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  • stevecowles

Buying an eBike - My Advice

I have got several 'normal' bikes but the one I use the most in an eBike which I currently use most days although I did have a few weeks off when it was icy (OK, so I'm soft).

One of my friends was wanting to buy an eBike and asked for my advice. Also, a question which often pops up in the various Facebook groups is 'what sort of eBike should I buy… I have got £xxx to spend'. I thought I'd put my answer here so that I can just post a link to it rather than typing the same thing in each time. Here goes…. Only my opinions and some people may disagree but I hope it helps.

Here are a few things to consider;


What type of bike do you want? Like 'normal bikes' an eBike can come with a number of different frame types which are each best suited to a particular use, most of them can be used for other types of ride too but they will be less good for it. Many of these are also available in either mens or ladies frames too.

  • Road Bike: this is your 'racer' and will be relatively light with very narrow tyres. For road use only.

  • Commuter / Hybrid: a 'general purpose bike', ideal for banging the miles on, a little tougher and heavier than a road bike with slightly wider tyres. Some may have front suspension but it is unusual. Mudguards will normally be fitted. Usually have flat handlebars.

  • Tourer: similar to the Hybrid but slightly tougher again, probably with a larger battery giving more range. Designed to be comfortable over a long ride.

  • Full Suspension Mountain Bike: For the rougher rides. This seems to be the largest market with the largest number of options available. Suspension on both front and rear. Normally fitted with a mid-drive motor. These are not cheap, anything costing less than £2,000 new is probably fitted with low quality parts so beware. You can spend a lot of money if you want, anything up to £10,000. Higher cost models generally have high-torque motors and have excellent climbing capabilities, all of the other components will be of a better quality too.

  • Hard-Tail Mountain Bikes: Front suspension only, often with a rear-hub motor. These are less capable off road and are really best suited to trails rather than challenging off road courses. Extreme off-road use is not likely to be good for them but they can handle moderate off-road use and muddy conditions.

  • Gravel: Not many to choose from, these are effectively a fast hybrid with drop handlebars.

  • Fat Bike: generally like a hard-tail but with very wide tyres. Good for sand, mud or posing. Not ideal for commuting or long road rides as the tyres have a lot of drag.

  • Trike: a three-wheeler, can often carry a bit more.

  • Cargo Bikes: for carrying stuff, come in all shapes and sizes for different types of load.

Do I need a Rear-Hub or Mid-Drive motor? Basically the hub motor is older technology, although they are generally reliable and still 'do a job'. A mid-drive will give you better climbing and a more 'natural' feeling ride. The main disadvantage of a mid-drive is cost both in initial purchase and ongoing maintenance but if you can afford it you will be buying a more modern and capable technology. A mid-drive will often have less gears, this is by design and not something to be concerned by as the extra torque will compensate for it.

What battery capacity do I need? Bigger batteries will take you further, if you can afford it there is a lot to be said for going as big as possible unless you are just commuting the same distance every day and want to keep it as cheap as possible, the larger batteries are heavier but not by a lot.

Chain or belt-drive? Belt-drive is starting to be available for some commuter, touring and hybrid eBikes. It is probably 'the future' for these types of bike as it is cleaner and very low-maintenance but it is early-days and they are relatively expensive. For a mountain bike you will want a chain as it is much better suited to the job (mud etc).

What power should my motor be? For most uses, the UK legal limit is 250W. More powerful motors are available though and clearly they have some potential advantages. But, you do run the risk of having your bike seized by the authorities if you are caught using it in public (and could get points on your driving licence). You need to decide if legality is important to you or not as some people are not worried about this. A more powerful motor will use more battery.

How much torque do I need? Torque is effectively how hard the motor will push you. Cheap 250W hub-drives come in at about 45Nm or torque (anything less is pants unless you live in a very flat place), decent ones typically have 55Nm or more. Mid-Drives usually offer a little more with the very best having 120Nm. More torque will use more battery on a high assist setting but it is nice to have it available if you can afford it (you don't have to use it all of the time). Hilly rides will benefit the most from more torque. I am a heavy lad and can get up most things with 55Nm but the bike does slow significantly on hills and I will want to get more torque when I change my bike (one day but no rush). In my view Torque is a far more important figure to look at than power (unless you are specifically after an illegal speed machine).

New or second-hand? There are often very low mileage eBike on the market second-hand (presumably people who have tried it but don't enjoy it, or their missus found the receipt!) so they can be good value but you need to be careful that the battery is in good condition (not always easy to tell), a well looked-after battery lasts a long time but one that has been left unused in a shed will probably fail quite soon. Also note that not all warranties are transferrable so check with the manufacturer or make sure that the price reflects this.

Restricted or unrestricted? Legally, most UK bikes have to be limited to 25km/h after which the assistance from the motor will stop although you can still pedal faster. It is possible to buy a device to derestrict many (but not all) eBikes. If you are unlucky enough to be caught your bike could be seized and it will normally invalidate your warranty (obviously not an issue once that has expired).

Do I need a throttle? These are generally not legally allowed so again you are taking a risk if you have one although it is possible to retrofit a throttle on some eBikes.

The bike is for sale second-hand with no charger, should I be worried? Yes, it is almost certainly nicked. eBike theft is a big thing at the moment, don't forget to insure yours when you get it.

Do I need disc-brakes? Yes, an ebike is heavy so they are a much better solution and most eBikes now have them. The fully hydraulic ones are better than those operated by a cable and those with multiple pistons and larger rotors are even better.

Do I but online, from a national chain or a local bike shop? It is your own choice and the price may vary between the options but a local dealer will usually have a far higher standard of after-sales support. If an eBike is a big purchase for you this may be an important consideration.

Where can I find a review of the different bikes? YouTube is great for this but beware of non-European reviews as the bikes are usually of a different specification (more powerful) but with the same model names. The various Facebook pages may help but not as much as you would expect as most people just 'big-up' their own bike rather than giving an impartial view.

A lot of people seem to be looking for new eBikes in the £1,000 to £1,500 range. There are a lot of choices out there but some are of a relatively low build quality and of poor specification. There are exceptions to this and two that spring to mind are the Ezego and NCM bikes, these brands seem to get consistently good reports (obviously there may be others too). At this price range you are not likely to be looking at a full suspension mountain bike in most cases.

So, in summary: We would probably all like to have a top of the range mid-drive full suspension eBike unless we are just commuting or shopping. But, if you cannot afford one of those, there is still a lot of fun to be had with a hub-driven hardtail but don't expect it to be great for the more extreme courses as it is not what it is designed for.


Good luck, get the best that you can justify but they can all give you a lot of enjoyment.



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