As with everything in life, there is a vast range of prices depending on the quality, specification and the way in which you buy. Here we give you a guide on what price you should actually expect to pay for an electric bike.
How do we define an electric bike?
First, we need to put some ground rules down so we can be sure we are all comparing the same thing when comparing prices. So, when referring to an electric bike we are talking about an electrically assisted bicycle which complies with UK law. This means a bicycle with functioning pedals with a motor which can assist to a maximum of 15.5 mph, has no throttle and a maximum of 250W nominal power. These are the types of bike you will find for sale through any reputable high street chain, independent bike shop or online seller. We do not include second-hand bikes or those which are imported and may incur additional duties on arrival in the UK. Finally, we are not going to focus on folding, cargo, trikes or any other non-mainstream type of bike, to try and keep the comparison simple.
What are the range of prices?
Let’s not beat about the bush, you probably want to know the cheapest electric bike on sale in the UK today. If this is what you are looking for, take a look at the Cyclotricy Jade 20 for sale through their website at £699. At the other end of the scale look at the Riese & Muller Superdelite GT Rohloff at £8,529 available to factory order from Authorised Specialist Partners. From even the quickest review of the two bikes, you can see they are in no way comparable other than being called an electric bike, and there is a huge spectrum of bikes and prices in-between. But what is it that is making the price so different?
Initially let’s forget the electric part and consider just the mechanics of the bike. Things like the frame, front and rear suspension, tyres, brakes, lights, mudguards, carriers, drive chain, saddle, grips and endless other little intricacies. These components can easily make the difference between a £100 bike and a £7,000 bike, and both are available to buy from mainstream retailers in the UK.
Brakes and gears are two great examples of where significant investment can be made and improvement gained. For example a set of front and rear Shimano Acera v-brakes including levers, blocks and cables would cost around £50 compared to £350 for some Shimano Deore XT hydraulic brakes. A three-speed Shimano Nexus hub for about £70 doesn’t compare to a Rohloff E14 at around £1,500. These two components alone can vary the price of a traditional bike by more than £1,700, so you can imagine how the difference increases with the addition of front and rear suspension, uprated wheels, tyres etc.
So we can conclude that even before considering the motor, battery and display; prices for the core ‘bicycle’ can vary by thousands dependant upon the quality and selection of components.
How does the type of motor affect the price?
There are essentially two types of motor commonly available on the market today. They are the hub motor and the mid-drive motor and there are many manufacturers of both.
If you are looking for the cheapest option for an electric bike, the hub motor is what you will after. The hub motor can be installed in place of the hub in either the front or rear wheel and for this reason, makes it the perfect retro-fit option. If you study closely the lowest-priced electric bikes you will notice they use a front hub motor and they have essentially taken a traditional bike and retrofitted a motor and battery to make it an electric bike. Whilst hub motors are generally great if the cost is your main driver, you may find they are quite limited when it comes to assistance on the hills and this is to do with the speed at which the motor is spinning. Without going into too much detail, this is because the motor will have a sweet spot, a number of revolutions it requires to deliver its maximum power. As the motor is in the wheel, as the bike slows (normally uphill) the speed of the motor reduces, which means less power. Think of it as driving a car everywhere in second gear. Pulling away on a hill will be very difficult and driving at 40 mph is possible but the power for acceleration is not there.
The best solution for an electric bike is, therefore, the mid-drive motor. This design puts the motor between the pedal cranks and requires a specially designed electric bike frame to house it. You’ll know, even if you have never really thought about it before, that when you are riding a bike you use the gears to go up and down hills, keeping your legs spinning at the same speed. In bike speak, this is called cadence and is the same as rev’s in your car and this has a massive benefit to the motor as it can sit in its sweet spot providing maximum power at any speed when combined with a gearbox. So, just like your car, hill starts are no problem, and you can have powerful acceleration at any speed.
But there is a significant price difference between the two technologies. As a guide, and bear in mind, there will be labour and additional wiring harnesses required, a hub motor costs around £100 compared to roughly £700 for a mid-drive motor from a well-known manufacturer like Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano or Brose.
How much does a battery cost?
Pretty much all batteries sold for electric bikes today use Lithium-Ion cells. Whilst the chemistry is standard across the bikes, there can be a big difference in the battery management systems, packaging, charging times, and capacity.
When looking at an e-bike it is easy to see how the battery is packaged and subsequently mounted. The least-cost option is a battery mounted in a rear pannier rack. As with the front hub motor, this is a great option as a retro-fit solution as it will fit almost any bike. The downside is when it is done cheaply it can look a little unprofessional. A step up from this is having the battery mounted on the downtube. The cheapest option uses the waterbottle studs mounts to fix the battery but this can lead to rattling due to the weight of the battery. The better solution is a semi-integrated version where the frame might be slightly flattened and a mount specific to the battery is installed. The final option is the battery integrated into the frame. This design was introduced in the last couple of years and means electric bikes are now starting to look far more aesthetically pleasing. Importantly, check these batteries can be easily removed for charging and storage in the house if required.
