First E-Bike Advice Please.

Eddy Rush

New Member
I'm considering purchasing my first E-Bike and wondered if you good folk could point me in the right direction.

I'm still in the process of finding out what E-Bikes actually are and how they work etc. so I'll pose some questions I have first of all and then list my ideal requirements and things to consider.

Here goes :)

QUESTIONS

1) How good are they at managing steep hills/long stretches of inclined road and do you still have to pedal?

2) I notice some E-Bikes have what's known as 'Pedal assist' and some also have a throttle in addition - can you explain the difference?

3) I guess mudguards would come in handy for wet weather trips, would I be able to add them later?

IDEAL REQUIREMENTS AND CONSIDERATIONS

* Bike Style - I currently own a Diamond Back Full suspension MTB. It wasn't top of the range so it's a heavy beast but I do enjoy the comfort of full suspension and the look of these bikes with chunky (but not fat) tyres. I quite like the Haibike MTB style.

* I'm pushing 50 now and have an occasional dodgy knee so am needing a bit of help getting up those hills and steep inclines.

* I would be using the bike mainly for urban journeys with occasional off road trips across semi-rough terrain. Nothing too extreme, just countryside pathways which are a bit muddy and gravelly with a few bumps here and there. Nothing more than 10-15 mile round trips.

* Budget - Ideally no more than £1500 GBP (around $1900) One thing I am considering is getting an ordinary full suspension MTB and adding an electric conversion kit which may work out cheaper. Would anyone have experience of that?

* Speed - I live in the UK so am restricted by law to no more than 15.5 mph in urban areas.

Any help, advice or recommendations you can give would be most appreciated :)
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Hi Eddy from South Yorkshire, I'm from Leicester, studied in Sheffield for a year before emigrating to the US and enjoyed traveling around the peak district and south Yorkshire. Fun fact, in Pittsburgh at the University 'Cathedral of Learning' they have a series of nationality rooms and in the England room one of the windows displays the Sheffield city crest celebrating links to Pittsburgh's past industrial history as a steel-making town. Anyway on to your questions:

1) How good are E-Bikes at managing steep hills/long stretches of inclined road and do you still have to pedal?
A: I well remember climbing Sheffield's hills. It takes power to pull the weight of you, bike, motor, & battery, up hill. As you pointed out the UK has a 250W/15.5mph continuous power/speed limit. For purposes of making comparisons the formula for working out the peak power of an E-Bike is battery voltage times controller amperage e.g. 24v X 10a = 240W, this would be weak for peak power and definitely not enough to tackle hills as I can attest, my first attempt to convert my bike was with a 250W front hub kit which was alright for getting up to 15mph on the flat but failed miserably to provide meaningful assistance getting up hill so I returned it (buy from a UK shop to facilitate returns). This page on the UK Pedelecs website has more about UK E-Bike regulations and you can search the forum/ask questions about what types of bikes/kits with higher peak power are legal/fall under the "250W continuous rated power" definition.

If you decide to purchase a factory built E-Bike, try this website for suggestions between 1-2,000GBP. Try to find out the weight of the bike and where the battery is mounted makes a big difference to the balance. I first tried a battery on my rear rack but that meant I locked up the back wheel when braking hard, I then tried one mounted to the down-tube in place of the water bottle and the bike is better balanced.

If you decide to go the DIY kit route the Bafang BBS01 250W mid-drive kit plus battery for 600GBP from Woosh bikes seems to be popular. You can get the same kit plus battery for 600USD plus the cost of shipping from China but you will get no support and it is time consuming and very expensive to mail lithium batteries so buy locally to get actual customer service. It has 250W stamped on the motor, the controller comes from the factory with a 15a setting which paired with the 36v battery gives a peak power output of 540W, the continuous power is controlled by what PAS setting you are in, and speed limit can be controlled either from the display or by changing the controller setting so the kit can be tweaked to meet the UK legal definition and presumably Woosh sells the kit already set up to meet the UK regulations. For DIY a mid-drive kit might be the way to go because although you lose your multiple front chain rings, you keep your rear derailleur and through the chain the motor drives your remaining gears on the rear freewheel, your heavy motor is also low down in the center, which when paired with a bottle battery keeps the weight in the middle - don't discount this as you will be adding 15-20lbs to your bike. If you go this route also consider purchasing a Bafang compatible front chain ring adapter so you can mount a lower tooth count ring than the kit supplied chain ring - you should be aiming for no more than 10 tooth difference (and preferably fewer) between the front and rear gears for hill climbing comfortably. I own this kit and reckon this would be the minimum you need to tackle hills with pedalling, and for steep stretches you will be standing on the pedals. You can buy a USB adapater and download Bafang software to change the controller settings, this would invalidate your warranty, I uprated my controller to 18a and set a 17mph controller speed limit because it's street legal where I live and the extra power makes a big difference climbing hills - no more standing on pedals. The Bafang kit is rather delicate for the ham-fisted like me, I have destroyed a couple of non-essential cables/wires coming out of the motor through clumsiness, you should either zip-tie everything down before you go for a test-ride, or buy a factory E-Bike that routes cables though the frame.

2) I notice some E-Bikes have what's known as 'Pedal assist' and some also have a throttle in addition - can you explain the difference?
A: There are two types of pedal assist - cadence sensors act as an on-off switch for the motor when they detect you are pedalling - torque sensors detect how much effort you are putting into pedalling and increase power to compensate. Most cheaper E-Bikes & kits use a cadence sensor which is perfectly adequate because you modulate power by changing the PAS level. An E-Bike throttle might be a twist grip similar to what you find on a moped/scooter, or it may be a thumb-push or trigger switch. Some find throttles helpful when starting from stand still because you don't have to pedal to get going.

