The Ultimate Guide to Buying an Electric Bike
Electric bikes are the future green transport of the towns in the UK. While electric cars are slowly being adopted the upfront cost of purchase and charging point installation are barriers to them becoming the vehicle of choice for families for at least the next 10 years. Meanwhile, for individuals, there is an electric form of transportation which costs a lot less to buy and run and needs no specialist charging equipment or point in a garage or outdoors. This fantastic form of green transport, the ebike, can take many forms, with electric bicycles available to meet most people’s needs. Whether you need an electric bike which can get you up and down mountains, one that folds up and fits in your car boot, one that will help you feel safe riding the streets in the dark hours, or an all-rounder which is comfortable on the roads, hills and trials…there’s an electric bike for you!
So how can you go about deciding which electric buy to buy?
At Ebikeclass we try and provide as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision and pick the best electric bike for you.
This Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide covers the following:
- Types of Electric Bike
- What you need to know about Electric Bike Batteries
- Electric Bike Servicing
- Electric Bike Components
- Electric Bike Accessories
- How to set your Electric Bike Budget
- Where to Buy an Electric Bike
Types of Electric Bike
As already mentioned there is an electric bike for everyone. The first thing to consider is whether you want to pedal or not. Because of UK law, the large majority of electric bikes available in the UK have to be pedalled, effectively the motor is assisting you in your efforts to pedal to drive the bike forward. Also available are throttle-driven ebikes which don’t require any pedalling, you just twist the throttle as you would on a motorcycle, or push the throttle with your thumb on other variants, and the ebike motor propels the bike forward.
Officially a roadworthy electric bike in the UK has to go through stringent testing to be throttle-only. The cost and timescale of such tests and the fact that very few electric bikes are manufactured in the UK mean few are available. Many that are advertised as throttle driven may not be UK road legal, and the small print May state that they can only be used off-road. It is the legal obligation of the manufacturer or distributor to inform you of this, you can decide for yourself if you would like to ride it on the road or not. However, if the motor assists you above 15.5mph you are then in the realm of requiring insurance for the vehicle, paying road tax, and registering it with the DVLA.
You might be feeling a bit worried now, will your electric bike get you into trouble? Thankfully the large majority of electric bikes in the UK marketplace are limited to 15.5mph motor assistance and are road legal requiring you pedal power as well as the motor. It’s only really if you decide to choose a throttle-only ebike where you will need to dig a bit deeper into the specification.
We now come to the different types of electric bike:
- Electric Mountain Bikes
- Pure Electric Bikes
- Electric Commuter Bikes
- Hybrid Electric Bikes
- Ladies Ebikes
- Fat Electric Bikes
- Folding Electric Bikes
- Electric Mopeds
There are some other unusual ones out there too like electric tricycles, tandem ebikes, and electric delivery bikes, which are very specialist, and if you’re looking to buy one of these you probably won’t have much choice, but do a quick search engine sweep and you should find one available.
So let’s take a look at the main types of electric bike so you can decide which one is for you.
Whether you’re someone who would love to hit the mountain trails but doesn’t have the fitness levels, or someone who wants a bit more fun and speed on top of your current mountain biking, there are some top quality electric MTBs on the market which will deliver agility, stability, speed, and relative comfort.
Utilising best in industry components, brands like Trek and Haibike have created mountain bikes turbocharged with powerful batteries and motors. With such mountain bikes you don’t have to compromise on quality, but you will have to accept that your ebike will be a few kilos heavier than a non-electric mountain bike. However, the extra power delivered by the motor should more than compensate for the extra weight, and allow you to get up hills faster, and even take on trials you would previously had avoided. Because the motor is assisting your pedalling, and you can also change gears as you usually would, effectively you can accelerate faster, and for longer with less effort.
Another good reason for choosing an electric mountain bike, is that even if you don’t want the assistance while on the trail, the motor will help you on your journey to and from the trail, leaving you with the energy you want for the mountain riding rather than the road ride to and from the start and finish of the trail.
The Ebikeclass 2017 Best Electric Mountain Bike Award was given to the Trek Powerfly 9 with its class-leading looks, components and abilities. But if your budget doesn’t stretch to the £5,250 required to purchase one of these, we also picked out two other inspiring eMTB’s, the Haibike Xduro Full Seven and Zephyr E-lite. Spending as little as £1,000 will buy you an electric mountain bike with good abilities as a stand-alone mountain bike, with the added bonus of the motor assistance when required.
