The first step to finding your perfect e-bike is to consider what type of riding you’ll be doing most often. Just like traditional bikes, different types of e-bikes are designed for different types of riding, including mountain biking, city riding, commuting, and road riding.
It’s also worth thinking about which other attributes are needed. Do you require a lighter electric bike? Perhaps you favour power and range instead. When it comes to range, do you want the option of adding an additional battery, often called a range extender. Over the course of this buyers guide hopefully we can demystify some of the jargon and help you settle on type of bike you’re after.
We’ll start with the engine room as deciding on the type of motor you want will help you refine your available options.
There are basically two types of systems you will find on current eBikes. Mid motor systems fitted at the bikes bottom bracket and wheel mounted motors. “Which is better?” I hear you ask, well neither really it just depends on your needs.
Mid Motor Systems
As mentioned previously, a mid-motor is situated at the bike’s bottom bracket. Due to its location a mid-motor can be larger than a wheel hub motor and as a result be designed to output more power. If you intend to use the bike on particularly hilly routes or need the extra torque to be able to tackle anything you might encounter mid motor may be the way to go., especially useful for all you eMTB riders out there. Another upside to the mid motor system is that they interact with a bikes gears in the way a normal bike does making the assistance feel more direct and organic. Some people prefer the weight distribution you get from a mid-motor. Having the weight of the motor in the center of the bike can make handling feel more natural. There’s still a couple of things to consider with this type of system. Weight, mid motors are bigger and heavier than hub systems. This can be a deal breaker for some. The prospect of loading an incredibly heavy eBike into a car, lugging it upstairs or getting it onto a train should not be overlooked. Some of this additional weight also comes from the generally larger battery required for this type of set up. Mid motors will generally speaking need a larger battery to get a desirable range. Larger batteries also mean the cost of the bike will be higher. Lastly, the way the power is applied to the bikes drivetrain can mean that components like chains, cassettes and chainrings can wear faster than on a normal bike and benefit greatly from regular servicing and maintenance. Read our guide to eBike maintenance for some top tips.
Hub Drive Systems
Hub systems work it much the same way as their mid motor alternatives. They sense the action of pedalling and its intensity and provide powered assistance. With hub motors being smaller they can be a lot lighter than a mid-motor system. Perfect for urban commuters who don’t need huge power output and require a nimble and manageable bike. The lower power requirements also mean smaller, lighter and cheaper batteries can be used without impacting range too much and lowering the price of the bike in the process. The discreet nature of the hub motor also allow bike manufactures to design eBikes that look like regular bikes compared to the “chunky” look of mid motor bikes with large integrated batteries. While we’ve mentioned that hub motors are generally less powerful, they are still more than capable for dealing with the type of riding and terrain most commuter & and leisure cyclists are dealing with. Having a heavy wheel can make weight distribution a bit different to a normal bike and can feel slightly off to some riders.
If you’re looking for something that can tackle the toughest terrain, output considerable powered assistance and support a huge battery a mid-motor could be the way to go. Most electric mountain bikes will use this system as well as bikes that offer huge range capabilities and favour the highest possible performance overweight saving.
For most commuters and leisure cyclists some mid motor systems can be overkill. Not only can the cost be a lot lower for hub drive bikes they are also easier to lift, store and transport. Some hub motor bikes can be practically indiscernible from regular bikes which is great for people looking for a bike with classic styling.
What type of riding do you do?
Commuting & Leisure Cycling
If the bulk of your miles are on hard surfaces like tarmac or well compacted tow paths and trails and you’re looking for a bike that favours comfort over performance a hybrid or commuter eBike is probably right for you. Perfect for getting to work, running daily errands or just getting some light exercise, hybrid or commuter eBikes have a more upright and comfortable riding position than other bikes. Often equipped with mudguards, racks and lights they’re perfect day to day use. Some hybrid eBikes are equipped with a suspension fork making them more adept and dealing rougher terrain making them better adapted to wider range of uses.
Off Road Cycling
If you’re looking to get out in the wild and take on some inclines and rough terrain an eMTB is likely what you will need. If you’re going to be doing most of your cycling on relatively solid surfaces a Hardtail eMTB could be perfect, rugged enough to leave the beaten track but still very capable on gravel tracks and even roads. The adaptability of a decent hardtail makes it a great choice for someone looking to cover a lot of ground (metaphorically & literally). It’s easy to see why hardtail electric bikes tend to be most popular when they tick so many boxes. When it comes to the most extreme style of off-road riding and those really looking to get lost in the woods a full-suspension electric bike is the way to go. Ranging from relatively short travel bikes for a bit of cross country all way up to long travel enduro style bikes for sending it down the local trails there are options to suit everyone.
Special mention: Gravel Bikes
What was once a niche discipline gravel riding has well and truly reached the mainstream. In essence a gravel bike is a road bike with a less race-oriented geometry, greater tire clearance and componentry that can take a little more abuse. As the name suggests these bikes are capable of riding woodland tracks and gravel paths. Now more manufacturers are producing electric gravel platforms, which is great news. Due to their extended capabilities and mounts for racks & mudguards electric gravel bikes can double up as a great commuter option than can be turned into the perfect adventure bike at weekends.
If speed and performance are more your thing an out and out electric road bike is a no brainer. Featuring all the tech and geometry of their no motorised brothers eRoad bikes offer road riders a little extra oomph. The addition of a motor means you can go further and faster and beat all your mates to the cafe.
What battery a bike has can be a huge factor in deciding what bike to go for. It’s not just size of battery either, there are other considerations at play.
One thing some people overlook is whether a battery can be easily removed or not. If it’s not practical to charge your bike with the battery attached, make sure you can remove it and charge it independently of the bike. If you can’t take your bike into the office or you don’t have outlets where you store your bike this could be a deal breaker.
Does the bike support secondary batteries/range extenders? Its always worth checking. Adding an additional power source is a quick way the extend your travel distance and is a nice feature to have.
Size of the battery the bike has. It‘s worth having an idea of the sort of range you’re hoping to get out of a charge. Once you know this, you’ll be better placed to select an appropriate battery size for the bike you select.
Some eBikes come with handlebar mounted displays that gives you a real time read out of what settings, speeds and battery life while others offer just an indicator for power and battery life. Make sure to check which system a particular bike uses. Some bikes might also come with a companion phone app that will log certain statistics so it’s another thing to consider if it’s something that’s important to you.
If you’ve read all of that are still unsure you can pop into any Hargroves store to speak to one of our experts or contact us online to discuss your requirements.