Is it Safe to Ride an Electric Bike in the Rain? Can I Wash it After?

Are electric bikes waterproof? Can an ebike be ridden in the rain and mud? How can I clean it safely afterwards? This is a series of questions lots of people ask when considering the purchase of an e-bike because well… it rains and puddles happen. Adding to this initial “dirtification” concern is the subsequent washing ritual. Okay, maybe the bike survived a rainy wet ride but now I want to wash it! is that okay? Can I spray it directly with the hose on full blast? What will happen to the electronics, motor, battery etc. if I try to clean my electric bicycle with water?

This is a sensitive topic because ebikes can cost a pretty penny, usually at least $1,500, and electricity and water usually don’t mix well. So, without creating a liability issue here for myself, I’m going to share what I’ve heard from electric bike shops along with some of my own hands-on experience and a bit of expert advice from a hard core e-mountain bike rider from the UK where it can get very wet ;) and a bit of background on waterproof ratings… let’s start there.

In recent years some of the fancier electric bikes have designed motors, batteries and display units that specify an IP rating or “IP Code“. This stands for Ingress Protection which rates the degree of protection provided against intrusion (body parts such as hands and fingers), dust, accidental contact, and water by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures according to Wikipedia. Just the sort of rating you’d want for a product that’s being used in wet, dirty and abrasive conditions. The Specialized Turbo Levo is a good example of this, its battery pack is rated IP67 which would mean it is dust tight and may be submerged in water up to 1 meter. Crazy right? Not sure I’d actually try that… I got this interpretation by looking up the first and second digits of the IP Code independently in their little table. Again from Wikipedia: the first digit indicates the level of protection that the enclosure provides against access to hazardous parts (e.g., electrical conductors, moving parts) and the ingress of solid foreign objects. The second digit indicates the level of protection that the enclosure provides against harmful ingress of water.

So IP ratings are awesome but still fairly uncommon and in the case of the Turbo, only relate to specific components of the bike… the battery box itself, not the motor or display. So what about these other pieces and also the majority of less expensive electric bikes which don’t come with any sort of IP ratings? this is where we get subjective and where I’m going to reference what I have heard and seen from shops. Don’t blame me if you wash too vigorously or ride through a super deep puddle and the bike breaks, that’s up to you and the warranty provider and frankly, sometimes these products break due to wear and tear having nothing to do with cleaning. The best you can do is be somewhat educated and thoughtful in your approach :D

Story time! At one point, I actually did encounter damage from water on one of my electric bikes and this was in 2013 riding to and from work in Austin, Texas on a daily basis through some pretty heavy rain storms. The heavy downpours and tropical “rainy season” weather caused some water to leak into and condense on the LCD display unit… which still functioned, but did look a bit distorted. Around this same time, my twist throttle on said electric bike eventually failed which may have been due to water or could have also been due to me releasing it to spring back into the resting position with a “smack” sound. I have since become more thoughtful about how I use the throttle of similar ebikes. The end result of both issues was a trip to my local shop, Rocket Electrics, where they swapped out the twist throttle… Eventually the display dried out on its own and everything continued working fine. Did I ever clean this ebike? Very rarely, I occasionally used a damp rag to make the frame look better but this was a working bike, I didn’t care about the dirty tires, rims and squeaky disc brake rotors. Also, I didn’t have access to a hose and water because I was living in a run down apartment complex.

Looking back now, here’s what I might have done to clean the bike more thoroughly. The damp rag was right on but since bicycles use grease (and I didn’t want to completely re-grease the frame or cause wear on the paint) I didn’t use any soap… Some soap can actually be harsh on paint and stickers so there are specific spray-on cleaners that would work better. The downside of some of these cleaners are chemicals inside that can be bad for the environment and your lungs. Ultimately I found a few eco-cleaners including Pedro’s Green Fizz. This stuff gets the dirt off the frame without using high pressure water, soap or some random potentially toxic cleaner… All you need is a good rag and some time. You can actually spray the bike down completely, this cleaner is advertised as being safe for all frame materials and painted surfaces which is reassuring.

