Power ahead on an electric bike without breaking a sweat

Written by Adam Turner for Australian Seniors. 

Electric bikes make it easy to ride without breaking a sweat. But you can’t just sit back and let the cycle, known as an e-bike, do all the work. You still pedal, which activates a built-in electric motor that gives you an extra level of boost called ‘pedal assist’. This makes it easier to ride long stretches or tackle hills.

The trade-off is that you need to recharge the battery. A charge generally lasts 30-75km, but it depends on how much you pedal. A full charge takes three to six hours, depending on the battery size. Check the manual for proper battery charge maintenance.  

Shop around for the bike that suits you 

E-bike motors are limited to 250 watts under Australian law for a Pedalec and 200 watts for other electric bikes,  but there are still plenty of options so it pays to do your research, advises Peter Wells, technology writer for The Sydney Morning Herald. “Don’t be too concerned about buying a lesser-known brand if it’s a better fit for your needs,” he says.

“Lesser-known brands all use the same few brands when it comes to batteries, along with universal chargers, so replacing them is easy. Go with a seller who offers an Australian warranty and easy returns.”

Choose your motor 

“There are two main types of e-bikes, those with hub motors on the wheels and those with a centre motor in the frame,” says Peter. “You’ll pay a lot more for a centre motor, which offers a smoother ride, but it’s not always worth the extra money, and hub motors are fine.”

You don’t need a special licence or registration to ride an e-bike, but you must wear a helmet and follow the road rules just like normal cyclists.

Select your style 

E-bikes come in a number of styles:

  • Urban or city e-bikes, also known as commuter bikes, are great for getting around town.
  • Among these you’ll find folding e-bikes, which are handy if you have limited storage or use public transport. Trade-offs include smaller wheels and a shorter range, so they’re best for short trips on smooth surfaces.
  • Road e-bikes are suited to long days in the saddle or for tackling hills.
  • For the adventurous, electric mountain bikes are designed for going off road.
  • Cargo bikes have racks, baskets or flatbeds for carrying loads, and sometimes feature three wheels for extra stability.

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