Electric Bike Report’s Testing Process Explained

How We Consistently Measure E-Bike Performance

Here at Electric Bike Report, it is our mission to provide detailed, honest, and objective reviews of each e-bike we test. We want to help you to understand how each product performs and feels, so you can better decide if it’s the right e-bike for your needs.

To do that consistently, we have established a series of standardized, real-world tests that allow us to gather data in a relatively scientific manner. It’s the best we can do without a sealed, climate-controlled lab that would cost millions of dollars to build and staff appropriately (though we’d happily accept donations toward the cause if anyone wants to contribute!). So yes, some human shortcomings are to be expected, and of course your personal results on your own e-bike will vary since there are a host of factors that can alter an e-bike’s performance on any given day. However, this approach allows us to roughly measure any specific e-bike’s individual performance, but also gives us the ability to compare models between various categories, classes, and spec levels. We do our best to keep things consistent, even having certain team members be the dedicated operators on tests where weight is a significant variable.

While our methods have evolved over time (and will continue to), we want them to be as clear as possible. For this reason, we have put together this list of the various trials that make up our testing process, with detailed explanations of each.

Circuit Test

Our test circuit consists of a paved 1-mile loop that includes four right turns and a small incline with 30 feet of elevation gain.

First, we make one lap on each e-bike we test with zero assistance from the motor. The e-bike in question is always turned on, but its pedal assist system (PAS) will be set to PAS 0. On this lap, we measure the time it takes to complete, as well as an average of the bike’s speed in miles per hour. We then repeat this process again for each of the bike’s PAS levels.

This test is usually the first we perform on every e-bike, because it allows us to familiarize ourselves with each product in a consistent way. Specifically, it allows us to understand how the bike’s motor engages, how effective its torque or cadence sensor is, and how it handles. It also gives us the chance to see what speeds the bike is capable of in each PAS setting, and informs us what settings to use on our next test.

It’s also important to note that we try to apply a consistent level of effort and maintain a steady pedal cadence throughout the test. We think of it as giving 70% – the type of pedaling you might do on a traditional bike if you were trying to get to work with time to spare, but didn’t want to show up sweaty. Maintaining this consistency makes it easier to separate our own input from that of the motor; we can focus more on how the motor behaves, instead of how much harder we’re able to ride with its assistance.

Range Test

This trial is actually two separate evaluations performed on our local network of paved multi-use paths here in St. George, Utah.

For each test, we pedal a fully-charged e-bike until its battery expires. One test is performed in the PAS setting that provides maximum motor assistance, which drains the battery quickly while allowing the rider to achieve high speeds. The second test is done in the PAS setting that provides the least amount of input from the motor while still drawing power consistently, which happens over a much longer period of time.

To be fair, this low PAS test can be somewhat subjective. In our experience, many bikes do not provide meaningful assistance in PAS 1, and often don’t help the rider beyond six miles per hour. In these cases, we increase the PAS level until we find a setting that provides an appreciable level of motor assistance. Typically, we stop once we see that the bike is allowing its rider to achieve 8-10 mph with near-constant motor input.

In each test, we measure the distance the bike was able to travel, its average speed, the amount of elevation it gained, and the time that elapsed throughout the process. Most of that data is gathered for optional, anecdotal use in our reviews, but we always report the bike’s mileage.

This test gives us an idea of each e-bike’s minimum and maximum range when used practically. There are many factors that influence the distance an e-bike can travel, and we cannot possibly account for them all, so the results from this test are considered to be a rough estimate. We can, however, use this data to compare to the range advertised by the manufacturer of the e-bike in question, and either reinforce or refute their claims.
[Read more…] about Electric Bike Report’s Testing Process Explained

Understanding the Differences Between Direct Drive & Geared Electric Bike Hub Motors

You’ve no doubt seen references to geared hub motors and direct drive hub motors (also known as gearless hub motors) in descriptions of e-bikes. Often the references mention the supposed pros and cons of each but seem to assume you actually know what the different terms mean. If you need a quick rundown of what these two different types of motor design are and which might suit you, then Electric Bike Report has you covered.

What’s the difference between direct-drive and geared hub motors on e-bikes?

The terms geared and gearless refer to the way power is transferred from the motor to drive the bike forward. In practice, the distinction usually applies to hub motors (found in the center of the wheels) rather than mid-drives (found around the pedal cranks) – the vast majority of mid-drives are geared motors.

Geared hub motor parts
[Read more…] about Understanding the Differences Between Direct Drive & Geared Electric Bike Hub Motors

Ask Electric Bike Report: Are e-bikes safe for seniors?

The team at Electric Bike Report fields a surprising number of questions on whether electric bikes are safe for seniors and older people.

We get so many of these questions, that we actually tailor-made a list of our recommendations of the best e-bikes for senior riders.

But to answer the question in short: Yes, e-bikes are safe for seniors. Not only are they safe, they offer a host of health benefits from low-impact physical exercise to boosts in mental and cognitive health.

