I wish all electric bikes had this one feature

Not all e-bikes are equal, so it’s vital to try before you buy and ensure you’re not purchasing a dud with a clunky powertrain

Volt Infinity
(Image credit: Future)

When electric bikes originally appeared, it’s safe to say there was a certain degree of scepticism about them. I remember more than a few cycling purists tutting when I told them about having a bike with electric assistance and how it made life much easier. Other less fanatical folks would come up with the same response, asking why I’d want an electric bike when the whole point of cycling was to get some exercise.

Thankfully, buying one of the best electric bikes on the market, or even one of the more generic models that can be had much cheaper, is a lot more acceptable now. Why? Well, like anything, it’s easy to be critical or suspicious of something new, especially if it looks like it’s a threat to your favourite hobby. So, I get why so many old-school cyclists we’re a bit down about me riding my shiny new e-bike.

However, once you’ve tried an electric bike, it all starts to make sense. And buy a decent model, and you’ll find that one core feature is what makes a quality electric bike a money-well-spent purchase. Read on to find out more…

Better than you think

Buying an electric bike might actually do more for your fitness levels than you think. There has been quite a lot of research into just how beneficial e-biking can be for your health, with the likes of electric mountain biking, in particular, proving to be really good for anyone wanting to boost their fitness levels.

Aside from the health benefits, though, I think the best feature about a really good electric bike is the way the power gets delivered. What I’ve found with a lot of cheaper models is that the delivery of the assistance can be less dynamic and, in fact, a lot more clunky than that found on a premium model. So, it’s well worth trying an e-bike you’re interested in before you buy it. These can be big-ticket items, so it’s worth taking your time and getting it right. 

Canyon Roadlite ON

(Image credit: Canyon)

Dynamic power delivery

What you want to get is a smooth transition through the gears if you’re using them, with the electric power being delivered as seamlessly as possible. Some budget e-bikes have a very non-linear way of sending the power through to the pedals. Indeed, a few models make the experience pretty unpleasant. This scenario can affect models with hub motors or those with the motor situated at the crank, but it can spoil the feeling of assistance either way.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the feature that, for me, makes riding an electric bike a big part of the attraction or, in bad examples, rather pointless. This is even more so if you’re using the power to climb steep hills where you need your cycling to be consistent, smooth and able to get you to the top of that next hill. Having a powertrain that does this in a rough and ready fashion is dispiriting, to say the least. In some cases, it can make you want to get off and push instead.

VanMoof 5 Series: S5, S5 step-through and A5

(Image credit: VanMoof)

Other vital ingredients

Of course, there are other features of e-bikes that are extremely desirable too. Great supplementary gearing always helps if you’re looking to do some ‘proper’ cycling alongside being propelled along by the power of pure electricity. But, there are other things that should ideally come as part of the package, although they sometimes get omitted, usually on a cost basis. 

A set of the best bike lights is always a bonus as a standard feature or even as an add-on. Similarly, a decent saddle is a must-have, but it’s not always as common as you’d think. In fact, the best electric bike should have all these ingredients and more besides, which is why they generally come with a fairly high price tag. 

However, if you’re keen on cycling - powered or otherwise and plan on using your new purchase a lot, then putting all these features on your checklist makes a lot of sense. And getting that power down as dynamically as possible is, for me at least, the real icing on the cake.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital, he has run the Innovation channel for a few years at Microsoft, as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of Stuff, TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working, he's usually out and about on one of the numerous e-bikes in his collection.