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Written by
Frances McCann
Frances McCann

The E-Bike Revolution: What is an E-Bike?

E-bikes, or electric bikes ("electrically assisted pedal cycles" to be formal), are big news at the moment with sales increasing fast across the world. Considering myself averagely fit, choosing an e-bike on a biking trip did pose a dilemma! Naturally competitive (with myself), did I really need it? Should I not be putting in the full effort? But, after all, this was a break, and an escape, and why not have an extra way to take it easy?

It was a great decision! My regular cycling routes generally dodge the hills where possible, and in Greece I faced HILLS. Having the option for extra help from the e-bike truly added to the enjoyment of the trip. So as a convert to the electric bike, I've summarised some information and advice explaining what they are, and how they could help you on your next cycling holiday.

Cycling in Greece on my E-Bike

Heading to (another) vineyard on my e-bike!

What is an E-Bike?

You can use an electric bike or "e-bike" just like a normal bike. Although it has a battery powered motor, it is not a motorbike, and it won't move unless you're pedalling. An e-bike has a battery pack (usually on the back or attached to the lower bar of the frame) which when switched on will give the pedals a boost, making light work for your legs as you push up a hill.

How does an E-Bike work?

Switch it on via the digital display on the handlebars, and you'll get a display which usually gives you distance, battery charge indicator, and power level indicator.

E-Bike digital display

The digital display lets you check in on your battery life

Each model is different, but usually simply switching the display or power on will not mean you have power to the pedals automatically. In the case of my bike, I had to use a throttle in the form of "up" and "down" buttons on the display to offer a choice of power level, from a gentle push to a full on "oomph"! Many models however sense you pushing on the pedals to seamlessly assist with the appropriate power. The boost we got from full power was quite surprising (and it's fun to feel like you are super-charged for a couple of minutes). That's it, other than that, you just need to pedal. And steer, of course!

Each bike is different, but in general you can get as much (or as little) help as you want, and you very quickly get used to the controls.

Charging an E-Bike

The battery charges from the mains power, and you should make sure it is charged daily if you are on a multi-day trip. The bike I used had to be plugged in directly (the battery was not removable due to the pannier rack), however I was in Greece, where the weather means most accommodation establishments have outdoor power sockets.

Charging an E-Bike

Charging an E-Bike

Many bikes have removable battery packs, so you simply take the pack into your room to charge at night. A full charge takes on average 3 - 5 hours. Because you don't need to use the power much on flatter sections of your rides, (or at all when going downhill), I found that there was always leftover charge at the end of the day, even despite asking my bike for a lot of help on some big hills!

What else do I need to know about E-Bikes?

E-bikes are a little heavier than standard bikes, so you have to bear in mind that gentle hills you might normally manage OK on a standard bike may need a bit of power on the e-bike, due to the extra battery and motor weight. This means it is a good idea to give it a full charge when you can on multi-day trips.

There are all kinds of different E-Bike, so if you are considering buying one, it is worth doing a little research to find out what type of set-up will be best for you. Bear in mind that buying an e-bike will be more expensive, costing from $1000 upwards into tens of 1000's new to buy, so you want to choose carefully.

They are however very efficient to run. In the US E-Bikes are divided into 3 classes in terms of top (power assisted) speed and propulsion, all are allowed in the majority of states and cities unrestricted without need for a license, but of course, you should check the latest information.

If you're renting an e-bike on holiday, then you probably won't have much choice between the type of E-Bike, but rest assured rental agents offer similar products to the one I highlighted here which are easy to use, easy to charge in your destination, and will make your cycling trip the most relaxing ever (or even help you keep up with a keen-cyclist travel partner).

Browse a few trips offering e-bike options here, for the perfect mix of adventure on two wheels and minimal effort!

This post was updated from a post originally published in 2015.

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