But it makes a lot of sense that we get this question so often — cycling, at least before e-bikes grew popular, hasn’t always been the most friendly sport for older demographics. It’s an activity with a reputation for hard physical exertion; one where pedaling unaided up hills and over long distances, among other things, could be obstacles unkind to aging bodies.

That paradigm quickly changed as e-bikes gained popularity.

[Read more…] about Ask Electric Bike Report: Are e-bikes safe for seniors?

How Much Does it Cost to Charge Your Electric Bike?


How much electricity does an e-bike use?

The best way to answer this question is to look at the amount of energy e-bikes typically use and to compare that to other means of transport to show just how economical they are in power consumption terms – very little by most measures!

Comparing watts is the best way of measuring and comparing when answering the question; it’s really handy as not only is it a measure of electrical energy but it’s also a measure of energy consumed by any type of movement, from walking to flying and everything in between. As watts is a measure of instantaneous power, watt-hours are an even more useful measure – they are simply the number of watts an e-bike (or anything else) consumes in an hour – hence watt hours (Wh).

Watt hours are also commonly used to measure how much electrical energy is in an e-bike battery. 1000 Wh batteries are large for an e-bike but not uncommon. For ease of comparison let’s assume a 1000Wh (or 1 kilowatt hour – kWh) e-bike battery can take a single rider 100km (around 60 miles) – that’s quite feasible based on the many real-world tests EBR has done with our electric bike reviews.

Now let’s compare that measure of traveling 100km on 1kWh of electricity to other ways of getting around in the following graphic, all based on figures found at the Without Hot Air website.

e-bike energy consumption comparison

Of course, many of the other means of transport here don’t use electricity but they all use energy extracted from various fuels at rates that can be equated to kWh. So an e-bike uses around one twenty fifth of the electrical energy used by an electric car to move and one fiftieth of the energy used by a plane. These are of course very rough figures based on averages and assumptions; but the point remains, e-bikes use very, very little electrical energy when compared to alternatives.

Now let’s look at just how much that electricity needed to recharge your e-bike will cost.

[Read more…] about How Much Does it Cost to Charge Your Electric Bike?

Calculating Range on Electric Bikes: How To Find The Long-hauler For You

Long Range E-Bikes: Intro

The electric bike world has plenty of sprinters, heavy lifters and high jumpers, but what about marathon runners?

There’s lots of options for long range electric bikes on the market today, from dual-battery eMTBs to sleek super commuters and everything in between. But, with batteries being the most expensive part of an e-bike, the question quickly changes from how far you’d like to go to how much money you’re willing to spend.

Herein lies the trick of long-range e-bikes: You’ve got to balance your distance needs with practicality and budget.

That balancing act is tougher than you might think, but armed with some basic information about a bike’s electrical specs, a little knowledge of your own pedaling abilities and (as always) a realistic grasp of what you’d like to do with the bike, you can confidently choose a long-distance e-bike that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

[Read more…] about Calculating Range on Electric Bikes: How To Find The Long-hauler For You

Is 250W enough power for an electric bike?

Aside from speed, power is probably the hottest topic — and selling point — in the electric bike world.

Conventional wisdom would say that when it comes to power, more wattage is better. But if that’s the case, why do so many high-end e-bikes come with what seem like smaller motors — and is 250W enough power for an electric bike?

There’s a few factors that dictate how much wattage an e-bike needs, ranging from the type of motor being used to how the e-bike was designed. It’s also helpful to understand what manufacturers are describing when they talk about motor wattage, and how U.S. law dictates how powerful an e-bike can be. This post will dive into those details and more.

Is 250W enough?

The small but mighty front hub motor on a GoCycle G4i+, arguably one of the peppiest, torquiest and most compact 500W hub motors we’ve tested.

But here’s a short answer that I’m sure will ruffle some feathers: Yes, we’ve found that 250W is often plenty powerful for many e-bikes. There’s some caveats to that statement, but by and large a 250W motor is enough to give a rider’s pedaling a nice assist. Remember, an e-bike is still a bicycle — by definition at least a little physical effort is required.

[Read more…] about Is 250W enough power for an electric bike?

500W vs. 750W E-Bike: Does wattage matter on hills?

Does size matter? It’s a query as old as time that, depending on who you ask and in what situation, is going to yield a broad and potentially colorful range of answers.

In the less colorful context of electric bikes, motor size (to most people) very much does seem to matter. The general consensus is that bigger is better. More watts equals more power; equals more speed; equals an easier time climbing hills. But is bigger always better, or can a carefully tuned smaller motor compete with sheer wattage?

We set out to explore this question with a simple test: A head-to-head uphill race between a powerful 750W rear hub motor e-bike and a 500W rear hub motor e-bike that the brand claimed had been specifically tuned for hill climbing.

The result of that test was about as we expected, with the more powerful bike winning our race, but the relationship between motor size and climbing ability is far more complicated than power alone.
[Read more…] about 500W vs. 750W E-Bike: Does wattage matter on hills?