Electric bikes – also known as ebikes – have an electric motor and battery which assist the rider as they pedal. Other than this they are, in many ways, exactly the same as a normal bike. Having motor assistance gives those would struggle to use a push bike – for example, those recovering from injury, suffering with joint problems or asthma – the opportunity to get back out on the road.
Motor assist is there to aid and not replace the rider’s efforts, making headwinds and hills more manageable as well as making longer distances more feasible. The beauty of electric bikes is that they can be used as pedal only or pedal assist, meaning that you can adjust the level of motor assistance as needed or leave it completely switched off.
Our handy guide reviews some of the key things that you should know about ebikes so that you can better understand this exciting technology and decide which electric bike is best for your needs.
Let’s review some of the most common styles of electric bikes available:
Electric Mountain Bikes
Electric mountain bikes are the cycle of choice for trail chasers and off-grid adventures. Full suspension systems are usually the standard with this bicycle style to help cushion the body from rough roads. They also tend to offer a greater variety of gear options for a dynamic riding experience across all terrains.
Folding Electric Bikes
The preferred style for commuting due to their ability to collapse down easily, folding electric bikes are more lightweight and easier to store than other styles. Commuters can arrive at their destination having not broken much of a sweat and still feeling fresh. Most folding electric bikes are compact enough to be taken on public transport making them popular for commuters whose journey involves taking a train or bus.
Electric Hybrid Bikes
The term ‘hybrid’ is quite ambiguous and usually refers to electric bikes which are general ‘all-rounders’; that is to say, good for both urban and rural cycling, exercising and commuting. Whilst they don’t have the more advanced features that make them suitable for more challenging terrains, they are comfortable and functional, commonly with an upright seating position.
What Can eBikes Be Used For?
To know which electric bike is best for your needs, take some time to think carefully about its function. Do you want to use is as part of your fitness regime or as an alternative means of transport, replacing your car?
Hardwearing and all-terrain are the key words if you’re planning on taking your ebike down trails or on other off-road pursuits. Front or full suspension is preferable to make cycling down bumpy tracks more comfortable with tyres that are thick, durable, and puncture-proof to better handle and endure rough and rocky trails. It’s also important to have powerful and responsive brakes to ensure absolute safety at all times.
All electric bikes are great for getting in cardiovascular exercise, especially when the motor assist is used just enough to keep you going. Heavier bikes add more of a challenge to your fitness regime as they require more work when steering and pedaling, helping to strengthen your core.
If you’re considering using your electric bike for travelling to and from work, you’ll want to take into consideration the geography of your journey. Commutes which involve hills ideally want a style with enough gearing options to make tackling inclines easier.
On the other hand, if you’ll be mainly cycling on flat roads and in busy cities, a single speed drivetrain can offer simplicity for quick and easy travel. Foldable options can offer better transportability and easier storage if your journey involves public transport or you want to bring the bike into the office with you.
When leisurely rides and casual outings with the family are on the agenda, you should consider a comfortable ebike that isn’t too heavy and offers a fairly smooth ride on both paved and unpaved roads. Upright handlebars and wider, more padded saddles provide an ergonomic riding position for short distances and relaxed trips. Electric bikes suited for these kinds of rides are not appropriate for off-roading.
The positioning of the motor results in a different propulsion effect on the electric bike. Testing these different mount styles helps you to establish which feels most natural to you as you ride. UK law dictates that an electric bike can have a motor with a maximum of 250W power. The different types of motors are:
Front mounted – positioned on the front tyre, a front mounted hub motor spins the front tyre to create pulling propulsion.
Rear mounted – positioned on the back tyre, a rear mounted hub motor spins the rear tyre to create pushing propulsion.
Mid drive – positioned in the centre of the bike, a mid drive hub motor directs power to the drivetrain as opposed to the wheels
Designed to support you as you ride, the saddle on your chosen ebike should be comfy to the bike’s purpose but also work with your body and its movements.
As a general rule, hybrid electric bikes and folding electric bikes have saddles that are triangular in shape and wide at the rear, with padding and central channels for more comfort and better blood flow. Created with commuting and leisurely rides, these saddles are not as suitable for athletic riding or longer distances due to their tendency to cause chaffing over time.
