Electric bikes are a lot more commonplace nowadays than they used to be, and we’d like to think the stigma that originally came with them has dissipated. No longer lauded as ‘cheating’ (a silly notion, cheating against what, exactly?), e-assisted bikes are now widely appreciated for the increased accessibility they bring to cycling, plus, they’re really fun! Whether you’re less fit than you’d like to be, less mobile than you used to be, or simply want to go faster and further than you usually can, an e-bike is a great way to go about it.
It’s fair to say that e-bikes have taken the world by storm, offering a new and exciting way to navigate urban landscapes and explore the countryside. If you’re new to them, however, you may have a lot of questions about how they work, how to get the most out of them, and how to choose the right one for you. So we’ve written this helpful guide to everything you need to know about electric bikes.
What is an e-bike?
Let’s start with the basics. Unlike a regular analogue bicycle, an e-bike comes equipped with a built-in motor and battery. Contrary to what some people believe, it doesn’t do the pedalling for you. Instead, it gives your pedalling a boost, meaning you get more power out of the work you put in.
You may have seen some e-bikes that go without any pedalling required at all. These have a throttle, and many of them are illegal in the UK, so we won’t be covering those here. Any road-legal e-bike in the UK will need to be pedalled like any other bike.
So if you’re looking for a boost, the next big step is figuring out how to choose the right e-bike for your needs. Before we get to that, here’s a breakdown of all the considerations you’ll need to make when choosing one.
Hub-drive vs mid-drive
There are different types of e-bike systems, namely hub-drive and mid-drive, and these refer to where the motor is located on the bike. For example, a hub-drive e-bike has the motor within the hub of either the front or rear wheel, whereas a mid-drive e-bike has the motor integrated into the middle of the bike, usually under the bottom bracket, between the pedals.
The location of the motor impacts the way the bike feels in different ways. Firstly, it affects the weight distribution, with mid-drive bikes being more balanced, and therefore easier to pick up when needed. In contrast, the hub-drive e-bike carries a lot of its weight at either the front or rear, which makes it feel unbalanced if you’re lifting it.
But it’s about more than just weight distribution. The location of the motor also affects how much assistance you’ll get, and how it’s delivered, and that’s all down to the types of sensors used. Hub-drive motors will often use cadence sensors — detecting how fast you’re going by the frequency of the wheel’s rotation — which means they’ll continuously put out an even amount of assistance, even when you vary your pedalling speed. This means you’ll get a lot more of a boost, but it will sometimes feel a bit unnatural, especially if you’re used to cycling already.
Mid-drive motors on the other hand, tend to use torque sensors — detecting how much pressure you’re putting on the pedals — and adjust the power boost accordingly. This delivers a more natural ride feel, because you’ll get more power as you push harder, and less as you relax.
Motor power and torque
When you explore different e-bike options, you’ll see the word ‘torque’ used a lot, and usually be offered up a number of Newton-metres (Nm), which is the unit by which torque is measured. Torque is essentially how much rotational force the motor can produce, meaning the higher the torque (or the higher the number of Nm), the more quickly the motor kicks in when you start pedalling, and the more powerful the assistance you receive will be.
When choosing an e-bike, you’ll want to consider the power of its motor and whether it will suit your style of riding. It’s not just as simple as ‘get the most powerful possible’, because if the bike is overpowered for your ability and needs, the ride feel will be unnatural and jarring. So it’s important to consider where you’ll be riding, what types of elevation you’ll experience, and the terrain you’re traversing.
For example, if you’re likely to be climbing a lot of hills, or heading off-road onto rougher terrain, then a higher torque motor, giving around 60-80 Nm is ideal. Meanwhile if you’re sticking to paved roads in a relatively flat area, you can get away with 40-50 Nm.
Battery and range
Battery capacity is another thing to consider, and as you’ve probably guessed, it relates to the bike’s battery life. This in turn determines how far you can get before it runs out, i.e. the maximum range it has.