When you review the specification of many electric mountain bikes you will notice many have a larger battery capacity – often 48v rather than the standard 36v and therefore a longer mileage ability. What you need to consider though is how you will use the battery capacity. On a flat road coasting at the maximum 15.5mph assisted by the lowest motor setting you may well achieve 80 miles from your battery, but on a mountain trail using the highest motor setting to climb steep hills you could use your battery up in 30miles. Of course, you’d be doing well to drain a full battery in one day in either circumstance, but if you plan for a few days of cycling in a row and are camping with no electricity hook up each night you may need to carry a spare battery in your backpack.
While most electric bikes are standard bikes with the rear hub swapped for a motor, and a battery attached somewhere to provide the power, some manufacturers went back to the drawing board and designed a bike with electric in mind. These “pure” electric bikes often have rubber or drive belt chain and derailleur mechanisms and lack gears. The electric wires are often more concealed, and the battery itself may well be hidden within the frame or elsewhere.
The pros of this are that these pure ebikes are often better looking, and are lighter in weight. However, they often lack the abilities of other electric bikes, because without gears and no chain they are harder to ride without electric assistance. The Gtech Ebike, for example, is one of the best British pure ebikes available and is considerably lighter than most other ebikes, but because it has been stripped down the battery capacity is limited to 30 miles maximum. This may be fine for most journeys but add in a few steep hills and the rider may have some difficulties or run out of battery assistance later in the journey.
In the coming years, we will likely see further development of pure ebikes, particularly as electric bikes become more popular and technology innovation led companies like Gtech invest in development. Until then pure ebikes aren’t usually the best choice, you can often get better electric bikes for your money in one of the other categories.
Commuters are one of the main beneficiaries of the electric bike revolution, with ebikes now offering a viable alternative to public transport, and shorter car journeys. Realistically if your commute to work is less than 10 miles you could easily swap your other form of wheels for an electric bike. The benefits are that you are getting some exercise, you’re saving money, and you’re playing some part in having less impact on the environment.
With the costs of owning and running a car around 40 pence per mile, electric bikes provide a much cheaper alternative at approximately 5 pence per mile.
You may be concerned about the weather and yes that will take some adapting during the wetter months of the year (which is most months nowadays), but with the right waterproof overalls, you can arrive at work dry and relatively fresh to start your daily grind.
In major city centres, particularly London, you may be able to complete your journey faster on the seat of an ebike as opposed to the bus or your own car. For starters, you can cycle right up to the front door of your office, no finding a car parking space or walking from the nearest bus stop, and also you can stick to the cycle paths (yes you are allowed to use your electric bike on cycle paths) and avoid the traffic jams and many main roundabouts and traffic light junctions.
You could use any electric bike for your commuter journey, but depending on certain factors there are some ebikes that may be better than others for you.
If you journey to work includes some rougher terrain, like a mud or gravel path, or plenty of hills you may be wise to opt for an electric mountain bike or a hybrid bike.
Alternatively, if you’re short of storage space in your flat or an element of your journey will also be on public transport you could opt for a folding electric bike. They take up less space than a standard bike, have smaller wheels and often folding pedals so the overall space is much smaller and the bike easier to carry and lift.
For those who intend to commute year-round, and will be travelling during the darker mornings and evenings of the winter months it may be wise to opt for an electric moped. They have fuller light systems, wing mirrors and a wide leg panel to protect better against rain. Other advantages are that they often have storage space under the seat, or an attached storage box on the rear, and they have full stands so you can park them alongside motorcycles and mopeds in designated parking spaces. But because they have no registration plate you don’t need to pay parking fees like anyone else. They can be used on cycle paths like other electric bikes and aren’t eligible to pay any congestion charges.
Remember as well that you can also replace other journeys with your ebike, how about trips to the gym, a quick visit to the local shop, or to see your family?
The Winner of our 2017 Electric Commuter Bike Award was the All Seasons Emoto 48v electric moped, pictured above.
Hybrid bicycles were invented to bridge the gap between road bikes and mountain bikes. Often people can only afford to buy one bike, so better to buy one that you can use on the road, on gravel paths, and the occasional diversion off-road.
