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If you’re reading this article you are probably asking yourself the question – should I buy an electric bike? If you enjoy cycling and being outdoors or you just want to save money on your daily commute, then the answer should be a resounding yes!
I would like to share my experience and knowledge in this field. I have personally converted and custom-built nearly 200 Electric bikes in the last few years. I run a business specialising in converting existing bikes to electric assist and also custom-building electric bikes to customer’s specifications. My experience includes a working knowledge of different types of electric assist systems, lithium battery packs and factory produced electric bikes.
I have successfully used an electric bike as a way of increasing my fitness levels, so much so, that I now use a normal road bike as my everyday form of transport and have done since the Summer of 2017.
Electric Bikes Explained
An electric bike is basically a bicycle with pedals that has a small motor to assist the rider as, and when required. There are two types of motor – a ‘hub motor’ is located in either the front or rear wheel of the bike, a mid-drive motor is located at the crank (bottom bracket area) and drives the rear wheel through a chain or belt. Modern e-bikes will usually have an LCD display with varying levels of pedal assist available. Power supply usually comes from a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack.
Electric bikes or ‘e-Bikes’ have been commercially available for a number of years, however it is only in the last few years there has been a big leap forward in their popularity, owing to vast improvements in motor and battery technology.
Early electric bikes were often ungainly and unattractive, they used heavy sealed lead acid batteries for power. Quite often they did not have any form of pedal assist, and relied solely on a throttle to regulate the power.
Modern factory-built e-Bikes are awash with technology, including concealed batteries, intuitive pedal assistance and very compact and lightweight motors. Some of the latest e-bikes are in fact almost indistinguishable from normal bikes.
Electric Bike Law
In the EU and Australia, road legal electric bikes have to be limited to 250w (watts) of continuous power and pedal assist up to approximately 15mph (25kph). Any electric bike that produces more than this would be classed as a motorcycle and thus be subject to registration, driving license, insurance etc. The US federal law is somewhat different at 750w and 20mph (the bike must have pedals).
For the benefit of this article I will only be discussing the lower powered pedal assist e-bikes, that are legal in the EU and Australia. There are a lot of electric bikes out there that offer high performance more like that of an electric motorcycle. Here we are looking at e-bikes you have to pedal, not twist and go bikes that can do 40mph. More info on UK electric bike laws.
Can I get fit riding an E-bike?
The answer is absolutely! If you buy the right bike and only use the pedal assist when you really need it, there is no reason why you can’t shed pounds in weight.
When embarking upon any new exercise regime you have to consider your level of fitness. If you have any pre-existing or underlying health issue I would strongly advise that you consult your doctor / physician beforehand.
Below I have mentioned a few basic tips, but I have posted a separate, more detailed article: Can you get fit riding an electric bike?
The main rule of thumb is to ease yourself into it gently. If you feel yourself struggling, increase the electric assist power level, or stop and have a breather. Even with an electric motor to help, some steeper hills can still be a challenge. I know this from personal experience as there are quite a few 1 in 4 gradients in my area!
Always stay hydrated, especially in the Summer. You will still work up a sweat riding an e-bike, and you will need to replace the lost fluid. If you are planning on riding longer distances, you may need a couple of bottles of water with an added electrolyte tablet, as Salt, and Potassium in particular are lost through sweating. It is also wise to consume energy in the form of small amounts of good quality carbohydrates – I use small oat and seed flapjacks. Never have a big meal immediately before or during a ride, allow 2-3 hours for a big meal to be properly digested.
Importantly, be aware of your bikes battery range. The last thing you want is to be pedalling a heavy e-bike a long distance without power assistance. I have been in this situation and it is quite challenging to say the least!
There is a lot to consider before purchasing your new e-bike – I will be creating a buyers guide in the near future as there are an awful lot of options to consider. You may even consider converting a bike you already own. The first and most important factor to consider is that the bike is the correct size for you. There is a rough guide below, but please remember, as we come in all shapes and sizes, it is sometimes a good idea to go to your local bike shop for sizing.
If you are returning to cycling after a long time, the roads can be an intimidating and unforgiving place, full of impatient drivers. You may want to consider riding on cycle ways, or quiet back roads (if you have access to them).
Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments box below and I will answer within 24hrs