But fear not! We’ve put this guide together detailing all the differences between e-bikes and smart bikes. Let's get cracking 👇
E-bike versus smart bike: what’s the difference?
If the number of e-bikes coming to market wasn’t enough to give you a buying dilemma, the introduction of smart bikes certainly makes things, let’s say, more interesting. E-bikes were all the rage when they first came on the scene, but as technology evolves, so too does the electric bike.
Enter the smart bike, an electric cycle with even more bells and whistles. Your typical smart bike is more interactive than the standard e-bike and allows you to do things like connect it to your phone, gather important performance data and enjoy the benefits of a smart motor equipped with technology.
It’s a level up from an e-bike, though it’s fair to say that e-bikes are also pretty impressive in their own right when it comes to performance and design. The option you plump for comes down to a few factors, so let’s look at the key features of e-bikes and smart bikes.
Key features of an e-bike
E-bikes are electric cycles powered by a motor, usually found on the rear or middle of the bike. The majority have a 15.5mph speed limit, so you don't need to register them with the DVLA and treat them like a regular cycle.
While you can still peddle the bike manually, the motor assists you and pushes forward, so you don't have to put quite as much effort in on those inclines. Or maybe you just want to cruise along for a while? Either way, an e-bike makes cycling easier. E-bikes also have a battery, which powers the motor. The larger the battery, the longer you can go without needing to charge your e-bike.
Key features of a smart bike
A smart bike is an e-bike for all intents and purposes – it's just an upgraded version. They come with "smart" features, such as the previously mentioned technology-assisted motor. Other benefits include things like automatic electronic gear shifting, onboard alarms and smart location tracking.
Like all smart tech – whether it’s your phone, TV, car or bike – the aim is to enhance your experience. E-bikes and smart bikes offer similar rides in terms of core experience (depending on the motor and weight of the cycle), but smart features can enhance your experience and even give you more insights into your ride.
Which one is more expensive?
There are actually three categories here: rear-hub e-bikes, middle-hub and smart bikes. The e-bikes with rear hub motors tend to be the most affordable on the market and usually sell for £1,500 or less. You can pick these types of cycles up at places like Halfords. Think of them as your entry-level e-bike.
Then there are the mid-hub e-bikes, which place the motor in the centre of the bike and are generally more agile to ride. These are more expensive than cycles with rear hub motors and usually cost circa £1,500 – but they can be even more expensive.
Finally, you have smart bikes, which, unsurprisingly, are the most expensive type of e-bike on the market. A popular smart bike is the VanMoof, which retails for around £2,000, just to give you an idea of pricing. However, you could pay as much as £5,000 for a really high-end smart bike.
Are smart bikes worth it?
Smart bikes are definitely worth it if you have the money to buy one. However, you can still get plenty of juice out of a regular e-bike, even if its pricing is at the lower end of the scale. At the end of the day, it’s about the experience you want from a ride.
An electric bike is already an upgrade from a regular cycle. So if this is your first e-bike, you may even prefer to go for an entry-level one to test the waters before moving up to higher-end models.
Essentially, you need to decide if you want a rear-hub motor e-bike, which you can pick up for as little as £500, or a mid-hub motor, which will be more expensive but give you a better overall performance. Then, of course, there’s the smart bike, which will likely have a mid-hub motor and plenty of smart features.
Finding the right electric cycle
The good news is that you have options. An increasing number of electric bikes are coming to market, and they’re improving with each release. Just remember to check the laws and if there are any insurance requirements around the e-bike or smart bikes you want to buy. And if money isn’t an object, you might just decide to opt for a snazzy smart bike with all the trimmings.