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electric bike guide

Electric bike guide

Put some power in your pedals

Electric bikes make cycling easier by using an electric motor to assist your pedalling. This is especially useful for going uphill and for those who tire easily on a regular bike.

Electric bikes help you cycle further and with less effort. They can also make you a little faster, but as electrically assisted speed in the UK is limited to 15mph, fit cyclists may find they can move faster without the motor's help.

Electric bikes & the law

Do I need a license?

Electric bikes do not need any kind of driving license or training and are not considered motor vehicles, as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • It has pedals capable of propelling the bike.
  • The power comes from an electrical motor, not petrol.
  • The motor power ceases to provide power once the bike's speed reaches 15mph.
  • The weight of the bike is less than 40kg, including the battery.
  • The power output is no more than 200W.
  • It must have independent front and rear wheel braking systems.
  • The bike must display a plate stating the manufacturer, battery voltage and motor power output.
  • The switch controlling the power must default to 'off'. This means the rider must always have their finger on the button to have the bike run electrically.

Who should ride an electric bike?

Benefits of a boost

For starters, you need to be aged over 14 years by law to ride an electric bike. Beyond this, lots of different riders will benefit from electric assist.

Electric bikes are great for riders in hilly areas who need a bit of help on the ascents. They'll make climbing a breeze, leaving you to focus your pedalling efforts on the flats and downhill.

Older cyclists and people with problems with their knees may also appreciate taking the strain off by using an electric motor.

Commuters can really benefit from an electric cycle - if you have nowhere to shower or change at work, an electric bike will let you glide there without raising a sweat. Because of this, electric bikes are becoming popular commuter companions and you can even get folding electric bikes.

Electric bike care

Look after your leccy cycle

As with all bikes, you need to clean and maintain your electric bike. This is even more important with an electric bike, though, as any build-up of dirt and grit can cause resistance that can force the motor to work harder.

You can generally follow our bike cleaning guide for how to care for your electric bike, but you do need to take a bit of extra care. Don't immerse any of the electric parts in water and don't use harsh cleaners. Keep water away from the battery as much as possible.

Store your electric bike under cover, away from strong sunlight, rain and snow. Regularly check brakes and gears to make sure everything is in order.

Follow the battery care instructions of the bike's manufacturer to make it last as long as possible. See 'All about batteries' below for more.

Finally, electric bikes are attractive to thieves. Make sure you invest in a heavy duty bike lock, or preferably two.

All about batteries

Charging know-how

Electric bike batteries are given in Watts. As a general rule, bikes with higher watt batteries the bigger the boost and the greater the range.

Sometimes you see bikes with the battery wattage listed as greater than 200w. As the power gets diluted through the bike's components and motor, these bikes are usually still legal, so long as the actual work applied by the bike is less than 200w.

Electric bikes often specify the distance you can expect to get out of your bike's battery between charges. This can vary quite a lot, though, depending on terrain, weather and even the bike's condition.

electric bike in action

Charging times vary, but two-six hours is typical for most electric bikes. Keeping the battery topped up helps prolong battery life. Try not to let the battery drop below 50% for best results.