Electric bikes. Always a topical subject this one! Love them or hate them, electric bikes here to stay. There’s a time and a place to discuss the implications electric bikes might have on various access and legal issues, but putting that can of worms aside, there is no denying they enable more and more people to get out on bikes and enjoying the outdoors. Which, after all, is what bikes are all about! But what are they and who are they for? We take a detailed look at what they are, why you might want one, answer some key questions you may have and highlight our recommendations to help you buy your first electric bike.
Electric bikes are not, as the name suggests and as many believe, fully electric bicycles where you just press a button or twist a throttle and point it where you want to go. They are instead a hybrid or mountain bike designed specifically with an electric battery and motor that gives you a little bit extra assistance – ideal for anyone who wants to get out and ride but needs a helping hand along the way.
There are a whole range of reasons why you might want a helping of electrical pedal assistant to help whisk you along. This could be down to health issues, age or just the terrain around you making it a nightmare for you to get a decent ride in without having to get off and push uphill. You might even be a novice riding with a group of more experienced riders who have a much higher level of fitness and you just want to keep up!
Electric bikes are even popular among seasoned cyclists; the thought of speeding uphill rather than grinding away or riding your loop twice sure is appealing to many. Essentially, an electric bike is perfect for anyone wanting to rack up some miles and smiles on two wheels – but with a little assistance to help them along the way.
So now we’ve identified what an electric bike is, and who it can benefit, let’s take a moment to highlight some of our most frequently asked questions, some key things to look out for and introduce you to our top electric bikes.
How much charge do you get on an electric bike battery?
Is the battery that powers your electric bike the cycling equivalent of a modern iPhone, or a classic Nokia from the 1990s? Essentially, the question we’re asking here is does an electric bike battery go flat in around an hour – leaving you stranded – or do you actually get some decent range on a full charge? Well, much like your car, it depends on where you ride, how big the battery on your bike is and how you use your electric bike.
Electric bikes come in a whole range of different styles and specifications don’t forget. Some models have larger capacity batteries that last longer, just having a bigger fuel tank in your car. Many electric bikes have a selection of modes to choose between. Bosch motors for example, feature 5 modes; Off, Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. Using the more powerful modes will drain the battery quicker. Likewise, the terrain you ride and the type of bike you’re using makes a big difference to how much range you’ll get from the battery.
On a gentle, casual ride along the canal or through town on a hybrid bike using only a light level of assistance, you would expect to get anywhere between 60 and 100-miles on a fully-charged battery. A heavy-duty mountain bike being ridden across varied terrain in the most powerful mode of assistance is going to drain its battery considerably quicker and the range will suffer as a result. With this level of variation in mind, Bosch have developed an online Range Assistant (https://www.bosch-ebike.com/en/service/range-assistant/), to help you get an idea of the range you can expect from your bike. Pretty clever, eh!
Can I increase the life and range of an ebike battery?
Like anything battery-powered, it pays to look after your electric bike’s battery. There are a few things to be aware of when charging your electric bike battery, and also a few things you can do to extend its life. The best thing you can do when charging the battery is to ensure that you’re not doing it in extreme temperatures (too hot, or too cold). Anything below freezing, for example, can lead to the charger failing to provide enough (or any) power and it can actually harm the battery.
As mentioned before, you can also increase the range of your battery by using it sensibly. If you’re out for a gentle ride you can cruise along in a less powerful mode, or if riding off-road you can save the most powerful modes for when you really need it on a steep climb or your legs feel like they’re about to burst. Just remember, the more you use the battery and the harder you make it work, the faster the power supply will run out. You can of course, ride an electric bike with battery turned off, but with most weighing 20+kg at least, they become a bit of a chore to lug around and we don’t advise doing this for long!
Another top tip is to check the tyre pressures before riding as you might find the reason you’re struggling to get the range you expect from the battery. Increasing drag is a sure-fire way to drain the battery quicker. Likewise, heavily treaded tyres are great for riding off-road when you need loads of grip on loose terrain but are just going to slow you down and drain the battery if you only ride on hard pack surfaces or roads.
How do you charge an electric bike?
Charging an electric bike is a fairly simple and straightforward process, with just a charger and a socket required. Many electric bikes even let you remove the battery from the frame, so you don’t have to drag your mucky bike into the house! The charger itself plugs into the wall socket just like your mobile phone or car battery charger. That’s it really, no expensive investments in specialist chargers.
Best of all, all of our electric bikes get a fully charged battery to start with meaning you can get out and right rather than sitting there waiting for it charge as the good weather disappears!
The best electric mountain bikes
Getting off road appeals to thousands of cyclists. As a beginner, it can also be a daunting prospect if you don’t know how you’re going to battle through the muddy ground, loose terrain and obstacles. Or you could be an experienced rider looking for something a little different to the norm and see what all the fuss is about. To help you pick out an electric mountain bike, here are some of our current favourites:
Cube Acid Hybrid One 400 Hardtail e-Bike. This an entry-level electric bike meaning is great for starting your off-road ebiking experience. With a fantastic specification for the money, this electric hardtail mountain bike will let you build up your confidence in no time, while the Bosch Performance Line motor has multiple power settings to allow you to choose the one that assists you best at the time. The 400Wh battery will give you a great range as well!
Scott Spark eRide 930 Full Suspension e-Bike. A smooth and comfortable full suspension electric mountain bike complete with a powerful Shimano Steps motor and all the mod cons a mountain biker needs. A more advanced version of entry-level electric bikes like the Cube Acid, the Spark is still ideal for a relative newcomer to the world of off-road cycling. The Rockshox and X-Fusion suspension helps to smooth the bumps while the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes ensure you’ve got the stopping power to inspire confidence when descending.
Lapierre Overvolt AM727i Full Suspension e-Bike. Once you’re comfortable with mountain biking, or if you’re a more experienced rider already, the Lapierre Overvolt is great bike to help you push yourself further and harder. A full-suspension bike with 27.5-inch tyres and a Shimano STEPS motor with 500Wh battery, the Overvolts Fox forks and SRAM drivetrain means it’s designed to be ridden hard, all-day long – so that’s just what you should!
The best electric hybrid bikes
If you want a versatile bike that is equally happy around town as it is whisking along bridleways, electric hybrid bikes are perfect for racking up the miles in comfort. With a number of leading manufacturers including Cube and Raleigh both investing significantly in their e-bike offerings, there’s never been a better time to get yourself an electric bike! Here are some of our favourites:
Wisper 705 SE Step-Through e-Bike. A great value-for-money hybrid electric bike with good range and a comfortable ride position, the Wisper 705 SE is a great little bike for riding around town and even comes with a rear rack for storage and a quiet motor meaning you’ll hardly know it’s on – perfect for relaxing cycle rides.
Cube Touring Hybrid 400 e-Bike. With a powerful Bosch motor, integrated battery, LED lights and a rear pannier rack, the Cube Touring Hybrid 400 is built for touring meaning it’s great for long and relaxing rides. With smooth power delivery, a practical design and powerful hydraulic disc brakes; it’s perfect for racking up the miles.
Raleigh Centros Low Step Hub e-Bike. For all the benefits of a technologically advanced ebike with very little maintenance required, the Raleigh Centros is a fantastic option. With an integrated Bosch motor and battery combined with an excellent Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub for smooth gearing; you can just get on and ride with the minimum amount of fuss.