What is an electric bike?

An electric bike, or ‘e-bike’, is a bicycle with a battery-powered motor that provides assistance to the rider. E-bikes are designed to compliment pedal power, rather than completely replace it, as a motorcycle or moped does.

Who are they for?

E-bikes can be life changing for anyone! 

E-bikes are allowing millions of people across the world to commute and transport goods and people in a sustainable, healthy and safe way.

There are many benefits to using an e-bike, all of which depend on the person and how they are using their e-bike. 

For the busy professional, an e-bike can mean getting to work faster without arriving in a sweaty mess. 

For a family with kids, an e-bike can mean getting the youngest to daycare, the eldest to school, a quick trip to the supermarket and then on to work, all without worrying about traffic, parking and the costs of owning and operating a car - registration, fuel, tolls and the environmental costs.

For an elderly person, someone experiencing injury or person with a disability, an e-bike can mean the difference between continuing to experience the joy of cycling, and not cycling at all. E-bikes allow people to keep fit, active and social despite age or ability.

How do they work?

An e-bike is made up of a bicycle with a motor, battery, controller and display. 

Pedalling assistance is provided by a motor built into either the front or rear wheel (hub motor), or built into the frame near the pedals (mid-drive motor). 

The motor is powered by a battery that generally uses lithium-ion technology similar to that found in mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. 

The ‘brain’ of the e-bike is the controller, a small computer that allows the motor, battery and other electrical components to work together safely and effectively. 

The display is a screen and buttons on the handlebars that allow the rider to select the amount of electrical assistance from the motor. It may also show information such as speed, distance covered, battery charge and a range estimate. 

Most e-bikes require the rider to be pedalling for the motor to provide assistance. Sensors detect when the rider is pedalling and smoothly activate the motor. 

The rider can select different levels of assistance throughout a ride. A low setting provides a gentle level of assistance (for when you want more exercise or to conserve the battery on long trips), whereas a high setting requires much less effort from the rider (for riding up hills, when you’re tired or don’t want to work up too much of a sweat!). 

E-bikes may also have other unique features, such as front and rear lights powered by the bike battery and a throttle to directly control the motor power with or without pedalling (only available on our Ezee branded e-bikes). The features available on e-bikes vary across manufacturers and models. 

What types of e-bike are available?

There are five main types of e-bike based on how they are designed to be used:

  • Urban and commuter: comfortable e-bikes designed for daily use on the road. These often include a battery that gives plenty of range for a typical daily return commute, as well as useful accessories including luggage racks, mudguards and lights.
     
  • Cargo: heavy duty e-bikes designed for carrying kids, pets, bags and boxes. Depending on the bike, cargo can either be carried on a rear rack or on the front in a purpose-built box. Some cargo e-bikes can take up to 100 km of cargo!

  • Compact and folding: small and lightweight e-bikes designed for lifting up stairs, transporting in a car or on public transport, or stored in a confined space. These bikes are made lightweight by using smaller batteries, which reduces their maximum range compared to other bikes.  

  • Mountain and trail: e-bikes equipped with suspension, wide, treaded tyres and stronger frames for riding off-road. These are useful for easily getting back to the top of a mountain after a downhill descent.

  • Road: e-bikes with lightweight carbon or aluminium frames designed for high-speed riding with a bit of extra assistance from a motor when required (e.g. on hills). These will often have smaller batteries and less powerful motors to reduce weight. Some e-road bikes weigh as little as 11 kg, compared to 22-27 kg for most other e-bikes.

How much do they cost?

E-bikes vary widely in price due to differences in design and component quality. E-bikes sold through Glow Worm Electric Bikes start at around $1400 for simple urban commuters, to over $10,000 for premium cargo, mountain and road e-bikes. Whilst cheaper e-bikes from generic manufacturers are available elsewhere online, we find these are unreliable, need to be repaired often or fail completely. As a business that also services and repairs e-bikes, it is in our interest (as well as yours!) to provide e-bikes that are reliable and easy to maintain and repair.

