There are now 1000’s of ebikes on the market, and every salesman tells you theirs is the best. But how do you choose the right e-bike for your needs? Here are the main things you need to consider, and how you can avoid getting a e-bike which is either too expensive or not suitable for what you need from it.
1. Pedelec or not? In order to comply with European law on e-bikes, you will need to have a driving licence and insurance to use a non-pedelec electric bike. Non-pedelec bikes are classed as motor propelled vehicles. For the remainder of this post, we will concentrate ONLY on PEDELEC e-bikes. Pedelec e-bikes are e-bikes where the electric power will only kick in when you are pedalling, and once you stop pedalling, the electric power will cease.
2. Range. Probably the most misunderstood area in e-bike technology. Many people assume that the more powerful the battery they get, the more distance they are going to get out of it. This is not always the case. If you have a very powerful motor, and your bike can reach high speeds, then it is likely that you will get a lot less out of your battery than if you had a less high-powered e-bike.
There are also bikes on the market, that have energy saving technology built in. For example, some bikes will deliver less power to you when you don’t need it: when you cycle along, you may encounter different terrain, such as relatively flat areas and other quite hilly spots. While you are cycling on the flatter areas you will be putting less pressure on the crank (pedals) and the more intelligent e-bikes will sense that. They will deliver less power accordingly. Once you hit a hillier spot,the pressure will go back on the crank and the bike will deliver more power to you to assist with the hill.
In order to reach a higher range on the more intelligent bikes, you do need to manage your use of the high medium and low power options and your gearing, to ensure that the bike is doing less work for the same result. With time, it is possible to learn how to extend the range of these bikes quite significantly.
However, these bikes tend to be the more expensive bikes on the market, the majority of pedelec bikes deliver the same quality of power to the motor at all times, and the battery will not last as long.
The weight of the bike rider is also a major factor in battery range, as are the conditions, such as hills or headwinds. If the manufacturer is telling you the range of the bike is 60km, you can be sure that is in the best conditions with an adult weighing 70kg or less. So it is usually fair to assume that you will get about 70% of that range out of the bike, so in this case about 40km, before you have to recharge.
3. Speed. In order to comply with European regulations, any pedelec e-bike that can reach more than 25km per hour will require a driving licence and insurance. Many ebikes on the market are limited to 25km per hour, and if you attempt to reach more than that, the bike will slow you down. In most cases, 25km is a decent speed to reach, and is up to 2.5 times the average speed of the recreational cyclist.
4. Battery. While it is important to consider the power of the battery (usually expressed in w/h or ah), it is also crucial to know how long the battery is likely to last, as the average battery can cost upwards of €300 to replace. All batteries have a finite number of charges they can take, some are in the region of 1100, but many are only 500. So if you have a bike with a range of 40km, you will only get 20,000 miles out if it, or, if you are using it every day, your battery life will be less than 2 years.
5. Warranty. This is a very important factor to consider, as most e-bikes cost more than €1500 and this is not an amount to spend lightly. The longer the warranty period the better, and the warranty should cover the motor AND the battery. Many ebikes have warranty periods of 1 year or less, mainly due to the battery limitations discussed in 4. above.
6. and finally,Price. Like anything else in life, with e-bikes you get what you pay for. If your bike has a good battery, a high range and long battery life (e.g. 1100 charges), you are going to get a much longer life from it, in some cases up to 5 times the life of another e-bike, so it is worth considering all of the factors in 1-5 above before choosing. Typically the bigger brands (Kalkhoff, BH, Flyer etc. ) come with 2 years’ warranty as a minimum, and will hold their resale value as a result.
So in conclusion, you need to decide how much and in what conditions you are going to use your e-bike before investing. If you are using it for commuting, it is very important not to run out of power, but you may be doing relatively short distances, and could manage on a bike with a range of only 40km per charge, however, remember that this battery will likely only last 500 charges. With some of the higher spec bikes, doing 40km a day you will need to charge your battery only once or twice a week. If you want to do long distances, then you will need to go for a battery with a long range, as the batteries often take up to 6 hours to fully recharge if they are flat.
Most e-bike sellers will give you a test-drive, so make sure you use that facility. If they don’t offer you a test drive, ask yourself why? Many will even rent you the bike for a day, and then knock the price of the rental off the sale price, so just ask!
The best of luck with your purchase, and please contact us if you have any questions by leaving a comment here or on firstname.lastname@example.org