The electric bicycle market is changing rapidly. Only a few years ago most people wouldn’t have considered buying an electric bike. However with changes in ideas and the environmental benefits of buying an electric bike making sense. There is now a strong argument for owning one.
Why Buy an Electric Bike?
It’s not uncommon to hear people say it’s cheating or it makes you lazy. In reality, it’s the opposite. Many electric bike owners will ride their bike much more often than they would have without a motor. This is because some of the barriers to riding are removed when you have an electric bike. You can go further and ride harder routes than previously possible. A recent study showed 81% of e-bikers, ride at least once a week which is much higher than on a standard bike. There are therefore a lot of benefits of buying an electric bike.
Here a list of benefits of buying an electric bike:
- Hills become much more pleasant to ride up. How many times have you avoided a certain hill or decided not to head in a particular direction because of what lies ahead?
- Commuting becomes a viable option as you can travel much further distances without getting too fatigued or arriving hot and sweaty.
- Carrying additional weight becomes much less of a problem such as with full panniers or a child seat.
- It’s significantly cheaper than driving a car or taking public transport and depending on the route it might be quicker.
- It’s a great way to increase your fitness and ease yourself into cycling and make it more accessible.
- Electric bikes are good for the environment because they have a much lower carbon footprint compared to other vehicle types.
- You can get to places that would have been hard to reach without strenuous effort.
- Electric bikes give the elderly and people recovering from illness or lack of fitness the chance to ride again without getting too tired.
- Fit riders will also benefit significantly as their effort will be enhanced and allow very hard rides to be completed at faster speeds. Very steep climbs most riders wouldn’t have thought possible can now be ridden and it can be done all over again afterwards.
- Electric bikes encourage you to explore.
How Do Electric Bikes Work
So how does an electric bike work? As luck would have it riding an e bike is very similar to riding a standard bike. When you start to pedal the motor kicks in and provides additional assistance at the chosen power level. Most bikes have 4-5 power levels. With power levels ranging from 50-820% assistance depending on the equipped motor. It is also possible to ride the bikes with the power level set to off. One of the other benefits of buying an electric bike is that if you want to work harder you can turn the power down.
Electric Bike Motors
Electric bikes tend to have 2 main motor types. Crank driven or hub drive. Generally, crank driven or mid-drive motors are regarded as the best type of motors as they give the bike better balance and tend to be smoother and more efficient than hub motors which tend to deliver the power quite forcefully.
The most popular motors are crank driven which are for people who want a more refined ride and intend to use the bike regularly for longer distances. The newton meters (Nm) of torque outputted by the motor is the best way to work out the power rather than the wattage. Typically in the range of 40-120Nm. All legal motors operate at a max wattage of 250W so using the motor wattage when considering performance isn’t really relevant as two 250W motors can deliver completely different amounts of torque.
When looking for a suitable bike consideration should be given to the terrain likely to be ridden and the distance it is likely to be used for. If it’s mostly flat or rolling a bike with 40-60 Nm would be ideal. However, for hillier routes, a bike with 60Nm and above may be more suitable. For example, the Bosch CX performance motor has a very punchy 75Nm.
Electric Bike Batteries
Charging the batteries can normally be done on or off the bike and takes around 3-6 hours from completely empty. This depends on the battery size and charger supplied. Charging speed will be determined by the amperage of the supplied charger. A charger of 4A will charge a battery twice as fast as a 2A.
Quality batteries as seen on Bosch or Shimano systems will usually allow for 500-1000 full charges before the storage capacity levels start to tail off. This is plenty for most people, meaning the average user could get 8-10 years or more from the original battery without seeing much of a drop in performance. Typically batteries are in the range of 300-700 Watt-hours (Wh).
Its very important that if you run the battery flat that its recharged as soon as possible. If your battery is left flat for an extended period it might not recharge again.
Its also important to make sure your battery has 50 – 75% charge if its going to put on long term storage such as during winter. The battery will drain slightly on storage so it may be necessary to top it up during the storage period.
Some of the latest bikes available now have the option to run a 2nd battery which can be fixed to the frame. This means the total battery size can be increased to over 1000Wh, which is plenty even for a big day in the mountains. A nice option for those who suffer from range anxiety.
Electric Bike Range
The range depends on many factors. Size of the battery, overall system weight, the power level being used, terrain, weather conditions, temperature, pedaling cadence, tyres etc. In practice on a route with some hills and a 500Wh battery, a range of 60-100 miles is quite possible.
Electric Bikes UK Law (are electric bikes legal in the uk?)