Ideally you’d have a bike stand to lift your bike which make cleaning the wheels easier. This one is semi-affordable but has a 55 lb suggested limit. Before lifting or moving the bike make sure you take off the battery to lighten your bike. If you don’t want or can’t afford a stand you can usually just flip the bike over onto its handlebars. WARNING! be careful not to break your shifters or LCD display panel when doing this. Some ebikes have removable displays which helps but given the extra wires and other sensitive parts that can be damaged when turned upside down it’s still a bit risky. Take care not to hurt yourself or your bike and consider using wooden blocks to elevate the mid-section of the bar as shown below. In the second picture you can see how the bike is suspended by straps in a garage so that the wheels are off the table for easy access and drivetrain movement. For people who can’t drill holes in their walls and don’t have a garage the stand or flip technique are probably the best bet.

So once the bike is either lifted, flipped or leaning agains the kickstand or wall, you can spray the wheels and run a rag through the spokes. For those who want to get super deep into it and really clean parts like sprockets there’s a brush set available that will work better… And of course, there are also fancy rags to help you with those tight spots! In recent years micro-fiber rags have become less expensive and they work very well. They’re are designed to not leave scratches but if you get them very dirty and rub the dirt and grit around in you could still end up with some damage so be careful. Check out these ones which cost less than $10 for a pack then just rotate through and wash them all at the end to avoid the dirt scratching issue.

Once everything is clean on the bike, you might want to go back and re-grease the chain so that it runs smoothly and repels dirt. This is an entirely separate topic but the short story is that once again (perhaps more importantly this time), you lift the bike on a rack or flip it and then pedal while shifting through the gears and slowly dripping a de-greaser and then a lubricant onto the chain. As the degreaser and lubrication are applied you can wrap a rag around the chain gently to first clear debris and then clear extra lubrication so that the chain isn’t dripping wet. You can even get special chain cleaning devices like this to clear between the links. Most of the time I have paid to have this performed for me at a bicycle shop because I don’t have a stand, usually need a tuneup anyway and enjoy checking in and seeing new accessories etc. From what I hear, lots of people like the White Lightning chain lube (which contains wax, is said to be “self cleaning” and might last longer). There are different types of lube for different environments like dry desert, wet and humid forest etc. Another area to touch up are the electrical contacts and rust-prone areas of the bike using something like ACF-50 which is an anti-corrosion lubricant.

I welcome comments here and tips from riders who live in different environments (where they put salt on the roads or the ocean is nearby, where it rains a lot or is super dry etc.). I mostly wanted to create a high level guide to help you avoid pitfalls and understand how ebikes might be more sensitive but still very resilient to wet and dirty conditions. Most shops tell me that it’s fine to ride electric bikes in the rain, even heavy rain, and that the motors are well sealed along with the battery packs, displays, wires and connection points. The key is to avoid submersion and not spray high pressure at the bike which could enter into the bearings or frame. Most shops say you can rinse the bike with an outdoor hose or use a rag and some room temperature water but in my experience the bike cleaner works best and avoids water buildup… it allows you to use less force when cleaning which seems to be the major cause of damage. For those who are deeply concerned about rain, I have heard that covering the display with a clear plastic sack and using a rubber band can add protection but the downside is that moisture can get trapped inside the bag and evaporate and re-condense inside the display which could be very bad… If you go the bag route, just be careful to either fully seal it then remove it as soon as you get home (or better yet, remove the display entirely if it has a quick-release) and let it dry out. Some people use bags to protect the sensitive bits when hosing their bikes down AFTER getting them dirty, my friend Eddie Jefferies from the UK does this and actually wrote an amazing deep-dive guide here for his Bosch powered electric bike. Note that Eddie is extremely hard on his bikes, taking them through deep mud on long journeys and even races that can be trying on hardware… these things are not invincible, but I’m still impressed with what they can handle. If his bike can look like this on a regular basis, you should feel secure riding in the rain and through puddles, especially with the nicer systems. Shown below are shots of Bosch Centerdrive powered ebikes from KTM and a Dapu hub motor powered electric bike from Easy Motion.

