Choosing the right electric bike for you

Carlton Boyce / 03 October 2016

Narrow your focus to find the electric bike that’s right for you!



If you’ve decided you’d like to purchase an electric bike, it’s time to narrow your focus down a little to find the type that’s right for you!

First, a re-cap of the legal position

It’s probably worth recapping the legal position first. In addition to the basics, it’s worth remembering that to qualify as an EAPC - with all the benefits that brings - an electric bike must only contribute power when you are pedaling (unless the bike is travelling under less than 3.7mph,

This means that for all practical purposes the electric motor can only supplement the effort you put in by pedaling; it can’t replace it.

Where to buy your e-bike from

It’s unlikely that any reputable cycle dealer would sell you an e-bike that doesn’t meet the appropriate legal requirements but it’s a point worth bearing in mind if you buy something through an alternative source like eBay or a car-boot sale.

I’d recommend buying from a reputable, well-established dealer even if it costs you a little bit more initially. That premium could be worth hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds in the event of a serious mechanical malfunction or legal problem.

Choosing the right model

Electric bikes are available in the same sort of styles as conventional bikes are, so you’ll need to think about what sort of trips you are likely to use it for.

Commuters will appreciate the portability of a folding bike but that same bike’s smaller wheels might not suit someone for whom cycling long distances is a priority.

The needs of the dedicated off-road mountain biker can be met too. From the sort of soft-roader that is completely at home on canal towpaths and the sort of rough tracks that comprise the majority of our off-road cycling, all the way through to full-on MTBs that have front and rear suspension, disc brakes and the sort of build quality that would cower Everest, there’s a comprehensive range of e-bikes available

Everyone else will probably appreciate the more upright riding position that a conventional ‘sit up and beg’ bike gives. Most of them are fast enough for commuting and city work and tough enough to shrug off the odd rough track.

How much should I pay?

Prices start at around £500 for a cheap basic bike with the motor fitted inside the front hub and rise quickly to £5,000 or more for a lightweight, more technologically sophisticated model.

As with anything else in life, you get what you pay for. but it is important to resist paying for extras you don’t need. If you budget for around £1,000 plus another £250 for accessories you shouldn’t be caught out.

One way to save some money is to consider an ex-display or secondhand model. The price of ex-display bikes that have been lightly used can be up to 25 per cent lower than buying a brand new bicycle, while secondhand bikes will be cheaper still.

Again, I’d always recommend buying your e-bike from a conventional retailer with a physical presence that offers a comprehensive warranty for the ultimate in reassurance.

Always take a test ride

You must always take a decent test ride of any electric bike you are interested in before you actually buy it; they’re a completely different proposition to anything you will have ridden before and it is important that you buy one that fully meets your needs and, crucially, is comfortable and fits you properly.

A good retailer will also take the time and trouble to build and adjust the bike before you collect it (known as a ‘pre-delivery inspection’ or PDI), set the handlebars and saddle to the right height for you and then explain the various features to you so you can ride it safely from day one.

Most will also offer a free after-sales check after a few weeks to tighten up anything that has loosened in use and make sure that everything is still properly adjusted.

Hire, don’t buy

Of course, you could try hiring an example of the bike you’re interested in. For £30 or so you could enjoy a day-long test drive that will confirm (or not) that it is the right model for you. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.