There are more and more electric bikes appearing on our roads which is amazing for health and the environment but starting to look for your first ebike can be a bit of a minefield. Here, we breakdown all things ebike to help make your buying decision easier.
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What type of bike do I need?
We would usually start conversations with customers by asking “what are you planning to use the bike for?” as this will narrow down the style of bike that would be best suited to you. Our Bike Type Ultimate Guide will give a general guide to the different bikes for different purposes and once style is decided, we look for the equivalent with battery and motor. Listed below are a number of ebike specific options and the trade offs to those specific styles/types.
Ebikes that weigh between 15 and 19kg are available in certain styles but the trade-off is either motor power, battery size or price. Step-through bikes are not generally found in a lightweight version.
With the choices of either hardtail or full-sus (guide to Hardtails and Full-sus) and bikes that are suited for full-on downhill or cross country. Ebike specific questions here would be motor powers, battery sizes and whether you want lightweight at the expense of motor power.
Commuter/Leisure A.K.A Hybrid Ebike
When deciding on a commuter ebike, the main factors in deciding are weight, style (e.g step-through dutch style) and price.
We have mentioned the step through options and a lot of the dutch style (upright sitting position) bikes have adjustable handlebars to dial in the comfort. Front and seat suspension options are also available to tame those bumps.
What Motor Do I need?
When deciding on which motor would be best, the main considerations are; where is the motor located and how powerful is the motor.
There are three locations a motor can be on an ebike; In the front hub, In the rear hub or in the centre. Here are the benefits of each.
Front hub – These will generally be found on the less expensive e bikes or Brompton e-bikes and are good for city riding and commuting as you will get good acceleration away from lights. Where these will not work as well is if you are on any loose surfaces such as gravel paths as the torque is through the front wheel and requires good traction in order to be efficient. These motors are not as powerful as the centre driven motors so if you want max assistance uphill then we would have to discuss different options.
Rear hub – Again, found on the less expensive models and similar in usage to the front hub motors but the weight is towards the rear of the bike. Good city/commuter bikes but not as powerful on the hills
Centre driven – A bit more expensive (but not that much) than the hub motors but you will have a more powerful motor for plenty of assistance on the hills and a more balanced feel as the weight is in the centre and is lower. Centre motors have a more natural handling due to the centre of gravity and that power comes from the cranks when you pedal. If you are cycling on gravel or off-road, a centre driven motor is a must.
Motor power is measured in Newton Metres (Nm) and the higher the number, the more powerful the motor. You would need a more powerful motor if you would like to expend less effort on hills or if you are transporting more weight uphill which is why you see more powerful motors on cargo bikes and bikes designed for heavier riders. If you are not planning on cycling hills then you can go for a less powerful motor but be aware that if you get to a decent hill, you will have to use more effort to get up it.
What battery do I need?
A couple of considerations with an electric bike battery – Where it is located on the frame and the size of the battery.
The position of the battery on an ebike can be over the rear rack, mounted centrally on the frame or integrated into the frame.
Rear rack mounted
On less expensive bikes
Higher and more rearward centre of gravity
Less manoeuvrable and better suited to slower speed cycling
Frame mounted battery
Lower and more central centre of gravity
More manoeuvrable and more natural cornering and climbing
Centre of gravity lower and more central
The most natural feeling ebikes.
A lot of people also prefer the aesthetics of these bikes as they look less “ebikey”.
Batteries are measured in Watt-Hours (wH) and simply, the bigger this number, the further the range of the bike. This will be based on how far you require the bike to go on a single charge. The general rule is - 100wH equates to approximately 10 miles (16km) of range. Something we will usually talk to our customers about is the lifetime of the batteries also – batteries will naturally degrade over time regardless of how well they are looked after and it is usually worth going for a bigger battery as you will have a bigger range for longer.
The two broad choices of gearing on an ebike are either internal hub gears or external, derailleur gearing and each has their pros and cons. The distinction here is required as an ebike will have a lot more torque going through the rear wheel through a combination of your legs and the motor – it is because of this that the gearing choice is more of a consideration than on non-ebikes.
On an internal geared bike, the gear mechanisms are fully enclosed so there the chain or belt stay on a single plain. This leads to quite a significant reduction on maintenance as there are no chains and cassettes to replace or look after. The downside of any internal geared bike is that the rear wheel becomes quite fiddly to remove if you have a rear puncture when you are out and about.
This is the gearing that most cyclists are used to but as mentioned above, with external gears you need to avoid shifting gear under load as you will wear through chains and cassettes extremely quickly. On the pro side, it is easier to remove the rear wheel to change a puncture.
Quite a chunk of reading here but hopefully that has helped answer some questions and narrowed down your options. We are always happy to talk you through any queries or to help narrow down the best bikes for you in store or over the phone.