Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are designed to assist your pedalling rather than replace it. The more pressure you apply to the pedals the more electrical power is applied to assist the rider. The motor will cut out once you reach 25kph (15.5mph) so if you want to go faster than that, it’ll be down to your effort.
E-bikes are at their best when you want to start commuting on two wheels, but feel your journey is just that bit too far or strenuous, or in off road situations where all the fun is in the downhill sections and you need that extra boost to get you back to the top of the hill so you can have the thrill of the decent again and again.
Assisted pedalling means less exertion and less chance of arriving at work or the top of the hill dripping in sweat.
There’s some evidence that e-bike owners cycle more, so even if it’s not as good a workout as a regular bike, it’s certainly better than nothing.
E-bikes are heavier than regular ones, often 7kg extra or more.
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Modern electric bikes use very similar setups to provide extra power when pedalling. These can be in the form of a hub or bottom bracket mounted motor. Meaning that sensors register when the pedals are turning and power is provided from brushless motors.
All electric bikes will have some kind of control unit; this can be found in the form of a handlebar mounted computer, on the battery or in some cases even controlled via a smart phone app. The handlebar mounted computers are very similar to a normal bicycle computer providing information about speed, distance and more electric bike specific things like remaining battery life and give you control over the level of assistance required.
The more advanced smart phone based systems offer a fully customisable system, allowing you to set your assistance based on the GPS data of your route. Luckily most manufacturers systems are a basic plug and play which means you can get the most out of your electric bike without having to touch a button.
The battery is unarguably the most important part of an electric bike. Batteries come in a variety of wattages from 200w to 550w; the amount of watts a battery has depends on the amount of power provided to the motor. Ultimately defining the amount of assistance provided and range of your electric bike, this is similar to the different octane fuels available for your car. A lower wattage is like a small unleaded car compared to a diesel car with a higher wattage battery giving your more torque and range.
Just like cars, the batteries or ‘fuel tank’ can be found in multiple positions on the bike. Most will currently be found on the down tube of the frame or on a rack on the back of the bike.