If you're reading this odds are you've just purchased a new ebike, in which case congratulations! Ebikes are gaining in popularity as we know, and for good reason. Whether it's as a tool to commute on, a way to get out and ride more and faster than you'd otherwise be able to, or as a way of getting out for a ride when an injury or health condition might prevent you from doing so. Either way, there are lots of great reasons to own an ebike. One thing that's not talked about quite so much is ebike maintenance. While not a deal-breaker by any means, ebikes do require a few extra points of care to keep them in tip-top shape and to avoid some big bills.
Battery Care & Storage
The battery is one of the most expensive parts of your ebike - replacement batteries can run you about $1000+, and without a battery, an ebike is just a very heavy bike, so it pays to keep the battery in good shape. Most ebikes these days use lithium ion batteries, and while they're pretty robust, there are definitely some do's and dont's to keep your battery in the best possible condition.
The first is to consider the conditions in which you keep and charge the bike. Shimano for example quote a 0 to 40ºc safe temperature range for charging and -10º to +50ºc for operating. Those quoted temperatures are of course extremes, and while it may operate on the extreme end, it's better for the life of the battery for it to be kept somewhere in the middle - ie 20ºc or room temperature. If the bike is stored somewhere cold, ie an unheated garage in the winter it could be a good idea to remove the battery and bring it indoors, or consider keeping the bike somewhere warmer in the winter months.
On the topic of storage, since the bike is electric it should go without saying that water ingress is a potential problem. Storing the bike inside is the best way to keep the bike in the best possible condition. No bike electric or not should ever be stored outside, even covered, since humidity, rain etc. can cause corrosion, seals can dry out and generally it's bad news for the bike. Add to this our coastal weather patterns and electric components and it's a recipe for bad news.
While we're talking about battery best practices, again you'll want to use the same practices that you'll use with any li-ion battery. You don't need to charge to 100% full every single time; the batteries work best between 20% and 80% charge, and doing a big charge from 20-80% is preferable to lots of small charges. For example if you know your commute uses 10% battery each way don't charge your bike every day when you've only used 20%, charge it almost fully every 4 or 5 days when you hit roughly 20%. Best practice is to charge the bike just before you plan to ride, rather than right after you've finished a ride.
Draining the battery to 0% is safe every now and then, but don't leave it that way - recharge it as soon as you can. Likewise, don't frequently charge to 100% if you don't need the full range, though it's helpful to do this occasionally to calibrate the cells. If the bike is being put into storage it's best to keep it around 40-60% charge and check it every now and then.
For those with a magnetic charge port, ie Specialized Turbo Levo, Vado, Como etc. something to be aware of is the magnetic charge port. Small metallic items (ie a staple) have been known to stick to the charger. Always inspect the charger cable before charging the bike since something like a staple could arc across the battery terminals and render it useless. It goes without saying that with any ebike battery, you should not arc anything across the terminals - ie a key to check the that the battery has charge or similar. This is a quick and easy way to kill the battery.
An ebike rides much the same as a regular bike, with some obvious differences in that it puts out a lot more power, and with great power comes great responsibility. Bicycle drivetrains, for example your chain, are designed around a certain power output. When power goes up wear increases, this is true of anything bicycle or not, but it's worth considering this when riding your ebike.
The first and biggest thing is to use your gears like you would a normal bike, for a bunch of different reasons. Spreading the load across the entire cassette reduces the change of wearing out just one gear. Quite often people rely on the power of the motor to get them going and just sit in one hard gear (smaller sprocket). This is bad for a number of reasons: that one gear will wear prematurely meaning the cassette needs replacing sooner, and it's a less efficient gear to be in, draining battery power faster.
Bigger sprockets spread the load better than smaller sprockets and don't wear as quickly - spread that over multiple sprockets and your cassette will last a lot longer. Chains will also wear much more quickly on an electric bike, so get yourself a chain checker and change your chain as soon as it needs it. This will extend the life of your drivetrain drastically. Speaking of changing gears, while shifting it's also a good idea to practice 'soft pedalling' - back off the power just a little bit as you shift, this helps the chain shift into a new gear and prevents damage such as broken cassette teeth, a common problem when shifting under load on an ebike.
Ebike motors are tuned to be most efficient at the same cadence as the human body, this is what helps them feel natural and easy to ride. 75-100rpm is the sweet spot for motor efficiency - riding within this range will use less battery since the motor isn't struggling to keep up. Another great reason to shift into an easier gear and spin than to stay in a hard gear and let the motor do all the work. If you're not sure what that cadence feels like, that's a little more than one and a little less than two pedal strokes per second. Many ebike handlebar computers can be customised to display cadence on screen so it's easier to see your cadence and stay in this efficient zone.
Cleaning and Care
Let's talk cleaning. Cleaning an ebike is much like cleaning a regular bike, however it's more important to do it properly. Since electricity and water doesn't mix, it's a good idea to exercise caution when cleaning your ebike. Ebikes are designed to be sealed from the elements so riding in the rain isn't a problem, and cleaning them shouldn't be either, but do keep hose pressure down. This applies to regular bikes - if you wouldn't point yourself in the face with the hose, don't point it your bike.
High pressure hoses can force water into bad places such as bearings and in this instance, into fragile electronics. Make sure your charge port is closed, as well as any other electrical connections, and use a low pressure hose setting. To remove stubborn dirt, use a cleaner such as Muc-Off Nano Tech bike cleaner and agitate with a brush then hose down again. Not only will your bike thank you, it'll come out looking cleaner too. Speaking of which, don't clean your ebike upside-down. Water may get into places that it shouldn't.
Apps and Updates
Most ebikes have an associated smartphone app these days. It's possible to jump on an ebike and just ride it sure, but your experience will be much better if you download the app and really get to know your bike, for a few reasons. Most apps enable custom tuning of the bike, so rather than relying on preset power modes it's possible to tailor each level of assist so that they can be used as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Most apps also have the ability to either push firmware updates to your ebike (Shimano for example), or at least let you know that there's an update available so that you can take it to a dealer to get that installed. Updates usually are fairly minor changes, but often they can fix minor bugs in the firmware, they might solve an issue that the bike has been having, and quite often they will help the bike run more efficiently, meaning less battery usage and a longer life for your ebike.
Most apps also have some form of error diagnosis/fault finding. If you encounter a problem out on the ride and the bike is giving an error code, quite often it's possible to connect to the bike with whichever app, and it will give some idea of what the error is related to. Often errors are simple fixes, such as a misaligned speed sensor magnet, an unplugged wire, perhaps the bike simply needs to be turned off and on again. In any of these cases, Specialized's Mission Control app will give suggestions as to how to solve the issue on the spot.
Read more and download the Specialized Mission Control app here. For Shimano ebike owners, follow the link here for the Shimano E-TUBE Ride app. For the Bosch eBike Connect app click here and for the Giant Ridecontrol app click here.
Thanks for reading - hopefully this guide provides some useful insight on how best to take care of your ebike, as well as bikes in general.