Guide to Buying an E-bike

With the advances of battery technology and design, more and more people are making the switch to electric bikes — also knows as e-bikes — for transport and recreational use.

So, what should you consider if you’re thinking of buying an e-bike?

What style of e-bike should I buy?

Before buying an e-bike, it’s important to consider what style of riding do you do? If you need to carry out errands like reasonably sized shopping or carrying passengers, then a cargo bike will be a great option. If you want to get to and from work, you may look for a commuter e-bike. If you want to just use it for mountain or road riding, then that’s available too. Despite featuring relatively new technology, the amount of e-bike styles on offer is almost as wide as traditional bikes.

Have a conversation with your local BQ retailer and they should ask you what kind of things you want the e-bike for. For some it could replace their car or public transport, while for others they’ll only be using it on weekends for recreation. Some care about the aesthetics, so what your e-bike looks like will be important, while for others it might not matter.

E-bike styles

How much will an e-bike cost?

E-bikes range from $800 for a basic bike and battery to more than $14,000 for a high-end version.

A reasonably priced median of $1500–3000 will generally come with a decent battery and guards for wheels and the chain, making bike commuting a cleaner prospect. Additional items like lights, racks and panniers will be extra.

How do you charge an e-bike?

Charge an e-bike

You can expect the batteries to last for about 500 charges, and replacements cost between $350 and $1000 depending on their size. Budget for a replacement every three years.

Typical recharge time is four to six hours. If you charge only partially, this does not count as a full recharge but a fraction of a full charge. Check the manual for proper battery charge maintenance.

E-bikes come with a battery charger and most have a removable battery pack. To charge your e-bike, you need to remove the battery pack from the bike, if it’s removable, plug the battery charger into a mains outlet and connect the battery pack to the charger. 

Can I convert my current bike to an e-bike?

Yes, it’s possible to buy an e-bike conversion kit and have it fitted onto your existing bike, but it may not always be the best option. Some things to consider if you are thinking about converting your bike into an e-bike include:

  • Is your bike suitable for conversion? Your bike should be in good condition with sturdy wheels and good brakes, or it may be unsafe to ride with an electric motor.
  • Will it end up costing you more? While conversion kits are cheaper than buying a new e-bike, your existing bike may require several upgrades to function safely with a motor. It may be cheaper to simply sell your existing bike and put the money towards a new e-bike.
  • Consider that your bike will be much heavier once the electric motor is fitted and may not be as comfortable to ride as a purpose-built e-bike.

What to look for in an e-bike?

Other considerations to talk about with your e-bike retailer:

Higher watt motor

This means more torque or take-off potential from a standing start. All will be set from 200 to 250W for legal reasons.

Throttle

While generally e-bikes require you to pedal to activate the motor, some come with a throttle which can start the motor without pedalling. The throttle can legally power your bike up to 6km/hr, so it can be useful if you need help taking off from a standing start – especially up a hill. However, using the throttle will drain your battery faster. 

Weight

E-bikes are heavy – some are over 25kg because of that battery. Remember to take this into account if you might need to lift it, for example to carry upstairs or mount on a roof rack. Remember the final weight is inclusive of the addition accessories like lights, panniers, etc. 

Tyres

Puncture-resistant tyres will save you from having to change too many flats – a particular hassle if you have a rear hub motor or if you struggle with the weight of the bike.

Brakes

Look for hydraulic disc brakes, they’ll be more expensive but require less maintenance than mechanical disc brakes or V brakes.

Accessories

A helmet is a legal requirement when riding a bicycle of any kind. Lights, hi-visibility clothing, locks, a pump, mudguards, chain guard, racks and panniers are extras worth considering, although remember they all add weight.

Servicing

Budget for around $350 every year for servicing if you want your hub, brakes, chain, cassette, and gears to last and prepare to add to that for any parts needed. The cheaper your purchase, the more likely you’re going to need to add a lot of spare parts in the near future.

Does the e-bike motor location make a difference?

The motor that utilises the battery energy to give the bike momentum can be located either in the middle of the bike (mid-drive) or in the hub of one of the wheels (hub drive).

Hub drive

Pros

  • You are more likely to have a throttle
  • Snapping a chain means you can use your throttle to get back to a repair location – albeit slowly
  • If your hub motor fails, you can pedal back on pedal power only
  • Depending on where the battery is located, a hub motor location can balance the bike effectively (battery towards the front, hub motor in the rear)
  • Cheaper than mid drive motors
  • Better traction (if installed in rear)
  • Lower maintenance costs

Cons

  • Much harder to change rear tyre (if installed in rear)
  • Not as much range for gear changing
  • Heavier than mid-drives
  • The weight of the hub drive can mean your tyre and spokes can wear out sooner
  • You’re more likely to feel bumps (suspension less effective)
  • Restricted in what wheel peripherals you use (wheels, tyres, cassette)

Mid-drive

Pros

  • Sportier and smoother ride (better gear usage)
  • Spreads weight along length of bike
  • Much easier to change the tyres
  • Lighter and smaller
  • Can use any combination of wheel, tyre, or cassette

Cons

  • If the chain snaps, you are not going to be able to throttle back to a repair shop
  • Chains need to be better quality (mid drive motors are hard on them)
  • More moving parts, so more areas that can break
  • More expensive to replace than hub drive
  • Cannot shift gears unless moving

Do you need a license or registration to ride an e-bike?

No. Just like regular bikes, e-bikes don’t require a license or registration, but riders are legally required to wear a helmet and follow road rules.

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