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The Comprehensive Guide to Electric Bikes

This guide provides more detailed information about e-bikes. You'll learn about:

New to e-bikes? First read our Quick Guide to Electric Bikes before diving deeper into the information below.

 

E-bike technology 

Types of motors 

There are two types of e-bike motor:

Hub motors:

Mid-drive motors 

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 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!

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! 

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:

 

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: 

What are the e-bike requirements? 

There are two types of permitted e-bikes: 

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: 

Electrically power-assisted cycles

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

 

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: 

 

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 km depending 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:

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.

 

Ready to try or buy an e-bike? Check out our range or contact us for more information.  

Not sure if an e-bike is right for you? Consider renting before deciding whether to purchase or return it.