What is an electric bike? Everything you need to know.

What are electric bicycles – and how do they work?

Electric bikes or e-bikes are built in the same way as regular pedal-powered bikes but feature a motor powered by a battery that’s designed to give the rider extra push on otherwise quad-burning inclines or repeated hilly efforts on undulating terrain.

Why buy an e-bike?

There’s a buzz about them! E-bikes are already a familiar site in many European cities where cycling has been the mass mode of transport, or where cycling is growing in popularity. In the UK, they are making traction too, with various pilot schemes to provide e-bike training and funding support to purchase them.

Getting exercise

While some cyclists might consider themselves super fit and not want to dent pride by getting a helping ‘hand’ up any Strava-worthy climbs, e-bikes can help many people rediscover exercise in a manageable fashion that won’t exhaust them and put them off getting back on the saddle and going out again a second time. Regular exercise has many well-known benefits including improving mental health, lowering blood pressure and improving general strength, and cycling is particularly good since it improves cardiovascular performance without the heavy impact on ankle, knee and hip joints that running or ball sports can involve.

This is an ideal form of transport for older people especially, who want to be able to get out and enjoy natural surroundings – or even pop to the local shops - without too much physical exertion.

The old Scots phrase ‘you’re better oot’ takes on a whole new meaning with this opportunity-opening mode of transport.

Maintaining your e-bike

Much of e-bike maintenance is the same as for typical pedal-powered push bikes, so if you know how to replace an inner tube, fix brakes, adjust the saddle, or fit a bottle cage using Allen keys, you’re already halfway there.

Basic checks include ensuring:

  • Inflated tyres (very little ‘give’ when pressed or pinched)
  • Responsive, well-oiled/sprayed brakes
  • Saddle at correct height for the rider
  • Front and rear lights are fitted, and used for riding in poor daytime visibility or at night.

Another good habit to prolong your bike’s life is to keep it clean! A cold-water rinse, a lathering of warm soapy water and a rinse of with more fresh water should do the trick. But for giving the bike added gleam, featuring expert bike cleaning brands like Muc-offBikeRightDr. Sludge and Fenwicks in between, Autoparts can help you out with a top-class range of polishing products.

Charging your e-bike

E-bike motors are battery-powered, so low or no battery equals losing that bit of extra propulsion when out on the tarmac or the cycle trail.

To charge your e-bike, give it a long first charge, as you would do with a mobile phone, for example.

Connect the battery to the mains, only ever using the charging cable and plug that’s provided by the battery manufacturer. If a non-approved charger is used on the battery and damages it, that could cancel any warranty you have on the battery. And lithium-ion batteries are expensive to replace so it’s well worth giving it every chance to work for its intended lifespan.

The e-bike’s first full charge could be as long as 24 hours, but subsequent charges should be between 3-8 hours. The idea is to regularly charge your e-bike battery to ensure a steady, healthy battery life. You might want to consider charging your e-bike battery after every ride, especially longer outings where you’re employing the motor over a two- or three-hour period.

*Charge battery indoors to keep it warm and dry and ensure safe, stable charging.

Using your e-bike

E-bikes are normally fitted with modes, such as turbo, tour, and eco mode. While using it in eco mode will use less battery power, you’ll get less help from the motor in pushing you along. Conversely, a speedy mode like turbo will do more of the work but will demand more energy from the battery to do so.

Conserving battery life is simply about choosing the appropriate battery setting based on the terrain you’re cycling on and how fit you feel. At the very least you’ll still be pedalling like on a normal push bike, and enjoying the fitness benefits that come with it.

Find a fantastic range of bikes and e-bikes, plus hundreds of tools and accessories, in the Autoparts cycling collection.


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Image credit: Header image by KBO Bike via Unsplash