Electric Bike Buyers Guide

Join the e-bike revolution!

Electric bikes are affordable, practical and are a huge amount of fun to ride – which is why they’re the fastest-growing type of bike in the UK. Thanks to some pretty big jumps in battery and motor technology, electric bikes - or e-bikes for short - are now a realistic choice for all riders.

If you’re looking at purchasing a new electric bike or just interested in e-bike technologies out there, then our buyer’s guide is for you.

What is an e-bike?

An e-bike, or electric bike, is a bicycle that is assisted by an electric motor. When you cycle, the motor kicks in and adds some additional pedalling power to each stroke. The motor will help propel you to a speed of about 15mph (the legal limit). If you’re going quicker than that, you’re on your own!

Electric bikes still have everything you’d expect on a normal bike, including pedals, gears and brakes. The rider is in control of the motor and can switch it on and off at will. Even if the battery power goes flat, you can still ride the bike under pedal power.

Ebike Interactive Image

How do electric bikes work?

The ultra-light motors fitted to electric bikes are powered by a super-efficient battery. Electric bikes use highly-efficient Li-Ion batteries similar to those used in phones, laptops and some electric cars.

Electric bikes have a handlebar-mounted computer or display which is used to control the motor. The rider can choose from various modes, each providing different levels of powered-support. Eco modes will provide a gentle contribution to each pedal stroke, with more intensive modes providing a stronger powered push.

Electric motors can provide rider assistance for up to 120 miles – depending on the size of the battery. You’ll see an estimated range figure for each electric bike, but be aware that this is an average and can depend on various factors, such as rider weight or the terrain your riding on.

The good news is that all electric bikes come with a battery level indicator, which will tell you if your battery needs a top-up. Every e-bike comes with a manufacturer-approved charger, with battery recharging taking a few hours, depending on the size of the battery.

Are e-bikes like motorbikes?

Electric bikes are not motorbikes. The motor on an electric bike provides assistance for each pedal stroke but does not replace it. If you ride an electric bike, you’ll still need to do some pedalling! 

Unlike motorbikes, you don’t need a license to ride an electric bike on the roads.

Are e-bikes better than normal bikes?

Electric bikes are a different type of bike and are neither better nor worse. 

Electric bikes appeal to a huge variety of riders because of their versatility. You can use the motor when you want, or simply switch it off and pedal along as usual. They enable cyclists of all ages, and abilities the freedom to ride, safe in the knowledge that the motor is there to help them if they need it.

Which size e-bike do I need?

E-bikes and standard bikes don’t differ when it comes to size, so you can choose your e-bike in the same way. Check out our bike sizing guide to find out which size e-bike to get.

Which e-bike is best?

There are several different types of e-bike on the market, including electric road bikes,hybrid bikes, folding bikes and mountain bikes.

We delve into the details below to help you understand the differences between electric bike models.

Folding e-bikes

Folding e-bikes

Electric folding bikes can be folded and unfolded in seconds, making them easy to stash away in train compartments, next to tables and even under your desk at work.

Like all folding bikes, folding e-bikes have small wheels, which makes them speedy and manoeuvrable – so perfect for city streets and quick commutes.

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Hybrid e-bikes

Hybrid bikes combine the best bits of a road bike and a mountain bike, which makes them ideal for rugged rides, challenging commutes and light touring. Expect flat handlebars, knobbly tyres, mudguards and racks.

Electric hybrid bikes are the same, except of course there’s a battery and motor that kick in when you’ve had enough of pedalling!

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Urban e-bikes
Mountain e-bikes

Electric MTB

Electric MTBs are revolutionising what’s possible in off-road adventuring. Fitted with a rechargeable battery and a powerful motor, electric mountain bikes are enabling riders to tackle higher climbs and more challenging obstacles than ever before.

You’ll find electric mountain bikes from trusted brands such as Carrera and VooDoo that are built for the toughest trails and tallest mountains.

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E-bike batteries

The two key things to look out for with e-bike batteries is the range. E-bike batteries are measured using watt-hours, which can get complicated when you have to start doing maths to figure out how long you can go from one charge. A quick and simple way to get around this is to consider how far you’ll be travelling and buy a battery that is capable of handling that distance (remember you’ll need to factor in the way back too!).

If the e-bike you’re looking at exceeds these regulations, i.e. it exceed 250 watts or assists you when you ride above 15.5mph, then you’ll need to register it as a motor vehicle, tax it and insure it. You’ll also need to a driving license to ride it and you’ll need to wear a motorcycle helmet!

