The Electric Bicycle
So what’s the fuss about? The electric bicycle is a bicycle with an electric motor to help move it along resulting in an astonishingly efficient mode of transport. Lightweight, reliable, compact and silent, the motor will make you feel like a cyclist with wings. Hills, headwinds, long distances, everything you want to carry, it all becomes possible, easy and fun with an e-bike. You can get a factory made electric bicycle or retrofit the electrics to an existing bicycle. Either way, the quick facts are:
Travel around 25-32km/h
Battery range up to 100km
Charging time 4 hours
Travel cost approx 20c/100km or 1kg CO2/100km
2 year warranty on major components (click here for details)
no need for registration or license, take it anywhere you can take a bicycle
Please see our product range for specifics.
Glow Worm Bicycles is an importer, distributor retailer and workshop. We are the Australian distributors of eZeebike, one of the world’s finest electric bicycles. We can also convert your bicycle or any of our range of bikes to become your electric dreamship.
We operate as a fully equipped electric bicycle store with mechanical workshop, bicycle parts and accessories, bikes for test riding and purchase, and all service and warranty repairs. Our shopfront is in Marrickville, Sydney. Nowhere near us? Look for our products from our dealers.
Q I've heard that you can get an electric bicycle conversion kit to retrofit your bicycle.
A Yes, you can get an e-bike conversion kit. For most people we recommend getting a complete electric bicycle instead of the kit, because the bicycle has been designed with the electric components in mind. However there are many reasons why some people might want to retrofit their existing bicycle. For example they might want to electrify their unique cargo bike to make something like the amazing Glow Worm Electric Ute, they might like the colour and shape of their own bike, or simply love to tinker on mind-numbingly irritating mechanical problems. A kit generally comes as a front wheel with hub motor attached (and sometimes a disc brake rotor), a controller, throttle, wiring and battery with slide-in mounting rack. For any number of reasons, not all bicycles are able to be converted, so it's best to bring your bike into an electric bike shop or describe your bicycle to someone who knows about the kit they're selling. We've written an article about the pros and cons of conversion kits versus electric bicycles.
Electric Bicycles & the Law
Q Are electric bicycles legal?
A Yes. E-bikes are legal, provided they comply with certain conditions legislated by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) or the relevant authority in your state. Currently these laws require that the e-bike have pedals and that its motor is capable of no more than 200W output power. These conditions exempt the electric bicycle from registration. Conditions governing bicycles apply, so you have to wear a helmet, have reflectors and a bell and use lights at night. Fortunately all Glow Worm Bicycles have in built lights and yes, they come with a bell!
Q Are new electric bicycle laws coming?
A We usd to say 'yes definitely'. But we've only heard announcements in the time we've been here and no actual change. The discussion has been to bring the laws in line with the European Union but talk of this has been going for years. This will mean the motor output changes from 200W maximum output to 250W maximum continuous output. This would also bring the following additional constraints: they will have to be operated in the pedal assist mode, that means throttle only modes will be illegal. In addition, the maximum speed at which the motor can still provide assistance would be 25km/h. Many in Europe don't like these laws, they're not at all a 'no brainer' and in fact they have drafted legislation to remove the power limit and rely solely on the speed limit for safety. In brief it will be good because it will bring more tried and tested bikes onto the Australian market, which has traditionally suffered from cheap and low quality electric bicycles but it will also be regrettable that the speed limit should be set lower than necessary as it will reduce the appeal of e-bikes to some people, meaning more cars staying on the streets.
Q What is pedal assist mode and why is it necessary? Is it a safety thing?
