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10 June 2021

How to maintain your electric bike

Expert tips to keep your electric bike in top working order, so you can keep cycling for years to come
woman carrying out bike maintenance
SM
Sam Morris

Like any mode of transport, electric bikes need regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly and safely.

Whether you're a weekend explorer or an everyday commuter, looking after the mechanical and electrical parts of your e-bike is essential if you want to keep it in tip-top condition and prolong the life of your battery. 

We've pulled together cleaning tips, battery maintenance advice and the costs of getting your e-bike serviced in this maintenance guide, to help you get the most out of your bike and keep it roadworthy.  

How to buy the best bike - find the type of bike to meet your needs

E-bike maintenance vs a standard bike

An e-bike requires all the same maintenance as a standard bike, but with the added layer of looking after the electrical components: motor, display, battery and electrical cables.

Looking after the electrical components doesn't have to be complex or a hassle. 

If you take extra care when cleaning your e-bike, check for wear and tear, and charge and store the battery properly then you'll be doing everything you can to keep the electrical parts in top working order. 

A word of warning: never try to disassemble your bike's battery or motor yourself - you could give yourself a nasty shock and void any warranty you have on the e-bike's electrical components. If you think your e-bike has an electrical fault, take it to a bike shop or contact the manufacturer to get it looked at.

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How to clean an electric bike

Cleaning an electric bike is the same process as cleaning a regular bike - you just need to avoid getting the electrical components wet. 

The main things to remember are  to remove the battery and display before cleaning if you can. Then cover the battery holder and any exposed connections with a cloth or wrap in film to help prevent water contacting these components. 

Avoid targeting water at the battery, motor or controls and make sure the bike is thoroughly dried before putting the battery and display back on.

Types of bike cleaner

  • Bike cleaner / bike shampoo - these are for the bike frame. They help shift stubborn dirt and are ideal for areas that don't generally get as mucky, such as the frame, saddle and handlebars.
  • Degreaser - also labelled as chain cleaner. This is a strong cleaner designed to clear dirt and oil from your bikes drive train (the chain and gears). This keeps the train working efficiently and makes the ride smoother. It's recommended you use a specialist degreaser for your electric bike. These work without you having to rinse the chain with water afterwards, making it safer to use around the electrical components of your e-bike such as the motor.
  • Lubricant - essential for keeping your bike's drive train running smoothly after it has been cleaned. Lubricants tend to come in three varieties: wet, dry and all-round. Wet is a heavier lubricant and good for cycling in wet weather. Dry is lighter, ideal for summer and dry weather. All-round (surprise, surprise) is a good all-rounder and great to use in varied weather.
  • Grease - this is used on threaded components of your bike such as the inner tube of its saddle and handlebar posts. It reduces friction, making it less likely these components will seize up.

Cleaning your e-bike frame

Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do:

  1. If possible, remove the battery and display. Cover the battery holder, motor and any exposed electrical connections with cloths or film to help prevent water reaching these components.
  2. Rinse off any loose mud. You can use a hose but don't use a steam cleaner or pressure washer. E-bike components are designed to be water resistant - but steam and high-pressure water could still penetrate into the bearings of the motor. Avoid targeting water at the battery, motor or controls. 
  3. Apply a bike cleaner spray or shampoo to the frame and then use a sponge or cloth with some hot water to clean away the more stubborn mud and dirt. Start at the top and work down so you're cleaning the parts you touch (such as the saddle and handlebars) with a clean sponge.
  4. Clean your brake pads to make sure they're free of dirt, as this could affect how efficiently your brakes will slow you down. If you have disc brakes, use a disc brake cleaner. 
  5. Give your bike frame a good rinse with some clean water.
  6. Once cleaned, dry your e-bike with a clean rag or cloth. This will stop excess water sitting on the bike frame and making it rust. Go deep, making sure you get all the areas where water could lurk - such as bolt heads.
  7. Leave your e-bike a few hours to make sure it has dried completely before reattaching the display and battery. Double check the battery holder and the contact points are free of water before reinserting the battery.

Cleaning and lubricating your e-bike drive train

This doesn't need to be done more than on a standard bike. It all comes down to use. If you cycle frequently, or do a lot of off-road riding, you'll need to clean the drive train more regularly.