Ebikes use some of the same technology as smart phones which are now offered as “water resistant” and seem to hold up well. Damage to the casing, high pressure and full submersion will take a tole (with phones and ebikes) but you shouldn’t be afraid to use your bike in the rain or other inclement weather. I rode my electric bike daily for over a year (before selling it used) in all sorts of rainy and wet conditions in Austin and only tuned it up a couple of times (at the shop) with the occasional damp rag wipe down in between and it looked pretty good most of the time and always operated fine. I could tell that it was smoother and faster after tuneups but even on the dirtiest, worst days I still got to work and had a good time. With the basic spray cleaners and a microfiber cloth you’re 80% there and with a bike stand, chain cleaner and some brushes you’re going to be great. I still go to my local shop for tune ups and usually they will clean the chain as part of that experience. One additional tip that has been shared about cleaning bicycles is to use car wax afterwards to protect from UV and create a nice polish. Many synthetic spray-on waxes could work great for this but don’t get things so slick that you have issues holding on! Keep in mind too that there are now many mobile bike shops that will come to you for help with cleaning if you live in a small space and don’t have a stand :)

This article was NOT sponsored by Bosch, Dapu, KTM, Easy Motion or any other ebike brand or cleaning supply company, it’s just my thoughts. Again, feel free to add your own in the comments even if you do work for a company, just be transparent about it. To see more of Eddie’s great pictures or connect with him directly check out https://www.facebook.com/edwardpeterjefferies/ and https://www.instagram.com/eddiejefferies/ all images were used with permission. I noticed that some of accessories Eddie likes to add to his bike when riding to keep his person mud-free are plastic fenders like these.

35 Comments

Jack Tyler
2 years ago

I appreciated the guidance on this, Court…and given Eddie’s experiences, these bikes appear to be amazingly resilient! FYI ACF50 was developed by Lear Jets and Boeshield T9 was developed by Boeing Aircraft, in both cases to provide longer-term interior corrosion protection in aircraft. I’ve used T9 to maintain ocean-crossing sailboats (where salt water can get *everywhere!*) and also aircraft, and have found it a truly impressive protectant. Both products initially seep into crevices and gaps but then firm up to leave a waxy film that that can insure protection for many months.

For those of us living in seasonal climates where the roads need treatment for ice & snow, that means bikes will either become embedded with sand grit and/or corrosive salt. For the former, any effective cleanser and a brushing scrub would seem sufficient…but for that salt film, I think I’d be looking for a base-type cleanser to chemically negate the long-term effects of the salt, along with more frequent cleaning. (I’ll bet if all that mud that’s permeated Eddie’s bikes included salt grime, he’d soon be riding piles of aluminum oxide!) Very helpful guide and I appreciated all the links. Thanks, Court.

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Court Rye
2 years ago

Great references Jack, thanks! I’m not as hard on my stuff as Eddie so it was neat to get his perspective and read his article. I really appreciate your feedback about what has worked with your boat and what to expect out there with ebikes. I hope it helps others to take the right approach and make their stuff last longer… Nothing lasts forever but a bit of preventative care can go a long way ;)

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Dan
1 year ago

Only had my ebike 3 weeks have not tried it in the rain yet if i do i think i will stick waterproof tape to the elecric parts and the ignition part but your comments and tips will come in very handy thanks. Dan

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Court Rye
1 year ago

Awesome! Glad to help Dan :D

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Craig
1 year ago

We’re can buy the Yukon fat tire e-bike because I like too have a second option to buy it some other place then volt in Canada. I live in Woodridge IL. I don’t like run around story’s

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Court Rye
1 year ago

Not sure Craig, I think they only sell direct online if you live in the United States? In your other comment you said it had been about one week and that the company explained about their inventory. I hope they haven’t oversold too far and that your bike comes soon. Wish I could loan you a bike in the mean time but I’m on the road heading to California…

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Kenneth
1 year ago

Very helpful article. By the way, I bought the RadRover e-bike after watching your comprehensive review. Unfortunately, it rained hard here in Toronto and the bike was parked outside. Now the throttle and pedal assist is very unreliable. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work in the middle of my commute. The bike also accelerates by itself in full speed. The battery is no issue here because it was being charged indoor while it rained and I made sure that I dried the bike with cloth before installing the battery back. I’ve already contacted the manufacturer and it has been almost a week with no response from them.

