What is an Electric Bicycle?

Introduction to Electric Bicycles

An electric bicycle is a bicycle that uses an electric motor to help with propulsion. Basically, it's like a normal bicycle with the addition of a battery pack and an electric motor - you can recharge the battery pack at any time by plugging it into the mains.

The motor's there to ease the burden of pedalling, making it easier to go uphill or cycle into headwind, and it will help you cycle further, with less effort, than you could on a regular bicycle. There are times you'll still need or choose to pedal, whether it's to go faster than the motor's rate-limited top speed, to help the bike up a hill, or to extend the range of the battery.

Some electric bikes let you use them in 3 modes: pedal only (like a regular bike), pedal-assisted (you're pedalling but the motor's helping you) and motor only (you're letting the bike do all the work). Other bikes are limited by design to providing powered assistance only when you're pedalling, i.e. you can't simply let the motor run and ride around without any effort on your part.

The law in the UK requires electric bicycles to reduce the power supplied by the motor as the bike's speed approaches 25km/hour (15mph). This doesn't prevent you to going faster than that, but you're going to have to do it under your own steam as the motor will stop helping you (switch off) once you hit the top legal speed it's allowed to operate at.

Purpose-built electric bikes are available in various styles and models, but you can also buy conversion kits that will let you turn any suitable regular bike into an electric bicycle. If you have a favourity bike already, a conversion kit might be the way to go as you can keep your current ride and improve it.

External Resources for Further Reading

FAQ: What is an electric bike or e-Bike?