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Top tips for women buying an electric bike - all you need to know about choosing a electric bike and the main features you should consider before you buy

a grassy area of a park with 6 electric bikes parked with baskets for rental

Tempted to get back in the saddle but not sure about your fitness? Like to save money on travelling? Like cycling but hate getting hot and sweaty? Then an electric bike could be just what you need!

Cycling has become a lot more popular recently and for good reason. It helps you with your fitness, it's an exciting way to get out and go further afield than just walking and it's also a clean way to travel. I have an old bike which I used a lot when my kids were younger but as I got older I got fed up with getting hot and sweaty every time I went anywhere. Just 'nipping to the shops' or 'popping out to meet a friend for coffee' was never going to be an option for me if I arrived at my destination smelly, sweaty and with flat hair. I also found the bike seat uncomfortable despite trying a few different designs and adding a padded seat cover. Sadly therefore, my bike has been lying neglected in the garage for years.

We have some fantastic cycle routes locally so with a 'big birthday' coming up I decided to research electric bikes for ladies. The trouble is when I started looking at what was available it was like going down a rabbit hole - there were literally so many different types of bikes and they ranged in price from about £700 to over £6,000.

What is an electric bike?

An electric bike is basically a normal bike with gears. You can pedal as normal but it also has an electric battery which you can use to give you a bit of 'assistance' if you feel the going is getting a bit tough for you (think steep hills or long distances).

How fast do electric bikes go?

In the UK electric bikes are limited on the road to a maximum of 15.5 mph, but you can go faster if you are peddling or going downhill at the same time.

Is there an age limit for electric bikes?

In the UK, electric bikes are legal to use for anyone over the age of 14.

Should I buy an electric bike?

An electric bike is a great idea if you want to get out and about with friends who cycle, would like to spend more time exercising but are not confident of how fit you are (or have a health condition like asthma), or you want to save money on car fuel.

Using an electric bike gives you the confidence that wherever you cycle to (depending on battery size, usage and terrain) you will be able to get home and manage even the steepest hills with ease if you need to.

How do you charge an electric bike?

An electric bike battery just plugs in to a normal 3 pin socket at home and you will also be doing your bit for the environment if you can use your electric bike on some occasions instead of your car.

What are the different types of electric bikes?

So many! You can get folding bikes and off road mountain bikes but I won't be covering these in this article. I was just interested in a bike for long bikes rides, maybe slightly off the beaten path (think canal towpaths and tracks) and for going out shopping and to meet up with friends. I created some basic categories for consideration so that I could narrow the bikes down to a short-list before I went off to look at them.

What to look for when buying an electric bike

1 Getting on and off an electric bike

The first one was just a basic design feature, how do you want to get on and off your bike?

Some bikes have a bar that goes from the handlebar post across to the seat. These are called 'cross-bar' bikes.

a watt boston cross bar electric bike

Some have the same bar going from the handlebar post to the seat but at a much lower level so you don't have to lift your leg as high to get on an off. These are called 'cross-overs'.

a cross over style electric bike

The third type is called a 'step through' where you can literally just hold the bike at your side and 'step' your leg through the frame to the other side.

a step through style electric bike popular with women

I definitely did not want a cross bar and started out with a cross over style. I didn't have a problem getting my leg up and over, but the more I considered what I wanted to use my bike for, the more I decided that a step through would be better for me. I would actually like to go and see friends for lunch and a step through frame would mean that wearing a dress or a skirt on the bike would be a doddle. It wouldn't be impossible with a cross over, but nowhere near as easy.

2 Where do you want your battery to be placed?

The next part is where you want your electric battery to be situated on your bike. They are mostly based either under the rear rack of the bike (where you might put a basket), on the down post from the handlebars or integrated in to the frame on the down post. After much research I decided that having the battery at the front gave a better sense of gravity and handling for the bike. A rear rack placed battery would be fine for a light battery with gentle riding and not much load. An integrated battery gives the battery slightly more protection and can give a cleaner look to the bike.