As a rough guide, $1400 - $2500 will buy you a good quality e-bike suited to light use (e.g. weekend leisure riding and short 5-10 km commutes). $2500 - $4500 will buy you an even better e-bike with higher quality components, more range and more suited to daily use. An e-bike priced over about $4,500 will include premium components for smoother gear shifting and more powerful braking, a motor with lots of ‘grunt’ (or torque, to be precise), a stronger and more comfortable bike frame, useful accessories (such as racks and mudguards if required) and a more user-friendly display on the handlebars. Some e-bikes are inherently more expensive due to their specialist design, such as cargo bikes, mountain and trail bikes, and lightweight road bikes.

How do I choose one? 

When buying an e-bike, it is important to consider these questions:

  • What is the intended use of the bike? This could be urban commuting, carrying kids and cargo, leisure road riding or mountain biking.
     
  • What frame style and riding position works for me? E-bikes vary from upright and relaxed step-through models to forward-leaning and sporty road e-bikes.

  • What range do I need for a typical trip? This depends a lot on the battery size, how much assistance you want from the motor and whether you are riding uphill. E-bikes can generally cover 30-150 km, depending on these factors. This easily covers a typical return daily commute or leisure ride on one charge, with plenty to spare.

  • How much motor torque do I need? Higher torque motors have more 'grunt' and can get you up bigger hills or haul more weight, but use more battery in the process. Low torque motors usually deliver around 40 Newton-metres (Nm) of torque (e.g. for lightweight e-bikes), whereas high torque motors deliver up to 85 Nm of torque (e.g. for cargo and mountain e-bikes).

  • What is the maximum bike weight and size I can live with? This is especially important if the bike will need to be lifted up stairs, transported in a car or on public transport, or stored in a confined space. Compact and folding e-bikes are an option in these situations.

  • What type and weight of cargo will I need to carry? This could include kids, pets, groceries and bags.

  • What is my budget? An e-bike is often a very cost-effective investment if it is replacing trips by car or even public transport. Charging an e-bike only uses about 15 c of electricity and can give you a range of about 30-150 km, depending on how you use it. 

Other features of an e-bike to consider include:

  • The type and quality of components, such as brakes, gears, tyres and suspension. Higher-spec components will last longer and be easier to maintain.

  • The function and feel of the handlebar display and power mode buttons

  • Ergonomic features such as suspension, saddle and handlebar grips

  • Accessories required, such as lights, mudguards and cargo racks

Some of the questions above can be answered by speaking with experienced staff at a reputable e-bike retailer (such as Glow Worm Electric Bikes!) and test riding a number of different bikes. Our customers often test ride multiple bikes, several times each, to find the right bike for them. 

Found a cheap bike online? Read this first.

Once you know what type of e-bike you would like, it may be tempting to find a cheap equivalent one online. Whilst budget is an important consideration, it shouldn't be the only consideration. There is nothing worse than buying a cheap e-bike online without a test ride, then shortly after realising that you don’t know how to assemble it from the box, it's not right for your needs or has poor quality components. Often in this case the seller or manufacturer cannot be easily contacted for technical support, spare parts, a refund or warranty claim.

Ultimately, price is what you pay, but value is what you get. 

Here are some things to consider when looking at e-bikes sold online: 

  • A particular e-bike might not be right for you unless you test ride it and talk with knowledgeable person who sells, services and rides e-bikes.

  • A cheap e-bike bought online may have generic branded components that a bike shop is unlikely to be able to repair or replace. Components may wear out quickly or fail prematurely.

  • An e-bike bought online may be sent to you partly disassembled in a box. An e-bike should be assembled and checked by a qualified mechanic, which will cost you extra if you buy online, or will be free if you buy from a reputable store.

  • The e-bike may not comply with local regulations around motor power and speed (see our section on e-bike laws in our Comprehensive Guide to Electric Bikes).

  • The manufacturer or supplier of the bike may be difficult to contact, or impossible to contact, if you need to make a warranty claim or order spare parts.

Whilst warranties differ between manufacturers, e-bikes made by well-known manufacturers and purchased through reputable retailers (such as Glow Worm Electric Bikes!) come with at least a one-year warranty on electrical parts and a two-year warranty on the bike frame. Ezee-branded bikes bought from Glow Worm have a two-year electrical warranty and six-year frame warranty.

With all of this in mind, we recommend speaking with the friendly folks at Glow Worm Electric Bikes if you would like to understand which e-bike suits your needs, test riding a variety of options, and making good use of the after-sale service.

