- Why an e-bike?
- What type of e-bike should I get?
- What to consider if you think of getting an e-bike
- How far can I go on a single battery charge?
- How long until a battery needs to be replaced?
- How long does the battery take to charge?
- What is the battery made of?
- Can I charge the battery by pedaling?
- Throttle & Pedal Assist: What’s the difference and which is better?
- Hub Motor vs. Mid Drive: Which is right for me?
- How fast can I go?
- Which components are important in selecting an e-bike?
Why buy an e-bike??
Most e-bike buyers today do it to have some fun and get some exercise in the process whilst others do it as a form of transport. Others do it due to an injury or inability to use a conventional bicycle.
Buyers do so for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
- To have fun. Someone that loves the outdoors and wants to enjoy the environment. No racing and not speed driven, just having fun. They would normally go short distances, go for coffee in between and will probably join others doing the same.
- Those who have enjoyed life – well and now it is time to get a bit more active but taking a normal bike is not an option. Using an e-bike is an easy and comfortable way to get physically active and this can lead to a much better and healthier lifestyle.
- Those who would like to ride with others but find it difficult. For instance a dad that wants to ride with his 15 year old son but cannot keep up. With an e-bike you can. Or the wife wants to ride with her hubby, but with a normal bike it is not possible.
- Where a person has been active (or not) but has an injury. Such as a knee injury. It is not possible to use a normal bike but the e-bike offers the possibility to enjoy a ride.
- To commute. People all over the world use e-bikes as a format of daily transport. We are getting there. Especially where it is conducive for a bike to be used. It is so much cheaper, often quicker and then having fun too. It will become big deal in SA in time to come. Especially if we get more bike lanes.
- Then probably a combination of all the above.
What bike is for me?
E-bikes are not all the same and you need a guide when you consider getting a bike. Many first time buyers have no idea what to look for and what is important to consider. Here are some pointers.
Style: There are different styles these days. Consider a good looking bike. A bike with an integrated battery looks slick and similar to an ordinary bike. The bike must look the part. You must feel good looking and using it.
Type: Make sure the bike you consider will satisfy your need. The most popular style currently in SA is an all-terrain bike that can do both on and off road riding.
Motor: Today you get a range of different motor sizes and output. The 250W is good for road bikes and cruising but it has limited power when facing steep hills, but that is the maximum allowed output to be legal on our roads. The other extreme is the 1000W plus motors. It is really over the top and frankly, dangerous. The 350W and 500W is very popular and for good reason. It offers enough power for normal use. In fact you need no more. Keep regulation SANS 311/2007 in mind.
Motor position. You get hub drive motors- where the motor is built into the hub of the wheel, most commonly in the back wheel and then you get mid-drive motors where the motor is on the bottom bracket positioning it between the pedals of the bike. (Fort more information on this – I refer you to the article below that we wrote on this topic.)
Then you get conversion kits. This is an add-on to a normal bike to make it an electrical bike. This is a recipe for trouble. The bike may not be strong enough to take the weight and power (where e-bikes are built to handle it) and it tends to give problems if it is not fitted perfectly. Think twice before you go that route.
Battery: The motor and the battery are the most important decisions you need to take. The battery determine the power and how long it would last between charges. So you have to consider the output: 36V and 48V output are popular. Then the amp hours (Ah) – how long the battery will last between charges. Here you find a full range from 9Ah to 20Ah and even more. What is ideal? For normal use on the road and traveling say, 40km a 10Ah is good, off road maybe 13 or 15Ah. Keep in mind the difference in the cost of say, a 10Ah battery and 17Ah is enormous.
To make your choice easier here is a test: we talk about total amp hours which are the Voltage X Ah. The benchmark is 500 total amp hours. So if the battery is a 36V and 10Ah the total amp hours are (36 X 10) 360 which is less than the benchmark of 500. So if you are going casual riding over short distances, that is fine. The Smart-e bikes are mostly equipped with a 48V and 13.2Ah which gives a total of 634 amp hours. Now that is more than enough!
Then we move to the less important matters but still require some thought:
Saddle. If you want a soft comfortable ride make sure you have a saddle that caters for it.
Gears. Ensure a branded name group set such as Shimano. The number of gears is not critical.
Extras. What extras do you get such as a kickstand, charge point for your phone, reflectors, a light, mudguards and a carrier on the back?