A Pedal assist mode on electric bicycles means that the bicycle's electric motor only operates while you are pedalling. It is a great little innovation as it allows you to operate the bicycle's motor with your feet and therefore don't need to operate a throttle. This leaves your hands free to hold onto the handlebar properly, use the brakes etc. The other good thing about pedal assist mode is that riders can discipline themselves to always pedal, gaining more exercise and getting a longer range from the battery. However, in our opinion mandatory pedal assist is a mistake, it's an appropriate design choice that doesn't require legislation for you to take your pick of how you operate your e-bike. There are many reasons why a rider might want to operate the motor without pedalling. This includes a roundabout, when your pedals will hit the ground if you are pedalling while turning yet you still might need the motor to maintain the speed at which you entered the roundabout. You might also have an injured leg, a bad hip etc. Furthermore, pedal assist can catch riders by surprise by engaging the motor when they were not expecting it, such as taking off from a stop at a slow speed, for example because there is a pedestrian in front of you. Pedal assist might engage and accelerate you suddenly. It would have been much better to leave mandatory pedal assist out of all legislation as it is simply an unnecessary complication with no enhancement to safety.
Q Do e-bikes need insurance, registration and drivers license?
A No. The same rules apply as for bicycles. You don't need rego, insurance or a drivers license to ride an electric bicycle. It's a no registration vehicle.
Q I've lost my license for driving offences including drink driving. Can I ride an e-bike?
A Yes, you can ride an electric bicycle in all cases, whether you have a license, lost your license or never have had a license. Naturally it remains an offence in all cases to ride an e-bike under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Q Do I have to wear a helmet?
A Yes, same as a normal bicycle.
Q Can I ride my electric bicycle on the footpath?
A Technically it's not legal but of course you need to ride where you're comfortable. Just like regular bicycles, it is not permitted to ride an electric bicycle on the footpath in NSW unless you are under 12 years old or riding with someone under 12 years of age. Remember, a bicycle compares to a pedestrian as a car does to a bicycle - they are faster, heavier and intimidating. So lets work on getting the cars off the road, not fighting with pedestrians for the footpath. The City of Sydney council is very bicycle friendly and offers free courses including cycling confidence courses when riding on the road, run by Bikewise.
Using Electric Bicycles
Q Can I pedal like on a normal bicycle or do I always have to use the electric motor?
A You can definitely pedal as normal without the electric motor on. It will feel like a normal bicycle but heavier. Good quality electric bicycles still roll well, they're just heavier. The electric motor only kicks in from pedalling when you want it to. This is controlled in various ways, depending on the electric bicycle. The eZeebikes usually use a hand throttle while the Wisper Bikes have power level selectors.
Q How fast does the electric bicycle go?
A This depends on how hilly it is, what sort of bicycle and your weight. Generally though, you can go around 25-30km/h for most of your trip provided you don't mind pedaling a bit, especially on the hilly parts. After the pedal assist and 25km/h laws come in, it will be safe to say that you will generally be going 25km/h except on big hills.
Q Does it go up any hill?
A Of course not, some hills are just too steep but one thing is for sure - if you pedal and motor you can go up much steeper and longer hills than you would be able to do without the electric motor. Fundamentally it's not a motorbike. Your e-bike will make cycling a breeze but sitting there and never pedalling doesn't work in hilly places.
Q What is the electric bicycle's range?
A Anywhere between 5km for a really poor quality, heavy e-bike with a lead battery, to 80,000km for this Barcelona boy on his electric bicycle world tour with his Wisper 906 Alpino with dual battery and solar trailer. In general though, 20-80km. The big range in there is because there are different battery sizes and different people have a different idea of how much pedalling is reasonable. Then another big variable is how hilly your area is. An example: most people can from the shop in Marrickville to Bondi Beach and back without pedalling on our standard electric bicycles. That's 30km on a moderately hilly route. The ones with bigger batteries such as the 36V 14Ah used on the Wisper and Ezeebikes can go even further. Take away hills, add your pedalling and you can see that they go a long way. And if they can't get you there and back, buy two chargers and keep one at work or carry your charger around with you.
Q How do I charge the e-bike? Does it charge while I pedal? How long does it take to charge?
A You charge the electric bicycle's battery using its battery charger plugged into a wall socket. This is normally done at home at night after you've been riding. It could also be done while you're at work. Any sensible electric bicycle does not attempt to charge its battery while you pedal, see the technical section at the bottom of the page for more detail on the nonsense of regenerative braking on electric bicycles. If your battery is completely flat it will take around 4-8 hours depending on the size of your battery and your charger. Most Glow Worm Bicycles take 4-6 hours to charge completely.