E-bike technology 

Types of motors 

There are two types of e-bike motor:

Hub motors:

  • Built into either the front or rear wheel. Propel the bike by delivering power to the wheel axle. 

  • Used on the first e-bikes commercially available, but are still used today, particularly on lower-priced e-bikes or bikes not suited to a mid-drive motor.

  • Deliver power in such a way that you may feel like the bike is being pushed from behind (rear hub motor) or pulled from the front (front hub motor). Whether this sensation is an issue for the rider is a personal preference.

  • Generally do not require maintenance and are relatively long-lasting.

Mid-drive motors 

  • Attached to the bottom of the bike frame, near the pedals. Directly drive the bike chain via a gear.

  • A more recent technology used on mid-range and premium e-bikes, with components often made by reputable manufacturers such as Bosch and Shimano.

  • Power delivery feels much smoother for the rider, as it is delivered close to the pedalling legs of the rider and the bike’s centre of gravity. These e-bikes feel closer to riding a non-electric bike.

  • May accelerate wear of the bike chain and gears, but this is minimised by intelligent control systems that temporarily reduce motor power when shifting gears (similar to a car clutch).

  • Often result in the bike having a cleaner look, as neither of the wheels has a motor built into it and most of the electrical cabling is hidden inside the bike frame

Power and torque

Motor power and torque are often confused, but understanding the difference between them will help you make a decision about the right e-bike for your needs.

Technically, power is the rate at which electrical energy from the battery and controller is converted to mechanical energy in the motor. Torque is the rotational force that a motor applies for a given amount of power provided to it. So what does this mean for e-bikes?

For two e-bikes on a flat road applying the same torque, but different maximum power, the higher power e-bike will be faster and get you from A to B in less time. For two e-bikes putting out the same power but different torque, the higher torque e-bike will be able to climb a steeper hill or pull more weight, as it is able to apply more force. By analogy, a high torque e-bike is like a tractor, whereas a high power e-bike is like a sports car.

E-bike manufacturers rate their motors to specific levels of maximum power and torque in order to comply with local e-bike laws, but also to ensure that motors don’t overheat and malfunction. In Australia, road legal e-bikes are required to be designed such that they put out a maximum of 250 W of power continuously, which usually means for extended periods greater than a few seconds. In reality, e-bike motors might put out up to around 1000 W of peak power for short periods (a few seconds) when taking off or suddenly hitting a steep hill. Nonetheless, because e-bikes in Australia are limited to 250 W of continuous power, they can be easily compared based on torque. 

Torque is measured in units of Newton-metres (Nm). As a guide, low torque motors are rated to a maximum of around 40 Nm, whereas high torque motors are rated up to 85 Nm. Low torque motors are smaller, lighter and generally less expensive, so are found on either lower-priced e-bikes or road e-bikes designed to be lightweight. High torque motors are often found on cargo and mountain e-bikes, where hauling weight and climbing hills is often required. High torque motors are often larger, heavier and more expensive. They will also drain a battery faster, so these bikes are often equipped with larger batteries to compensate. 

Batteries

E-bike batteries use lithium-ion technology similar to that found in mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. The battery is either mounted on the bike frame or rear rack, or smoothly integrated into the bike frame.

E-bike batteries are made up of a number of small battery cells, each about the size of a standard AA battery, connected together to form a larger battery. Cells in good e-bike batteries are often made by well-known electronics manufacturers including Panasonic, LG and Samsung.

The ‘brain’ of the battery is the Battery Management System (BMS) – an electronic circuit board that makes sure each cell in the battery is not overheating, being excessively charged or discharged, or carrying too much electrical current.

The ‘size’ of a battery refers to its electrical storage capacity, measured in units of either watt-hours (Wh) or amp-hours (Ah). E-bike batteries are typically in the range of 10-20 Ah, or about 400-600 Wh. Most are designed to provide 36 volts when fully charged. The range that a battery can power an e-bike for depends a lot on the weight of the rider, bike and cargo, as well as the level of power assistance used by the rider. Most e-bikes have a range of 30-150 kmdepending on these factors. Riding on the highest power assist level in a hilly area might get you closer to 30 km of range, whereas riding on the lowest level in a flat area might allow you to reach over 100 km of range. Some e-bikes fitted with two Bosch batteries may provide over 200 km of assistance!

