Electric bikes are a dream come true to those that have long commutes and no vehicles. It can help you travel double or even triple the speed, go greater distances, and put in very little work. They are undeniably heaven-sent for those of us who have long bike commutes or lots of hills on our route. But how does your bike work if the motor’s battery dies or you need to ride without the electric functions?
Can I ride an electric bike without using the motor? Yes, all electric bikes function as normal bicycles when the motor is off, so you can simply ride your electric bike the same way you would a traditional bicycle, whether the motor is switched off or if the battery is dead. You can also ride the bike normally by simply switching the pedal-assist function to zero.
Do keep in mind that it will be more difficult to pedal than a traditional bike because if you’re not utilizing the electrical system, you will now have the added weight of the motorized system fighting against you.
With this said, last time I rode an electric bike I turned the pedal assist to 0 so that I would receive no help from the motor. While I went significantly slower without the motor, it didn’t take a lot of force to move the bike forward.
With this said, I wouldn’t want to go a long distance on an ebike if the battery wasn’t charged or working. I would prefer to take a regular bike, because it would be lighter and less work.
This guide will be your quick look at the basics of e-bike and get you started with resources to make the most of your new ride!
Riding an Electric Bike Without the Help of the Motor
Yes, of course you can! It’s still a bike after all, but the weight will definitely make things a little more difficult.
It will be decently heavy, but certainly manageable in emergency situations for short distances, although pedaling without the motor isn’t ideal. It will function like any bike but require more output from your pedaling to move forward.
You can help to make your bike function reasonably well even if the motor is not working by being intentional in your shopping process.
There can be times when you run out of juice in the battery, and will need to ride your electric bike like you would a regular bike. In these moments, you will appreciate your ebike if it’s fairly lightweight.
The Main Elements of an Electrical Bike
The key elements or machinery parts which you can purchase already attached to the e-bike or purchase as part of a kit are:
The Batteries – these will be quite large and mounted sometimes where the water bottle holder is on the vertical part of your bike’s skeleton. The batteries are the most important part of the system and will make about 300-500 watts of power as you move forward.
If you’re planning to ride your electric bike sometimes without the motor you should select a battery that is not to heavy when constructing your own e-bike or purchasing it. Your battery should give you around 20-40 miles per charge at between 10-25 MPH.
Some batteries allow you to go faster but there are laws on e-bike speed. Check your local laws and regulations to see if there are limits to how fast you are allowed to legally go on an e-bike.
The Motor – this will be built into the back of the wheel and make your tires move forward. It sometimes can also be mounted on the center skeleton of the bike or connected to the pedal sprocket.
Many use hub motors but those are not the only motors for electric bikes. You can read about the advantages and disadvantages between hub motors and mid drive motors.
The motor is great when its helping you move forward, but if you’re riding without its help you’ve got it as extra weight.
The Frame – Frames are often made out of aluminum or alloys. It is the part of the bike which supports your weight. Electric bike will have extra sturdy frames that will needto be a strong enough material to withstand the added motor and battery-pack weight.
If your frames are not properly strong, they will buckle like your bike spokes which commonly pop under the stress of too much weight.
This is yet another key-element of the e-bike to be intentional about when investing in a kit to build your own electric bike. You don’t want to get your bike all built or pay nearly $1,000 for it, only to watch it crumble like tin-foil under the weight of a heavy kit.
Brakes – as with all bikes (that we would want to ride anyways!) brakes will be essential. Very few electric bikes are equipped with regenerative brakes that would charge your battery while pedaling.
Regenerative energy is better utilized with trains and cars because an e-bike does not have the mass or velocity of either a train or car. If you have to work this hard to charge the battery, some say you may as well purchase a traditional bike in the first place.
These four are the key elements to any e-bike. Every purchase or piece you add to your bike should be bought in the mindset of weight. Weight will be the largest influencing factor to the ease of your ride without the motor.
How Much Do Electric Bike Weigh?
If you’re wondering the literal difference in weight that you’ll have to drag along, keep in mind that they are quite heavy, and you will notice the difference.
Electric bikes can weigh over 40 lbs., because of all the components we mentioned above. There are some e-bikes that weigh as much as 60 to 80 lbs. That’s a heavy bike!
There are lightweight electric bikes that are closer to the 20 lb. range, but they often have smaller motors or batteries. Most regular road, BMX, and mountain bikes weigh somewhere around 25 lbs.
You can read more about how much bicycles weigh from this article.
All this to say, generally it takes more work to pedal an electric bike if you’re not assisted by the motor.
Common Mistakes With E-Bikes to Avoid
In the case that you haven’t yet bought your electric bike, here are some common mistakes that bike shoppers make so you can be smarter than their errors:
- Don’t believe the range estimates or ‘Standards’ – if your manufacturer is trying to sell you all of these amazing ‘standards’ by which this bike has been measured, they’re not legitimate. Unlike the vehicle industry, there is no electric-bike-standard which they are held to. You should compare the KWh (Kilowatt hours) which is how long it will last based on its charge time.
- Not knowing some basics on batteries – this is what will most-heavily impact your charge time, speed and ride time, so you’ll want to know what kind of batteries suit your needs.
For example, if you have a 36V, it will offer 360Wh of energy which should keep you moving for about an hour. If your commute time is longer than that when accounting for round-trip, you’ll need to invest in a higher quality batter with higher voltage and Wh.
Here’s a great video resource that breaks down:
- Buying the same bike for you and your significant other – you will, in all likelihood, require different bikes. Electric bikes will not be a one-size-fits-all, because certain models will be very heavy or too tall for many female riders. Ask yourself what suits each individual best which may mean different sizes or weights. Also you may ride more than your partner and need a higher quality bike.
Others have made these mistakes, so you don’t have to. Doing your homework will save you a lot of time, money, and headache.
Questions to Consider When Bike Shopping
- How much do I want it to weigh/ Can I lift it if motors break?
- What is the normal speed I’m wishing to go? (Keeping in mind that most states don’t allow you to go over about 28-30 MPH on public roads)
- Will I be riding on dirt road or pavement?
- What is my budget?
- How fast do I need my bike to charge for my lifestyle/commute needs?
Shop around, read the reviews, and buy the bike that is right for you – which doesn’t mean it has to be electric. My advice if you get an electric bike: keep it charged so that you don’t ever have to ride it without the motor UNLESS you’re looking for a good workout.
If you’re interested, here are more articles to help you learn more about electric bikes.
I hope this guide has been helpful to you and I wish you happy riding! – With or without the modern blessing of that motor!