Q Do you get a removable battery?
A Good ones come with a removable battery using the key provided. This allows you to charge the e-bike battery on your desk at work or in an apartment without having to park the electric bicycle near a power point. Generally it is not necessary to remove the battery for security as it is locked in.
Q When should I charge the battery?
A Charge it every night after you've used it. It's fine to charge it before it's even close to completely flat. The worst thing you can do is leave it discharged for long periods of time. So if you charge it after each time you use it, you've minimised battery damage. If you don't use it for a long time charge it every month. It's okay to leave it plugged in all night but it's better to save electricity and turn it off when it's finished if you can do that before it's bed time.
Q Will my electric bicycle be safe from theft?
A Probably not but it also probably won't be stolen. It can be stolen just like a normal bicycle and it attracts more attention. Use a good lock, try to buy an e-bike with a wheel lock, be careful about where you leave it, for how long etc and the rest is luck. If you don't think luck has a welcome place in your life, consider bicycle insurance. Other methods that could work include decorating your bike with ugly stickers and tape and things that make it more personalised, easier to identify and also harder to resell. Higher tech methods for those who don't believe in Karma including data dot. If theft really is the thing that's putting you off using an e-bike, maybe get a really ugly (but not crap) bicycle and convert it to electric.
Glow Worm Bicycles
Q What's Glow Worm Bicycles about?
A We're an electric bicycle company from the inner west of Sydney. We're all types - cyclists, electric cyclists, bicycle mechanics, artists, engineers, chemists etc but we're all interested in provided a high quality product that people like enough to happily move around without a car. We're fortunate to have a lot of technical expertise specific to electric bicycles, with two of us having graduated from the UNSW solar energy engineering degree with a final year honours thesis in electric bicycles. Add to that personal enthusiasm for cycling, electric bicycles and sustainability and you've got a team that is going to try and have the best bikes for you and will look after you to make sure you keep enjoying it. We're the Australian distributors for two of the world's best e-bike manufacturers - eZeebike and Wisper bikes. We sell direct to the public and to good bicycle stores interested in offering our electric bicycles to their customers.
Q Do you only sell to Sydney?
A No. We have dealers in the ACT, Melbourne and Tasmania. Some of us grew up in Canberra and see that electric bicycles in Canberra is a great idea because many of the barriers to cycling such as long distances and trip times are easily overcome by electric bicycles. We sell to anywhere in Australia but it's best to get your e-bike from a bicycle shop that can offer ongoing service. If you're not in Sydney, or even if you are, tell us who your favourite bike shop is and we'll consider whether they could be a dealer. Better yet, ask them if they're interested. The best part - you'll pay the same price from them or us so everyone is happy. You can see our dealers page including Canberra and Melbourne dealers here.
Q I'm interested in dealing your products. What do I need to do?
A You need to be a good bicycle store, one that takes care of customers with good mechanical services and one that can take care of new and returning cyclists with information on cycling safety, best ways to get around, lights and visibility etc. Please contact us.
Q I don't have much money, but I really want an e-bikes. Any special deals?
A From time to time we have pre-order specials. You can also buy one of our ex-demo or previously owned e-bikes. Just be careful that you don't go down the line of a low quality cheap electric bicycle, it's not cheaper in the end!
Q Do you have any cheap electric bicycles?
A Let's get one thing straight - you need a reliable e-bike. Even more reliable than a regular bicycle because it's heavier and usually goes faster and gets used more often. Having an unreliable transport option really defeats the purpose of being a transport option. So don't skimp on your electric bicycle. Get something that's good value, for sure, but not cheap. High quality e-bikes aren't just more reliable and cheaper in the long term, they're also more enjoyable to ride and easier to maintain and have a higher resale value. They also come with better warranties.
Q Do you only sell electric bicycles or can you repair bicycles as well?
