Electric bikes are brilliant for the environment, and offer a great modern day solution to cyclists who want a little more power. They’re agile, nimble and can be used by all. They’re so popular that recent research from the Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA) has shown that ebike imports outstripped other electric vehicle imports completely. The USA imported 790,000 electric bikes in 2021, a trend that’s gaining ground in 2022. In short, they’re gaining in popularity.
However, there are some drawbacks to using electric bikes. With more ebikes being sold each year, these drawbacks are being noticed by more consumers. It’s important to realize that the majority of users find that their ebikes are great. The benefits far outstrip the drawbacks. However, there are disadvantages to those using electric bikes.
The Disadvantages of Electric Bikes
Before we dive into the disadvantages of electric bikes it’s important to remember that each disadvantage might affect some more than others. People use electric bikes for different things, meaning some disadvantages might affect some more than others. In short, you might perceive a disadvantage entirely differently to someone else. There are also different kinds of electric bikes. These are, generally:
- Electric road bikes
- Electric mountain bikes
- Electric cargo bikes
- Electric hybrids
- Electric bikes (general bikes, no specialization)
- Low powered electric kids bikes
Then, of course, there are also sub-variants. For example, electric road bikes can usually come under three classes:
- Class one
- Class two
- Class three
The differences are explained in our article here, but it serves to highlight the wide range of products available in the electric bike category. Within each of these products, you can further dig into different classes.
So, with that said, let’s look at some of the main disadvantages of electric bikes. Just bear in mind that if you get the right bike for the job these should be mitigated. We’ve tried hundreds of electric bikes over the years and if you put the research in the disadvantages should be outweighed by the ebike’s usefulness
The Disadvantage of Heavy Electric Bikes
When you’re riding around with a large battery attached to the frame it’s no surprise that electric bikes are heavier than normal bikes. You can read more about electric bike weight in our article about how much electric bikes weigh. In short, the extra components can mean an ebike weighs up to 36kg.
This is a disadvantage because it means that when you’re pushing the bike you’re pushing more weight. When you need to carry it up a few steps or push it uphill this extra weight quickly becomes annoying. When you’re riding it shouldn’t matter too much because you benefit from the assist that the electric bike naturally provides.
Some prefer a heavier electric bike because they feel sturdier. However, you have to have the upper body strength to deal with the weight.
Also, you might need to adjust your braking to account for the additional weight. If you regularly go from an electric bike to a normal bike, this can be frustrating.
On certain long trails you might need to lift your bike over fences or rocks. Sometimes these are placed to stop vehicles going onto the trails even though bikes are allowed. For normal bikes, this is pretty easy. But with electric bikes it can be more difficult.
Again, some electric bikes don’t weigh that much more due to smaller range and battery packs with a bit less juice. If you don’t need your bike to have really long range…this might not even be a disadvantage to you whatsoever.
Getting Into An Electric Bike Crash
It’s pretty obvious that if you’re going faster, the crash will be more severe. Electric bikes usually go a little faster. The class three throttle bikes are significantly faster…but even pedal assist bikes can be surprisingly speedier than a normal bike.
In fact, a recent study conducted in Switzerland concluded that chest trauma rates and hospitalizations were more serious among ebike users when compared to riders of normal bikes. The study also recognized the severity of the accident in general was worse. You can read the full study here.
Here’s the full evidence table from the study itself if you wanted to read up on the evidence:
Also, this quote from the study is quite telling:
in part, the target population of our trauma center (Level II). However, we found that the severity of injuries was significantly worse in the e-bike group, and particularly worrisome was the increased likelihood of trauma to the thorax/chest.Patient Safety in Surgery volume 16, Article number: 11 (2022)
It seems quite clear that crashes on an ebike can be a bit worse than getting into accidents on a normal bicycle. It’s fair to say that this is a clear disadvantage.
Electric Bike Battery Running Out
We’ve covered electric bike batteries in multiple articles before. It’s fair to say that electric bike batteries won’t last forever. Both in terms of a one off journey, and their overall lifespan. They’re usually lithium-ion so the charge capacity degrades; just like an iphones.
When you go for a ride on your electric bike you have to remember that at some point, if you ride for long enough, the battery is going to run out. Obviously this doesn’t mean you have to stop using the bike. But, it does mean there’s some more deadweight attached to the bike for you to push around. For those who use the electric bike for long periods of time, like couriers or bike messengers, this might be a mind changing disadvantage.
You wouldn’t get an electric bike without the battery. It’s not really a disadvantage as it’s what makes the electric bike…electric. However, it is something else you have to remember when going on long bike rides. If you like being able to just go out for as long as possible and not worrying about bike power then it probably is a disadvantage. Again, it’s all about perspective. If you did want to read more about ebike batteries, these three articles provide a great resource:
- How long does a battery last on an electric bike
- How to charge an ebike battery without a charger
- Can you ride an electric bike without a battery
Remember, as the technology develops, electric bike batteries and charging capacity is increasing all of the time. However, over time, a lithium ion battery will degrade.
The Disadvantage of Ebike Laws
In some states across the USA there are different rules to follow if you use an electric bike, compared to a normal bike. However, there are also states that treat ebikes the same as normal bikes as far as the law is concerned. Check out Arizona ebike laws for an example.