Charging an e-bike battery takes about 2-6 hours, which means a full charge can easily be achieved overnight or during a work day. Actual charge times depend on the type of charger used (standard or fast charge) and the size of the battery. Batteries are locked to the bike for security, but can be easily removed by the rider to allow charging when the bike is stored away from a powerpoint.

Batteries generally last between 3-5 years, or about 1000 complete charge and discharge cycles. By this point, they have usually lost about 40% of their usable storage capacity or start to experience other issues, such as rapid decline in power whilst riding. Battery degradation occurs naturally over time due to irreversible changes to the chemical components of the battery cells. Buying an e-bike with a battery that can handle about 40% more than your normal ride distance ensures that you will never have to drain the battery, and it will still be able to provide the range you need as it loses capacity with age.

Batteries last longer if they are handled with care, used regularly instead of stored for long periods (on the order of several months), kept away from extreme hot or cold, not kept for too long fully charged with the charger plugged in, and not allowed to completely drain. The ideal state to keep a battery is around 20-80% charge (determined from charge display on the battery or handlebars), which means using the bike shortly after fully charging and avoiding completely draining the battery. 

E-bike conversions

A non-electric bike can be converted to an e-bike using either a hub motor or mid-drive conversion kit. These were used widely when the price of off-the-shelf e-bikes was much higher than today. Off-the-shelf e-bikes are now much more affordable, so converting a non-electric bike to an e-bike is not necessarily a more cost-effective option. Nonetheless, there may be situations where an e-bike conversion is suitable, including if the bike to be converted is rare or has sentimental value, you enjoy a DIY project, or you would like a particular motor or battery size for your bike. Glow Worm Electric Bikes can supply and install Bafang e-bike conversion kits. 

E-bike tuning

What is tuning?

Electric bike tuning, also known as delimiting, is the process of removing the speed limit on your e-bike. By law, e-bikes in Australia with a 250W motor must be speed limited to 25 km/h. This is accomplished by controller software which causes the motor to cut out once the bike reaches 25 km/h. The e-bike system (including display and lights) stays on at this speed, meaning you don’t have to turn it back on again. The speed limit on e-bikes varies by country, for example, in New Zealand it is 32 km/h.

Tuning is the process of overriding these speed limit settings to allow the bike to operate at its maximum possible speed. Depending on the motor, some e-bikes can reach about 50 km/h without speed limiting. 

Tuning an e-bike can be achieved by using third party hardware and software which trick the bike controller into allowing the bike to go faster.

Why you shouldn’t tune your e-bike

First and foremost, tuning is against the law. 250W e-bikes which provide motor assistance past 25 km/h are considered unregistered vehicles. Using them on roads, footpaths and bike paths is a breach of the law. If you are caught, you risk fines, demerit points and other penalties.

Second, you will not be able to take out or make a claim on a property or third-party insurance policy. If you have an accident and it is determined that the bike has been tuned, any insurance policy that you do have will be considered void. If you or someone else is injured, then the liability is on you and the costs could be crippling.

Third, some e-bike manufacturers include settings that place the bike into a ‘limp mode’ if tuning is detected, where the motor only operates at very low power. Failing to remove the tuning device or setting may even result in the e-bike being permanently disabled by the controller software.

Finally, tuning or servicing already tuned e-bikes may be in breach of a bike retailer’s agreement with the bike manufacturer. Therefore, it may be difficult to have your bike serviced or repaired if you choose to tune it.

Nonetheless, it is still legal to ride a legally compliant e-bike above 25 km/h, so long as the motor stops providing power once the bike reaches 25 km/h (meaning the rider continues pedalling to get it over 25 km/h) and the bike is being ridden on a section of road where the speed limit is over 25 km/h. An e-bike can often be ridden up to about 35 km/h with the motor on a high power mode and the rider pedalling hard, and/or riding down a hill. Even though the motor does not provide power above 25 km/h, the e-bike system stays on (including the display and lights), and the motor will again provide power once the speed drops below 25 km/h.

Why we don’t do it

For the reasons mentioned above, Glow Worm Electric Bikes strongly recommend that you do not attempt to tune your e-bike and will not assist you to do so. Our workshop is also unable to work on e-bikes that have been tuned in any way. The liability and risk to your safety and our business is simply too high.

