The craze has taken off in the mountains allowing cyclists of limited fitness the chance to enjoy the hills. So what exactly is e-biking?



E-biking is the alpine activity of choice for many summer holidaymakers these days, but it’s not new.

  • E-bikes have been around since the late 19th century
  • Inventive types began experimenting first by attaching steam engines to tricycles and quadracycles
  • The first motorised bicycle is believed to have made in 1868 in France – the Michaux-Perraux steam velocipede
Michaux Perreaux Steam Velocipede

Michaux Perreaux Steam Velocipede

Some of the later developments became mopeds or motorcycles – in other words, motorised bikes with no pedalling required.

E-bikes as we know them today started to be developed in the 1990s, though it took a while for them to take off.

  • In 1992, the Zike appeared. It had a nickel-cadmium battery built into the frame
  • In 2001, the term e-bike began to be used, along with power bike and power-assisted bike
  • In 2016 there were an estimated 210 million electric bikes worldwide used daily
  • A total of 700,000 e-bikes were sold in Europe in 2010, up from 200,000 in 2007
  • China is the world’s leading producer of e-bikes

Modern e-bikes


What exactly is an e-bike?


Good question. When is a bike a pedal bicycle and when is it a motorbike?

The answer depends on where you are in the world and the motoring regulations. That means you need to check the law where you are to find out who can ride an e-bike and where it can be ridden.

We are talking here about e-bikes where the motor assists the cyclist so you still have to pedal.

  • E-bikes have a limited top speed, many are set to a maximum 25kph, while others will go up to 45 kph (28mph)
  • There are mountain e-bikes, folding e-bikes, road e-bikes – though these are less common – and children’s e-bikes (minimum age requirements)

Electric mountain bike

  • Most e-bikes allow you to choose how much help you want. Turn the motor off for a full workout or when going downhill and crank it up to turbo-charge for those really tough uphill climbs
  • E-bikes can be single-speed or have gears that operate exactly as they do on a non-powered bike
  • With an integrated rechargeable battery and electric motor, e-bikes are heavier than your average bike
  • They can weigh between 20 and 40kg. By comparison, a £900 Trek aluminium-frame mountain bike we found online weighs just 13kg
  • The tyres on an e-bike tend to be fatter. They help absorb the impact of the heavier frame and give more grip to counterbalance the extra weight and speed

How long does a battery charge last?

It depends on the battery you have on your bike but most e-bikes will go at least 40 miles on a full charge. Some will go for 80 miles.

E-biking in Switzerland

E-biking in Switzerland

Is it cheating?

We would ask another question.

Is it better to get some exercise than none? Obviously you don’t get the same workout as on a bike without power-assistance, but if you wouldn’t otherwise be out exercising, then it’s got to be good.

However, it can be cheating if you use an e-bike when you’re not meant to.

  • At the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships, an under-23 cyclist was found to have a motor concealed in her bike. She denied intentional “bike doping”, saying she had mistakenly used a friend’s identical-looking bike
  • There have been rumours about cheating using motors in the Tour de France and other major road races
  • The governing body of world cycling, the UCI, has introduced heavy fines for technological doping

Where can I hire an e-bike?

E-bikes are available to hire almost everywhere you go in the mountains in summer. You can rent them daily and book guided tours. Some hotels even offer them free of charge to paying guests.

What are you waiting for?  Get on your bike!


On your bike!

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