TL:DR - An electric bike is a great option for literally any bike owner. As you'll find out in this electric bike buyers guide, they aren't for lazy people and you can still feel great using them, they just come with a little extra boost for those days you feel tired, or like you've done enough already. In this shopping guide, we are going to help you learn a bit more about how to choose an e-bike and what to look for. Let's ride...
Our 2021 Electric Bike Buyer's Guide
Regular bicycles have been around since 1817. However, we have come a long way since the days of wooden frames, iron rims and leather-covered tyres. Not only do we now have pedals, air-filled tyres and gear systems, but bikes have also evolved into e-bikes. These are bikes, but with a battery and motor.
Getting your head around e-bikes can be a mind explosion. For this reason, we have created a handy e-bike buyers guide to answer all of your questions on this trendy transport.
We will help you decide if one is right for you and what option you might look into in more depth depending on what you are using the e-bike for. We also cover different types of motor, how to find the right size and some tips on maintaining your e-bike.
What is an e-bike?
Firstly, what is an e-bike? An e-bike is much like a regular bicycle. It has pedals, gears, brakes, but it also has a motor and a battery.
The motor and battery are what sets an e-bike apart from traditional bicycles. The battery powers the motor to help take some effort out of the hardest of hills and longest rides. Not only that, but the assistance of a battery helps you to go cycling for longer than your fitness levels may allow.
Is an e-bike right for me?
An e-bike is a great option if you are:
- Looking to go further on your bike rides
- Building your fitness or returning to exercise post-injury
- You live a cyclable distance to work but don’t want to arrive too sweaty
- There are lots of hills where you cycle and want some assistance
- You like gadgets!
Types of e-bike to choose from
There are three main categories for e-bikes which are as follows:
- E mountain bike
- E-road bike
The type of e-bike you choose will depend on what you are using the e-bike for. Let’s break it down a bit more.
The e-commuter is a great choice if you are using the e-bike to commute to work or cycling around town. An e-commuter comes in a few different styles such as shopper, step through and foldable.
Foldable is particularly ideal if you also travel on trains, planes or busses with your bike or if you don’t have much storage at home. Shopper style and step through bikes provide a comfortable upright ride. The comfort of this bike is perfect if you will spend lots of time in the saddle.
- E-mountain (EMTB)
An e-mountain bike is great for thrill-seekers. Whether you are a pro rider or a novice, an e-mountain is great fun! This type of e-bike will have suspension and tyres that are suitable for off-road use. Take yourself into the woods and off-road trails with an e-mountain bike, knowing that you will be able to be out all day enjoying the views and the thrills!
- E-road bike
An e-road bike is a lightweight option that is much like your regular road bike, with added power!
An e-road bike is great for steep hill climbs, fast flat roads, controlled descents and clocking up distances. You will be able to head out for the day confidently knowing that you will be able to keep up with your group of riders as well as effortlessly making it up hills.
How to find the right size e-bike
Finding the correct sized e-bike is an important part of your purchase. Once you have decided on which type will suit you, it is time to size it up.
Find yourself a measuring tape and get to work with the following measurements:
- Measure your height - Measure your exact height. This will be with shoes off and your back up against a wall.
- Measure your inseam - This is the inside of your leg.
- Do your calculations - You can then check your measurements against the e-bikes frame size to ensure that you are choosing the correct size.
If you have the wrong size frame you may experience:
- Back pain
- Knee pain
- General discomfort
How far can an e-bike go?
The size and quality of the battery will determine how far the e-bike can go on a single charge. You might expect your e-bike to be able to take you anywhere from 20 to 80 miles on one full charge.
Do keep in mind that factors such as the terrain, hills, speed, rider weight and even weather can impact how far you can go on a charge.
How can I make my e-bike battery last better?
The key to making your battery last is to charge well and ride wisely. We suggest that you use eco mode when possible, top up the battery charge when you get a chance and keep wind resistance in mind.
The lowest power setting on your bike, such as eco mode, will help you to maintain the battery power for longer.
- Charging and storing
You can charge your battery over and over again. If you use your e-bike to commute and have a power outlet at work, charge the battery back up ready for the ride home. If you are a fair-weather rider and pack up your bike for the winter, check the best percentage to store the battery at. Often this is between 30-60%, but check your bike's guidelines.
Wind resistance is something to factor in when you are working out how far you will be able to go on your e-bike. Increasing speed will require more energy output from you and the bike to overcome the wind resistance. If you are low on battery but have a way to ride until you can charge, try riding a little slower.
