Buyers GuidesFirst Timers

What is an electric bike?

Electric bikes have been around for a long time, however over the last few years, advances in technology have enabled a new generation of sporty, lightweight electric bicycles to revolutionize the idea of environmentally friendly transportation.

Practical, cost-effective and environmentally friendly

Electric bikes have all the convenience of cars for short and medium-distance journeys, while retaining the simple economy of traditional bikes.

With the cost in petrol soaring in recent times, added to the usual inconvenience of being sat in traffic jams on major routes, the cost savings to be made through an electric bike (literally just pennies per journey) while being able to use shortcuts and the countryside away from the congestion, is proving to be a very attractive alternative means of transport for many.

What’s in an electric bike?

Essentially, an electric bike is a normal bicycle that has been adapted to include an electric motor and battery. The key parts to an electric bike are: the motor, the battery and controller.

The motor and battery pack are what propel you along and the battery is simply recharged by plugging it into the mains, while the compact electric motors are built into the hub of either the back/front wheel or into the crank.

Technology advances in power controls, improved batteries and better motors, as just some examples, have played a major role in the popularity of today’s electric bikes.

How does an electric bike work?

With an electric bike, the rider still pedals and uses the bike’s gears in the normal way, but it offers the advantage of doing some of the hard work for you, which is where the ‘power assisted’ and ‘pedelecs’ terms you’ll hear, come in.

How does it work? Well the electric motor starts working automatically as you start pedalling, but with some electric bike models you can also choose for it only to kick in when you want it, or vary the level of assistance, meaning you’re in full control of how much and when the bike helps you.

For instance, some electric bikes allow you to choose when the motor assists your pedalling, giving you 3 modes for cycling: pedal only, so you cycle without assistance from the bike, power assisted whereby you’re pedalling but the motor helps you and finally, motor only, where the electric bike does all the work.

Other electric bike models are limited to providing powered assisted cycling only, meaning there’s not an option to let the bike do all the work for you.

Electric bikes (or powered bicycles, as they are also known) will typically allow you to cycle between 10 and 50 miles before you need to recharge the battery, which is usually enough for most journeys and commuting distances, with the battery recharging in around 3 hours or more.  You won’t therefore come to a grinding halt at the side of the road if you forget to charge your battery as you can still pedal and all you need to do to recharge the battery is plug it in to an ordinary wall socket.

Electric bikes are not just useful, they’re fantastic fun. As you read through the site you’ll see case studies of people from all walks of life, commuters (with no showers at work), those recovering from illness, people whose ‘dodgy’ knees have actually improved after riding one, those living in hilly areas, people who want to just enjoy the countryside and go that bit further without feeling like their lungs are on fire. They all describe the ‘electric bike grin’ once you’ve gone to an electric bike dealer and tried one. Your fitness levels will increase as you’re still required to pedal in most instances.  We hear all the time that, with the added confidence of the motor assistance, people go that bit further than they plan just out of enjoyment, which means even more exercise. For those serious about their sport, there is also the fast-growing market of electric mountain bikes.

How to choose the right electric bike?

We have a comprehensive article on all the major considerations in How to Choose an Electric Bike, plus a comprehensive, searchable Electric Bike Directory.