Many electric bikes are designed as hybrid bikes with medium width and depth tyres, handlebars bending toward the rider for a more upright riding position, no suspension for higher speeds on roads, some accessories such as a pannier for storage, lights and mudguards. These all-rounder ebikes are ideal for occasional cyclists who want just one electric bike to cover all eventualities. They often have some gears too, and an option to leave the motor off so can be used as regular bicycles if required.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this juncture that there are very few electric road racing bikes on the market. For obvious reasons, riding a road racing bike is for exercise and endurance purposes, so an electric bike would be seen as a bit of a cheat! Also ebikes are limited to 15.5mph in the UK, which is mid speed on a racing bike, so if you did want motor assistance you would probably want that at high speeds to increase overall speed, or at lower speeds to get up to a high speed quicker. However, racer bikes are in fashion particularly retro ones, and there are some retro style racing bikes available on the market such as the Milano Vintage displayed below.
There are plenty of gender-neutral electric bikes on the market, but because women are on average shorter than men, and would prefer a step-through crossbar configuration, there are also plenty of women’s ebikes available to buy.
Some of these are overtly feminine in styling, using pastel colours, and having baskets, high sprung leather seats and oversized wheels. These are designed for upright cycling at lower speeds and are more appropriate for leisure riding and perhaps shopping. They often lack fork suspension and gears. However, if you want to keep up with children on their bikes or a male rider on another electric bike you may struggle. Of course, the electric motor will assist with speed and acceleration but will still lag behind other bikes. These bikes because of their styling often need a more solid frame and add to that the accessories they often weigh more than other electric bikes, 25kg+ which can make them hard to lift around. They also usually have very narrow tyres with less grip, so are only suitable for flat paths and road surfaces.
One of the best bikes in this category is the Pendleton Somerby Lady’s Electric Bike which we awarded 2017 Best in Class for Women’s Ebikes.
Other manufacturers have created dual models of their core bike range, one with a crossbar for men, and one with a step-through bar for women. The specification is the same and these usually hybrid models are good all-rounders. The GTech Ebike, for example, comes in two models.
So sometimes style over substance can leave you with a bike that can’t do everything you want to, and may be uncomfortable to ride on gravel paths, through the woods etc.
A recent trend in cycling has been the introduction of “Fat” bikes, which essentially have wider tyres than standard bikes. These were originally designed for sand and snow, providing more traction. They have been adopted though by street and mountain riders who want to make a visible impact, and take on more extreme cycling.
There are now some fat electric bikes available. The addition of an electric motor to fat bikes is a good idea because due to more weight and higher traction they are harder to cycle than a standard bike. So, the motor provides power within what is often the full speed range of more extreme cycling terrains. While the battery and motor do add extra weight, as long as the motor is used this should be more than compensated for.
Right now the issue with many of the fat ebikes on the market is that the battery and motor are limited to comply with road laws, and therefore are a bit under-powered for more extreme surfaces. But you can buy some fat ebikes with more powerful motors and larger battery capacity, although officially you shouldn’t ride these on the road.
Fat bikes must have modified frames and forks for the wider tyres, and this also provides more space for accommodating the larger battery required. Some manufacturers have thrown the design book out of the window and designed radical fat ebikes which will certainly draw the eyes of many passers-by. The Tucano Monster below was our favourite Fat Ebike of 2017, awarded our Class Award for Fat Electric Bikes.
Folding electric bikes have been a welcome addition to the ebike range, and account for a high percentage of electric bike sales. Folding bikes have often been ideal for leisure travellers such as motorhome, caravan and canal boat owners, but the complaint has often been that their folding bikes are too heavy and are hard to cycle because of smaller wheel and frame size. An electric motor solves the main problem, in that you are provided with the extra power required to pick up speed faster and maintain an overall higher speed.
However, the weight issue is still at large! Because folding bikes need to use heavier metals to ensure the frame is strong enough to support the folding mechanism, and then add to that the electrical components, foldable ebikes can often weigh more than a standard electric bike. Which is annoying when they’re supposed to be portable. Thankfully there are some ebike manufacturers who have taken on this challenge and designed much lighter folding bikes. For example, the winner of our 2017 Folding Ebike Class was the Zephyr E-light which weighs in at just 15kg.
