Don’t know your E-Bikes from your eBay? Or perhaps you are just wondering whether an electric bike is for you? Read on and learn how to navigate through the confusing jargon and become a beacon of E-Bike knowledge!
What is an E-Bike
An E-Bike, or electric Bicycle, is a pedal-powered bicycle that is assisted by an electric motor. That is the key bit of information, the motor only assists when peddling, an E-bike is not an electric motorbike!
A typical E-Bike consists of the following parts:
- A bicycle with gears – E-bikes nearly always have gears (as opposed to single speed bikes),
- An electric motor – This can be mounted on either one of the wheels (commonly the rear wheel) or at the crank (the bit of the bike that passes through the frame and has pedals attached to it),
- A battery – This stores the bikes power and has to be charged from a normal electric outlet (There are no special charging plugs like electric cars as the power required is so much lower),
- Brake sensors – These stop the motor when you brake and are a crucial safety device,
- Speed sensor – This will be mounted on either the rear wheel or crank. The sensor feedbacks when you are peddling to the bikes computer. This then activates the bike’s motor. Some bikes use the sensor to display interesting information like current speed, fastest speed and distance travelled,
- Computer/Display – Typically mounted to the handlebar, the computer unit is used to switch the bike on and off, change power modes (on some models), control the motor and display key information such as battery charge and speed.
How Does An E-bike Work?
In the simplest terms there are three states that an E-bike can be in:
- Assisted Power – When an E-bike is switched on it will provide a boost called ‘assisted power’. Think of this like cycling with an extremely strong tailwind, every time you spin the pedals the motor provides an extra kick of power seamlessly. If you have never ridden an E-bike before the experience is really surprising, it is like cycling with Chris Hoy’s legs! The effect is extremely noticeable when going up steep hills or into a headwind, instead of being slowed by the elements you will continue to fly along!
- Charging – E-bikes can typically charge in two ways. The first is through being plugged into an electrical outlet, this is exactly the same as charging a phone! The second is through braking; more sophisticated E-bikes can ‘recover’ energy by using the motor to brake, this energy can then be used to charge the battery!
Coasting – If you aren’t pedalling or braking the bike will coast along just like a normal bike. Most bikes E-Bikes usually stop rolling quicker on flat ground but will run on further downhill, due to weighing more than a standard bike,
Extra Reading – In the UK and EU E-bikes are power limited to 250 watts and the motor cannot propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph.
Why Should I Buy an E-Bike?
The limiting factor for many potential E-Bike owners is the cost against a normal bike. But money aside there are other thoughts that occur when searching and there are many reasons why it can be a great idea to buy an E-Bike.
To Keep up with an Active Partner
This for us is one of the best reasons to buy an E-Bike, different levels in fitness or a limiting disability can make cycling with a partner or friend difficult. We have all been there, some of us on both sides of the situation, it is no fun waiting for someone on a scenic bike ride or keeping someone waiting!
E-Bikes are great at closing the ‘fitness gap’, the power assist enables a casual cyclist to keep up with a far more serious rider, especially if the terrain is rough or hills are involved. Cycling is a fantastic way to spend time with friends and family, while also helping to keep you fit and owning an E-Bike can be the difference between going on a ride or not!
To Cycle More Often or Further
When electric bikes started to hit the mainstream there was a lot of ‘hardcore’ cyclists who derided them as being a device for people who aren’t great cyclists. But, this simply isn’t true and time has proven this as more and more enthusiastic cyclists swapping to E-Bikes or adding one to their collection.
Having an E-Bike can open up so many more cycling opportunities, days that are usually too windy or hills that are too steep can now be conquered. For keen cyclists, an electric bike should be thought of as a way to get out cycling more often, rather than an easier way of cycling!
To Replace a Car (Or for Commuting)
I used to run a bike repair shop and was often questioned about buying E-Bikes, especially by commuters. I like to see E-Bikes as an alternative to a car as much as they are a new type of bike. For people commuting several miles to work cycling isn’t always possible, especially if there are no facilities to change clothes at work.
Having an E-Bike can help make short journeys easier, while still being a great form of exercise. It can also make commutes that were previously too far to cycle attainable.
The cost of E-Bikes compare to a car are also far less, E-Bikes tend to cost tens of pence per mile across their lifetime compared to pounds per mile (AA estimates the average cost of running a car is between £1.00 and £1.70 a mile).
For city dwellers, it really is possible to sell a car and use an E-Bike as your main mode of transport. Remember, you can always hire a car through-out the year when needed and still be quids in!
Do you have an E-Bike or are you thinking of buying one? We are planning on producing an E-Bike buyers guide as a follow up to this article and would love to hear about your experiences!