If you're looking for an easier way to commute to work that'll help you get fit at the same time, an e-bike could be a sound investment.
Use this guide to find out more about how electric bikes work and how to find the best electric commuter bike for your cycling needs.
What is an electric bike?
An electric bike is a bicycle with a battery-powered motor. The biggest advantage of an e-bike is that it makes it easier to cycle long distances and up steep hills.
However, it's worth noting that the motor is designed to assist your pedalling rather than do all the work for you — the motor only kicks in when you start pedalling and stops providing assistance when you reach 25km/h.
These types of e-bikes are also known as pedelecs. Some e-bikes provide power via a twist throttle, but these models are much rarer and may be subject to different laws in some states.
E-bikes come in a range of different styles, including models designed for road and mountain biking. Electric commuter bikes are designed for use in urban environments, allowing you to ride to and from work without expending too much energy or working up too much of a sweat. They often include features like racks for carrying cargo, lighting and a kickstand.
What to look for when comparing electric commuter bikes
Consider the following factors when shopping around for a new e-bike:
- Motor. Check how much power and torque the motor provides and how many assistance levels it has. Will they be suitable for your riding needs?
- Battery life and range. Check how long the manufacturer claims the battery will last and what the maximum range of the bike will be. Most e-bike batteries offer between 200 and 700Wh (watt-hours). You can also check how long it will take to recharge the battery back to full capacity.
- Tyres. Check that the tyres that come standard with the bike are from a reputable manufacturer. If your commute involves anything more difficult than bike paths and city streets, you might want to look for wider tyres with a little extra grip.
- Brakes. Most e-bikes come with disc brakes to help bring the extra weight of an e-bike to a stop.
- Gears. E-bike gears can either be traditional derailleur-type gears that you'd find on a conventional bicycle, or internal hub gears. The latter option is quite handy for city riding but does have downsides — like making it harder to change a rear flat tyre.
- Weight. Many electric bikes weigh more than 20kg. Check the specs sheet to make sure the bike will be easy enough to manoeuvre when you're not riding — e.g., wheeling it up the stairs at work.
- Frame size. Check the manufacturer's sizing chart to determine the right frame for someone of your height. For the best fit, head in-store and get measured to find your ideal size.
- Ease of use. Check what features a bike has to make it practical to ride to work. For example, will you find it easier to hop on and off a step-through model in your work clothes? Is there a chain guard to ensure you don't end up with grease on your pants?
- Rack. If you'll be carrying a bag with you to work, is there a pannier rack on the back of the bike?
- Warranty. Check the length of the warranty that comes with the bike and exactly what it covers before you buy.
- Price. The cheapest commuter e-bikes start at around $1,000, while high-end models can exceed $10,000. As a general rule, the more you pay, the better-quality components (gears, cables etc.) and frame you can expect on your bike.
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5 popular electric commuter bikes in Australia
There's an increasing range of commuter e-bikes available in Australia right now. Here are five options worth considering.
Long Range Option
Reid City Pulse. This affordable option features a 250W rear hub motor, seven-speed Shimano gearing and a range of up to 110km.
Large Battery Option
Merida eSpresso City 700 EQ. Designed for commuters and recreational riders, the City 700 EQ features an internal five-speed drivetrain and a 504Wh Shimano motor.
High End Option
Focus Aventura². This high-end electric bike features mudguards, a pannier rack, lighting and a 500Wh Bosch battery.
Quick Charge Option
VelectriX Urban Unisex i3. Another entry-level option, the Urban Unisex i3 recharges in 3-4 hours and offers a range of up to 50km.
Entry Level Option
E-Tourer C1. Thus urban e-bike has a range of 40-50km and features seven-speed Shimano gearing.
Pros and cons of electric commuter bikes
- Electric bikes encourage you to get active and increase your fitness
- They offer a practical way to commute to work
- You don't have to turn up to work covered in sweat
- Even entry-level e-bikes don't come cheap
- Electric bikes are heavy, so you're looking at a tough ride home if you run out of battery
- The battery will eventually need to be replaced
An electric bike can help you get to work faster, get fit and tackle hills you otherwise wouldn't dream of riding up. But even most entry-level e-bikes require a sizable spend of more than $1,000, so it's important to be sure you'll get plenty of use out of your e-bike before you buy — ask your local bike shop to give you a test ride so you can work out whether this style of riding is for you.
Ultimately, make sure you compare a range of products to find the best electric commuter bike for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a licence to ride an electric bike?
No. You do not need a special licence or registration to ride an e-bike. However, be sure to check all regulations that apply in your state or territory to ensure that the bike you buy complies with all local laws.
How fast can I go on an electric bike?
An e-bike can go as fast as you can make it go using pedal power; however, assistance from the motor drops off once you reach 25km/h.
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