Folding bikes are often well equipped with some extras such as a pannier (some hide the battery under the pannier), mudguards and lights. But you will be doing well to find one with suspension or a sprung seat, so folding ebikes aren’t really designed for long distances. This is often reflected in the battery capacity coupled to folding ebikes, with around 30miles per charge being good, and often 20-25miles average. Some do come with larger battery units, but this of course does add maybe a Kilo to the overall weight of the battery.
Another welcome addition to the electric bike market has been electric mopeds. They still qualify as electric bikes as long as they are limited to 15.5mph, and that means you get the following advantages over other mopeds:
- No road tax
- No registration
- No insurance required
- No congestion fees
- No parking fees
- You can ride on cycle lanes
But why would you choose an electric moped over an electric bike?
Well, if you’re a leisure cyclist you probably wouldn’t, you’d look a bit silly cycling through the woods on a moped, and the dog walkers would probably shake their bags filled with dog poo at you. But, if you use a bike for commuting then they could be ideal. As already discussed in the commuter bike section, emopeds give you plenty of extras that make travelling on the roads a lot more comfortable, secure and safer:
- Deeper types and full suspension
- Wider and deeper padded seat
- Wing mirrors
- Storage compartments
- Full lighting front and rear including indicators
- Key start and removable battery
- Full upright stands
- Wide foot plate and leg protection panel
- Option to switch to full-throttle (no pedal) mode
Surprisingly the price of electric mopeds aren’t much more than other electric bikes, making them very good value for money. The emoto 48v by All Seasons, pictured below, is priced at just £1,195, not much more than other electric bikes, and was the winner of our Commuter Class 2017 Award.
However, if you would also like to cycle every now and then you would need a bicycle or ebike in addition to your electric moped. Another draw-back of these electric mopeds is that they often weigh much more than other electric bikes, nearer to 40kg than 20kg, so this does limit their usage. However, the addition of a full upright stand does mean they can be left on the road or driveway unlike a bicycle. The weight also impacts on battery capacity, often limiting emopeds to 30miles per charge. Of course at 15mph that’s 2 hours worth of travel so that should be enough for most people!
Electric bikes need a battery to power them. Depending on the type of battery it can affect the lifetime of the battery, the time to charge, the battery capacity, and the weight of the battery. It’s important you choose an electric bike which has a battery suitable for your needs. If you use your ebike every day then you want one with a longer lifespan. If you only use your ebike once a week to do short journeys you want a battery that doesn’t discharge its power quickly when not in use. If you do a long journey to and from work you may need a battery that will fully charge within 5-6 hours. If the weight of your ebike is important you might opt for a battery that is lighter
Types of Batteries
There are three main types of electric bike battery:
Lead Acid (PbA) – Cheapest, heaviest, short capacity, short lifespan, need to be charged regularly.
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) – cheap, heavier, larger, ideally should be fully discharged each time so doesn’t ‘memorise’ a lower capacity, longer lifespan.
Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) – more expensive, lighter, fewer problems with charge ‘memory’, charges faster, a shorter lifespan.
Because charge memory and weight are the two most important factors for ebikes, now most electric bikes carry Li-ion batteries. Prior to this, the majority were Lead Acid, but the weight and lifespan of Lead Acid batteries just don’t suit electric bikes. It’s likely that further technology developments will be made with Li-ion batteries to improve their lifespan, and also as high quantities are produced the cost price will reduce. If the electric bike you’re looking at doesn’t have a Li-ion battery but has a NiMH or PbA, another form of battery it’s very likely the manufacturer has selected that battery to reduce their costs so they can sell the ebike to you cheaper. If budget is your main concern then that could work for you, but you will have to consider the increase in weight and also manage the discharge and charge of the battery carefully so the capacity doesn’t reduce over time.
Ebike Battery Form Factor
Batteries can take on different forms and shapes so they can be fitted to different parts of the bike. Some are flat and wide so they can be hidden under a pannier.
Most ebike batteries are attached to the lower cross bar to look like water bottles.
Some electric bikes are designed with a cavity behind the seat post some the battery can be stowed there.
Some manufacturers have managed to design the bike frame so it can fully or partially accommodate the battery, obscuring it from view.
With electric mopeds the battery is often hidden either under the foot panel or under the seat.
The form factor of the battery can affect the overall look of your ebike, but it can also affect how easy it is to remove the battery to charge it, or to secure it when leaving your bike outdoors. Also, consider that if your ebike has an unusual battery form factor it may be difficult to replace it in the future or buy a second one.
