Electric bikes, E-MTB, pedal-assist bikes, or E-bikes – whatever you want to call them, you’ve probably seen more of them around recently.
Recent technological improvements have led to cheaper, lighter batteries that last much longer, making electric power much more attractive to a variety of cyclists.
But while cycling purists remain decidedly unimpressed by the surge in the e-bike’s popularity on the roads and trails, some riders are enjoying a new lease of battery-assisted life on the bike.
To go directly to the e-bike product pages at Chain Reaction Cycles, click the link below:
Electric bikes use a motor to add additional torque to your pedal stroke, meaning less effort is required for climbing hills or going faster.
So far, electrical goods manufacturer Bosch dominates the e-bike motor market, providing the electrical-assist hubs powering most e-bikes. However, Shimano recently launched its own brand of motor – Shimano Steps. Both brands adorn a variety of e-bikes, offering different levels of torque and efficiency.
There are two main types of pedal-assist bikes, pedelec and s-pedelec. S-pedelec electric bikes can travel up-to 45km/h and in most of Europe require a special licence and insurance. In contrast, pedelec bikes are more like conventional bikes with a motor providing a maximum of 250 watts of assistance (generating around 15km/h in speed) in Europe or 200w in the UK.
This means they fall outside the classification of a motor vehicle, and as such have no requirements for insurance or licencing. That makes them perfect for trail riders, commuters, and urban adventurers, with no fuss or admin.
This article will only be discussing pedelec style electric bikes.
Most E-bikes have little or no additional controls – there is no accelerator, for example. The motor simply provides additional torque as you pedal. Some motors do, however, offer several modes, usually ranging from full power to economy, allowing riders to adjust the longevity of the battery.
You can find out more about how battery capacity, motor power, weight, speed, and riding style all interact by using this fun, interactive tool from Bosch below. Click on the link and input your riding style details and the type of motor you’re considering to find out how long a typical battery charge will last.
With the super-wide gear ratios available on the modern mountain bike and huge 50-tooth cassettes now common-place, you’d expect the electric motor to struggle for relevance on the trails.
But many MTB riders have found powered assistance to be a fun addition to their riding experience. Not only does it allow you to cover more distance, but those with only a short time to spare find they can cram in more of the good stuff into their ride, including more descents as they reach the top of the trails quicker and more often.
Contrary to the increasingly less popular opinion that E-MTB bikes are the lazy option, a recent – if unscientific – test by The Lab (video below) found the experience of riding with electric power used more energy overall, generating a heightened heart rate throughout the ride.
E-MTB has also found favour among older riders who want to enjoy the riding experiences of their youth despite lacking the all-day endurance they may have once had. Riders with long-standing injuries, or those in recovery, have also welcomed the technology, helping them get back on the trails and enjoying the adventures they would otherwise be missing.
Check out the videos below, as the Hub’s Matt Cole puts E-MTB to the test and finds some surprising results.
Like everyday mountain bikes, e-MTBs are available in a variety of formats, including hardtail and full-suspension. They are supplied with standard groupsets, with only the crankset occasionally seeing some adjustment to cope with added power motor.
Most of the leading mountain bike manufacturers are offering e-MTB versions of their bikes, based largely on existing models. Here are some of the bikes currently available at Chain Reaction Cycles.
The Vitus E-Sentier VR Hardtail uses the Shimano Steps E8000 MTB pedal assist motor to provide the power to a modified 11-speed SLX groupset. You can choose from three power modes: Eco, Trail, or Boost.
The Lector SX5.7+ E-Bike is a hard-core, cross country weapon, based on Ghost’s original Lector cross country racer. It also features the Shimano Steps motor, with a 500wh battery and Shimano’s SLX 1×11 drivetrain.
Another modified classic, the Cube Stereo Hybrid e-MTB features the Bosch Performance CX motor. Again the SLX 1X11 drivetrain has been trusted to deliver the power to the rear wheel. This full-sus e-bike promises significant performance with quality forks and additional components.
Electric-powered urban bikes have grown steadily in popularity in recent years.
Giving commuters the chance to cycle into the office without lashing with sweat is a big plus for many, while they help avoid the many disadvantages of other forms of public and private transport.
Here’s a selection of the leading electric-powered urban bikes.
Featuring a smooth and quiet Bosch Active Plus drive unit with 500 Wh battery, this bike is quick off the mark to give you the boost you need to take off from traffic lights while providing a consistent feel of assistance when you’re taking on long and steep climbs.
Wilier’s female-friendly Magneto Bike combines the performance of a Wilier road bike with the reliability of Shimano Steps electric drivetrain. Designed for commuting in all conditions, you’ll enjoy exploring country lanes and trails when the mood strikes.
Batteries will also vary according to model and manufacturer but expect to find either NiMh (Nickel Metal Hydride) or smaller, lighter and more advanced (but more expensive) lithium-based battery packs. Whatever battery type, recharging is a simple matter of plugging directly into the mains. Recharge times will vary according to battery, but 4-6 hours should be about right.
Again, how long your battery will last per charge will depend on a number of factors, including the type of battery used, the level of pedal assistance provided, and the type of terrain encountered. The more work you do (that is, the more you pedal) the less work the battery will have to do, and the longer each charge will last.
Finally, battery life will vary from bike to bike so bear in mind that initial investment in a bike with a long-lasting and reliable battery pack may well prove to be the best choice in the long run.