Providing effortless assistance to your pedal power, electric bikes, or e-bikes, enable you to go further and with less effort when compared to a traditional bike. In this article, we’ll take you through how an e-bike works and answer a few frequently asked questions about these revolutionary steeds.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide, then head straight to our e-bike buyer’s guide.
What is an e-bike?
An e-bike is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor offering some form of assistance to a rider in propelling the bike forwards. This assistance typically comes in the form of either throttle assist or pedelec assistance.
A pedelec is by far the most popular option and simply works by adding measured powered assistance as you pedal the bike. While a throttle-assist e-bike is more similar to a motorbike, you have a throttle for the motor, and an option to pedal, if you wish.
Where can I ride an e-bike and do I need a license?
Thanks to sensible and considered rules around maximum power output, an e-bike can be ridden anywhere a traditional bicycle would. Be it on the road, on shared bike paths or at your local trail centre, e-bikes and regular bikes are more than capable of occupying the same bike lanes, singletrack or pathways.
When it comes to road rules, e-bikes also follow the same standards as a regular bicycle and so while a license isn’t required, riders must comply with the road rules set out for cyclists. America closely mirrors Europe’s e-bike laws, and as such, bikes are required to have a motor output of no more than 200w for throttle-driven bikes and 250w when used on a certified pedelec bike.
Any e-bike exceeding these regulations is categorised as a motor vehicle and standard road rules apply. For more information, check out your local state specific road rules.
How is an E-Bike powered?
Powering the electric drive motor and dictating overall range is a battery system.
Most electric bikes use lithium-ion battery packs, varying in size depending on the type and price of bike they’re fitted too. Most e-bikes will have one battery system on board, however, some touring and commuter e-bikes are capable of taking two, even three battery packs at a time.
These batteries are rechargeable via a standard wall power outlet. Recharge times and charge cycle counts vary based on the quality of the system. Learn more about e-bike batteries in our e-bike buyer’s guide.
How far can an E-Bike go?
The total range of your e-bike will be dictated by a number of factors, chief among which is the total capacity of the equipped battery. How efficiently you ride and care for your e-bike will also have a large impact on the total range. Additionally, e-bikes offer various assistance levels, the more assistance you ask of the system, the less range you’ll get.
With all these factors in mind, e-bike manufacturers will typically quote a range of between 50-150km from a full charge.
Does an E-Bike require any special maintenance?
For the most part, caring for an e-bike is exactly the same as a regular bike. You need to keep the tires inflated and the chain lubed. Quality e-bikes add very little to the maintenance schedule.
This said, occasionally cleaning the electronic contact points can help prevent costly repairs, likewise, it’s worth remembering that the increased power, speed and weight that an e-bike motor affords will increase component wear, such as on chains and brake pads.
How fast will an e-bike go?
E-bikes are subject to both power and speed limits. In order to meet American standards, drive units must be speed limited to 25 kph, meaning that once you hit 25.1 kph, the electrical assistance will rapidly decrease or cut out altogether.
Once the assistance stops, you can continue pedaling the bike under your own steam just like you would a traditional bicycle. Similarly, coasting downhill is the same as a standard bike, you’re free to go as fast as your nerves allow.
How much does an e-bike cost?
E-bikes originally entered the market as premium commuter bikes. E-bike technology is now becoming more accessible and more affordable to produce. E-bikes can be had for as little as $1,500. Like most things in life, however, you get what you pay for. So as your budget increases, the quality of the e-bike drive system, components and bicycle frame will typically increase, becoming more refined, and more enjoyable to ride. Generally speaking, good quality e-bikes which use big brand motors and batteries start from $3,000.
What E-bike is best for me?
Given the sharp rise in popularity of e-bikes, the options are seemingly endless and choosing the most suitable style is no different to choosing a regular bike.
If exploring an expansive trail network is what you’re after, an electric mountain bike, commonly known as an eMTB may be your best bet. For those of you after a little extra help on a hilly club ride with your super fit riding mates, an electric road bike should fit the bill, or if you’re after a dependable steed to ferry you and your goods around, a commuter may be your best bet.
Thankfully, we’ve covered a number of different commuter options in our articles; best budget e-bike and best commuter e-bikes under $4,000. Not after a commuter e-bike? Stay tuned for our picks of the best eMTB’s to be had for the coming year.
And if you’re really not sure where to begin, then try our fun “What e-bike are you” quiz.
Where can I find more information on E-bikes?
For more in-depth information, check out our Ultimate E-Bike Buyer’s Guide for all you need to know about these powered up, fun-filled machines.