Electric Bike Battery Capacity
Electric Bike battery capacity is stated in the form of, for example:
360 Watt Hours
Actually both examples above are exactly the same. Multiply the V (Volts) by the Ah (Amp Hours) and you get your Watts Hours. Simple formula:
V x Ah = WH
But what really does all that mean? Well not much to most of us. What it does do though is allow you to compare one ebike’s battery against another.
However, what you need to consider is that depending on the motor, the weight of the bike, and the PAS (pedal assistance system), two bikes with the same battery capacity may actually differ greatly in how many miles you get per charge.
Mileage from Electric Bike Batteries
So really you’re better looking at the Miles Per Charge figure that most manufacturers provide. It should make more sense to you and takes into account the other factors. You should take the figure provided though with some scepticism because it is often measured in good conditions, and some may provide a range. How the mileage is displayed can also make all the difference:
30-40 miles = probably 35 miles realistically
<30miles = more likely 25 miles, 30 at very best
30+ miles = 30 miles if you use it heavily but possibly a lot more if you’re sensible
So what is good when it comes to Miles Per Charge with electric bikes?
First I’d ask you:
How many miles maximum will you travel on your electric bike before you are able to charge it again for 6 hours?
How often and intense will you use the motor on your electric bike?
These are the two key questions really when looking at battery capacity. Some electric bikes boast 80+ miles per charge, but will you ever need that? Only you know.
Meanwhile other electric bikes can only do 20miles per charge, is that enough for you?
When it comes to intensity of usage, you do have to be realistic about this too. If you are on a journey where there is a lot of hills, and you use the motor at full power for the whole trip, you may get just 20miles from your battery. Whereas the same battery would give you 70miles if you used your motor on low setting occasionally on a flat road ride.
Obviously the higher the battery capacity the better, but the price of your ebike will be affected by it as higher specification ebikes tend to be those with higher battery capacities, with the cost of the battery affecting the overall retail value of the electric bike.
The average stated battery capacity in the UK market is around 30-40miles per charge. This should be more than sufficient for most leisure and commuter cyclists in an average town. Remember the top motor-assisted speed of an electric bike is 15.5mph, so if your battery can provide 30miles of assisted cycling then you can travel for 2 hours before the battery runs out.
You will likely use more battery than the manufacturers stated battery usage if:
- The combined weight of you and your luggage is more than 80kg
- You keep the motor PAS (pedal assistance) level above the middle setting
- There are hills on your journey
- You swap to throttle-only setting (if your ebike has it)
- You are cycling in hot weather (30°C reduces battery by 20% over 20°C air temperature)
If you’re concerned about battery usage then ask on our [Electric Bike Forum], other users will be happy to share their experience on stated versus real life battery capacity, and how to improve battery life.
Battery Charging Times
Depending on the quality, capacity and current charge volume of your battery the charging time can vary significantly. From empty, a small branded battery could take as little as 4 hours to charge, whereas a cheap large battery could take 12 hours.
This isn’t such a big issue if you plan ahead and charge your battery overnight before each use, but if you have limited time between rides, or you forget to charge your battery one night and need a quick 30min boost then you are better opting for a branded battery like Samsung, Phillips or Panasonic.
Electric bike batteries are expensive and can cost around £200 to replace, so you may need to factor in when you will need to replace your battery. It often comes down to the quality of the battery and how often you use it.
Most Li-ion batteries have a published charging lifespan of around 500-2000 charges. Meanwhile, Lead Acid only as little as 100 times. The higher specification of battery with your ebike the better, and look out for the branded batteries as they will have longer lifespans.
Unlike petrol or diesel motors, electric motors don’t need much servicing, they’re sealed units. If you ever had a problem with the motor itself it’s more likely you’d replace the motor rather than take it apart and service it. The battery, of course, needs charging, but apart from that, there’s not really any extra servicing required for an electric bike over a standard bicycle.
One thing to consider though is that with the extra power being driven through the wheels, and the extra wear that has on the brakes, it is important that you regularly check your brakes and tyres on an electric bike, and change them whenever there is noticeable wear. This is especially true if your ebike is reliant on a V-brake system rather than disc brakes, as v-brakes become less and less effective as the brake pad wears down.
