Updated: Jan 17
What specification of E-Bike do I need? Or put another way how much should I SPEND?
OK, make a coffee and read on…
The bikes themselves are very similar to normal pedal cycles, with the exception that the frame components and brakes are ensured to be up to the job! Although there are some differences in the details, most eBikes are driven by either a Hub motor (in the front or rear wheel) or a Crank motor (drives the pedals). Powered by a rechargeable battery, it provides assistance in varying degrees…only when you need it!
The rider can usually nowadays set how much assistance they want at any given time using a power level adjustment. Assistance can be turned off completely and you just have a normal bike. Power assist is limited to 15MPH in the UK
Two of the biggest misconceptions about e-bikes are (1) they are too powerful (2) they are not powerful enough…
Fitness or Practicality?
Increasingly e-bikes are heading in two different directions – powerful machines with bigger batteries and models that are lightweight and often feature less powerful motors and smaller batteries.
Although the latter delivers less power (meaning you do more of the work) they are pretty effective nonetheless.
And while they have smaller batteries their lighter weight and smaller power requirements help mitigate this (and spare batteries are available if you really do need greater range).
The lightweight road bike models can weigh substantially less than 20kg and the really light ones break the 15kg mark.
Conversely the more powerful machines are over 25kg – sometimes well over if they are very heavy duty trekking style models with hub gears and long range batteries.
What’s right for me ?
Of course the answer depends on the kind of hills you expect to encounter and whether you want;
Maximum exercise with a bit of help on the steepest hills
A lot of help all the time
A combination of the above
One bike can’t do everything so choices have to be made and the names can be confusing to non-cyclists (or e-bikers like us!)
(More commonly a Gravel bike in the ebike world). Think Tour de France…. drop bars skinny tyres, designed to be light and fast. Usually [there are exceptions] has a low power motor and small battery and is designed for fitness with a little help. Add skinny mudguards and a rack and you have in the old sense a touring bike, which again is possible in an ebike but not common.
Sounds straightforward? Comes in many forms; hard tail, full suspension, downhill, race, trail bike and more! These bikes all have fatter, knobbly tyres designed to be ridden mainly off-road. They also have, to varying degrees, a ‘forward geometry’ that puts your weight on your wrists and arms so although they are great for mixed riding they are less comfortable, more tiring and use up more battery per mile. Mudguards and a rack can be fitted and they are called “equipped”
Can have any motor and battery combination but are usually on the more powerful side except for bikes made to be cheap.
Cross bikes (or sport)
Designed to be ridden and carried over rough ground and on the road so lighter than a mountain bike with narrower tyres. Still no mudguards, lighter and more comfortable riding position than a mtb as they are designed to be ridden further.
The archetypal e-bike. A bit of everything. Sturdy. Front suspension (usually a sign of quality but some quality bikes are available without for those who prefer none), comfy upright riding position. Rack and mudguards and often a choice of handlebar style. Any motor and battery combination possible and even full suspension models.
Urban, commuter and Dutch style bikes
Exactly that, urban and commuter bikes are usually low and light with no suspension, can have a good spec. but often a synonym for a reduced spec. True Dutch bikes have very high and swept-back bars. Almost always step-through frames, they are very comfortable on very smooth surfaces and basic models are low torque.
Bikes have major components that come together to give you your overall riding experience.
The design and manufacturing quality of the bike are also very important as they affect not only the riding experience but the whole OWNERSHIP experience including aesthetics and life expectancy/reparability.
Most of the cheapest bikes (and some of the expensive ones!!!) come from China and the Far East. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you know what you are getting; basic design and quality that’s built to a price.
European bikes tend to have more consideration given to ergonomics and functionality of design and the smaller manufacturers have more ownership over the quality and service back-up.
Let's look at some of the components in more detail
Motor and Battery
A HUB MOTOR is the most basic (and the cheapest, with bikes starting at less than £1000)
It’s good for general riding and will certainly help you on the hills but it delivers a fixed power without sensing your effort. Generally they are the lowest torque motors
CRANK MOTORS feel exactly like riding a normal bike with the motor amplifying your own effort. As the going gets harder, the motor takes a bigger percentage of the strain.
The trend is definitely towards this ‘feel’but plenty of power in reserve which can be turned up and down at will. (These bikes are more expensive with prices starting at over £2000 for bikes with known and respected motor brands).