Here are the laws for electric bikes. Electric bikes are limited to an assisted max speed of 15.5mph in the UK although this may increase in the future. To comply with the law the motor must not have more than 250W of continuous motor output. Pedals must be in use when assistance is being given. From 2015 electric bikes with throttle functions must not assist beyond 3.7mph. Any bikes falling outside these specifications would need to be registered, taxed and requires a license.
So if you have seen an electric bike with 1000 watt is going to be illegal in the UK.
How Much Do Electric Bikes Cost
Electric bike prices can vary hugely, a quick search on the internet will find many electric bikes for sale in the UK. Cheap electric bikes can be found from £400 to high-end electric bikes over £10000.
How much you need to spend should be based on what you need from the bike. The old phrase that you get what you pay for very much applies to e-bikes. For a hub driven bike £800 – £1300 is a reasonable target price. For a crank driven hybrid or hard-tail mountain bike £1600 – £2500 gets a very good bike. Capable off-road full suspension e-bikes with a good spec go for around £3000 upwards depending on the specification.
We would strongly recommend against cheap electric bikes for sale that can be purchased on ebay or amazon. The main reasons for this are that electric bikes on ebay or Amazon will likely be from an online only seller who can’t provide any backup or even spare parts. The batteries on these cheaper bikes are unlikely to be branded and the source unknown. It’s very unlikely anyone local to where you live will be able to source a replacement rendering the bike unusable should it fail. There are of course some very reputable sellers on these market places. So it best to do some research to make sure they can back you up if needed.
If you can’t justify paying for an electric bike in one go, it would be worth checking with your company to see if they operate a cycle scheme. Most bike shops can help with finance for electric bikes to help spread the cost.
Where should I get my Electric Bike From
As mentioned in the last section we don’t recommend buying a bike from an online only seller. In fact we don’t recommend buying online at all unless you can get support locally.
If there is a problem with your bike such as an issue with the motor or battery, it will need to be taken to the original supplier to be fixed. This could mean a long drive there and back as trying to post a large heavy e-bike can be quite difficult.
If you purchased from a local shop, it’s quite likely they can fix any issues in a few days. Usually, any warranty work is fixed at no cost. Any savings that may have been made by buying online will be quickly wiped out if an issue arises.
Its also a lot more convenient to take it back somewhere locally and you get the bonus of supporting your local bike shop who will end up putting a lot back into the area in local taxes and spending from employees. So when buying an e-bike we suggest buying from your local specialist dealer.
Which Electric Bikes are Best
The best electric bike for you is going to depend on what you want the bike to do and how much you are prepared to spend. Do you need a men’s or ladies electric bike. How far will you usually ride, what terrain will you be riding on, how aggressively do you ride? These are sort of question a good bike shop will ask you to help find the right bike for you
This article here goes into more details on the types of motors available and the different styles of bike available.
Here’s an article on electric hybrid bikes
Electric Bike Maintenance
Electric bikes need maintenance like any bike. The same guidance applies that we give for any bike. Have a look at our guide here for cleaning your bike. We also recommend your bike gets a full strip down service at least every 6 to 12 months depending on usage. We offer a low cost care plan instore for electric bikes which includes firmware updates. Firmware updates are periodically released by the manufactures and can bring new features and updates to improve the operation of the bike.
What are the Downsides of Owning an Electric Bike
Electric bikes are awesome, but there are a few things worth considering that could affect you.
- E-bikes are heavier than traditional bikes. If you need to lift it you might need help.
- E-Bikes cost more to buy than an equivalent standard bike.
- Your friends with normal bikes won’t be able to keep up with you on hills.
- Transporting an E-bike requires a bit more thought, it’s not a good idea to put on the roof rack due to the weight. So you may need to consider a tow bar rack if you can’t fit it in the boot.
- You have a limited range before the battery runs out. So you need to consider how far you are going to go.
- If the motor or battery has a fault you won’t be able to fix it yourself and will need to take it to a service center.
Electric bikes are here to stay and the technology has now caught up with consumers expectations of how an electric bike should perform. The benefits of an electric bike far outweighs the negatives. We expect to see a shift towards this type of bike. These bikes provide environmental benefits over other forms of transport and allow an individual to explore an area that might otherwise be inaccessible. This can give a fantastic feeling of liberation in the process.
So we hope that gives you some thought on the benefits of buying an electric bike. If you would like to find out more and try one out call into our shop.
Here’s a link to some of the electric bikes we have available to view in our Derby bike shop.