In this section:
- What to look for in an electric bike
- One big mistake people make when buying an e-bike
- Basic guide to electric bikes
- Different styles of electric bikes
- Best electric bikes for commuters
- Where to test-ride electric bikes
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Congratulations! If you’ve decided to purchase an electric bike, you’re about to enter into an exciting world that most people cannot believe they hadn’t tried before. We ride electric bikes ourselves, so we know first hand how great they are. We also know how difficult it is to choose one when you’re new to it all. We can help you though.
What to Look for in an Electric Bike
Most staff members here at Energise E-bikes ride their electric bikes daily. We have also been selling only electric bikes since 2010, so we've tried a lot of them...a lot. We like to think we know a thing or two about them. These are our tips on buying the perfect electric bike for you.
Here are five tips for choosing the best electric bike for you.
1) Be open to changing style
If you are used to a particular style of bike, you might fall in to the trap of trying to find an exact electric replica of what you already have. However, it is important to bear in mind that there are differences in the way they behave.
For example, if you had been avoiding a stepthrough frame because you were worried that they were too heavy, or not stiff enough, you would be happy to know that the electric stepthrough bikes overcome these issues. This means you can finally have that comfortable frame without worrying about it being clunky. We aim to stock the widest range of electric bikes styles in the UK.
If you want to try out different styles of electric bike against each other, simply book an appointment at your nearest branch.
2) Assume you’ll ride more frequently and buy accordingly
According to our research and research from around the world, e-bikes double the amount of cycling that people do. Therefore, you will want the bike to be as robust and comfortable as possible. There is nothing more disappointing than buying an electric bike that cannot stand up to the rigours of frequent riding. Invest in comfort features, and make sure you choose a brand that can supply spare parts.
Most of the staff at Energise E-bikes ride their electric bikes daily. Ask them for advice about making your bike comfortable.
3) Proper Fit
If you spend the money on an electric bike, please make sure it fits you. Not only will you be riding more frequently, you will also be riding for longer periods of time. A poorly fitted bike can lead to strain injuries on your back and joints. Many people avoid cycling for this very reason. Make your new electric bike purchase the time that you finally get a bike that fits. If you need assistance figuring out what size you need, there is no substitute for actually riding.
Every e-bike on display in our showrooms is available for test-riding. Simply book an appointment.
Electric bikes are multi-faceted items. The bike components are one thing, and the motor, battery and display unit are quite another. They will all need special attention at some point to keep them in good working order. Always make sure that your bikes are maintainable – spares should be easily attainable from the manufacturer, there should be a warranty, and make sure there is somewhere convenient you can have your annual service.
At Energise E-bikes, all our brands have a 2-year warranty, spare parts are available, and they also come with free lifetime servicing. We also keep diagnostic apparatus for the major motor brands. Very few bike shops in the UK have this facility. We do.
5) Know your motors
Not only are there different forms of e-bike motor, and not only are there different brands of motor, but each brand of motor may have several variations offering different advantages. For example, you may have read about Bosch electric bike motors. However, there are now five variations of the Bosch motor, each offering different levels of ‘torque’ – this affects how well it climbs hills, and also the power consumption. Make sure you know what it is you’re prioritizing: mileage or climbing power.
The only way to know for sure if one motor is better for you than another is to give them a go side by side. Simply book a test-ride slot at your nearest showroom and you can do just that.
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One Big Mistake People Make When Buying An E-bike
When it comes to e-bikes, weight and performance are not related in the same way as in conventional bikes. With conventional bikes, the lighter it is, the easier it is to pedal, and the better the ride will feel (In general, that is. naturally there are many factors which alter the way a bike performs).
With electric bikes, lightness does not equate with performance. It simply does not follow that the lighter the e-bike, the better the ride. Yes, we understand that this goes against everything you have ever know about bikes!
We also understand that you still want to have as light a bike as possible because it will make it easier to put into a car, or to manoeuvre around barriers in the countryside etc. but in terms of performance, comfort and mechanical reliability, the lightest e-bike is not necessarily going to cut the mustard.