Battery capacity is measured in watt-hours (Wh), and a higher watt-hour rating indicates more stored energy, potentially leading to longer rides before recharging. Range, on the other hand, can depend on various factors including the pedal-assist level you’re using, the type of terrain you’re covering, and even things like rider weight, and wind resistance, making it difficult to calculate.
Generally, if you’re using your e-bike for shorter commutes, a battery around 300-400 Wh should suffice, providing a range of 20-40 miles. For longer rides, especially in hilly areas, you’d be better off with a battery with capacity of around 500-700 Wh. This would provide a more comfortable range of 40-80 miles.
Assist modes are the different levels of power you can get out of an e-bike motor. These will always vary depending on which bike (and which motor) you end up with. Usually they will come in several different levels, ranging from a lower eco-friendly mode, which only offers a little bit of a assistance and preserves your battery life, all the way up to a higher ‘turbo’ mode, which will give you a lot of continuous power, but shorten the battery life and range significantly.
E-bikes will usually have a button, remote or dashboard unit so you can choose your preferred mode and switch between them according to your ride. For example, commuters might choose to ride in eco-mode most of the time to preserve battery power, but opt for a turbo boost when they hit a big hill, or are running late for work one morning.
All Liv e-bikes come equipped with one of Giant’s SyncDrive motors, though there are different models to cater to different riding styles. Some of them feature Smart Assist technology, which uses sensors to automatically detect your riding efforts and match them accordingly, so you don’t need to keep switching between modes. It keeps the ride feel natural, and maximises energy efficiency for both you and your e-bike’s battery.
UK laws and regulations
We’ve mentioned legality briefly above, so here’s what you need to know about how e-bikes are regulated in the UK. Electric bikes here are classed in the same way as a regular analogue bike, provided that it meets the following regulations:
The motor cuts out when it reaches 15.5 miles per hour (25 km per hour)
It generates a maximum of 250 watts assistance
The motor doesn’t start until you start pedalling
This means if your e-bike meets all these criteria, you don’t need to have it licensed or insured, and you’re not legally required to wear a helmet. It’s treated like any other bicycle would be.
Which e-bike should you get?
Just like with any other bike, the answer to this question depends on what you want to use it for. You can now get all kinds of bikes with electric assistance, from commuter hybrids to full-suspension mountain bikes, so decide first what you want to use it for.
An electric commuter hybrid bike is perfect for urban riding, going to work, doing the weekly shop, and running the kids to school. They’ll usually have built-in lights for year-round riding, and mounts for mudguards and a rear rack, so you can carry everything you need in all weathers.
If you’re looking to get fit and to go on longer, paved rides out along country lanes, then opt for an electric road bike, which will have the frame geometry needed to help you go further efficiently, and all the qualities of a road bike that make it the most enjoyable type to ride on tarmac.
Finally if you’re heading out on the trails and want to get more time on the downhill, then an e-mountain bike is the perfect tool for the job. It makes light work of climbing to the trailhead so you can quickly get back to the fun descent.
A guide to Liv’s e-bikes
Now that you have a better idea of what type of e-bike you should look for, here’s what Liv has to offer.
The Liv Thrive E+ is a performance-oriented flat-bar electric road bike, designed for working out in comfort and in style. Whether you’re looking to get in shape, head out of the city on a tarmac adventure, or go everywhere by bike, the Thrive E+ is powerful, fun to ride, and stylish to boot.
It has many of the qualities of a road bike, including slick tyres for carrying speed, and efficient aerodynamics to reduce drag when riding in the wind.
It comes with a Giant SyncDrive Pro motor, equipped with Smart Assist, so you can concentrate your energy on the road ahead. It also has a powerful torque of 85 Nm, making it a great option for tackling big hills.
The Liv Amiti E+ is an electric hybrid bike built for city commutes and leisure rides. It’s designed for comfort, making it perfect for inner-city cycling and venturing further afield. Its slightly staggered top tube provides a low standover height, making it easier to mount and dismount.
For added comfort there’s a short-travel suspension fork to cushion the bumps from the road, as well as plush 45mm tubeless-ready tyres. It’s a very practical option too. The rear rack and mudguard mounts make it perfect for daily errands and versatile enough for riding in various weather conditions. The Amiti E+ is fitted with a 500 Wh EnergyPak battery and the Giant SyncDrive Sport motor, which produces 70 Nm of torque. An ideal workhorse for the commuter.
