Buying Electric Bikes

Buying

When you are comparing traditional cycles it is quite easy to read the specification and look at the bikes to see what the differences are and where your money is going. With electric bikes the differences cannot be seen, they are electronic or contained in a format you cannot easily compare.

It is understandble if you are confused by conflicting sources of information. It takes years to truely understand all the technology used by ebikes and the interplay between them and the resultant cycling experience. Yet enthusiasts with little knowledge are keen to tell the world what they know.

The performance of an electric bike is not all about the latest battery technology (an over simplification) it's a combination of battery chemistry, control electronics, motor core composition, wireharness and connectors used, quality grade of all materials, efficiency of the system and attention to detail at the factory.
Just as motorcycles or cars that look the same can give very different driving experiences so can electric bikes. It is so important to test ride or get honest, knowledgeable advice.

You might be surprised by how the power integrates with your riding style. When the power comes in; when it cuts out and how smooth or aggressively it does both. Are the gears suitably matched to the power and for your intended use? For instance (deep breath) if you have weak knees and you have an ebike with a speed sensor and dérailleur gears stopped in top gear you may find it very hard to start because you get least assistance while the pedals are turning slowly and of course you cannot change dérailleur gears until you are already moving...chicken and egg anyone? This does not necessarily rule out this combination of components for people with weak knees...actually the advantage can be that you can reach full speed in a lower gear while applying minimal pressure to the pedals and therefore less strain to your knees. It will be important that the manufacturer has thought about the practicalities of their design and programmed the control unit accordingly.

 

Weight
The weight of an electric bike is essential to its performance, there are also legal limits for weight(see Rules & Regulations). The heaviest parts of an electric bike are the battery, the frame, and the motor.
Manufacturers have been busy reducing the weight of these parts, and if life was ever straight forward then the lighter bikes would be the best, however, life not being so easy, there are of course swings and roundabouts. Did you expect it any other way?

Frame: Lightweight frames are always good, unless you plan to do serious off-roading where a light weight frame sometimes sacrifices flexibility and strength.
6061 Alloy – good for medium off road use and city use
7005 alloy – good for road bikes and city use
steel – good for heavy use

 

Battery: Lightweight batteries are really coming along and in the more expensive bikes will usually provide power equivalent to the uncompromising heavy batteries. Beware though as some models do sacrifice power in order to reduce weight.
I explain more about batteries in a dedicated section.