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Can you ride an electric bicycle without relying on battery-power?

Charging the battery of an electric bicyle

I was sure naive when I first bought my electric mountain bike.

I asked the guy who sold it to me (a buddy who owns a local bike store) if I could use it with the power turned off?

He chuckled and said “yeah, sure, but I doubt you’ll want to.  The bike weighs over 50+ pounds.

My thinking was that I’d get more exercise riding without the electric assist.

What I didn’t realize is that I’d get FAR more exercise than I bargained for.

Long story short, I NEVER ride my electric mountain bike without battery assist. In fact, I always ride with 100% full boost.  No half-measures for me.

I love the speed and power I get full power.

Yes, I get a bit of a workout, but more importantly, it’s far more fun.

In fact, the hardest part of mountain biking is going up steep inclines.  If you love hardcore cardio, riding up a mountain is for you.

On an electric bike, it’s fun.  I prefer powering up steep hills with battery power than ripping downhill.

Can you ride an electric bike without any battery assist?

Yes, technically you can.  The bike will pedal and move.

The more salient question is do you want to?

IMO, the answer is NO.

2 reasons it’s so hard to pedal an e-bike without battery assist

Reason number one is the weight.  These bikes aren’t designed to be light.  They’re designed to ride well for the intended purpose with battery assist.

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Maybe you’re thinking “how much does weight matter” when biking?

I used to think the same.  What’re a few pounds?  Is it worth spending an extra $500 to $1,000 on a mountain bike for a lighter bike?


A few pounds can make a big difference, especially when riding uphill.

This suggests that spending a lot more money to shave off 5 pounds is often worth it if you have the money.

Reason number two is the gear set up.

E-bikes have fewer gears than regular bikes.  Moreover, the first gear is not anywhere nearly as easy to pedal compared to the first gear on a well-designed and engineered mountain bike.

There is no way I could pedal up steep inclines without battery assist.

Can you ride on flat road without battery assist?

Yes, you can and it does provide a better workout, but it’s far slower.

At the end of the day, I’d rather go faster with battery assist.  It’s so much more fun and for me riding has to be fun.

Do electric bikes have gears?

Yes, they do.  Mine has 11 gears which is quite a bit.  I ride it across the full spectrum. I’m a frequent gear-shift.  Easier when powering up hills and higher gears when seeking speed on flat or decline runs.