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Court Rye
1 year ago

Hmm… Thanks for the feedback Kenneth! A friend of mine parked his ebike outside the other day and it rained a bit. He also found that the throttle wasn’t working consistently (he was using a Dillenger kit). This sort of feedback really helps to inform other riders, thanks for sounding off and I hope that it either starts working again or you get some support from Rad Power Bikes :(

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Mike B
7 months ago

I know this is am older post but it took me a long time to figure out that any set of symptoms that includes “accelerates by itself” is nearly always a throttle issue. Happened to me twice. First time the throttle was bad. Second time the connector between the throttle and controller was slightly loose. Loose connector issue also occurred on three other people’s bikes that I know of. Wet connector might cause the same issue.

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Court Rye
7 months ago

Thanks for the update Mike! I had a throttle issue with an old Pedego (like three years ago) and noticed that the display had some water fog and the twist throttle had definitely gotten wet in some big storms. Maybe that was a contributing factor? I had also been releasing it to snap back with the spring vs. slowly unwinding and I think that caused damage over time.

David millward
1 year ago

Ok these are tips based on experience. I have ridden my bike on some very long wet rides in the UK and France and this is how I protected my bike. First thing I purchased was a neoprene cover specially made for my battery to prevent ingress of water to the battery tray and to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer, cost about £30. The other thing I did is make a cool shower cap for my head display unit, it was a old cover for a motor bike bag that I cut down re-hemmed and threaded cord through with a pull tab, this made my head unit 100% Water proof ;) when cleaning I use a spray setting that I suppose mimics rain at normal tap hose pressure and don’t spray close up, just get it wet and use a brush gently, don’t use the water to remove mud use a brush rinse and repeat. Don’t spray directly on the battery section or on the head unit, use a face cloth and rinse in warm water squeeze out excess and wipe like you would a floor ;) then dry with micro fibre.

Never ever use a air line any where near any bike electric or not to remove water you will force water into the tight spaces. Don’t wash an Ebike up side down, you will get water ingress and water pools where it’s not designed to be, the bike elements and parts are designed to use gravity to help gutter away water like a weather board on the bottom of you front door or a peak of a cap you wear on your head ;) Just to re assure you, motor bikes have more electrical systems than an Ebike but are usually not IP rated, they have more ingress because you ride faster and things are not sealed. They rely on gravity to gutter away water so water does not pool. I was a motor cycle dispatch rider for years and all my bikes were fine ;) Last thing, don’t put your bike away wet dry it down as much as you can ;)

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Court Rye
1 year ago

Awesome tips David! Thank you so much for sharing. I did my best to touch up some of your comment to correct little language and spelling issues but you’re an excellent English speaker and it’s an honor to benefit from your experience riding motorbikes and now ebikes on the other side of the world! Again, thanks so much and ride safe out there! If you have any tips on where to buy the neoprene cover or what materials you use to cover the display, to clean the chain, sprockets or anything else feel free to share links and I can add them in :)

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Harminder Mundra
1 year ago

Hey, really good advice on ere. I am a newbie to electric bike and now use 1 for a 7 mile commute to work and 7 miles back. I bought a rucksack waterproof bag which I cut up and made like a little pouch for my throttle which is tied down with a Velcro strap. I also made a removable bag for the controller, which came with an under seat bag. The bag didn’t seem very waterproof so covered with my homemade one which is also Velcro tied down. And finally for the battery I used the same bag again and used Velcro straps to tie around the battery and down tube of the bike. Only use this when Raining. I think for the LCD I will do what David done and make tie up. Hope this helps others.

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Court Rye
1 year ago

Great tips Harminder! I like the Velcro idea… sounds like you’ve got a good system here and I’m sure it will get other people thinking about ways to protect their own. Thanks!

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Tal
12 months ago

Is there some cover for back wheel to ride in rain. Very interesting useful article, tomorrow I need to go to some place and may it will be rain/ may be exist some specific cover for back wheel motor?

