E Bikes are a conventional bike frame and components, with an added battery and motor to assist movement.
The bikes are not self-propelling like a scooter or motorbike though – you have to push the pedals, and the motor merely ‘assists’ you. The level of assist you get – whether it be a gentle nudge or a mighty push – can be controlled from the handlebars of the bike with a control unit. A typical motor can more than double the amount of power you’re putting through the pedals when on maximum power.
There is a limit to how much assistance you can get though! At a certain speed, the motor will cut out and you’ll be left to do the hard work yourself. The threshold at which the motor cuts out varies by country, but is typically around 35kph.
Motors are now mostly located in the crank, and it’s this crank-based motor that gives most E Bikes their characteristic chunky bottom bracket and down tube. Initial models of E Bike located the motor at the hub, but these are less common now.
Laws vary in each country, but typically a bike that requires no pedalling to create movement would be classified a motor vehicle and so licence and insurance rules also come into force.
WHAT TYPES ARE AVAILABLE?
E Bikes were initially just hybrid or commuter-type bikes. However, now that they’re becoming more popular and the technology is becoming more advanced, E-MTB and E-road bikes are becoming all the more popular, and more highly-specced models are coming to market by the day! All the big manufacturers such as Specialized, Trek, and Giant have a top-of-the-range ‘performance’ E-road and E-mountain bike.
THIS CAN VARY DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH ‘ASSIST’ YOU OPT TO USE, THE TERRAIN, THE RIDER’S WEIGHT, AND THE QUALITY (AND THUS PRICE!) OF THE BATTERY / BIKE ITSELF.
If you’re using minimal assistance from the motor, you can typically get around 150km of riding done with one charge – that’s a big day out! If you’re really revving that motor though, it will be more like 50km.
The batteries are of course re-chargeable, with a charge taking anywhere between three to six hours. There will be a charge indicator somewhere on the bike to show you how much juice you have left – so you won’t be left stranded with an empty battery!
Unfortunately, just like your phone or laptop, battery life does start to degrade over time, but it will take thousands of re-charges before it becomes noticeable. The longevity of the battery can depend on its price and quality – so remember, cheaper isn’t always better.
WHAT ABOUT WEIGHT?
As E Bikes become more advanced, they’re getting a lot lighter. Obviously, the motor adds a lot of weight that cannot magically disappear, so there is some disadvantage there. The more advanced and performance-focussed road E Bikes now weigh less than 12kg, which means if you chose to, you can still move the bike easily enough under your own steam. The more typical weight of current E-hybrid and E-mountain Bikes is around 14-18kg – which still isn’t much at all!
DO I GET A GOOD WORKOUT?
You can get just as much of a workout as you want! Don’t forget, you can turn the motor off altogether if you want – meaning you have to propel the bike entirely unassisted. And now that E Bikes with a performance geometry and spec are becoming available, you can go out and do your interval sessions on them if you wish!
ARE THEY MORE EXPENSIVE THAN A REGULAR BIKE?
At present, E Bikes are a little more expensive. This is a result of the added technology and components. However, it’s not an excessive addition on cost – around 10-20% more than the traditional alternative.
It’s certainly not enough to make them prohibitive, and the amount of fun you can have on one definitely makes it worth it!
E BIKES REALLY ARE FOR EVERYONE! THEY’RE A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF FUN TO RIDE, WITH THE SPEED ASSIST GIVING YOU AN AWESOME ENDORPHIN HIT. THEY FEEL JUST LIKE A BIKE, ONLY SPEEDIER!.
If you’re new to cycling and worried about your fitness, they’re a great way to get into the activity and enjoy the open air for prolonged periods even if you’re a bit out of shape.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re fit as a fiddle and ride your bike for performance, an E Bike makes a great commuter or shopper bike – for when you want to just get around town without getting hot and bothered!
And for all of us, E Bikes make a great alternative to a second car. If you were considering buying a small car to get your groceries or get to work, why not save a load of cash, do your bit for the environment, and get in the saddle.