Owning an e-bike 

Maintenance and servicing

Like any bicycle, e-bikes require regular maintenance by the rider and servicing by a professional bicycle mechanic.

Regular bike maintenance is as simple as A-B-C! 

  • Air: keep the tyres inflated. Inflate to within the recommended pressure range written on the side of the tyre (look for the ‘PSI’ or ‘kPa’ numbers), preferably towards the maximum limit. Use a bike pump with a pressure gauge or the pump at your local petrol (an adapter is required for skinny Presta valves). Properly inflated tyres are far less likely to puncture and will make your ride faster! 
  • Brakes: feel, hear and watch your brake performance. Book your bike in for a brake service if (a) your brakes start to feel soft instead of firm, (b) you have to pull the levers all the way to the handlebar, (c) they make a squealing or rubbing noise, (d) your brake pads are thinner than two business cards and/or (d) your bike takes too long to stop. Replacement of the pads and servicing of hydraulic brake systems may be required. Well maintained brakes can save your life! 
  • Chain: clean and lubricate your chain. Consider wiping your chain with a rag at the end of your commuting week and after riding in the rain. Clean and lubricate your chain with a purpose-made bike chain lubricant about every 100 km (for example, every 2 weeks for a 10 km weekday round-trip to work). Keep the rag and lubricant next to where you store your bike to make this easy. Caring for your chain will make it last longer, perform better and save you money by delaying its replacement and replacement of other components.

We recommend that a regularly used e-bike be fully serviced at least annually by a professional mechanic. This service will include a comprehensive bike inspection and clean, adjustment, repair and lubrication of parts, replacement of worn parts, testing of electrical systems, safety check and test ride. 

An e-bike should be booked in for a service sooner if you are experiencing specific issues such as electrical problems, weak braking or braking noise, difficulties changing gears or repeat tyre punctures.  

Battery care

Your e-bike battery is one of the most important psarts of your e-bike, but it requires special attention to keep it working well for several years. Follow these simple guidelines:

  • All lithium-ion batteries contain chemical components that, under some circumstances, can pose a fire risk. Charge your battery in an uncluttered, dry, well-ventilated area away from flammable materials and direct sunlight. Ensure your smoke alarms are in good working order.

  • Minimise the time that your battery is fully charged, as this is when it is most ‘stressed’. This can be done by charging every few days if you can get by without charging every day or by using a powerpoint timer so your battery is not left charging any longer than necessary.

  • Your battery will last longer if you avoid regularly letting it get below 20% charge or above 80% charge for long periods. As above, it’s OK to fully charge a battery if you are using it soon after.

  • Keep your battery charged at no more than 80% if you are not using the bike for a month or more. If you are not going to use your bike for a period of more than a year, consider selling it or lending it to a friend to use, as batteries don’t like to rest for too long! Regular riding is the best way to ensure your battery stays in great condition.

Security

E-bikes are generally more expensive than equivalent non-electric bikes and are often the target of theft. It is important that an e-bike stored outside of your home is secured to a bike rack or immovable post using a strong bike lock. A solid steel U-lock or folding lock is preferable. Some e-bikes also have a rear wheel lock, which prevents the bike from being rolled away. A steel chain lock can also be plugged into wheel locks and looped around an immovable post for maximum security. 

In addition to a good lock, it is best to leave an unattended e-bike in an area that has a lot of pedestrian traffic and is within sight of CCTV cameras (e.g. outside a train station or retail building) to dissuade potential thieves. 

Insurance

It is a good idea to take out an insurance policy with your e-bike to cover theft, malicious damage and accidental damage. If you have home and contents insurance, check with your insurance provider to see if there is an option to add ‘portable cover’ for your bike when it is away from your home. Policies exist that also provide third-party coverage, e.g. if you accidentally run into a car or injure a road user. There are now several insurers who offer property and third-party policies tailored for cyclists.

E-bike laws in Australia

New South Wales requirements

The following information has been sourced from Transport for NSW Centre for Road Safety:

On 1 July 2021, the Australian Government updated the requirements for permitted e-bikes. These changes include: 

  • Introducing a weight limit and seat requirements for power-assisted pedal cycles and clarifying that these bikes cannot be solely propelled by the motor
  • Replacing the term ‘pedalec’ with electronically power-assisted cycle and replacing the requirement to conform to the requirements of European Standard EN 15194: 2009 or EN 15194:2009+A1:2009: ‘Cycles – Electrically power assisted cycles – EPAC Bicycles' with requirements around when the power output reduces and cuts out.

