The electric bike industry has seen enormous growth over the last few years. Ebikes offer a cost effective and environmentally friendly commuting alternative. With so many different styles available for various terrains, they make all kinds of cycling more accessible.
The Crooze team have compiled the ultimate guide to buying the best ebikes - including electric folding bikes, e-mountain bikes, commuter e-bikes, and road ebikes. Our 2021 Ebike Buying Guide includes all the buying information you need to make an informed decision on the best ebike for you.
What is an Ebike Under Australian Law?
In Australia an electric bike is defined by the Australian Vehicle Standards as a bicycle that has an auxiliary motor with a maximum power output not exceeding 250 watts without consideration for speed limits or pedal sensors.
Australian ebikes can be divided into two categories:
1. Power Assisted Pedal Cycles (200 watts maximum)
2. EN15194 Certified Power Assisted Pedal Cycle (Pedelac, 250 watts maximum)
* Non EN15194 certified ebikes must not exceed 200 watts and the motor must be capped at 25km/h.
* Certified pedelec ebike output must not exceed 250 watts and the motor must be capped at 25km/h.
* Bikes must be powered by human pedal movement (no throttles), although some states allow throttle driven bikes on private property.
* Currently all states agree that ebikes do not require licensing or registration.
Ebikes that exceed the power and speed regulations are considered road vehicles, meaning riders must comply with different legal requirements for various states and territories when travelling on public roads. We discuss ebike regulations in more detail further down.
Different Types of Ebike
Folding electric bikes are all about pairing convenience and portability with a speedy commute. Folding ebikes are designed to fold down so you can store it under your desk at work. They are ideal for apartment living since they take up very little space.
Designed to thrive off the beaten track, e-mountain biking or EMTB’s are booming in 2021. They are gaining popularity amongst mountain bikers who want to shave time off their shuttle and spend more time hurtling down the tracks. E-mountain bikes are equipped with powerful torque, sensitive handling, strong suspension and a lightweight design that loves to get airborne.
Commuter ebikes are the most popular style of ebike. Commuter ebikes are ideal for making short trips faster and offer a huge advantage when compared to driving - being more economical and environmentally friendly.
Commuter ebikes usually feature lightweight frames alongside entry to mid level groupsets. Expect wider tyres to avoid punctures and disc brakes, along with the usual bicycle features like kickstands, racks, chain guards and pedals suitable for standard shoes.
Electric road bikes provide just the right amount of assistance for a big day on the bike, allowing cyclists of all abilities to take part in longer or more challenging rides. This style pairs swift, aerodynamic design with enhanced pedelec power.
The electric cargo bike is designed to move loads, and is usually outfitted with baskets, racks or flatbeds. They are popular amongst delivery businesses and commuters alike, with storage capacity that allows for the transport of kids, pets, groceries and more.
Expect an e-cargo bike to include a lengthy wheelbase for increased stability, or sometimes even additional wheels to improve the level of control when the cargo port is loaded.
Electric Bike Motors
Electric bikes come mostly with hub or Pedelec motors. In a rear hub motor, the motor is located in the hub of the bike wheel. Pedelec motors are located at the crank area and transfer power to the chain which in turn drives power to the wheel.
In general, Pedelec motors offer a more comfortable, balanced ride that can feel more natural as you pedal.
Most ebike models are programmed with various levels of assistance, from standby levels where the bike will operate naturally like a traditional bike, to high assistance levels that make fast work of steep gradients. Generally, assistance levels will include the following settings, and sometimes more.
If you want to know more about the difference between e-bike motors, have a look to our article here.
No Assist: The bike will operate normally with no assist.
Economy Mode: This mode offers assistance from 25-80% of maximum, and is ideal for long range rides.
Normal Mode: This mode offers standard assistant levels and can match 100-150% of pedaling output. Noticeably increased torque.
High Mode: High mode will provide assistance up to and in excess of 200% of pedalling output. This mode is ideal for making steep hill climbs a breeze, however the increased power output may reduce range in some cases.
Battery Range and Charging
Battery range is key for going the distance without losing power. Consider how you plan to use your bike. Long distance rides on high assist will require more battery power (although note that power is capped at 250 watts unless on private property). Like other engines, more torque means more power and a higher boost to pedalling. Many ebikes offer a range extender or piggyback battery to keep your ebike moving for longer.
Some premium models also provide mission control software that handles battery management to ensure batteries last as long as they need to.
Most models provide easy plug in to replenish a dead battery, with charging times depending on amperage and battery capacity. An ebike battery will generally last up to and in excess of one thousand discharges before it requires replacement.
Ebike Tyres & Wheel Size
There is a huge variety of wheel and tyre sizes available for ebikes, and the best size for you will depend on your needs and how you plan to use the bike. Most ebikes are equipped with a 16, 20 of 26 inch diameter wheel.
