If you’re new to the electric bike world and have never taken one for a test ride, it’s completely understandable that your knowledge of how one actually works is rather limited. If this feels relatable, then this post is for you!
First things first…
Customers often ask us ‘do I actually need to pedal?’ – and this question makes complete sense. But, spoiler alert: you do have to pedal! One of the key requirements for a UK-legal electric bike is that it has pedals to propel it – if it doesn’t have pedals, it would be classed as a moped. Also unlike a moped, you don’t need a licence to ride an e-bike (or ‘electrically-assisted pedal-cycle – ‘EAPC’) and it doesn’t need to be registered, taxed or insured, as long as it meets these requirements:
✔ It has pedals that can be used to propel it
- It can’t have a twist and go throttle – assistance must be through the pedals
✔ The electric motor…
- Must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
- Should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle) and you also need to be aged 14 years old or over to ride one. Read more over on https://www.gov.uk/electric-bike-rules
So with that answered, how does an electric bike actually work?
Equipped with a battery and a small electric motor that engages as you begin to move the pedals, ‘electric assist’ bikes provide an extra boost of power – especially up those steep hills. Whilst you still need to expend some energy on moving the pedals (using the same motion as on a traditional, mechanical bike), the effort required feels vastly reduced on the e-bike, meaning riders can cycle further and for longer, with larger loads – often without breaking a sweat.
But now for the million-dollar question; how fast does it go? The harder you pedal, the bigger the boost and the faster you’ll ride – but only up to a point. Electric bikes will allow you to cruise along at a good speed quite happily, but the motor is governed to stop propelling you further when you hit 15.5 mph.
The battery – which is charged by plugging into a regular 3-pin socket at your home, garage or workplace – supplies power to the electric motor. Most electric bikes will offer you between 40-60 miles on a single battery charge, meaning you have lots of range to play with – even for those far-flung adventures.
The electric motor then provides power assistance when you’re pedalling to ease the amount of effort required – especially helpful on steeper ground, or if you’re transporting large, heavy loads with full panniers, or with e-cargo bikes.
You can also choose how much assistance you get from the motor by selecting the power mode on your head unit. The ‘eco’ mode usually gives you a 50% extra boost, and if you slip into ‘turbo’ mode you’ll enjoy a whopping 340% assistance – so it really can take the effort out of your ride.
Hub motors and crank motors: What’s the difference?
There’s a couple of ways the power from the motor is translated on an e-bike. A hub motor is situated in either the front or rear wheel, and you’ll see a ring of magnets on the crank. As you push down on the pedals, it senses that the crank is turning, and based on this, switches the motor on for you.
More refined motors – which you’d find from Bosch, that feature on all Riese & Müller electric bikes – have three sensors in them, for cadence, speed and torque. Cadence measures how fast you’re pedalling (the RPM), speed measures how fast the bike is travelling, and torque is how hard you’re pressing on the pedals. From this, it decides how much assistance you might need – if you’re pushing down on the pedals hard (as you would when cycling uphill), it will sense this and give you that extra boost. Clever, eh?!
Would you like to take an electric bike for a spin?
We offer free test rides from our Riese & Müller Experience Store in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. To book, just head on over to this page to arrange your time slot!
Just at the start of your e-bike journey? Why not download our Buyer’s Guide at www.edemo.bike/buyers-guide – covering everything you need to know about electric bikes.