What are the e-bike requirements? 

There are two types of permitted e-bikes: 

  • Power-assisted pedal cycles
  • Electrically power-assisted cycles.

These must be designed to be propelled primarily by the rider – they cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor. The motor is intended to help the rider, such as when going uphill or riding into a headwind.

Power-assisted pedal cycles

A power-assisted pedal cycle: 

  • Has one or more motors attached with a combined maximum power output of 200 watts
  • Cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor/s
  • Weighs less than 50 kg (including batteries)
  • Has a height-adjustable seat.

Electrically power-assisted cycles

An electrically power-assisted cycle has a maximum continuous rated power of 250 watts. This power output must be: 

  • Progressively reduced as the bicycle’s speed increases beyond 6km/h
  • Cut off when the bicycle reaches a speed of 25km/h; or the rider stops pedalling and the travel speed exceeds 6km/h.

Victorian requirements

The following information has been sourced from Vic Roads:

Power assisted bicycles are likely to have similar performance characteristics to pedal powered bicycles so the same road rules apply. These types of power assisted bicycles are not required to be registered nor the rider required to be licensed.

Definition of a power assisted bicycle

Power assisted bicycles have two definitions in Victoria:

A bicycle with one or more auxiliary motors attached which has a combined maximum ungoverned continuous rated power output not exceeding 200 watts.

An electrically power-assisted cycle (EPAC). These are pedal cycles with an electric motor that has a maximum continuous rated power of 250 watts. The power-assistance progressively reduces as the speed increases and cuts off once a top-speed of 25 kilometres per hour is reached. EPACs require the rider to pedal to access the power. 

Power assisted bicycles that meet the above definition are allowed to be ridden in Victoria as they are classed as bicycles.

What is an EPAC?

An EPAC (formerly known as a Pedalec) is a type of power assisted bicycle equipped with one or more auxiliary propulsion motors. It allows a maximum power of 250 watts, with a safeguard allowing for power assistance only when the bicycle is travelling at less than 25km/h and the rider is pedalling. This means that the rider must pedal to obtain help from the auxiliary motor(s) and cannot simply be propelled by the motor alone. Note: The motor may operate without the rider pedalling up to a speed of 6km/h.

An EPAC is a safe alternative mode of transport to a manual bicycle or passenger car. An EPAC has power assistance that allows a bicycle rider to travel further and ride with less effort. 

What is not a power assisted bicycle?

A motorised bicycle is not classed as a bicycle if: 

  • the motor is not an auxiliary source of power (a person must still be able to propel the bicycle via pedals without the motor operating).
  • the motor's power output exceeds 200 watts (whether or not the motor is operating) unless it is an EPAC.

Updating e-bike requirements in Australia

E-bikes offer many social, economic, health and environmental benefits. Glow Worm Electric Bikes believe these benefits can be more fully realised by updating Australian speed limit regulations for e-bikes to be in line with those in other countries. As such, we support efforts by organisations such as Bicycle Industries Australia to advocate for increasing the e-bike speed limit to 32 km/h in Australia.  

Frequently asked questions 

Choosing an e-bike

How do I know if an e-bike is right for me?

Start by reading our e-bike guide above and asking yourself the questions in the ‘Choosing the right e-bike’ section. View our range and test ride several options at either our Marrickville (Sydney) or Collingwood (Melbourne) stores. Glow Worm also offers the option to rent an e-bike,and then choose to buy it or return it after a minimum rental period.

Which is better: a hub motor or mid-drive motor?

Each type of motor has its own pros and cons. The best way to answer this question is to test ride both types! That being said, mid-drive motors are increasingly becoming the most common technology, with hub motors still used on entry-level bikes or where a mid-drive motor isn’t suited to a bike frame.

Can I convert my non-e-bike to an e-bike?

