An e-bike or electric bike is a bicycle that can be propelled by pedals as well as powered by electricity.
E-bikes are equipped with electric motors, which propel them at maximum speeds of about 15 to 28 mph, depending on the local laws.
There are numerous kinds of electric bikes, from e-bikes with little motor assist to the rider’s pedal-power (pedelecs) to far powerful e-bikes, almost similar to moped-like e-bikes.
From Bare Cycling to Need for Speed. And Safety
A lot of folks think e-bikes are a new invention, which they aren’t. The first e-bike dates to the 1890s.
E-bikes, such as pedelecs, feel just like regular bikes—only better. A pedelec lets you control your speed with your feet, like conventional bikes, except that you feel more powerful, and can accelerate with ease.
While e-bikes do some work for you, riding one is still considered exercise, particularly for people who’ve been sedentary.
E-bikes are safer than conventional bikes.
Most bike accidents occur at junctions, like roundabouts or crossroads. This is (often) because it takes more than a few critical seconds for an immobile cyclist to accrue speed.
With a little motor to help build up speed faster, you’ll get out of harm’s way quicker. For a similar purpose, you’ll less likely jump a red light since you won’t feel slighted for letting go that piled up momentum.
And more, you’ll easily slow down in corners and bends, instead of coming off. Plus, you can effortlessly keep up with the traffic flow, discouraging vehicles from overtaking you, meaning safer riding.
What’s an Electric Motor for eBike?
There can never be an e-bike without several electric components, particularly an electric motor, being integrated into the design.
An e-bike motor is an electrical machine used to power an e-bike unassisted or assisted with pedaling.
Essentially, an electric motor translates electrical energy into mechanical movement. Most (if not all) electric motors nowadays use brushless DC motors (BLDC motors). In fact, brushless motors have been the industry standard for over a decade now.
Note that, a motor can be located in various places and manners. Having said that, roll your sleeves and ride your way into the next section.
Types of eBike Motors
Just like a car, an electric motor can be mounted at the rear, middle, and front of the e-bike.
Plus, it comes in different sizes and shapes.
The most widely used types are hub, and mid-drive motors. Generally speaking, hub motors have two variations: a direct drive motor, and a geared hub motor.
Geared Hub Motor
An in-built flywheel mechanism releases the shaft from the axle as the rider coasts, inhibiting the addition of more resistance.
A geared hub motor delivers mechanical superiority with lightweight and smaller motors. Even so, they generate more friction, and thus extra noise, and wear out faster.
Direct Drive Motor
A direct drive motor is usually larger than other types, considering they take in magnets, making them weighty.
Despite that, these motors pack fewer moving parts, which theoretically should mean they’re long-lasting.
Most direct drive motors don’t include a freewheel mechanism. They much rely on electromagnets. With such simplicity, this motor delivers quiet and smooth performance.
Direct drive motors are often used in high-powered applications, thus generally used on 3,000 watts bikes. And up.
Besides, it’s got to be physically bigger to get sufficient torque for the bike to move. Plus, it dissipates heat more easily. Thanks to their larger size.
And more, one turn of the motor turns the bicycle wheel once, making them an ideal choice for faster cruising speeds in flatter areas.
The mid-drive motor system pushes the chain forward, and not the wheel, benefitting from mechanical mechanisms, like using gears for climbing or going fast.
Mid-drive motors are usually used in electric bikes meant for a range of performance. This is primarily due to the fact that you can switch gears like you would in a motorcycle. Shift into a high gear when you’re on a flat area and then shift into a low gear when climbing a hill.
One disadvantage though…you’ll more likely witness wear and tear on the drivetrain of your e-bike with this kind of motor.
Why Convert Your Normal Bike into an Electric Bike?
While both new e-bike and upgraded e-bike fundamentally offer a similar selection of components, there are several good reasons you’d want to transform your beloved old bike into an electric one.
At the outset, buying an e-bike can be expensive. What’s more, some individuals are too tied to their old standard bikes. Thankfully, an e-bike conversion kit (with an e-bike motor) can help you transform your old bike into an electric one.
