An electric bicycle, or e-bike, looks just like a normal bike but with the addition of a motor and battery; this pedal-assist input helps drive the cranks round so that it enhances your pedaling input. Great for commuters, an e-bike offers a fast and effortless way to get to work even when carrying a load. For mountain bikers the addition of a motor opens up terrain that was once deemed unrideable on a conventional mountain bike and helps to extend rides further into the wild. The evolution of e-road bikes encourages riders to take on bigger days in the saddle and perhaps conquer steeper, longer climbs. A great leveler an e-road bike can bring less able riders together with fitter cyclists for more enjoyable shared-riding-experiences.
The popularity of e-bikes in the UK has risen exponentially in recent years. Offering all of the freedom and benefits of cycling but with a bit of extra assistance, e-bikes are available in all of the same types as conventional bicycles. The majority of electric bike sales in the UK fall into the hybrid or leisure category, however they are becoming increasingly more popular among mountain bikers and road cyclists looking for an extra boost to their riding.
How do electric bikes work?
All electric bicycles sold in the UK will provide power assistance up to the legally defined speed limit of 15.5mph before the motor cuts out. The majority of e-bike motors are housed centrally around the bottom bracket to form the hub of the drivetrain with the batteries located on the down tube, normally integrated. This helps an e-bike retain the look of a conventional bike but with a bit of added weight. This extra weight requires the frame of the bike to be stronger and more robust. Manufacturers are constantly investing to make lighter parts where possible and e-MTB specific components such as wheels, tyres, forks and shocks are evolving to become better and more affordable.
Just like a conventional push bike, an electric bike is propelled forward through the turning of the pedals. Electric motor systems offer varied levels of assistance, to be adjusted depending on fitness levels, terrain and style of riding.
There are several options available when it comes to which motor powers your e-bike – with Bosch and Shimano leading the way. The Performance Line CX system is Bosch’s top of the range motor designed for high-performance e-mountain bikes; it’s compact, lightweight and features more power than its predecessor with a maximum torque of 85 Nm which supports you with more power even at low pedaling cadences. Another of Bosch’s popular motors is the Active Line system which offers perfect support for touring and commuting when you’re more likely to be carrying a heavy load and the demands on the motor are slightly different. Alternatively the Shimano Steps system has the option to run a second battery to amplify ride-range option and comes with a decoupled engine for a more natural feel. Specialized have also developed their own Specialized SL 1.1 motor and battery over the past couple of seasons and have applied this compact, lightweight electric drive system to a selection of their bikes including their Turbo Levo SL mountain bikes and Turbo Creo SL e-road bikes.
Each motor system’s power source comes from an attached battery which defines how much assistance goes through the pedals. Batteries vary in wattage from between 250 and 500w, with a higher wattage providing the rider with more power and a greater ride-range. Battery life will depend on the motor-mode you are riding in, the temperature, terrain and a whole host of factors; typically charging time from empty to full will take around six hours.
Hybrid or Leisure e-bikes remain the most common form of e-bike and are ideal for your daily commute, for touring and for general leisure riding with friends and family. Electric Hybrid bikes are renowned for being practical and comfortable, being able to eat up the miles with minimal effort. Hybrid e-bikes such as the CUBE TOURING HYBRID and TREK ALLANT+ are packed with commuter friendly features like pannier mounts and mudguards, making them ideal for city riding and commuting. RIESE & MULLER produce a range of cutting-edge commuter and cargo e-bikes; these German engineered bikes take commuting and transportation via e-bike to the next level with bikes that are capable of carrying your weekly shop or ferrying the kids to and from school each day.
Riese & Muller Cargo Bike
Electric mountain bikes, or e-MTBs, deliver everything you love about mountain biking plus a little extra. Assistance from a motor opens up new avenues, allowing you to conquer bigger hills and ride for longer. E-MTBs inevitably carry more weight than a standard mountain bike and therefore require heavier and more robust components. Manufacturers are constantly investing to make lighter parts where possible and e-MTB specific components such as wheels, tyres, forks and shocks are constantly evolving to become better and more affordable.
A full suspension e-MTB such as the CUBE STEREO HYBRID or MERIDA E-ONE SIXTY is great for taking on the most demanding trails and technical terrain; the e-MTB motor essentially providing a built-in shuttle service to take you comfortably back to the top of the mountain, opening up the chance to ride twice as many downhills. Specialized’s TURBO LEVO SL stands alone as a sub-range of full-suspension e-MTBs that feature a smaller, slightly less powerful motor combined with a slim integrated battery to give a lighter, more agile ride that feels very similar to a conventional ‘acoustic’ mountain bike. Specialized’s aim behind the design and manufacture of this bike was to create an e-MTB that had great ride-range and just enough power assist to really enhance your riding experience, providing power when you need it while giving a more authentic riding feel.
If your riding is more mellow and you’re looking to ride a mix of trails and bridleways then a hardtail e-MTB is the way to go. A hardtail from the TREK POWERFLY range offers the versatility to ride fun trails as well as cruising bridleways and country tracks.
Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 HPC Kiox
The newest entry into the world of electric bikes, e-Road is a new concept prioritising low weight and an authentic ride feel. Bikes such as the CANNONDALE SUPERSIX EVO NEO and SPECIALIZED TURBO CREO SL have compact integrated motor systems which will provide assistance up to speeds of 25kph, after which the motor cuts out and the bike rides just like a conventional road bike. With frame geometries, narrow tyres and drop handlebars mirroring their non-electric counterparts, e-road bikes are for those riders looking to keep pace with the group as the road tilts upwards.
The latest electric road bikes weigh between 12-13kg thanks to constantly evolving technology, lightweight batteries and motors. Many manufacturers offer decoupling battery systems which allow the bike to be ridden as a conventional bike without the added weight. Motor systems from Bosch and Fazua are the most common on performance e-road bikes and offer between 250 and 400 watts of extra power. Specialized’s own SL 1.1 motor and battery features on their Turbo Creo SL range of e-road bikes and stand out as one of the lightest most-neatly-integrated systems available.
The benefits of an electric bike are numerous and they appeal to many – for commuters they offer a fast and effortless way to get to work and for mountain bikers and road riders they open up opportunities to ride further and more often. As well as opening up new avenues for experienced cyclists, electric bikes offer an entry point to two-wheels for those who may have been previously put off from taking up cycling. With assistance from a motor, particularly over hilly terrain, an electric bike can help riders reach new levels of fitness and achieve goals previously considered unattainable. Electric bikes offer all of the freedom and benefits of cycling, but with a bit of extra assistance.