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Electric bike maintenance: how to look after your ebike

December 10, 2018

Electric bike maintenance: how to look after your ebike

How to wash an ebike, how to update a motor’s firmware and other ebike maintenance basics explained

Electric hybrid bike
An electric bike, like any bike, needs regular maintenance. Cleaning and taking care of your ebike will keep it running smoothly, efficiently and safely, all of which can contribute to a longer lifespan for the battery and motor.

This guide explains how to look after your electric bike, including tips on washing the bike, applying lubricants, regular component checks, software and app updates, and looking after the battery.

Electric bike buyer’s guides

Thinking about buying an electric bike? Our guide to electric bikes will help you choose the right one for you. BikeRadar’s expert testers have reviewed dozens of ebikes, so you can trust our electric bike reviews.

How often should you service an electric bike?

Bosch electric bikes in London
Maintaining an electric bike isn’t much more onerous than a non-assisted bike. Bosch

In many senses, electric bicycle maintenance is no different to that of a conventional bike. However, some components, and particularly the drivetrain (cranks, chain and sprockets), are subject to greater forces and increased wear.

Therefore, washing your ebike regularly and keeping it well maintained is of utmost importance if you want to get the most out of the bike.

First things first, a clean bike is a happy bike. Dirt and mud increase wear on components and, when mixed with water and grease, can form a paste that will, at best, decrease the efficiency of your bike and, at worst, quickly wear through consumable parts.

The smoother your electric bike runs, the more efficient it will be, and the longer your key components will last.

Keep the drivetrain clean and running well: battery life and power output are irrelevant if your gears are grinding and skipping all over the place. Riding a bike with a clean, efficient drivetrain, along with correctly adjusted gears, is ultimately a more pleasurable experience and will help you get the most from the bike in the long run.

If your drivetrain looks excessively dirty (usually an accumulation of black gunk on the chain or, on electric mountain bikes in particular, mud stuck in the jockey wheels of the rear derailleur), you can give it a quick clean with a rag, or a deep clean with degreaser. We’ve got separate guides on how to clean a bike and how to clean a bike chain.

Electric bike chains tend to require more frequent lubrication than non-assisted bicycle chains. Regularly apply a quality lubricant to your chain will ensure the transmission runs efficiently. It’s a good idea to do this after every ride, and certainly after washing and drying the bike.

Otherwise, read our guide on how to choose and apply the best chain lube for your bike.

Applying lubricant to an ebike sometimes isn’t as simple as it seems. You can’t back-pedal most ebikes, so try putting the bike in a workstand (or get a friend to hold the rear wheel off the ground) so you can turn the pedals to let the lube drip onto the chain evenly.

If your bike has a ‘walk’ mode, you can engage it so that the cranks (and rear wheel) spin around slowly, allowing you to lube the chain easily.

You should also regularly check your ebike’s tyre pressures. Under-inflated tyres are not only potentially dangerous, but they can also waste power and reduce efficiency, meaning you’ll get less out of a battery charge. Equally, running tyres at too high a pressure can compromise comfort and grip, especially if you’re riding off-road.

As a starting point, keep your tyres inflated to within the recommended pressures indicated on the tyre’s sidewall but experiment to find the ideal pressure for you, balancing weight, comfort, grip and rolling resistance. Want to know more? We’ve got guides to road bike tyre pressure and mountain bike tyre pressure.

Component wear and tear

Electric bike motor and crankset
Many ebikes are specced with hard-wearing components. Immediate Media

Many ebikes now use components developed specifically for assisted riding. This means stronger parts made to withstand the added forces that go through an ebike, due to the increased power output, speed and overall weight of the bike.

Electric bike drivetrains tend to be beefier and have different gear ranges to non-assisted bikes. Ebike-specific wheels and tyres are also sturdier, forks stronger, brakes more powerful, and so on.

Nonetheless, despite this additional reinforcement, you are still demanding a lot from an electric bike, whether pedalling, braking, turning, climbing or descending, so it’s a good idea to keep a keen eye on the components and frame for loose bolts or damaged parts.

Regularly safety check your bike to ensure that all bolts and axles are tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings, check your tyres for anything that might cause a puncture and test for any loose spokes.

Watch out for excessive wear, too. If one part wears out, such as the chain, it can have a knock-on effect on other components – such as causing premature wear to the chainrings and cassette. We’ve got a guide to chain wear so you can spot any issues before they become a problem.

How to wash an electric bike

Trek Rail electric mountain bike with Bosch motor
There are a few additional things to consider when washing an ebike. Alex Evans / Immediate Media

We’ve already covered the importance of keeping your bike clean to improve its efficiency and lifespan, but let’s take a closer look at how to wash an electric bike.

Ebike batteries and motors are sealed units and, therefore, shouldn’t let in any water, but you should avoid washing any bicycle – electric or not – with a powerful jet wash because the power of the water could force its way through the bike’s numerous seals.

Wash your ebike with water from a bucket or low-pressure hose, a brush and (optionally) a bike-specific cleaning product to quickly cut through dirt and grime.

Ensure that all connections remain sealed by leaving the battery in its housing, but turn the ebike system off before washing it (and ensure it’s not charging).

Charging ports can accumulate dirt, so check inside and brush out any mud with a dry cloth or brush. Keep the port closed when washing the bike.

