As e-bikes become ever more popular, people are becoming familiar with the basics (e.g. battery power = range and motor power = oompf). Here are some aspects of choosing an e-bike that are often forgotten about but make a big difference to the performance of the bike. Here, we discuss differences such as battery and motor position, gearing and brakes.
On modern e-bikes, you have 3 different positions that the motor can go – Front hub, rear hub and centre driven. The pro’s of each will be discussed below.
Front driven hubs are relatively inexpensive and give you a good amount of power up hills. Good for tarmac rides on a budget and the initial acceleration is good to get you away from lights.
Rear hub driven motors are also relatively inexpensive and give good acceleration and are more for flat tarmac rides as there is a lot of weight further back on the bike.
Most e-bikes over a certain price come with a centre driven motor as this provides the most natural feel, a better balanced bike (weight towards the centre of the bike) and a more reliable system.
Often overlooked is what effect the battery position has on the bike. The main positions are: above the rear wheel, on the bike’s downtube or integrated into the bike’s downtube.
Commonly found on lower budget e-bikes as the main body of the frame doesn’t need to be reinforced to facilitate the battery. The weight distribution on these bikes is further back and higher.
On the downtube
Similar to a centre driven motor, the downtube mounted battery moves the weight to the centre and makes for a more balanced bike which is noticeable when cornering and/or travelling uphill.
Aside from being more balanced due to the centre of gravity, an integrated battery moves the weight lower on the bike to aid handling and climbing and a lot of people prefer the looks of an interated battery. Most integrated batteries can still be removed from the frame for charging indoors.
The choice of gearing comes into two broad categories – internal gears or external (derailleur) gearing. Both give different benefits.
As all of the gears are internal, there is a lot less maintenance or replacement parts required over the life of the bicycle. Because this is a more complex rear wheel, it can be a little more tricky to remove the rear wheel of the bicycle.
These are the gears that more people are used to, external gears (or derailleur gears) provide a wide range of gears and it is simpler to remove the rear wheel in case of punctures. The thing to watch out for involves the extra torque going through the cassette and chain. Because of this, chains and cassettes can wear out faster if you shift gears under load.
On most e-bikes you will have the choice between classic rim brakes or disc brakes (hydraulic or mechanical).
Usually found on less expensive e-bikes and will provide good stopping power on dry days and flat routes
Mechanical disc brakes
Disc brakes controlled by cable which give better stopping power than rim brakes particularly in wet conditions. As these are controlled by cable and not hydraulics, they can be a bit more effort to pull
Hydraulic disc brakes
Offering the best stopping power in all conditions and very little effort to pull. As most modern e-bikes are in the region of 25kg, it is definitely worth considering hydraulic disc brakes.