New to e-bikes? We’ve got all the answers. – Trek Bikes

We’re your e-bike experts

 Starting your journey into the world of electric bikes can be intimidating. And with so many kinds of motors, batteries and technologies, we’ll be the first to admit that it can get a little confusing. Fortunately, with five decades of development experience, we know the inner workings of e-bikes inside and out. Here, we’ll answer all of your questions, like what is an electric bike and how do electric bikes work, and teach you about the tech that goes into them and what you need to know before you saddle up, so you can ride with knowledge and find the best electric bike for you. 

It’s time to buy an e-bike

Tired of running errands by car? Craving the wind in your hair but intimidated by steep hills? Want to speed up your ride and go further? No worries – electric bikes are here to save the day.

What is an electric bike?

Electric bikes (also known as e-bikes and electric assist bikes) amplify your pedalling power thanks to an electric drive system. There are many different kinds of e-bikes, but all of them use an electric motor and battery to help you power your bike. Most have a remote or controller that lets you choose the amount of power the system provides and turn the system on and off.

The anatomy of an electric bike

1. Bike frame

Just like a traditional bike, e-bikes all start out with a base bike frame with similar features and functions as their non-powered partners. E-bike frames are typically designed slightly differently from non-electric frames to optimise battery and motor placement. 

2. Motor

The motor of your electric bike is what houses the moving parts that give you a boost of assistance when you pedal. Just like a car engine, some e-bike motors can be more powerful, lighter weight or more efficient than others. While many brands offer e-bike motors, there are just two popular styles of motors on most e-bikes – mid-drive or hub-drive.


Mid-drive motors are located in the middle of the bike, at the centre of where you pedal. They are available in a range of different power capacities and provide a stable centre of gravity and smooth support that feels more natural when pedalling.


Hub-drive motors are encased inside the hub of the rear wheel, near the bicycle’s back gears. They are generally more affordable and lightweight than mid-drive motors, making it easier to find one to fit your budget, so all you have to do is hop on and go.

3. Battery

Every e-bike motor is powered by a battery. However, batteries vary greatly in size, shape, location and wattage. How many watt-hours a battery holds directly impacts how fast and how far you can ride assisted.

4. Controller

The controller is your interface with the e-bike system. It features buttons that allow you to power on and off your system, change your assistance mode or toggle through the screen of your e-bike display. Depending on the e-bike system, you may have more control features, like a battery indicator, light control, extra metrics like ride data or an integrated display. 

5. Display

Your display is like the dashboard of your e-bike. It’s standard for the display to show your battery life and currently selected mode, but many offer additional features, like speedometer, ride metrics, activity tracking and route mapping. Your display may be integrated with your controller, be its own separate unit or you may even use your smartphone as a display.  

Let’s talk tech and terms

Talking about electric bikes can feel like a foreign language. We’ll break down some basic terminology that you’ll often hear associated with e-bikes, so you can power up your confidence both on and off the bike.

1. Torque

Torque is the turning force that causes rotation in an electric bike motor and propels you forward. Bikes with more torque provide bigger bursts of immediate power while bikes with less torque provide less of an immediate burst of power. The maximum amount of torque an e-bike motor is capable of generating is measured in Newton meters (Nm).

It may be tempting to think that more is better, but torque can be nuanced. High-torque e-bikes are great for getting up steep hills and accelerating quickly but may not feel as natural and smooth as lower torque e-bikes. It’s best to think about how you want to use your e-bike and how smooth or powerful you’d like it to feel before choosing a bike with the biggest motor and most torque. Though there is no set definition, in general, bikes with under 50 Nm can be considered low-torque and bikes with over 65 Nm can be considered high-torque.

2. Power

Power is what gets your e-bike motor moving and keeps it in motion. In scientific terms, it’s the electromotive force that propels your e-bike forward. Electrical power is measured in watts (or W for short), which is a single unit of electrical energy. Electric bike motors are legally limited to a maximum of 250 W to remain classified as bicycles.

3. Battery capacity

Battery capacity, or how much power a battery can hold, is calculated by doing a bit of maths with a few different measurement units. When we multiply amp-hours (a measurement of electrical capacity) with volts (the force pushing amps through the system) we get watt-hours (Wh for short). Watt-hours indicate a battery’s maximum capacity, which correlates with how long it can operate before it runs out of power.

The larger the battery capacity an e-bike uses, the further and longer you can ride, but high-capacity e-bike batteries are also larger and heavier than lower-capacity batteries.

4. Charge cycles

Just like any other kind of battery, e-bike batteries have a limited number of times they can be fully charged and drained before they need to be replaced. The lifetime of e-bike batteries is expressed in charge cycles – the emptying and recharging of the battery. Most e-bike batteries are rated for 800-1,000 charge cycles, which translates to over 10,000 miles of supported riding.

To prolong the life of your battery, keep it stored in a cool, dry place when not in use and stay on top of regular services. When your battery has reached the end of its life, we’ll be here to help you recycle it.

5. Range

Range is how far your e-bike system can provide assistance before it runs out of battery. Many factors contribute to the total supported range of an e-bike, like riding surface, terrain, wind, cycling behaviour, rider weight and even tyre pressure. Some e-bike systems equipped with smart technology can offer estimated range data on-the-fly to help you stay aware of how much assisted riding you have before you need to charge up, and many can also be paired with an auxiliary range extender battery to help you go even further. 

There’s an e-bike for everyone

Whether you want a boost through town, up the trail or on the open road, there’s an e-bike made just for the kind of riding you’re chasing. Learn more about the different kinds of electric bikes and find which is right for you.

Electric City and fitness bikes

City and fitness e-bikes offer a comfortable, upright riding position that feels confident and easy to manoeuvre – perfect for cruising the bike paths, speeding up commutes and soaring through the neighbourhood.

Electric road bikes

With dropped handlebars and a more aerodynamic riding position, electric road bikes are the perfect choice for accelerating your ride on the open road.

Electric mountain bikes

Cruise up rocky trails and leave some fuel in the tank for the descent with electric mountain bikes. E-mountain bikes give you the same rugged capability of traditional mountain bikes, but with added power that adds ease to long miles and punchy climbs.