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E-Bike Buyer's Guide

Electric bicycles have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their versatility and eco-friendly nature. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about buying an e-bike.

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Words by: Auto Trader

Published on 25 July 2023 | 0 min read

What is an e-bike?

An e-bike, or electric bicycle, is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor operating in support of the pedals to help you go further and faster for less effort. This motor is powered by a rechargeable battery, which which can be integrated into the frame or attached to the outside of it according to the design of the bike.
By law e-bikes can travel up to 15.5mph with electric assistance, beyond which the rider can continue pedalling if they wish to travel faster. Because of the extra power, they’re especially suited to those who like to cycle in hilly areas, carry heavy loads or want to cycle further for longer, as they require less effort. The extra speed and the fact it they aid people to pedal also means they act as a mobility aids, which can make riding a bike more accessible for people who would struggle to ride a traditional pedal bike. E-bikes are legal to use in the UK for anyone aged 14 or over, and you don’t need insurance or a licence (although insurance is recommended in case of an accident). To be legal to ride, your bike mustn’t travel over the 15.5mph speed limit, it must use pedals for propulsion and the motor must not deliver more than 250 Watts of continuous power.

How much does an e-bike cost?

The price of e-bikes can vary depending on the brand, model, year of manufacture, features, power, battery size and range.
E-bikes typically start from around £1,000 upwards for the basic foldable models such as the Estarli E-bikes e16.1 which is perfect for city riding. At the very top of the range, you could pay over £13,000 for an elite off-road model like the Trek Fuel EXe. However, there are plenty of options in between for different purposes. Commuter and road e-bikes tend to be cheaper than electric mountain bikes, coming in at around £1,000-£3,000. Cargo bikes tend to be slightly more expensive at around £3,000-£6,500 as they’re specifically designed for carrying heavy loads. You can choose whether to buy new or used, and mileage per charge will determine the cost in some cases, particularly with more expensive models. It’s possible to buy used e-bikes at a much cheaper price than brand-new ones. You can also choose between e-bikes with a manual or automatic transmission, depending on how you’d like to operate your gear changes. On Auto Trader, you can find a wide range of brand new e-bikes with different price points, depending on your needs.

Why buy an e-bike?

There are lots of reasons to consider investing in an e-bike. E-bikes provide an efficient, cost effective and eco-friendly mode of transportation, especially for commuting or running errands. They offer assistance on hills and against headwinds, making cycling easier and more accessible for people of varying fitness levels. E-bikes are also a great alternative to traditional bikes for individuals with joint or mobility issues. They’re also great if you’re carrying kids, or use your bike for carrying heavy shopping.

How to choose the right type of e-bike

E-bikes come in various types, each designed for specific purposes. To find the right type for you, here are some considerations:

Determine your riding needs

Consider your intended use for the e-bike, such as commuting, recreational riding, off-road trails or carrying cargo.

Set a budget:

Determine how much you're willing to spend on an e-bike, as this may affect the features and quality you can expect.

Consider the motor and battery:

Pay attention to the motor power and battery capacity, as they will affect the e-bike's speed, range and overall performance.

Check the weight and frame design:

Consider the weight of the e-bike, especially if you need to fold and carry it.

Assess the features:

Consider whether you want automatic or manual gear transmissions and other aspects such as suspension, to ensure a smooth and reliable ride.
Look at other features you may need and choose an e-bike that ticks the boxes for you, based on your budget.

Take sizing into account:

Ensure the e-bike is the right size for you by looking at manufacturer size charts, measuring your inseam and considering the bike's sizing. Most manufacturers offer simple ways to explain what e-bike would be the right size for you. If in doubt visit a retailer and have a proper fitting.

How to find the right size e-bike

Finding the right size e-bike is essential for comfort and proper bike handling. While e-bike sizes can vary between brands, following these steps can help ensure a proper fit:
  • Measure your inseam: Use a tape measure to measure the distance from the floor to your crotch while standing with your feet slightly apart.
  • Consult manufacturer size charts: Look for size charts provided by e-bike manufacturers, as they often provide height or inseam ranges that correspond to different frame sizes.
  • Check the frame size: Different e-bike models may have varying frame geometries, so pay attention to factors such as top tube length, seat tube height and reach to ensure a comfortable fit.
  • Check is the e-bike is adjustable: Some e-bikes have adjustable components such as seat height, handlebar position and stem length, which can help fine-tune the fit, even if the frame size is not a perfect match.
  • Take note of standover height: Consider the standover height, which is the clearance between the top tube and your inseam when standing over the bike. Ensure you have enough clearance to comfortably straddle the e-bike when not sitting on the saddle.
  • Consider your riding style: The type of e-bike and your riding preferences may influence the desired frame size.
  • Test ride different sizes: Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist, see if you can test ride e-bikes in different sizes to see how they feel and determine the best fit for your comfort and riding style.

