If you want to ride your e-bike during winter (and why wouldn’t you?) there are a handful of additional considerations. Have no fear though, the following tips should ensure you’re well prepared for colder days and they’ll swiftly become second nature.
One of the main downsides to winter temperatures is a decrease in the range you’ll get out of your battery. This will obviously vary, but to give some idea of the impact, Juicy Bikes – manufacturer of the Ticket – reckons that your battery may only provide around 70 per cent of its usual range if you’re cycling on a chilly morning.
There’s also the small matter of filth. Winter is an unavoidably muckier time of year and e-bikes unfortunately have a greater number of components to suffer wear and tear.
You’ll of course want to stay safe on the road too in what might prove to be slightly more treacherous conditions.
With all this in mind, let’s look at how you should approach riding an e-bike in winter.
Get the right gear – lights, mudguards, tyres and clothing
A lot of e-bikes come with mudguards, but if yours doesn’t, you can consider them a worthwhile winter addition. For a start, they’ll keep you cleaner and drier; more importantly, they’ll help protect your electronics from dirt kicked-up from the road – especially road salt.
This might seem obvious, but if your bike has built-in lights, check that they work. And if you don’t have any, get hold of some. Winter can be sufficiently gloomy that you may need them to both see and be seen even in the middle of the day. You may want to think about getting a more robust winter tyre as well – although plenty of e-bikes are actually pretty good in this area with manufacturers often emphasising resilience over rolling resistance.
We’re skirting close to patronisation here, but picking the right clothing is important too. Pay particular attention to things like keeping your hands warm to ensure you can operate your controls.
Look after your battery
Your e-bike battery won’t last as long in cold weather. This is unavoidable. Increased electrical resistance makes for a less effective discharge.
Motor manufacturer Bosch says there are still a few things you can do to maximise range, however.
They recommend riding with a cadence of over 50 revolutions per minute (RPM) to optimise the efficiency of your e-bike’s drive unit – particularly on hills – and they also advise against loading the bike with too much cargo if at all possible, because the more you carry, the more work you’ll be asking the motor to do.
A very basic efficiency move you can make is to ensure you have your tyres pumped up to the correct pressure. Also, as with a car, frequent starting and stopping will prove much less economical than riding at a steadier and more constant speed. To some extent this will be out of your hands, but it's still worth bearing in mind.
None of these things will matter much, however, if you don’t ensure you have enough charge in the first place, so be doubly careful about that. Charging a battery below 5 degrees can damage it, so this is to be avoided. Try and bring it up closer to room temperature - slowly! - before plugging it in.
In terms of storage, Bosch recommends keeping your battery between 10 and 20 degrees. They also say that you shouldn’t leave your battery either fully charged or completely flat if you’re unlikely to be using your bike for a couple of weeks or more. The recommendation is to store at a charge of 30 to 60 per cent to ensure it retains its charging ability.
Wet weather is not usually a problem, but if water gets in through the battery contacts, it can short the battery. If you and the bike have got particularly wet, removing the battery (if that’s possible with your bike) will allow the contacts to properly dry.
Bosch says that you should try to keep the battery mount clean from dirt and grime whenever the battery is removed. Theirs are designed to channel water away from the battery and a dirty one can prevent this design from working correctly.
Clean and maintain your e-bike
That last tip kind of segues into this one. You should always make time for cleaning and maintenance, but this is doubly important during winter when wear and tear is so much greater.
Lubricate your chain, check your brakes and keep an eye on your motor system. Beyond that, try and fight back the muck as much as you can.
Bosch advisor Harald Sterzl has five main cleaning tips. (These apply all year round really.)
- Remove battery and displays before cleaning or cover with a cloth or film, if necessary.
- Use bike shampoo, brush and soft sponge and never a steam cleaner or high-pressure cleaner.
- When lubricating the drive chain, ensure that no lube gets onto the disc brake.
- Clean the e-bike regularly and do not wait until coarse dirt has become engrained.
- Perform a short function check after washing: Is the battery correctly engaged? Does the drive work correctly? Does the system respond correctly to buttons being pressed?