There are many, many types of rider, but basically only two types of electric bike. E-bikes are separated into hub motors and crank motors. “What’s the correct bike for you me?” I hear you ask. Well you’ve come to right place. Let me talk you through the pros and cons of each system.
As the name suggests, these have the motor built into the hub, often in the rear wheel.
So what’s the main advantages?
- Lower cost
- Lightweight – with the power off, some even feel just like a normal bike!
Why might it not work for me?
- Less torque for really steep uphills
- Some cheaper versions have a noticeable “on/off” feel to the power, making the ride less smooth
Crank drive bikes are often pitched as the more “premium” option. They have the motor in the centre of the bike, near the pedals.
What makes them “premium”?
- Better for pulling really heavy loads, and good for very steep hills
- A natural pedalling feel – sometimes it doesn’t even feel like the electric assist it switched on
Sounds great! What’s not to like?
- More expensive (both purchase cost and maintenance costs are higher)
- Risk of broken chain and damaged gears (because the motor puts all its power through the chain)
- Parts are highly specific to each model, making them harder to find spares
It’s not just motors that move around, batteries come in different shapes and sizes too. Some E-bikes have the battery built into the frame. This is known as either integrated (if the battery is totally hidden inside the frame), or semi-integrated (if the battery fits into a hole or slot in the frame, but remains visible). Other E-bikes have non-integrated batteries, which are completely separate from the frame. They are typically either bolted onto the bike frame, or attached to the rear rack.
Integrated batteries look very sleek, but they have some annoying disadvantages. What happens if you need to regularly remove the battery to take it indoors for charging? And what happens in a few years when the battery needs replacement – can you be sure the exact battery to fit your frame will still be available? Both of these are easier with a non-integrated battery.
Who’d prefer to visualize that in a table…?
|Integrated battery||Semi-integrated battery||Non-integrated battery|
Bigger is better, right? Many people are tempted to buy the largest battery they can, just in case they ever need it. So-called “range anxiety” leads customers to think they had better get a 70-mile battery, even if in reality they never cycle more than 30 miles.
What’s wrong with a larger battery?
- More expensive
- Greater environmental impact
- Less flexibility than two small batteries (you always have to carry the whole large battery, even if you are only going on a short journey).
We normally recommend buying only the size of battery you will actually need. If you want more battery capacity for occasional longer journeys, or if you find you need a larger battery in the future, you can always buy a second and carry it with you when required.
Of course E-bikes are heavier than normal bikes, but newer models are getting lighter. Only a few years ago, E-bikes typically weighed 26kg or 27kg. Nowadays there are plenty of E-bikes on the market which weigh 20kg. Some are even 15kg or less, which is a big advantage because they feel very similar to a normal bike in terms of handling, balance and lifting. But it’s always worth remembering that, unlike a normal bike, you’re not putting in as much effort so weight becomes a less important factor.
We have sold a variety of E-bikes over the years, spanning all of the above types. We have serviced many more E-bikes of all makes and models, so we have a pretty wide experience of the different options, and we’ve come to the following conclusions.
- Most people don’t need as large a battery as they think
- Non-integrated batteries are much more convenient
- Bikes with non-integrated batteries, and bikes with hub motors, are easier to service and maintain
- Crank drive bikes can be nice to ride, but we have seen too many broken and worn chains.
- Some remarkably cheap E-bikes are coming into the market, but they are pretty low quality and likely to be unreliable, and some are downright unsafe!
- It is possible for a hub motor bike with a small battery to be very lightweight, and for many riders this is more important than range or torque
It should come as no surprise, then, that our E-City model is exactly this type of bike: a lightweight hub motor model with a choice of two battery sizes, both of which are the external, non-integrated type. Thanks to a sophisticated pedal sensor, it feels as smooth and natural as a crank motor bike, so you get the best of both worlds!
Whatever type you choose, have fun on your new E-bike and be sure to wave at us when you fly past on the hills!