How to choose an e-bike

What is an e-bike? 

An e-bike is a bicycle with an electric motor and battery. To be road legal in the UK, it has to have pedals that can propel the bike, have a motor doesn't operate if you're travelling at more than 15.5mph (25km/h) and puts out no more than 250 watts. 14-year-olds and over can ride an e-bike without a licence, tax, insurance or helmet. An e-bike is a fantastic choice for longer journeys, hilly areas, or to give you an extra boost. 


Which type is best for London?

Hybrids - There are four main types; mountain bikes, hybrids, folding bikes and road bikes. For most urban journeys the hybrid is the best option. It is strong enough to cope with diverse road surfaces, has the capacity to carry luggage and is often equipped with lights and mudguards. These bikes can often replace a car for short journeys and commuting, plus there is a wide range of bikes available from the main manufacturers. Most have a battery that can be removed with a key to charge on a charger, many also offer direct charge via a lead that plugs into the bike.

Road bike - If you have a longer journey or like the position on a road bike, there are some e-versions on the market starting from around £1900 with fully integrated batteries. These look and ride like standard bikes but with a motor that offers range assistance. These are charged directly via a port on the bike. This sector is aimed at existing cyclists who want some assistance with commuting or longer journeys.

Folding bikes - If you are short of space or need to take the bike on trains or into an apartment or office, there are folding models on the market. Folding bikes are available for under £1,000 but be wary of the increased risk of battery, controller and hinge failure on cheaper models, which can fail outside of warranty.


What is the battery range?

The range you get in practice will depend on how much you pedal, the assist level you choose (see below), the terrain you ride and how fast you go. 

Most bikes feature a minimum 350Wh battery which will give a full power range of around 20 miles. Most people’s commute is under ten miles and the majority of urban journeys are much less than that, which is worth bearing in mind when considering battery range.

A good rule of thumb for range is to divide the battery capacity in watt-hours by 20. That gives you the minimum range if you use full power all the time e.g. a 500Wh battery divided by 20 = 25 miles. Turn down the level of assistance and you'll go further; you might get as much as 40-50 miles from a charge of an 11Ah battery if you're careful


How much are e-bikes?

A good e-bikecan cost anything from £1,000 - £5,000. There are e-bikes available online for closer to £500, but be wary that these may not meet EU standards and are likely to have poor battery life and reliability. Make sure that the e-bike you choose can be serviced by a local bike shop to save you time, money and hassle in the long run. 

Nearly all bike shops now offer interest free finance packages on e-bikes, and given their cost this is one of the most common ways of buying them. The other option, if provided by your company, is the government's salary sacrifice scheme; often run by Bike to Work Scheme or Cyclescheme. This allows you to buy a bike and accessories tax free at a limit now set by your company, (it was previously £1,000). 

All the good manufacturers will offer a minimum of two years warranty on batteries and electronics, with 3 years plus on frame and forks. This is definitely worth checking as the battery is the single most expensive component to replace.


What's next?

If an e-bike sounds like just what you've been looking for, book in a free 5 day trial here. Trials are free for residents or businesses in Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. We can also offer advice if you'd like to incorporate e-bikes into your fleet through our e-bike switch toolkit. Request your free copy here.