A beginner’s guide to electric bikes

We’ve all heard the Australian media trumpeting the growing problems with our daily commute. Issues like sub-standard roads, carbon footprints, energy crises, traffic congestion and the widespread inadequacy of our public transport system.

It seems that a solution to the four-wheel commuting conundrum lies in the viable, energy efficient form of the electric bike (e-bike).

E-bikes are now the fastest growing sector of the bicycling industry, worldwide. E-bikes turn cycling into a regular form of transport and make it a viable option for a wide range of people. Users are discovering that they can get further and faster using less energy and spending next to nothing.

Even those who love to cycle using regular bikes will love the e-bike because of the benefits of fitness, fresh air and convenience, but without the downside of arriving sweaty and in need of a change of clothes.

What is an electric bike?

An e-bike is like a regular bike, but with the added advantage of employing an electric motor to help with propulsion. You can recharge the battery pack at any time by plugging it into mains power. The motor helps ease the task of pedalling, and make it easier to go uphill or cycle into headwind. Electric bikes will help you cycle further, with less effort.

How much do e-bikes cost?

E-bikes are much cheaper than a second family car, or even a motorbike or scooter. However, as with all things, the golden rule is that you get what you pay for. You need to look for a unit with well made components, a reliable battery, a strong motor, and of course manufacturer’s warranty, including accessibility to spare parts. $1800.00 is a good starting point for a quality e-bike.

What are the road rules?

Australian law permits a motor size of 25O watts, and a maximum speed limit of 25 kilometres per hour. The most common form of e-bike is the ‘pedelec’ which requires that the rider accesses power by pedalling rather than using a throttle. No licence or registration is required.

How do I control an e-bike?

The same way as a regular bike. To get the maximum benefit with regard to exercise, while enjoying the benefits of extra power, the pedal assist mode allows you to focus purely on your pedalling without having to bother with holding a throttle in a certain position. Some electric bikes have 4 or 5 pedal assist settings, for instance low, medium, and high.

Low pedal assist–allows you to ride with similar energy output to that of riding a normal bike. Low assist provides a little electric assist when needed, while you provide more pedal power and get more of a workout.

Medium pedal assist– is like having a convenient tailwind as you ride. Medium pedal assist can be a nice balance of your pedal power and the motor power.

High pedal assist –will make you feel like king or queen of the mountain and will get you where you need to go with minimal effort. This works well getting to work in the morning.

How far can I go on a fully charged battery?

These days quality electric bikes have lithium ion batteries with built-in battery management systems, and also provide a choice of different sized batteries, measured by amp hour (Ah).Casual riders for instance might choose a standard 9Ah or 10Ah the battery, which would provide a comfortable range of up to 50kms. A regular commutermay need a larger 12Ah or 15Ah battery that would provide a higher range of between 50 and 80 kms.

China was an early adopter of electric bikes and still leads the world in sales, with 32 million in 2013

Electric bikes are changing the landscape of the bicycle industry. Even those who have never ridden a regular bike could find the e-bike a cost effective solution to getting around in an overcrowded city. Many people who have considered a motorcycle as an alternative to a second family car can now rethink their options.