To find out how to charge your e-bike, check out our handy guide.

It’s also worth remembering that you can just pedal if the bike battery goes flat, but we’d advise against letting it drain completely too regularly.

E-bike battery replacement

You’ll know if you have a mobile phone that constant recharging can affect performance.

If your battery does eventually stop working or doesn’t hold a charge, then you can purchase a replacement e-bike battery from Halfords. We only sell genuine, branded replacement batteries that are guaranteed to perform. While you can purchase cheap replacements online, these may not function as efficiently and can wear out more quickly.

It’s important that you care for your e-bike battery by regularly charging it and only using the charger supplied with your e-bike.

Motor

You can have the best e-bike battery in the world, but without an efficient motor, all that extra energy counts for nothing. There are three types of motor:

Front hub motors

Front hub motors fit onto the front wheel. A front-hub motor will efficiently pull you along, but it can feel a little like a front-wheel-drive car.

Front hub motors are often fitted to entry-level e-bikes.

Rear hub motors

Rear hub motors are fitted to the rear wheel. They provide more traction than front hub motors and can feel more stable on the road. Rear hub motors are more technologically advanced as they need to interact with the gears and chain. 

Rear hub motors can be found on mid-range and high-end e-bikes.

Central drive motors

Central drive motors sit right on the bottom bracket, where the pedals attach to the frame. All power is directed through the entire chainset, so powered cycling feels more natural. Plus, the motor’s weight is in line with the rider’s centre of gravity which can make the power-delivery feel more natural.  

Central drive motors are fitted to mid-range and high-end bikes, including some electric mountain bikes. 

E-bike legality

Electric bikes are legally referred to as “electrically assisted pedal cycles” or “EAPCs” under EU law EN15194, which the UK takes e-bike legislation. 

Your e-bike only falls in this category if:

  • The e-bike is powered by pedalling and not just a battery and motor
  • The electric motor won’t assist you if you’re travelling more than 15.5mph
  • he power output doesn’t exceed 250 watts (not to be confused with watt-hours)
  • If your e-bike meets these requirements, then you can legally ride it on the roads. All e-bikes we sell at Halfords are legally safe to ride on the roads.

    If the e-bike you’re looking at exceeds these regulations – for example, it has a motor over 250 watts or provides assistance above 15.5mph - then you’ll need to register it as a motor vehicle, tax it and insure it. You’ll also need a driving license to ride it, and you’ll need to wear a motorcycle helmet!

    How to choose an electric bike

    If you’re interested in buying a new electric bike, you can find our entire range of online or drop in to a Halfords store to get up close and personal. Our experienced staff are on hand to offer advice and guidance to help you choose the bike that’s right for you.

    Are electric bikes legal? 

    The law around electric bikes can be confusing, but it doesn’t need to be. Electric bikes are entirely legal, and you don’t need a licence or insurance to ride one as long as the motor is rated no higher than 250W, and the assisted top speed of the bike doesn’t exceed 15.5mph.

    To ride an electric bike, you will need to be over 14 years of age. You can read the full government guidance on e-bikes (or to give them their full name, electrically-assisted pedal cycles) here.

    It’s safe and legal to ride your electric bike anywhere you would ride your normal bike, including cycle paths. It isn’t a legal requirement, but we’d always recommend that you wear a helmet.

    All our electric bikes are tried and tested and meet all current UK regulations. They’re built by our experienced technical experts and conform to all rules, which means you can jump on and ride without worrying about breaking the law!

    How to ride an e-bike

    Riding an e-bike is the same as riding a regular bike. You climb on, put your feet on the pedals, and off you go! It really is that simple.

    When you switch on your e-bike you’ll need to choose between various modes, which provide different levels of pedalling support. The simple rule of thumb is, the more support the motor gives you, the shorter the battery life. You’ll also need to plug your battery in and recharge it regularly. If the battery runs out, your electric bike will simply become a standard bike with a battery and motor fitted.

    When you start riding, the motor kicks in and provides pedal assistance up to a maximum speed of 15.5mph. After that, you have to rely on your own power to propel you.

    The first time you ride an electric bike, it can feel a little odd, but you’ll soon get used to it. Once you feel the extra pedalling power, you’ll wonder how you ever pedalled without it.

    At Halfords, we’ve created lots of information to help you get the most out of your electric bike. If you still have any questions, drop into your nearest Halfords store where our e-bike experts can offer advice.

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