eBikes – A Guide to The Basics

EBikes help make riding be less strenuous. Having the right one can mean all sorts of new adventures for lots of riders. Whether you’re just getting started, coming back to the activity, or just wanting some extra support while you ride, you can find a great eBike that suits you well.

An eBike also called an eBike or pedal cycle, is a two-wheeled cycle with an electric motor incorporated into the frame to help propulsion. You do not use pedals to propel yourself; instead, the motor transfers the force from your legs to the pedals for more power. EBikes are similar to motorcycles in that they both have a gas engine and a rider has a pedal to help him or her move forward. They both use the same type of engine, similar to a motorcycle’s, but typically have a higher speed than motorcycles because there is no overhead drag. Because an eBike uses a battery to store the power of the motor, recharging a battery does not add a charge to the cycle.

What Are The eBikes?

EBikes are also known as eBikes. They’re still conventional bicycles, but they also feature rechargeable batteries that can power a motor that helps you along. This reduces how much pedaling effort is required.

person riding on bicycle during daytime

Why Should You Go Electric?

EBikes offer you all the benefits of normal bikes, but they also reduce how much strain your body faces since you are getting some electronic assistance. Whether you use an eBike to just ride faster, get up hills, keep pace with your friends, or just get to work faster, you can use an eBike as a light, versatile, and simple means of getting around. They’re popular with mountain bikers, leisure cyclists, and commuters.

How Do They Work?

EBikes are also sometimes called pedelecs. They share many similarities with normal bikes only powered by pedaling. However, eBikes also have an electric motor powered by a battery. This system can speed up your journey by providing assistance that reduces the effort you must put out.

“Assistance” is the crucial word here. E-scooters aren’t what we’re talking about here; they engage their throttle following your initial kick-off. EBikes such as the HiMo z20 for example, are different because they provide powered pedal assistance that supplements your own effort put into pedal strokes. As such, the resulting terminology is “electric-assist”.

EBikes inside the United Kingdom are covered by rigorous laws. These bikes have to pedal-powered. The motor must have an upper limit of 250W in additional assistance with speeds of no more than 25kph before it gets cut off. To put things in perspective, that’s roughly how much a highly trained cyclist could generate on their own for an hour using just their legs and body.

eBike Sizes

To get a truly comfortable riding experience, the size of your bike matters greatly. Fortunately, there are many different frames, meaning that you can find one that suits your personal height and leg measurements so you can get the best ride available to you.

Height Range / Frame Size

4’10” – 5’2″ / 13″ – 14″

5’2’’ – 5’6’’ / 15” – 16”

5’6’’ – 5’10’’ / 17” – 18”

5’10’’ – 6’1’’ / 19” – 20”

6’1’’ – 6’4’’ / Size 21” – 22”

EBikes: How Do They Work?

bicycle lane

Modern eBikes employ pretty similar systems to give riders pedaling assistance. These can take two different forms. One is a hub-mounted motor, while the other is mounted on a bottom bracket. In all cases, the sensors register the times when pedals are turning. When this happens, power is offered from the brushless motors. This is no different than how a turbo works in a passenger vehicle. The pedaling would be analogous to how a conventional petrol engine keeps you moving normally, but how a turbo gives you some extra power to boot.

How Do You Control Your EBike?

Every eBike has some sort of control unit. They’re often found as handlebar-mounted computers. Other times, they’re on the actual battery. In some cases, they’re just controlled using a smartphone app. Handlebar-mounted computers stay pretty consistent with typical bicycle computers. They offer information and data about distance and speed, but eBike computers also dive into specifics, such as remaining battery life. You also get control over how much assistance you need.

Really advanced systems based on smartphones have complete customization available, meaning you can actually set your levels of assistance to be based off of GPS data for your route. Most manufacturers develop systems that are just plug and play, so you can maximize what you get from your bike without ever having to touch one single button.

Batteries

The battery of an eBike will be effective based on its size and quality. How far you can get from one charge has a serious influence on your ride, as does how much you can push the motor through particular sections of harder routes you take. All this adds up to how important it is to be able to interpret your battery readings.

The majority of batteries have power ratings listed in Watt hours, or Wh, and that can give you a general sense of the distance your bike can travel on one charge while full-assist mode is engaged. For this, just divide the battery’s Wh capacity by 20 for an approximation. For instance, a 400Wh battery in full-assist mode might take you about 20 miles.

Just remember that such estimates are only a rough guide, and far from precise. These quick approximations don’t factor in many variables, including hills, rough terrain, wind, and increased bike load. All of those will impact the performance of a battery.

Many eBikes have heads-up displays using LCD technology on the handlebars that highlight the battery charge while you ride, showing you how little or much you have remaining on your way home. These handy screens aren’t big in size but still give you other useful metrics, including time, distance, speed, assist levels, and power output, among others.

It’s very simple to recharge your battery after a long ride. Just remove it off of the frame and then plug it into a primary power socket. The charging times that you’ll have to put up with will vary based on your specific bike battery, although most modern batteries on current eBikes will fully charge in three or four hours.

What Battery Does My eBike Need?

The battery is likely the most crucial element of any eBike. Modern batteries come in various wattages, often from 200w up to 550w. How many watts the battery has will depend on how much power the motor provides. The battery-provided power is similar to various octane fuels you can use in your car. In either case, the range and amount of assistance offered is based on this. A lower-wattage bike is no different than a diesel car or small unleaded vehicle where a higher-wattage battery results in more range and torque.

Where Do I Find eBike Batteries?

