eBikes get a bit of a bad rep. Many from the outside who don’t know see them as cheating, or turn their noses up at them because they think they’re not ‘proper’ bikes.
If you know about eBikes, have ever ridden one or are vaguely interested in dispelling the above myth then we have a list of eBikes below all for under £500.
It should be said at this point there isn’t a whole lot of choice of eBikes at this price point. In truth, you’d struggle to get a decent ‘normal’ pushbike for £500, let alone one with a half-good electric motor. That’s due to everything that goes into making a bike comfortable and functions correctly taking lots of expensive research and development.
On top of this, materials aren’t cheap and for a decent battery pack and motor (some of which use precious metals) the price can soon quickly ramp up. Do not fret, though as there are solutions to this that could make your cycling life a lot easier.
Related: Best eBikes under £2,000
These solutions include an eBike conversion kit. It doesn’t take a lot to convert a bog-standard bike into an eBike and there are companies out there that will help you do that.
So, if you have a bike sitting in your shed, with a good service and a little bit of TLC combined with a conversion kit, you could get yourself a brand new eBike for less than £500!
eBikes are fantastic enablers for people who may be carrying an injury, maybe lack fitness or are worried about their health, increase people's riding range and also bring enjoyment back to cycling. They are not instant power boosters, every single eBike needs you to input something into the pedal for the motor to work and they are limited to the speed at which the motor will work. This is usually around 15mph, where the motor stops, and your own pedal power takes over.
What is an eBike?
An eBike is an electrical motor-powered bicycle – however, if you think that an eBike will just propel you to a set speed with no effort from you, that’s where you’re wrong. The electric motor needs power from batteries these batteries will only give the motor power if you put effort into the pedals.
They rely on three things, power to the pedals, power from the batteries and power to the motor. If one of these things does not exist, then the bike will be stationary or you’re riding a normal bike.
How does an eBike work?
Many eBikes have different ‘modes’ for instance, eco, touring, sport and turbo. Each mode will give you a differing level of power from the motor, using the power you put through the pedals as an indicator of how much power is needed. With motors giving you up to 250 watts.
It's true that you can lightly push on the pedals and the eBike will go up a hill. You will certainly notice the increase in power from the motor and it’ll be a huge benefit to you going up a hill. However, don’t expect to start accelerating up to 15mph from stationary. They simply do not work that way.
Always remember for an eBike to work efficiently, you need to do so too. The added assistance from the motor will boost your ride in terms of distance, average speed and not fatigue you so much.
Different types of motors
Not all eBikes are created equal, the development rate on them has been huge and you may be looking at an eBike, without even knowing.
There are two main types of eBike motors ones that work on the pedals, which assist you in your pedal stroke and ones that work on the rear hub in assisting the rear wheel to turn.
We’ve tested many over the years and we’ve always found the Bosch motors, which are pedal mounted, to give you the most amount of boost and reduce fatigue the most. This is because the power is directly mounted to the pedals so you feel it instantly and they’re generally more bulking meaning they can put in a bit more torque than rear hub motors.
Motors on the rear hub are much more compact, about the size of the big gear on your cassette so they’re much more discrete. They provide plenty of power in terms of assistance and could be a good option for someone who is looking for a discrete boost of electrical assistance.
eBikes under £500
As stated before the options here are limited to a total of two, which are legal on UK roads. The range on these bikes will vary, depending on weather conditions, how much use they have during a ride and also weight. If you’re transporting a heavy bulk of shopping as well as your self their range may decrease quicker than you would expect.
This 20” wheel is perfect for nipping about town, with up to 20 miles of range from a small but powerful 24V 250 Watt motor, situated on the front hub. The battery is situated under a carrying rack on the back of the bike and will recharge within 2-3 hours.
There is a speed sensor on the pedals which turns the motor on when you start pedalling and off when you stop, helping to save a small, but possibly essential bit of battery life.
Just scraping in at £500, the E-Plus City is a foldable eBike, which is ideal for that last mile bit of transport to and from the train station, then to and from work. Coupled with a six-speed Shimano gear set, this should give you enough range to take on any inclines which get in the way of your commuting speed.
Equipped with front and rear mudguards to help keep your clothes protected from the puddles, the 24V 250 Watt motor will help you arrive where you want to be.
The removable battery is housed underneath the rear pannier rack, which is lockable so that when you park your bike up you can feel safe in the knowledge that no one would run off with your battery. Another nice small feature of the bike is that it has a walk-assist function, so if you’re pushing your bike along a platform edge or into the office, the motor will roll the wheels at 4mph, so you don’t have to push it.
eBike Conversion kits
There are a few companies out there that offer this and if bike maintenance daunts you, then speak to your local bike shop, it might be a service that they could provide. Different types of conversion kits are available.
Friction Drive Conversion
Here a roller pushes against the tyre, similar to a dyno bike light, when the roller turns the wheel turns. While not the most efficient of motors, it’s simple and there’s not a huge amount needed to make it work, but it doesn’t work that well.
eBikes with a mid-drive tend to be the more successful eBikes out there, the power to the crank is instant and is not lost and feels much more natural. The weight of the motor sits low, keeping your centre of gravity lower.
While it’s generally seen as the best, it’s also the most expensive and the most challenging to fit.
Electric Bike Wheel Conversion
The final option on our list is swapping out your front or rear wheel for an electrified version. This is a happy mix and a middle ground in terms of price point. The conversion is generally pretty simple, depending on battery mounts the weight distribution can be quite good. Generally, batteries are mounted where your bottle holders would be, helping keep weight low in a place you would usually expect it.
If the electric motor is on the front wheel, it can make it heavy, affecting the handling and balance of the bike. There is also a slightly odd feeling in the way the power is delivered. If it’s on the rear wheel, it can feel like you’re getting a push from behind, certainly when setting off.
This is one of the simplest and straight out of the box methods you’ll find. It comes with a mount that attaches to your seat tube, simply attach the Rubbee X to the mount and it’s good to go. It won’t give you huge amounts of range, the battery is good for 10 miles, however, you can buy another battery, doubling the range to 20 miles.
Different power modes are accessed in the app and there is also a cadence sensor you can attach.
This will give your front wheel bundles of power – up to 750 watts, which is a huge amount, it should make commuting a doddle.
With Bafang you get a range of options from wheel size, power output and display preference. The only downside to this option is that you must manage your cables competently to make sure you don’t snag them on the handlebars while turning or the cranks while pedalling.
TongSheng matches the best with the best - a mid-mounted motor with a torque sensor. Instead of the system knowing you are pedalling and adding power, a torque-based system adds a percentage of power. Max torque available on this system is 80Nm but depending on your chosen assist level, that 80Nm will add between 36 and 300 per cent to your pedalling power.
To keep it simple, think about it as an amplifier. If you pedal harder you go faster, just like a normal bike, but now your muscles have extra support.
Myles is a Commercial Content Writer for What's The Best, Parkers and CAR. His areas of expertise include cycling, fitness tech and hot hatches.
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