Electric Bikes Explained:
How do you choose the best electric bike for your budget?
There’s no denying that an electric bike is an investment – in your health and well-being, and of your hard-earned cash too. Prices run from a few hundred up to several thousand pounds, and with more brands and models on the market now than ever before, deciding which one is right for you can seem a daunting, even insurmountable task. But while this is totally understandable, it needn’t be the case. In the following article, we take a look at popular models across a range of styles and price brackets, breaking them down to their elements and giving you the lowdown on the pros and cons of each one, so that by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you need, and what you need to spend to get it.
Deciding what you’re looking for
The range of eBikes available is vast, and for good reason; every rider’s requirements are different, with each model fulfilling a slightly different niche. The first step then, is to ascertain exactly what your own needs and preferences are. In doing so, you’ll avoid paying out for fancy extras you may not need, and ensure you pick a bike you’ll want to ride, week in week out.
Some initial things to consider:
Which frame style suits you best?
The idea of gents and ladies bikes is, frankly, outdated and unhelpful – it’s 2020, and you’re free to choose your frame based on your ability to mount and dismount safely and effectively, rather than how others may or may not perceive you. Step -through eBikes are very much a unisex proposition, and the latest designs reflect this more than ever. Shop around, and we’re confident you can find a bike you feel comfortable on in every sense of the word.
There's a place for all styles of frame now, within the electric bike world and all types of rider are catered for - an electric bike for everyone, so to speak. Take a look at our "which type of rider are you?" guide for a little introspective reflection...
Where is the best place for your bike's battery?
The battery represents a significant proportion of an electric bike’s overall weight, and its placement can affect stability when riding or walking with the bike. Choosing one with a lower centre of gravity, such as a seat-tube mounted or in-frame battery, rather than one mounted in the rack, is a very good idea, particularly for less confident or unsteady riders.
Which wheel should the motor drive?
The motor is almost always placed in one of 3 locations: the front wheel, the central crank behind the pedals, or the rear hub. While a front wheel driven eBike is the cheapest manufacturing option, there is a tendency for the driven wheel to spin out on loose road surfaces, due to a relative lack of weight. If a bike is in mid-turn as this happens then the natural balance of bike and rider is upset and can easily cause a fall.
Rear hub motors are a better option for most riders. The overall concentration of weight towards the rear provides greater torque and a lesser propensity to spin out on loose surfaces. Many people also report a more “natural” feel than front drive models, with all the power being generated from the rear wheel - as on regular, purely pedal-powered bikes - rather than a sensation of being “dragged” from the front.
Crank drive motors position the weighty motor mid-way between the wheels and are the preferred choice of big German manufacturers like Bosch. They developed partly as a response to the preference in Germany for enclosed, rear hub gears - a motor and gear set cannot easily be accommodated in the same place - and are a sound option, but come with their own set of drawbacks; more points of failure and increased strain on the drive chain, necessitating more regular replacement.
How far will the bike travel with assistance?
Be honest with yourself about how far you intend to go, but also bear in mind that on an eBike, with that extra assistance, you are likely to exceed your current perceived limit - between 10 and 50% further depending on fitness levels. Choosing a brand with a greater number of battery size options allows you to tailor the bike to you: you won’t be left high and dry in the middle of a ride with no juice, but equally won’t be spending money on extra miles, and dead weight, you won’t use.
You’ll notice the creative ways brands have found to make the quoted range sound as high as possible. Phrases like “up to 30 miles” and “60-100km” focus on the best case scenario - a slight, ultra-fit rider, flat terrain and no wind - and are particularly unhelpful in comparing bikes. Rather than going by the quoted range in miles, dig a little deeper and find out how powerful the battery is in either amp hours (AH) or watts/watt hours (W/WH). It is these figures that tell you plainly and simply who gives you the most bang for your buck. The bigger that number, the further you will go, regardless of actual distance estimates.
The other thing to check for is the power of the motor. 36V 250W motors are increasingly the industry standard, however some manufacturers still opt for the cheaper 24V variety. Whilst fine in principle, they are inevitably less powerful, and will not take you as far as a 36V motor with the same size battery. Increasingly the focus on motor power is with the available mean torque output, measured as Newton Metres (NM) with measures above 40NM representing good hill climbers for most riders.
Which accessories are essential?
Some manufacturers keep the cost down by omitting certain extras such as lights, mudguards and racks. This is a perfectly valid approach, and will benefit riders with a narrower set of requirements who wish to shave that little bit extra off their bill, and the overall weight of their bike. For the majority though, it makes sense to have these extras in place from the beginning, and ride safe in the knowledge that should you ever be caught in slightly less than perfect conditions (highly likely at some point, we think), or need to carry extra baggage, your bike will get you to your destination comfortably.
What about transportation and storage - could this be an issue?
