Find out the best pieces of kit you'll need before you buy your first E-bike!
The UK may be a little bit late to the party when it comes to embracing the E-bike phenomenon, but we’re making remarkable progress when it comes to chasing down the leading pack. For the last three years, sales of electric bikes on the continent have grown in excess of 20% year-on-year – with half of all bikes sold in Germany last year classified as E-bikes.
The battery-powered electric motor, which kicks in to assist with your pedalling, makes cycling uphill a breeze and has spawned an entire range of increasingly popular E-mountain bikes. If you prefer to spend your time on a much smoother surface however, then the electric bicycle has proven to be a viable alternative to the car for those living in built-up, urban sprawls.
So whether you’re a weekend adventurer, looking for a little bit of assistance getting up those mammoth inclines; a daily commuter, fed up of the choice between the congestion charge and a sweaty suit, or even a delivery driver in the gig economy looking to make life a little bit easier. Here, we talk you through the best accessories on the market for recent E-bike converts or those of you thinking about making the switch.
1) Spare batteries
Of course, the most distinctive feature of the E-bike and the one that differentiates it between the humble bicycle, is its electric motor. To keep your electric bicycle powering along in the best possible condition, you’ll need to stock up with the right batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries, the kind you’ll find in your laptop, phone and iPod, are the most commonly used in the world of electric bicycles. This is partly down to them being easier to attach to different bike frames due to their dainty size, and partly because of their ability to hold more ‘charge cycles’ – essentially how many times a battery can be recharged without losing efficiency.
There are E-bikes which use nickel or even lead acid batteries, but by and large your noble steed will run on lithium-ion. The size of which will depend on the type of E-bike you’re using. For the E-MTB users among you, you’ll want a battery that gives you enough ‘oomph’ to get around the steep inclines, but you won’t want to sacrifice any weight. For road-use, you’ll likely need a battery with as much capacity as possible to survive the daily commute. The higher the wattage, the more power you’re likely to get. You can purchase batteries with as little as 24V, or as much as 48V – these higher-range batteries can weigh over 3kg’s. Remember, if the batteries run flat, then you’ll have to lug around that extra weight! By keeping a spare, fully-charged battery on you on your journey you are always prepared.
The emergence of the E-bike has brought about a number of specific issues relating to maintenance. The electric bicycle market includes their own range of specific sprays and lubricants to keep your wheels in tip-top shape. E-bike lubes are designed to withstand the higher torque and pressure output from the drivetrains of electric bicycles.
A lubricated bike is a healthy bike as they say, so to keep your e-machine in tip-top condition, you’ll need to look after it. Now, if you’re already a keen cyclist you’ll know all about how to properly lubricate your chain and when you should do so. Cleaning your E-bike is more or less the same. You should purchase a dry, wax-based lube and with the British weather being what it is, a wet, oil-based lube.
You’ll also be able to find a connection spray which is designed to protect the ports on your E-bike from corrosion, which can be very useful. The main thing to consider though is how you clean your electric bike. While they may be just fine to ride in the wet, electricity and water generally don’t mix, so avoid using a pressure washer as this can force water into seals, remove essential grease and damage electrical components. Instead, lightly soak the bike with a wet sponge, apply some de-greaser, give it a scrub and then dry off gently with a towel.
3) Lifter clamp stand
We hope that the E-bike is one of the best investments you ever make, but we understand that they may not be the cheapest. With some ranges tipping the scales in upwards of a thousand pounds, you’ll want to make sure every inch of your kit is in working order. This is where the added-weight of the electric species is forcing the bicycle market to adapt.
The average weight of a standard E-bike is around 20kg, which is a lot of equipment to be lifting up to take a look at - and frankly - the stand you use to rest your feather-light road racer on isn’t going to cut it.
For the e-mountain bike riders among you especially, you’re going to need a work stand to you’re your garden shed into your very own repair shop. Grab yourself a stand – either of the two-legged or three-legged variety – that can easily support the weight of your machine. Many of these are powered by electricity themselves and as such can be quite costly, but to keep your investment safe it may be a price worth paying.
In the UK, law currently prohibits the motors attached to E-bikes from going any faster than 15mph. Downhill, you could travel even quicker on your e-MTB and there’s a chance that other road users may underestimate the speeds that even commuting E-bike riders hit.
While a motor may add a whole new level of assistance to your journey, it does also bring about a new level of risk. Your legs may be safe from the reduced amount of pedalling, so don’t neglect the most important part of your body – the head. Luckily, there is so much variety in E-bike helmets so you’ll never get bored of shopping around.
In general, helmets to accompany your electric bike will offer sufficient protection for road biking, while the downhill E-bikers will need some form of full-face helmet. The striking LED helmets, with built-in lights are bound to catch the eye and complete the futuristic look if those are more your style. Remember, if the motor on your bike exceeds UK regulations, you will need to wear a helmet by law.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this is an area of the E-bike accessory world that is being sat on. There was a time when you might have been right, but with 75,000 units of E-bikes sold in 2016 alone, there are enough bums on seats now to demand a comfier ride.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what you can get. More and more companies are developing specific saddles for electric bicycles with the rider in mind. The newest iterations of E-bike saddle feature more padding to protect you from the buzz of the motor, and to ensure lasting comfort for those – perhaps in the gig economy - who spend most of their day on their bike.
Not only that, but many of the saddles include an arched back to prevent the rider ‘sliding down’ the standard saddles you’ll find on an E-bike. You can find these marketed for both men and women.
If you’ve purchased an e-MTB you’ve probably done so with the primary intention of getting down and dirty. With this in mind, you may already be looking into which mudguards will fit your shiny new E-bike and if you haven’t already, you probably should.
Mudguards will protect that all-important drive chain from getting clogged up with mud and dirt which could not only be a pain to remove, but also cause some damage to your machine. If you’re purchasing an E-bike to get to-and-from work, it may get you there quicker, but it can’t guarantee you’ll get there cleaner. Nobody wants to turn up to their meeting with a streak of mud up their trousers, so for the commuter it’s well worth investing in a mud guard as well.