A Linear Pull V-brake needs to be regularly checked
Regular Bicycle Servicing Check List
- Check both wheels are securely bolted / quick release levers are secured
- Check tyre pressure of both tyres
- Check tyre tread wear of both tyres and replace worn ones
- Check wheels spokes aren’t loose
- Tighten seat post with allen key
- Clean and lightly oil the chain
- Tighten stem and handlebars with allen key
- Tighten the brake cables and replace worn brake pads
- Check frame welds for cracks
- Clean the bike avoiding the chain system
When choosing which electric bike to buy one of the factors that will come into your decision is the specification of the components. Below is a description of the main components and what you need to look out for in your decision.
With the large majority of bikes you don’t get to choose your seat, the manufacturer picks a seat that’s most suitable for the style and budget of the bike. However, don’t worry if the seat doesn’t look like what you want, because you can buy a new seat to replace the current one.
Typically ladies bikes have wider and deeper seats with under-springs for maximum comfort when sitting in an upright position.
Mountain bikes and road bikes have narrower and harder seats to not impair movement – which can be tough for only occasional riders.
Meanwhile hybrid and folding electric bikes tend to have a seat somewhere in the middle.
If you fit a larger wider seat to a bike that isn’t designed for sitting upright, ie a larger framed mountain or hybrid bike, the seat post will have to be set lower or the seat will slide the rider forward and there will be a constant battle to stay seated.
Suspension has become popular on bikes over the past 30 years with the entry of mountain bikes into the mainstream. Most mountain bikes come with at least front suspension and possibly rear suspension.
Front suspension is usually the replacement of the two front wheel forks with two hydraulic units which absorb impact. Hybrid bikes may also include front suspension forks as they are effective in limiting the impact you receive through your arms when riding on uneven surfaces. Many front suspension fork sets have lock-out switches to lock the suspension solid so that there is no vertical movement, this is advantageous when cycling on flat roads, because you can pick up a higher speed if there is no rocking motion caused by the suspension as you pedal. Rear suspension in particular limits your acceleration speed and top speed on flat smooth surfaces because it creates a see-saw motion as you pedal.
Rear suspension is usually in the form of a single shock absorber unit which gives the rear wheel some separate vertical movement from the frame, allowing even more ability on rough terrain.
While ladies bikes and folding bikes often have a smaller form of spring suspension in the seat which gives some amount of vertical shock absorption on bumps in the road.
If the ebike you want doesn’t have suspension you can buy front suspension forks yourself and have them fitted, or of course you could purchase a sprung seat. However, it would be worthwhile trying your bike first when it arrives because manufacturers will fitted what they deem to be the necessary suspension for the bike type. You may not actually need suspension if you stick to cycling on roads.
One important factor when choosing your electric bike if you are shorter or taller than average, is the frame size. The majority of bikes are suitable for riders between 5’4″ and 6’2″ because the seat and handlebar posts are adjustable.
For women the standard frame sizes are 17″ and 18″ for women riders and 19″-21″ for men.
If you’re shorter than 5’4″ you may need to opt for a smaller frame of 15″-16″, and for those over 6’2″ look for a 22″ frame.
Picking a frame that is too big or too small for you can cause discomfort and injuries. If you’re unsure visit your local bicycle shop and try out different frame sizes of standard bikes. You can then decide what leeway you have and select an electric bike with the same size frame.
Folding electric bikes are more suitable for shorter riders because they have a smaller frame, although they do tend to have extra long seat and handlebar posts, but taller riders may struggle with them.
Bike manufacturers choose tyres based on the form of bike. You can change the tyres on your bike but it’s likely other components on your bike would need changing as well. If you bought a mountain bike and wanted road tyres instead of the trail tyres you would probably also want to lock out your suspension.
Mountain bikes have tyres with deeper nobbled tread to deal with lose uneven surfaces. Hybrid tyres are smoother with shallower grip to deal with road surface better but also cope with some gravel and mud paths. Ladies bikes tend to have tyres designed mainly for roads, as do folding ebike tyres.
If you use slicker tyres on rough surfaces you will have less traction, low levels of comfort and susceptibility to punctures. On the other hand if you use mountain bike tyres on the road, the extra traction slows down your progress, and you’re also carrying extra weight you don’t need. However, the addition of an electric motor on a bike helps to lessen the effect of both, making it easier to ride on any surface.
