To help you understand the nuances of e-biking, I am pleased to include an article by Julia Widdup, from Canberra Pedal Power, called "All you need to know about e-bikes" that was published in Canberra Cyclist, # 278, Summer Edition 2021.
There are many myths associated with ebikes which deter 'real' bike riders from even trying an e-bike. Here are the sev biggest myths about e-bikes:
• You don't have to pedal an E-Bike, just turn the throttle
• E-bikes are cheating
• E-bikes aren't good exercise
• E-bikes are for people who can't ride conventional bikes
• E-bikes are too expensive
• E-bike batteries don't last long
• E-bikes can't go where mountain bikes go.
E-bikes are becoming the new normal and have many advantages for the everyday rider. The terms e-bike and electric bicycle today are often used as synonyms for pedelecs. A pedelec (e-bike) is a type of electric bicycle where the rider's pedalling is assisted by a small electric motor.
How do e-bikes work?
Sensors detect when you are pedalling. These sensors tell how fast or hard you are pedalling and add extra power as required via a motor either found in the wheels or at the pedal crank. The more expensive e-bikes use torque sensors to tell how hard you are pedalling and then smoothly add the extra power. This is especially helpful on hills or when pulling away at traffic lights.
The electrical energy is stored in a battery that is usually attached to the rack or the frame. In some e-bikes, the battery is hidden inside the tubes of the frame. The battery is charged up using a charger that plugs into the mains, just like a mobile phone. Batteries come in a variety of sizes and usually the bigger the battery the further you can go on one charge. E-bikes have one of three types of motors:
• Front-wheel motors
These are located in the hub of the front wheel and are found on the most affordable e-bikes. These motors provide good levels of power for getting around town but are less suitable for very hilly areas. These motors work with derailleur and hub gears.
• Rear-wheel motors
These are more powerful and quieter than front-wheel motors. Because they power the rear wheel, to riders it is more like riding a conventional bike. These motors usually have derailleur gears and they work well on bikes designed for city and trail riding.
• Mid or crank drive motors
These motors are located between the pedals. They're usually more powerful and more sophisticated than wheel motors and so can give you more support and deliver it with a more natural feel. They will work with both derailleur and hub gears. They're great for all terrains and are ideal for electric-assist mountain bikes.
Are e-bikes different to ride compared to a normal pedal bike?
You ride an e-bike the same way you ride a normal bike. You might find an e-bike is heavier than a normal bike, but the electric boost often makes up for that.
Are e-bikes good for exercise?
While the motor assistance of an e-bike is available they do require pedalling effort and are still good exercise. Because an electric bike inspires you to tackle hills or go on longer rides that you wouldn't normally, you're likely to burn off more energy in the long term.
What are the rules on e-bikes in NSW and the ACT (will add in the rules for elsewhere, including overseas as they become available)
New South Wales e-bike law permits two classes of e-bikes.You can legally ride your bike on all public roads and designated
areas if your e-bike falls into any of the classifications below:
• 250 W pedelec bikes, with speed limited to 25 km/h and is EN15194-certified.
• 200 W electric bikes, with motor cutting out at 25 km/h. These units may be fitted with a throttle, which means no
pedalling is required in initial take off. Electric-assist bikes may only be operated by persons aged 16 years and older
and you do not need a licence to ride one. Electric-assist bikes are subject to the same road laws as other bikes. It is legal
to ride a bike or e-bike on cycle paths and shared-use paths, as well as on the road. But it is not legal to ride a bike or e-bike on footpaths or shared paths in all states. In ACT you can but not NSW.
Are e-bikes heavy?
E-bikes are often heavier than non-electric bikes as they have a motor, battery and handlebar-mounted controller, which adds extra weight. When buying, check the weight, especially if you expect to need to lift and carry the bike or want to carry it on a vehicle. A typical weight for an e-bike is over 20 kg but as the technology develops electric-assist bikes are becoming lighter, with the lightest currently around 10 kg. Weights will vary between each model of an e-bike, as some will have different types of motors and batteries. The more power or endurance you require in an e-bike, the heavier it will likely be. Road bikes will often remain on the lighter side.
Are e-bikes waterproof?
Most e-bikes are not completely waterproof. You can ride them in the rain, but they shouldn't be ridden through streams where a battery will be immersed. Try to take care when cleaning your e-bike to keep the water from the electrical connection points.
