E-bike curious..? Start here with our E-bike 101 information guide.
Electric bikes – or e-Bikes – are one of the fastest growing categories in the cycling industry. They help riders go faster, further & longer without tiring, & buyers are turning to e-Bikes for everything from vehicle replacements to pure enjoyment. There are also a wide range of styles, motor sizes and price points from which riders can choose to suit their needs.
There is so much information out there about all the different types of e-bikes that it can be overwhelming & so with this guide we hope to answer some of the most common questions we get asked about e-bikes & try to clear up some of the mystery surrounding them – at least about the brands that we carry & their features.
What is an E-Bike?
E-bikes or pedalectric bikes are much like traditional bikes except they feature an electric motor to provide a power boost for climbing hills or traveling long distances. Pedelec ("Pedal Electric Cycle") are only able to move forward, when the rider is pedaling. It supports you with a maximum permissible continuous rated power of 250 watts and up to 32 km/h. If you want to go even faster, you have to achieve this with pure muscle power. This means that class 1 eBikes or pedelecs are legally considered bicycles. They seemingly flatten the world out & are kind of like having a friend on the bike with you helping you pedal.
There are 3 classes (or types) of E-Bikes. Here at Totally Spoke’d we currently only deal with Class 1 E-Bikes.
Class 1 E-Bike are E-Bikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 32 km/h.
Class 2 E-Bikes that also have a maximum speed of 32 km/h, but are throttle-assisted.
Class 3 E-Bikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and a maximum assisted speed of 45 km/h.
How fast do they go?
All of our E-Bikes will help you up to 32 Km/H as that is the legal limit in Ontario. While you may pedal the bike faster than that, the motor will not give you any assistance above 32 Km/h. You may have seen e-bikes on the road going faster than 32km/h however, they are not legally treated as a bicycle in North America. These e-bikes are, legally speaking, more like a motorcycle requiring registration, insurance, a DOT approved helmet, etc.
Click on this link from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to learn what you need to know about the laws on riding an electric bicycle in Ontario.
Are E-Bikes only good for paved roads?
Just like traditional bikes, there are many different types of E-Bikes. We have touring E-Bikes for paved or gravel roads & bike paths, E-MTB for those ‘roots & rocks’ kind of trails, E-Fat Bikes for fun in the sand and snow, and more.
Why buy an E-Bike over a regular bike?
E-Bikes can be an environmentally friendly way to get around town, or commute to work without being all sweaty when you arrive, while promoting physical activity. They can also help you climb hills, enjoy longer rides & they’re just plain FUN to ride!
How long does the battery last?
There are many variables that determine how long the battery could last including: rider weight, amount of hills, steepness of terrain, wind speeds, starting and stopping, and more. The biggest factor to your battery’s range however, is which assist mode you choose to ride in or how much of your ride is spent in each mode. Some of our E-Bikes come with a display that includes ‘Range’ which tells you how much longer you have on a charge in the mode you are currently riding in. If you need to go further, reduce the assist level & you will be able to ride further with assistance. If you’re near the end of your ride & getting tired, you can increase your assistance level & the bike will do more of the work enabling you to reduce the amount of effort you are putting into the pedals.
There is also an interactive range calculator you can use on the trek website to help you understand how changing variables will affect how long your battery will last - as seen here:
What happens if I run out of battery?
Running out of battery with your E-Bike is not usually a major issue. If the battery does die, the bike can still be used just as a regular bike – albeit a slightly heavier regular bike until you get back to your charger.
Do they have a throttle?
While some E-Bikes do have a throttle, here at Totally Spoke’d we currently deal with Class 1 E-Bikes that are pedal assist only. Pedal assist e-bikes use either a strain gauge, a cadence sensor, or in some cases both, to measure how much effort you are putting into the pedals and adds a certain percentage of that power to the motor depending on which assistance mode you are in. So, in order to get any assistance from the motor you need to pedal the bike.
How many levels of assistance are there?
Most of our E-Bikes have 3 or 4 modes of assist depending on the model & basically, the higher the assist level, the more battery it will use & the less rider effort necessary to reach that 32km/h limit.
