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Written by
Frances McCann
Frances McCann

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

E-bikes, or electric bikes, are big news at the moment with sales increasing faster than any other type of bike in Europe. I like to think of myself as fairly fit, so when I was charged with testing out an e-bike whilst on a recent cycling trip to Greece, I have to admit I perhaps slightly arrogantly thought: "But I don't really need it....". Well, it was a great decision! My regular cycling routes generally dodge hills where possible, and in Greece I faced HILLS. 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. [caption id="attachment_16606" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Cycling in Greece on my E-Bike Heading to (another) vineyard on my e-bike![/caption]

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. [caption id="attachment_16612" align="aligncenter" width="900"]E-Bike digital display The digital display lets you check in on your battery life.[/caption] Each model is different, but usually simply switching the display on will not mean you have power to the pedals. 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"! Some models 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 have a super-power for a couple of minutes). That's it, other than that, you just need to pedal. And steer, of course!

Charging an E-Bike

The battery charges from the mains power, so you have to plug it in. 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. [caption id="attachment_16607" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Charging an E-Bike Charging an E-Bike[/caption] 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 4 - 5 hours, and will assist you for 20-30 miles of cycling on a gentle power level. Our days were longer than this, but that was OK as you don't need to use the power much on flat rides, or at all when going downhill, so there was always leftover charge despite some big hills!

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

E-bikes are 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.
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 £500 upwards into £1000's new to buy, so you want to choose carefully. They are however very efficient to run. In the UK, you need to be over 14 to ride one on a public road. If you're renting an e-bike on holiday, then you probably won't have much choice between bikes, but rest assured rental agents offer similar products to the one I highlighted here which are easy to use, easy to charge, 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!
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