I’ve ridden electric bikes for several years, so I can offer my personal experience for for regular electric bike riders.
E-bikes are easier to pedal compared to normal bikes. The exception is when you are using the e-bike without electric assist- which is a setting you control. If your battery is empty, you can pedal your e-bike home too without battery assist.
Read on to discover the caveats, exceptions, and considerations for normal e-bikes with motor assist, regen e-bikes, and throttle e-bikes.
E-Bikes are Heavier than Regular Bikes
The main reason that electric bikes are harder to pedal without assist is that they are heavier than regular bikes. Most of this additional weight is from the battery pack, which can weigh several kilograms.
With assist, e-bikes are of course much easier to pedal – that is the whole point of electric bikes after all! They make it much easier to get moving from a standing start, or when setting off uphill.
Since an electric bike can be also used as a regular bike, you can set the assist level to zero – and get a more intense workout! That gives us great flexibility when it comes to the number of calories burned and the exercise level we desire.
The only other time when an electric bike is more difficult to pedal than a normal bike is when the battery is empty. You can avoid that scenario by being clever when you charge your e-bike battery.
Adjust the Assist Level to Get the Workout Level you Want
Most e-bikes are pedal-assist (also known as Pedelec), meaning that the motor will only kick in and assist you, it will not actually power the e-bike for you without your intervention (there’s an exception to this, throttle e-bikes, which we’ll look at below). This means we can select the level of workout that we want- from zero assist, an intense workout, to full assist, so minimal pedaling power is needed.
In the image above, which is the LCD display of my electric bike, you can see the current assist level in the bottom left corner (PAS 1). The number ranges from 0 to 5, with 0 meaning no assist selected, and 5 being the maximum possible assistance. Normally I pedal with assist level 3 selected, which is a decent compromise between squeezing more range from the battery while still giving me a decent amount of exercise.
If you are worried about sweating too much on the way to the office, simply select a high level of assist and let the e-bike motor do most of the work going uphill.
Regenerative Battery Charging
There is a relatively rare category of electric bikes which can actually charge the battery as you pedal. If you’re wondering if your e-bike falls into this category, it almost certainly doesn’t – unless you ordered a special model.
Almost all electric bikes discharge the battery as you ride, as this is obviously what delivers power to the motor. However, if you have a regenerative electric bike, having it charge will actually make it harder to pedal, something to bear in mind.
Throttle Electric Bikes
There’s a category of electric bikes, throttle e-bikes, aka twist and go e-bikes, which are basically more similar to electric mopeds than a regular bicycle. Since you do not have to pedal at all, the question of them being harder to pedal isn’t relevant. Of course, if the battery is flat, it will be a headache to get to your destination!
Personally, I prefer Pedelecs to the idea of throttle electric bikes, for the extended range and the light exercise they offer.
Electric bikes are easier to pedal than regular bikes in the most common scenarios. The exceptions are when you select zero pedal-assist, when the battery is empty, or if you have a (rare) regenerative electric bike. If you have a throttle electric bike, you may not have pedals, so it’s a moot point.
I hope this article was helpful.
Here’s some more related articles which can help on your electric bike adventures!