Most change the laws when it comes to speed. If you go over a certain speed, new laws will apply. As some throttle assist bikes go quite fast, you’ll have to follow state specific ebike laws. These usually involve:
- Having to stay on the road and off the cycle path
- Not being allowed on trails
- Having to wear a helmet (you should always wear one anyway)
- Not allowed to use them on a multi use path
A lot of states make the definition using the class system. For example, in Arizona, you can’t use a class three ebike on a bike trail. It has to stay on the road.
Being confined by more rules is definitely a disadvantage of electric biking. However, most ebike users use a pedal assist bike of the class 1 or 2 variety and don’t tend to be subjected to excessive rules. With that said, it’s best to check with your local state or country rules before investing in an electric bike. Also, rules do change, so keep up to date.
Expensive Repair: A Pocket Busting Disadvantage
Electric bikes have some sensitive equipment. Some have a high quality display model which showcases battery life/distance/speed, etc. Then you have the battery, sensor, motor, and wiring which connects them all together. Ebike repair has historically been pretty pricey, but hopefully as they become more popular component costs will gradually come down. We’ve seen them reduce, in our experience, over the last ten years so far.
A good electric bike will have proper casing and housing for these modules. However, if you’re cycling in wet weather all of the time or you take a few knocks, they can quite easily become damaged.
If this was a normal bike you’d be left with a scratch or something superficial. On an ebike…you might be looking at a hefty bill. If you damage the battery you’re looking at $500+ usually. Some can be up to $1000. Then the sensor module and other elements can be pretty pricey too. This table illustrates approximate pricing for ebike component repairs…to give you a better picture:
The prices are average. They will fluctuate depending on where you’re getting the repair, and how badly damaged the component is. They also change depending on quality. For example, a good display can cost you around $150-$200 if you want to get a really good one.
You also need to be careful when cleaning your electric bike. It’s easy to damage these components if you’re using a high power jet washer or not taking too much care.
Repair costs are a clear disadvantage of owning an electric bike. However, if you’re not throwing the bike around, take reasonable care, and use it for something simple it’s unlikely you’re going to need to fork out.
Electric Bike Worry: The Disadvantage of Crime
They’re worth a lot of money, and unfortunately when something has a high value it’s at risk of being stolen. Normal bikes can be worth a lot of money, but a normal, decent electric bike comes in at around $1600…most are a lot more. A key disadvantage of owning an electric bike is that it’s more likely to get stolen.
The NYTimes recently profiled delivery drivers…a key demographic for electric bikes. Turns out they used to get targeted for the cash or the item they were delivering. Now, they’re getting targeted for their bikes. You can read the full article here.
The point is, you’ll always be alert and worried. The ebike will have to stay inside overnight…you’ll be chaining it up whenever you commute or take it to the store. Also, chaining an ebike up might not stop it from being stolen. A lot of the time, thieves are out for the battery…which itself is worth a lot of money. It’s easier to separate the battery from the bike, than it is to steal the whole bike.
Simple precautions can stop this from happening…however, it’s still something you have to worry about. With a normal bike there is no battery. Here are some key steps you can take:
- Always chain the bike up with a good lock
- Remove the battery if you’ve left it somewhere suspect
- Keep the bike out of sight, either inside or in a bikeshed
- Insure your bike to protect you financially from crime
The steps you take will depend on where you live and the crime rate there, as well as where you’re going to leave the bike in the day if you commute.
They cost more than normal bikes so your bank account is going to take a bigger hit. If you’re wondering what kind of bike to get and you’re torn between an electric bike and a normal bike, the initial cost might decide it for you. It’s true, you can get some electric bikes for around or even under $1000. But, the truth is that these bikes are way less effective than the pricier kinds.
For a decent bike, you’re looking at $1600…it’s a lot more than a normal bike. The cost of an electric bike certainly has to come in at a disadvantage. However, a lot of people don’t mind paying more money because they’re getting an electric bike out of it.
We have a whole article on how much electric bikes cost, so if you’re interested in how much you might be expected to pay, check it out. In our experience, bike costs do vary but stay within certain parameters.
Fast Advancing Tech: When To Purchase The Ebike
Technology is marching on all of the time. Just think how fast workable ebikes have come to the fore. The true march of ebike tech can be observed in our article on electric bike history. However, the point here is to state that sometimes, people will wait for bikes to get a little better before buying.
The reason being is that there is a legitimate concern that if you buy the bike, over the next few months tech develops, meaning ebike batteries are suddenly a lot better. There are two problems:
- Your bike depreciates quickly
- You could have had a better bike
If you’re someone who worries about this aspect of ebike ownership it can certainly be a disadvantage.
However, if you’re renting, or leasing an electric bike short term it won’t matter as much. Remember, before you purchase an ebike, you should always check out the reviews first from impartial sources. Here are two of our examples:
Are Electric Bikes Disadvantageous?
It totally depends on you. We find that no matter what you use them for, electric bike advantages far outstrip the disadvantages. With that said, we do see they exist.
The trick is in purchasing the right electric bike in the first place. If you spend time researching and making sure you get the right one, there will be far less chance of you not enjoying the ebike experience. We always check the range of the battery, durability of components, and previous reviews before buying as a minimus. You should strive to do the same.