The biggest area of cost variation when looking at the battery is its capacity. You will see this stated as either a combination of volts (V) and amp-hours (Ah) or more commonly these days watt-hours (Wh). If the battery capacity is quoted as 36V 7Ah, a quick way of working out the Wh is to multiple V x Ah. (E.g 36V 7Ah would be 252Wh). And as a really rough guide to the range of an e-bike based on its battery alone, divide the Wh by 10. So 252Wh would be good for 25 miles, compared 500Wh having a range of 50 miles. But as I said, this is a really rough guide and there are potentially huge variations which should be taken into account. This is covered in a separate blog if you are interested.
To demonstrate the cost of the battery I will refer to Bosch. These are recognised as a high-quality battery and come with a 2 year 500 charge cycle guarantee. There will be cheaper unbranded options available but the prices I quote will be comparable with Yamaha, Shimano and Brose. The smallest 300Wh rear rack-mounted battery is £420, compared to an in tube 500Wh battery at £675. These prices are for the battery only and exclude the wiring harness and mounts. With a bike like the Riese and Muller Superdelite, there are two power tube batteries installed (1 x top tube and 1 x down tube) giving a range on a single battery of 80 to 120 miles.
Is it cheaper to buy my bike online?
There is no secret that it is cheaper if you buy things online and this includes electric bikes, even the ones I sell in my store!
This is because the online retailer relies on you doing the research and making a buying decision based on the information you have gained. They do not require an expensive retail outlet or people to answer your questions and can function from a low-cost warehouse.
The downside for them is selling online can be very competitive and driven only by price. For them to survive in this cut-throat environment means they must have the lowest price and sell significant volume to cover the overheads. This means they are only interested in selling the most common configurations of bikes and not taking advantage of the variants and options which manufactures like Riese & Muller offer.
And in this model, customer service is often one of the areas where cost savings are made. You can not expect to try the various models and configurations before buying, it is unlikely they will have an in-house expert able to answer questions about a particular brand or model, and it is unlikely they will have even seen or ridden the bike you are considering. As an online retailer, they are unlikely to be offering any further warranty and maintenance support for your purchase once it has been shipped.
This said, the model works well for some people, but it’s not our favoured way of selling bikes. We believe you should touch and feel a bike before you make the final purchase decision, so we do our best to keep as many demonstrators in stock as possible to allow you to do this. We use these as much as possible throughout the year and replace them when a new model comes available. This costs us money so we ask for £95 for a guided test ride with an in-house expert, which we refund against a bike purchase within 1 month.
We also have an easily accessible showroom in the Cotswolds, with lovely countryside to explore, and lots of local award-winning, pubs, cafes, hotels, an ice cream factory, a brewery and vineyard on the doorstep. Our showroom is small at just 30m2, but it gives you somewhere to view the bikes and talk to an expert whilst keeping our overheads down.
We specialise in factory orders of Riese & Muller bikes. Their full range of bikes is extensive with every model coming with lot’s of variants and options, it is unlikely you will find your dream bike in stock anywhere. With a factory order bike only 3-4 weeks away, it makes sense to buy the bike you really want.
Lastly, when it comes to delivery, we offer to personally deliver, set-up and demonstrate every bike we sell, to locations within 2 hours of our showroom. And if that isn’t enough, we can offer collection and servicing.
And we believe our service can’t be matched. So if you find another retailer, online or offline offering a better package on your new bike, let us know and we will do our best to match it.
So what is the price of an electric bike?
You could go online today and buy a bike for £699 but you would receive a very different product, and support experience, both before and after purchase, compared to visiting a specialist retailer and buying a factory ordered bike for £8,529.
That said there is a lot of middle ground. I would personally always recommend a bike with a mid-drive motor. My preference is Bosch but you can buy bikes with motors from Yamaha, Shimano and Brose. Be prepared to pay at least £3,000 – £5,500 for a bike from Haibike, Specialized, or Trek for a good quality bike which will last. But if you are looking for something special, you should be planning to wait a few weeks while your dream bike it is custom-built for you from a manufacturer like Riese & Muller.
If the last option is of interest, contact us. Riese & Muller bikes start from £2,799 for the Swing2 and popular models like the Charger3 and Delite start from £3,919 and £5,219 respectively.
If you would like to try a bike, talk about them or come and see them, contact us.
7 days a week 9am-5pm on 01453 834300, via email; [email protected], or visit the showroom Weds-Sat 9am-5pm at 2 Market Street, Nailsworth, GL6 0BZ.