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Electric Bikes: How Do They Work?

Bikes are pretty simple pieces of kit when you think about it. Strip back the impressive specs, essentials, add-ons and accessories, and you arrive at a pretty simple design. A saddle to sit on. A frame to attach everything to. A handlebar for you to fling yourself over. Two wheels - one that gets you moving when you pedal and the other to steer you where you want to go.

Now you think you know how a bike works...add a motor to it. Behold, the electric bike. Not to be confused with a Harley Davidson or Vespa esque model, the electric bike has all the aesthetics of a pushbike but with a few little electrical components attached.

In this guide we’ll tell you a bit about what electric bikes are, how they work and why you should broaden your mind to getting one. As long as you’re over 14 of course...sorry sprogs. You’ll understand when you’re older.

What is an electric bike?

Have you ever been out on the road or the trails, looked up at a hill and suddenly wished you’d taken up darts instead? Electric bikes won’t conquer the hill solo but with enough peddling, the propulsion the e-bike provides will have you at the top in no time.

While the production of electric bicycles has existed in a slightly outdated form since the late 1800s, they have become popular products in the cycling market and becoming an increasingly more popular common sight. Better technology, smaller and lighter batteries with improved range. Lower prices have allowed them to be a viable choice for an increasing number of riders. But what are they?

An electric bike, or if you’re fancy an e-bike, is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor powered by rechargeable batteries. Electric bikes are not the cheatmobiles that people perceive often them as but instead work alongside the rider to advance their cycle.

E-bikes are available in two different forms: the pedal assist and throttle. Both styles provide a different level of performance and ride experience.

Full power bikes are designed for minimal pedalling over a short distance. They have large batteries and powerful hub motors. Love cycling but hate pedaling? This is the style for you.

Pedal-assist, or power-assist, bikes are designed to be pedalled a lot of the time with the electric component reserved for assistance and fatigue.

electric bike

How do they work?

Despite different positioning and sizes between the styles, the three main components of all-electric bikes are the motor, the battery and the sensor.

The motor

The main aim of the motor is to control torque. More advancement, more torque. The more torque you have, the more powerful your bike is.

The motor can sit on the front wheel (good levels of power for getting around town and gives a steady assistance when climbing hills or trails), rear-wheel (better handling, traction and a much stealthier appearance) or on the centre mount (higher levels of assistance and are perfect for long and steep hills).

Electric bikes in the UK do not commonly exceed power of 250 watts and when travelling over 25km/h the electric motor will not assist you. This restriction is in line with UK law adapted alongside The Electrical Assisted Pedals Cycle Regulation, 2015. This is not to say that more powerful bikes are not available but unlike regulation standard e-bikes, they will need to be licensed and can’t be ridden on bicycle paths.

The battery

For an electric bike to be an electric bike, it needs to have a battery. On new or recent e-bikes, you will be looking at a lithium-ion battery. The battery on an electric bike can be located in different places, often dependant on frame type and size. Each battery make, model and style will have its own variable charge time.

Knowing how long your battery will last depends on battery power, bike power, battery management system and the way you ride. As mentioned above, full-throttle e-bikes have a significantly shorter range than pedal-assist models because of the use frequency.

But how do you charge an electric bike once your battery has run out? Simple, just plug it into a wall outlet in the same way you would with a phone.

The sensor

There are two types of sensor used on e-bikes; a speed sensor and torque sensor.

The speed sensor engages the motor once you begin pedalling which gives you the ride assistance. The amount of power provided to the motor is designated by either the setting on the handlebar controls or by the throttle if fitted.

The torque sensor is a little smarter, it responds with just a small amount of assistance to match your speed when you're moving. It will measure the level of effort the rider is putting into the pedals, and the motor multiplies the effort by a factor preset on the handlebar display; higher settings equal high multiplication factors.

haibike ebike

Types of electric bike

Hybrid

Electric hybrid bikes are the perfect addition for a smooth metropolitan commute or backroad bash. A hybrid bike is a cycle that combines the features of a road bike with the robustness of mountain bike capability. As these bikes are very general purpose and suitable for lots of different rides, an added electric capability helps the varied or well-travelled cyclist to complete their rides. The hybrid bike was designed to be adaptable and the electric hybrid bike makes adaptability more accessible than ever. Experience backroad adventure even if pedalling isn’t your forte and make that daily commute a breeze. No wonder they’re the most popular choice for e-bikes.

Road

The electric road bike is a popular option for inner city riders and suburban cyclists. This style of e-bike keeps you going strong on busy commutes and other road adventures. Although not suitable for competition (yet), the electric road bike can provide less capable cyclists an opportunity to have an enjoyable and easy escapade or commute.