Electric mtb bikes, on the other hand, come with more slender saddles with longer noses for easy position shifting, especially when it comes to tackling inclines. Also sporting cutaways to encourage increased blood flow, this style of saddle is designed for distance and endurance, particularly on trails.
When you head out on your new electric bike, you want the reassurance that your journey will be efficient, safe, and comfortable. You’ll notice that each style of ebike has its own specific tyre design and this affects how the bike performs on different terrains.
Electric mtb bikes use tyres with raised lugs and deep treads, designed to give good grip on all types of terrain and weather conditions. These lugs have low rolling resistance and also help to absorb some of the impact created by bumpy roads. Extra stability comes from a wider width tyre but this extra width can also have an impact on mud clearance.
Hybrid, city, and commuter electric bikes don’t need the deep tread of electric mountain bikes but still require tyres that can withstand the puncture hazards of roads. These tyres are also wide in width with a slick or semi-slick tread pattern, both of which contribute to comfort, grip, and speed. 700c wheels handle roads well and are therefore a popular choice for hybrid bikes.
Most electric bikes have either a step through, mountain or hybrid shape frame. Alongside male and female oriented frames – designed to accommodate the differences in arm, torso, and leg length between men and women – you can also find unisex models. It’s best to try different frame styles as it all comes down to personal choice, especially as the narrower frame of womens bikes may not be to everyone’s taste. Frames are lightweight to reduce the overall weight of the bike and allow you to travel further before needing to recharge.
Step through – also known as ‘low step’, this frame has a top tube with a lower drop to offer more comfortable mounting and dismounting. Senior riders may also find this style easier to mount.
Mountain – available with full (front and rear) suspension, hardtail (front) suspension or just rigid (no suspension), this frame is sturdier for durability across rough terrains.
Hybrid – to create a more relaxed riding style, this frame has a shorter seat tube and a taller head tube for upright positioning.
Folding – compact in design, this frame has foldable handlebars and pedals with a longer seat and head tube and low top tube to allow the bike to be collapsed down into a portable size.
Choosing the right size electric bike is important not only for your comfort out on the road but also in getting the performance from your bike. Accordingly, you’ll need to measure your height and the inside of your leg to ensure that the frame is right for your body. There should be at least a 2cm space between you and the top bar as you stand over the frame.
In addition to the usual controls that you would find on a regular bike, an electric bike comes with an electrical assistance system which consists of a battery, motor, and display unit. This system can only assist a rider up to a maximum of 25kmh (15.5mph) and will not work on its own – meaning that you need to pedal to use the motor assist.
At a very basic level your ebike display should have:
- A battery level indicator
- A speed level indicator
- A power button (to turn motor assist on and off)
Premium models take things further with more sophisticated displays which offer extra information about your ride – such as mileage – as well as additional features, e.g. six speed levels instead of three. Having access to more in-depth statistics is a common swaying factor for many people when deciding which electric bike is best for their needs.
The basic speed options work as following. As mentioned previously, some models will offer more speed options in addition to the below:
- Low – for when you don’t need much assistance or would like to get more of a workout
- Medium – for when you need a bit more support, e.g. going up hills or countering headwinds
- High – for when you want an effortless ride and to reach your destination without breaking a sweat
Lithium ion is the battery technology of choice for contemporary electric bikes. In the past, many manufacturers used lead acid batteries but these are now less common as lithium ion batteries were introduced to the market.
Lithium ion batteries have numerous advantages over sealed lead acid batteries:
- They are more lightweight – wasting less power
- They have more charge cycles – resulting in a longer lifespan
- They have deeper discharges – meaning they need charging less often
- They charge faster – so you don’t have to wait as long to get back on your bike
Battery life is determined by how the bike is ridden, the size of the motor, the size of the battery itself (voltage and amp hours), and its management system. Colder conditions cause your battery to work harder and so reduce its lifespan.