So it’s very important to consider which road surfaces you will ride on before you choose the type of electric bike you require.
The Pedal Assistance System (PAS) on your electric bike is what controls your motor. Some basic electric bikes just have an ON/OFF switch while the majority, like the one pictured above, have an ON/OFF switch as well as 3-5 speed settings to change the motor speed. The PAS is usually located on the handlebars for quick and easy access. Some electric bikes also have a throttle so you can push a trigger or twist the handlebar to affect the amount of assistance by the engine.
Another setting often on the display is the amount of battery charge remaining, so you can monitor how many more miles you have left before it runs out.
In addition to the PAS many ebikes also come with a computer which provides information such as:
- Current speed
- Trip mileage
- Lifetime mileage
- Battery life
- Current PAS level
On more expensive electric bikes the PAS system is part of the computer system and can even be touchscreen operation.
For computers without PAS setting, you can buy this separately and add them to your electric bike after purchase. If you plan to ride off-road it may be worthwhile buying one with GPS, and good quality ones like the Garmin Edge 25 with GPS start from as little as £80, a worthwhile investment to track your off-road route.
A basic bike computer without GPS an be cheaper, and you’re best selecting a wireless version so you don’t have to relay wires to your front wheel for distance and speed measurement. They start from around £7 but its worth spending a bit more for more functionality and waterproof!
The accessories that come with your electric bike or that you buy yourself can make all the difference to switching from another form of transport to an electric bike. Obviously, bikes have less storage and are more open to the elements than cars for example. But if you invest in the right accessories you can use your electric bike for a lot more journeys and throughout all four seasons of the year.
Panniers are designed to add storage to your electric bike. You can attach bags to the side (special pannier bags are available) and also on top of the pannier rack. Such storage ability allows you to carry luggage or shopping on your bike, or great for a picnic!
Bear in mind that the extra weight you’re carrying on your pannier will reduce the battery life of your electric bike, and will also affect your braking and steering, so give yourself more time to brake and ease into corners.
A pannier rack can be relatively cheap, and most have adjustable universal fittings so will fit most bikes. Some also come with reflector or light systems attached.
If you’re going to ride in the twilight or dark it’s necessary for your own safety to have lights so that other road users can see you. If you intend to cycle to and from work in the winter months these are essential accessories for your electric bike.
Some electric bikes come with factory-fitted lights which are powered by the main battery which is very handy. However, don’t threat about your ebike of choice not having electric lights because lights are now very cheap bike accessories and can be picked up easily for under £10 per set.
However, if you want ones which provide more light, and can be recharged you may want to pay a bit more and get a decent set.
Apart from panniers other storage ideas for your electric bike can include a front basket on a ladies bike.
Alternatively, more suitable for men, there are storage cases which attach to the crossbar, below the crossbar, under the seat, or on the handlebars – to provide a small amount of storage for your necessities such as keys, phone and wallet.
If you want the ultimate in storage though you are best choosing an electric moped as they have several storage spaces and often storage units attached to the back.
Mud guards come as standard on some electric bikes giving you some protection from the mud and water spray from your tyres, particularly your rear tyre. However, if your choice of electric bike doesn’t have mud guards, again, these are accessories you can buy afterward and easily fit yourself.
If you cycle to work or smart trousers when cycling you may be concerned about oil transferring from your chain and derailleur onto your legs and clothes. Many ladies bikes come with chain guards to prevent long skirts getting tangled in the chain, but they tend to lack on men’s bikes. So either buy an aftermarket chain guard, ensuring it is the right size, or buy trouser clips to keep your trousers away from the chain!
If you plan to do much cycling in Britain, and in particular replace your commuter journey on public transport or by car with a journey on your electric bike, then an essential accessory is your waterproof gear. If you wear the right waterproof clothing you should arrive at your destination dry and fresh for the day ahead.
Bear in mind that a waterproof jacket for cycling tends to have a longer back to cover the full length of your back when you are leaning forward, so not all waterproof coats are suitable for cycling.
Another accessory to consider if you plan to leave your electric bike on its own is a security chain / bike lock so you can secure it to a cycle rack, fence or tree without it getting stolen.
The more you spend on a bike lock the better as the cheaper locks can be picked, cut or broken by a bike thief. Also consider that a lock with a combination is easier to open and close because if the lock has a key you have to locate the key, when usually when you’re cycling to keep all loose belongings like your keys in a secured bag rather than in a pocket.
