Not quite a scooter, nor a motorbike. Is it really cycling? What is an electric bike? In the simplest sense, an electric bike(or e-bike) is similar to a regular bike but provides extra power when you're pedaling.
What is an electric bike?
Types of electric bikes
All electric bikes fall under one of two categories, pedelec (pedal assist) and power on demand (throttle based).
Pedelecs are electric bikes that assist you only when you pedal. They make for an easy ride and automatically turn off when you stop pedaling or hit the brakes. Pedelecs are also compliant with Australian Regulations as they closely resemble a standard bicycle.
Power on demand
In contrast to pedelecs, power on demand or throttle based electric bikes require no pedaling. You have the option of cruising along with pure motor power, as the pedals and motor have been designed to work independently of each other. They also fall under two major riding categories, mountain and commuter bikes.
Electric mountain bikes
Electric mountain bikes are a great option for a more enjoyable ride on the trails. Extra power means that uphill trails are now a breeze and basically feel like descending the entire time. Their ease of use won't have you huffing and puffing on trails, giving you more time to enjoy the views. They are designed with more durable frames, stronger wheels, tires with tread and come in both hardtail and full suspension models.
Electric commuter bikes:
One of the largest segments of electric bikes, the commuter electric bike is often regarded as the city alternative to the car and the perfect solution for getting around town easily. They are lean, green, commuting machines; a new age solution to catching public transport and navigating a congested city with ease.
Electric bikes either have a hub or mid-drive (crank) motor. Even though the difference between the two continues to narrow with advancements in technology, there are a few notable variations.
Mid-drive motors are known for higher performance and torque as they drive the crank instead of the wheel. This allows it to take greater advantage of the bike's existing gears. This, in turn, delivers more power and range. Maintenance on mid-drive motors is simple and easy. The motor can be removed by taking out two bolts without affecting the rest of the bike. This means any regular bike shop can perform maintenance. Hub motors, on the other hand, are more complex to service.
Hub motors are housed inside the hub of either the front or rear wheel, operating independently from the drivetrain. Electricity is run through copper wires to rotate the hub and propel the bike forward (or backward) .
Maintenance and warranty
If properly looked after, electric bikes shouldn't need any more maintenance than a regular bike. The two main components of an e-bike, the battery, and the motor are not serviceable as they are sealed systems. Therefore, any issues regarding these two components would be replaced under warranty rather than repair. Be sure to check the warranty policy of the bike you wish to purchase.
Just like any other battery, electric bike batteries have a limited lifespan. Their ability to store and deliver electric energy diminishes with time. However, most brands use an intelligent battery management system, which allows for protection from excessive temperature, overcharging and discharging.
How long will it last?
A few factors come into play regarding battery lifespan:
- The size of the battery
- The weight of the bike
- The terrain
- The riders weight
As a rough estimate with Bosch motors, they expect riders under 80kg to get around 80km of riding at 20km/h when using it in touring mode or 140km/h in eco mode. The rough estimate of battery life for an electric bike is around 3 years. Shimano expects the battery life to be good for 1000 charges (37 000 miles).
How do I charge it?
Newer models allow you to remove the battery and charge them in a regular power point, just as you would with any rechargeable battery.
How long does it take to charge?
A full charge normally takes up to 4 hours.
Legislation: Australian regulations
According to legislation throughout most states in Australia, no Registration, Licensing and Third Party Insurance is required for E-bikes with a motor size under 250 watts (for Pedelecs). However, riders are bound by the same rules as that of other bicycles (eg. Wearing a helmet, effective brakes etc) There is also a maximum speed of 25km/h.
Try before you buy
The best thing you can do when considering buying an electric bike is to try them for yourself. Every e-bike at every 99 Bikes store is available to take home for a 24 hour demo. Or visit one of our 99 Bikes stores that specialises in e-bikes. These stores offer the very best in e-bikes advice and an extended range of options to suit any budget.