Questions to ask when buying an e-bike

When purchasing an e-bike, it's important to ask the right questions to ensure you're making an informed decision. Here are a few questions to consider:
What is the range of the e-bike?
  • How long does it take to fully charge the battery?
  • How many miles has it done?
  • Does it have manual or automatic gear transmission?
  • What type of motor does it have?
  • Is the height right for me?
  • Does it come with a warranty?
  • Are spare parts easily available?
  • Is the e-bike you're looking to buy legal?

How to charge an e-bike

Charging an e-bike is a straightforward process that typically involves the following steps:
1. Locating the charging port on your e-bike, which is usually located near the battery. 2. Ensure that the e-bike is turned off before connecting the charger. 3. Plug the charger into a standard electrical outlet and then connect the other end to the charging port on the e-bike. The charger will typically have an indicator light to show that it's properly connected and charging. 4. Leave the e-bike to charge for the recommended duration, which can vary depending on the battery capacity and charger specifications. 5. Once fully charged, disconnect the charger from both the e-bike and the electrical outlet. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines for charging your specific e-bike model to ensure safe and optimal charging. Always refer to the manual before charging your e-bike for the first time, as the manufacturer will be able to share the best advice for your e-bike.

E-bike maintenance

Like any other bike, e-bikes require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Basic maintenance tasks can help keep your e-bike in workable condition for much longer. It also gives you a chance to catch any issues before they develop into something more serious. It's recommended to follow the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines and have the bike serviced by a professional when necessary. With that said, here are a few maintenance tips to keep in mind:
  • Keep it clean: Regularly clean your e-bike, especially after riding in wet or muddy conditions. Use a soft cloth and mild detergent to wipe down the frame, wheels, and components. Avoid using a high-pressure hose as it can damage sensitive electrical parts.
  • Check tire pressure: Maintain proper tyre pressures to ensure a smooth and efficient ride. Refer to your e-bike manual or the sidewall of the tyre for the recommended pressure range. Underinflated tyres can reduce battery efficiency and make pedalling more challenging.
  • Lubricate moving parts: Apply lubricant to the chain, gears and other moving parts of your e-bike to reduce friction and prevent premature wear. Use a bike-specific lubricant and wipe off any excess to avoid attracting dirt and debris. If using aerosol lubricants be careful not to contaminate braking surfaces, especially if your bike has disc brakes.

Keeping your e-bike safe

E-bikes can be expensive so may be a target for theft. That means it’s important to keep your e-bike safe and out of danger, ideally in your home or a secure lock-up. Invest in a sturdy lock to secure your e-bike when you're not using it and you’re out of the house. You might want to consider a U-lock or a heavy-duty chain lock for maximum security. It is also worth considering insurance to protect your investment in case anything happens to your e-bike.

Battery life on an e-bike

The battery life of an e-bike can vary depending on various factors, such as the battery capacity, level of assistance used, terrain and rider weight. Generally, e-bike batteries can last anywhere from 20 to 100 miles on a single charge. However, it's important to note that battery life decreases over time, and regular charging and proper maintenance can help prolong its lifespan. Check the manufacturer’s handbook or instructions for specific advice about maintaining battery health on your specific model.
Below are a few tips to help you get the most out of your e-bike’s battery:
  • Manage power levels: E-bikes typically have multiple power levels, such as eco, normal and high. Opting for lower power levels when riding on flat terrain or when you have the assistance you need can help conserve battery life.
  • Plan your routes: Consider the distance and terrain of your ride when planning. Knowing the battery range of your e-bike can help you determine if you need to recharge during your trip or carry a spare battery if available.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: Extreme cold or hot temperatures can affect the performance and longevity of your e-bike's battery. Whenever possible, store and charge your e-bike in a temperature-controlled environment.

