|Electric bikes are the fastest growing sector in cycling, with bikes available to suit everything from comfortable weekend rides, to hardcore mountain biking. We take a look at some of the things you might not know about electric bikes.|
1. Pedal assisted
Most modern eBikes don’t use a motorbike style twist-grip throttle to control how fast they go. Although there are still a few manufacturers producing models with throttles, bikes with systems by Bosch, Yamaha and Shimano are pedal assisted. When you start pedalling, the motor helps to drive the cranks along with you. When you stop, the motor stops.
2. Fast, but not too fast
In the UK, electric bikes can assist you up to 15.5mph, and then the motor cuts out. However, you can still ride faster than 15.5mph under your own power. This is great for mountain bikers and speedy commuters.
You can use the motor to boost you uphill, then speed up and carry on under your own steam when the road/trail flattens out or heads downhill.
3. Electric bikes have different modes
Most Electric bikes give you a choice of four (or more) power modes when you ride them, which can be selected using a button on the handlebar, or from the onboard computer. These are:
- Off: No assistance – it’s all you!
- Eco: Provides the minimum amount of assistance, but gives you the longest range.
- Normal: A good balance between high speed and a long range.
- Sport/Turbo: Feel the wind in your hair and the breeze between your knees. You won’t even break a sweat.
4. Electric bike motors can be built into the wheels, or the frame
If you don’t like the look of a big bulky motor around the bottom bracket of your bike frame, there are a number of electric bikes which have the motor itself built into either the front or rear wheel hub, giving it a more disguised look.
In terms of the bike’s performance, the frame motors are more powerful and tend to react faster to the rider input, while the wheel motors can be quieter. Bikes with frame-mounted motors are typically also accompanied by larger capacity batteries and more sophisticated onboard computers, however, they are also more costly to buy.
5. It costs 27 times more to travel by car than by eBike
Charging a 500Wh eBike battery completely takes around 3 ½ hours, and costs less than 10p*. When riding in sport/turbo mode constantly, you can expect around 30 miles from a full battery – that’s equivalent to over 1,600 miles per gallon**! A very fuel efficient diesel at 60 miles per gallon will cost £2.74** in fuel to travel 30 miles.
Bear in mind that this is a worst-case scenario comparison which favours the car. Very few cars can honestly achieve 60mpg in the real world, and your eBike can travel a lot more than 30 miles if you ride using eco and normal modes.
*Based on UK average rate of 11.5p per 1000Wh (Feb 2017)
**Calculated using Diesel cost at £1.20 per litre
6. Just owning an eBike is cheaper than a car
To own and use a car in the UK, you need:
- Driving license
- Vehicle tax
- Somewhere to park it (which typically isn’t free away from home)
To own and run an electric bike in the UK, you need
- Space indoors or a railing
Taxing your vehicle can be as much as £500 per on its own, with insurance premiums varying wildly depending on your age, address, occupation, whether you have a clean license and so on.
7. Car manufacturers are running scared of them
Ok, maybe not quite scared of them. However, car manufacturers are paying close attention to the eBike market and they’re all too aware of the benefits an electric bike has over their own products. Several car manufacturers have either released concept electric bikes, with some taking that final step of going into production.
The German trinity of Mercedes, VW/Audi and BMW have all released some striking concepts, with BMW having a bosch-powered electric bike currently in production. Ford, Honda, Porsche, Toyota and Lexus are among the other names who have experimented with electric bikes.
8. Some electric bikes have automatic gears
Believe it or not, automatic gears on bikes are real, and they’re a fantastic idea. Cube are one bike brand who use a NuVinci HSYNC rear hub on some of their electric bikes (such as the Cube Delhi Hybrid Pro), which changes automatically so that you can pedal at a fixed cadence (speed your pedals rotate).
The NuVinci hub is a type of continuously variable transmission, meaning that there are a virtually infinite number of gears between the maximum and minimum ratio, and the changes between gears are smooth and stepless. The HSYNC system is even integrated into the onboard computer and powered by the main ebike battery. Simply set your desired cadence, and the computer does the rest.
9. The extra weight doesn’t affect the handling as much as you think
This is particularly relevant to electric mountain bikes, which need agility and responsiveness to provide a fun ride. The bulk of the weight on an eBike is in the motor, which is usually low down near the bottom bracket. On mountain bikes like the Cannondale Moterra eMTB, the battery is also placed as low down as possible, giving the bike great handling characteristics. You can find out more about the Moterra’s design features in our range preview.
While there’s no denying that electric bikes are heavier than their non-electric contemporaries, the extra weight is really only felt on the slow-speed handling manoeuvers where you need to muscle the bike around. At speed, and during fast corners, a well-setup electric bike can actually feel a lot more stable than a non-electric bike.
10. Electric bikes are incredibly fun to ride
This often gets overlooked in favour of the stats and statistics about why eBikes are better than cars. When you would otherwise be sat in traffic or sweating buckets to get to the top of your favourite trail, you could be having a whale of a time riding an eBike.
Even just on a leisurely weekend jaunt, an electric bike is an all new element of fun things about cycling, and that has to be one of the most important factors about riding any bike.
Written by Guy Brooke