Electric bikes have spun onto the scene in recent years, flicking dirt in the eyes of traditional cyclists as they effortlessly glide past. For anyone who relishes shooting down sunny Scottish gravel trails, the thought of having a little boost to get up those Munros is hard to argue with. But is it cheating to use a motor? Is it making it ‘too easy’? Or can a few volts of electric assistance help you break out into otherwise unchartered territories?
For starters, electrically assisted bicycles are not motorbikes; they only help the rider when they are turning the pedals. In other words, you still need to pedal to make them go. E-bikes have a strong potential to unlock recreation and healthy lifestyles for less mobile people, as well as promote sustainable transport and introduce a new sport to non-cyclists.
But that’s not to say they are without drawbacks. If you’re thinking of hitting the Highlands on an e-bike, you need to consider weather conditions, access to charging points and your impact on the trail far more than if you head out on your traditional two-wheelers. Here are the key considerations for those tempted by some extra juice under your saddle.
E-bike design has made great strides in the last few years. For most models, the battery and motor are barely visible and streamlined into aesthetically shiny frames. Even seasoned riders often can’t spot the difference between an e-bike and a conventional bike without close inspection. They are that well-integrated!
While it varies from brand to brand, electric road bikes generally weigh in at an average of 13-20kg. Heavier than their road-loving cousins, E-MTBs weigh around 25-30kg. E-bikes have a console on the handlebar where riders can easily control the different modes and see how much battery life is left. Hybrid bikes are the all-rounders: these bikes have flat handlebars and are more stable, upright and comfortable than a road bike. They’re designed to do a bit of everything.
Yes, you can use e-bikes in the rain just as you would a normal bike. Their batteries don’t take kindly to being submerged though, so best to avoid those deep puddles.
In Europe, the motor in an e-bike can assist a rider in reaching a maximum speed of 25 kilometres, or 15.5 miles per hour (with a 250-watt motor). However, riders can still reach speeds faster than this under their own steam, or when freewheeling downhill.
E-bikes can weigh anything from 13 to 30 kilograms, though this varies from bike to bike, depending on the motor, battery, frame material and size, and type of bike.
E-bikes support riders to reach greater speeds with lower efforts, but they are a far cry from a high-speed motorbike. Speeds are easy to control and assisted speeds are capped at 15.5 mph in the UK. E-bikes do carry the same inherent risks as a traditional push bike, and a helmet, hi-vis jacket, reflectors, and front and rear lighting should be used.
Yes, e-bikes with up to a 250-watt motor, or a maximum speed of 25 km/h/15.5mph are legal to ride in Scotland without any sort of licence. The rider must be over the age of 14 and abide by the Highway Code when riding on the road.
While it is true that the use of bikes does cause erosion in our wild places, it’s worth noting that the additional weight of an e-bike is no different to that of a heavier rider, who would have the same effect. It’s all about sensible use and sticking to designated trails where you can.