Buying an E-Bike: 4 Things To Consider.
For some, e-bikes are a little helping hand up those steep hills. And for others, e-bikes mean a healthy, less sweaty, commute or a more relaxing weekend ride. And well, they’re just a whole bunch of fun! Whatever the reason, the e-bike has opened up cycling to so many more people of all ages and demographics.
So, if you’re thinking of getting yourself an e-bike, then here’s our laymen’s guide to 4 things you need to consider before you part with your hard-earned cash.
With so much choice, not just of brands and models, but also different e-bike types, it can be a bit of a minefield. From road bikes, folding bikes to mountain bikes, hybrid options and more, it can be pretty overwhelming to the un-aficionado’s amongst us.
A great starting point is to get clear on where and how you want to use your e-bike. Will it be for leisure and weekend rides with the family or more seasoned routes that require a bit of grunt work up steep hills. Or is it for commuting, local shopping trips or doing the school run. The reason for how you’ll be using your e-bike is perhaps the single most important factor to finding the right one for you.
Once you’re clear then there’s 4 main categories;
- Electric Road Bikes
- Electric Mountain Bikes
- Electric Hybrid Bikes
- Folding Electric Bikes
For city riding, commuting and general everyday use, the Hybrid e-bike is the perfect choice. Built for comfort and casual riding, they’re widely available in most high-street shops with a wide range of options and prices.
And for those with limited storage space or that need to carry the bike up and down any stairs, then a folding e-bike is smaller and lighter than the hybrid option. And whilst it has a smaller cycling range [distance], it’s still a great choice for shorter commutes.
E-bikes use a version of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the same type used in electric cars, as they’re relatively light and quick to charge. There are a few different positions for the battery on an e-bike, most commonly it’s attached to the down tube where it’s easily accessible for removing to charge. In more expensive options, it’s integrated into the down tube near the bottom bracket or in the seat post, as this gives a more tidy aesthetic but comes at a price.
Battery size is measured in Watt hours [wh] and is pretty important when choosing your e-bike and the range – or rather, how far you’ll need to go. The general rule is the larger the battery capacity, the further the range but the heavier the bike. This is not great for those of you looking for an electric road bike as weight compromises speed. But for commutes, where weight is less of an issue, match your distance with the battery size to make sure your bike can get you to where you need to be, and back again, on a single charge.
The reason an e-bike is well, an e-bike, is because of the motor. This is where you’ll find many of your decisions being made about what the right type of e-bike is for you. From where the motor sits to the type of pedal-assist you’re looking for.
For motor placement, there are two types: hub-drive and mid-drive. Hub drive e-bikes have the motor in the rear hub. This is the most common motor type for hybrid bikes where casual riding and commuting are the goal. Mid-drive motors, whilst more bulky, are placed around the bottom bracket and found mostly in performance e-bikes as they provide good stability and handling and work in synergy with more complex gears.
When it comes to the type of pedal-assist you need, there are again two main types; cadence or torque. A cadence-based system gives e-assistance as soon as the pedals start to turn. This system is great for cruising along and the stop-starts of commuting. And it generally feels easier given you can be turning the pedals only very lightly and yet the motor propels you along – often at quite a pace.
The other pedal-assist option is a torque-based system. As a cadence motor starts when the pedals simply move, a torque-based system gives power based on how hard you push the pedals. Think steep hills where the force on the pedals is greater as you make the climb. This is when the torque-based e-assist kicks in making you feel like you’re doing the work but with a little helping hand. Torque-based systems are usually found in mid-drive models given they feel more like a traditional ride and are more suited to performance e-bikes.
When it comes to how much you can expect to pay for an e-bike, the simple – maybe not so simple – answer is how long is a piece of string! With the rise in demand, prices of e-bikes have been dropping year on year, with entry level hybrid bikes coming in around the £1,000 mark, all the way up to £10,000 for specialist bikes.
Budget e-bikes, whilst cheaper up-front, make compromises on the quality of some components like the frame, saddle and even the tyres. This impacts future costs for things like repairs as well as comfort. So it’s worth paying attention to things like warranties and also some of the ‘non-technical’ details, as let’s face it, you’d probably rather not be fixing your tyre by the roadside in your work gear.
For those looking for a reliable e-bike for commuting, things to look for are a flat bar style to make getting on and off easy, low-maintenance and one that’s not over-complicated. Avoid the trap of thinking bigger is better as this is, more often than not, not the case when it comes to commuter bikes and is merely more expensive rather than necessary. Instead, look for things like puncture-resistant tyres, good brakes, a comfortable saddle and whether the battery combined with the motor type can take you the distance on a single charge. Expect prices for these everyday commuter hybrid bikes to be in the region of £1,250 to £3,000.
For more specialist bikes; e-road or e-mountain, then you’ll be weighing up a whole host of variables from the power, weight, carbon frame to gears and suspension. The more specialised the e-bike, the higher the price tag which can be upwards of £3,000 - £4,000.
Our final thoughts when it comes to choosing your e-bike are to go to your local bike shop where the staff are experts and will know their way around the different models, types and brands. Plus, they can help with any technical questions or complicated jargon. You may also be able to test ride a few to get a feel for what’s going to work for you. Also, ask your employer about the cycle-to-work scheme where you can potentially make savings of 25%, and sometimes more. Definitely worth a check!
And one last final important point, especially if you’re planning to get insurance, is to make sure your e-bike adheres to the UK rules for EAPCs [Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle], as many insurers won’t provide cover if your e-bike falls outside of these guidelines.
We hope this quick guide has been useful. The rise in popularity of the e-bike means that they’ve become more and more mainstream and accessible. From leisure to commuting to specialist rides, the market for e-bikes is not only growing but offering consumers more and more choice. If ever there was a time to jump on the e-bike boom, then that time is definitely now.