Make the most of your electric bike

Carlton Boyce / 07 April 2017

From buying a helmet to splashing out on a second battery, make your electric bike experience top notch…



Now you know what an electric bike (or e-bike or EAPC, they all refer to the same thing) is, and which electric bike you should buy, we can talk about making the most of your new purchase!

Keeping you safe on your electric bike

While the law doesn’t force you to ride a helmet, common sense says that you’d be a fool not to. Given that head shapes vary considerably that means a trip to somewhere like Halfords to get measured and fitted.

Cost: Prices start at around £15.

While you’re there, I’d buy a lightweight, showerproof coat too. Cycling, even with an electric boost, can be hot work and your usual waterproof walking coat will leave you dripping with sweat. Given the choice, I’d always choose one in a bright colour to make me as visible as possible to other road users, and I wouldn’t object to the odd reflective patch on it, either.

Cost: Expect to pay between £15 and £50.

Keeping your e-bike safe

Halfords (or similar; despite working for them for 13 years I’m by no means a fan boy…) will also sell you a nice, strong lock to keep your electric bike as safe as you now are.

Of course, ‘safe’ is a retailers’ code word for ‘heavy and expensive’ but given how much your new e-bike has just set you back, can you afford to skimp on keeping it out of the local bike thief’s hands? Viewed in that light, the £50-100 it’ll cost you starts to look like money well spent, doesn’t it?

You should also make sure your new electric bike is covered by your household insurance. Most policies will cover it but you might need to add it as a nominated item if you’ve splashed out thousands of pounds on one.

Cost: £50-100

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Extending the range of your electric bike's battery

Yes, I know that the manufacturer of your shiny new toy e-bike has assured you that it has a 100-mile range but it doesn’t. In the same way as some car manufacturers game, cheat and even lie, your electric bike’s battery will not last as long as they say it will.

Nonetheless, there are some steps you can take to extend the range of your electric bike's battery as much as possible:

  • Pedaling harder will save battery life. That might sound obvious but it’s amazing how lazy an e-bike can make you…
  • If you can, buying a second battery makes an awful lot of sense. You can either charge one while the other is in use or can carry a spare, doubling your range at the expense of a little money expended and a bit more weight carried.
  • Going slower saves fuel. We know this from a lifetime of driving and the same goes for your electric bike.
  • Some e-bikes will recharge the battery when you freewheel or brake. Even though the regenerative effect is minimal, it’s free and worth exploiting so make the most of any downhill stretches to eke out your battery for as long as possible.
  • Again, just like your car, tyres that are under-inflated will cause significant extra drag in addition to being downright dangerous!

Cost: Nil, unless you need a bike pump in which case you’ll need to set aside another £10


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Claim the mileage

Some employers will let you charge a mileage rate on your expenses for cycling to work or meetings. 

The rate won’t be terribly high – HMRC allows a rate of 20p a mile – but it soon adds up and helps offset the 0.4p a mile that Halfords suggest the average e-bike will cost to run.

Cost: Could be revenue positive!

Buy a cycle rack for your car

Electric bikes are heavier than conventional cycles and lifting one onto your car’s roof rack is a real test of upper-body strength. So do yourself a favour and buy one that either straps to your car’s boot or fastens on to its towbar.

Of course, you could save money by trying to cram it inside your car but that gets really boring really quickly. Trust me; a rear-mounted cycle carrier that’s easy to lift your e-bike onto is worth every single penny.

Cost: £100

Wear the right clothing

In addition to a showerproof jacket you’ll want to consider buying some padded shorts; anyone new to cycling will almost certainly find they suffer from a sore bottom for the first few weeks and a pad between you and the saddle will definitely help!

The shorts don’t have to be skin-tight Lycra because there are dozens of styles out there from baggy cotton combats through to short-liners that can be worn underneath your normal clothes.

The other piece of clothing that is a semi must-have is a wicking underlayer t-shirt. Made of synthetic material, it will wick sweat from your skin out through the cloth where it will evaporate very quickly leaving you feeling fresh and dry.

I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy and resisted wearing synthetics next to my skin for years but I needn’t have worried; it works, and it works very well. It also keeps you smelling fresher than you might otherwise do. Shall we leave it there?

Cost: £50

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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.