Now here is a word of warning…the technological details can get confusing but all crank motors don’t have the same performance.
It’s all about torque….
Ah yes the magic word…torque is not raw power but more the ability to deliver the power to the road (or hill!). Different motors produce more or less torque depending on their internal design.
Why then don’t all motors have about the same torque?
That’s largely down to the manufacturers. High torque motors are heavier, more expensive and use more battery. You can’t have everything!
Just make sure the torque of your motor matches the purpose of your bike and the amount of help you need… and are prepared to pay-for.
A low torque bike will be great for someone who doesn’t want or need too much help…. ever.
A high torque bike will be better for someone who may need extra help to conquer hills, now or in the future but can still be ridden with no or minimum assistance when you want to feel the burn!
Even those of you who love to compare facts and figures will not be able to choose your perfect bike on GOOGLE!
[An F1 car looks great on paper but try driving to the pub!!!]
Also, new motor brands are appearing every year so it would be difficult to compare them all, we selflessly try to that and offer you the ones with the best usability and reliability.
UK LAW restricts e-bikes used on the road to a power of 250 Watts so why do some motors feel more powerful than others?
EBikes don’t recharge themselves (there are some exceptions!) so you need to know how far you can ride on a charge right? Well here are a few factors to consider;
Battery capacity – some bikes are fixed, others let you choose the size you want. Bigger range = more expensive / weigh more.
Weight of bike and rider + luggage.
Riding conditions – Hills, terrain, wind, temperature
Riding style – Lot of help / little help
Battery capacity is quoted in Ampere/hour (Ah) or Watt/hour
(just to confuse things).
Small light commuter bikes have small light batteries with range of as little as 10 miles
Trekking, touring and mountain bikes have bigger batteries with ranges of over 100
There are more and more players joining (and leaving!) the game every year! Leaders at the time of writing are;
Here we look at design, materials and quality.
Cheaper bikes can have steel frames which are heavier and can rust but most frames are made from aluminium now and are all of pretty acceptable quality.
On more expensive bikes, better design costs more to make but is worth-it for its stiffness, light weight and functionality.
Look for things like quality of the welds and paint quality and things like sliding drop-outs. They will tell you that the frame has been designed and made to a quality and not a price!
Especially in step-through frames, the stiffness and weight determines the ride experience, it can easily be felt when bikes from different price ranges are ridden together.
Again this is fine if you are aware of the REASON one bike is cheaper than another.
The same principle applies except they are easier to change.
They fall into 3 broad groups: rigid, coil spring and air spring and prices range from £30 to £1500+! Make sure you know the difference and just as always decide what you need them to do and how much comfort you can afford. There’s no point in paying for what you don’t need but you’ll kick yourself if you make the wrong choice.
SADLY the bike manufacturers are clever at making money so BUNDLE some things you need and don’t really need together to make you buy a more expensive bike!
Again there are choices but not wrong ones if you know what’s important to you.
Perhaps the most important is the type of gear, standard derailleur where the chain moves up and down the external cogs. Nexus type gears where this mechanism is internal in the hub and continuous-variable transmission.
Possibly the most important factor is how easy is it to change gear but as you get more experienced with your bike …things like ratios and ease of maintenance become factors. Electronic and fully automatic gear systems are becoming more main-stream now at the high-end.
More expensive gears give you more ratios (‘speeds’) and snappier changes. You can spend a LOT of money on high specification gears.
Cable or hydraulic, disc or rim?
Things like drum brakes and back-pedal (coaster) brakes should ring alarm bells .. they are not usual on UK spec. bikes and to be honest a bit of an acquired taste!
Again, it depends how much riding you will do and under which conditions.
A rim brake or cable operated disc bike is a cheap option if you don’t think you will often ride in wet and muddy conditions.
Hubs, wheels, tyres, handlebars stems, saddles, seatposts, pedals, lights, rack…..
Here are areas where manufacturers also sometimes try and save money. Some are important, others less so and all can be changed to a lesser or greater extent.
That’s a whole another story…come and talk to us…and don’t be led by the name on the downtube!!!
It’s our policy to try to sell bikes from all manufacturers we have confidence in. Those who offer a fair product at a fair price. That’s not to say there are not others out there that are good performers and good value for money, but if we thought they were better than ours…. We would stock them!