3 What size of battery do you want?

Most batteries are capable of the same power in that they will let you go up to 15.5 mph in full assistance mode. The capacity of a battery is measured in Watt hours (Wh) and although there are some smaller batteries such as 180 - 300 Wh for light and folding bikes, most seem to be around the 300 - 500 Wh.

The capacity of a battery is simply a means of estimating how far you can go on a full charge. This is quite hard to pin down because it varies depending on the amount of power assist used, the weight of the rider and the terrain covered. If you are commuting a long way then you would probably need to look at a large capacity battery. You need to decide how much of a range you need your battery to give you, and the larger the battery the greater the cost. Batteries normally take between 3 - 6 hours to charge from flat and you should query the battery life and the warranty on the battery with the bike retailer.

4 Suspension on an electric bike

I suggest that you make sure you have some decent suspension in the front forks. That way if you hit a pothole or want to go down a canal towpath you won't have a problem. (If you want to go off-roading or mountain biking then there are bikes built specially for this type of activity, try looking at Kalkhoff). If you can get suspension in the seat post as well that would be great but this tends to come on the more expensive models. You can replace the seat and get a bit more suspension as I did (see details under 'Extras' below).

Other things to consider when buying an electric bike

That's the basics of the electric bike covered which should narrow your choice down on makes and models and give you an idea on cost. There are some other points that you might like to consider:


What sort of tyres do you need? Think about whether you want slicks for mostly road riding or perhaps hybrid tyres if you will be going down cycle tracks or towpaths as well. Although think about the width of the tyres, slightly wider ones give you more stability.


You might want integrated front and rear lights (not all bikes come with them as standard) which will be key if you will be riding in early morning, at dusk or at night. Make sure the light is bright enough so that you can see, and will be seen by others at night.


If you are riding in the dusk or dark you will also need some reflective clothing.


Make sure you have some decent brakes on your electric bike. If you are using electrical assistance you need to be able to stop quickly if you need to therefore you should be looking for disc brakes and not the standard 'V' brakes which you would get on a standard pedal bike, but which also come on some electric bikes.


I'd recommend that you have front and rear mudguards (unless you are off-roading). If the road is wet or you get caught in the rain there will be spray coming up the back of the bike (on your clothes) and off the front wheel, which could cause a problem with vision.


Nice to have: some models have a USB charging point which is great if you are travelling a distance and want to use your phone for navigating but a fully charged phone should be fine if this isn't an option on the bike that you like.

Try out an electric bike before you buy it

I would also recommend visiting an electric bike retailer to start the search for your electric bike. Someone told me about their fantastic electric bike and how much they loved it and it looked great on the photos they sent me. When I went and sat on one in a shop, I just knew it wasn't for me.

I would advise against buying direct on-line unless you have already seen and sat on the physical bike. Your electric bike purchase is very personal, think about why you want one and what you want to use it for. Make yourself a draft specification using the points above before you visit a retailer so you have some basics to start off with. A knowledgeable retailer should be able to help you chose the best fit for your requirements and let you try the electric bike for size (some come with different frame sizes). They should also fit you for it (adjust seat and handlebars to right height and angle) if you buy one.

Do electric bikes need servicing?

Yes, much like a normal bike. After about the first 100 miles (and usually included in the purchase price) you will need to have a first service to check the tyres and brakes, oil the chain and tighten everything up.

After that it really depends on how much mileage you do. Youw ould need to speak to the retailer you bought it from and find out what is normal for that particular make and model of electric bike.

The main thing is looking after the battery. The battery life varies according to the manufacturer but seems to range between 3 - 5 years depending on use. Check with your bike retailer about the expected battery life on the model that you are interested in and also ask how long the warranty is. This can vary from 1 to 3 years and is often different for the frame and different parts of the electric bike.

Extras for your electric bike

On top of the cost of your bike there are a few extras you may want to think about too.