A We are a bicycle store. We have full mechanical workshop, parts and accessories and the whole shebang. You're welcome to bring in your regular bicycle here for servicing and be assured that when you get an electric bicycle from us you're getting it from a real bicycle store whose warranties and free services will be real. We also sell normal bicycles. In fact, we think they're all normal bicycles, both electric and non-electric and you're all normal cyclists. It's just that some of them have power assistance as well. It's all part of being a shop that has everything you need to live your life free of cars. Please see our page on bicycle repairs.
Q Can you repair my electric bicycle?
A This is often code for 'I have a really unreliable electric bicycle that I bought over the internet and it sucks, can you help?'. Please see our electric bike services page. We will try to help but often the best way for us to help is to sell you a good one. It's not because we don't want to repair yours, really it isn't. It's just that in general electric bicycle's batteries, motors, controllors etc are not compatible with one another either because of different types and voltages or simply because of different physical sizes and plug and socket types. And if you bought an electric bicycle without warranty or paid service and spare parts available, it's probably a poor quality electric bicycle and even if we get it as good as new, it's still not that good. But don't worry, no one's perfect and it's only recently that shops like ours have been around to give real service, so just don't do it again :)
Any electric bicycles purchased at Glow Worm Bicycles will have labour guaranteed free of charge for any warranty repairs.
All eZeebike electric bicycles, whether purchased from our store or through an eZeebike dealer, come with a manufacturer's warranty. Your place of purchase can assist you with any warranty issues.
All electrical parts are covered for 2 years. This includes the electric bike's motor, battery and controllor and other smaller electrical parts.
The frame has a 6 year warranty
Freight for any warranty items is covered only from us to the place of purchase. Any costs associated with the transportation of parts or bikes for warranty assessment/repair are not covered. Although the importer (that's us) will provide free parts for warranty replacement on eZeebikes, your retailer (where you bought the bike if not from us) may charge labour for diagnosis and installation of the parts.
Q Are e-bikes good for the environment? Electricity creates pollution right?
A Electric bicycles are very good for the environment. It's true that electricity comes from fossil fuels, mainly coal, in Australia but the facts are that electric bicycles use a tiny quantity of energy to move you around compared to a car, motorbike or even the train or bus. This is because bicycles are just such amazing and beautifully efficient machines. Did you know that no animal moves with as much energy efficiency as a human on a bicycle? So forget electric cars, electric bicycles are great for the environment not because they're electric, but because they're bicycles. An electric bicycle will travel around 50km on one battery that takes approximately 500Wh to charge. That's around 10c on your electricity bill. So if your daily commute is 10km each way then you're looking at 200Wh of electricity or 4c of electricity or 200g of CO2 emissions if you're buying coal power. That's similar to watching TV for two hours or driving 600m in an average car. If you prefer pictures to techno babble then check out the website of the Sanyo Electric Bicycle to see how much electricity an electric bicycle uses.
Q Do I have to charge my electric bicycle with coal power in Australia?
A No. You can buy accredited Greenpower at home and use this to charge your electric bicycle. You could also install solar panels on top of your house and connect to the grid. Whatever you do, riding an electric bicycle is good for the environment and there are better ways to reduce your environmental impact than worry about the 200Wh that moved you 20km. Like eating less meat or not buying random crap.
Q What kind of electric motors do you use?
A We use brushless DC hub motors with nylon planetary gears. Robust but quiet.
Q Why use hub motors and not a chain drive motor? Can't you use your gears if you have a chain drive motor?
A We use hub motors because they are the most efficient system thanks to the motor directly driving the wheel with no transmission in between. This also makes them highly reliable and very quiet and most importantly - low maintenance. They are also the system of choice for over a hundred million electric bicycles in Asia and the most popular through Europe, the USA as well as Australia and NZ. This means that they are also the most researched and developed. Yes, a chain driven motor can let you use the gears on your bike but it will also mean there is motor and human power strain on the same chain and drive system and except in rare and expensive options, you'll have crappy freewheeling cranks, an extra long bottom bracket, heaps of non standard parts and no mechanic will want to work on your bike and it will need regular work. When it comes down to it, there are so many reasons to use a hub motor and if the hub motor can get you around where you need to go, then it's the one for you. If you're not sure come and test ride our electric bicycles, you'll see.