  1. Apply degreaser to your bike's chain and gears. It's best to use a specialist e-bike degreaser, as this means you don't need to add water to it, protecting your electrical components.
  2. Use a brush to get the degreaser into all the tight spots on the chain, and use a brush or screwdriver on your gears and derailleurs to dislodge any compacted mud stuck between the teeth. 
  3. If you didn't use a specialist e-bike degreaser, now is the time to carefully rinse the drive train with water. Don't turn the pedals at this stage, and make sure you leave the chain to dry thoroughly. This will prevent water getting in the motor.
  4. Once ready, re-lubricate the chain. Turn the pedals backwards and drip or spray the lubricant into the inside of the chain links. It is best to apply the lubricant in a spot where the chain runs freely and not near the front or rear brakes so you don't accidently lubricate the brakes!
  5. Remove any excess lubricant with a clean rag or cloth.   

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Bike checks to do before you ride

Do these quick checks before getting on your e-bike, so you can make sure the ride ahead is fun and safe, and spot issues before they become a bigger problem.

If you cycle regularly, you can also do these checks after you've been cycling. That way you can fix any problems ahead of time, and you don't have the aggravation of finding out your bike isn't ready to ride just as you need to head out on it.

In all cases, check visually for any wear, tear or damage to the components - and take your e-bike in for a service or safety check at a bike shop if you find anything that gives you concern. 

Tyre checks

Keeping your tyres at the correct pressure makes your ride smoother and reduces the chance of getting a puncture.

It's even more important with electric bikes because you won't get as much range out of the motor if the tyres are at a low pressure. 

On a standard bike you would more readily spot flat tyres as you would find yourself having to work a lot harder to pedal, but an e-bike motor can compensate for this,  effectively hiding the issue and draining the battery faster.

Tyres naturally leak air even when not in use, so it is especially important you check them if your e-bike hasn't been ridden in a while.

Before setting off, give your tyres a quick check by pressing down on them. If it feels like there's too much give, use a pump to get your tyres to the correct pressure. 

We recommend using a pump with a pressure gauge so you don't have to guess. Manufacturers put the details of the correct pressure range to have their tyres at on the walls of the tyre.

As a rule of thumb, road bikes with thinner tyres run at a higher pressure than the thicker tyres found on mountain bikes, and the more you weigh the higher the pressure you'll want.  

Brake checks

So you can safely control your speed and stop quickly in emergencies - it is vital your brakes are in working order. This is even more important for e-bikes, as they tend to be heavier than their non-electric equivalent.

Check the brake pads are clear of any mud or debris that could lower their performance, and before setting off take the bike for a quick spin outside your house or in the garden to check the brakes are working as expected. They should bring your bike to a complete stop when firmly applied. 

Battery checks

Make sure the battery has enough juice for the ride ahead. It's good practice to do this well in advance of setting off - that way you'll have time to charge the battery if needed. 

It's recommended to always set off on a full charge if you're doing a full day of cycling. This will ensure you don't face problems - e-bikes can be heavy and a more difficult ride without the motor assistance.

If the battery is removable, check the contact points in the battery holder are clean before reinserting. Ensure it fits snugly in the holder. If the battery seems loose within the holder, it could disconnect from the contact points, causing the motor to intermittently cut out.   

Cable checks

Electrical cables carry data and allow the e-bike to function. Check them for wear, tear and damage - a broken cable could cause an electrical error. It's recommended you don't attempt any electrical repairs yourself - take your e-bike to an e-bike shop if you see any damaged cables. 

Motor checks

Take your e-bike for a quick spin out the front of your house, to check the motor is performing as expected. If there is a persistent issue that doesn't go away by taking the removable battery out and putting it back in, it is best to get in contact with a bike shop or the manufacturer to sort it. 

Some e-bikes use speed sensors to know how fast you're going and determine the right amount of power the motor needs to provide. Some speed sensors work with a magnet attached to the spokes on the front or rear wheel. As your cycle, the magnet passes by a sensor to detect your speed. 

If the magnet gets knocked out of place the speed sensor may not accurately detect your speed, meaning the motor may not work as well as it should. Before setting off check the magnet is in line with the sensor, and adjust its position if needed.