Saddles for electric bikes

I have never really had a comfortable bike saddle and mentioned this when I first went looking for electric bikes as it was putting me off getting one. The retailer that I bought from sold Selle Royal Scientia saddles for which you can get a custom fitting.

You sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and hold onto a handle on either side of the bench with your hands. You then pull up as hard as you can so that your bottom is pushed down onto the bench. You then jump off and there is an imprint on the bench of where your 'sitting bones' are. Using this, and your riding style (forward, slight tilt or upright) you get a recommendation for your perfect saddle from a range of 9 saddles sizes (3 shapes, 3 widths). There is also a sort of extra suspension bounce feature with the saddle where you get a bit of extra 'spring' which is useful if you have not got suspension in the seat post.

I ordered the saddle that was recommended for my 'bottom' shape and I have to admit I was really wary! It looked exactly like the sort of thing I would avoid, quite thin and narrow at the front, where I would usually try get something wider because I though it would be more comfortable. What had been happening though was that the saddles I had were actually too wide for my sitting bone shape, which was why they were uncomfortable.

Despite my initial reservations at getting on what looked like a very uncomfortable shaped saddle, I was really surprised how good it was and am so pleased that I had the custom saddle fitting. My custom fit Selle Royal saddle cost me £64.99. Worth every flippin' penny!

Panniers for electric bikes

You will probably need something on your electric bike to carry stuff in, unless you plan to use a rucksack. There are many options such as either a central bag that sits on the rear rack or pannier type bags or baskets that go on either side and the rear.

Most pannier bags are fixed to the bike and just sit there so if you go to the shops, you have to have another bag with you to take into the shop, put your shopping in it and then come out and put the bag into a pannier.

One company, Basil, do slightly different types of pannier bags that look like shoppers or handbags and can be easily taken off the bike in seconds.

a basil noir black pannier bag for an electric bike

I pondered for ages wondering whether to get a pair of panniers for the back or just one handbag style shopper. In the end I decided that I would prefer to be able to take the bag off the bike and take it with me so I bought myself a Basil Noir.

You can put it on or off the bike in seconds and they do many other sorts of designs and flowery patterns, I just thought this looked like a nice large handbag! This one cost me £57 from Amazon although there are other on-line suppliers out there. UPDATE! I loved this Basil Noir handbag style pannier bag so much I had to have another one for the other side to make a matching pair! Even better, Amazon had a sale and I picked it up for an amazing £38! My electric bike looks great with one on each side and they are also waterproof if you get caught in a shower.

Retro bicycle helmet

There is no law that you need to wear a helmet on a electric bike but I usually wear one in case of accidents.

I am not a fan of traditional cycling helmets that make you look like you have a pointy alien shaped head, so had a look around for something a bit different and I quite fancy a retro style bicycle helmet.

There are lots of other lovely styles out there and some great vintage ones too but I ended up plumping for a Kali Saha Cruise in Matt Moss. It's made from 100% recycled products and uses water based paints and organic inks and costs about £45. I love the mini visor too (which is detachable).

Try looking at CycleChic and Via-Moto for a great selection of alternative styled retro and vintage styled bike helmets. There is no need to look boring on a bike!

a kali saha cruise retro bike helmet in matt moss

Best bike lock for electric bikes

You will also need a security lock for when you park your electric bike and leave it. Some bikes come with an internal 'cafe' lock. These are ok if you are literally within sight of your bike having a coffee, but would not be sufficient if you were out of sight inside a shop or away from your bike for a period of time.

You need to get a certain standard of electric bike lock to be acceptable to insurance companies and you should check with your retailer. It needs to be a 'gold standard'. I bought an Oxford Shackle 14 and it cost about £40. They are quite hefty in weight so that is another good reason why you will probably need a pannier or rear bag of some kind to put it in whilst you are out riding. The Oxford Shackle 14 also comes with an additional fitting and can be attached to the bike in different places, depending on the bike style.

an oxford shackle 14 maximum security u lock for an electric bike

What are the disadvantages of electric bikes?


