What exactly is an electric bike?
An e-bike incorporates an electric motor to a traditional bicycle frame to deliver power-assisted pedalling. They’re designed to help the travel further and faster with less effort, providing the extra little bit of oomph you need to top out on steep climbs or helping you keep pace with fitter riders. Unlike on a moped, there’s no throttle but you are able to choose from varying assist levels on most models.
So why should I get one?
1. Electric bikes are especially useful in hilly areas. They’ll help you transport heavy loads over long distances with relative ease, which for some people can eliminate the need for a car.
2. They’ll deliver you to the office smelling fresh. And your colleagues will thank you.
3. E-bike owners ride more. Fact. A recent report by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that regular bikes are ridden fewer than 25 times a year, with 46% being used only one or two times a year. In comparison, nearly a third of E-bikes are used at least once a day and 81% of owners use them at least once a week.
4. The average e-bike costs the user 5p-8p a mile. Compare this to around 40p for the average car and it’s not hard to see why so many people are swapping their traditional bike for a power-assisted model.
5. They’re fun! So fun.
But I still need to pedal, right?
You do. The motor is there to give you a helping hand – it won’t do all the work for you.
Do I need a license to ride an electric bike?
How fast will an electric bike go?
By law, all e-bikes are limited to an assisted speed of 15.5mph. Pedal faster than this and you’ll be moving without any help from the motor.
What if my electric bike gets wet?
The electrics on most e-bikes are completely sealed. So short of being fully immersed in water, the average pedelec can handle the worst of what the weather has to throw at them.
For a long time electric bikes were typically urban, ride-about-town bikes - but thanks to advances in battery and motor technology, high-performance road and mountain e-bikes are now readily available.
Rumour has it that Lance Armstrong rode an electric road bike to victory in the Tour de France no fewer than seven times - so although not 100% ethical in a race situation, they will give you the edge over the rest of the field. Or help you keep pace with that speedy friend for who can’t seem to tell the difference between a relaxed Sunday ride and a time trial event.
The size and quality of the battery will determine how far an e-bike will travel on a single charge, so It’s important to be able to interpret the ratings.
E-MTBs typically feature a large capacity 500wh battery, giving you a range of approximately 25 miles on full assist mode. | Photo: Giant bikes
E-bike motors come mounted on either the wheel hub or the crank drive. And although crank drive motors are widely recognised as the superior of the two, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
The advantages of a hub motor are:
- Relatively simple in design, so require little in the way of maintenance.
- Should they require maintenance, they are easily accessible.
- Cheaper than crank drive motors and more than capable on flat terrain.
The disadvantages of a hub motor are:
- Can only deliver full power at one speed, so tend to struggle on steep terrain.
- Draw a high load at low speeds, which flattens the battery more quickly. To travel efficiently you must maintain a constant speed.
An LCD screen lets you know exactly how much juice you have left in the tank. | Photo: Ridgeback