Those with plenty of space, or only intending to ride straight from their door need not pay this paragraph any heed. However, if space is at a premium, be it in your vehicle, home or workplace, then a folding eBike might well be the answer. Try one out first to check you’re happy with the riding position, as the compact shape of these can make them feel quite different to bikes you have previously ridden.
Alternatively, a vehicle-mounted rack specifically for eBikes could be the way forward. This may sound like an extra expense you hadn’t anticipated - and don’t want, thank you very much - but stick with us; if you can rule out the need for other add-ons and extras, then incorporating a rack into your overall budget might not be the strain on your purse strings you’re fearing, freeing you up to go for a larger and potentially more comfortable frame.
Finding the one: how best to find the perfect electric bike?
Give the above factors a little thought before you start your search, and you’ll be well placed to assess what’s on offer. To help you hit the ground running, we’ve put together a systematic comparison of 17 of the more popular models available at the moment. Of course, after you've narrowed down your choice then there's nothing better than a test ride of your final selection and there are now loads of places to help you make the final decision. Here's our map showing where to try electric bikes.
We’ve looked at our favourite Step-through, Folding, Hybrid and Commuter bikes to show how to compare the important features and find the best electric bike for you.
First: 4 Step-throughs or Dutch Style bikes
|24.5 kg||25.6kg||No spec.||No spec.|
|Frame style||step through||step through||step through||step through|
|Battery size||10AH 360WH||10AH 360WH||8.8AH 316WH||11AH 400WH|
|Position||Seat tube||Seat tube||Rack||Rack|
|Motor||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W|
|Position||Rear hub||Rear hub||Front hub||Front hub|
|Forks||Fixed||SR Suntour NCX||Fixed||Fixed|
|Gears||6 speed Shimano derailleur||8 speed Shimano derailleur||6 speed Shimano derailleur||7 speed Shimano hub|
|Easy adjust stem||✔||✔||✘||✘|
Second, we compared four of our favourite folding bikes
|Frame||Compact Folding||Compact Folding||Compact Folding||Compact Folding|
|Battery||10.4AH (380Wh)||13.5Ah (300Wh)||6.6AH (240Wh)||8.7AH (310Wh)|
|Position||Seat tube||In frame||Seat tube||Mid-frame|
|Motor||36V 250W||22V||36V 250W||36V 250W|
|Position||Rear hub||Front hub||Front hub||Front hub|
|Brakes||Front disc, rear rim||Hydraulic disc||Tektro V-brake||Shimano disc|
|Forks||Mono suspension||proprietary, single-leg, fixed||Fixed||Fixed|
|Gears||8 speed Shimano derailleur||3 speed Shimano Nexus hub gears||7 speed Shimano Nexus hub gears||Single speed|
|Easy adjust stem||✔||✔||✘||✘|
Third came three cross-bar bikes showing a wide difference in their specifications
|Model||Sport||E Bike Sports||Pulse X|
|Battery||8AH (300Wh)||5.6 AH 200WH||36v (capacity not specified)|
|Position||Seat tube||Mid Frame||Seat tube|
|Motor||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W|
|Position||Rear hub||Rear hub||Rear hub|
|Brakes||Tektro disc||V-brakes||Tektro hydraulic disc|
|Forks||TGS Mech suspension||No suspension||Suntour air suspension|
|Gears||6 speed Shimano derailleur||Single speed||Shimano 9 Speed Deore|
|Easy adjust stem||✔||✘||✘|
Finally, we wanted to show 6 bikes that we think are ideal for commuters - bikes designed to make light of hard work
|Model||Roller||Agattu||Prime E +3||Cityzen C8||Electron Plus||One Soho|
|19.5kg||25.4kg||No spec.||No spec.||No spec.||13.7kg|
|Frame||low cross bar||step through||cross bar||low cross bar||step through||cross bar|
|Battery||10.5AH 380WH||17AH 612WH||8.3AH 300WH||8.3AH 300WH||No spec.||9.8AH 352WH|
|Motor||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W||36V 250W|
|Position||Rear hub||Crank drive||Crank drive||Crank drive||Crank drive||Rear hub|
|Brakes||Hydraulic disc||Hydraulic rim||Hydraulic disc||Hydraulic disc||Disc||Rim|
|Forks||Monoshock - RST||Suntour Lockout||Monoshock||Fixed||Fixed||Fixed carbon|
|Gears||8 speed Shimano derailleur||8 speed Shimano hub||9 speed Shimano derailleur||8 speed hub||8 speed hub||Single speed|
|P.A.S levels||3||3||3||4||No spec.||No spec.|
|Easy adjust stem||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||✘|
Hopefully our examples above will make a daunting variety of choice just a little clearer now, and you’re raring to head out to retailers, savvy about what you need and what you don’t, with a more finely tuned set of options to choose from.
We wish you the very best of luck with your search. Naturally, we’re hoping you’ll choose us, and if you’d like to find out a bit more about the Juicy range, give us a call on 01335 388 035. Or, better yet, come and see us in the Peak District and try one out for yourself! You can find a stockist near you by clicking here