Issue 1: Electric Bike Magazine
Electric Bike Magazine Issue One, Autumn 2010, including reviews of the Ezee Torq, BuyBuyBicycles Electro-city, Gepida Reptila 1000 and RaleigH Dover Deluxe.
6 Electric Bike Autumn 2010 + E-BIKE BASICS W hen you start looking at electric bikes you swiftly realise that there’s a huge and confusing range on offer. So what’s important, what does the jargon mean, and what should you look out for? First principles “Does it charge up as you pedal?” is a common question. Mostly the answer is a straight no: the battery is there to help you, not the other way round! Electric bikes have a battery which is charged up from the mains (with the cost per charge measured in mere pence). The battery then powers a motor which helps you along. Of course, the more you pedal the less work the motor has to do. Some systems can charge the battery when you brake or go down hills, but the benefit in range terms of this ‘regeneration’ feature is modest, and for cost reasons few systems have it. In theory, systems with the regeneration function could (slowly) charge the batteries as you pedal. But few riders would choose to do this: it would just make pedalling harder, like riding with the brakes on. Legal matters All of the electric bikes we review are treated as bicycles in law. There’s no need to register, pay VED, wear a helmet or anything else. Just get on and go! The key points which the regulations specify are a maximum motor power of 250W, and the assistance must cut out by 15.5 mph E-bike basics Key facts you need to know before buying an electric bike (25 km/h). Bike weight must be less than 40 kg, and the machine must have working pedals and comply with relevant ‘normal bicycle’ standards. There are some grey areas currently, to do with differences between EU and UK regulations, but these issues should be clarified soon by the UK Department for Transport. We’ll cover this subject in more depth in a future issue. But it’s been made clear that any changes will not be retrospective, so anything legal now will stay legal. Types of electric bike Electric bikes can fall into the same categories as normal bikes, so you might want a folding bike, a mountain bike, a racing bike, or a practical town bike. Many electric bikes seem to be set up as town and touring bikes, with appropriate accessories such as mudguards and lights. This is a good general-purpose configuration, so go with it unless you know you need something else. But the more pertinent classification has to do with how the bikes are controlled. There are essentially two types: ‘Throttle’ bikes with a handlebar- mounted throttle control or switch which you use to turn the motor on or off. Examples include the Ezee and Electro-city bikes reviewed this issue. A main advantage is simplicity, and it’s also a good choice if you want to use the electric assist only for hills, for example. Throttle- type systems are available at all price points, and in kit form for adding to a normal bike. ‘Pedelec’ or ‘torque sensing’ bikes don’t have any throttle control, just a ‘system on’ button and power level controls. They incorporate a system to measure how hard you’re pressing on the pedals and the motor adds to this. Examples include the Gepida and Raleigh bikes reviewed this issue. This type of machine tends to be at the more expensive end of the market. I’m not aware of any kits available for this type. Both types have their merits, and which you choose is largely a matter of personal preference. I’d urge potential buyers to try both at a good dealer before choosing. Continues on page 28… LEFT: No, it doesn’t charge up as you pedal! Motors on electric bikes are there to help you along, or up the hills, as seen here during the Tour de Presteigne hillclimb. Charging from the mains costs just a few pence per charge, anyway. Photo courtesy of Wisper Cycles