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Court Rye
12 months ago

Hi Tal, I recommend rear fenders or even a rear rack with a trunk bag. That would help to protect the back wheel when riding in the rain a little bit. You still might get some water on it though because the street will likely be wet.

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EL REY
10 months ago

today i took my e-bike swimming in a flood. It was fun.

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Court Rye
10 months ago

Ha! Wow, looks pretty intense there… Heavy rain but I love how the display is backlit and you can see it as other lights pass, was it fun?!

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Jill
10 months ago

I just bought a 2015 Easy Motion EVO City Wave ebike, step through and rear drive system. I could not find any numbers to indicate how tightly components are sealed. Can you shed any light on how well it will hold up to rainy rides? I am a recreational rider.

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Court Rye
10 months ago

Hi Jill! I’m not really an expert on this topic but have seen that many of the newer Easy Motion electric bikes have threaded connectors with rubber o-rings meant to keep water out. I believe the bike should be fairly water resistant and do fine in rain… but I wouldn’t spray it hard or submerge it :)

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Dewey
6 months ago

Court, you bought an Easy Motion jumper full suspension MTB with a rear hub motor, did you have any problems washing it down after a trail ride? This thread mentioned issues with the rear wheel bearings sitting in a free hub with cup and cones rather than a sealed bearing cartridge. This wouldn’t be a problem with a mid-drive but another contributor to that thread warned about the possibility of the motor magnets sucking up the bearings during disassembly. Is this an issue for ebikes with rear hub motors generally or for those made using less expensive traditional components?

Dewey
6 months ago

To clarify: the reason given in the thread for servicing the rear wheel bearings was after the bike was washed down after a trail ride and the owner noticed a grinding noise suggesting grit had got into the bearings.

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Court Rye
6 months ago

Hmm… I can’t really say but that’s an interesting hypothesis. I have heard of some geared hub motor magnets coming unglued with high use in very hot conditions or the gears themselves starting to wear down (some are plastic) but that shouldn’t happen right away or even in the medium term. Easy Motion does have the 2+3 year warranty (if you register).

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gregory
6 months ago

So is it right to use the e bike in the rain??

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Court Rye
6 months ago

Hi Gregory, I think it depends on the bike, whether you wipe it down after the ride, how hard the water is coming down or being ridden through, how deep the water is… but the general idea is that most electric bikes (and especially the higher-end models) are designed to be highly water-resistant.

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gregory
6 months ago

What about if i buy a stromer can i use it when is raining??

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Court Rye
6 months ago

I would feel more confident about riding a Stromer in the rain than many other ebikes out there because the battery seats into the downtube and lots of their models have fenders (really good fenders) so that’s a great sign that they were thinking about wet conditions when they built it. Also, hub motors tend to be well sealed against rain and splashes… just don’t submerge the motor or battery

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Daniel Dialogue
5 months ago

I recently purchased a Bulls E-stream EVO FS 27.5 (2016) based mostly on your review. They were blowing them out @ $3k so it was impossible to pass up. It’s quite dirty and I’ve been afraid to wash it (for obvious reasons) but according to Bulls website:

Can I ride my BULLS eBIKE in the rain? Yes. All of our drive systems have been tested in Germany’s rainiest weather with no issues. Additionally, each electric plug in the motor is secured with a waterproof seal to ensure safety in wet conditions. It should be noted that while wet conditions are acceptable for eBIKE use the eBIKES cannot be submerged in water.*

Since Bulls bikes are exclusively pedal assist, there should be no harm in using a mild dish soap, wash mitt and a garden hose to clean the bike, yes? I think a good dielectric grease in the mini-usb port would be a good idea.

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Court Rye
5 months ago

Hi Daniel, yeah I think you’ll be fine with mild dish soap. There are some environmentally friendly sprays for bicycles that foam up a little and might be easier on paint? I’m not really an expert on bike washing but even a damp rag and then a dry one does wonders. Some people even use synthetic wax on their bike frames (just like you would for a car) to keep it shiny and protected :D thanks for that tidbit from the Bulls website, so glad to hear that you’re enjoying the bike!

