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How to choose the right electric bike?

Last updated on 18 September 2020

Not very common just a few years ago, electric bikes are attracting a growing number of people. In Brussels, 20% of the bicycles circulating during rush hour are e-bikes!

Have you decided to take the plunge? Does the idea of being able to pedal without (much) effort, even on hills, and to travel more smoothly sound appealing to you? Here are a few tips on how to choose your electrically assisted bicycle.

1. Define your needs precisely

There are a multitude of e-bikes on the market today, with prices ranging from € 800 to over € 3,000! They are more or less powerful, fixed or foldable, with or without a removable battery...

To get a clearer picture, start by defining your needs and expectations:

  • how often will you be using the e-bike?
  • what kind of distances will be covered?
  • how tall are you and how much do you weigh? Make no mistake, an e-bike is heavy: from 17 to 25 kg.
  • will you be carrying baggage?
  • will you be transporting children ?
  • are you going to carry your bike in the trunk of a car or on public transport?

Call on an expert for advice.

2. Choose the type of assistance that suits you best

With motion sensor

The motor gets going after 2 to 3 pedal rotations and ignores how slowly or quickly you are pedalling. This can be quite tricky at the outset. This type of e-bike is more difficult to start up, but generally less expensive to purchase.

With power sensor

The pedal power assistance starts as soon as you start pedalling and goes increasingly faster. More comfortable, but also a lot more expensive. This is recommended if you have to stop several times on your route, for example at red lights

3. Learn about the battery

Don't be fooled by the manufacturers' promises of range. The estimated battery range may vary depending on your route, your weight, your level of assistance, the number of stops. So do not believe blindly the manufacturers' commitments on the electric range. 

On the other hand, it is interesting to look at some of the technical characteristics of the battery...

Higher amperage = higher range

The battery capacity, expressed in Ampere-hours (Ah) is a good indicator of its range. The higher it is, the longer will be the range.

Higher voltage = more assistance

Also, the higher the voltage (V) of the e-bike, the greater assistance will be available to you on hills.

Composition: Lithium or Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) is preferred

These newer batteries are lighter, less costly and last longer.

Choose a removable and lockable battery

This will make it easier for you to recharge!

4. Check the type of brakes

E-bikes can be quite a considerable weight (17 to 25 kg) and achieve high speeds. That means excellent quality brakes are a must, with the safest brakes are hydraulic brakes.

You could also go for a motor brake: this system recovers the energy when you brake to recharge the battery. These electric bikes are much faster, so it’s vital that you wear the appropriate protective gear.

5. Get the right protection gear

Even though wearing a helmet when driving an electric bike is not compulsory, it's something we would strongly recommend.
Other useful safety accessories include:

  • a high vis jacket
  • a rear-view mirror
  • a danger indicator: a bar in a striking colour you attach to the bike and which makes sure vehicles maintain a safe distance
Keep it safe: adopt a defensive riding style! Motorists are often caught off guard by the sheer speed of electric bikes.

6. Try before you buy

Want to find out what fund driving an e-bike can be on a nice summer’s day? Hire one for the day in Brussels. Try Pro Velo not-for-profit organisation for instance. 

If you use the Villo! shared bike network, you can subscribe to the eVillo! option to benefit from electrical assistance when you use one of their bikes.

Buying guide

Be sure to read the Test-Achats purchasing guide (in French).
Consult the Pro Velo ASBL guide

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