The Comprehensive Guide to Electric Bikes is a resource developed by Glow Worm Electric Bikes. This guide is designed to provide you with everything you need to know about electric bikes & equip you with necessary information to make an informed decision when buying an ebike.
We'll be publishing this guide progressively in the coming weeks.
What is an electric bike?
An electric bike is a bicycle with a battery powered motor that provides assistance to the rider.
How does it work?
The electric components on an ebike generally consist of a motor, battery, controller & display.
All electric bikes provide pedal assistance to the rider. Sensors detect when the rider is pedalling and activate the motor to provide the assistance. The rider can select from varying levels of assistance. Lower settings provide a gentle level of assistance to the rider whereas higher levels require less effort with the motor doing most of the work. Some electric bikes will also have a throttle which will activate the motor without the need to pedal at all.
Who are they for?
Everyone can benefit from the use of electric bikes, from teenagers to octogenarians. It’s true, we have customers well into their eighties using electric bikes. There are many benefits to using an electric bike all of which depend on the individual and how they are using their ebike.
For the busy professional, an electric bike can mean getting to work faster without arriving as a sweaty mess.
For a family with two kids, an electric bike can mean getting the youngest to daycare, the eldest to school, a quick trip to the supermarket to grab some groceries and then on to work without worrying about traffic, parking & the costs of owning & operating a car - registration, fuel, tolls & the environmental costs.
For a retired couple, electric bikes can mean the difference between cycling with some assistance or not cycling at all. Keeping fit, active & social.
But electric bikes are cheating, right?
Well yes, if you are a professional competitive cyclist.
If not, then the answer is a big fat no. Electric bikes keep people riding longer & get people who would otherwise not be riding at all onto bikes.
Electric Bike Laws in Australia
Glow Worm Electric Bikes currently operate in New South Wales & Victoria. The following definitions are taken from the respective state authorities. All bikes that Glow Worm Electric Bikes sell comply with state laws as road legal electric bikes.
New South Wales
A power-assisted pedal cycle is a bicycle that:
• Is designed to be propelled solely by human power, and
• Has one or more auxiliary (electric) propulsion motors attached to assist the rider.
This means that it must be possible to propel the bicycle only by the rider pedalling it. The primary driving force should be the rider, and the motor is only intended to help the rider, such as when going uphill or cycling into a headwind, or to cycle at a speed they cannot maintain solely by pedalling. There are two types of power assisted pedal cycles, described as follows:
1. Power-assisted pedal cycle - maximum power output 200 watts. The auxiliary motor/s must not be capable of producing a combined maximum power output exceeding 200 watts, whether or not the motor/s is operating.
2. Power-assisted pedal cycle - maximum power output 250 watts (a ‘Pedalec’)
A ‘pedalec’ is a vehicle complying with the requirements of European Standard EN 15194: 2009 or EN 15194:2009+A1:2009: ‘Cycles – Electrically power assisted cycles – EPAC Bicycles’. To comply with EN 15194:
• The motor must be electric
• The maximum continuous power output of the motor cannot exceed 250 watts measured at the wheel Note: A motor that delivers 250 watts of continuous power can produce greater power for very short periods of time, which can be beneficial when pulling away at traffic lights or starting a hill climb.
• The rider must pedal the cycle to activate the motor*
• The motor must cut-off once the vehicle reaches 25 km/h, or sooner if the rider stops pedalling
• The vehicle must be certified by the manufacturer, and labelled as complying with EN 15194. The label must include the manufacturer’s name, the motor’s cut-off speed in km/h and its continuous rated power in watts. * Pedalecs may be equipped with an optional low-speed start-up mode that allows the motor to power the cycle up to 6 km/h. This mode is activated by the user either when riding without pedalling or when the user is pushing the cycle.
A power assisted bicycle is identical to a pedal powered bicycle, except it has an auxiliary motor. Power assisted bicycles have two definitions in Victoria:
- A pedal cycle with one or more auxiliary motors attached which has a combined maximum ungoverned continuous rated power output not exceeding 200 watts.
- A bicycle certified as a Pedalec (compliant with European Committee for Standardization EN 15194:2009 or EN 15194:2009+A1:2011 Cycles - Electrically power assisted cycles - EPAC Bicycles). This bicycle features an auxiliary power producing no more than 250 watts and specifies this as a continuous rating. It also restricts the top power assisted speed to 25 kilometres per hour and requires the rider to pedal to access the power.
Bikes that meet these criteria are not required to be registered for use on roads and the rider is not required to be licenced.
Electric Bike Tuning
What is electric bike tuning
Electric bike tuning, also known as delimiting, is the process of removing the speed limit on your electric bike. By law, electric bikes in Australia with a 250w motor must be speed limited to 25 km/h. This is accomplished by software settings which cause the motor to cut out once the bike reaches 25 km/h. The speed limit on electric bikes varies by country. In New Zealand it’s 32 km/h.
Tuning or delimiting is the process of overriding these speed limiting settings & allowing the bike to operate at its maximum natural speed. Depending on the motor, some electric bikes can easily exceed 60 km/h without speed limiting.
Overriding the speed limiting can be achieved by several means including using third party dongles & hardware which deceive the bikes controller allowing the bike to go faster without disengaging the motor.
Why do it?
The argument for tuning is the obvious one: to go faster. Our need for speed is a tempting reason to try to delimit your ebike. Unfortunately, the list of reasons NOT to tune your ebike is much longer & more compelling.
