Ultimate Guide for Electric Bikes
Electric Bikes, or E-Bikes, popularity is increasing worldwide at a staggering speed as people just like you realise exactly how practical these bikes really are. But what exactly is an ebike? Well, it’s not an electric motorbike or even an electric scooter; simply put, an E-bike is just like a normal bicycle that gives you extra help when you’re pedalling, it being accelerating from traffic lights, flattening the uphills on your ride or just steaming along roads on your way to work. The market is somewhat divided between Pedelec (Pedal Assist) Bikes and Power on Demand (Throttled) Bikes, with the later requiring registration and insurance if their power output is above 200 watts. Pedelec e-bikes are therefore gaining ground next to consumers seeking a practical and speedy option to commute, cruise around town or even extend their normal cycling rides. It’s important to understand that even though these Electric Push Bikes are heavier and more expensive than your normal push bike, most customers agree the electric pedalling assistance makes you want to cycle more regularly.
E-Bikes usually come with one of two types of motors, Hub motor or Crank motor, both offering similar performance and range.
- Crank, or mid-drive, motors give you better torque and acceleration but the electric power is delivered based on how much pedalling power you put through the pedals. This means you have more control over the power assistance but you can’t just spin the pedals lightly and rely solely on the electric motor to push you along.
- Hub motors are somewhat more complex and if maintenance is needed, you will probably be off the bike for a longer period. These motors use magnets on the cranks to turn on or off the electric assistance, meaning you could just select a low gear and turn the pedals with virtually no effort, relying on the electric motor to carry you. This makes controlling the power from the electric motor on these bikes much harder and the ride jerkier. In some scenarios, range can also be shorter on these e-bikes.
Electric Bicycles in Australia are limited to 250 watts and a top speed of 25km/h. Within these limitations, e-bikes have different pedal assist modes where you can tailor the power assistance to match your needs. Once you exceed the 25km/h, the electric motor will stop assisting you but you can still pedal unassisted to a higher speed, on a downhill for example. Range is directly linked with what pedal assist mode you select, ranging for 50km to 120km on a single charge for Shimano Steps.
Shimano STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System) is the most evolved electric assisted motor in the market right now. Shimano developed a weatherproof system that is build into the bicycle frame and works flawlessly with gears, lights and power management. Shimano offers this system for Mountain Bikes and for Hybrid or City Bikes, where the differences are purely based on how the power is available to you due to the very different riding styles. One of the most appealing aspects on the Shimano STEPS system is the overall weight it adds to a “normal” bike. At 3.2 Kg for the whole system, you get an e-bike with a range up to 120km, whilst keeping it light and lean for unaltered handling. Where E-Bikes are fitted with front and rear lights connected to Shimano STEPS, these are controlled via the Shimano cycle computer mounted on the handlebars, with a unique feature that saves about 1h of light time once your battery nears depletion, ensuring you can pedal home in the dark safely with your lights still on. The Shimano STEPS battery also features a quick-charge function where 2 hours are enough to recharge 80% of the battery and 4 hours is all it takes to charge it fully. Lastly, a noteworthy feature in the Walk Assist Mode, where with a touch of a button the Shimano STEPS system will power the bike to a comfortable walking speed, ideal for when you must get off the bike and walk it, ie. walking the bike inside a busy train station or climb steep ramps like the one at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
E-Bike Laws and Regulations
In Australia, as long as your Pedelec e-bike is under 250 watts and not throttled, with a maximum speed of 25km/h, no Registration, Licensing and Third-Party Insurance is required. All other cycling rules apply, like wearing a helmet, having a bell, front & rear brakes, etc.