The popularity of e-bikes has exploded over the past 5 years and this year with people wishing to keep their distance but still getting exercise, e-bike sales have increased exponentially. Many brands sold out in Spring which meant that 2nd hand e-bike prices were pushed up as people rushed to get their hands on a new means of transport.
I have ridden an e-bike for nearly a decade and a lot of people ask me if I am cheating by riding my e-bike. My reply is always the same, e-bikes make cycling easier. I still have to pedal the bike; it doesn’t move itself! The effort is controlled by me, if I am feeling strong then I opt for a lower power level and use my heart rate monitor to make sure I am getting a workout. But on the days when I feel a bit tired or my arthritis is playing up then I use a higher power level. Both ways I am getting exercise and fresh air which always makes me feel better. With the advent of e-bikes, people use their bikes more than before because it just makes cycling easier and more enjoyable.
What is an e-bike?
They are a bicycle which has an electric motor fitted to the crank (the bit where the pedals are), this is powered by a battery, which is either located on the down tube or on a carrier at the back of the bike. The battery power will vary but they are generally between 400w – 650w.
This is my 1st e-bike, notice the size of the battery.
This is my 2nd e-bike, the technology moved on dramatically from my 1st to my 2nd
This is my new e-bike this year, the battery is now integrated in the downtube and it is a 625w battery which means I can go much further on one charge.
How do they work?
The motor boosts the power that you put through by turning the pedals. The various power levels are controlled by you from a computer on your handlebars. I have a Bosch motor on my e-bike and the specific model I have has 4 levels. Eco is the lowest and provides me with 55% more power, so my 100% turns into 155%. If I really need help on a steep section then the top level, which is Turbo gives me 340% more power. A common assumption is that you do not have to pedal but this is not the case, you just choose how much “assistance” you need.
E-bikes are fitted with a speed minimiser so once I reach 25kms then the motor will no longer assist me. Obviously, if I’m going downhill then I will go well above that but for cycling on the flat, 25kms is plenty. I am not in a race after all.
E-bikes use different types of batteries depending on the manufacturer and type of e-bike, therefore the distance you will get from one charge will vary a lot. It will depend on a number of variables:
- Your weight
- The terrain
- Level of power you use
- How much uphill you will be doing
- The wattage of the battery
All of these points will have an effect on the battery power and therefore the range of your bike. The more you use your e-bike, the more you will understand how far you can go. If, like me, you live in a mountainous area, you will need to take your height gain into consideration as well. For example, on my current bike, I can go for a day in the mountains with 1000m of height gain and around 80km distance with no issues. However, this is a new bike this year with a 625-watt battery.
Charging the battery
They are charged using an external charger that you plug into a normal socket. You either remove the battery and take it to a charging point or you can charge it while it is still on the bike.
A lot of places now have specific e-bike charging points in Europe, to make it as easy as possible for people to get a ‘top up’ during the day. Businesses realise the benefit and increase in trade with e-bikes therefore a lot of them ensure they have bike stands, charging points and a place to fill up your water bottles.
Anyone who rides a bike will probably tell you that coffee stops are part of the cycling experience. These stops will also give you time to charge your battery should you need to.
Charging time varies again depending on your battery make etc. I allow for 30-45 mins for 1 bar of power if I am on a day out. Generally, it takes around 4 hours for a full-power charge but as I mentioned, it will depend on your bike and battery.
I wouldn’t recommend running out of battery as they are heavier than a conventional bike. Mine weighs 27kgs so it takes quite a bit of effort if you need to move the bike if you don’t have the assistance of the motor. Even on the flat it can still take a lot of energy to move an e-bike without any power.
We'll hear more from Lindsey in our next feature on E-Bikes very soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
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