To transform your conventional bike into an e-bike, all you need is to install the kit. And like complete e-bikes, this doesn’t transform your regular bike into a motorcycle—you still gotta pedal to make the engine work.
The two main advantages of transforming your bike are cost and familiarity. Converting a regular bike to an e-bike allows you to continue using a bike you know and love, and purchasing a conversion kit is mostly going to be a cheaper option compared to buying a complete e-bike.
What to Consider before Buying an eBike Motor
As mentioned earlier, an e-bike motor is one of the essential components of any bike and has seen numerous developments over the years.
It’s no brainer that a motor should be designed correctly to propel an e-bike efficiently.
Although operating a motor that generates better speeds and torque will most likely cost you more, it boils down to what you want to achieve. For instance, cruising, climbing hills, and mountain biking are a few factors to influence the kind of ride you want.
It’s recommended you check out the legally accepted wattage in your state for your e-bike to be considered a bicycle. The US Federal definition of an e-bike, for example, allows a 750-watt motor, which it permits to power your bike up to about 20 mph.
While you won’t need to use maximum torque all the time, it’s good to know how much grunt you pack. Of course, riders are also fond of knowing the weights of everything, and how speedy they can go on them.
The maximum torque that an e-bike puts out affects how the bike performs on very steep, high-power climbs, and how fast the motor helps you to attain the e-bike’s maximum speed.
Even more, your ideal motor should be compatible with components that give you ultimate control over your new ride. For instance, some e-bikes feature discrete buttons, which let you adjust the motor output from the handlebar.
Some cyclists want a completely resistance-free experience. Note that e-bike motors behave in different ways when you stop pedaling, dependent on how they’re programmed to disengage. While specific motors completely de-couple when you reach the max speed for the pedal assist, others remain engaged and induce a little resistance.
Where to Buy an Electric Motor for Your Bike
The world of electric bike motors can be overwhelming, with many brands producing different hardware and software. Some of these brands are reputable with impeccable quality control and support, but others aren’t. Where do you find good quality e-bike motors?
As with buying any component of an e-bike, you need to find the best-fitting e-bike motor for your ride.
While we don’t focus much on the “who is who” when talking to cyclists about where to shop for motors, we know better than to separate riders from their obsession for the “major manufacturer!”
Speaking of major manufacturers, Yamaha, Bosch, Shimano, Rocky Mountain, and Specialized Panasonic are among the industry leaders.
These big players pour stacks of resources into their e-bike production lines. This alone is an indication of their commitment to producing reliable parts.
If it’s a Bosch motor, for example, you can be confident it’s a good quality motor since Bosch is very selective about who they sell their component kits to. Besides, they offer good support.
From the list, only Rocky Mountain, and Specialized Panasonic manufacture e-motors for their own bikes. For this reason, if you want those components, then shop with them.
On the other hand, brands like Yamaha can be found on big names such as Haibike and Giant. Bosch is found on, to mention a few, Haibike, Trek, Focus, Scott, and KTM, while Shimano Steps is on bikes from BMC, Scott, Pivot, and Merida.
Google it! Oh, yes. If the same brand is sold to outsized and perceptive US and European markets and has nice reviews, there’s some guarantee of quality.
Brick and mortar stores are your best bet, particularly if you’ve got burning questions about performance, and which motor best fits your bike. Notwithstanding the said, beware of those operating out of industrial units, on TradeMe, or pop-up stores, most of them aren’t committed to staying there long term.
Online shops are another obvious option, like Amazon and Alibaba, but there are some quite serious trade-offs. For instance, your e-bike motor could arrive banged up, and most don’t come with warranties. Worse, some companies selling component kits on such stores are pretty transient, and with no customer support.
Cycling is the new driving. As attitudes towards cycling keep changing, so are e-bike motors. E-bike motors have evolved over the years. From the first brushed motors, now we’re here.
As you may have noticed, each type of motor has unique advantages. Some specs may matter to you more than others, which should influence your purchasing decision. All in all, be wary of agents who maintain a specific type of motor outperforms all others, as they often are specialists in that particular e-bike motor. If anything, try the various options and decide for yourself.