Frequently Asked Questions
Are electric bikes legal in the UK?
Yes, electric bikes are legal in the UK. Your confusion may arise because electric scooters currently are not legal (except on private property).
With that said, your ebike may need to be registered, taxed and insured.
The law right now defines an "electrically assisted pedal cycle" (EAPC) as a bike with a motor that:
* is no larger than 250 Watts;
* stops providing assistance above 15.5 mph; and
* only assists when you are pedalling.
If you are 14 years or older, you can ride an EAPC everywhere you can ride a bicycle without a license and without needing to be registered, taxed and insured. However, if your ebike exceeds any of the above, then currently it is viewed as a motorcycle or moped. It will need to be registered, taxed and insured; and you cannot ride in cycle lanes.
The Department of Transport is undertaking a Future of Transport Regulatory Review, which is looking at these definitions:
What is the fastest electric bike?
No, your ebike will not stop you going faster. If you can pedal 45 mph (and congratulations if you can), your ebike will happily let you. What it won't do is help you get to 45 mph. See, ebikes are designed to stop assisting you when you reach 15.5 mph.
For most people this is not an issue. Cycling beginners typically cycle at 12 mph over short distances. More experienced cyclists may average 15-16 mph over a good few miles.
In summary, ebikes are not meant to propel you faster than you might normally cycle. If you want to go faster than other cyclists, then you should look for a moped or motorcycle.
Can I ride an electric bike in a cycle lane?
Yes, you can ride your electric bike in a cycle lane ... as long as it is classed as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC).
If the motor on your ebike is over 250 Watts, you are not an EAPC and should not use cycle lanes. If your ebike assists you above 15.5 mph, you are not an EAPC. If your ebike has a throttle and thus assists when you are not pedalling, you are not an EAPC.
The Department of Transport is undertaking a Future of Transport Regulatory Review, which is looking at these definitions: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/future-of-transport-programme
Are electric bikes heavy?
In essence, an electric bike is a traditional bike with an added motor and battery - both of which can be be a good few pounds. In addition, the power of the electric motor might require a sturdier frame, strong chain, etc.
An average (non electric) road bike might way 17-18 pounds (8 kg). A typical electric bike might weight twice that or more.
What is the lightest motor available?
The motor of an electric bike can range from 250 Watts to 750 Watts. The weaker the motor, the lighter it is. So, how powerful of a motor do you need?
An average cyclist produces around 165 Watts when pedalling, but a professional cyclist maintains over 430 Watts. That gives you a sense of scale.
Broadly speaking, if you want good hills to be easy, you need at least 500 Watts. Anything less and you will have to put in some effort. But then, UK law recognises this fact. If the motor of an electric bike is larger than 250W then it is viewed more as a moped or motorcycle and registered, taxed and insured accordingly.
So, in the UK most motors of 250W but there are still technological differences that make motors lighter or heavier, weaker or stronger. Indeed placement is an issue. See FAQ: What is better a front hub, rear hub, or mid-drive?
What is the lightest battery available?
The battery of an electric bike determines the range. A 250 Watt-hour battery will power a 250 Watt motor flat out for one hour.
How does this translate into range? Well, if you are running a 250Wh motor flat out for an hour to maintain 15 mph. Then your 250 Watt-hour battery has a range of 15 miles. Simples.
Reality is more complicated as you will rarely run your motor flat out. But, the math still works: double the Watt-hours of your battery and you double the range of you electric bike. But double the Watt-hours and you might double its weight.
What is better a front hub, rear hub, or mid-drive?
Front hubs have the motor integrated into the front wheel. This is simpler (because the electric complexity is separated from the normal gearing) and thus cheaper to manufacturer and easier to maintain.
The downside is that front hub bikes tend to be heavier, especially in the front, noticeable with mounting curbs and you get less effective traction uphill.
Rear hubs have the motor integrated into the rear wheel. This can put a lot of strain on the rear wheel spokes if not assembled well, but otherwise these bikes handle more like traditional bikes with a light and manoeuvrable front end. Incidentally, the same motor rear mounted will make less noise.
Both front and rear hub motor can feel a little unnatural, depending on the sensors installed. The cheaper option is for hub motor to turn on and provide power based on how you are turning the pedals. Often this means that you need to turn the pedals a quarter or half turn before power is turned on, meaning that you get no power assistance when starting off at a green light.
Mid-drive systems add power to the crank, where you pedal. Typically these include pressure sensors within the pedals so that power is delivered when you apply pressure. The more pressure you apply (i.e. the harder you pedal) the more power assistance provided.
Also, mid-drive bikes tend to be lighter. The centre of gravity is low and central giving the best handling of the three. In addition, the motor itself replaces the front gears, giving you more control.
What are some common issue with folding bikes?
Folding bikes are more complex. So, they tend to be more expensive and more expensive to repair. Plus some people think they are easier to damage ... especially if you have an accident.
Folding bikes are a rougher ride than a normal bike, and without power assistance, slower than normal bikes.
Finally, some people find some folding bikes to be a little awkward to carry over longer distances.
Are folding bikes easy to carry?
Different brands of folding bikes fold differently. Brompton bikes are known for folding up small, but the issue is how far you need to carry your bike and where you intend to store it.
In the above descriptions we list the size and weight of each folding bke. We recommend you put a box on your bathroom scales and add books until you get the right weight. Then lift up that box to get a sense of how easy it is to carry.
Remember, of course, that folding bikes are intended to be carried like a briefcase and not like a box, but weight is a factor.
Will I get grease on my clothes from carrying my folding bike?
You shouldn't. Folding bikes are designed to fold so as to hide the chain and crank on the inside. Also, you should be carrying your folding bike like a briefcase. So, even if your bike has gotten a little dirty, it should not be rubbing against your shirt or blouse