How to buy an e-bike: Everything you need to know about electric bikes before you purchase

Whether you want to conquer miles on the road, tackle steep and technical terrain off-road or glide your way through town, electric bikes are making cycling far more accessible. However, while their benefits are obvious, we often get asked the question: how do you buy an e-bike? The sophisticated technology they use can confuse the electric bike buying process.

This page will talk about the differences between road, hybrid and mountain e-bikes, it’ll discuss the various different motor systems and how they can affect user experience, and how to get the right type for your riding. It will also define terminology such as torque; watt hours, and mid drive motors amongst others. If you’re looking for advice on how to buy an e-bike, you’ve come to the right place. 

The most confusing thing about e-bikes is the jargon, but working out what it means and how it affects your ride experience is really important. 

For starters, electric bikes have a motor and a battery. The motor provides power, legally it’s limited to 250w of continuous support but it will be able to boost power by more than that for short bursts. It’s also capped at 25km/h in Europe. This support is what’s known as pedal assist, because it makes your pedalling easier. Some brands state assistance as a percentage (usually anywhere between 50% and 300% depending on mode), and others as wattage. 

Most motor systems have around three different modes of differing support. Naturally, the more support you receive from the bike, the less range you’ll get from the battery.

Torque is mentioned as frequently as power when it comes to talking about assistance. In terms of science, Torque is a rotational force around an axis. In this case it is the rotational power of the motor that is used to assist the rider at the rear wheel. This is probably the most significant aspect of an e-bike and I’ll talk about this more when we get into the various motors later on, but in short it’s what generates the acceleration you feel when you start pedalling.

Finally, watt-hour is a term used to describe the capacity of e-bike batteries. For example, a bike with a 250Wh battery will run for an hour if the motor continuously kicks out 250W. 

Just like any other bike we’d recommend you go down to your local bike shop which can offer a wealth of expertise and help you make sense of any complicated jargon. They’ll also have loads of models that you can test ride.

There’s no longer a limit on the cycle to work scheme meaning you can now buy an e-bike and benefit from the savings offered. It works through a salary sacrifice, meaning you pay for your bike in monthly instalments but before tax, so you make a saving. In total you can potentially save anywhere between 25 and 39% on the bike.