Buying a new e-bike is an exciting experience. But with so many bikes to choose from, finding the right one can be confusing. To simplify the process and get you the answers you need, we have put together a list of questions to ask your bike dealer.
It starts with style
Whenever you buy a new bike, the key is to understand your needs and which style of bike will serve them best. Imagine how your life with an e-bike will be different and what you want to use your bike for, this will help you choose the right e-bike for you.
First and foremost, it is important to keep the drive unit in mind. Unlike other bike components that you can easily change or upgrade, your e-bike drive unit is an integral part of your bike.
E-bike technology is constantly evolving, so you want to get your pick of the latest technology to maximize your cycling joy and your bike’s longevity. We have put together a list of questions you can ask your dealer to help you make sense of the different drive units and styles of bikes on offer.
Armed with this list, you can confidently visit your bike shop and expect to walk out with an e-bike you will love to ride for many years.
Which drive unit does this bike have?
This is the big one and the first question you should ask. The drive unit represents the heart of your e-bike. Bike designers and manufacturers will choose a brand and a drive unit that fits with the type of bike and its intended purpose.
There are a few different drive unit manufacturers, each complementing different cycling styles and cyclists. It’s worth spending some time researching the option best suited to your brand of riding. Find out which Shimano drive units is best suited to your riding style, such as commuting, cargo, or active cycling.
Where is the motor positioned?
Motors can be positioned in the front or rear hub or in the bottom bracket, known as mid-drive. A mid-drive system will be located near the pedals, where the cranks attach – and not in a wheel hub.
When a bike designer chooses a mid-drive system, they put most of their focus on the motor, designing the frame around it. The additional weight is placed more centrally for better balance, allowing the bike’s geometry to support its positioning.
Shimano drive units have a torque sensor, which calculates the amount of power you are putting onto the pedals. This allows the drive unit to respond by giving you precisely the pedaling assistance you need.
A mid-drive unit will give you a completely balanced and natural ride. The extra power supplied by the drive unit supports, rather than overwhelms your own pedaling.
All about batteries
Here’s an important question to ask yourself: ‘How far and how often do I want to ride?’ Range is the magic word. Make sure you find out how far you can go on a single charge, and how long it’ll take to recharge your battery.
Range is not just determined by the drive unit. The bike’s weight, the rider’s weight, the terrain and whether you’re an eco-cyclist or a boost-biker – all these things affect how far one charge will take you. Nevertheless, e-bike manufacturers should be able to provide an indication of the expected range.
Then there’s the factor of charge time. If you have a 30-minute commute to work, your charging needs will be different to someone who might be considering a multi-day touring holiday with long daily rides.
Find out where the battery is positioned and whether it can be removed for charging. If the battery is integrated, it’ll look clean and will be protected, but you’ll also have to keep your bike close to a socket for charging purposes.
Lithium batteries don’t respond well to extreme weather conditions. Cold weather can be particularly harmful for your battery’s longevity. If your garage gets cold in winter, you may want to consider purchasing a bike with removable batteries or storing it inside.
What is the power output and torque?
Power output from an e-bike drive unit is measured in watts. In most European countries, a motor’s continuous power output must be limited to 250 watts.
A drive unit’s maximum torque tells you more about the way your bike will perform. Torque is denoted in Newton meters, or Nm. This measures how much turning force the motor gives out. High torque outputs help you to turn the cranks in situations where there is a lot of resistance, such as a very steep hill or when you are starting to pedal from standing still.
High levels of torque are particularly desirable in off-road e-bikes and e-MTBs, where steep hills and lower pedaling speeds form part of the trail experience. A higher torque output is useful when carrying heavy loads and will be of great help when you’re getting a cargo-bike moving from a stationary start.
Controls, displays and customization
E-bike drive units are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The cockpit of your bike will feature controls to manage the amount of support the drive unit provides. Most offer at least two modes: eco-mode, for battery conservation – for when the rider is supplying most of the power – and a boost mode for when more assistance is needed.
A display on your handlebars will be connected to the drive unit to tell you the mode you are in and details about your speed and distance travelled. It may also give you other useful details, such as remaining battery life and your predicted range.
These days, you can link your drive unit to an app via Bluetooth so that you can customize your drive unit’s performance to match your riding style. Shimano’s E-TUBE apps, for example, allow you to manage and update your drive-unit’s firmware and can also customize other components of your bike and record or plan your rides with GPS.
If your Shimano drive unit is the heart of your bike, then the cockpit display, controls and E-TUBE app make up its brain.
You’ve already made a good choice
Congratulations on choosing to buy an electric bike! Whilst there are a few myths about e-bikes, you’ve already made your first great buying decision.
Done your research? Head to your nearest Shimano dealer and start your e-bike journey.
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