How far can I go on a single battery charge?
The short answer to this question is far enough!
Users are concerned that they run out of battery power and then will have to use human power. In 99% of cases this will not happen. Research indicates that e-bike users do on average, less than 45km at a time. It is only if you push the boundaries that you will run out of power. Such as, using the throttle extensively, no pedaling, going up steep hills and over play the time in the saddle. Under normal circumstances a 10 Ah is sufficient for the average user of an e-bike. The LCD display also indicates how much power is still available.
Predicting range depends on a number of factors: for instance, if someone weighs about 70kg, riding across varied terrain with moderate undulation and a steady cadence of 70-80 rpm with a moderate PAS setting and occasionally using the throttle you can expect to get anything between 60-85 km (even 95 km) from a single battery charge.
The following influences the battery usage:
- Your weight
- The terrain (how hilly and also how steep those hills are)
- How much and hard you pedal (very important)
- How often and how much throttle you use
- The PAS level you use
Logic dictates that if the above are all “negative” then the 60 or 70 km range becomes less.
All batteries have both a Voltage and Amp Hour rating. If you multiply the two together, you get Watt Hours. Watt Hours is an objective measurement of the actual amount of energy stored in a battery.
How long until a battery needs to be replaced?
You can expect your battery to last about 2-4 years. (Then again, many cyclist claim their batteries are 6 years old and still going.)
Lithium batteries usually don’t just stop working altogether, what happens is they gradually lose their capacity over time.
To prolong the life of your battery it’s suggested that you avoid discharging it completely, and the big thing is to make sure that you charge it at least once every couple months.
How long does the battery take to charge?
A battery will charge is between 2-6 hours with a standard wall outlet.
There is no memory, so you don’t have to worry about discharging it completely, and it’s best to recharge it after each use.
What is the battery made of?
The batteries are made up of individual Li-ion cells designated 18650 because of their size (18mm x 65mm). These are very common batteries found in countless consumer electronics, electric bicycles, and even electric cars.
There are basically two types of 18650 cells- those made by the four major, name brand suppliers (Sony, LG, Panasonic, and Samsung), and everything else. The name brand cells are much more safe and reliable than the cheaper cells.
Pedego Electric Bikes use premium cells made by Samsung, which is the world’s largest Li-Ion battery supplier.
The benefits of these cells are three fold:
Each cell is protected by a puncture resistant steel cylinder, and they are separated from each other in the battery pack to prevent fire.
Pedego is able to offer an industry leading three year limited warranty because of technological advances that have prolonged the life cycle of our batteries.
The manufacturing process and quality control of the cells themselves has significantly improved over the years, and there is an extremely low failure rate.
The connections between the cells have also evolved and improved to prevent bad connections and premature battery failure.
The number one reason 18650 cells are so wildly popular is their incredible performance capabilities.
They are remarkably energy dense delivering an abundance of power (up to 675 wh/L and 252 wh/kg) with very little space and weight.
These little cells really deliver the goods!
Can I charge the battery by pedaling?
The battery is charged by plugging it into the wall, and the more you pedal the farther you can go. Your pedaling conserves the battery, but it doesn’t actually charge it.
The technology does exist that would allow you to charge your bike by pedaling, but we’ve found that it just doesn’t make sense in the real world. The benefit is very little, it makes the bike even heavier and it increases the overall costs.
The problem is that it makes it hard to pedal, and that’s not fun! Even under the most ideal conditions, like riding downhill, the amount of energy you would get back is negligible.
Throttle & Pedal Assist: What’s the difference and which is better?
In the United States and South Africa, we are fortunate to have the luxury of throttles on our electric bikes which are forbidden in Europe.
Throttles provide full power on demand and we love them because they give us complete control.
They’re especially helpful for getting started from a standstill (sometimes it can be awkward to gain momentum), getting a quick burst of power to climb a hill, or safely getting through an intersection. If you can’t pedal, or you just don’t feel like it, that’s okay too.
Pedal assist, or Pedelec systems, sense your pedaling and provide assistance automatically.
They’re most popular among experienced cyclists that want a more natural, “bike-like” riding experience.
Pedal assist is wonderful for long rides with few stops on relatively flat ground, because you can just relax and enjoy the ride without holding a throttle in place. It’s like cruise control.
Both is Best
Our experience shows that the ideal electric bike has both pedal assist and a throttle, and the next best thing is one with only a throttle.