Electric mountain bike batteries are frequently positioned on the down tube whereas folding and electric hybrid bikes often store their battery packs in a pannier rack to the rear of the frame. Pro Rider Leisure electric bikes all have removable lithium ion batteries which can be unlocked from the frame and taken indoors for charging. Not only do many customers find this a much safer option, it is also faster and more convenient as you do not need to find an external charging port for their bike. Charging can vary between 2 and 8 hours depending on the battery itself.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to how far you can travel on your ebike. Range is dependent on the size of the battery, the terrain, user weight, and how you ride the bike. Pro Rider Leisure electric bikes offer up to 60km in range on a full charge.
For example, journeys with lots of inclines and hills will drain battery power a lot faster than on a flat terrain. Equally, using a high assistance mode consumes more power than an energy saving setting such as eco mode. If you are battling strong headwinds or more uneven roads, this will also use up battery life more quickly, as does a journey by a heaver rider in comparison to a lighter rider.
We always say that an electric bike is an investment, much like a car. Their electrical components make them more expensive than normal bikes so don’t expect to be able to pick up an ebike for under £200!
Although price shouldn’t wholly influence your choice, you shouldn’t purchase a cheaper model simply to save money. Equally, don’t automatically choose the most expensive option available because of its premium price tag. Take the time to review all of the things that we have discussed in this post to make sure that your bike gives you what you need for long-term use and enjoyment.
Increasingly, more people – especially those who are city-based – are using electric bikes as an alternative to a car and as a result are saving money on the associated running and maintenance costs of a motor vehicle, i.e. road tax, insurance, fuel, MOTs and services, etc.
It’s important to remember, however, that an electric bike still comes with numerous maintenance costs, including:
- Wear and tear – e.g. replacement tyres, battery
- Electricity – though it’s worth noting that this is a minimal cost, around 5 to 10 pence a charge
You need to be at least 14 years of age to legally ride an electric bike in England, Scotland, and Wales. As long as your ebike falls under the criteria of an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’ (EAPCs) you don’t require a license or need to insure, register or tax your bike. You can check if your bike qualifies as an EAPC on the official gov.uk website. Residents of Northern Ireland, however, are obligated to obtain a moped license, full rules and details of which again can be found on the gov.uk website.
It is a legal requirement for you to wear an approved motorbike helmet whilst riding your electric bike that fits correctly and is securely fastened. For your safety we also recommend wearing additional protective gear such as elbow and knee pads to shield your body in case of a fall.
The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations specifies that you must have front and rear lights and reflectors on a pedal cycle between sunset and sunrise. These should be clean and regularly maintained to ensure that they stay in good working order. Take time to view the comprehensive breakdown of the regulations – they’re for your safety as well as others.
Your ebike needs love and attention to keep it in top condition and working order. Being consistent with maintenance and doing regular checks reduces running costs and ensures that your bike lasts for many years to come.
Consistent servicing is essential for the health of your bike. Even one small component that isn’t working properly can have a significant impact on performance and negatively affect other parts. We recommend getting your ebike serviced annually and increasing the number of times that you take it in if you use your bike frequently or in aggressive environments (such as off-roading).
It’s good practice to get into the habit of regularly checking your bike for signs of wear and tear, especially as this is inevitable in the long run. A great example of this is making sure that your tyres are properly inflated; not only will this help to avoid uneven wear, it also ensures that you get as much range as possible out of your bike. Use a light lubricant on the oil chain, especially after cleaning.
Make an effort to clean your bike after every ride, either with a sponge and water or with dedicated cleaning products which have been specially designed for bikes. Avoid pressure washers as these can push water into the bike’s electric components and cause damage, not to mention washing away essential lubricants. Avoid exposing your bike to the elements when not in use, preferably storing it in a dry and safe place.
Never neglect your battery – it takes more care and attention than you think. It should be stored at room temperature and away from moisture as temperatures that are too low or high will affect its performance. Top up your battery regularly, even if you are not using your bike for a long time, and ensure that the battery isn’t left to discharge for extended periods.
So Which Electric Bike Is Best for Me?
We hope this guide has given you some useful insights into the world of electric bikes and equipped you with the knowledge to choose as well as understand the basics of using and maintaining your next ebike. If you are still struggling to come to a decision and want some knowledgeable advice, why not contact our friendly Pro Rider Leisure team? They will be happy to offer additional support and even arrange for you to visit one of our showrooms and ‘try before you buy’. You’ll discover a whole new world of adventure with an electric bike!