Electric bikes can open up cycling to a much wider audience than traditional bikes, especially with Brisbane’s hills and summer heat. There are many to choose from and their tech can seem complex so we often get asked for good 'beginner' ebikes. Here is our criteria on what makes a good beginner ebike.
A good place to start is to be honest with your current level of fitness and riding experience.
If you’ve done a reasonable amount of riding in the past and are looking at an ebike as a way of accelerating your road back to fitness and freedom then the chances are you’re already familiar with modern(ish) gearing (anywhere from 9 to 27 gears).
If this sounds like you then it sounds like you’re not a beginner cyclist, and our buyers guide might be a more helpful place to start.
If 9 gears sounds like 8 too many, and you haven’t been on a bike in quite a while (10 years plus) then keep reading.
A good beginners ebike is one that is easy to use and live with. It can help you do what you want to do from Day 1, and allows you to expand your riding as you grow in confidence and skill.
With a purchase such as an ebike there will always be some specific things that you need it to do and be eg. climb a particularly steep hill near you, carry the shopping etc and this will influence your ultimate choice.
Let's cover some of the general things first though on what makes a bike a good beginners ebike.
The manufacturer of the ebike is the ‘brand’.
The reason we mention this first is you want your first ebike ownership experience to be a positive one.
Buy from a well-known manufacturer who has a track record of selling and supporting ebikes in Australia for a number of years.
As a long-standing ebike retailer and specialist service and repair centre, we get lots of enquiries from people who have bought their ebike online from an unknown brand who has no physical presence in Australia. This makes it very difficult to obtain parts and tech support when you need it.
The growth of ebikes around the world means that world leading bike brands and other technology powerhouses like BOSCH, Shimano, Sony to name a few have all invested heavily in the category. As a result there is a host of advanced features available on ebikes, for example electronic shifting, ABS braking, integrated brake lighting, and smart phone integration.
If you enjoy technology in other parts of your life, then you can ignore this advice and take advantage of some of these emerging technologies because they can enhance the performance of the bikes and make them very simple to operate ... if you understand technology.
Otherwise we recommend an ebike that has an electric drive system with the following features.
Choose an ebike with a simple push control system that is located close to your left-hand thumb
This way you can quickly adjust your power levels without having to take your eyes off the road or move your hands from the bars.
Furthermore if the ebike system comes with a display - there are some that don't now - we recommend that you avoid the coloured displays (hard to read in direct sunlight) or small displays (just hard to read).
Choose a model that offers at least 4 levels of pedal assist and, ideally, a torque sensor
As a beginner rider you don’t want to have big jumps up in power between levels, nor do you want a strong surge in power as soon as you start pedalling.
The entry level hub drive systems, while often a lower price, usually do not have the technology to smooth out the power delivery that the higher priced systems have. You can get unexpected surges of power which, for a beginner rider, can be offputting at best and dangerous at worse.
Not always though and we always recommend a test ride before buying. Every manufacturer has different motor and power characteristics, from the sporty to the relaxed cruiser.
Choose a system that has a walk assist mode to provide assistance on those occasions you need to push your bike
The walk assist mode allows the bike to walk along at up to 6km/hr on its own. This is a very handy feature if eg. you can't quite make it up a hill or you have fully loaded up your shopping bags and prefer to walk it into your garage.
Instead of pushing the full weight of the bike yourself the walk assist mode will do most of the work for you.
Sometimes this can be a button or an external throttle and either way it is an excellent feature to assist a beginner rider.
No matter what your level of riding experience, being comfortable on your ebike is an absolute must. This is from both an enjoyment and a safety perspective, and the more comfortable you are the more you will ride.
Starting out with the correct bike frame size and body positioning is always important and there are good options for frame type too.
Many beginner riders prefer smaller, lighter weight bikes and to be able to straddle the bike with both feet firmly planted on the ground when at a stop. If this is you, then the frame size needs to be small enough so the standover height is low enough.
Modern frame designs often using a sloping top tube on the frame of the bike to make the bike more comfortable (referred to a 'Trapeze' or 'Mixte').
