How to look after your e-bike
Electric bikes are wonderful solutions for transport, leisure and even commercial use in some instances, but as with any vehicle or piece of consumer electronics, a certain degree of care is advised to keep your e-bike in a fit and safe state.
Quick tips to increase ride enjoyment
It’s astonishing the difference a well-inflated tyre can make to ride enjoyment. It seems obvious, but leaning on the insight of bike mechanics we can tell you that bikes in for service almost always have a little air put in for the customer. Think of it as free speed, the extra effort that your legs don’t have to put in because the ride feel underneath is spongy and lagging. What’s more, properly inflated tyres will increase your battery’s range, but be careful not to over-inflate too as that can affect grip. The required pressure will be found on the tyre’s sidewall if you look closely.
A pre-ride check never hurt anybody and in fact, it saved a fair few. Really the things you’re looking for are chain links that look a bit off, spokes that have more flex than they should, or bolts that don’t appear fully wound in. Remember, when tightening pedals turn the wrench towards the front of the bike on both sides of the bike to tighten (the non-drive side has a reverse thread to prevent it from undoing as you pedal).
Which parts are most prone to wear?
The short answer to that question is any moving parts. Moving parts are, quite simply, encountering the greatest friction and therefore at the very minimum need to be kept an eye on for wear, if not regular lubrication, all depending on the engagement and how protected it is from the elements.
To keep it simple, the parts that are most prone to needing regular checks are chains, brake pads, cassettes and any semi-exposed bearings. In the instance of components like a stretched chain, this can have a snowball effect on the wear of other parts, which will ultimately make the repair bill larger if left unchecked.
The odds are you’ll start to suspect something’s due to a service simply from the ride feel changing over time, but it’s best to keep a schedule with your local bike shop’s mechanic. This is easier than ever to do and thanks to your e-bike’s on-board computer there are very good odds your chosen mechanic will be able to quickly decipher any electrical issues extremely quickly, as well as being able to see the tracked usage of the bike and thus the likelihood that mechanical parts need replacing. Think of your modern e-bike’s computer as no different to the computer in your car, if you have one; the technology and serviceability nowadays are not so different.
It goes without saying that the maintenance schedule will vary depending on a variety of factors ranging from frequency of use, type of use, rider weight and load carriage, the speeds put down, terrain covered and perhaps most important of all, the elements. Ever noticed that bikes by the sea are particularly rusty? The elements count for a lot, so if you’re not popping into your local bike shop regularly, at least be aware of the different products on the market to protect your e-bike for dry or wet conditions.
When it comes to these solutions, not all are created equal, so ask your local bike shop which maintenance products best suit the conditions you ride in. A final warning: if you let mud mix with water, grease and grit for too long that will increase the speed of degradation, so it really pays to look after your e-bike.
Will any replacement parts do the trick?
Once more, this is where some specialist knowledge from your friendly local mechanic could prove useful both to guarantee performance but also safety.
As a general rule, electric bike components tend to differ in engineered quality versus their pedal cycle counterparts much thanks to the differing forces exerted. What that often means is more robust chains that are built for additional torque; brake pads that are designed to cope with more frequently stopping a heavier and generally faster moving bike; disc rotors that tend to be larger, again to aid stopping; brakes that tend to carry more pistons than standard bikes would; sometimes even tyres that are better engineered to cope with added stress.
So, if you intend to complete the work yourself it’s highly recommended you make a like-for-like manufacturer spec replacement or find a component that compensates for the additional forces that can feature with assisted cycling. Of course, there’s also the tricky subject of compatibility of parts and sadly it’s not as simple as any 11-speed chain is compatible with any 11-speed cassette, sometimes there are brand-specific pieces of engineering that will affect performance.
So, we advise seeking expert advice when buying service parts and finally, try not to be lured in by deals that may seem too good to be true.
Battery care and life extension
It is recommended that you do not leave your e-bike totally idle for months on end. Even if you are not using it, pop into the garage and put a little charge through the cells now and then just to keep them fresh. It is generally considered that modern lithium-ion batteries lose about 5% of their charge per year, but this can be kept in check with proper care.
Other subtle but logical tips for reducing general strain on the battery include not overburdening your bike with too much load, trying to ride efficiently by not braking unless necessary and considering the temperature. As a general rule, warmer temperatures outside are more conducive to a greater possible range, while cold temperatures will reduce the available capacity.
If you are storing your battery be sure to do so safely. For example, don’t leave it below a shelf with lots of heavy goods teetering on the edge and don’t leave it indefinitely on charge. As a general rule, it’s best to find a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Finally, only use the manufacturer-supplied charger or replacement from that brand. Mismatching chargers is ill-advised and bad pairings can result in damage, if not in the worst cases a potential fire.
What not to do!
We strongly recommend that you do not use a pressure washer, especially not at a close range, to hose down your electric bike. While they make quick work of admittedly dull cleaning chores, the pressures can blast grease out of bearings and work loose any seals that are keeping water out.
Electric bikes are waterproof, of course, but nonetheless, it’s ill-advised to blast water toward electrics at pressure. What’s more, best to turn off your e-bike’s computer pre-wash and please, we urge you very strongly, do not wash it while it’s on charge. As for charging ports, these are not entirely impervious to dirt, so wait until your bike is dry and then gently use a brush to loosen and remove any dust that has accumulated now and then.
Another extremely strong recommendation we make is to discourage tampering with your electrics. We know it can be tempting to see if you can eek out a little more speed from a motor, for example, but by doing so you create a series of risks, not to mention invalidating any warranty cover or insurance you may have. Electric bike modification, while it may seem harmless in one instance, is a major issue for the e-bike world and causes all sorts of painful situations, ranging from electrical fires to accidents. Plus you could end up in a situation where your local bike shop refuses to touch your e-bike in future for fear of being liable for handling a product that is no longer classified, legally speaking, as a bicycle.
Last, of all – check for software updates
Some modern e-bike software providers will now offer over-the-air updates that require little in the way of action, but as is the case with your mobile phone or laptop, the latest version of the software can bring perks ranging from efficiency to add functionality that may help the enjoyment of your ride. Check your user manual for information on where and how to download software upgrades, or simply ask your local bike shop to check when you are in for a service.