Many new and old cyclists are wondering whether they should make the switch over to an electric bike, or E-bike as they are commonly called. What is an E-bike? And, are there some benefits, or negatives for making the switch? We’ll cover everything you need to know about E-bikes in this post.
If you are wanting to ditch the car on your commute to work, or need a helping hand reaching the top of MTB trails, an electric bike can offer the rider many benefits that you can’t get with a regular bike. There are many uses for that extra-power you can get from simply engaging the motor assist.
Similar to electric cars, E-bike technology has improved drastically over recent years. Not only are the batteries lasting far longer, but E-bikes have been adapted to fit almost any kind of bike. You can find E-bike MTBs, E-hybrids, E-gravel bikes and E-road bikes.
What is an electric bike?
Electric bikes include built in motors and batteries which provide the rider with assistance whilst pedalling. The motor gets its power from a rechargeable battery that is mounted on the bike.
For a bike to be classified as an E-bike, the motor has to assist you whilst pedalling, rather than propel you completely on its own.
How much assistance/power you get from the motor is regulated depending on how hard you are pedalling. Most E-bikes will offer a range of settings that allow you to balance the amount of assistance you are getting, which helps you balance your range and battery life.
In the UK E-bikes are limited via assistance to 15.5mph, and 250W of power. If a bike meets the EAPC requirements it’s classed as a normal pedal bike. This means you can ride it on cycle paths and anywhere else pedal bikes are allowed.
You can travel faster than 15.5mph on the bike, but only through your own effort. Once you reach that speed the electric motor will stop assisting the bike.
For an E-bike to be classified as an EAPC (Electric Assisted Pedal Cycles) via the department of transport in the UK, it must have pedals that can be used to propel it, and…
It must show either:
- the power output
- the manufacturer of the motor
It must also show either:
- the battery’s voltage
- the maximum speed of the bike
Its electric motor:
- must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
- should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle).
How does an E-bike work?
Electric bikes will have a tor mounted either centrally, referred to as a mid-drive motor, or on the front or rear hub.
Hub based motors power the wheel and turn it directly, whereas a centrally mounted motor works through the gears and cranks.
When you place pressure on the pedals, a sensor measures how much effort you are putting into the bike. The motor won’t completely take over powering the bike, instead it will deliver consistent power to the crank or wheels to make riding easier.
The motor is supplied with power from the battery which is usually mounted on the outside of the frame. The batteries are usually plugged in and charged via your household mains. You may have to store the bike next to an electrical outlet.
The bike motor is operated via a controller which is usually mounted onto the handlebars. The control lets you decide on the level of assistance you require whilst riding, and lets you keep a close eye on the battery level. Higher end models might also include a screen with navigation and other functions.
Depending on the type of E-bike you purchase, it may include a specialised motor. Almost all motors are designed to be lightweight. This is because E-bikes are generally much heavier than standard bikes due to the extra components and batteries. But, if you are road cycling, a motor that delivers a smooth power delivery over longer periods of time is favourable. Whereas if you are mountain biking, a motor with high torque and power output is better for helping you climb steep inclines.
How much do the motor and battery weigh?
The weight of the battery and motor will differ depending on the type of E-bike and brand you buy. One thing is certain – that your E-bike is going to feel much heavier than a regular bike, due to the additional components.
The lightest E-bikes come in at less than 4kg, and are usually only on E-road bikes. But, a typical weight is around 6-8kg additional.
The higher your budget, the lighter the system will be, largely due to better batteries and a lighter material construction. But, electric bikes that require more power e.g. mountain bikes, will usually weigh a little more due to needing a bigger battery and more powerful motor.
This extra weight needs to be taken into consideration whilst purchasing an E-bike. Especially, if you need to carry your bike a lot.
You would think the extra-weight negatively impacts riding experience. However, on a high quality E–bike, the power from the motor far outweighs the benefits of having a lighter bike. Unless you run out of battery of course.
Is riding an E-bike easy?
Riding an E-bike is simple, and easy. In fact, it’s probably easier than riding a normal bike for some people due to the power assistance.
You simply switch on the motor, select your level of assistance using the controller, and then pedal.
The power from the motor will make the initial acceleration much easier, and help you keep up to speed, especially whilst riding up hills.
The main noticeable difference between an electric bike, and a non-motorised version is how sluggish it will feel whilst turning around corners. The extra-weight will feel a lot initially, but all riders get used to how it rides quickly.
What range will an electric bike have?
The range of your electric bike will be dependent on the capacity of the battery. They typically offer the rider between 20-100 miles of power, but this is determined by the level of assistance needed, speed, and the terrain you are travelling over. Batteries can quickly get expensive, and higher-end models with more capacity will always cost more.
The control system on the handlebars of an E-bike will let you know your battery level, and some models will even provide an estimated range which will help you regulate the battery on longer rides.
Fully recharging the batteries via household mains can take anywhere between 3-9 hours. Therefore it is important that you have an electrical outlet where you will store the bike.
Unless the battery is removable and can be charged up away from the bike.
What are the different types of electric bike?
There are a few different forms of E-bike that you can buy, and your decision will be made by how, and where you intend to ride the bike.
E-hybrid bikes are a good all-rounder. They have thicker tyres than a road bike, and are easy to ride, although they won’t be the lightest option. They are great for commuting, shopping and heading out on leisure rides.
Electric mountain bikes are typically only good for MTB riding. They have large motors and batteries which help you generate a lot of torque whilst riding up steep inclines in wet and muddy terrain. Electric MTB bikes serve the purpose of getting you to the tops of those trails ready for the downhill ride which will be unassisted.
Learn more about road cycling vs MTB.
Electric road bikes are probably the more modern of the E-bikes. They look like a road bike, have drop handlebars and try to conserve weight to provide a better riding experience. They are the lightest option of the E-bikes.
Another type of electric bike is the E-gravel bike. These provide you with versatility to ride in a range of terrains. They also try to keep a lightweight set-up, but with thicker tyres and a high-torque motor which helps to blend on-road and off-road riding.
Folding electric bikes are quite popular amongst commuters. The compact design once folded helps you store the bike inside, in your office and on public transport.
Even though the E-bike market is still relatively in its infancy, there is a wide range of options to suit almost any type of cyclist.