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Dave
3 months ago

Great article. What are your thoughts on transporting e-bikes in the rain? It seems like a good idea to remove the battery during transportation but that exposes the connectors. I would love to take my bike on roadtrips but it seems sketchy to have the electronics completely open to the elements?

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Court Rye
3 months ago

Great question Dave, I just brought an e-bike back from Las Vegas (from Interbike) to review, and it was rainy and wet driving through the Rocky Mountains into Colorado… and I did have the battery off, and I was a bit concerned about where the water might go and what sort of damage it could cause. On the way, I saw some other travelers with bicycles on rear racks, and they were using bicycle covers like this to keep the water off. If you go this route, it’s worth getting some extra bungee cords and maybe adjustable ones like this with plastic ends that won’t cut or tear the fabric. I will probably do this next time myself.

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Dave
3 months ago

Hi Court,

Which bike was it? I’ll be interested in watching your review to see how it runs when it gets posted haha. I’ve looked into the full on bike covers but I read somewhere you may run into issues with the license plate and tail lights not being visible.

One in between solution I found was a neoprene mid drive motor cover. It isn’t full water proof but it may cover the that area enough where it doesn’t get soaked. I’m assuming the area is somewhat water resistant based on your article above haha. Thanks for the extra info.

Dave

Daniel
6 days ago

Some bikes are more water resistant than others – even the best electric bikes can be damaged by water penetration. The components on many good quality electric bikes are tested and certified based on their resistance to water penetration (in the same way as mobile phones and other electronics are).

If you expect to commute, or use your bike extensively in heavy rain, you should look for a bike that has a high rating for water resistance of a written guarantee from the manufacturer.

IP Ratings – Bicycle components can be given an ‘IP’ rating to indicate how resistant to water they are. IP stands for Ingress Protection.

On the rating label the letters IP are followed by two numbers. The first number is the protection from solid particles (such as dust and dirt). The second number is the protection from liquid penetration (water).

The 7 in the rating of IP67 means that the component should withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

In reality, IP ratings should be treated as a guide. The higher the IP rating (especially the second number) the more the component should be able to withstand heavy rain or a soaking.

If you plow headfirst into a stream the pressure of water that hits the front of your bike may actually be significantly greater than the pressure at 1m depth (the IP rating is based on the pressure at 1m depth if there is no water current). In addition, there are likely to be times will find your bike is in heavy rain for more than 30 minutes.

Also, don’t forget, the electrical system on your bike is only as strong as the weakest link. If you have a motor with a high IP rating and a controller which is not IP rated you may find yourself without power even in moderate rain.

In Practice – Many eBikers report that their bikes are quite resilient and can withstand riding through heavy rain, mud, puddles and streams without issue.

General advice for using your electric bike in wet conditions: Cover the more vulnerable areas such as battery connections, charger socket, power controller and LCD meter with a plastic bag when you know your bike will be exposed to heavy rain.

In addition:

  • Avoid leaving your bike outside in the rain without a good cover.
  • After your bike gets wet use a towel or soft cloth to dry it.
  • Disconnect any components where water may be trapped and leave them in a dry, warm environment away from damp and moisture for at least 24 hrs.
  • If you suspect water may have entered your power controller or LCD, dry the outside of the device and then put the component in a bag of dried rice (or another desiccant). This will wick away any leftover moisture.
  • If you know you are going to be cycling in very wet conditions put a plastic bag over the more delicate electrical components of your bike (controller, display etc).
  • Don’t ever use a pressure washer to clean the electrical components of your eBike.
  • Use marine grease or silicone sealant to seal exposed connectors etc.
  • After each wet or muddy ride remove the battery and dry the battery case and the electrical contact points.
  • Don’t allow your bike to become submerged in water.
  • Repair or replace cracked covers, connectors and screens.
  • If you are going to carry your bike on a car in the rain ensure you cover delicate components.

This reply is extracted from a similar query on eBikeFAQ.com

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Court Rye
5 days ago

This is fantastic information, thanks for sharing Daniel! I have heard, and try to communicate, similar things about using e-bikes in wet conditions. Not all manufacturers specify an IP rating but most seem to be confident that their product is capable of functioning in wet road conditions and light rain :)

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