If the term eBike or e-Bike has passed you by, then you need to read this complete beginners guide to eBikes.
By the end of this guide hopefully you will have a much clearer idea of what an eBike is, whether you want to buy one or even whether to convert your regular bike to an eBike.
An eBike which is short for electric bicycle is essentially a bicycle that gets extra power with the use of a battery and a motor.
Classes of eBikes
As such they are treated for legal purposes as mopeds in most of the USA and the whole of the UK. That means you must
- register it with the driving authorities and have a licence plate,
- you have to wear a moped/motorbike helmet,
- you have to be insured and
- you have to have an MOT.
- It also means you cannot ride in the cycle lanes and
- you have to observe the speed limit. Unsurprisingly at this time of writing there aren’t many S-pedelecs in the UK.
So is an eBike really a proper bike or a type of moped?
Some cycle purists argue that eBikes are not proper bikes and will look down their nose at them. They claim that it’s cheating because you’re using a battery to help you to ride. But who cares what they think? As long as you are getting enjoyment from riding your eBike responsibly, it’s nobody’s business.
The only time the word “cheating” can be used is if you sneak your eBike into an unassisted bike race – then, that’s a different story.
The comparisons to a moped can only be made with the Class 2 throttle eBikes. Mainly because it’s possible to ride a throttle eBike without pedalling as long as you have juice in the battery.
Increasingly you can also find eBikes with both pedal assist and throttle assist. These are very popular outside of the EU.
Prior to 1995 eBikes in the UK/EU were seen as motorised vehicles and needed to be taxed and insured. This was changed and an exemption was made that meant eBikes are now seen as bicycles. Possibly this is one reason why some people still think of eBikes as moped type vehicles.
What are the basic components that make an eBike an eBike?
Mid-drive motors which are more expensive and found on high-end eBikes including eMountain bikes have a reputation for excelling on steep hills.
With all the pedal assist motors, you determine what amount of assistance is required. This will range from usually 3 modes – eco , standard and turbo – to 5 levels of assistance. 1 or “eco mode” will be the least amount of assistance and require more effort from you as the rider and 5 or “turbo mode” will give you the most help eg when climbing hills. Riding constantly with turbo or level 5 assistance will naturally drain the battery faster.
What style of eBikes are available?
Just like with regular bikes, eBikes come in all shapes and sizes and are used for a variety of reasons. Here’s a small list which covers most styles
You get the
- “step-through” frame ie without a crossbar which is very accessible for people with certain types of injuries or older people who might have difficulty throwing their leg over the bike to mount it
- folding eBikes mainly with small wheels but some with full size wheels
- mountain bikes commonly called e-MTBs for rough terrain or off-road riding
- cargo eBikes designed for carrying or lugging big items around
- fat tyre eBikes for riding snowy trails
- electric road bikes which may have dropped handlebars
- city eBikes which may use belt drives rather than chains so no risk of getting oil on your trouser leg
- commuting or hybrid eBikes which are good for both riding to work in the week and off-road biking at the weekend
On top of that you also get electric trikes in all their glory.
Where can I buy an eBike?
Why would I buy an eBike?
- It’s great fun
- It’s brilliant for riding uphill
- You don’t puff and sweat as much therefore it’s great for commuting
- It provides gentle therapy for injured joints
- It’s an easier way to get and stay fit
- In the city you can travel on average faster than cars because of gridlocked roads
- They are significantly cheaper to run and maintain than cars
- You can ride longer distances so great for touring holidays
- It’s much easier to tackle headwinds as you ride
- You’re doing your bit in helping the environment
How Electric Bikes Work Infographic
In this complete beginners guide to eBikes we’ve defined an eBike as simply a bicycle powered with a battery and motor which allows you to ride further and climb hills with less effort. They are either pedal or throttle-assisted or a combination of both.
They come in as many styles as regular bikes. Laws vary from country to country depending on the type, power and spec of the eBike.
They are great fun to ride, a good way of getting fit and play a part in helping the environment.
To learn how to avoid the pitfalls when buying an eBike online have a look at 8 Questions You Need To Ask Before Buying an eBike Online or you may prefer to learn about eBike Conversions for Beginners. Please see box below
eBike Conversions for Beginners series
- Part 1 is an introduction to eBike conversions and covers reasons to convert a regular bicycle to an eBike, types of conversion kits with their pros and cons, safety and legal considerations, planning where to place components and much more
- Part 2 is a step by step guide on converting your bike with a front wheel hub motor kit
- Part 3 is a step by step guide on converting your bike with a rear wheel hub motor kit
- Part 4 is a step by step guide on converting your bike with a mid drive motor kit
- Part 5 covers the 7 best eBike hub conversion kits for heavy and overweight people