How to choose an electric bike

How to choose an electric bike

Electric bikes have become quite popular across all cycling levels and proficiencies. These e-bikes are able to offer additional power when out on a ride, and this can really improve a day out cycling. Combining features like pedal assist and throttle, cyclists can now improve their speed, travel distance, or even the weight they haul.

However, there are various features to consider when getting an e-bike. Similar to conventional bikes, e-bikes come in various categories including road, urban, cargo and folding. As such, you will need to carefully think about how you are going to use this bike to select the one that has the features and components you need. To help you, we've listed some of the top questions you should be asking yourself before you buy a new electric bike:

  • How far are you riding? What's the battery life?
  • What type of biking are you intending to do?
  • Do you need throttle, pedal assist, or both?
  • Where do you need the motor placed?
  • How heavy a bike can you cope with?

Throughout this guide, we're going to cover all the features and components you should consider when picking an e-bike.

 

What is an e-bike?

An electric bike is essentially a regular bike that has a motor added to give more power and assist your cycling. Essentially, it is a hybrid bike as some of the power of the bike still comes from the rider when they pedal, and some of it comes from the motor. Depending on the specific e-bike, the power can come from the throttle or from a pedal assist function. You will need to pedal in order to activate the motor and this is what makes it different to a moped or motorbike.

  • Motor type: there are two main types of motor, crank (or mid-drive) and hub motors. Crank or mid are the most popular and recognizable by the fact that they are added to the frame around the bottom bracket. They can maintain their power over many speeds, offering good power and efficiency. Hub motors are rarely used.
  • Number of batteries: some e-bikes give you the option to have more than one battery. You can then switch over should the first battery die. Bear in mind that this will add extra weight to a bike.
  • Battery power: the larger your battery, the more distance you've got with each charge. However, you need to consider power versus energy. So, a bike needing high power needs a lot of battery power. This means that the battery might run out quickly, or you will need a larger battery, which can be heavy. On the other side, a battery that provides a low power input to the bike doesn't need as much battery power, which results in a lighter battery.
  • Capacity: this refers to the output a battery can generate under ideal conditions. The unit of measurement is the milliampere-hour (mAh).
  • Power: this is the actual output and is measured in Watt hours (Wh). It depends on the voltage (V) and the mAh rating of the battery and can range from 250 Wh to as much as 1000 Wh.
  • Range: this varies widely, and the range should be checked before buying. It can differ significantly depending on the terrain, the weather, and the power mode used. Typically, the longest range per charge is available when touring using Eco mode on flat, smooth, well-surfaced roads.
  • Assist levels: in Europe, the main point to consider is that there is a speed limit of 25 km/h here. Once you exceed that speed, the pedal assist from the motor will cease.
  • Multiple power modes: most e-bikes come with various power options including Turbo, Sport, Tour and Eco. The use of these can help improve your cycling depending on the terrain (Sport or Tour), incline (Turbo) or how long you want your battery to last (Eco).
  • Display and controls: it is essential to have a clear display. Good bike displays will clearly indicate the correct battery life percentage. They will offer additional data options, be customisable, easy to read and reliable. The lack of a good, clear display can impact your riding experience, especially if you don't have an accurate battery percentage readout.
  • Torque sensor: e-bikes have different levels of assist. A torque sensor allows the e bike to determine the right amount of assistance in real time, decreasing or increasing the motor output for a more efficient ride.
  • Charging time: batteries differ in charging time depending on their capacity and power. Small (low-capacity) batteries take less time to recharge fully than higher-capacity batteries.
  • Integration: linking or “pairing” your smartphone and its GPS function to your e-bike's smart system can be done using an app. This allows you to send information, such as route directions, directly from your phone to your bike's display.

By considering all these components and e-bike features, you will be able to pick a bike that ably meets your requirements. You must consider your preferences when selecting the components that suit you. The features outlined above are designed to improve your efficiency when it comes to riding, giving you better speed, or pedal assist. Bear in mind that an electric bike is heavier than a conventional one, simply because of the additional motor. This should be a strong consideration when choosing other components and bike features.

 

What to consider when picking an electric bike

As you can see, choosing an e bike must be done by considering the components and features you will actually need on your ride. Just like their non-electric counterparts, you'll find e-MTB and e-Road bikes that offer a range of different features. As such, checking the motor power, electric bike battery range and capacity, integration, assist levels, and bike weight, are essential for ensuring you'll get a good ride. Take a look at the in-depth information we have provided here and pick the best bike for you.

Frame geometry and types of electric bike

Just like regular bikes, there are different e-bikes for men and women. These have different uses depending on where you want to cycle. For instance, if you're primarily an urban cyclist, you don't need, or want, an off-road e-bike. And vice versa.

Urban

Part of the larger, commuter category, urban e-bikes are best for short-range travel. Typically, these bikes are lighter, and more nimble than some of the other e-bike types available. They also have less power and a shorter range per battery charge than other ebikes. So, while they're lighter, they won't go for long distances. As these are primarily used on smooth roads, there's no need to get weighed down with suspension or shocks, making these bikes simple, yet aerodynamic, and supremely efficient in the city environment.

Trekking

For going off trail, trekking e-bikes, like the e-road bike, are great for a practical ride on a range of terrains. They tend to come with a variety of accessories such as full-length mudguards, inbuilt lights, panniers for luggage and, of course, comfortable seats for long-distance biking. Importantly, a trekking e-bike is pedal assist, which can help on various terrains providing an intuitive ride. The precise geometry makes this a more upright ride for relaxed riding over longer distances.

