Choosing an Electric Bike
Which electric bike to buy?
Choosing an electric bike can be tricky if you know nothing about them. Firstly you need to know how to choose a bike that suits you from a frame size and geometry perspective, then secondly you need to know how to choose a motor/battery combination that suits your needs.
So the first step for you is to figure out exactly what you plan to use the bike for. The main considerations are;
1. Will it be used only on smooth roads or will you go off road? this will determine whether you need suspension on your bike, or a suspension seat post; how soft your seat needs to be; the type of tyres on the bike; how big the wheels should be etc
2. What sort of loads will you be carrying (load being the combines mass of both you and what you carry with you)? This affects frame design; cargo racks; battery size and motor size on the bike;
3. The experience you have had riding? this will determine frame shape and style of bike. Some bikes will feel more stable than others. Mountain bike design vs road bike design vs cruiser design. You may even need to consider a tricycle like in the picture below.
4. How far will you be riding? this determines battery capacity and motor size (as does the load question above).
5. What is your electric bike budget? Like so many things, more money means better components which tends to equate with less troubles with a bike over its life and a higher resale value if you ever decide to trade or sell your bike.
And there are more factors to consider with the final being what the bike actually feels like. It is a very good idea to go ride a few bikes in the style you’ve chosen.
Choosing an electric bike style
There are many styles of electric bike out there, just like there are many styles of non-electric bike.
Here is a bit of a run through of the main ones.
So to start, here is a tricycle, or trike, which has its motor in the front wheel.
A three wheel configuration provides stability at low speed, but can be a bit more difficult in corners at higher speeds. It provides power when it is pedalled and also has a throttle on the handlebars.
It can also be a bit more dangerous in traffic being wider overall than a two wheel bike.
It is good for older people or those who need to carry larger loads. On a two wheel bike a large load will raise its centre of gravity and make it less stable.
Traditional two wheeled bikes come in cruiser styles or mountain bike / off road styles.
This bike on the left is a street bike.
It has narrow wheels and smooth tyres compared to a mountain bike. These type of wheels and tyres decreases the rolling resistance and so lets you go faster for the same effort.
The motor in this bike is in the rear hub and the battery is in the front part of the frame.
This is the type of bike that only provides powered assistance when the rider is pedalling.
A mountain style bike has fatter tyres and may or may not have suspension.
This red bike for example is an off road style bike as you can see from the wider nobbier tyres and front suspension.
Notice that it does not have rear suspension. This makes the bike suit cruising on the road with some rougher trails to ride. It isn’t a full off-road type bike.
Generally suspension can absorb some of the effort you put into riding, so a hard-tail bike (no rear suspension) will tend to be more efficient.
It has the motor in the rear hub and the battery in the front frame. It provides power only when you pedal.
This type of bike suits a general purpose rider. The thicker, wider tyres will be a bit more durable on the road, but won’t provide as much traction on bitumen in corners.
This bike has suspension at both the front and rear and is more suited to a rider who wants to spend more time off road than on.
Once again it has the motor in the rear hub and the battery in the front part of the frame.
On most electric bikes the cranks and chain and gear change technology is all standard bicycle technology from reputable manufacturers like Shimano.
Notice it has disc brakes which are better for braking in wet weather than bikes with callipers that grab the wheel rim.
Some off road bikes are for purposes.
Notice the bike on the left. It has very fat tyres and is known as a fat bike or a sand bike. Most people refer to them as fat bikes.
This bike has motors in both the front and rear wheels and is most suited to those that want to spend most of their time on soft surfaces. The wider tyres distribute the load of the rider so that the bike does not sink into the surface as much.
On the handlebar is the bike controller computer.
You can see the bike computer here.
It shows you the speed, the battery level and allows the rider to control the level of boost provided by the bike.
This controller shows a full battery and has the bike boost set to full. There are lower levels of boost and often a rider will change boost levels as well as change gears to maximise the range they can get on the bike.
This computer also does standard computer stuff like tell you your distance travelled and speed.
The motors on most of the bikes we sell are configured to stop assisting you once you get over around 25kmh.
This shows you the lock on the left of the picture that keeps the battery locked onto the bike.
Behind the crank is the plug for charging the bike without removing it from the bike.
Notice the pedal crank is a standard Shimano bike crank. This means a lot of your bike repairs you can do yourself or take to a normal bike shop.
The battery is protected from the weather and the electronics are sealed from the environment inside the frame.
When you take the battery off the bike you can press a button to see the charge in the battery.
The picture shows two batteries with different levels of charge.
The black circle with the pins is where the battery connects to the bike electrics.
The batteries are lithium and can be trickle charged. It is best not to let them go completely flat. The internal electronics in the battery will put most of our batteries into sleep mode so that if your bike sites for a while, it won’t be completely flat.
Here is where the battery fits into the bike frame.
Notice the plug the battery connects to (the black bit mentioned above).
The key is in the bike and turns to lift the locking pin that keeps the battery on the bike while riding (and stops the bad people from taking it when your bike is parked in a rack).
Summary for choosing an Electric Bike
- Decide exactly what you want the bike for. Is it mobility? Is it exercise? Is it an emergency vehicle?
- What you plan to use it for will give you an idea of what range you will need and therefore what size battery to choose.
- How good a rider are you? Remember that you will become a better rider very quickly. Often unstable riders are unstable because they ride too slow. This is generally not an issue on an electric bike.
- What is your budget? More money will tend to get you a better bike obviously. A better bike means a lighter frame, better quality motors, better gearing systems and better brakes. All this adds up to a more reliable bike.
- Where can you go test ride the type of bike you have decided on? It is a bad idea to buy a bike you have never ridden. Bike frame geometries vary and this all changes how stable and comfortable a bike will feel to you.
- Buy online vs buying from a shop. Online is often cheaper, but people forget that a bike will need maintenance. You may know how to maintain your bike yourself, which means online might be the right choice, but if you are not a bike mechanic then buying from a shop you can take your bike back to for regular checkups is probably a sensible idea.
So there you go. There is always more to talk about with electric bikes, but this is a good start to give you a feel for what they are like and what to look for when choosing what to buy.
Go browse our range to get an idea of what is out there at our buy a bike page.
If you want to know more you can use this contact form below;