With the emergence of electric bikes in the UK they are becoming ever more popular for all manner of cyclists but the key question we are asked is, “what bike is right for me?”, with so many types of electric bikes on the market, customers can get bamboozled with the differing variations on them so below we have outlined some key points that you should consider prior to buying an electric bike
Electric Bike Style
The first point is to consider what style of bike you are looking for so whether that be a step through bike in the classic design, a crossbar version, a mountain bike or perhaps a folding bike, you may see mention of hybrids and this refers to bikes that are suitable for trail use as well as road use, wheel size may be a factor as you get a smoother ride the larger the wheel but typically a 26” or 24” wheeled bike will be better for trails than perhaps a 700c or 28” wheeled bike that will be better road runners depending on the width and tread of the tyre. obviously, the step through bikes are easier to mount, Mountain bikes or E-MTB’s as they are known are great for off road use and trails and folding have the added advantage of being portable and space saving.
The ampere rating (AH) or watt hour rating (WH) will determine the length of distance the bike can travel on a charge dependent on terrain, rider weight and weather related cycling conditions, as a rule of thumb the below list is an approximate distances you can get on the various batteries, typically a 10AH or 375WH Battery will give an approx. distance of 27-35 miles and a 16ah battery will give an approx. distance of 60 – 70 Miles as a rule of thumb.
Power your Bike
The legal limit for an electric bike for on road use in the EU is 15.5mph and the motors must be limited to 250w, this will be the majority of bikes that are available, the voltage of the battery is important so if you need a powerful hill climber always go for a 36v battery and a 250w motor, there are some bikes with lesser powered motors and batteries so you would need to put a little more effort in to your cycling when encountering hilly terrain
A really key factor is obviously the size of the bike for your comfort and riding experience, there are a myriad of different frame suitability’s depending on the height of the rider and also the inside leg measurement so an approximate guide to sizing on a hybrid electric bike would be as follows
Height 4’10’’ - 5’2’’ Frame Size 13” – 14”
Height 5’2’’ - 5’6’’ Frame Size 15” – 16”
Height 5’6’’ - 5’10’’ Frame Size 17” – 18”
Height 5’10’’ - 6’1’’ Frame Size 19” – 20”
Height 6’1’’ - 6’4’’ Frame Size 21” – 22”
Electric Bicycle Drive Systems
There are two main drive systems with electric bikes; these are either central crank driven systems or hub driven systems.
Crank driven motors are located in the middle of the bike frame, where the bottom bracket normally sits. The drive system propels the bike through the chain with the use of the rear wheel gears. This is a highly efficient system, because it can increase its own torque through the use of wheel’s cassette. To put it simple, it can allow the bicycle to climb up very steep hills.
Crank drives are what is known as a pedelec bike which means it will only work when the rider keeps pedalling by rotating the cranks. They are more intuitive than hub driven motors because they are equipped with a torque sensor, which recognizes when the rider puts more effort on the cranks. The higher the rider’s effort on the cranks, the more power is supplied by the motor and the faster the bike goes. , these make them very efficient and are great for hill climbing. But because they work as a pedelec only, the rider needs to keep pedalling to make the assistance work.
Various Crank drive systems are available, so the ones to look out for are Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and Panasonic.
On hub driven systems the motor is located inside the hub; this propels the whole wheel independently from the bike chain or cassette so works from power on demand. With Hub motor systems they can be driven in two modes. Either by pedal assist mode or alternatively via throttle control. With many models you can select different levels of pedal assist modes and the power will come in based on the level set whilst pedalling. The throttle mode will be just a twist and go or thumb throttle, this mode does not require the rider to pedal. It is important to note that there is a limitation on the speed the throttle can go as of the 1st January 2016 which limits the speed to 6kph in line with European law. Hub driven bikes are great for riders which do not want to worry about the need for exertion as with crank drives. Whilst the crank drives give you a more seamless sense of riding, with hub motors you can just select the power mode you want so is a more effortless means of cycling an electric bike.
Hub vs Crank Motors
One of the big questions you will have about buying an Electric Bike is what the difference is between hub motors and crank motors?
There is a major cost difference – you won’t find a crank motor e-bike for much less than £1,200 and you can get one with a hub motor for as little as £600. Given that there has to be a reason for the top end machines only using crank motors and not hub motors!
Let’s start by looking at the pros and cons of a hub motor electric bike, and then focus on the crank motor system.
Many of the electric bikes we sell at have hub motors. Unless you are a serious rider with plans to go further afield or on regular longer commutes you really don’t need a crank motor system.
Hub motors are the oldest type of e-bike motor. Given the maturity of the technology, Chinese e-bike manufacturers are able to make highly reliable and long-lasting e-bike motors in great volume and therefore sell them cheaply.
There are two types of hub motor – the front hub and the rear hub.
An e-bike with a front hub motor such as the Benelli Fold City will put some extra weight forward of the battery and seat, giving a better weight distribution over the machine. Should you get a puncture it is easier to repair than a rear hub system. There is however the small risk of wheel spin from a standing start – being in the right gear can sort that.
Rear hub motors are becoming the standard hub motor system – only a few pre-built electric bikes have front hub systems these days. With a rear hub motor system such as the Freego Regency and Greenedge CS2 the power goes where it would normally through the chain, unlike the front hub system. This makes for a very good riding experience. You can work through your gears as well as through the power assist modes using this system and you will hardly break a sweat even on the more difficult hills – you can put in as much or as little effort into climbing them as you like!
The biggest difficulty with rear hub e-bike systems is repairing a puncture – this requires a little bit more effort such as the unplugging of a wire, but not too much more than on a traditional bike.
Crank motors are on our more expensive ranges of e-bikes.
Have a spare £12,000 to spend?! Have a look at the Haibike XDURO FullSeven Carbon electric mountain bike with its Bosch crank motor. Short of climbing Mount Everest, nothing will stand in your way as you blast along with perfect ease – whatever the terrain. Let’s be honest – you’re just as likely to buy a Ferrari as you are one of these! You can still buy a very good commuting electric bike such as one of the Raleigh Motus series electric bikes, that will be a significant step in cost beyond what people might spend on a standard pedal bike but will serve you well.
So, why crank motors? Crank motors put the power exactly where you would when you pedal. This gives a really natural riding experience. The weight distribution of the crank motor e-bike is the same as you would find on a traditional bike – almost dead centre of the machine. Crank motors are the best for hilly journeys too due to the torque sensor which gives feedback to the computer and then into the motor. With a couple of thumb clicks you tell the system how much effort it should put in and it will match your cycling effort. The more you put in the more you get out up to 15mph – after that legally mandated speed it will cut out and you’re on your own!
We don’t sell as many of crank motor e-bikes as we do hub motor system electric bikes. Why? Price is the biggest issue, though serious cyclists who would spend a few quid on a bike anyway prefer the crank motor system. Hub systems tend to be for people who want to get a bit fitter, replace their cars for certain journeys, and may want that extra power that they might only get in their legs with a few years cycling.
The most expensive crank motor e-bikes are built for serious off road riders, perhaps the sort of person like your writer’s cousin’s ex-fiancée who decided to spend a large amount of the savings they had made for a deposit on their first home together on a mountain bike… For the sort who don’t lie in bed with their future wife thinking of mountain bikes, you can still afford a decent hub or crank motor system that will suit your needs!