associated with any type of cycling (regular bikes, ebikes, etc).

  • Interaction between cyclists, motorcycles, cars, trucks and pedestrians
  • Excessive Speed
  • Reckless moves
  • Distraction (e.g. mobile phone usage)
  • Being invisible
  • Ignoring red lights

It’s common sense to slow down when doing any type of cycling. You also need to: pay attention, wear bright and reflective clothing, make noise to let people know where you are, and maintain your bike properly. If you do all of those things the chance of getting hurt is very low.

We hope this article has brought you a candid perspective about e-bikes and some of their risks, problems and dangers so you can make a decision about whether e-biking is for you.

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Read These Articles

Did you like this article? Check out more posts here on EBikeTroop to learn more about e-biking!

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Are Electric Bicycle Batteries Waterproof?

Sources

https://www.electricbike.com/dangers/

http://www.ebikeschool.com/type-electric-bicycle-throttle-best/

Photo credit: benhershey

Dan

Hi, I'm Dan - the guy behind E-Bike Troop. I've been a cyclist for over 2 decades and recently became obsessed with Electric Bikes. Every week you'll find me out with my wife enjoying adventures on our E-Bikes, and when we're not, I'm here writing about them on E-Bike Troop.

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