I am often asked how reliable are e bikes? and what should we be looking out for to get the best value for money?
It goes without saying you get what you pay for in most cases and there is a reason electric bikes can vary dramatically in price but if you are a commuter for example, then reliability should be one of your top priorities which we will cover here.
Yes there are many cheap options out there under £1000 on the market, but you may want to review your budget after reading this post.
How Reliable Are E Bikes?
This is all down to the quality of the components, what you are using the bike for, how far you want to ride and for how long .
From personal experience I have a Giant Explore which has done over 2000 km in the last year and it has never let me down – not even a puncture!
This is not a cheap bike (£2800) however the components are excellent such as the shimano Dior gears, Yamaha mid drive Motor and shwalbe tires.
A decent motor from a well respected brand will keep issues to a minimum whether mid-drive or hub based these require little maintenance.
I go out on long rides and use my ebike for commuting 16 miles each way to work so I’m 100% sure that paying a bit more for a bike from a well respected brand has greatly played a part in minimizing any reliability issues.
The plethora of ultra cheap ‘Frankenstein bikes’ you can pick up online can often be a mix of various low quality components from different unknown brands to keep costs down, but ultimately will not stand the test of time so worth weighing this up Vs spending more upfront. – Just my opinion.
How long does the average eBike last?
A decent ebike should last years if you look after it properly, but we are talking about more than just running an occasional rag over it and oiling the chain now and then.
Ebikes will require a proper annual service as components will wear out quicker than on a standard bike depending on what motor you have – usually around the 2000KM mark.
Is it expensive to maintain an ebike?
Recent studies show the average annual cost of maintaining and ebike is around £200 – £250 per year.
Included in these costs are periodic replacement of the key components, for example chains on an electric bike are higher grade hardened steel to cope with the pressure being applied by the motors which will need replacing due to wear. This is usually a good time to change the gear cassettes also.
A recent service of my bike ( mid drive) cost £140 where they replaced both these components, updated the software and re-calibrated the gears and checked brakes etc. Other costs over the year would include a spare inner tube, lubricants and cleaning fluids for day to day maintenance.
How long do electric bike motors last?
You will see lots of debates online about which motor is best – a Hub based geared motor or a Mid drive motor?. The honest answer is both have come a long way in terms of technology and reliability so you really need to weigh up how you will be using the bike to decide on what type of motor would be best suited to you.
There are usually 3 types of motor you will find on an electric bike:
Direct Drive Hub Motors
Direct Drives are viewed as older technology also called ‘Speed Motors’ usually located on either the front or rear wheel hubs these motors are quite large and have no internal gearing. Pretty basic in terms of components and rely on bearings to hold out over time.
They are maintenance free (sealed) so there isn’t much you can do to elongate their lifespan in terms of actual maintenance, but keeping them less exposed to wet or damp will help preserve the internal components.
Also, they can be prone to overheating over time which can melt the internal components but some claim these motors can go 10,000 miles before needing to be replaced depending on usage but they will drain your battery quickly at high speeds.
I’m on the fence with how reliable these motors really are, after speaking with several ebike technicians they rate them low on the reliability scale – mainly overheating issues.
- Not so good at climbing hills -Lacks Torque
- Heavier and adds weight to the bike
- Rolling Resistance when motor not in use ie coasting
- Lots of stress on components at high speed
- Not a very natural riding experience – Mainly used on throttle bikes
- Pain to repair punctures
Geared Hub Motors:
A Geared Hub Motor is a bit more involved compared to the Direct Drive and has a lot more internal moving parts and contains gears within the hub. These motors can calculate the force being applied by the rider and applies the required level of assistance.
Geared hub motors do give a more natural riding experience Vs the direct drive.
If you are putting in some serious miles each day on your way to work then, or require lots of torque on the hills then performance could start to dwindle over time and the internal gear components may need to be replaced every 3000 – 5000 miles, cheaper versions may need replacing much sooner depending on usage.
- Require lots of battery power at high speeds
- Pain if you need to fix punctures
- Under strain at high speeds
Mid Drive motors are King when it comes to reliability in my opinion and yes they are the most expensive, but in the long term will pay dividends. Mid Drive ebikes ride much like a regular bike when it comes to shifting through the gears.
Mid Drive motors are connected directly to the drive train located at the crank, not only providing a much better weight distribution on the bike but also the power is driven directly from the crank using the gears as the transmission giving a mechanical advantage over hub type motors and a more natural riding experience.
The disadvantages of the mid-drive motor is they put more stress on the gearset and chain, but some manufacturers like Bosch for example are tackling this by adding sensors which ease off the power when shifting through the gears in order to reduce wear on the gearset
Life span of Mid Drive Motors before having to replace can be anywhere between 5000 – 1000 miles depending on usage and various other factors.
- Most expensive
- Gear cassettes and chain prone to wear
The average lifespan of an ebike battery is usually between 3 – 5 years assuming its from a fairly well respected manufacturer.
You will find over time that the battery range will lose some of its range, but most should be good for up to 1000 charges.
In all cases you need to make sure you do not expose batteries to extreme temperatures (Hot or Cold) and ideally buy models where you can remove the battery from the frame so it can be stored in a sensible temperature of between 10 & 20 degrees (Centigrade) indoors.
Tip: Don’t repeatedly charge the battery from completely flat each time, try to get in the habit of charging after each use which will extend the life span in the longer term.
Good question, well there are many out there but in my view if you get something from a well respected Manufacturer then you can be pretty sure the set up is correct and components will be of good quality.
Go for a Mid-Drive motor if you can – Yamaha, Bosch, Shimano and Bafang to name a few, are all at the top of their game and their motors are excellent.
Also, take notice of the gearset/ components – are they from a well respected brand – ie Shimano for example for the gears
Price doesn’t always guarantee reliability but if you are going to be doing some serious miles on the bike or using as a daily commuter into work then I you should be setting your budget at £1500 upwards and considering all the above.
Some reputable e bike Manufacturers to Consider :
Hopefully this post has helped answer the question of How Reliable Are E bikes and given you some useful pointers on what to consider in when searching for a reliable machine to get you to work and back.
Although there are never any guarantees regardless of how much you spend, reliability and value for money should always be one of the key factors in your buying decision – Just like a car, you wouldn’t always go and buy the cheapest for many reasons.
Authentic user reviews are always a good indication of whether there may be issues post sale, and especially look out for reviews where they have had the bike for a longer period of time to see what reliability issues people may have encountered with a particular make or model.
Well known Manufacturers usually provide a years warranty and will offer good advice on day-to-day maintenance – Also check out your local bike shops as many now offer ebike servicing.
If you have anything to add or own a bike that has so far stood the test of time then please drop us a message below.
Ride Safe and check out our post on ‘What to Look for when buying an electric bike’ if you want to learn more