Hybrid

Blending characteristics from road, mountain and touring bikes, these e-hybrids offer a lot more stability and comfort. They're a great all-round bike and have flat handlebars, with an upright sitting posture. Additionally, they operate with a suspension fork and have efficient tyres. As such, they're good for both urban commuting as well as touring the countryside for a weekend ride.

Other types

There are also cargo e bikes for taking additional equipment around. Often known as a boxbike, these have a box at the front in which to place any cargo. You can also find folding e-bikes, which are portable, though not very common at this time.

 

Multiple power modes

Just like an e-MTB, standard electric bikes have multiple power modes. Usually, these include Tour, Sport, Turbo and Eco. Depending on the terrain you are on, or what you use your bike for, you can switch between these different modes.

For instance, Eco offers the lowest assistance, so you'll have to do more pedalling. But this also means you won't use so much battery power. If you're aiming for a long ride and need to conserve your battery charge to go the distance, Eco is the mode for you.

Turbo is the complete opposite. This is all about giving a very strong boost — either speed or help uphill. Therefore, the motor works very hard, using a lot of battery power. It's a fun mode, but shouldn't be used continuously otherwise your battery will run dry quickly.

Tour falls in between these two, offering a greater boost than Eco, but not quite as much as Turbo. Finally, Sport mode is ideal when a fast response is needed, providing instant acceleration. Consider switching between modes for better battery management while out on a ride as the process is very simple.

 

Motor type

Where the motor is positioned is an important consideration. For a mid-drive motor, the electric bike engine is found on the bottom bracket where the crank arms attach to the bike. This type of motor provides a natural pedal assist. The weight of the motor is centrally located on the bike making it more balanced and stable all around.

A hub-drive motor is found inside the hub of the rear (or sometimes the front) wheel. With a hub-drive motor, changing tyres is more complex, so it's not commonly used these days.

 

Battery integration

The battery setup is also important. Some bikes have an integrated battery as the frame accommodates it as part of the frame geometry. This can make it easy to add additional accessories such as a bike bag or bottle to the frame.

External batteries may look less streamlined and take up valuable water bottle hanging space. However, they have the benefit of being easily detachable making them easier to recharge or replace.

 

Frame material

The most common frame materials for e bikes are aluminium, carbon fibre and steel. These days, most bikes are made from aluminium as this is the cheaper option while still offering a sturdy frame. Aluminium frames are heavier than carbon fibre, but with an added battery, this might not be that noticeable. This type of frame offers a better feel during the descent as well as greater flexibility for hard rides making it more forgiving. While not as nice to look at as other frame materials, aluminium does have the significant advantage of being budget-friendly.

Carbon fibre, on the other hand, is more expensive, but also more aesthetically pleasing to look at and offers a lighter overall bike. It's also stiffer than aluminium making it a better option on smooth or flat surfaces. Additionally, it's more comfortable if you're going for longer rides as rougher terrains will feel softer.

As other components, such as batteries and motors, will be included on your bike, considering the effects of your frame material is a must. While heavier bikes can counteract this weight through pedal assist, a lighter bike will be more nimble. As such, a lighter bike is likely to offer a better ride, which is worth considering.

 

What gears does an electric bike need?

Electric bikes don't need as many gears as conventional bikes. With a mid-drive motor, there is only one gear at the front, which reduces your overall gear ratio range. But, they do have power to the chain, which means an e bike can benefit from rear gears including drivetrains with 8-12 gear cassettes. A gear ratio of 300% should be the standard and is considered very decent for a range of terrains.

 

Tyre size and tread

Choosing the perfect tyre and tread for your bike will depend on what you want to use your bike for. Tyres come in a variety of widths. Road bike tyres are usually narrow (1.95-inch is standard) with a smooth tread for speed, while off-roading tyres are wider (2.5-inch and up) and provide a more cushioned ride over rough terrain.

Opting for a mid-width tyre is sensible, as wider tyres can reduce your speed and overall range when using an e-bike. Up to 2.5-inch wide tyres with high pressure are best for supporting the additional weight of the battery and motor without compromising too much on speed and efficiency. For general use, choose a tread pattern that is designed to give you good traction and control on both off-road and pavement terrains.

Brake type

As an e bike has more weight, it's sensible to use hydraulic disc brakes. These provide a strong, and consistent, brake performance for everything including downhill as there is good modulation. Regenerative brakes, charging the battery when slowing down, can also be used on this type of bike.

 

How safe is an e bike?

Often there are safety concerns surrounding e bikes. Many potential riders are concerned that this type of bike should not get wet, but this is not the case. Electric bikes are water-resistant so riding in the rain or washing your bike are perfectly fine to do.

Buying batteries from high-quality brands and taking proper care of your bike and battery will reduce the likelihood of this overheating and chemical chain reaction that could cause fire. Mechanical damage from a fall, overheating in a hot climate, a swollen battery or overcharging a battery that was completely discharged are all potential causes of overheating.

Following correct battery care procedures and maintenance can easily avoid incidents.

 

 

Which e bike is best for you?

Whether you're looking for an e bike women or for men, knowing the type of riding you will be doing is essential when choosing the right electric bike. Choose the model and frame, and then ensure it fits you correctly by following the brand's size chart.

 

Where to buy and rent electric bikes in the Canaries

If you're looking for an e bike men or women, then here at Free Motion we've got you covered. Offering a range of brands and bike types, we can meet all your needs when you're in the Canaries. With ten shops across Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, we can offer you a range of top-quality bikes. And, you can test them with us before purchasing.

We'll ensure the bike is correctly fitted for your height as well as providing any necessary accessories including displays. Get in touch today to learn more about our e bikes and what we have available.

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