It can be quite a large outlay but I know people who have spent more on a normal road pedal bike, just make sure you are going to use it.


They are quite heavy. This is not an issue as long as you can pick one up off the floor (just in case you have to, most come with a click stand). Mine weighs about 25kg with the battery but this is also a good thing as it is solid on the road and when traffic is passing you don't get as much 'wobble'. The only time I could think that it would be an issue is if you ran out of battery and had to pedal home manually, but as long as you keep an eye on your battery, this is unlikely. It's never happened to me yet!


As far as I can see the electric bike will last a lot longer than the battery. You can get the best length of life from your battery by not letting it overcharge and keeping it inside in extremely cold weather but even then you will probably have to replace it at about 3 - 5 years depending on use. It may be that, as with most electronic goods, the price of batteries comes down as time goes on and they become more popular.

Do electric bikes need insurance?

No, you don't need insurance to ride an electric bike in the UK. However, you may want to insure your electric bike against being stolen or damaged.

It may be that your household insurance already covers you at home and you can add your electric bike on for cover away from home. You can get separate stand alone electric bike insurance policies that will cover you at home and away, but study the policy carefully before you buy it. Many of the electric bike insurance policies I looked at had conditions that had to be met for a successful claim that were nearly impossible to meet. For example, if the electric bike is kept at home in a locked garage or outbuilding the building has to have a certain type of lock. The electric bike must also be locked inside the building with a gold standard lock to an immovable object as well. If you look at the definition of an 'immovable object' in the policy, this is not as easy as you think.

When out and about riding your electric bike insurance companies require that you use a gold standard lock and attach the bike to an immovable object (such as a bike rack). As I have found locally there are hardly any cycle racks or suitable objects to which I can attach my bike if I want to park up and leave it. This will probably not be a problem if you live in a more built up area but it certainly is an issue as you get more rural. Just something to think about before you set off out on your own to a rural area!

Do you have to pedal an electric bike?

Yes, but not very hard if you are using the electric battery assistance all the time. Obviously, the battery will not last as long if you are using it at full assistance all the time, but you won't have to pedal very hard.

What is riding an electric bike like?

Absolutely wonderful - riding an electric bike with some electrical assistance is great fun! I hadn't ridden a bike for years but within minutes I'd got the hang of it. It's very simple to use, just like a normal bike and either a button or the turn of the handle bar to get some electrical assistance.

I started off just using the bike normally and pedalling without any assistance. I didn't have a problem with this until I came to a steep hill and it was soon apparent that I needed some help. I pressed a button and it felt as if a very strong wind was pushing me up the hill - you still have to pedal but it's fairly effortless!

The brakes on my electric bike were quite 'keen' because they are disc brakes so the first few times I applied them I stopped rather quickly but once I got used to my braking distance I was fine.

The new Selle Royal Scientia saddle that I had been fitted for looked horrendous, really thin and pointy! However once I got on and started riding it was the most comfortable saddle I have ever had and I managed 11 miles in the first two days and had no after effects at all which I call a great result. Your saddle needs to support your sitting bones and I think it was definitely worth getting measured for this.

I ended up going for a Batribike Penta S, which is a step through style. These bikes are now also branded as Batribike Gamma (one was for the UK market and one was for the EU market but they are the same bike) and you can get them with different battery sizes.

a batribike penta s step through electric bike in white

I love the freedom an electric bike gives me to get out and about whilst getting more exercise. I like the confidence in knowing that no matter what steep hills a journey throws at me, I can deal with them easily and I am already planning trips much further afield then I would ever have done on my old bike. I think my husband is going to have to get one too if he wants to keep up with me.

If you are venturing out on your electric bike you might also want to read my review on the best natural insect repellent!

If you are upping your exercise then why not check out my article on the Benefits of Forest Walking along with some wonderful outdoor nature ideas for kids!

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