What are the top speeds of an e-bike?
Legally, an e-bike can only assist you up to 15.5 mph. Of course, using good old fashioned pedal power you could go as fast as your legs will take you! Using an e-bike that goes faster than 15.5 mph would class it as a moped and it would need tax and registration to be ridden legally.
E-bike batteries explained
The battery on your e-bike will likely be lithium-ion. When you have a good quality lithium-ion battery with a generous capacity it will give you a decent range as well as last a long time and be reliable.
When you choose an e-bike you will notice that the battery can be in various places on the bike. Rear rack placement is a good option for light batteries on light bikes. If you overload the bike with a rear rack battery the handling can be affected.
Frame-mounted batteries are placed on the frame of the bike. They are easy to get on and off when it is time for charging. Integrated batteries are built into the frame and can be trickier to get off, but it looks slick having it all built into the bike. Both of these options offer better handling as the extra weight is kept central.
Ideally, you want to choose the largest battery possible. A larger battery will mean that you can go further on a single charge and make use of higher power modes, for longer. If you will only be using the e-bike for short journeys, or if it is foldable, then you could go for something smaller. Folders usually have smaller batteries to keep the bike lightweight and easy to carry.
Mileage from your battery
As a rough guide, you can work out how many miles you might get from your battery by dividing the Wh capacity by 15. However, remember that weather, terrain and rider weight can all affect the range.
How to look after your battery
- If you ride in all weathers, invest in a battery cover
- Always use the correct charger for your battery
- Store at room temperature and keep out of direct sunlight
- Disconnect battery once it is fully charged
E-bike motors - crank vs rear hub drive
Now we have covered e-bike batteries, it is time to move onto the next part of the e-bike’s powerhouse - the motor. There are two types of motor on an e-bike, these are crank drives or hub drives.
Crank drives (also called mid drives) power the chain directly. You will need to ride a bike with this type of motor like you do a regular bike by shifting gears. By working with the gears, a crank drive/mid-drive is going to assist you up even the steepest of hills.
Benefits of a crank drive:
- The weight of the motor is low and central
- Easier to handle
- More space on the rear rack carrier
- Less stress on the back wheel
- Great for hill climbs
Drawbacks of crank drive:
- Not as easy to maintain top-end speed
- May wear the drive train faster as the mid-drive puts extra torque on the chain and sprockets
Hub drives are another popular option. The hub drive is placed on the centre or the hub of the rear wheel. This propels you by spinning the back wheel with no effect on the main pedal and gear system.
Benefits of hub drive motors:
- Drivetrain freedom
- Power comes from behind making you feel as though you are being pushed
- Fluid feeling for the ride
- Harder you push the harder the motor works
Cons of hub drive motors:
- Weight distribution is not as good as a crank/mid-drive
- The back wheel can be heavy making it not suitable to also load the bike too much
- Tyre pressure needs to be spot on to reduce the risk of a flat
- Back tyre harder to change
- Hub motors usually consume more battery than a mid-drive system
How to maintain your e-bike
An e-bike is an investment. They can come with a large price tag and even be paid for in installments. Naturally, you will want to take the best care of it to help it last and save money on repairs in the long run.
Here are a few top tips to help you maintain your e-bike
- Keep your chain clean and lubricated. Beware not to over lubricate the chain or you will end up with lube on the sprocket. While your chain should be lubricated, it shouldn’t be too wet, or too dry. Having a lubricated chain helps to prevent rust and acts as a cushion for the metal on metal.
- Try a disc brake silencer if your brakes are squeaking. You may also need to adjust the brake so the wheel spins freely and doesn’t drag.
- Replace brake pads when they are damaged or down to metal on metal.
- Keep your tyres properly inflated.
- Check your brakes often as the stopping power needs to match your pedal assist power!
- Find someone who repairs and maintains e-bikes and have them serviced regularly.
E-bikes are legal in the UK. However, there are some important points to remember to ensure that your ride stays legal.
- 5 mph is the top speed for pedal assist
- You can ride on cycle paths, roads and trails on an e-bike
- Rider must be 14 or older
- The bikes power doesn't exceed 250 watts
- Power above the legal 250 watts should only be used on private land where permission is granted
Outro: E-bike buyers guide
We hope you have found our e-bike buyers guide helpful. If you have further questions, drop us a message or give us a call and we can work together to find your perfect e-bike.
If you have any questions about which option to choose after reading our electric bike buying guide, send us a message where we will be able to help you further.