We don’t have any bikes that are pedal assist only (except what we send overseas), simply because most people don’t like them. Even if you prefer pedal assist, why wouldn’t you want the option of using a throttle?
Hub Motor vs. Mid Drive: Which is right for me?
A hub drive motor is where the motor is located in the wheel, normally the back wheel. The mid drive motor is located in the center of the pedals called the bottom bracket.
We will cover the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The biggest advantage of these motors is that it is proven technology. It has been around for many years and requires very little maintenance. The components are sealed in the casing so it is maintenance free and very little can go wrong. It has no moving parts so there is nothing to wear out and it should last for a very long time. The hub motor does not add stress to your chain and gears. It is also much cheaper and a simpler motor.
The hub motor is doing well on the flats but is less effective on hills. Under normal circumstances the motor weight is not an issue. In the case of serious MTB the extra weight and the position of the motor at the back will compromise the suspension capability.
The major advantage of mid-drive motors is the ability to power up steep hills. The weight is better distributed and that improves rough terrain handling. For serious mountain bikers that is important. The motor is normally also smaller and lighter. Since the motor is located on the BB, changing a wheel is easier. The maintenance on the mid-drive is the biggest flaw. There are multiple moving parts, so much more which can go wrong. There is a lot of strain on the chain too and needs to be upgraded and replaced regularly. Then you cannot change the gears unless the bike moves. This can be tricky if you stop in the wrong gear.
Hub drive motors have been around for many years and have proven to be reliable, simple and durable. The mid drive motor is new technology, far more complex, costs more and has a better weight distribution.
|HUB MOTOR||MID DRIVE MOTOR|
|Terrain||Good on flats and small hills||From flat to steep hills|
|Installing||Easy||More complex and technical|
|Best use||Leisure rides, easy off road||Serious off road, undulating climbing|
|Maintenance||No maintenance||High maintenance|
Your will note we sell both mid drive and hub drive Pedego e-bikes.
We speak from experience on this subject. The Pedego Stretch cargo bike was originally designed with a mid-drive motor because we expected it to perform better with heavy loads. We experimented with several of the top mid drive systems and compared them to our standard hub motor. The results were surprising.The mid drive motors were a huge disappointment. Their performance was no match for our hub motor, even climbing steep hills where mid drives are supposed to dominate. We also found that most people simply don’t like the way it feels to ride a bike with a mid drive motor, especially when comparing it to our hub motor.
Bottom line: You pay more and get less with mid drive motors.
What maintenance is required?
Aside from keeping your battery charged, maintaining an Electric Bike is the same as any bicycle.
Most of the servicing to be done on an e-bike is mechanical of nature. This includes fine tuning the gears, replacing tyres, brake pads or a chain. The electrical components do not require any maintenance at all. If something malfunction for some reason, we can replace the part but from experience that is very unlikely. Your favorite bike shop will thus sort you out and the e-bike supplier can offer a part if ever required. (Refer to the SMART-e website: preferred service providers.)
Remember an e-bike is a bike with a motor. The “e” part of the bike consists in summary of a motor in the hub or BB (bottom bracket), a controller (basically the computer), battery and then the LCD display. The rest is the same as a normal bike. And that is what requires maintenance such as adjusting the gears and replacing the tyres or chain. The electrical side does not require any servicing. Only when you require a part (in the unlikely event) is where the supplier comes into play. For that reason a good supplier will have stock available which can be replaced and fitted by the cycle shop in your area.
The most important (and simple) thing you can do is check your tire pressure regularly, and keep them inflated as indicated on the tire.
If you’re riding in wet conditions, you’ll want to take extra care and make sure you keep your drivetrain clean and well-lubed.
Other than that, you’re likely to need minor adjustments from time to time, and even the best parts do eventually wear out. We suggest that you bring your bike to your local dealer for a check-up at least once or twice a year to ensure the most safe and pleasant riding experience.
What is the weight capacity?
The weight capacity of Pedego and SMART-e Electric Bikes is 120 kg. The exceptions are the FAT BIKES (150kg) Tandem and Stretch models which can carry up to 180 kg.
Can I transport my Pedego on hitch mounted rack for my vehicle?
Yes! Many customers use hitch mounted racks to travel far and wide with their beloved bikes. Thule is a popular brand. Please check with your local dealer for their advice on which rack is right for you.