3) I guess mudguards would come in handy for wet weather trips, would I be able to add them later?
A: Yes, or your tires will throw muddy water onto your trousers and up your back. Hopefully your bike should come with brazed-on eyelets/lugs for screws - look on the inside of the frame near the top and bottom of the stays - otherwise you would need p-clamps to wrap around the stays.

Hope this helps :)
 
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Nirmala

Active Member
You might consider either a fat tire bike or a suspension seatpost like a thudbuster or bodyfloat, or even both, instead of a full suspension ebike. With the kind of use you are describing, a full suspension may be overkill and does generally add to the overall weight (and price) of the bike, while a suspension seatpost will add a fair degree of comfort similar to what you get with a full suspension. Fat tires add even more comfort (and weight) but they do reduce the range. With your maximum range of 15 miles or so, you should still be able to easily cover that much ground even with fat tires on your bike.

In general, mid-drives work better for long or steep hills as you can use the gears to allow the motor to work in its ideal range. Hub motors can sometimes overheat or bog down on hills, whereas with a mid-drive, you can shift down just as you do on a regular bike, and the motor can keep working at or near its ideal speed of RPMs. This would seem to be especially true in the UK given the limits on overall power of the motor. Some mid-drive sytems even still have two front chainrings for an even wider range of gears for the motor (and your own legs) to work with. On a very long or steep hill, you will probably still need to pedal some to keep a bare minimum of speed, but again shifting down will protect your own knees as well as the motor.
 

Eddy Rush

New Member
Dewey - thanks so much for taking the time to post such a well detailed reply :) I really appreciate it and you've given me lots to think about.

A Leicester lad ay...not too far down t'road from me then.

Please tell me if I'm wrong but from what I've read elsewhere and your comments regarding the performance on hills, it seems I'm doomed by the UK 250W/15.5 MPH limit law and anything more powerful than that is categorised as a motor vehicle and even requires a tax disc and insurance and is basically classed as a moped.

That's kind of disappointing since the most assistance I would need is for hilly areas.

Thanks for clarifying all my other points and I'll definitely take a look at those links you provided.

I'm a little discouraged by the UK law to be honest but I'll keep doing more research into it.
 

Eddy Rush

New Member
Nirmala - Thanks for your input.

I have actually today been looking into a hardtail MTB option with a suspension seat so thank you for those ones you recommended and for the info RE the mid-drives - duly noted :)
 

Nirmala

Active Member
Nirmala - Thanks for your input.

I have actually today been looking into a hardtail MTB option with a suspension seat so thank you for those ones you recommended and for the info RE the mid-drives - duly noted :)
Yes, a mid-drive with a wide range of gears should also mean that 250 watts is enough for your needs. A very fit racer can put out 1-200 watts steadily with peaks up to 500 watts. A nominal 250 watt mid drive motor would have a peak output of about 500 watts also. So basically, an electric bike makes it feel like you have Lance Armstrong pumped up with steroids on the back end of a tandem as you pilot the front end! For the most part, the folks who need much higher power motors are really speed freaks who want to go faster than a lower power rated motor can manage. But for assistance on hills on a more relaxed leisurely ride, 250 watts should be plenty....again especially if those watts are going in through the bike's gears.

I have a thudbuster on my hardtail ebike and it definitely soaks up the bumps compared to a solid seatpost.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Fellas, I think I've found my dream bike:

Macina Force 27.5 9 A4 2017

Let me know what you think, would love your expert opinions :)
I responded to you yesterday, but the new forum crashed last evening and apparently my post was lost.

That's a really nice bike. I don't think you can go wrong with a Bosch powered KTM. With a little effort from you, it should crush any hill you'll encounter. A fellow countryman of yours, @EddieJ has posted a lot of information here about KTM. A sample:

https://electricbikereview.com/forums/threads/ktm-macina-lycan-27-gps.865/

KTM forum:

https://electricbikereview.com/forums/forum/ktm/

Bosch forum:

https://electricbikereview.com/forums/forum/bosch/

Good luck, and have fun!
 

Eddy Rush

New Member
Hello JR.

Yeah, I did briefly see your response in my email notification...then went to read it in more detail and it was gone!

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply mate, gives me more confidence going forward in my choice of bike.

Thanks to everyone that left a comment...you helped me a lot.

Now the difficult task of convincing the missus that the £1600 investment is worth it...wish me luck chaps :)
 

Eddy Rush

New Member
Hello chaps!

Just a quick update to this thread to let you know that the bike arrived this week and I couldn't be happier with it :)

Thanks to everyone that left advice and comments - it really helped me to make a more informed decision.

The bike is a KTM Macina Force A4. It only has the entry level Bosch Mid-drive Active line system fitted but it's more than adequate for my needs and really does make a difference on those steep inclines.

I feel like a little kid on his first bike again.

20170316_094556-min.jpg
 

Eddy Rush

New Member
Congratulations! Be interested to read your impressions of the bike climbing hills.
It's better than I expected, really impressed with it.

Sport mode was more than enough to help get me up my local hills but with Turbo mode it was like going along a flat road. I switched assist off mid-way up and really noticed the difference.
 

Eddy Rush

New Member
UPDATE!

Tried the walk assist feature, not sure I'm using it correctly though.

Am I meant to keep the button pressed in or toggle it?