Can an Electric Bike be Used as a Regular Bike?

Woman riding towards us on an electric bike

If you are thinking about getting an electric bike but wondering “What do I do if my battery runs out?” rest assured, modern electric bikes can be used as regular bikes. In this article, I will briefly cover how electric bikes work and what to expect if you have to ride one like a regular bike.

You can ride an electric bike just like a regular bike. However, if you try to ride an electric bike with the motor off, or if the battery has run out, you will notice the extra weight of the ebike makes riding one like a regular bike far more challenging.

For me, the best experience of riding an electric bike is when you are pedaling like you would on a regular bike but the motor is assisting you to make it feel like you are a World Champion riding a regular bike!

Can you pedal an Electric bike like a regular bike?

When you are riding an electric bike you can pedal just like you would normally, but the great thing is that you can control how much you want your motor to assist you!

There will be a control on the handlebars that allows you to set the level of assist, most ebikes have 3 to 5 different assist levels you can choose from. You can change the assist level at any time just by pushing the control button. Usually a + or -, or just an up or down arrow.

Can you ride an electric bike with the motor turned off?

Almost every electric bike will allow you to turn off the motor completely, using the same assist controller, then you can pedal the ebike by itself. Doing this will allow you to save battery power if you have a long way to go. 

You do not need to turn off the motor when coasting down a hill. As long as you are not pedaling then there is no power being drawn from the battery.

Can you ride an electric bike without pedaling?

There are many electric bikes nowadays that come with throttles. Most of these can be ridden with just the throttle, but you usually have to pedal a little to get the throttle to start working. This is a safety feature that has been recently added.

Just be careful with a throttle-equipped ebike, because if you just have your foot resting on the pedal while you are stopped and accidentally use the throttle, that can be enough to shoot you into the road. 

I recommend testing your new throttle style ebike where it is safe to do before joining busy traffic.

Can you still ride an electric bike if the battery is completely dead?

If you ride long enough, there will probably be a time when you run out of battery. Not to worry, you can still ride your electric bike even though the battery is dead and the display screen is blank.

Electric bikes weigh anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds more than a regular bike, so it is best not to get into a situation where you have to ride a long-distance home with no battery.

I have personally done this a few times. I was commuting about 25 miles to work each way on my ebike and the ride home was mostly uphill. During the warmer months, this was not a problem, actually, it became quite fun as I got into better shape.

I soon realized though that as the temperatures dropped, I did not get the same amount of range out of my battery. I had to re-adjust which assist levels I used during the cold months.

One BIG thing to keep in mind! 

Electric bike batteries do not hold the same amount of charge in the winter as they do in the summer!! (unless you have super mild winters)

You can still ride during the winter, but if you are already at the limit of your ebike range, just know it will be shorter when it’s cold. It goes back up as it gets warmer.

How far can you go on an electric bike till the battery dies?

Most ebikes that are sold today will get between 12 and 60 miles on a single charge. Some ebikes come with 2 batteries that will run in parallel go even further with both batteries fully charged. That is a big difference in mileage.

If you have a throttle on your electric bike and mostly use that, then your range will be very low. It is best to pedal along with the motor to get the most range out of the battery.

The higher the assist level you are using will also greatly affect your range. Just use the amount of assist that you need to have the best experience.

I do sometimes go out on my ebike in just the highest assist level to just rip around and have fun, though. 

I would strongly recommend you test out your new ebike in different assist levels or ride it just using the throttle the whole time, and see exactly how far you can go. Everybody will be a little different with rider weight, amount of hills, wind, and road conditions playing a factor.

How to tell if you are running out of battery

Electric bikes have displays on the handlebars that will tell you how much battery remains, but depending on which ebike you get, this indicator is not always accurate.

Higher-quality electric bike displays will show you a percentage of battery remaining. This is the most accurate way of telling how low your battery is. If you’re below 20% then it’s time to get home and charge it up! (Maybe even before that)

Most basic displays will have 5 to 15 bars that tell you how full your battery is. As you deplete your battery these bars will start to disappear. When they’re all gone, no more motor assist.

Some displays will also have a range feature. This will tell you approximately how many miles you have left on the battery before it’s dead. 

Please keep in mind that the displayed range does not know what the rest of your ride looks like. 

If your range gauge is telling you that there are 10 miles left on the battery, but you know that you have a steep 2-mile climb before getting to your house on the hill, your battery will die before 10 miles. 

Pedaling an ebike uphill with no motor is not fun, and for most of us, not even possible.

Will I damage my electric bike if I ride it like a regular bike?

The short answer is no, you won’t. The motors are designed to be pedaled whether you are using assist or not. You could ride your ebike all day long without the motor off and it will be just fine. It would just be really challenging.

I often hear people say they don’t want to get an ebike because they still want to get exercise when riding. If that were really true then I would say to get an ebike and just ride it with the motor off. You will get even more exercise than on a regular bike. (they are usually quiet after that) 🙂

At the End of the Day

My final thoughts on using an electric bike like a regular are that it’s best to avoid having to do that all together. If you are out on your ebike and your battery dies or the motor just stops working you can use it like a regular bike.

What I would recommend is that while you still have plenty of charge in your battery, just switch the motor off and ride it for a mile or so. See what it is like to have to pedal your ebike without any assistance. 

Doing this will give a good idea of what you would be in for if you run out of battery and have to ride home under your own power.

What I noticed riding my ebike is that if the battery runs out, I have usually already pedaled quite a bit, and having to go another mile or two with no assistance is quite the test of endurance.

So keep an eye on your battery level, always make sure your electric bike is charged up, and do some test rides to see what your own personal range is and how the bike feels without any assistance.

Stay safe out there fellow ebikers and keep on riding!