A non-electric bike can be converted to an e-bike using either a hub motor or mid-drive conversion kit. These were used widely when the price of off-the-shelf e-bikes was much higher than today. Off-the-shelf e-bikes are now much more affordable, so converting a non-electric bike to an e-bike is not necessarily a more cost-effective option. Nonetheless, there may be situations where an e-bike conversion is suitable, including if the bike to be converted is rare or has sentimental value, you enjoy a DIY project, or you would like a particular motor or battery size for your bike. Glow Worm Electric Bikes can supply and install Bafang e-bike conversion kits.

Are e-bikes available for kids?

Most manufacturers do not make e-bikes for children, though some are starting to make 24-inch wheel e-mountain bikes suited to teenagers. Larger children or teenagers may be able to ride folding and compact e-bikes with 20-inch. It is particularly important that children are already confident cyclists and are familiarised with how to safely ride an e-bike.

Can I buy a second-hand e-bike?

Glow Worm sells some refurbished and ex-demo e-bikes. Buying a second-hand e-bike off Gumtree or eBay has its risks, as electrical issues may be difficult to see or feel. A second-hand battery may also have reduced storage capacity compared to when new, but this can only be determined with a long test ride. If looking at used e-bikes, be wary of cheap, heavily ridden and poorly serviced e-bikes previously used for food delivery.

Safety and regulations

Are e-bikes legal?

The laws governing e-bikes vary by state in Australia. Because Glow Worm Electric Bikes has stores in New South Wales and Victoria, we guarantee that all bikes we sell comply with the laws in these states and are road legal. Laws in other states or overseas may differ and should be checked before purchasing an e-bike that will be ridden on public roads in these jurisdictions. E-bikes from unknown manufacturers purchased online may not even be road legal in Australia. This can get you into all sorts of trouble if you damage property or injure someone whilst riding.

Are e-bike batteries safe?

Good quality e-bike batteries use well-developed technology that has also been developed and tested for decades in applications such as phones, laptops and electric cars. While batteries present some fire risks, these can be minimised through correct handling and storage of the battery in line with the manufacturers recommendations.

Riding an e-bike

How does an e-bike feel to ride compared to a non-electric bike?

An e-bike feels very similar to a non-electric bike, only you can put in less effort! The power delivered by a mid-drive motor is generally smoother than that delivered by a hub motor and the weight distribution will feel closer that of a conventional bike.

What is the range of an e-bike?

The range of an e-bike depends a lot on the battery size, the weight of the bike, rider and cargo, the terrain (whether hilly or flat), as well as the level of motor assistance selected by the rider. Most e-bikes have a range of 30-150 km depending on these factors. Riding on the highest power assist level in a hilly area might get you closer to 30 km of range, whereas riding on the lowest level in a flat area might allow you to reach over 100 km of range. Some e-bikes fitted with two Bosch batteries may provide over 200 km of assistance!

How much do e-bikes weigh?

Most E-bikes weigh about 22-27 kg, with some road e-bikes weighing as little as 11 kg. The additional weight is largely as a result of the battery and motor. Weight is an important consideration if the bike will need to be lifted up stairs, transported in a car or on public transport.

Can I ride an e-bike with the motor turned off, like a normal bike?

Yes, but it won’t be a pleasant ride due to the additional weight. In the event that you drain the battery, you can still ride the bike home. Higher-end e-bike systems conserve some of the battery for the lights and display if there is not enough for the motor. You may find a lightweight road e-bike that can be ridden with the motor turned off, and some (such as Focus-branded e-bikes) have a single motor and battery unit that can be removed, allowing the bike to be used as a non-electric road bike.

Are e-bikes waterproof?

E-bikes can be ridden in the rain, but are not designed to be left outside in the rain for several hours or days. If the bike needs to be kept outside, consider using a waterproof bike or motorcycle cover. The electrical components of an e-bike should never be submerged in water (e.g. by riding through a deep creek crossing) or washed with a high-pressure hose.

Batteries

What battery size should I get?

The ‘size’ of a battery refers to its electrical storage capacity, measured in units of either watt-hours (Wh) or amp-hours (Ah). E-bike batteries are typically in the range of 10-20 Ah, or about 400-600 Wh. Most are designed to provide 36 volts when fully charged. The range that a battery can power an e-bike for depends a lot on the weight of the rider, bike and cargo, as well as the level of power assistance used by the rider. Most e-bikes have a range of 30-150 kmdepending on these factors. Larger batteries will give you more range, but will take longer to charge and result in a heavier bike (this is important if the bike needs to be lifted regularly). Most off-the-shelf e-bikes come with one option of battery size, but it is possible to swap for a larger battery.

