If you’re thinking of getting an electric bike then you should take a few mins to read this easy-to-follow but in-depth guide.
What is an electric bike?
An electric bike is a pedal bike with an electric motor. Our electric bikes are of the ‘pedal assist’ variety. This means that the motor only delivers power when you are pedalling. You can’t just let the motor run and ride around without making any effort whatsoever.
The motor eases the effort of pedalling, especially up hills or into headwinds. It will also help you on flatter terrain and you’ll be able to go further for less effort.
You can pedal the bike without motor assistance should you choose to; to extend battery life or when the battery has run out. Not that the battery runs out very often. Our e-bikes have a range of around 60km from a full charge so you can cover some impressive distance on them.
In the UK, e-bikes are required to stop motor power once a speed of 25km/h is reached (about 15mph). You can go faster than that but it will due to your leg power or gravity ie. flying down a steep hill. On our e-bikes, operating the brakes also cause the motor to cut out.
Why opt for an electric bike?
To get into cycling. Or to get back into cycling. A lot of elderly people have found themselves loving being back in the saddle with an e-bike.
They are still exercise. It may not require as much effort as a regular bike but it still requires some. A lot of overweight people have lost huge amounts of weight since getting an e-bike.
Less use of the car. Suddenly 5 or 10 mile trips are doable without the car. Save on fuel, parking and general vehicle mileage.
Avoid traffic. No more sitting in jams. You pass stationary cars and use cycle lanes and paths to miss out on traffic aggro.
Less sweaty commutes. If you’ve been put off cycling to work due to concerns of ending up all sweaty, an e-bike can maintain the speed but reduce the toil.
They’re easy to operate. Our own-brand electric bikes are anyway. You don’t do much apart from switch the battery on and the display panel and pedal off into the sunset.
What sort of riding do you want to do?
There aren’t really any racey drop-bar e-bikes out there but they’re are some capable mountain bike designs and a lot of hybrid and commuter styles.
Be realistic about the terrain you’re likely to go on. Chunky tyres are draggy and inefficient on tarmac. But similarly you don’t want to find yourself on harsh skittish tyres if you want to ride forest roads.
There are step-through and low top tube e-bikes which are suitable for certain types of dress or for those with limited flexibility.
What to look out for
Will the battery last long enough? Long enough for the sort of routes that you intend on doing. Bear in mind that you will probably end up riding more you think (e-bikes make it so easy) so it’s a good idea to almost double your predicted/expected distance requirements.
Having said that, don’t go overkill. If you really are only wanting to do 5 miles here or there then you don’t need the expense and weight of a bigger battery.
Battery type does vary and it’s best to avoid Lead-Acid batteries in favour of Li-ion.
Most e-bikes will list a distance range that they’ll cover from a full battery. Bear in mind though there are several factors which will possible reduce this range. The faster you go the more battery it will use. Hills, headwinds and rough surfaces will use more power. A poorly maintained bike with flat tyres and dirty gears will also drain the battery more.
Can you get spare batteries? Eventually all batteries need to be replaced. It may be a few years down the line but it’s good to check spares availability.
Is the power adjustable? Some riders may want to have a bit of say of when and how much the motor comes into play. For example, you may wish to reduce the level or frequency of motor assistance in exchange for increasing the mileage range potential.
Does it take a pannier? If you’re going to be using an e-bike for shopping duties or commuting then make sure the bike can take a rear pannier rack. A lot of e-bikes come ready set up with a pannier already on. Most – but not all – other e-bikes have the relevant mounting holes for putting a rack on. Check this out before purchasing.
Whereabouts is the motor? There are generally two choices: rear wheel hub motor or bottom bracket crank motor. Rear wheel motors (see above pic) are more common and cheaper.
Bottom bracket motors (above pic) are more expensive but put the weight in a good place for bike handling, especially off-road. Some people also prefer the manner in which a bottom bracket motor delivers the power; it feels bit more natural and less surge-like.
Battery charging regime
These days a lot of people are used to putting things on to charge frequently ie. a few times a week. These days batteries aren’t as finnicky as they used to be. These two factors mean that keeping power in your electric bike battery is pretty straightforward.
Most e-bike owners leave there’s charging overnight. A fully flat battery will take up to 8 hours to recharge. Most of the time you won’t run your battery anywhere near fully flat, so just top it up for an hour or two as and when you can.
There are a few rules of thumb. Try to charge your battery before it gets lower than 50%. Try to charge your battery as often as possible. But generally, don’t get too hung on it. Electric bikes are meant to take the stress out of life not add to it!
How much do they cost? And cost to run?
A good quality e-bike will cost at least £600 and the most common price range is between £700 and a £1000.
The cost of recharging the battery is difficult to assess but it’s only a few pence per charge.
Spare batteries though can be very expensive, which is something you need to think about in the long term.
Looking after an electric bike
To all intents and purposes treat it like a normal bike for most of the time.
Don’t immerse it in water. Don’t use hosepipes or pressure washers directly on the battery areas.
Keep an eye on your gears’ cleanliness and also your tyre pressures. It can be all too easy not to spot minor issues like this and just accidentally let the motor take up the slack. Keep on top of your basic bike maintenance and you’ll get more out of your battery.
Gallery with captions
Rear wheel/hub motor.
Bottom bracket/chainset motor.
Connection between the control panel and the motor.
Remote control unit for display panel. Essentially the ON/OFF switch and the ‘more assist/less assist’ control.
The smaller brake cabling is the motor cut-out sensor.
Please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you ASAP.