E-bike range is a common topic of interest for most e-bike riders. There are many factors that affect the range you will get from your e-bike:
- Temperature – cold weather drains the battery more quickly
- Headwind or tailwind
- Road surface
- Rider’s weight
- Cargo carried
- Riding style
- Assist level used
One of the biggest factors is the battery capacity of your e-bike, measured in Watt-hours (Wh). The more watt-hours you have, the more range you will get all else being equal.
So now that we know that there are many factors that affect the range, and more watt-hours = more range, how else can we extend the range of our e-bike?
It turns out that there are many easy things to do to extend your e-bike’s range.
1. Shift Gears Correctly
Increase the range by simply shifting the gears in good time, before you reach the next uphill section. In general, e-bikes are more economical at higher speeds, i.e. more crank revolutions per minute. A good rule of thumb is 60 to 80 crank revolutions per minute. If you are riding in higher gears and at a slower pedaling speed, the motor will work harder than you – and that uses more energy.
To get up to your cruising speed, you should go through the gears to use less energy. Therefore, you should have a lower gear when starting off, at starting from a standstill uses quite a lot of energy compared to keeping an constant speed. Keep changing up the gears as you increase your speed gradually.
Actively shifting the gears to the correct ratio not only increases your range, it also puts less pressure on your knee joints. This is important if you have problems with your knees or joints.
Some fancier e-bike models even have automatic transmission with a pre-selected cadence, which constantly adjusts the gear ratio and thereby increases the range of the e-bike.
2. Select the minimum required electric boost
Pedaling flat out, with the maximum assist selected is a lot of fun! However, it also consumes the most power if you keep using the maximum pedal-assist boost. Adjust the amount of boost to suit the current conditions. If you use 4/5 or 5/5 boost assist on an uphill section, put the boost down to “eco” mode on a flat and put it completely off while traveling on a downhill stretch. If you’ve got a strong tailwind, reduce the power assist accordingly.
3. Pedal smoothly, avoid stop and go
Stopping and starting over and over drains more energy from the battery than driving more smoothly and keeping a constant pace. Keep in mind tip 1- shift down to a lower gear when starting off from a slow pace. With anticipation and experience, you may be able to avoid stopping at all – for example, slowing down in good time to allow a light to turn green without needing to stop, or allowing a vehicle blocking an intersection to move off. Keep your eyes trained for these situations and with some foresight, you can cut down the amount of dead stops you need to make.
4. Drive more slowly!
There’s nothing wrong with slowing down and simply enjoying the journey. Just because many other cyclists are racing like it’s the Tour de France, doesn’t mean that you need to.
Ride at a comfortable pace, soak in the scenery, listen to the birds singing, and let your mind wander. Cycling like this is a medatative, de-stressing experience.
Pedaling more slowly and using less pedal assist as a consequence will naturally drain the battery more slowly.
5. Regularly perform basic maintenance
There are several basic maintenance tasks that you should do routinely, even if you are not a DIY enthusiast. Oiling the chain and pumping the tires are quite simple and will keep your e-bike in good working order which extends the maximum range. No need to go to a bike repair shop for these!
5.1. Lubricate the chain regularly
Lubricating the chain is especially important when riding in wet weather or in lots of mud or sandy areas such as after a trip to the beach. Keep the chain moving freely, the last thing you need is to get it stiff or even getting rusty. If the chain can move easily, it takes less effort from both the electric motor and rider, thereby extending the range.
Lubricating the chain is easy. First, wipe off any loose dirt with a rag. Then dab some bike chain oil on a rag and wipe down the chain, or use a spray to directly apply the lubricant to the chain. It takes very little time and has a big impact.
5.2. Keep the tires pumped up to the right level
Pumping up the tires should be done regularly on an e-bike, even more than on a regular bike. Tires that are partially flat increase rolling resistance, which reduces the range of your battery. Having correctly pumped tires also reduces the chance of a puncture.