Just like how cars can have their fuel tank in many different places, eBikes can have their battery in many different spots. Most of them are on the frame’s down tube or just on a back rack. A handful of manufacturers are discovering innovative ways of integrating batteries right into the frame, so keep an eye out for this.

What is the Range of an eBike

Your car has range before it runs out of fuel. Your eBike will do the same. The ranges that manufacturers claim need to be considered carefully. If you ride constantly in the most powerful mode, you’ll drain your battery a lot faster. Also, hilly terrain is going to make the motor give you more assistance, given what mode you’re in.

As we’ve stated, certain systems have companion apps that will provide you insight into getting more range. However, your possible range really just a matter of battery capacity, how you actually ride the eBike, and the output from the motor power.

Motors Can Be Hub Drive Or Crank

The battery of an eBike only constituted half of the ‘electric-assist’ capabilities, since the motor provides the rest. EBikes have predominantly two kinds of motors mounted on them. The first is crank drives, and the second is hub drives. In our own store, every eBike is powered by a crank drive motor deemed by many to be the superior of these two options.

A crank drive motor replaces the standard crankset of a bike and delivers power right to the chain. The motor operates in tandem with the gears of the bike, letting it keep an optimal RPM going, even if you’re on a steep climb pushing your lungs to their limit. Power transfer efficiency rises dramatically with an optimal RPM. This is wonderful news for anyone looking to bust through shorter yet still steep climbs. Motors that are more power-efficient get to be smaller. This means the bike is lighter, and that’s a win-win situation.

Motors like these are typically more efficient when compared to hub drives. Also, since they get centrally mounted at a low point on the bike, usually in the area of the bottom bracket, they help out with the center of gravity of the bike, making things easier to handle.

Every eBike will have various assist levels you can pick from, and they will all dictate the level of assist or power that the motor gives you. Keep in mind that higher assist levels will make the bike’s range shorter. If you’re intending on a longer trip, be smart and apply your full-assist mode rather sparingly. Consider Shimano’s Steps system as an example. There are three different modes. Each has its own power assist level or version of battery economy. Shimano’s E-MTB system has a customizable mode giving the rider total control over their motor in any situation.

EBikes can weigh up to 10kg more than comparable non-eBikes. Most hybrid eBikes weigh between 22 to 25kg. Folding eBikes are usually lighter than this, since they’re intended to get carried. They weigh from 16 up to 18kg. The battery and motor account for the extra weight. This shouldn’t impact you too much while you ride, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re going to transport it. Lifting an eBike into a car or just carrying it takes some muscle and heft. Lighter eBikes are great options if you are going to routinely carry your eBike up a case of stairs, off and on mass transit, or into a car.

Reliability Of The Construction

EBikes are more established than their e-scooter counterparts. They’re already more highly regulated. There are also more standards for the overall designs. As such, you can typically rely on eBikes for high standards of quality, so long as they adhere to the regulations.

Then again, you still need to watch out for certain pitfalls.

For starters, eBay and other online shopping outlets might have deals on eBikes that seem great. Some might even claim similar or ‘derestricted’ performance for lower prices. Avoid these, since the makers aren’t always getting their components and frames from reputable sources. Also, the warranties are limited or suspect, if not both.

Approach unbranded eBikes with the same level of caution you’d heed for unbranded batteries and motors. Any eBike should be something you can ride in rainy weather without issue. Cheap electronics won’t cut it, and they can actually be quite risky.

The second-hand market for eBikes is a valuable option, but you run the risk of buying something with hidden faults that don’t reveal themselves until it’s too late. These issues can include degraded batteries, faulty motors, and worn-out mechanical parts. Warranties might not cover you through a change in ownership.

Maintenance Of An eBike

Many think that eBikes are hard to repair or keep up, possibly needing professional work to maintain them. This is a misconception.

EBikes have the same durability as normal bikes, so you only need periodic service of the main mechanical parts of the bike, including the chain, brakes, and gearing. If the mechanical issues you face are too much, especially in terms of the battery and/or motor, then just bring your bike to one of our shops so our mechanics can look at it for you.

Other Various Features

Levels Of Assistance

Various eBikes have their own setups, although most of them have low-, medium-, and high-assistance modes, or their equivalents. These usually relate to how the motor matches your input, gives you 1.5x our input, or just doubles it.

The Display Unit

The control display is usually on your handlebars, letting you make assistance level adjustments while you go. Our tests found some are better than others.

Size Of The Frame

One frequent mistake buyers make when buying an eBike is getting a frame that is either oversized or undersized. Your enjoyment of any bike will perish quickly if you can’t get physically comfortable or you need to reach out too far to touch the handlebars. Always give an eBike a test ride at your community bike shop before buying any particular model. Also, consult the guidelines of the manufacturer to be sure the frame size is right for you.

Brakes

EBikes by nature weigh more than regular bikes, so they need good brakes. EBike brakes are still very similar to regular bike brakes, though. Based on what sort of bike you are considering, you might have any of these braking systems:

V-Brakes: These are common for off-road and touring bikes. The cartridges are easily replaceable.

Cantilevers: Similar to the aforementioned V-brakes, they just have a cable in between them. This leaves them far less vulnerable to mud clogging. Off-road riders love them for this.

Caliper Brakes: These are common for race and road bikes. They’re both lighter and smaller than cantilever brakes and V-brakes.

Disc Brakes: These are growing in popularity among professional cyclists. Their primary advantage is how they have better stopping power when conditions are wet. Entry-level electronic bikes usually have braking systems from Tektro and Shimano brands, among others. TRP and SRAM are more frequently seen on higher-end bikes, although they’re certainly not exclusive to them.