How to choose an electric bike

Jo Taylor | Tue 7th Jan 2020 10:02

Here is everything you need to know about buying an E-Bike. Our E-bike buying guide will get you up to speed on the fastest-growing segment of cycling.

Comprehensive e-bike buying guide

E-bikes – they’re proliferating our roads and trails at an increasing rate.

The sales speak volumes : thousands of Kiwis are buying e-bikes each year, discovering for themselves the joy and benefits of these go-everywhere, do-it-all steeds. If you’re considering that leap, it’s a great idea to research the basics and find out which bike is best for you.

How do they work?

They’re basically regular bikes that provide pedal assistance through a battery and motor, letting you ride further and faster with less effort. As you start to pedal, the motor will kick in and suddenly you’ll cruise much faster than on a standard bike. However, not all bikes are equal, and as such, they have different maximum speeds. Most current e-bikes provide pedal assistance to 25km/h, 32km/h or 45km/h.

E-bike benefits are numerous, but there are also things you should be aware of, like safety, regulations and battery life, so be sure to read through to the end of this guide!

What types of electric bike are available at Evo?

Electric Cruiser Bikes

Think laidback recreational riding, vintage style. These bikes perform well on dry, flat, sealed terrain. They have looks and pedigree, dating back (roughly) to the 1930s, and for a long while were synonymous with the shoreline riding scene. Fun in the sun – that’s what cruisers are about.

  • Ideal for city and seafront
  • Enjoy the looks of a fashion icon and benefits of modern technology
  • Inexpensive, durable and comfortable
Shop Electric Cruiser Bikes

Urban Commuter Electric Bikes

These bikes are perfect for around-city use, whether you’re commuting, visiting, sight-seeing or doing chores. They combine speed, efficiency and comfort, making everyday riding a pleasure. Some also have carriers and mudguards, further enhancing their practicality.

  • Ideal for commuting and city riding
  • Spend less time stuck in traffic
  • More eco-friendly than vehicles
  • Incredibly cheap to run compared to standard vehicles and public transport
  • Many urban bikes cost less than a typical year’s parking in major cities
Shop Electric Commuter Bikes

Electric Road/Gravel Bikes

With a top speed of up to 45kp/h on some models, these bikes will take you places. They have all the enjoyment of a standard road ride, but for much less effort. Exhilarating for seasoned riders, but also perfect for riders who are less fit, allowing them to go further and faster. These bikes are also great for long-range commuters

  • Ideal for paved road or gravel (select bike accordingly)
  • Narrow, slicker road tyres bring less rolling resistance
  • Gravel bike tyres are slightly wider, rendering them ideal for unpaved roads
  • Some bikes have drop bars to make you more aero
  • These are generally the lightest e-bikes – some even have carbon forks and frames
Shop Electric Road/Gravel Bikes

Hardtail Electric Mountain Bikes

Hardtails are efficient and versatile. They are simpler than a full suspension bike, meaning less/easier servicing and a lower up-front cost. If you’re interested in urban riding, intermediate trails or adventure rides, an e-hardtail could be perfect for you. 

  • Ideal for easy-to-intermediate trails, mixed terrain and commuting
  • Take the effort out of climbs
  • Front suspension decreases trail chatter through your hands and wrists
  • Rugged frames, with tyres that can handle both on road and offroad use
  • Generally cheaper than full-suspension e-MTBs
Shop Electric Hardtail MTB

Full suspension Electric Mountain Bikes

If you love the thrill of all-terrain mountain biking but mutter when you have to pedal up a hill, then these are the bikes for you. The suspension lets you float along and the low centre of gravity means these bikes plough over most everything.

  • Capable on descents and take the effort out of climbs
  • Increased tyre contact with the ground, giving more traction
  • Ride further – no need to stop and catch your breath at the top or bottom of hills
  • More distance equals more experience – your skill level will rise accordingly
  • Gravity is your friend – these bikes are heavy, strong and fast
Shop Electric Full Suspension MTB

How far and fast will an e-bike go?

The range depends on battery size and a range of variables. In general, you should be able to cover 50-100km per charge on most bikes, but as we said earlier, not all bikes are made equal. Check with the Evo crew in one of our showrooms if you have any questions about range or battery life for a specific model. As for speed, most will provide pedal assistance to 25k/ph, 32km/h or 45km/h.

The power modes let you choose the level of assistance from low to high, when you want more oomph up a steep hill. Or some bikes change the level for you, much like the gears in an automatic vehicle.

The modes have different names according to the brand of motor, but range from economical to maximum assistance. And while some cheaper e-bikes are activated by a throttle, most are activated by pedalling.

The harder you pedal, the bigger the boost and the faster you’ll ride. But higher speeds use more battery power, so managing the assist modes (from high when you need a big boost to low when you don’t), will help get more life out of your battery.

Factors that affect range and speed include:

  • Style of bike
  • Motor and battery power
  • Rider weight and input
  • Cold temperatures
  • The gears you use
  • Pedal assist setting
  • Any extra luggage
  • The terrain
  • Head or tail winds
  • Tyre pressure

Who are e-bikes for?

There’s an e-bike for everyone, within the reasonable limits of capability. There's no wrong ebike, it's about finding the right model for your needs. Electric bikes are for everyone, but below are some reasons for why you may want to jump on one!

  • You want to ride further, faster and with less effort
  • Have time constraints
  • Lack fitness
  • Have good MTB skills and want to diversify
  • Have a love of thrills and adrenaline
  • Want to keep up with fitter, faster riding buddies
  • Returned after a hiatus
  • Have a physical impairment
  • Health issues
  • You're getting old, but want to keep riding
  • A burning dislike of pedalling up hills

How do I charge the battery?

