What is this “e-bike smile” and how can I experience it?
The “e-bike smile” is the commonly heard phrase used to describe the first few pedal strokes where the motor gently assists your momentum and where your mind will subsequently begin to apply the experience to new adventures aboard the bike.
With this extra help, delivered only when required, you can now reach taller summits, carry more shopping and ride for longer thanks to the energy you’ll conserve by having a little tailwind on the tough bits of your ride.
They’re like motorbikes, aren’t they?
They are actually very different, both in ride feel and legally speaking. Electric bikes of old tended to carry a throttle-based twist-and-go system on the handlebar, but you’ll rarely see these nowadays thanks to innovation in the motors. It is far more typical now for a sensor to pick up your pedal strokes and only supply assistance in line with what you ask for in the ride computer. If the rider stops pedalling, then the motor too will stop delivering the rider’s assistance.
It is of course possible to turn assistance off, choose eco in order to preserve your range and battery life, or when the going gets tougher bump the help up a few notches towards turbo. This assistance technology is quickly becoming smarter and you can find motors on the market now that carry a degree of automation, understanding from your input and the terrain beneath the tyres just how much extra power to deliver.
My friend said it’s cheating, is it?
It’s fair to say that you are getting a helping hand when required, but there are many reasons why calling the use of a motor cheating is wholly inaccurate. Imagine cycling on your best-ever legs day, a day when the wind is on your back and you’ve had a hearty breakfast; that’s perhaps how it feels to park your settings on eco and go for a ride. In reality, the assistance can go unnoticed, such is the seamless experience of the modern motor. All the same, there are many reasons why you will notice you’ve been exercising.
Our customers and the e-bike world at large all report cycling further and getting the bike out more often as a result of the ride experience, which cumulatively adds up to more exercise.
Studies across the globe have proven that exercise is indeed a big part of the e-bike experience. For example, researchers at Brigham Young University put e-bike riders and regular mountain bikers side by side under the same conditions. The heart rate monitor readings were closer than expected. Those riding the electric bikes had average heart rates of just 10 beats per minute below those pedalling without assistance; a 145 bpm reading versus an average of 155 bpm for the latter group. Registering 145 bpm the electric bike users were described as getting a “vigorous-intensity” workout. The researchers went on to say that the two readings side by side were negligible in exercise difference. The lower reading is still 94% of the higher, so it’s fair to say you’re definitely not cheating.
E-bikes look too heavy to handle
Once upon a time, we may have agreed, but as with all things technology, over time components have become slimmer and lighter, meaning the overall package on most bikes nowadays is entirely manageable for most. Of course, the battery and motor are extra weight, but the manufacturers have taken on this task as a priority in recent years and, where most batteries now are made from lithium-ion cells rather than the heavier lead acid type huge savings have been made at the scales.
Better still, these components are now very often tucked away, out of sight and with a low centre of gravity, which makes handling and charging e-bikes much easier than it once was.
How many miles will an e-bike do?
This is by far one of the most common questions and in truth, it is very much a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question.
The range you will be able to achieve is likely to vary based on your local terrain and the type of riding you’re taking on. For example, if you live in a flat area and cycle mostly on tarmac the range will be vastly higher than what would be achievable in a hilly region with a loose gravel surface. Rider weight, the amount of luggage you’re carrying, and many other factors do likewise affect range estimates, so very often those numbers published will be based on fair and average use.
You can rest assured, however, that batteries and motors have come on leaps and bounds and that a modern e-bike will not only deliver a better range than those of old thanks to battery improvements but also sensors in the motor will be able to pick up on your riding style over time and adjust to better improve range and battery life. It is also now common to find range extender products sold alongside electric bikes. These quite commonly are disguised as a water bottles and so with a little upgrade, you can bolt on extra battery life.
Will my e-bike still ride if the battery does run flat?
This is a lesser-discussed topic nowadays thanks to technological advances, but nonetheless let’s clarify that, yes, your bike will still ride even if you do run the battery flat. Sure, it’ll be heavier going on the legs, but motors are designed to be as friction-free as they can possibly be and so you’ll be able to pedal along just fine. Truth be told, you may not even notice the difference until you hit the hills.
What we do recommend for the overall health of your battery is a regular charge cycle. Try not to consign your bike to the garage all winter without a few uses or charges. Dormant batteries are more prone to lifespan issues over time, but you shouldn’t worry about this week to week.
Can I go abroad with my e-bike?
We always recommend checking in with your carrier as rules do change as carriers’ understanding develops, but at the time of writing there exist some muddy waters on the rules and this is in large part down to aviation rules on transporting batteries over a certain size.
If you plan ahead there are options available to you. These could include mailing a battery to your planned destination in advance, checking whether your airline has any special arrangements in place for larger batteries, or looking at options such as the Eurostar or ferries, aboard which it may be easier to travel. Again, at the time of writing, taking batteries in hand luggage is a big no-no aboard planes and we really don’t recommend trying your luck.
Accounting for this issue, many destinations overseas catering for the cyclist now offer the hire of batteries, so why not try to communicate with a friendly local bike shop or service centre ahead of your departure to see if they can pair your e-bike to the right power source at your destination? If you do decide to do this, it is vitally important that the battery you obtain is compatible and genuine. Mismatched goods can be problematic for functionality and safety, so be sure to ask the professionals locally.
If they’re electric, are they waterproof?
We can assure you that, thanks to incredibly well-designed seals on the electric elements of the bike, you’re perfectly safe riding through puddles and you certainly don’t need to worry about a little rain. The only recommendation on this front comes to those who like to jet wash their bikes clean, which is not recommended anyhow as it removes lubrication from parts that need it.
Are the Lithium batteries safe?
The Corratec brand electric bikes are produced to the highest standards, stringently tested to the latest European safety standards and are very safe to use.
Like mobile phones, fires are incredibly rare and only happen when severe damage is caused to the battery cells. The battery cells in your e-bike are contained in a metal battery case to prevent such damage. Your e-bike must only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the battery charged with the manufacturer’s recommended charger.
Can I modify my e-bike?
We strongly advise against modifying or de-restricting electric bike motors and in fact, these devices can change the legal category of your e-bike. Users need to be aware of the regulations. If your e-bike travels with assistance in excess of 15.5mph it is no longer classed as an electric bike. As such you will be liable for ‘being in charge of a motor vehicle’. This requires a driving license, insurance, road tax and a motorcycle helmet and penalties for use on a public highway or space and can result in penalty points in your licence.
Ready to get e-biking?
Whether you’re planning to tackle muddy woodland descents, try your hand at a spot of road racing or just amble along your local canal towpath, you’ll find a bike that fits the bill