Can an electric bike climb hills?
E-bikes are perfect for hills. They provide the extra power to help get you to the top but they still require you to make some effort. They're often fitted with hydraulic disc brakes. These are more efficient when descending than normal rim brakes, so be aware that if you pull the brakes hard you will stop very quickly.
How far can an e-bike go?
A number of factors affect this including battery capacity, the number of hills, the wind and how hard you pedal. It will also depend on the amount of assistance you use. If the e-bike is on the Eco Setting you might get 65 to 80 km or more from a full battery. If you use the Turbo Setting, this is likely to be reduced to around 50 km. Note that batteries don't recharge while cycling. You recharge the battery between rides. If the battery goes flat while out and about you just pedal like a normal bike. It may be harder work to cycle though, so be prepared or carry a charger or spare battery with you on longer journeys.
How do you recharge the battery on an e-bike?
Batteries are best charged indoors, somewhere warm and dry with good ventilation. It can take from 3 to10 hours to charge, depending on the model. The charger plugs in to a regular power point.
How fast is an e-bike?
As speeds are restricted by law, the electrical boost will cut out at 25 km/h but you can add to the speed by pedalling faster yourself. While e-bikes can reach quite high speeds (without assist), the point is not a higher top speed, but a higher average speed on your journey overall. It provides assistance when the journey might be slower: for example going up hills, riding into the wind, and on long-distance rides.
Can I change how much the motor helps me on an e-bike?
There will be different assistance levels depending on the model of the e-bike but you can often change how much the motor drives the bike, and use the 'boost' button for an extra push.
Do electric bikes have gears?
Most e-bikes have gears that are controlled using the levers on the handlebars in the same way you would for a normal bike.
How much does an e-bike cost?
The price of an e-bike (in Australia 2022) can vary depending on the specifications you need. Typically prices start at $A1,300 to $A2,000. Top of the range e-bikes can be over $A18,000, but mid-range bikes, $A3000 to $A6,000, are usually a great choice for most people. Remember there is more to consider than the upfront cost. Batteries will need replacing every few years and these can be a few hundred dollars. E-bikes use electricity to charge but this is a small amount. Remember to take out insurance on your bike and pay for good quality security fittings to keep the bike safe. Insurance options include specialist insurance, which can be expensive or you can add the bike to your house insurance. (Check what is covered). Insurance policies often have requirements about where and how a bike is secured at home and what type of bike lock is needed.
Which e-bike should I buy?
There are many options to consider once you decide to buy an e-bike. One of which is the type of motor. Motors can sit in the wheel hubs (hub drive) or in the bottom bracket. These can offer different riding experiences, with bottom bracket drivesbeing more sensitive.
Other types of e-bikes include a folding e-bike which can be handy for commuters and e-cargo bikes which are excellent for transporting larger loads, such as your shoppng or children. Consider the position of the battery. It's best to have one in the middle as it keeps the weight balanced. But with batteries becoming smaller nowadays it is becoming less of an issue. Test ride different bikes before you buy. Test going at different speeds, braking and going up and down hills. It is best to ask questions and make adjustments to your saddle and reach before you ride away.
How do I store an e-bike?
It is best to store electric-assist bikes in a warm and dry environment to protect the battery. You may want to be close to a charging point to make recharging easier. As lots of e-bikes are heavy, you will want to avoid carrying them up and downstairs. So if you live in a flat it is important to consider where you can store the bike safely and securely. Security is important. Register it, lock it properly (including wheels) and consider a tracker.
Are e-bikes worth it?
As technologies advance, electric bikes are becoming a more attractive option when considering a new bike. It can make all the difference for some in their cycling experience. Still not convinced? Here are some reasons why you should ride an electric bike.
1. Enjoy cycling longer distances
2. Build your fitness and cycling ability
3. Cheaper to run than a car or motorbike and using public transport
4. Hassle-free commuting
5. Hills and wind are no longer a problem
6. Carry more cargo
7. They're good fun
Electric-assist bikes are fast becoming mainstream and you will see them everywhere on the road or on cycle routes. Riding an e-bike is similar to riding a regular bike, but gives you extra power.
E-Road Bikes and E-Cross Country Bikes
As you may have noticed, the article above has concentrated on what are commonly called city and mountain ebikes. Initially these were the only options available, but in 2019 some of the major bike brands such as Specialized, Trek, Bianchi and Willier, to name a few, released e-road bikes onto the market and then progressed into the e-gravel bike market. These bikes were designed to provide riders with bikes that looked and performed like regular road and gravel bikes, but with e-motors to provide the rider with assistance as required.