There are also great low step (or stepthrough options - the wave style frame such as the one pictured above) which make it very easy to mount and dismount your bike.
While there are some good value hub-drive ebikes available many beginners prefer frames with mid-drive motors for the extra stability the central motor positioning offers.
Other features such as an adjustable stem and quick release or adjustable seatpost will help make life easier. That way you can set the bike up for what you are most comfortable with on Day 1 and change your riding position as your confidence and experience grows.
If you are going to rely 100% on your local bike shop to take care of all aspects of your new bike, then choosing a low maintenance bike is less of a concern.
Here are some features to look for though if you prefer lower maintenance.
Offered instead of the more common derailleur gears that feature on racing bikes and mountain bikes. Internal gears are more common on commuter and touring bikes that are designed to be ridden in all weathers, all year round, for thousands of kilometres with minimal adjustment and maintenance. While not a budget option they are excellent value from a long-term ownership perspective.
They also allow you to change gears when you are stationery, which comes in handy at junctions and traffic lights when you’ve rolled to a stop in top gear! Two brands that offer excellent options for stepthrough ebikes with internal gears are Gazelle and Riese & Muller.
Read more on gearing systems in our article on 'Gearing Systems on EBikes'.
If your budget can stretch to it, and you are looking for the ultimate in low maintenance, then you can opt for a carbon belt drive from a company such as Gates. Unlike a chain a Gates Drive doesn’t need to be lubricated, will run totally silently, and will outlast a chain by 10 - 12 times.
7, 8 or 9 speed gearing - the lower cost alternative to internal gears
Derailleur gears provide a lower cost and slightly lighter weight alternative to internal gears. If you are planning on using your new ebike for commuting or general leisure riding, then a bike with 7, 8 or 9 speed gearing will provide more than enough gear range for a first-time rider.
It will also be more durable and will generally need a little less overall maintenance that a more complex and finely tuned 12-speed set up.
Hydraulic disc brakes
Whilst not a budget option, hydraulic brakes have now come down to a price where they feature on a large number of entry level and beginner ebikes.
Instead of using a cable to pull the brake pads onto the disc they use a piston which applies pressure to fluid in a brake hose. As a beginner rider this means you won’t need to adjust your brakes as most hydraulic systems are self-adjusting, and you will always have powerful and consistent braking which gives you confidence and someone who is new or returning to riding.
50mm (or 2inch puncture resistance tyres)
The days of 23mm super thin tyres are long gone. A 50mm (or 2 inch tyre) or wider will give you a more comfortable ride (more cushioning), will give you more grip and traction (more rubber on the road) and will usually have a puncture resistance layer that will reduce the risk of a flat tyre.
We sold our first BOSCH powered eBike in Australia in 2013. That bike came equipped with a 300-watt hour battery (8ah) and it was considered a big battery at that time. In 2020 BOSCH now offer a 625-watt hour battery as standard on many of the long-range touring and high-performance mountain bikes, and most entry level ebikes come with a minimum of 10Ah.
So why choose a bigger battery? If you know that you will only ever do short journeys of less than 20km round trips, then you probably don’t need to worry about your battery size.
However if you live in an area with steep hills like a lot of Brisbane's suburbs then having a larger capacity battery will allow you to ride in higher power levels more of the time. This also gives options to explore further as your confidence grows, or to carry luggage or tow children.
Also see our guide on 'What Size Battery Should I Get?'.
Being a 'beginner' does not exclude you from the wonderful world of cycling and ebikes. In fact an ebike, probably even more so than a normal bicycle, will provide you with more fun and adventure than you can imagine. Its important that your first one is right for you though and assuming it is you can look forward to years of pleasure.
We have a large range of options in stock that are suitable for beginners and, as always, what is perfect for you will depend on what your requirements are. We recommend that you also read our Buyers Guides for other things to consider.
See our Team Picks below for beginner ebikes in stock if you want a shortlist :)
If you are curious about how ebikes work and how they feel to ride then EBB hosts a number of group try rides. Read more about these rides here>>.
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