E-bikes vs. standard bicycles

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While I personally do have an e-bike (a Gtech one) and have been very happy with it, the maintenance of one, especially when it comes to tire repair of the back, this is where the motor is in this one, aside from the fact that the lifespan of the battery is only a few years and then getting a new one seems difficult, the old-fashioned standard, and I stress standard, bicycle has still a great deal going for it. Maybe more so even than it is realized.

Yes, using a standard bicycle, especially a single-speed one, takes more effort in pedaling and especially up inclines, the robustness and easy of maintenance tends to beat it hands down.

It would appear though that there are many people who own bicycles of the standard kind who are even incapable of changing an inner tube let alone do any other maintenance to the bike. Time and again one sees them asking on social media, for instance, if someone knows someone who could fix or service a bicycle.

Personally I cannot stand the derailleur type of gear changers on any bicycle and therefore have converted, and suggest converting to people who have trouble keeping the shifting mechanism properly aligned, to convert the bicycle(s) to single speed without actually modifying the bike in any other way. This only works well with bicycles that are not vertical dropout at the back. Those with vertical dropout do require a chain tensioner wheel though that is not too much of a problem either.

For all those bike with the more or less horizontal dropout of the back wheel no tensioner is required and all that needs doing is to shorten the chain to the appropriate length, using a chain tool, and, voila, a single speed bicycle is born, one that is much easier to maintain though may require a little more effort in use as no low gears.

While e-bikes are nice and make cycling easier (it is also a little cheating as you get far less exercise as you do not need to do as much work) they are first off rather expensive (still) and secondly the lifespan of the battery if a maximum of three years after which you need to buy a new one at about one-third of the cost of the new bike but which is also more than most new standard bicycles.

Having now had experience using an e-bike for more than 3 years, courtesy of G-tech (I got the bike for review and was allowed to keep it and that told that before the review was even written and published) I have to say that I do not think I would, personally, after the experience, even though in general very good, bar the fact of the lifetime of the battery (OK, it is only now beginning to really fail) and the difficulty of actually obtaining a new battery (which seems to be nigh impossible), not buy one. Sorry to say that, but it is true.

Considering the high initial cost of an e-bike and the fact that about every three years a new battery will be required, if not earlier, at almost one-third of the initial purchase cost, together with rigmarole of removing the back wheel (where the motor sits with the G-tech) the standard bicycle make for a much better investment in personal transport than does an e-bike, especially if it is not the derailleur gear change kind.

With the standard bicycle very little maintenance is required and servicing consists of a thorough clean and a thorough oiling and the occasional change of brake pads. It also does not mind getting into deep water, literally, while that is something to be avoided rather with an e-bike considering electric motor and battery.

“Oh, what about climbing hills with the standard bike with no or very few gears?” “What about it? Ever heard of feet? That's why in England the standard bicycle is often referred to as a “push bike” because that is when you push it.”

I have beaten man a cyclist with fancy bikes and all the Lycra gear and environmental fruit bowl on their heads who were pedaling hell for leather up a hill while walking up it. Those other cyclists then had to take a little rest atop the hill to get their breath back while I jumped, almost fresh, onto the bike and coasted down the other side, being almost half up the other incline before the others just about made it to the bottom of the former. So, it is not all that difficult and people did it quite well before the advent of all the gearing and e-bikes.

On the sustainability scale the standard bicycle, especially if it is a conversion from an old one where the gearing may have been damaged beyond repair or such, which is then even more sustainable, wins hands down over the e-bike for, aside from manufacturing and shipping, more often than not from China, we have to consider the environmental costs of the battery and its components, also and especially considering that the batteries fall under toxic waste. And that aside from the human costs in the mining of cobalt, coltan, lithium and others, the miners often being children who are virtual and actual slaves.

© 2020