Beginners' Guide To Electric Bikes
BEGINNERS GUIDE TO ELECTRIC BIKES
With so many people now turning to electric bikes, known as e-bikes, as their personal transport solution, e-bikes are now the fastest growing sector of the bicycling industry, worldwide. E-bikes make cycling as a regular form of transport a viable option for a wide range of people and e-riders are getting further than ever while using less energy.
Even fit, experienced cyclists will expend less energy on an e-bike, arriving at their destination feeling clean and refreshed. The appeal of e-bikes is broad – you get most of the benefits of cycling (fitness, fresh air, door-to-door convenience) but it’s simply easier. By reading the Electric Bike Centre’s “Beginners Guide to Electric Bikes” you are taking the first exciting steps towards a whole new world of independence, freedom, health, fitness & fun!
SO WHAT IS AN ELECTRIC BIKE?
An electric bike is a bicycle that uses an electric motor to help with propulsion. Basically, it's like a normal bicycle with the addition of a battery pack and an electric motor – you can recharge the battery pack at any time by plugging it into the mains power. The motor is there to ease the burden of pedalling, and most e-bikes allow you to choose a small amount of assistance as you pedal or a higher level of assistance making it easier to go uphill or cycle into headwind.
Electric bikes will help you cycle further, with less effort.
WHERE TO GET STARTED? CHOOSE A BIKE THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS
With so many different styles, models & price ranges available, buying an electric bike can seem confusing, but it doesn’t need to be. Electric Bike Centre has helped thousands of new e-riders choose & purchase the perfect e-bike, so let’s get started with some basics to get you on your way. When choosing an electric bike, it is important that it is comfortable, looks appealing and will support your style of riding and its intended use. For example...
Electric Mountain Bikes – Although mountain bikes are generally designed for off road use, there is now such a great range of electric mountain bikes, they are now equally as popular with commuters who also use them for some light off roading at the weekends. They generally have more durable frames, stronger wheels, sportier looks, treaded tyres, front suspension forks and have a more upright riding position. Add a set of lights and a rear rack and you have a great all rounder.
Electric Fat Bikes – Fat e-bikes get their name from the wide tyres (up to 4” wide) that make riding through difficult terrains, such as sand, snow, or mountaneous routes, much easier. These bikes were initially designed for the Alaskan winter trail riding, but they are extremely versatile. For the adventerous riders that want to be able to go through almost any obstacles, fat e-bikes are an ideal fit. The ability to lower the tyre pressure ensures a smoother ride in the mountains, along the beach or even in the urban landscape. And because it is an e-bike, you can take your adventures even further!
Electric Hybrid/Urban Bikes – If the electric bike is an alternative to the car for getting in and around town or to work, then consider a hybrid bike (a halfway model between mountain and road bikes). This combines speed, efficiency and comfort and probably makes the best option for most buyers. In fact, this is the market most electric bicycles are intended for. Hybrids are available as a step through frame (unisex) or step over frame (mens frame)
Folding/Compact Electric Bikes – Electric folding bikes are now becoming more and popular, especially as technology has progressed so fast with these types of frames. The folding e-bikes are popular with commuters, students and “baby boomers’ or grey nomads who travel in boats, cars or caravans. If space or storage is an issue, then folding is the way to go!
Cargo Electric Bikes – A quality cargo bike is very much like a normal bike, but has the added benefits of being stronger with a longer rack on rear designed to fit a whole range of accessories including seats, kids seats and boxes/crates up to 120Kgs + the rider. They are very popular in Europe and are designed as a real alternative to a car.
HOW MUCH TO SPEND ON AN E-BIKE?
As with anything, you get what you pay for! To get a quality e-bike with good components, a strong motor, a reliable battery, manufacturers back up & support as well as access to spare parts (in Australia), you should really consider $1,800 as the starting point. When buying an e-bike in Australia, do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask who the manufacturer is, where the bikes are made and what back up and support is provided if something should go wrong.
WHAT’S LEGAL & WHAT ARE THE RULES?
In May 2012, Australia amended its laws, to be in line with the European market, and increased the allowable motor size from 200 to 250 Watts. The Australian laws state that an electric bike with 250 watts must be limited to a top speed of 25 kilometers per hour and requires the rider to access the power by pedalling (i.e pedalling the bicycle rather than using a throttle). These new types of electric bikes are classified and now known as “pedelecs”.
You do not require any form licence or registration to ride a “pedelec e-bike” in Australia.
The changes to allow 250 watt motors in Australia has been very warmly welcomed, as it gives riders more power, encourages exercise and importantly allows European electric bike manufacturers to import into Australia, proving much higher quality bikes with better components, features, reliability and choice.