Small to mid wheel sizes are found most commonly on folding bikes and commuter bikes, which are designed to be smaller and more lightweight than their offroad counterparts. One disadvantage of smaller wheels for urban riding is that when the bike dips into a pothole or divet in the road, it can feel very jolty.
Larger wheels equal a smoother ride and can also offer a longer battery life, because the larger size is able to keep momentum more effectively. Larger wheels also offer increased stability, traction and durability. However, big wheels can feel less maneuverable and are slower to transfer torque to the ground than smaller wheels, since the larger wheel frame reduces the amount of force being applied to the ground.
Ebike Rules and Regulations
Once the speed of your e-bike or e-scooter exceeds the legal limit of 25km/h, you’re no longer riding an electric bicycle in the eyes of Australian law. You’re operating a road vehicle which is considered the equivalent to riding a moped or motorcycle, and means you must comply with different legal requirements for various states and territories when travelling on public roads.
Key additional regulations that vary state by state include:
* Wear a helmet
* Make yourself visible at night through high visibility clothes and lights.
* Keep your bike tyres pumped up.
* Do not drink and ride.
* Use a warning device, such as a bell or horn.
Learn more about ebike rules and regulations.
While costs for an entry level ebike are higher than a standard bike, there are quality options available across a variety of price points. Here, we will discuss what you can expect from an electric bike at each price bracket.
This price point is achievable for those looking for entry level commuter ebikes from less recognised brands. Most electric bikes in this price range will feature hub motors rather than Pedelec since hub motors have a more simple design and are less expensive. The componentry on cheaper ebike models is often quite basic, but they make a great option for beginner riders who are looking to get the electric bike experience without spending a lot of money.
Electric bikes in this range encompass entry level models from trusted brands as well as mid to high end models in the upper end of the price range. This is the expected price for a standard Pedelec ebike, although some high quality hub motor designs can be found in this price range also. Again, expect to find mostly commuter ebikes in this bracket.
This price range is where you can expect models to be a little more premium. At this point, ebikes will include more accessories, higher capacity batteries and quality componentry. This is the price point for the best quality commuter ebikes, and is around what you can expect to pay for entry and mid level electric mountain bikes and electric road bikes.>
Beyond 5K are the most premium electric bike models as well as specialty models designed for mountain biking and road biking. At this price point, you can expect a high quality Pedelec motor, high capacity battery systems, lightweight and durable designs and all the extra technical features. For electric mountain bikes, top quality models can exceed 5K by quite a lot and you can expect excellent suspension and specialised group sets.
Weight and Portability
These days, the best electric bikes deliver powerful torque without adding too much weight or taking up heaps of space on the bike frame. Cyclists know that in general, when it comes to bike weight, the lighter the better. Lighter bikes are more mobile and handle more easily.
Ebikes are naturally heavier than a standard bike, since they require additional componentry like motors and batteries. However, there are still models on the market that manage to deliver powerful assist at a surprisingly low weight.
In general, ebikes weigh between 15 and 30 kilograms. When it comes to choosing the best weight for you, consider what ebike style you are looking for. Road bikes that are designed to traverse long distances at high speeds are often more lightweight. Fat tyre ebikes and bikes designed for off road might have a chunkier design since they are developed to handle tougher courses.
Portability and convenience is also a factor. If you’ll need to carry your bike, then it might be worth considering a more lightweight design. However, if your bike is largely for commuting long distances, the extra weight from a high capacity battery may be worth the trade off since the electric motor will make it easier to pedal despite its weight.
Maintenance is key for keeping your electric bike running smoothly and in great condition for as long as possible. Ebike maintenance isn’t too difficult, but checks, storage practices and general servicing should be abided by in order to get the most out of your ebike.
How often does an ebike need servicing?
Much like an ordinary bicycle, an electric bike should be serviced twice a year. During a service, an expert will look over your bike for any mechanical issues and update the firmware.
What pre ride checks should I be doing?
Before you head out on a ride, make sure you do a few quick mechanical and electrical checks to make sure you don’t get into a sticky situation on the track. Check your tyre pressure, since drained tyres will use the battery faster. You should also always check your breaks to ensure they are functioning properly. Finally, check to make sure you have a fully charged battery, or at least enough charge to get you where you need to go.
Other maintenance tips
1. Ensure you keep your ebike chain oiled and replace pads as needed.
2. When you go out on your bike, know your route so you can plan for various levels of assistance and make your battery go further.
3. Avoid letting your battery go completely flat before charging.
4. Disassembling your ebike battery or motor system could result in injury as well as voiding your warranty.
5. Treat ebike cables with care.
6. When cleaning your bike, avoid point hoses directly at electrical components.
7. Store your ebike in a clean, dry place