Mountain

Also not suitable for competition (although there’s definitely talk of it), the electric mountain bike is a fantastic asset for making steep trails and crests a ‘walk’ in the park. With fewer limits to physical ability and a few extra batteries in your pack, those with the handlebars of an e-MTB in their grip can go higher, harder and further.

Why buy an electric bike?

Electric bikes are for everyone. They can be as beneficial to the mountain biker as they are to the everyday commuter. A lot of research has been poured into studies related to electric bikes and some of the findings are a real advocate for this travel model.

For many consumers, they pour enjoyment back into cycling with the same fitness benefits and are a great alternative to using a car. Companies like Uber have created businesses that operate rental of electric bikes (JUMP bikes) and their usage has surpassed taxi style services. Even companies like Ford have created a line of pedal-assist e-bikes to be used in cities to give tourists and commuters a better alternative to cars and make exploring easier.

They aren’t a ‘cheater bike’ and still offer the same fitness benefits but with more accessibility for everyone.

electric hire bikes

How much does an electric bike cost?

E-bikes tend to cost more than regular bikes because of the battery and motor. However, they are not designed to give ‘that edge’ in racing so do not need to boast refined competitive components that sheer valuable seconds off race times.

Not to mention, the initial cost can be balanced against the benefits. Many people perceive electric bikes as a fantastic alternative to everyday driving. After all, e-bikes are easy and cheap to recharge and don’t come with the cost of petrol. Not that we’re saying don’t own a car, but choosing to cycle your commute every day could really provide more than physical and mental benefits.

Which are the best electric bikes?

FOCUS WHISTLER2 2018 — £919.20

The cheapest electric bike on our list with all the ability to make it seem like a much more expensive model. This mountain e-bike is stripped back to the bare essentials to give you a smooth, fast experience away from the smooth road. With the Groove Go system at the motorised helm, this electric bike isn’t afraid to prove that bare essentials can sometimes be all you need.

Whistler Bike

GIANT EXPLORE E+ 2 Gts 2019 — £1,839.20

This electric hybrid model combines urban riding style with versatile performance that can handle rougher roads. The ALUXX aluminium frameset and a SyncDrive Sport motor that's powered by Yamaha combine for great handling and smooth acceleration on a variety of road conditions. Designed for adaptability, Explore E+ gives riders the freedom to go wherever they want to go. Giant Explore

Cannondale Synapse NEO 3 2019 — £2,399.99

With hill-leveling power, all-day range and the sublime ride of true endurance machinery, the Synapse NEO truly makes the beauty of road riding open to all. This electric bike boasts all the power of a Cannondale certified cycle but gives the opportunity to embrace it to everyone. With typical road bike style dropped handlebars, this model can turn your commute into the best part of your day.

cannondale neo

LIV VALL-E+1 PRO 2018 — £2,899

Whether you’re looking to ride faster, go farther or get your fitness back, Vall-E+ will take you beyond boundaries. Reach those mountain peaks and descend to the valleys below. Vall-E+ Pro is your backstage pass for access to bigger rides, faster paces and living your wildest adventures. With Vall-E+ Pro it is easier to push at your fitness and reach the peaks with your fastest buddy with the natural feeling battery-assisted pedalling. Explore further and rediscover a passion as you pedal to the tops of longer climbs and gain the thrill of longer descents.

Haibike XDURO AllMtn 6.0—£4,160

Conquer the trails. Make molehills out of mountains. Delight in making imaginary friends eat your dust. Haibike's XDURO AllMtn 6.0 is looking for a challenge! It develops its full potential on challenging trails and mountainous terrain. This talented all-rounder impresses, not only with a harmonious mix of components but also with its modern design. Thanks to the integrated Bosch 500Wh battery, powerful Bosch Performance CX motor, FOX suspension with 160mm travel up front and 150mm rear, Sram GX Eagle 12-speed gears and fast-acting Magura MT5 hydraulic disc brakes, this eMTB is a real highlight of the range.

Where to buy an electric bike

Riding an electric bike might be the easier option, but getting the best deal and service isn’t always one. That’s why TRI UK provide competitive prices on all our bikes and unique services to make sure you get the best option for you.

TRI UK has a great range of electric bikes both in-store and online to restore your passion for cycling and improve your ride—whether that’s on the road, on the slopes or wherever your mind takes you.

Want to know more about electric bikes? Talk to our team today on 01935 414142 or email sales@triuk.com.