In the lowest setting or ‘Eco’ riding mode, you only get a small amount of support, (maybe 30% – 40% of your effort) but this increases your range & you will be able to go further before depleting the charge in your battery.
The Sport riding mode gives you powerful support for universal use. Both for sporty riding and for brisk commuting in city traffic. This riding mode will give you more support from the motor (50% - 100% of your effort) & will decrease your range as the motor uses more of the battery.
The Turbo riding mode offers you direct, maximum power support (200% + of your effort) up to the highest cadences for steep hills. This mode will use the most battery but require the least amount of effort to get to & maintain that 32km/H limit.
Can the battery be removed?
The short answer is ‘yes’ the battery can be removed on all models. However, the longer answer is that on some of the lower end models the battery can only be removed by a licensed professional who has been trained on the system so these would be more of a ‘built-in’ system & the battery is only removed for service or replacement. The higher end models generally come equipped with a key that will allow you to unlock & remove the battery from the bike. Removing the battery allows you to bring it in the house for charging & reduces the weight of the bike (by about 10 lbs) for anyone that may have to carry the bike up or down any stairs & for transporting the bike on a vehicle’s bike rack.
How much do they cost?
E-Bikes can have quite the price range depending on features, motor type, battery size, etc. starting around $2499.00 & going up to $8000 or $10000 form some of the higher end models.
Can I test ride an E-Bike?
You can read & talk about e-bikes forever but there's nothing that explains these bikes quite like a test ride. Our shop offers walk-in test rides with all bikes, Including E-Bikes. We provide the bike and helmets so all you need to bring is yourself!
How do I charge my E-Bike?
All our E-Bikes are come with a charger that that plugs into a standard outlet. Some E-Bikes have a removable battery for ease of charging, however some E-Bikes are designed in such a way the charger is plugged directly into a port on the bike as the battery is not easily removable.
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully most of your questions have been answered & you are now looking forward to a test ride as soon as possible? For those looking for an even deeper dive down the e-bike rabbit hole, we will continue with information on the actual components as well as providing some links to specific brands that we carry & the information they have available about their individual systems & features.
While there are many different configurations to the various e-bike systems, basically the drive unit, display and battery are the components that make an e-Bike an e-Bike. These are supplemented by digital services and apps for fine tuning how the system behaves, for navigation & diagnostics as well as integration into 3rd party cycling/health apps like ‘Strava’ or ‘Apple Health’. All these components are most effective when thought of as a single unit and designed as a system. This way, they work together in harmony creating a seamless riding experience.
Most of our Electra E-Bikes use a Bosh system (motor & battery) & are mid-drive units with removable batteries.
Bosch Systems: https://www.bosch-ebike.com/ca/
The entry level Electra e-bikes however, run on a “Hyena” system & have a rear hub drive unit as well as an integrated battery.
Electra Go! E-bikes: https://www.trekbikes.com/ca/en_CA/bikes/electra-bikes/electra-e-bikes/c/EB200/
Specialized E-Bikes use a proprietary system manufactured in conjunction with Brose & are a mid-drive, removable battery type of set up.
Specialized E-bikes: https://www.specialized.com/ca/en/electric-bikes
Norco uses the Shimano Steps e-bike system which also feature mid-drive motors & removable batteries.
Norco e-mountain: https://www.norco.com/bikes/e-mountain/
Norco e-urban: https://www.norco.com/bikes/e-urban/
Shimano Steps: https://lifestylebike.shimano.com/us/products/e-bike/
Batteries are the component that is advancing the most on e-bikes. They are lighter than ever, charge faster & last longer than lithium-ion batteries of the past.
The high-quality lithium-ion batteries used today are equipped with a Battery Management System: this continuously monitors the battery, detects potential error sources and protects the cells from overload when in use as well as when charging.
The quality batteries with lithium ion cells used by our suppliers no longer have that ‘memory effect’ found in older battery technology allowing the battery to be charged even for a short time if desired, regardless of their charge level. Interruptions in the charging process do not harm the batteries. Complete discharge is not necessary.
If there is ever an issue with your battery these systems are so ‘smart’ that you can bring the bike in to a service center for diagnostics test (similar to your vehicle mechanic) that will give a report on the health of your battery, update any firmware & ensure you get the most life out of your battery.
eBike battery safety
Lithium-ion batteries are complex, finely tuned systems with a high energy content. Their contents can, in principle, be flammable in certain conditions. This is why all quality eBike batteries undergo extensive testing and may only be launched on the market once they’ve passed these tests.