There are electric bikes out there which are light-framed and have light components, which then have a motor and battery kit added on. We don't sell these, but we know about them because we see them come into our workshop pretty much every week when the owner wonders why they're not keeping up with their friends' e-bikes.
When you add together a strong, hill-climbing motor, a long-range battery, plus a frame and components that are robust enough to take all that extra power, you get a heavy bike.
In short, if you want power, if you want comfort, if you want long-range, if you want reliability and maintainability, you will probably end up with an e-bike that is heavier than you first envisaged...and, believe us, you will love it.
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Basic Guide to Electric Bikes
In one respect, electric bikes are exceedingly simple. In others they are complex – or at least a specialty item for which expert guidance is often appreciated.
In short, an electric bike adds extra power to a bicycle when its pedals are turning. The amount of extra power is adjustable and you can ride the bike without the extra power as well.
Electric bikes are also known as:
- EAPCs (electrically assisted pedal cycles)
There are two main types of electric bikes – if you exclude e-bike conversions: hub motor e-bikes and crank drive e-bikes. More information below.
>> Hub Drive E-bikes
These are an older more basic technology of the two types. They spin either the front or rear wheel at a certain speed, while you turn the pedals.
The speed of a hub motor is dependent on how fast your wheels are turning. Unfortunately, that means that on steep slopes, where your wheels are turning slowly but you generally need the most support from the motor, it produces the least power.
>> Crank Drive E-bikes (also known as Mid-Drive E-bikes)
These are the more sophisticated of the pair. This system is far more efficient than the hub drive system and can deliver more climbing power and far more mileage – practically double. Both the human pedal power and the electrical motor power drive the bicycle chain at the same time.
This makes the bike a much smoother ride as well. Around 90% of the electric bikes that you will find at Energise E-bikes are crank drive e-bikes. These include motors by Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and Fazua.
>> Battery Size
Your battery is your fuel tank, so the bigger you go, the more mileage you should get. Some people will use a big battery (500wh and above) so that they can ride on full power for most of their ride, even if they don’t have a very long way to travel.
Most of the e-bikes at Energise E-bikes will be 500wh and above. This gets rid of what we call ‘battery anxiety’ which is the fear of running out of battery before you’ve finished a ride. You will always know how much battery you have left, as there are battery level indicators on each e-bike. On a 500wh battery, we cautiously estimate a 60-65 mile range. Many people will get far more out of it, but many factors will affect this.
Some of the road and gravel style electric bikes, which are easy to ride even without extra power, have smaller batteries. This keeps the bike as light as possible, in keeping with that style of bike.
>> What electric bikes can’t do…
Electric bikes cannot ride on motor power alone. Since 2016, electric bikes powered by a throttle have been phased out.
These days, electric bike motors can only apply power when the rider is turning the pedals as well. If you are free wheeling downhill – that is to say without turning the pedals – then the motor will not be adding its power. The moment you start turning the pedals again, the motor will kick in again.
They also cannot provide motor assistance above 15.5mph. You can ride the bike above 15.5mph, you'll just be doing that with the assistance of gravity and momentum and your gearing alone, not with the motor which will cut out automatically above that speed.
>> What about electric bike conversions?
We have been a specialty electric bike retailer since 2010. We have seen many, many conversion kits come into the workshop. Some seem OK, but the biggest issue with them is that they alter the ride characteristics of their ‘host’ bike. Conventional bikes are not designed to take the stresses that an electric motor can put them through and so sooner or later the converted e-bikes develop wear and tear issues.
Often electric bike conversion kits are sold by online-only agents who cannot provide technical back up. All the electric bikes at Energise E-bikes come from reputable suppliers who can offer technical back up.
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Styles of Electric Bikes
There are now all manner of styles of electric bikes, most of which you can try out at your nearest Energise E-bikes showroom.
The lightest weight electric bikes, typically 14kg or below. Some even have a removal battery and motor so that you can ride them as a conventional road bike.
