"E-bike" can mean both a pedelec and an S-pedelec. However, these are two very different classes of electrically powered bicycles, which means a fundamental decision when buying. In general, an e-bike only offers support from a motor as long as the rider himself is also pedalling. There is no difference here between pedelec and S-pedelec. However, the achievable speed differs considerably: with a normal pedelec, up to 25 km/h with assistance is possible; at higher speeds, the assistance of the motor must be dispensed with. The situation is different with S-pedelecs: These offer motor assistance up to 45 km/h. However, this also results in a few disadvantages or limitations.
To ride an S-pedelec in Germany or Austria, you must have a moped licence, you must be at least 16 years old, and you must wear a helmet when riding. Since an S-pedelec is also treated like a moped, a number plate must be attached to the vehicle. It may only be used on normal roads and not on cycle paths. For a pedelec, on the other hand, the same rules apply as for normal bicycles.
The type of e-bike you choose depends, of course, on your individual needs and requirements. In general, however, pedelecs are sold for the most part, as the motor support up to 25 km/h is sufficient for the vast majority of purposes and there are significantly fewer restrictions on operation.
Another crucial question is what kind of bike it should be. There is an incredible range here, from city bikes to trekking bikes to mountain bikes. Folding bikes and cargo bikes are also popular as e-bikes and can offer great added value in everyday life, but they remain niche products. Here, the area of use clearly dictates what kind of bike is best suited.
A city bike, as the name suggests, is suitable for riding on flat roads in the city. City bikes are usually equipped in accordance with the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (or the Traffice Licensing Regulations in the corresponding country) and have fewer gears than other bikes, as these are not needed in flat urban areas.
The trekking bike is an all-round bicycle that can be ridden both in the city and on hilly terrain. It is also designed to carry luggage and is very suitable as a touring bike.
The bike tour leads into mountainous terrain and the one or other descent is to be mastered? Then you should definitely take a closer look at an e-mountain bike. These have comfortable suspension, either on the fork at the front (hardtail), or even on the front and rear wheel (fully), which makes riding on almost any terrain possible. The seating position is usually a little sportier and there is no luggage rack.
The type of motor installed also has a noticeable effect on the price, but also on the riding characteristics of the e-bike. The cheaper models usually have a hub motor, either on the front or rear axle. A hub motor on the front wheel is particularly inexpensive, but shifts the centre of gravity of the bike unusually and rather unfavourably to the front. This changes the riding characteristics significantly, the risk of slipping increases and the steering behaviour generally becomes less precise. The better choice is a hub motor on the rear wheel, but this does not allow you to use a hub gear or coaster brake at the same time.
Higher-priced e-bikes usually have a mid-mounted motor. This is located at the bottom bracket and supports the power transmission directly at the front chainring. Apart from the higher price and the somewhat heavier load on the drive, a mid-motor otherwise has only advantages compared to a hub motor: The low position of the motor ensures a low centre of gravity, which has a positive effect on handling. In addition, mid-mounted motors are generally very low-wear.
The battery of the e-bike is a component that should not be ignored when buying. The capacities range from 300 Wh for older or cheaper bikes to 750 Wh for current higher-priced models. The intended use of your e-bike is the decisive factor here: If you are only planning to cycle the short way to work, a smaller battery is sufficient. However, if you are planning longer tours or even tours lasting several days, you will be glad to have a higher battery power! Some bikes also offer the option of attaching a second battery to the frame, which doubles the range. These are especially suitable for fans of longer tours.
The assistance mode also plays a role in power consumption, of course. Riding in eco-mode with little assistance consumes significantly less energy than in turbo mode. The battery also runs out of power more quickly when going uphill.
If you are unsure about the capacity of the battery, if in doubt, opt for a little more power, so that you have a good reserve and still enough range when the capacity slowly decreases with longer use.
Apart from the motor and battery, it is also important to take a look at the rest of the e-bike's equipment. Since the electric bikes can reach high speeds quite quickly without much physical exertion and are also relatively heavy, we definitely recommend a bike with hydraulic disc brakes. These offer enough power to stop the e-bike again quickly and are usually quite low-maintenance.
The type of gears also makes a difference in terms of the ride itself, but also in terms of maintenance. Derailleur gears can offer ranges of over 500% and are therefore very versatile. However, they need to be cleaned and maintained regularly. Those who are somewhat skilled can do this themselves, though.
The situation is different with hub gears. These are very low-maintenance, but usually have to be taken to an expert if there are problems. They also offer a smaller range than derailleur gears. However, hub gears are best suited for certain areas of use, such as city bikes.
Apart from brakes and gears, you should also pay attention to the integrated lighting system (if available) when buying an e-bike. Here, it is essential that the light continues to shine even when the bike's battery is empty. This is the only way to guarantee your safety at all times.
Useful e-bikes start at a price of about 2,000 euros. Unless it is a special offer, you should keep your hands off cheaper models. Although these are cheap to buy, they are often subject to more wear and tear due to inferior components and are more susceptible to defects. In the end, this can result in significantly higher maintenance costs, which puts the lower purchase price into perspective.
- Our tip: In general, it makes sense to be clear about your own needs and expectations of an e-bike before buying and to inform yourself accordingly. If questions arise, it is advisable to write them down and ask the local bike dealer before buying. A reputable dealer will take the time to answer your questions and also address your concerns.
When you have found the e-bike of your dreams, we definitely recommend that you also take a test ride! Because no matter how good the bike looks in the shop, it must also be suitable for you in practice. Only on a test ride will you notice whether you sit securely on the bike and whether the handlebar and saddle position are comfortable. On a small scale, the positions can be adjusted, but this should also be done before the purchase, so that you definitely feel comfortable on the e-bike during the test ride.
Motor and battery add considerably to the weight of a bicycle, which is why e-bikes normally weigh more than 20 kilograms, sometimes even almost 30 kilograms. This should definitely be taken into account when transporting with a bicycle carrier, as you can reach a weight of around 50 kilograms with just two bikes. In addition, you should also consider the permissible total weight of the bicycle. This is made up of the weight of the bicycle, the rider and the luggage. If, for example, an e-bike has a permissible total weight of 125 kg and a tare weight of 25 kg, this leaves only 100 kg for the rider and luggage - depending on the rider and the amount of luggage, you will quickly reach the limit here. Therefore, before buying, you should make sure that the desired bike is designed for your own body weight and the luggage to be transported.
Last but not least, an important point that, in our experience, is often not taken seriously enough: The anti-theft device of the e-bike. E-bikes are often characterized by a high price and are currently very popular - not only with honest buyers, but also with thieves who hope for poorly secured bikes.
There is no 100% protection against theft, but you can make it much more difficult for thieves. A thick chain lock or a U-lock are the safest options. In addition, if possible, always lock the bicycle to another object, for example to a fence or a street light. That way, it cannot simply be carried away. Ideally, you should not only lock the frame, but also at least one of the wheels.