The best eBike system manufacturers go above and beyond the strict legal requirements, with certain tests, and pays special attention to battery safety throughout the entire value chain. For example, the entire Bosch eBike system is certified to UL 2849, which is a standard covering the electrical system of eBikes powered by a lithium-based, rechargeable battery. UL 2849 has strict requirements for electrical shock, mechanical and fire hazards. Additionally, the high-quality lithium-ion batteries have a Battery Management System (BMS) that detects significant potential sources of error and effectively protects cells against overheating.
What is the lifespan of an e-bike battery?
About 5 years
Generally speaking, a high-quality eBike battery can last anywhere from 2 – 5 years. Of course, that depends on a number of things including the type of battery itself and just how well you take care of it. The most common battery found in electric bikes nowadays is a lithium battery.
Long service life of quality lithium-ion batteries is designed for many trips, miles and years of service. The intelligent electronic Battery Management System (BMS) protects against excessive operating temperatures, overloading and deep discharge. The BMS checks every single cell and thus makes the battery even more durable.
What is the warranty on the battery?
Refer to the Turbo bike manual. The warranty terms are two years or 300 charge cycles/75% remaining capacity. This means that Specialized warranties batteries that have less capacity than 75% after 300 charge cycles. A charge cycle is a full charge part cycles are calculated by the BMS system until one full cycle can be added.
They warranty their batteries to hold a minimum of 60% of full charge capacity for 2 years or 500 charge cycles (whichever comes first). According to Bosch a charge cycle is a full discharge and recharge. A partial discharge and recharge only counts as such eg discharging and charging 25% of capacity four times will count as one full charge cycle. The battery management system records the number of charge cycles and the information is accessible to authorised dealers via diagnostic software. Do note though, a good quality battery should give good range for much longer than 2 years – in fact Bosch themselves state that the battery should be good for around 8-9 years or 1000 full charge cycles.
On their website Shimano outlines their impressive warranty; ‘As with every modern battery, capacity will decrease due to charging. Shimano guarantees a remaining battery capacity of 60% after 1000 charge cycles. Your dealer can determine the remaining battery capacity for you’ which certainly implies the battery guarantee could easily extend beyond two years, even for a rider e-biking regular and quite long distances.
Different drive types
There are 2 different drive types that we sell, being mid drive, and hub drive. Mid drive means that the motor is stationed in the center of the bike right where the bottom bracket is (pedal area). Hub drive E-Bikes have the motor stationed in the hub of the rear wheel (or in some cases the front wheel).
Around 90% of all electric bikes have a mid-drive motor. Most e-Bike riders have good reason to choose this concept:
The most advanced drive technology is particularly notable for the natural riding sensation it offers, thanks to the direct transmission of power to the chain. Compared to front or rear wheel motors, the mid-drive motor also scores highly for its balanced weight distribution and low centre of gravity. In addition, it offers outstanding drive control, is compatible with all shifting systems and uses less energy than front or rear wheeled motors. Further advantages of the mid-drive motor include the compact construction and low weight. Smooth integration into the frame's design permits greater ground clearance and a lower 'Q' factor.
The secret behind the natural riding sensation is the multi-sensor concept ensures perfectly coordinated motor support. The sensors measure torque, speed and acceleration more than 1000 times per second, ensuring perfect interaction between the rider and eBike. The technology not only ensures riding enjoyment, but also the necessary level of safety: if the legal maximum speed is exceeded, the motor support will switch off automatically.
The handlebar or stem mounted controller lets you choose from different levels of support, monitor your battery charge and turn the bike on and off. Other features displayed may include current speed, distance & battery range among others.
Most quality e-bikes offer integrated app technology as well with some even having the option of a mounting bracket for your phone & uses that screen as the display screen for your system.
The connectivity to a smart phone provides the user with the ability to tweak the system settings, monitor the health of the system & adds the convenience of navigation assistance as well.
Each manufacturer uses its own app technology so what you can control about your system & what features are offered varies from app to app.