How do E-Bikes work?

At the heart of all e-bikes is a bicycle

How do E-Bikes work?

The electric motor assists each pedal stroke, lowering the total effort required by the rider to get off the ground and up to speed. The bike does not pedal itself.

Switches or accelerators are used to control e-scooters and electric autos, and they do not require any physical effort to move. When riding an electric bike, the labour is split between the rider and the bike, so you get out what you put in (or even more!).

When the pedals are turned, a sensor on the bike recognises it, and brushless motors produce power to the wheels or hub. On an e-bike, there are usually two types of motors: crank drive and direct drive (hub).

Is it cheating to use an E-bike?


Provides info on battery level, range, speed, distance, trip distance and assistance modes. More advanced e-bikes offer additional features, including fitness tracking and sat nav/GPS.


You charge an e-bike battery by plugging it in, just like a mobile phone. Recharge time is approx. 3 hours. Get tips to make your battery last longer.


With an e-bike, you are in control of the motor. It will adjust assistance according to how hard you pedal, to deliver just the right amount of power.

E-bikes are just bikes

At the heart of all e-bikes is a bicycle.

A bicycle with all the same components as any other: a normal bottom bracket, a normal pair of wheels, a normal headset, normal everything ...

This is good news, as it means they can be maintained, repaired or upgraded by any qualified cycle mechanic.

It also makes it much easier to choose your e-bike. Simply forget the motor for a minute and think about all the same things you'd consider when buying a normal bike: riding style, geometry, tyre tread, gears etc.



Ok, so there is one obvious difference...

Despite the similarities to normal bikes, with e-bikes there's one obvious difference and that is the electric motor. However, even this area is simpler than you might think. There are 2 main components to the 'e' element of e-bikes and they are the battery and the motor:

  • Battery - Simply dictates how far you can go. More expensive batteries will hold more charge and therefore carry you further.
  • Motor - Controls the torque. The more advanced the electric motor, the more torque it offers. The more torque you have, the more power you can get out of the bike.
Is it cheating to use an E-bike?


Motor Types

Motors and batteries are predominantly supplied by Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha and Tranz-X.

Is it cheating to use an E-bike?


Bosch motors are available in three different models, all with 250W of power and delivering 50/60/75Nm of torque (remember, torque determines how much power you will get from the motor). Bosch batteries are 300-500W/h and all use Bosch's Intuvia display and controller.

Is it cheating to use an E-bike?


Yamaha motors offer similar performance and configuration to Bosch units, with 70Nm of torque powering the cranks and an easy to use LCD controller.

Is it cheating to use an E-bike?

Shimano STePS

Shimano, the world's leading cycle component manufacturer, produces the 'Steps' e-bike motor system, with 418W/h capacity.

Is it cheating to use an E-bike?


Selected Raleigh and Ebco bikes come with Tranz-X motors and batteries. These drive the front wheel with a 36V, 240W motor and offer great value for money.

Crank vs. hub motors

Motors and batteries are predominantly supplied by Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha and Tranz-X.

Crank Motors

Crank motors provide assistance for the pedals, which in turn move the wheels. They tend to offer power transfer in a better way, because your power is going into the cranks and adding power here can feel more 'natural' than having power coming directly from the wheels. Crank motors are more commonly found on higher-end electric bikes and often come with higher amounts of torque.

Hub Motors

Hub motors drive the wheel itself. They offer excellent value for money, but aren't often found on higher-end electric bikes.

Electric Bike Batteries

E-bike batteries are made from lithium-ion - the same material as is used to power electric cars. You recharge them by plugging them into an electrical socket, just like a mobile phone. You can leave the battery on the bike while it's plugged in to charge, or take it off and charge it away from the bike. Additional battery packs are available to purchase.

What do e-bike battery ratings mean?

The only rating that’s important here is “wh” (Watts/Hours). This is how we rate how much usable energy is in a battery pack. A 500wh battery can deliver 500 watts for 1 hour or 1000w for 30 minutes, so with this in mind, you probably need to know how many watts it uses. Well, this is where it gets tricky. As you’re not likely to be using a consistent amount of power the whole duration of a journey, it’s likely to fluctuate. Your electric bike computer or companion app can give you this data to help you get the most out of your battery, but you won’t know until you ride. For this reason, it’s safe to say that the higher the Wh, the longer it’s likely to last.

What types of battery should I look for?

Newer bikes generally used Lithium-ion batteries however there are some older models that might use nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride which is less efficient. Regardless of the chemical mix, there is little evidence to support one being better than the other. The important factor to consider is the quality. Brands such as Sony, Panasonic and Samsung are market leaders for reliability.