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How to maintain your e-bike battery

Arguably the most important piece of maintenance you can do, as a properly maintained e-bike battery will save you money in the long run. 

Rechargeable batteries do tend to deteriorate over time, but the following principles will keep your bike's battery powering you further for longer.

How often to charge an e-bike

While there isn't a hard or fast rule, it's best to keep your battery charged up. It's good practice to charge the battery after every journey, even if it was short. Most e-bike batteries are Lithium-Ion (Li-ion), which don't like to be in a discharged state, so don't let the battery run to empty, and if it does, get it recharging as soon as possible.

If you only cycle occasionally, it is best to charge the battery at least once a month even when not in use. Batteries naturally discharge, and so doing this will prevent it going completely flat and will make your e-bike battery last longer.

How to make your e-bike battery last longer

Letting a full battery drain to 0% and then fully recharging it is known as a 'cycle'. Rechargeable batteries can only go through a finite number of cycles before its performance will be reduced and it will hold its charge for a shorter time. So the fewer full cycles you put the battery through, the longer it should last.

According to Energuide, you should expect a good quality Li-ion e-bike battery to last around 1,000 cycles - about three years of moderate use - before seeing a significant reduction in how much charge it can hold. Below are some simple tips to make your battery last longer:

  • Charge the battery indoors - Li-ion batteries don't charge or perform optimally in extremes of hot or cold. So charging outside, where the temperature is more variable can lead to a faster drop in its capacity. Bring the battery inside to charge (or the bike if the battery isn't removable) and store it between rides in a place where the temperature doesn't fluctuate much, like a cupboard. 
  • Unplug the battery when it's fully charged - most chargers switch off once the battery is charged to prevent overheating. However, if you keep the battery plugged in, the charger will keep cycling on and off as the battery discharges - essentially using up the battery's finite number of cycles while you're not using it. It's best to unplug once charged, so keep an eye on it and avoid leaving it to charge overnight.  
  • Use a lower assistance level when cycling - although it's tempting to whack the assistance to max all the time, this will drain your battery quicker, and you'll find yourself charging it for longer, more frequently. It may seem counter-intuitive, but lowering the assistance when you don't need it, such as cycling on flats or downhill, will help the battery last longer.
  • Plan how you will store the battery - if you're not going to be using your e-bike for a long period of time (for example over the winter), make sure you store the battery correctly. Bosch recommends removing the battery and storing in a dry place at room temperature (10-20°C). Make sure the battery has some residual charge (between 30-60%) and take it out once a month to charge it. This will stop the battery becoming flat and ensures it's in top shape when you start cycling again.

Instructions may differ slightly by manufacturer, so it's important to read your manual and follow any specific instructions given to optimise the life of your battery.

Can you overcharge an e-bike battery?

In theory a battery can be overcharged, but in practice no. 

Nearly all e-bike batteries and chargers have systems built-in that turn the charger off when the battery reaches 100% charge or is at risk of overheating.

Do remember these batteries are a potential fire risk so treat them with care and don't cover while charging.

How much does an e-bike battery cost to replace?

A replacement e-bike battery typically costs around £200-£500 to replace, depending on its size/capacity and brand.

It's worth bearing in mind this potential extra expense when you invest in an e-bike, as it's not insignificant. 

Most e-bike Li-ion batteries should last around 1,000 charge cycles before a noticeable drop in performance - so a well-maintained battery should last about three years of moderate use before you even need to consider replacing it. 

If your e-bike's range has decreased, and you think the battery needs replacing, take it to a bike shop for a service. They will be able to run a diagnostic on the battery, and let you know if there are any issues and if it needs to be replaced.

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How to maintain your electric bike motor

Electric bike motors are housed in a sealed unit so there isn’t anything you can, or should, need to do to maintain the motor. Just keep an eye for any wear, tear or damage to the casing, and take extra care when cleaning your e-bike to avoid getting water in the motor unit.

If the motor starts behaving strangely, or the display shows an error code, try removing the battery and putting it back in. Most e-bikes are designed so the motor system resets when the battery is taken out and reinserted – so a simple ‘turning it off and on again’ approach should solve most motor issues.