And, finally, not to be missed is the essential cycling helmet for your own safety. Be sure to pick one that suits your style but more importantly fits you correctly so that if the worst comes to the worst it will stay on your head rather than fall off.
There are men’s bike helmets and women’s bike helmets, as well as some specialist ones for certain styles, so shop around to find one you love so that you want to wear it rather than just put it on when you feel you really have to.
Now you know what type of electric bike you want, all of the extras you expect and what further accessories you may wish to buy. So realistically how much do you need to spend on your electric bike?
The following Budgets will allow you to buy the following bikes:
Budget under £700
There are some electric bikes available under £700, typically folding bikes, and hybrid ebikes. Because you’re effectively paying about £300-400 for the electric hardware, the bike that accompanies that technology within the £700 price tag is likely poor. If you only ride a few miles per week in nice weather than that should suffice. However you will more than likely have a big which is heavy, doesn’t have many accessories, has low battery capacity and will be uncomfortable on longer journeys.
Between £700 and £1,000 there are some good electric bikes and some lesser known brand electric bikes. If you want to use your ebike just a few days each week, and maybe a bit more in the Summer on the roads and cycle paths, then you should be able to find an electric bike you’re happy within this budget. Some of the best value ebikes in this budget are made by lesser known brands, who have configured high specification electric bikes with some good accessories and extras. This is the most competitive part of the market for hybrid and commuter electric bikes in particular and if you’re not looking for off-road capabilities then you should find a very good electric bike at this price point. You should expect some extras too. On a ladies bike, you should expect a basket or pannier, gears, mudguards and possibly suspension depending on the style of bike. For men’s hybrid bikes expect front suspension, mudguards, pannier and lights.
In terms of electric mountain bikes £1,000 is still a low budget and you won’t get a lot for your money.
The £1,000 to £1,500 price tag buys you some of the best ebikes in the mid-market, packed with accessories, high specification batteries and motors, as well as branded suspension, gears and tyres. You should expect your ebike to be lighter at this price point, sub-25kg, and provide 30+ miles per charge. There are some eMTBs at this budget, but often lesser known brands or low specification models.
There are some folding electric bikes in this budget bracket as well and are some of the lightest and best in the market. If folding ebikes is your thing and you want one that folds small and is light then expect to pay somewhere between £1,000 and £1,500.
You can pay over £7,000 for an electric bike, certainly if it’s an electric mountain bike you want. There are also some very good top-of-the-market touring hybrids in the £3,000+ price range. Some of these high-end ebikes boast 70+ miles per charge from their batteries and are lighter than their cheaper competitors.
If you want a top of the range ebike but want to save yourself a couple of thousand, look out for last year’s model. Often the latest year’s model is at the top price point with £1,000 or more knocked off the previous years’ model which just lacks the latest styling adjustment and paint job.
Electric bikes are one product where you should probably try before you buy, especially if you’ve not ridden an electric bike before. Some of the best deals to be had are online though. So something you could do is head down to your local bike retailer and try out an electric bike just to make sure you like the feel of them and understand how they work. Also try out the different types of bikes there such as a hybrid, a mountain bike, a folding bike etc so you can decide which style you prefer.
Some of the top retailers of electric bikes are:
Halfords – Find your nearest store
To find an independent cycle shop you can visit www.whycycle.co.uk
Online Bike Dealers
There are some large e-retailers of bikes who have a comprehensive electric bike range such as:
Wiggle.co.uk – have a good choice of Raleigh ebikes.
Rutland Cycles – have a range of over 250 electric bikes, mainly branded.
Bikester – have over 100 electric bikes and stock European brands such as Ortler.
Tredz – has over 140 ebikes, mainly high-end branded.
Buy Direct & Budget
Many of the larger online retailers (except Amazon) only stock the large brand ebikes, so you are paying a premium for these, and should expect the best ebikes from them. If your budget doesn’t stretch as far then it could be worth looking at some of the smaller independent ebike manufacturers and suppliers who have lesser known brands but offer much more value for money:
Love Electric – offering some of the cheaper independent brands.
GTech – UK designed ebikes sold directly by GTech.
Amazon – has a wide range of electric bikes particularly at lower price ranges.
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