A Buyer’s Guide to Electric Bikes

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have increased in popularity in recent years, with the trend resulting in more affordable and specialised options. They're a great alternative to walks through difficult terrains or car commutes on busy roads, but what exactly are electric bikes, and what is the best electric bike for you?

Guide to Electric Bikes

How do e-bikes work?

Electric bikes are bicycles that have been modified to include a battery and motor that give the rider a boost, especially when accelerating in city traffic or peddling up hills.
To be road legal in the UK, electric bikes need to include pedals and all motors must be capped to travel no faster than 15.5 mph with a limited output of 250 watts. Riders also need to be aged 14 or over, but you don’t need a licence to ride one.

Advantages of an electric bike

E-bikes are ideal for commuters who want to save time and money they would otherwise spend sitting in traffic. They’re practical both in cities and on tougher terrain, and make longer or more extreme journeys more manageable.
E-bikes can also improve fitness, especially for those who need a little extra help because of an injury or disability. The added motor assist can make a real difference when it comes to exercise and mental health by providing an easier way to get out and socialise with less exertion. There’s also a lot more fun to be had with electric bikes off-road and on bike trails – climbing and riding down hills is an absolute breeze.

e-bikes

Which e-bike is right for me?

Currently, there are three main types – the E-commuter or E-Hybrid, the E-Road, and the E-Mountain Bike (E-MTB). Your choice will likely depend on how you intend to use the bike:

  • E-commuter/E-Hybrid – these are flat bar electric bikes that are best suited for urban riders going to and from work. The battery is usually big, can hold a lot of power, and is easily recharged. Some of our favourite e-hybrids are the Carrera Crossfuse, the Gtech eBike Sports and the Elby Bike.
  • E-Road – similar to the E-commuter, this variation is a lot more efficient when it comes to hill climbs with its lightweight frame and powerful motor. A viable alternative for the less fit or injured rider who wants to keep up. Some popular models are the Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL, the Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap and the Cairn Cycles E-Adventure 1.0.
  • E-MTB – ideal for riders who just want a little more fun off-road. When considering the best electric mountain bike for you, it’s worth noting that they are heavier than standard mountain bikes but the extra power makes all the difference when riding extreme trails. If you’re looking to get off-road, check out the Cannondale Moterra SE, the Merida eOne-Sixty 8000 and the Trek Rail 9.
electric bike

Further considerations

Battery

You can check the power rating on all e-bikes before you buy. This will determine how far you can travel on one charge in full assist mode. Bear in mind that weather, terrain and your body weight can alter the battery’s performance. Most electric bikes have a display attachment that will tell you how much battery power remains and recharging usually takes around 3 hours.

Motor

Higher priced e-bikes tend to have their motors fitted around the bottom bracket. This means that weight remains low, keeping the rider better balanced for smoother handling. On budget models, the motor is often found at the front or rear hub of the e-bike as it’s cheaper to install, though some higher-priced models choose hub motors for aesthetic reasons.

Brakes

The type and quality of your brakes will also vary between high- and low-priced electric bikes. For example, in wet weather disc brakes provide more control than rim brakes.
Understanding the basics can help you make the right decision when buying your first e-bike. Consider the various features and find the best electric bike for you on Gumtree.