How long does an e-bike battery take to charge?

Charging an e-bike battery takes about 2-6 hours, which means a full charge can easily be achieved overnight or during a work day. Actual charge times depend on the type of charger used (standard or fast charge) and the size of the battery.

Can I take my e-bike battery off the bike?

Yes. The battery can be removed with a unique key provided with the bike and then charged off the bike if the bike can’t be positioned near a power point.

How long does an e-bike battery last before it can’t be used?

Batteries generally last between 3-5 years, or about 1000 complete charge and discharge cycles. By this point, they have usually lost about 40% of their usable storage capacity or start to experience other issues, such as rapid decline in voltage whilst riding. Battery degradation occurs naturally over time due to irreversible changes to the chemical components of the battery cells. Buying an e-bike with a battery that can handle about 40% more than your normal ride distance ensures that you will never have to drain the battery, and it will still be able to provide the range you need as it loses capacity with age.

Batteries last longer if they are handled with care, used regularly instead of stored for long periods (on the order of several months), kept away from extreme hot or cold, not kept for too long fully charged with the charger plugged in, and not allowed to completely drain. The ideal charge state to keep a battery is around 20-80% (determined from charge display on the battery or handlebars), which means using the bike shortly after fully charging and avoiding completely draining the battery. 

How can I take care of my battery?

Follow these simple guidelines:

  • All lithium-ion batteries contain chemical components that, under some circumstances, can pose a fire risk. Charge your battery in an uncluttered, dry, well-ventilated area away from flammable materials and direct sunlight. Ensure your smoke alarms are in good working order.

  • Minimise the time that your battery is fully charged, as this is when it is most ‘stressed’. This can be done by charging every few days if you can get by without charging every day or by using a powerpoint timer so your battery is not left charging any longer than necessary.

  • Your battery will last longer if you avoid regularly letting it get below 20% charge or above 80% charge for long periods. As above, it’s OK to fully charge a battery if you are using it soon after.

  • Keep your battery charged at no more than 80% if you are not using the bike for a month or more. If you are not going to use your bike for a period of more than a year, consider selling it or lending it to a friend to use, as batteries don’t like to rest for too long! Regular riding is the best way to ensure your battery stays in great condition.

Can batteries be recycled?

An e-bike battery can be disposed of in a safe and environmentally responsible way, and possibly have some of its components recycled. The best way to ensure your e-bike battery is responsibly disposed of or recycled is to take it back to the dealer where you bought the bike. Whilst lithium-ion battery recycling is a relatively new process, it is becoming increasingly common as these batteries become more widely used. 

Servicing and maintenance

How often should I have my e-bike serviced?

We recommend that a regularly used e-bike be fully serviced at least annually by a professional mechanic. This service will include a comprehensive inspection and clean, adjustment, repair and lubrication of parts, replacement of worn parts, testing of electrical systems, safety check and test ride.

An e-bike should be booked in for a service sooner if you are experiencing specific issues, such as electrical problems, weak braking or braking noise, difficulties changing gears or repeat tyre punctures. 

What maintenance can I do on my e-bike?

Regular bike maintenance is as simple as A-B-C: air, brakes and chain. See our section on ‘Owning an e-bike’ in our e-bike guide.

Warranty

What is the warranty on my e-bike?

Whilst warranties differ between manufacturers, e-bikes made by well-known manufacturers and purchased through reputable retailers (such as Glow Worm Electric Bikes!) come with at least a one-year warranty on electrical parts and a two-year warranty on the bike frame. Ezee branded bikes bought from Glow Worm have a two-year electrical warranty and six-year frame warranty.

How do I know the bike manufacturer will still be around to provide replacement parts or honour the warranty on my bike?

It is best to stick with bike brands that use electrical components made by reputable manufacturers, such as Bosch, Shimano, Bafang, Das-Kit and Ezee. These manufacturers have been around for decades (long before e-bikes became common) and are a more reliable choice if you intend on being a long-term e-bike user. Buying a cheap e-bike online that has been made by a relatively unknown manufacturer comes with the risk that you will not be able to obtain technical support, order spare parts, or make a refund or warranty claim.