These are growing in popularity. They are lightweight like a road electric bike but have a wider tyre so can leave tarmac when necessary. They will often have a frame shape and components that can handle a bit more shake, rattle and roll than a road bike.
Typically these are chosen by our commuting customers. They have a comfortable geometry – you won’t be leaning very far forward in the superman position – and they will usually have a smooth, easy rolling tyre on a European-style 28” wheel.
There is a lot of variation within this category, but most of ours will come with lights, mudguards, rear rack and kickstand. If in doubt, check with your nearest Energise E-bikes showroom.
Probably our most popular style of electric bike. These are equipped with very strong motors and large batteries but also all the equipment you need to go out on a long day of riding: lights, rack, kickstand and mudguards. On top of that they have a wide tyre which makes off-road cycle rides comfortable and stable.
If you want to go off-road but you’re not doing ‘sporty’ riding, this is the category you would do well to look at.
Either full-suspension or hardtail (front suspension only), these are the sporty off-road electric bikes. If you want to do cross-country, enduro or downhill riding but want to be as dynamic riding uphill as you ride downhill, this is what you need to come and test-ride.
Mountain bikers will be relieved to see many of the same MTB components on these bikes as they’re used to, although now component manufacturers are making e-bike specific parts to make the riding even better.
Perennially popular, especially with motorhomers, and those living in flats. We are very, very picky about which folding electric bikes that we sell. These little bikes must be strong and well built in order to take the strain of a powerful motor and a full grown adult. They must also be comfortable over long distances. This is not the case with a lot of folding electric bikes we’ve seen.
Many folding electric bikes out there are built to suit smaller budgets but this comes at the cost of the quality. The folding electric bikes at Energise E-bikes are models that we have tried and tested and fully supported with technical back up from our workshop.
The vehicle of an eco-friendly future. These bikes which can carry cargo, passengers, or both, are bought to replace the need for a car – or at least a second car. The running costs of these are microscopic compared to an automobile and much more fun in our opinion. Bike design pioneers Tern are our go-to cargo bike brand.
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Best Electric Bikes for Commuters
What electric bike should I use to get to work?
Well done for considering an electric bike for commuting. The health benefits to both you and the planet are significant and the more people who commute by bike or e-bike the better for all of us.
There is no short answer to the question of what the best electric bike for commuting is because it really depends on the route that you will take. Can you take a shortcut using an off-road path? Perhaps look at a mountain bike or trekking bike.
For example, a high proportion of our customers who buy an electric hardtail mountain bike will go on to use them as their commuter vehicle.
Commuting electric bikes also need to be all-weather vehicles and will need to be as efficient as possible for road riding, but also reliable and resistant to things like punctures and other types of damage that might slow your journey down.
The other thing is to make sure that you get the most comfortable fit possible. Riding a commuting e-bike that is the wrong fit is a bit like wearing the wrong shoe size. You can get along for a while but eventually your body will respond with some sort of injury/pain.
Our recommended commuting bikes, that pass all those above tests, include:
Using the ultra-reliable Bosch motor and battery system, Gazelle bikes in general are made for the discerning Dutch market. If it’s good enough for the cycling capital of the world, it’s good enough for us!
Lightweight and supremely smooth, there will be few ways to get to work with as much fun and style as a Vado. Even if you forget to charge up your Vado – which would be exceedingly rare indeed – it is a lovely bike to ride even without power.
With frames that come with a lifetime warranty and a Bosch power system, if it’s reliability you’re looking for, this is the right range to look at.
A modern design classic that can be easily transported on trains and is light enough to be carried upstairs into the office and then folded to sit by your desk.
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Where can I test-ride an electric bike?
You can test-ride any electric bike that’s on display in our showrooms in Coulsdon and Tunbridge Wells. Simply make an appointment at your nearest branch. A test-ride is the only way to know how your body will respond to the fit and power of an electric bike.
A simple test-ride - which can be as short as 5 minutes - will tell you more about an electric bike than pages and pages of online descriptions.