After washing the bike, dry it off with a clean cloth, making sure to avoid the disc brakes (you don’t want to accidentally contaminate them with any oil or other cleaning products used elsewhere on the bike).

Every now and then you might want to give the battery contacts a clean. You can do this with a soft, dry brush, a cloth and (optionally) switch lubricant.

If your bike has a life-extender battery (an optional second battery that can be connected for longer rides), you should always disconnect it before cleaning and clean the connections with a soft, dry brush.

Your ebike may have a speed sensor magnet on its wheel. Clean this with a soft cloth to avoid any problems.

Waterproofing and repairs

Electric bike bottom bracket Bosch motor
Provided you’re careful, you’re unlikely to damage your motor when washing your ebike. Immediate Media

As mentioned above, the battery and motor of an ebike are well sealed to prevent any water damage. That doesn’t mean it’s absolutely impossible for water to get in, but with a certain level of common sense and care, you won’t need to worry.

Things to avoid with an electric bike include using a jet wash and fully submerging the bike. No lake jumps then, sorry!

The motor itself is in a factory-sealed unit and you should never attempt to take it apart for maintenance or to try and fix a problem.

If it seems like there is something wrong with the motor or system, visit the store where the bike was purchased or take the bike to a reputable dealer.

How to extend the range of your ebike battery

Want to extend the range of your battery on a ride? Here are a few tips for getting more out of your electric bike.

  • Cadence – riding with a cadence above 50 revolutions per minute is more battery-efficient than riding with a lower cadence
  • Weight – reduce the load on your bike, increased weight will put a greater strain on your battery
  • Ride efficiently – reduce the amount you brake or stop
  • Tyre pressure – like a regular bike, optimise tyre pressure to balance grip, comfort and rolling resistance
  • Technology – some ebike computers will tell you how much battery power you are consuming, so you can adapt your riding style accordingly
  • Temperature – riding in cold conditions will place more strain on a battery and reduce range as a result

 

Battery charging and storage

Bosch electric bike display
Battery health is an important consideration with any ebike. Immediate Media

It may seem impossible to care for a sealed battery, but there are numerous ways to keep your ebike battery in tip-top condition.

All lithium-ion batteries gradually deteriorate and lose capacity over time. This might only amount to around 5 per cent of maximum charge per year, but is to be expected. Taking good care of the battery, storing it correctly and keeping it charged will help ensure a long life.

Ebike battery cleaning

If you disconnect your battery regularly, take the opportunity to clean it with a damp cloth and brush any dirt off the connections with a dry brush.

Clean and lightly grease the battery contacts occasionally, too. Never clean the battery with a high-pressure jet wash or high-pressure hose.

Charging and storing an ebike battery

Charge the battery at room temperature in a dry location. To improve the lifespan of your battery, avoid leaving the battery fully charged or fully discharged for long periods of time.

When the bike is out of use for an extended period, you can disconnect the battery. It will gradually lose charge, so still top it up every now and again.

As we’ve already said, avoid storing the bike for long periods of time with no charge – maintaining 30 to 60 per cent charge is ideal for long-term storage, according to ebike systems manufacturer Bosch.

Extreme heat and cold are the enemies of electric bike batteries. Store your ebike battery in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

During winter, and particularly if the temperature is below 0°C, charge and store the battery at room temperature, and re-insert the battery into the bike immediately before riding.

Use the correct charger

While some battery chargers may seem compatible with several bikes, you should only use the charger specific to yours. Batteries don’t always charge in the same way, so using an incorrect charger could damage your ebike battery.

Software and app updates

Electric gravel bike, Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon
Updating firmware will help you to get the most out of your ebike. Immediate Media

Most ebike system manufacturers release software and app updates; some occasionally, others frequently.

As well as logging ride statistics and other useful information, some proprietary ebike apps or built-in displays can allow you to tailor the performance of your bike.

This might mean adjusting the power settings (so that, say, the maximum assistance setting delivers less power and, therefore, uses less battery) or acceleration characteristics.

Reducing the output settings so the battery discharges more gradually can extend the battery’s life, although you’ll have to work harder to get up the hills!

You might also be able to get system health or maintenance updates from your ebike’s app or built-in display, which may show you information such as service intervals.

It may be possible to check if there are any firmware updates available through connected apps or by visiting the manufacturer’s website. Some brands recommend you visit an authorised dealership for any updates to be made.

Depending on the motor brand and system your bike is running, these firmware updates might help boost torque, extend battery life or provide other useful upgrades, so it’s well worth checking if there are any available updates for your ebike.

Finally, sometimes ebikes can display error codes that stop the motor from engaging. The reasons for these errors vary but can usually be easily fixed by a dealership.

Electric bike maintenance basics

Like any bike, looking after your electric bike will help you get the most enjoyment out of your machine, and can potentially increase the lifespan of key components.

By keeping on top of some basic maintenance, your ebike will keep you grinning from ear to ear. So, to wrap things up, here’s a recap of the basics of ebike maintenance:

  • Keep your bike clean, the drivetrain well lubricated and the tyres properly inflated
  • Regularly check for loose bolts, spokes and broken parts
  • Keep the battery partially charged and store it in a cool, dry place
  • Avoid storing the battery with a flat battery
  • Charge the battery only with the correct charger
  • Check regularly for software updates
  • Visit a dealership if there is a fault. Never try to disassemble or fix the motor or battery yourself
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