E-bike batteries can be charged while on or off the bike. Safety is the key. They like to be charged slowly and kept cool (warm is fine, hot is not).

If batteries are damaged, they need to be replaced. Always use the certified charger that came with your bike or battery, and charge your battery from the mains. It is recommended not to charge from a campervan, although it is possible with some inverters.

Charging Times

Four to eight hours is typical for a full charge. If you want to minimise charge time and won't use your pedal assist a lot, a smaller battery may be best. Charge it as often as you like – the lithium-ion batteries often used on e-bikes don't need to be completely flat. Topping up after each ride is a great idea. You should get about 800 full charges before the battery starts waning.

The Types of E-bike Motor Systems

These fall into two main categories:

Hub Drive Motor

These sealed, low-maintenance motors sit in the front or rear wheel hub. They’re usually cheaper because they’re easier to make and put on any bike. But if the wheel is removed, the motor may also need to be removed.

Mid-Drive Motor

The motor is mounted to the middle of the frame. Mid-Drive electric bikes are better at going up hills, and the weight feels more evenly distributed due to the motor being low and central. They generally provide more torque with less lag than hub drive motors, making pedalling easier and more effective.

Service and maintenance needs

E-bikes need to be serviced just like standard bicycles. If you are doing this at home, the normal rules apply: Keep the drivetrain clean and lubricated, check nut/bolt tension for safety, and monitor wear then replace parts accordingly. If you are not comfortable working on your own bike, hear a noise you can’t place, or the ride quality has deteriorated, it’s probably time to have your bike checked by an Evo bike mechanic.

Our service centres offer standard servicing to keep your bike running smoothly and safely. They also perform Giant and Trek firmware updates, which can help increase your e-bike’s functionality and battery life.

When buying with Evo, you also have the option of purchasing a maintenance service plan. These are only available with new bikes and ultimately save you a lot of money in servicing.

View Evo Service Centre Information

Safety first!

As with anything involving speed and a motor, you’ll need to start out quietly while becoming accustomed to your bike.

These are not standard bikes, so first practise stopping and starting, then take your time to get used to them on quiet, easy roads and trails. Know your limits and let your skills and confidence build over time.

E-MTBs are not like regular mountain bikes. They’re fast, heavy and carry a lot of momentum. If you charge around without being used to their speed or how they handle, you may come to grief. Go slowly to start with. It’s not worth the risk.

In traffic, be mindful that motorists may not expect you to take off like a rocket. Your speed won’t be that of a regular cyclist, so be mindful of others around you.

Busting the myths

Will an e-bike make me lazy?

No. You’ll still be pedalling and navigating any obstacles. You may also be riding further and more often

They’re damaging to trails:

This is more a question of how you ride, rather than what you’re riding. If you consider the trail-builders and don’t carve out rooster-tails of dirt along their berms, you’re probably doing okay.

They’re too fast:

This is where it helps to know your limits. If you’re new to e-bikes, use the lower power mode and take it quietly, slowly going faster as your confidence grows.

Ebikes are cheating:

Not cheating, just different. There’s a distinct advantage, but as with everything, there are pros and cons. So long as you consider others, and practise good road and trail etiquette, everyone should be happy.

Other FAQs:

Can I increase the speed of my e-bike?

New Zealand’s legal output for a “power-assisted cycle” is a maximum of 300W on roads, paths and in public access areas. Beyond that, bikes are classed as a moped, and must be registered and ridden by a licenced driver. See Here.

IMPORTANT: Your warranty will be invalid if you or anyone else modifies your bike’s speed outside of manufacturer specifications.

Does New Zealand have other regulations around their use?

Other than the watt limits, you just need to wear a helmet on the road – and of course it’s wise to do the same on trails.

How heavy are electric bikes? Can they be loaded onto my car?

E-bikes are decreasing in weight, with some as low as 15kg, but most are in the low-20kgs. They can safely be transported on a certified e-bike rack. If you buy an e-bike ramp, you can push your bike up onto your rack. Or to make it easier to lift, remove the battery, reinstalling it as soon as the bike is on the rack. Don’t forget to strap the bike down securely so that it can’t move.

Can I ride in the rain?

The batteries and other electrical components are weatherproof, but generally not waterproof. They will handle showers, but submersion or riding through deep water could bring system failure.

This also applies to transporting your bike by vehicle during wet weather. Cover your battery and motor to prevent driving rain from seeping past seals and into the electronics.

When washing your bike, carefully clean around the battery and motor with warm water and a soft car brush. Avoid high pressure on those areas, even through partial placement of your thumb over the end of a hose.

What happens when the battery power runs out?

If your battery goes flat while you’re riding you can still pedal unassisted, it will just be more laborious due to the weight of the bike.

How much does it cost to charge an ebike?

Fully charging a typical 400Wh battery costs around 13 cents, provider dependent, at the time of writing. The calculation assumes 80% efficient charging, consuming 0.5 kWh at a price of $0.26 per kWh. Source

Does the battery recharge as you pedal?

Unfortunately not. Regenerative braking – converting momentum from the bike and heat from its brakes into another form of energy – is still rare, but who knows what the future will bring.

Does my electric bike come with a warranty?

All new electric bikes in NZ come with at least a 12 month manufacturer's warranty. This covers manufacturing faults or issues, but does not cover general wear and tear of the bicycle. Servicing your bike is still important, just like maintaining a car.

Any more questions?

Use the orange “Chat with us” button on our website or visit your nearest Evo showroom. We’ll be happy to help!

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