Q Do you put the motor in the front wheel or rear wheel.
A We have a front hub motor in most of our electric bicycles. This is to allow full choice of drive chain at the back. For example, the internally geared rear hubs are popular on electric bicycles because they are low maintenance, reliable and look good. This isn't possible unless you have a front hub motor. Front hub motors also distribute the driving power between front and rear reducing total stress on rear axle and drive side spokes, making a more reliable electric bicycle. Front hub motors are more flexible for electric bicycle retrofits and also allow you to turn an electric bicycle back into a regular bicycle more quickly if need be. It also allows for quicker and easier servicing and warranty if necessary.
Q Are there any advantages to having a rear wheel hub motor?
A A rear wheel hub motor allows you to take the front wheel off more easily in case you want to load the electric bicycle into a car or pack it into a box. It also gives the option of taking off your front wheel and putting it next to the rear to lock the electric bike up safely with a U-Lock. This is the best way to lock an electric bicycle because it protects the expensive parts and it's very hard to break a good U-Lock if it's around the frame, two wheels and a pole. For these reasons, when we aren't picky about the gear system at the rear, such as on the cheaper electric bicycles, we use a rear wheel hub motor.
Q What kind of batteries do you use?
A We only use lithium based batteries because these are the lightest, longest lasting and highest capacity battery for their size and weight. They are also safe. Amongst the lithium family we currently prefer lithium polymer types for their high energy density. Much has been said about Lithium Iron Phosphate (also called LiFePO4 or Life-Po) due to its excellent cycle life (meaning it can last many years) but it is heavier and costs more. For the same price and weight you can get a higher capacity Lithium Polymer. Higher capacity means you won't drain it as much which means it will last longer, clawing back some advantage of the LiFePO4.
Q Why can't I recharge my battery while I pedal?
A You can't because we don't set up our electric bicycles to do regenerative braking because it would be woeful. It's not a technology problem, an innovation thing or a government conspiracy, it's a law of physics called conservation of energy and if your pedalling is used to recharge your battery then it will be like riding an exercise bike or swimming with a boat tied to you. Most of the effort you put into charging the battery will be lost in the inefficiencies of each step of the pointless work you are doing - energy will be lost as your motion is converted to electricity, lost again as this electricity enters the battery by conversion to chemical energy, lost again when it converts back to electricity and then again when converting to motion through the motor.
Q But what about when I was going to brake anyway? Don't hybrid cars work like that?
A You won't often use much friction braking on a bicycle, they just dont go that fast. Coast up to the lights instead. To suffer regenerative braking on electric bicycles you have to have a two way controllor, a battery that can handle huge, brief charge currents and a motor that doesn't freewheel so that you can force it both ways. In the end these problems will not be compensated by the few drips of electricity you get while regenerative braking so it won't help anything. As for the cars, they are cars, not bikes. They go faster and are heavier and brake more and also require braking to regulate the car's speed, like being in gear. They also have combustion engines and don't have battery chargers so they need some way of regeneratively charging their batteries. They're just different, be happy every time you're not in one.
Q Do the lights run off the main battery on the e-bike?
A In most cases yes and it's awesome. No more buying batteries, rechargers and all that for your lights or getting hassled by police for not having lights. They're nice and bright too.
Q How much can I carry on my electric bicycle?
A It depends which one you get. Probably around 25kg on the rear pannier rack and 5-10kg in a front basket. You could also tow a bicycle trailer. If you need to carry more we have electric cargo bicycles like the eZee elMundo. But before you get carried away - do all this on a bicycle first. There are safety issues involved when carrying a lot of stuff, especially if you're thinking of carrying other people and we want to know you're doing this because it's a good idea for you and you know that you can do it safely, not just because it looks like an interesting experiment to get a new electric bike and carry four kids on it the first time you've ridden a bicycle since high school.