HOW TO CONTROL AN E-BIKE
If you are used to riding a traditional bike, the pedal assist mode has a more intuitive feel compared to a bike controlled by throttle only. The pedal assist mode is also nice because you can focus purely on your pedalling and you don’t have to hold the throttle in a certain position. Since you have to pedal, the pedal assist mode will also give you more range when compared to the throttle mode. A lot of pedal assist bikes have different levels of assistance, for example: low, medium, or high assist. Please note that some electric bikes have 4 or 5 pedal assist settings, but for this example we will just stick with low, medium, and high.
Low pedal assist: you are feeling pretty good on the bike. Low assist provides a little electric assist while you provide more pedal power and get more of a workout.
Medium pedal assist: you have a nice tailwind everywhere you go. Medium pedal assist can be a nice balance of your pedal power and the motor power.
High pedal assist: you feel like Superman! High pedal assist is when you want to get somewhere quickly and with minimal effort. This could be useful if you want to get to work without sweating too much. On the way home, you could use the low pedal assist to work out the stress of the day.
FRONT WHEEL HUB, REAR WHEEL HUB OR CRANK DRIVE SYSTEM
We don’t want to get too technical and confuse you here, but we thought we should highlight the different types of motor positioning on electric bikes. For the average day to day rider, where the motor is located on the bike doesn’t really matter, but for commuters or riders that live in very hilly areas this is maybe something to consider but again – your best bet is to test ride a range of bike and see for yourself which one performs better for your requirements:
Front wheel hub motor: Using a front hub motor helps equalise the weight of your bicycle since the batteries are quite often mounted on the rear rack. Many riders feel like they have more control with a front wheel kit and they're great for casual/lifestyle bikers. When riding, the rider can easily see the front wheel and respond quickly to problems such as wheel spinning or slipping.
Rear hub motor: Rear wheel drive has the advantage of better traction which is great for hills and inclines. And because the rear frame dropouts are normally stronger than the front fork dropouts, a rear wheel can handle more torque and increased power. Rear wheel hubs are best used on mountain/hybrid/commuting e-bikes
Mid drive motor: Mid drive motors systems are all the rage, with good reason as they are generally more powerful, more reliable, more sophisticated, smoother and are virtually silent and because the system is built around the bottom bracket, the torque can be greater than a traditional rear or front hub motor. The essential electronics are also incorporated in the drive unit, making for a reliable and weatherproof system. International manufacturers like Bosch, Shimano, Impulse 2.0 & Yamaha currently dominate the market, but the race is on to create smaller, more powerful, lighter mid drive motors. The only really issue with mid drive motors is cost. The average price of a good quality e-bike with a branded mid drive motor is $4,000.
BATTERY SIZE & RANGE
Today, the quality electric bikes have lithium ion batteries which have in built battery management systems (BMS), which basically preserves and maintains the quality of the charging and discharging process. As well as being lighter than other types of batteries, they last for longer and provide much greater range. Most manufacturers also provide a choice of different sized batteries (measured by amp hours) that can be suited to different riders needs or the type of bike. For example casual rider would opt for a standard 9Ah or 10Ah the battery, which would provide a comfortable range of up to 50km. However, a commuter would prefer a larger 12Ah or 15Ah battery that would provide a higher range of between 50 and 80 km.
The type of bike you purchase could also influence the size of battery required. For example a smaller, lighter bike like a folding or compact bike would require less power to move, so a smaller battery would suffice. Whereas a cargo cycle or tandem which could carry up to 100kgs extra weight would require more power, so a larger battery would be advisable.
When you go electric you will definitely use your bike more so it’s worth remembering that it’s better to have plenty left in the tank when out on a ride so you have the peace of mind you are not going to be left short.
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE
A quality electric bike should not really require any more maintenance than a normal push bike as long as you treat it right and get it serviced regularly. We recommend to get your electric bike serviced at least once a year, as you would a car or motorbike (i.e brakes, chain, lube, brakes, spokes etc).The two main components of an electric bike, the motor and the battery are sealed units so are not serviceable. Therefore, if it did go wrong it would be replaced under warranty rather than be repaired, so very little maintenance is required here.
WARRANTY & SUPPORT
The reason you should buy a quality e-bike from a reputable manufacturer/dealer is that it really pays off if something goes wrong. Warranty, support and quick back-up are essential with your purchase. A lot of customers worry about back up and support and believe they always need to buy a product from the e-bike dealer that is geographically closest to where they live. That’s not really the case anymore, as there are numerous e-bike specialists Australia wide now who can easily assist should something go wrong and assistance is needed.
DO YOU NEED HELP FINDING THE RIGHT E-BIKE FOR YOU?
With so many choices, models and styles of e-bikes we have available, we know that finding the right e-bike can be downright daunting. At Electric Bike Centre, we pride ourselves on having the widest range of quality e-bikes in Australia. We have an e-bike to suit every type of rider and budget and we can help you find the right one. Simply call 1300 883 413 or send us an email via our contact form and we will help you find the perfect match, guaranteed!