By Julia Widdup
There are many myths associated with ebikes which deter ‘real’ bike riders from even trying an e-bike. Here are the seven biggest myths about e-bikes:
- 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:
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.
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 by 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 more than 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
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 14 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 capacitiy, 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 can vary depending on the specifications you need.
Typically prices start at $1,300 to $2,000. Top of the range e-bikes can be over $18,000 but mid-range bikes, $3000 to $6,000, 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 electric 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 drives being 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 shopping or children.
Consider the position of the battery. Ideally 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. The ACT Bike Library are offering electric bike hire schemes, where you can hire an e-bike for a week or more.
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 e-bikes are heavy, you will want to avoid carrying it 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 you should ride an electric bike.
- Enjoy cycling longer distances
- Build your fitness and cycling ability
- Cheaper to run than a car or motorbike and using public transport
- Hassle-free commuting
- Hills and wind are no longer a problem
- Carry more cargo
- They’re good fun
Electric-assist bikes are fast becoming mainstream and you will see them everwhere on the road or on cycle routes around Canberra. Riding an e-bike is similar to riding a regular bike, but gives you extra power.3