So you thought there were bikes and then there were electric bikes?
Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. It can be a bit confusing because different people and organisations have differing classifications for electric bikes, for example in US Public law has 4 classes of electric bikes based on their pedal operation and maximum motorised speed. The way I figure you’re best classifying electric bikes by their uses, as that’s how someone’s going to decide how to use them. So here goes, a brief description of the types of electric bikes that are available in the UK, and why you might choose each one.
I’ve put these two uses together because basically someone who wants an ebike for cycling at the weekends or commuting to work and back tends to have similar specification requirements. You would tend to want a standard battery and motor specification, a medium-weight bike that doesn’t cost too much, and has a hybrid set up with medium width tyres and possibly front suspension. The Gtech ebike is a good example of this, it does all the basic stuff very well. You can also get step-through frames, usually the choice of female riders who wear skirts. A good commuter/leisure electric bike will cover 30+ miles per charge, have room for panniers and baskets, and be able to cope with hills and gravel pathways.
Electric Mountain Bikes
An electric mountain bike can be used on the roads but is also equipped for more rugged terrain with the addition of wide tyres, multiple speed gears, front and possibly rear suspension, as well as a more powerful motor and battery unit. Electric mountain bikes start at around £800 but can cost as much as £5000+ for high-performance bikes. The more you pay the better the standard bike equipment on board meaning the bike should be lighter, more robust and better balanced. The All Seasons E-xplorer pictured is a lower priced model with good specification and probably a good entry point for someone looking to buy a mountain bike they can also use for commuting.
Folding Electric Bikes
For people who want to take their bike on trains, in their car, caravan, canal boat or have very little storage space a foldable electric bike could be the solution. The issue with standard folding bikes is they have small wheels, so take more effort to cycle, and tend to be heavier as well, so double whammy! Despite being smaller than standard bikes the extra weight comes from having to use denser metals in the frame to support the folding mechanism. However, electric folding bikes solve the problem of the extra weight and smaller wheels by providing the motor to help with cycling. So folding ebikes can be a very good solution for some people. The bike pictured is the All Seasons E-compact which is priced at a very reasonable £695. Folding bikes do tend to be at the lower cost end of the electric bike range.
Electric Cargo & Delivery Bikes
Electric Cargo Bikes and Electric Delivery Bikes are specialist bikes built to carry larger loads. They tend to have either shorter wheelbases to carry a front load, as pictured here – the Urban Arrow Shorty; or a longer wheelbase to carry a rear load on a pannier system. They are great solutions for delivery riders and with the electric motor can really help achieve more deliveries per day or a longer delivery shift.
Other Specialised Electric Bikes
Depending what you classify as a bike there are also other electric bikes available, some with ultra-powerful motors for generally ripping up trails, others like the Outrider Horizon 200 – pictured – for just looking totally outrageous! There is becoming a blurred line between motorcycles and mo-peds with electric bikes as motors get more powerful and companies develop electric bikes which look more chunky. But all you need to know in the UK is that if the motor is limited to 25km per hour / 15.5mph then it’s still an ebike and you don’t need a licence, insurance or road tax – but still advisable to wear a helmet.
If you want to know which are the best ebikes in each of these categories check out our Best Electric Bikes 2017 Awards.