Road e-bikes, the next big thing or faux-pas?

Large cycling companies like Bianchi and Giant are introducing their take on the road e-bike. An electrically powered bike meant for sportive use. But is this something the cycling industry is ready for? In this article we will be looking at the pros and cons of road e-biking and the chances of success companies will have by focusing on this niche in cycling.

The first questions that need to be asked are: how positive is the invention of the regular e-bike on our current society? Is an e-bike a good alternative for cyclists as they tend to go out and travel a larger distance? Or does the decrease in muscle intensity have its back draws on our health?

E-bikes are here to stay

E-bikes are an unthinkable asset in our current society. Where many elderlies picked up the invention first, it has now become a more used product amongst other age groups as well. A question that pops up often is the impact the e-bike has on our health. At first the answer seems to be rather straightforward. A research by TNO shows that the use of a normal bike is better for one’s health than riding an e-bike. However, many people refrain from cycling at all as their commuting distance to work is simply too long. For this reason, many commuters usually travel to work by car. By having an e-bike as an extra option, the barrier to cycle to work becomes significantly lower. Therefore, making the e-bike a solid and healthy option for those who would normally refrain from cycling to work. So yes, the regular e-bike is a fitting invention for a large audience.

What about road e-bikes?

But cycling isn’t only meant for commuting to work. And e-bikes are no longer restricted to commuter bikes only. As cycling companies like Bianchi and Giant are introducing their take on the road e-bike, we can only wait and debate on how this product will be received. Similarly to why the regular e-bike has its merits, the road e-bike also lowers the barrier of entry for cyclists to start riding their bike. People with lower levels of fitness, living in sloping areas, or with injuries/illnesses who want to get into road biking might have trouble starting as they are simply not set to defy the cycling environment. So, road e-bikes could be just the thing to get inexperienced riders started, giving a boost to the amount of road cyclists around. However, such bikes are rather pricy and a large investment for someone who is new to the sport.

Moreover, extra support in cycling might lower the gap between the experienced and inexperienced. By having the option to adjust the amount of support one receives while cycling with a group, the road e-bike might play into the favor of those who want to tag along with their more experienced cycling friends. This way the road e-bike will serve as a unifying invention as it bridges the gap between various experience levels.

On the other hand, it still holds true that cyclists on traditional bikes get more high intensity exercise, which has been shown to provide significant health benefits. In terms of challenging yourself, which is what road cycling is at its core, having a supportive engine doesn’t fit the bill. Yes, it does allow one to travel larger distances, but it does not increase the challenge that comes with cycling. From a competitive point of view the road e-bike is therefore less likely to be a success. It would lead to longer distances or perhaps steeper hills in a race, but that doesn’t bring a significant change to the core of the sport. Cyclists could get the same challenge - or even a bigger one - on lesser material as it becomes harder to complete your regular laps with lesser equipment. An argument against this however is that if cycling is all about challenging yourself, then why bother spending a small fortune on the best gear anyway?

Cultural shift 

If anything, the rise in popularity of road e-bikes will need to establish a cultural change in how we perceive the use of support. A common sentiment around having a motor on your bike is that of being lazy or cheating. This sentiment could probably delay the peak in popularity of the road e-bike. It functions as a barrier that needs to be overcome. But once it has, we might even see the road e-bike in competitive use one day.