Reasons not to
First & foremost, it’s against the law. 250w ebikes which exceed 25 km/h are considered unregistered vehicles. Using them on roads, footpaths & bike paths is a breach of the law. If you are caught, you risk fines, demerit points & other penalties.
You will not be able to obtain insurance. If you have an accident & it is determined that the bike has been delimited, any insurance policy that you do have will be considered void. If you or someone else are injured, then the liability is on you and the costs could be crippling.
Some ebike manufacturers are cracking down on tuning with settings that place the bike into a “limp” mode if tuning is detected. If the limiting is not removed, it may even result in the ebike being permanently disabled.
Delimiting or working on tuned ebikes may be a breach of a bike store's dealer agreements. Therefore it may be difficult to have your bike serviced or repaired if you choose to tinker with the speed limiting.
Why we don’t do it
For the reasons mentioned above, Glow Worm Electric Bikes strongly recommend that you do not attempt to delimit your electric bike and will not assist you to do so. Our workshop is also unable to work on electric bikes that have been delimited or tuned in any way. The liability & risk to your safety & our business is simply too high.
Whilst we obey the law, we also believe that there is room for the legislation to be updated increasing the speed limit for electric bikes in line with other countries. Bicycle Industries Australia have committed to lobbying the government at state & national levels to increase the speed limit to 32 km/h, a move which we support.
Buying An Electric Bike Online
Buying an electric bike can be a life-changing decision & buying an electric bike online can seem like an attractive proposition. But look beyond the headline price and you may discover that buying an electric bike online could be fraught with problems that end up costing you much more in the long run. Here are four things to look out for when buying an electric bike online.
Some assembly required
The first thing to look for when buying an electric bike online is whether the bike comes fully assembled & ready to ride. More often than not, the answer is no.
Electric bikes are complex machines with many moving parts. These components require careful assembly, alignment & calibration. Our skilled mechanics can spend up to two hours assembling a new electric bike, from truing wheels, aligning brakes & calibrating gears.There is a reason that most cyclists take their bikes to a workshop to get serviced. Most simply don't have the skills to perform these tasks properly. By not properly assembling the ebike, you could be setting yourself up for failure from the start, not to mention future headaches & costs.
Some bike workshops offer a bike build service where they will assemble boxed bikes that they haven't sold but these services come at a cost which start to make the attractive online prices slightly less attractive.
The right bike for you
Its unlikely that you'd buy a car before taking it for a test drive. The same goes for electric bikes. Not every electric bike is the right bike for you.
Is the bike the right size for you?
Is the geometry comfortable for how you ride?
Does the bike have enough power to get you up that hill near your house?
Some of these questions can only be answered by test riding & extended trials. Most of our customers will test ride many different bikes, several times each to find the perfect bike for them. It's highly unlikely that an ebike that you find online and never test ride just happens to be the one for you. Budget is an important consideration when choosing an electric bike, but it shouldn't be the only consideration. There is nothing worse that buying a bike online & then several weeks later realising that it's not right for you. Try, try & try again.
The easiest way to reduce the retail price on an electric bike is to cut down on quality of the electrics & bike components. When buying a cheap ebike online, spend some time drilling down into the specifications to make sure that the electrics & components are of acceptable quality. Remember, price is what you pay, value is what you get. Here are some things to look out for.
Battery size: electric bike batteries are one of the most expensive components on the bike. One way manufacturers can reduce the retail price on an electric bike is to use a smaller capacity battery. The size of the battery will determine how far you can ride per charge. The smaller the battery, the less distance you'll get per charge. Lithium ion batteries have an average life span of 3 - 5 years and will gradually lose their capacity over time. This means that a 10aH battery new may have capacity of 6 - 7aH after a few years. Make sure that the battery on your bike has enough capacity for how you plan to use the bike while also factoring in the loss of capacity over time.
Brakes: electric bikes can be much heavier than standard pedal powered bikes. Most electric bikes will weigh between 22 - 27kg. This additional weight moving at faster speeds require quality brakes for safe stopping power. We consider hydraulic disc brakes the gold standard for all electric bikes. One way manufacturers can lower the retail price is to fit mechanical cable brakes or god forbid, rim brakes. Check to make sure that the brakes on the bike are good quality and ebike suitable.
Brand: if you're considering purchasing an electric bike, you'll no doubt be familiar with many ebike component manufacturers by now: Bosch, Shimano, Bafang, Tektro, Magura to name a few. These companies are leading manufacturers of ebike electric systems & components. By purchasing ebikes with components by leading brands, you can rest assured knowing that should something go wrong, your local bike workshop will be familiar with the parts, able to repair or service them & can source spare parts when required. Some cheaper ebikes may come with generic electric systems or components for which your local bike workshop may not be able to source spare parts & therefore may be unwilling to service the bike.
After sales service & warranty
Just like a car, electric bikes require routine maintenance & servicing to keep them in optimal condition for many years of safe & enjoyable riding.
When buying an ebike online, check to see whether the seller can service your bike or repair any issues that may arise. If not, you may end up stranded if something goes wrong. Many bike workshops will only work on bikes & brands that they sell & are familiar with or electric bikes that they can get parts for.
Benefits of Electric Bikes
Electric Bike Pricing
Electric Bike Conversions
Where To Buy
Maintenance & Servicing