As part of our mega guide to the best bikes on the market, we give you the rundown on what to look for when buying an e-bike.
Words: Imogen Smith
Do you want to get from A to B without working up too much of a sweat? Or maybe you want to leave the car at home more often, or even permanently. It sounds like you could use an e-bike.
Thanks to greater options on motors and batteries, e-bikes are becoming increasingly popular globally – for commuting, general riding and even mountain biking.
WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?
An electric bicycle is pedal-powered, but gets a boost from a small electric motor. Legally, in Australia, e-bikes can operate in two ways - using a throttle, with assistance limited to 200 watts, and with pedal-assist, where the motor (limited to 250 watts of assistance), operates when you’re pedalling, and cuts out when you’re not.
Most e-bikes sold in Australia from mainstream bike companies tend to go for the pedal-assist option because it feels more natural, gives you a workout, and offers more top-end power. You can buy bikes that offer higher assist power and speeds, but they are not street legal, and for good reason. They reach speeds that are unsafe to tackle in a bike helmet and around pedestrians and other cyclists, and would cause messy insurance and legal problems in the event of an accident.
There are two main e-bike styles: those with a motor at the rear hub, and those with one mounted to the frame at the bottom bracket. The latter option offers better ride quality, efficiency, and more reliable wiring setups.
Most new e-bikes sold today come with a motor system (motor, battery, wiring, and controller) from a single supplier such as Shimano, Bosch, or Yamaha. System specs - motor power and torque, battery size, and assist modes - are tuned for the bike’s intended use.