For 2018 we’ll see the launch of a lot of new electric road bikes. Established and new brands alike will surprise us with clever and innovative concepts. We’ve compiled our key insights from our first round of electric road bike testing.

For more information about electric road bikes head to our review on the Orbea Gain and to our review on the Focus Project Y. Right here you can find our answer to the question: are we ready for the electric-road-bike-revolution?

1. What’s required?

Electric road bikes face a number of technical challenges and limitations, and careful compromises have to be made.

25 km/h assistance limit: It’s easily possible to exceed the 25 km/h assistance limit when riding on flats or downhill. Therefore, it’s important that the motor turns off smoothly and doesn’t have any noticeable drag when pedalling above that threshold. Without the motor assist, the bike should handle and feel as “normal” as possible.

Handling: The motor unit and battery unavoidably add some heft. It’s important that the weight distribution doesn’t affect handling. Geometry should lean towards stability and comfort, as with an endurance style bike.

Range: The further you want to go, the larger the battery you will need, though this means an unavoidable weight penalty. Our two test-bikes both have a capacity of 250 Watt hours (Wh), which is around half that of a current electric city or mountain bike. Modular batteries are a future possibility, slotting in where bottle cages are usually mounted.

Aesthetics: road bike looks are important for many riders – classic shapes and proportions are key for an attractive design. Getting the details right, such as the integration of the battery or control unit, are important to maintain a sleek look.

2. Electric road bikes must be safe and easy to use

The whole system should be intuitive and easy to use. This means easily changing the assist modes and a clear display for key data like battery level. If you’re out on the road, it’s crucial not to get distracted.

The additional weight and power of the motor will put higher stress on the components and frame. Safety critical parts including wheels, tyres, fork and cockpit need to be able to handle these increased loads.

3. Frame mounted or hub motor?

Frame mounted motors make sense in terms of their central positioning for improved handling and weight distribution versus a hub motor. Heat management also tends to be better with a frame mounted motor. However, this system does put increased load on the drivetrain resulting in higher wear and tear. It’s also more complicated, and hence expensive, to integrate into the frame.

Comparatively, a hub motor is usually the less expensive option and for this reason perhaps more viable for the mass market. Weight distribution can be a challenge to manage and the mass of the hub motor needs to be balanced by the battery in the frame. The motor doesn’t transmit its load through the chain, meaning drivetrain components experience less wear. Design depending, hub motors can have more problems with heat management during constant use.

4. Roadies love …

… data: It’s important to have the option to analyse ride data through a linked display, Garmin or smartphone.

… a clear indication of remaining range, similar to a simple gauge found in cars.

… blissful silence. We want the noise of the motor systems kept as low as possible.

5. Where to ride

Gravel, commuting or road rides – where will these bikes take you? While a lot of product managers and journalists are scratching their heads trying to categorise these bikes, it should be clear that most people who buy a Porsche 911 never actually take it on a race track. It’s similar with bikes – the intended use doesn’t always end up being what it’s actually used for. Cyclocross bikes get used for gravel tours (despite quite significant design differences) and endurance bikes get used for the occasional race. Electric road bikes are aimed at riders who have less time available, riders who just want the pleasure of getting out, those who are thankful to still be able to be riding, or even those who are able to enjoy themselves on two wheels again. This is why safety, comfort and versatility should be the buzzwords for electric road bikes, that must be able to tackle a bit of everything for everyone.

For more information about electric road bikes head to our review on the Orbea Gain and to our review on the Focus Project Y. Right here you can find our answer to the question: are we ready for the electric-road-bike-revolution?

What do you think of the electric road bike trend and where would you like to see things go? Write to us at

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Words & Photos: Robin Schmitt