The Liv Allure E+ is a versatile and comfortable electric town bike, ideal for leisurely rides and running errands, thanks to its full array of included accessories, like the rear rack, mudguards, dynamo lights and kickstand.
Its fully step-through frame makes it very easy to mount and dismount, even for riders with mobility issues. The SyncDrive Sport motor delivers reliable pedal assistance, while the short-travel suspension fork offers added comfort on bumpy terrain, which is just what you need on the pot-holed roads of the UK.
Allure E+ 1 comes with a 625 Wh EnergyPak battery and the same SyncDrive Sport motor as the Amiti above, equipped with Smart Assist for optimised pedalling. This is perfect for riding around town in comfort.
If you’re looking to venture off-road occasionally and combine paved streets with light trails, then look no further than the Liv Rove E+. This is Liv’s electric gravel bike, offering up plenty of opportunities for exploration, thanks to its practical and versatile design.
It looks a bit like a mountain bike, but falls more within the category of an electric ‘sports hybrid’, which means it’s a great all-rounder for venturing on a variety of surfaces. It can accommodate wider tyres, to effortlessly transition between gravel paths and paved roads, while the lockout on the suspension fork makes it easy to switch up the ride feel to make it more efficient on road, and shock absorbing when you need it.
This bike comes with a 500 Wh EnergyPak battery, as well as the SyncDrive Core motor, which delivers 50 Nm of torque and has six assist settings. Ideal for those wanting an all-rounder that works both on-road and off.
The Tempt E+ is a great beginner-friendly hardtail e-mountain bike, with its short-travel 100mm suspension fork, and ride feel that’s both natural and powerful.
It’s designed to strike a balance between trail capability and confidence-inspiring handling, making it a great choice for those new to off-road riding who want to experience the thrill of mountain biking while feeling in control on the trails. It can also be a great option for those who love cross-country riding on a hardtail and are seeking a bit of a power boost to go further.
With the Tempt E+ you’ll get the ultra reliable 500 Wh EnergyPak battery, and Giant’s SyncDrive Core motor, offering up 70 Nm of torque.
The Vall E+ is a more performance-oriented e-MTB that comes with a 120mm travel suspension fork. In Liv’s range, it sits in the middle of the Tempt and the Embolden, borrowing the former’s hardtail design, and the latter’s suspension setup.
Meanwhile its 27.5in wheels combined with chunky 2.6in tyres make for a very grippy and reliable ride experience, perfect for building your confidence. It’s a great all-rounder for hardtail and cross-country mountain bikers looking to develop their trail technique.
The Vall E+ features the 500 Wh EnergyPak battery alongside the SyncDrive Sport motor, delivering 70 Nm of torque, and complete with six assist settings to finetune your ride.
As its name suggests, the Embolden E+ is all about building you up to push harder and get more out of your ride. This full-suspension e-MTB trail bike is designed to deliver a playful ride and fully-charged off-road experience, with 120mm rear suspension paired with a 130mm travel suspension fork.
Its geometry provides a low standover height and helps put the rider into a balanced position, which gives a feeling of stability and control, even on technical trails, making it the perfect bike to build off-road riding confidence on rougher terrain.
The Embolden E+ is equipped with a SyncDrive Sport motor, the same as the Vall E+, and either a 500 Wh or 625 Wh EnergyPak battery, depending on which model you choose.
The Liv Intrigue X E+ is our most burly e-mountain bike, designed to reach the top of a climb quickly so that you get more time on the downhill.
It comes with 140mm rear travel, combined with a 150mm suspension fork, making it ideal for enduro riders looking to take on big technical climbs and rough rock gardens. Choose the Intrigue if you’re looking to maximise on thrills and roll over almost anything on the way up to the trailhead.
The Intrigue X E+ comes with the Giant SyncDrive Pro motor, delivering 80 Nm of torque, and combined with a 625 Wh EnergyPak battery, for big days out on the trails.