Essential gear for e-bike riders

While riding an e-bike, prioritise your safety on the road. As you’re exposed to the elements and fast-moving vehicles like cars, your safety is paramount. Thankfully, there are a few pieces of essential gear for e-bike riders to help keep them safe, such as:
  • Bike helmet
  • Make sure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear as these will make you more comfortable and make you safer; depending on when or where you ride bright or ‘high viz’ reflective clothing can help you stand out in busy traffic.
  • A decent pair of gloves will not only keep your hands warm while riding, but it can protect them in case you fall off your e-bike.
  • Upgrade to puncture-resistant tires to minimise the chances of getting a flat tyre. These tires are designed with reinforced layers to resist punctures from sharp objects on the road.
  • If you’re not used to riding among trafffic or new to bikes consider getting some training to help build your road sense and stay safe.
  • Where possible use dedicated cycling infrastructure such as segregated cycle lanes.

Is the e-bike you're looking to buy legal?

It goes without saying that it is very important to check an e-bike is legal in the UK before you buy it. There can be lots of issues with counterfeit electrical goods which don’t meet British or European standards. Although it is tempting to look at cheaper alternatives it is vital you buy your e-bike and e-bike battery from a reputable seller who makes sure that the e-bike meets Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC) requirements,. fulfils the Construction and Use regulations and complies with European standard EN15194.
If you are buying separate components it is important you should check that they are compatible. E-bikes are legal in the UK, providing the rider is 14 or older and the e-bike meets Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC) requirements.. In the UK we have a body of UK law which defines the legal safety criteria for e-bikes to be used on UK roads, this is called the ‘Construction and Use regulations.’ The parts of these Construction and Use regulations which are relevant to e-bikes are:
  • The e-bike must be fitted with a plate which can be easily read. It is commonplace these will be a sticker placed on the frame which will show the manufacturer’s name and motor power output for the e-bike.
  • The power control must be off as default and require constant intervention from the rider to maintain power assistance. This is sometimes called ‘no power without pedalling.’
It is always worth checking for that the e-bike you wish to purchase fulfils the Construction and Use requirements and complies with European standard EN15194.
The e-bike you look to purchase should also contain a CE mark, which will tell you that it has passed the relevant directive’s standards. You can read lots more about the Construction and Use regulations law on the Cycling UK website here.

Useful apps for e-bikes

There are several useful apps available for e-bike riders that can enhance their overall riding experience. Three include:
  • Bike Citizens: This is a popular app designed for urban cyclists, including e-bike riders. It provides route planning, navigation and tracking features to help users find the most convenient and bike-friendly paths in cities.
  • eBike Connect: Developed by Bosch, this app allows users to map out routes, track their riding activity and receive software updates for their Bosch-powered e-bikes. It also provides real-time data such as battery level, speed and distance travelled.
  • Komoot: This app offers comprehensive route planning and navigation specifically tailored for e-bikes. It provides detailed information on bike-friendly paths, elevation profiles and points of interest along the way.
  • Strava: Fitness-tracking apps like Strava can be useful for recording and analysing ride data, setting personal goals and connecting with a community of cyclists.

Where can I buy an e-bike?

Now that you have a comprehensive guide to buying an e-bike, why not browse Auto Trader's e-bike section to explore our extensive selection herehere?

E-bikes fire safety: Everything you need to know

The Bicycle Association has put together some excellent advice on e-bikes and fire safety, although we’ve summarised their advice below for your convenience. The fire safety risk that an e-bike presents can be split into two groups of circumstances:

What makes an E-bike very safe*

  • If the e-bike has been bought as a complete system – e.g. an e-bike, charger and its instructions.
  • The e-bike was bought from a UK-based seller and with a Declaration of Conformity and UKCA/CE marking to indicate it meets UK/EU standards.
  • It is made by a reputable brand and was bought from and maintained by a retailer with a good reputation.
  • The e-bike is only charged with the original charger and uses only the manufacturer’s original battery packs.
  • It is fully road legal as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle and used according to the instructions.

What means an e-bike could present a fire risk

  • If the e-bike is assembled by the rider or an unqualified person or business by adding an e-bike conversion kit to a normal bike.
  • And/or if the e-bike was bought directly from an overseas seller that isn’t answerable to the UK Trading Standards – this includes sales via online marketplaces.
  • If the e-bike does not meet UK/EU standards, if it has been tampered with, or derestricted.
  • If it uses batteries and chargers from different suppliers, and if it’s not certain if they are safe or compatible.
  • If the battery pack has been damaged.
  • If the instructions are missing or incomplete.
*The Bicycle Association says that products with all these characteristics present, in the body’s understanding and based on information currently available, low levels of fire risk for responsibly users who use them according to the instructions – but this can only be indicative. You can read the full terms and conditions on the body’s website.

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