I notice that on my e-bike, the tires have a tendency to go flat quicker while it’s parked than on a normal bike, likely due to the increased weight of the battery and motor.
Pumping the tires to the right level is much easier with a foot pump. Good foot pumps have a pressure gauge built in so you know when to stop and take much less time and effort to inflate a tire compared to hand pumps.
A hand pump is still a good idea as a backup option for longer trips in case you’re stuck without another option (and a foot pump is too bulky to stash in your basket).
Get in the habit of checking your tires every time you ride, and pump them as often as needed. In my case, I usually pump them at least twice per month.
6. Consider the route in advance
A longer route won’t necessarily mean more battery capacity is used – as we saw earlier, there are many factors that affect range.
One of the more important ones in the terrain. Climbing up steep slopes will require far more energy than flat ground. So if you have a choice of multiple routes and range is an issue for you, consider taking the flatter route, even if it takes longer as the crow flies. You may well use less battery capacity even if you are adding miles to your trip.
Another factor on your route of choice is the surface you drive on. As you know from pedaling a regular bike, it takes much more effort to pedal over broken tarmac, loose dirt, gravel or snow compared to smooth tarmac. The same is true for your e-bikes motor- rough, loose surfaces need more energy to traverse, so they will drain the battery faster. So again, consider the terrain you are driving on if your battery range is stretched on your route of choice.
Lastly, consider how often you’ll likely have to stop on your route of choice. If you are passing a lot of pedestrian crossings, street intersections, train lines or other obstacles, you’ll have to accelerate from a standing start quite a lot. This drains the battery more than riding at a constant steady pace.
7. Bring a second battery
If you want to easily double your range, take a second, fully-charged battery with you on your travels. This solution is likely to be considered primarily by touring cyclists who want to ride for a really long time.
It’s a bit of a “cheat” compared to some other items on this list, but no doubt it’s an effective way to increase your range.
8. Bring a charger with you
If you are very fortunate, you may be lucky enough to have a bike charging station in your parking garage at work. This is the ideal scenario but not too common unfortunately. However, simply bringing the bike battery to your desk is also an easy option to get around this. Make sure you park your e-bike off the street when parking it at work.
9. Charge your battery beforehand
This one is obvious, but make sure your battery is fully charged before setting off. If you are riding daily, it can be easy to overlook this and start off on a half full battery the next day, leading to range anxiety. So top off your battery the night before you need to use it.
10. Throw out excess items from your backpack
Minimize the amount of cargo you bring with you. It’s easy to have a large bag filled with unnecessary items, particularly for commuting. Your work bag likely contains items that you don’t strictly need.
Instead, go through your bag and ask yourself if you really need each item for today. If not, it stays at home. Your battery will last longer with less weight to drag along, and it will accelerate better and handle better as well.
11. Keep your battery warm in cold weather
Cold weather can dramatically shorten the range of lithium-ion batteries, which is the most common type of e-bike battery. There are some e-bike battery care tips for cold weather which you can do to keep the cold weather range loss as minimal as possible.
Firstly, keep the e-bike battery indoors in cold weather. The colder it gets, the less efficient the battery becomes. So keep the e-bike battery in a warm place before using the e-bike in cold weather.
Cold weather also affects how efficiently the battery charges. After riding in cold weather, let the battery sit for some time indoors to let it get to room temperature before charging it. This allows the battery to be fully charged- which isn’t possible if the battery is too cold.
Lastly, it’s possible to buy neoprene covers for e-bike batteries (Amazon link). These insulate the battery, keeping it warmer for longer, thereby extending the possible range in cold weather. Neoprene is the same material that wetsuits are made from, so it’s a highly effective insulator.
While one of the biggest factors determining your e-bikes range is the battery capacity, there are many basic things you can do to dramatically increase the range of your battery. They range from simple adjustments to your riding technique- stopping less, pedaling smoothly, using less boost- to charging tactically in work, choosing your route with care, regularly pumping your tires and oiling your chain, and taking a second battery for extended tips.
I hope this guide was useful to you. Happy riding!