They say you never forget how to ride a bike and I am about to find out if that is true. After spending nine weeks in lockdown it is time to lose those gained pounds and take advantage of the great outdoors. If you are considering an electric bicycle then these top tips may help you in your search.
What is an eBike?
My first pedal cycle was a Raleigh Bluebird. My Grandma bought me this from our local bike shop when I was five. I still remember that bike with fond memories and how my Dad spent hours teaching me how to ride it. Like many things in life, pedal cycles have evolved since my 1983 Bluebird. Over the last few years the pedal cycle market has embraced electric power. It has seen a boom in electrically assisted pedal cycles, or eBikes as they’re known.
An eBike is a pedal cycle assisted by an electrical motor to aid propulsion. This motor is powered by a rechargeable battery.
Is it cheating to use an eBike?
This is a good question, if an eBike gets you outdoors cycling then that is better than doing no exercise at all. Cycling is an excellent way to stay fit and even with an eBike you still have to do some of the work. There may be many reasons you are considering an eBike. It could be you have an injury, you feel very unfit or you want to enjoy the experience. With eBikes being so popular now there is no need to worry what others might think.
What is the law around eBikes?
Before you buy an eBike it is important to have some knowledge of the law around their use.
The main rules are;
- The bicycle must be fitted with pedals capable of propelling the bike
- The bike doesn’t exceed more than 250 watts continuous motor output or power
- The electric motor won’t propel you when you’re travelling over 15.5mph
- You must be over 14 years of age to ride an electric bike on a public road
- Pedals must be in use for electric motor assistance to be provided
If your bike meets this criteria it can be ridden on public roads and cycleways like a non-assisted bike.
More details on the law are available through this link. If your eBike does not meet these requirements then it may be classed as a motor vehicle. In this case you may need insurance, a driving licence, a helmet and more.
1. How do I choose an eBike?
Set a budget
Before you start to look at the glossy marketing pictures set your budget. There is such a vast choice and varying levels of quality that it is easy to become overwhelmed. By setting a budget you can stop yourself setting your heart on an bike you cannot afford. From the outset it is worth knowing that eBikes are expensive, so be realistic about what you can afford. The current demand for eBikes means securing a discount may be more difficult.
You will need to budget for some accessories too, such as helmets and locks at the very least.
2. Decide on a model and style of bike
The best bike for you is the one that meets your needs. Where will you use your bike is a good question to ask yourself. Do you plan to ride on main roads, will it be quiet country lanes or perhaps off road is more your thing. There are many cycle trails across the UK. The National Cycle Network website is a great place to look for inspiration.
It may be you are planning on combining your cycling with caravanning or motorhoming. Once on a caravan site, eBikes give you the freedom to explore the local area straight from your pitch. Whether it be pedalling down the coast, across Exmoor or through the New Forest there is a route for you. If cycling along forest trails is for you then there are several sites across England and Scotland with Camping in the Forest. They are ideal to stop at with your leisure vehicle or tent.
One of the best choices of bike is the all round mountain bike, or “hard-trail” and “gravel” bikes as they are also known. This style of bike offers great all round capability for most riders, along with comfort. An example of this type of bike is the Mark2 Scrambler.
If you plan to use your eBike for exploring at weekends but commuting during the week then an X-Cross may be a good choice. This style of bike is ideal for town and city commuting or general leisure riding in the country. The combination of comfort and power makes this an ideal choice for dual purpose cycling.
It may be that neither of these are quite for you and you yearn for something a bit more fun. It may be that you need a folding bike which can be easier to store and transport. Folding eBikes can be great space savers but do be aware they can weigh more due to their design. The E-Motion Cruiser is perfect for relaxed cruising along beach fronts and anywhere you happen to be. Its fat tyres are ideal for soft going and it folds in half for storage. You can put it in your car or motorhome if you are on the go. Front suspension and a comfy sprung saddle make it a fun and cool looking leisure cruiser.
If you are less able in movement then you may look towards a Step Thru eBike. This style of frame used to be known as a ladies bike, but times have changed. A Step Thru makes cycling more accessible for people who cannot swing their leg over the back.
3. Power and Range
Motors on eBikes are legally limited to 250 watts of continuous power although you can buy higher powered bikes. These can only be used off road or they should be restricted. A 250 watt eBike should deliver enough power for most recreational cyclists or commuters.
The question you may be asking is what range can you expect from your eBike.
This will differ between bikes so check with the manufacturer for their specifications. It is worth noting that several factors will reduce the range of your bike. These include weight, both yours and the bikes. The heavier the rider the more demand on the motor and thus greater drain on the battery. The terrain you cycle on will have an effect too. Whilst flat roads and cycle paths will use less power, hilly roads and trails will require more power and reduce your range. A bike may deliver between 40-100 kilometres depending on the rider and the route. An eBike will take around 4-6 hours to charge through a domestic electric supply.
4. Recommended retailer and warranty
The internet is awash with eBike sellers and sponsored adverts, all trying to attract your attention. One thing is fair to say and that is “you get what you pay for”. Buying a cheap eBike may be a false economy as cheap batteries and motors may quickly fail once put to work.
The best way to choose where to buy from is either by personal recommendation or using review websites. Two such websites are reviews.io and Trustpilot. You can find advice by joining an online forum or Facebook group. These are packed with great advice and support.
It may be you want to visit a showroom to test a bike although many only offer an online service. An established company is often the best choice as they will have plenty of experience to offer and proven sales of their bikes. It is important too that they offer a good service if you need any warranty work.
When looking for an eBike consider the warranty on offer with it. The warranty should cover the frame, battery, motor, other electronic equipment and the paint and clear coat. It is understandable that a warranty wont cover accident damage or negligence. To replace a battery could cost you around £400.
5. Accessories you may need
Like any recreational activity, you always need accessories and eBike ownership is no different. Make sure you set aside a small amount of money to buy a few essentials you may need. Firstly, cycle helmets, these are important no matter where you plan to ride your bike and could save you from serious injury. Helmets start from around £20 for a starter model and can reach several hundreds of pounds for improved protection.
Secondly, security, the last thing you want is for your new eBike to be stolen. There are several types of bike lock available on the market including cables, D-locks and chains. Once again prices start from around £8 for a low level security cable to over £100 for a sold secure product. If you have to store your eBike in a garage or shed then consider a ground anchor. Shed and garage burglaries are sadly very common. If the worst does happen and your bike is stolen make sure you have covered it through your home contents insurance policy. To add bike cover to your current policy can cost from around £7.
It may be that you need to transport your eBike on your car, caravan or motorhome.
There are many options for carriers, the main tip is ensure it is suitable for an eBike and will carry the weight of the bike. You can remove the batteries from the bikes to make them a little lighter for carrying.
For car carriers the Witter website offers a good selection.
For caravan or motorhome carriers then Thule offers excellent quality and choice.
There are plenty of other accessories available for you to stock up on, including pet carriers, baskets, lights and clothing.
Will you be considering an eBike now?
You may know a little more about eBikes than you did a few minutes ago and perhaps you are considering buying one. There is plenty of advice online to assist you but with so much choice it can be confusing.
For the next few months we will be trialing some eBikes from Mark2. This is an established company and they sell online as well as at caravan and motorhome shows. We have secured a discount code for our subscribers and followers. Mark2 will give you 10% off your eBike order with the code HWT10 on their website. This link will take you to their website and apply the discount code for you.