Depending on the bike set up and the mode chosen (eco, sports or turbo on a Specialized Creo for example), the electric motor will provide the rider with varying degrees of assistance. At lower speeds on some E bikes it can feel like the pedals are moving without assistance when you start riding but soon enough you will find that the only way the bike will keep moving forward is for the rider to keep pedalling. Most E bikes will have a speed at which the electric motor ceases to provide assistance (25kph in Australia and most of Europe) and depending on the manufacturer, the rider may find that after the top speed is reached the ongoing engine connection might result in pedal resistance. The total disengagement of the pedals on our Creo once the top speed its reached was an important factor in us choosing CREO's.
Unlike city e-bikes that have a battery range of around 60 kms, e-road and gravel bikes have a nominal range of anywhere between 80 and 120 km between charges and with economic riding some of the current e-road bikes can achieve ranges between 150kms and 200kms. Some e-road bikes can have battery range extenders added which often take the form of a water bottle and fit in a rear pillar water bottle cage. The range they add varies between brands, but my Specialized extender has a notional range of 60kms, while I find that economic riding can take the range closer to 100 kms.
However, please note that depending on the wind and amount of climbing, the range can be smaller. If you are on a tour involving multiple e-bikes, touring might be interrupted towards the end of each day in order to charge the batteries if the tour involved lots of climbing and/or encountered strong head winds which may cause some or all riders on their e-bikes to use their sports or turbo modes which can gobble up battery power.
It seems that most of the e-road bikes being offered at present vary between 11 and 14 kg with manufacturers working hard to get closer to 10 kg whilst being able to offer a range in the vicinity of 120 km. Manufacturers such as Willier are working on reducing the weight of their E Road Bikes to under 10 kg while others such as Specialized are working on developing systems that are relatively light weight but also offer the same look and feel of their regular carbon -based road bikes.
In early 2023 Trek released its new e-road Domane with two very interesting features. First its almost silent while being ridden below 25 kph and second it has introduced handlebar buttons that allow the rider to change e-modes without the need to let go of the handlebar to press the display on the centre bar. It will be interesting to see the innovations coming from Trek's competitors!
As 2023 commences, there are now many e-road bikes on the market with supply varying by brand and by country. Trying to compare these bikes can be a nightmare as each manufacturer seems to focus on different aspects of their bikes and does not necessarily provide information using the same metrics. I have therefore commenced the arduous process of preparing an e-road bikes comparisons chart that hopefully will help the reader to compare the options available to them.
However, one thing my comparison can't answer definitively, is how far the batteries will take you. There are many factors at work here, including battery weight and power, rider size, the terrain being ridden on, the riding mode, etc. With many of the city type e bikes, the range is often predicted to be around the 50-60 kms mark, notwithstanding the batteries often add 10-15 kgs to the bike weight. In these cases it appears that the range is predicted based on riders either being constantly propelled by the battery or the rider using the most advantageous mode such as Turbo.
E-road bikes seem to have been designed on the premise that riders will ride to minimise the level of support from the battery and therefore the batteries are smaller and only weight between 3-5 kgs. I took my Creo of a 104kms ride with about 800 m of climbing across the ride. I rode without my range extender battery and at the concludion of the ride, my main battery's power supply had only decreased from 95% to 47% indicating that if conditions had not got harder, I could have expected to get 200kms from the battery. My Creo weighs 13 kgs and I weighed in at 88 kgs. I was very pleased with the result.
More recently I rode 102km in eco mode with 500m of climbing and again only used minimal power of some 37%. Then two days later I rode 52 km alternating between eco and sports mode with about the same amount of climbing and into stiff head and cross winds. The result was a similar power usage to the ride that was twice as long.
Finally, a common question from regular road bike riders is why would you want to ride an e-road bike. I was therefore delighted to watch a GCN clip on You Tube called 'Can An E-Bike Make You Fast Enough To Train With A Pro..." and I've embedded it below so that you can watch it too.Please make sure you watch it to the end as the responses by the Pro when asked about his thoughts concerning getting an e-road bike is very illuminating and go well beyond the speed of e-road bikes and more into what an e-road bike can do for the non-Pro!