However, if issues persist it is always best to contact a bike shop or the manufacturer to sort it. Never try cracking into the motor’s housing yourself to fiddle with it.

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How to store your e-bike

Storing your electric bike properly will keep it rust/corrosion free and the electrics in tip-top condition. This is especially important over the winter where, unless you’re the most keen of cyclists, you're likely to not ride it for several months.

Whilst a bike is less prone to corrosion or rusting in the summer compared to winter, it is best to store it in the same way all year. This will help you form a year-round habit, so you don’t have to remember any additional steps depending on the season.

  • Store the battery inside, partially charged - if you can remove the battery, you should remove it and store inside in a cool, dry place. Bosch recommends storing between 10-20°C. Make sure the battery has some residual charge left (30-60%) and take it out about once a month to charge it. This will stop the battery going flat while in storage and prolong your battery's life.

  • Clean your bike - cleaning your e-bike regularly is good maintenance, but you should definitely do it before storing. This will remove any dirt or residual salt which could corrode the bike frame. If you’re storing for a long period of time, you can apply a protective spray to the bike frame. 
  • Store in a dry area - you should store your electric bike in a dry area, preventing any moisture from building up in the battery housing or getting into the electrics. A shed, garage or basement is ideal. If you don’t have a dry outdoor space, bringing your e-bike indoors would also be an option, so long as you have room inside.
  • Invest in a bike lock and cover if you store outside - if you have no option but to store your e-bike outside a good-quality bike cover and lock is essential. The cover will protect your e-bike from the elements: look for outdoor covers, which are made from a heavier polyester-based cover, that offer waterproofing and UV protection. The lock will help prevent theft: make sure the lock is securing the frame as well as the wheel, and you are attaching the bike to an immovable object such as a metal railing.

 How to buy the best outdoor storage - find the best bike storage options


Electric bike servicing

Getting your e-bike serviced is a good way to make sure it keeps performing as well, especially if you are less confident at tackling maintenance and repair jobs yourself. 

How much does an e-bike service cost?

A one-off e-bike servicing costs about £100 on average, but can range anywhere from around £50 to £200.

Some retailers offer ‘cycle cover’, which includes regular servicing along with other benefits. This often works out cheaper than if you paid for all the included services as one-offs, but you'll need to decide if you really need all the services on offer.

Do electric bikes need more servicing than normal bikes?

Electric bikes don’t need servicing any more or less frequently than a non-electric model. The main thing that affects how often you should get your e-bike checked over is how regularly you use it. 

Like a car MOT, it is recommended you get your bike serviced every 12 months. If you use the bike regularly, like for commuting, you may want to get it checked more frequently. 

Free bike safety checks

Some bike retailers offer free bike safety checks. This isn’t a full service, and most don’t check the electrical components of an e-bike as standard, but it is an inspection carried out by a professional to make sure your bike is safe to ride.

They will check over your bike for damage and determine if your bike is in good nick, or requires a repair or service. This is a good place to start if you want to have a professional look over your bike without spending any unnecessary cash. 

Some retailers, such as Rutland Cycling and Evans Cycles offer a free check-up in the first six to eight weeks of buying a new bike with them. Halfords offers a free bike check, which you can book online or in-store. It says it checks 32 points on your bike including the frame, saddle, handlebars, wheels, brake system and drive train. 

E-bike services and costs compared

Most retailers offer multiple tiers of servicing. 

The cheapest usually includes full safety checks, a clean of your bike and a check of the electrical systems. 

The top-tier services usually strip down the entire bike for a deep clean, have the wheels trued (tighten the wheel spokes to make the wheels straighter and more round - improving performance), clean the drive train and update any e-bike firmware.

Below is a summary of some of the e-bike services from top bike retailers. We've only highlighted services that check the electrical components of the e-bike in some capacity, but it’s best to look in detail for the service that offers the checks you want at your budget.

Decathlon

One-off service cost: from £55

Summary of what's included

  • Check and tighten the saddle and handlebar brackets
  • Check and adjust the headset and brakes
  • Lubricate the gears, shifters and drive chain
  • Wheels trued and aligned
  • Update e-bike firmware
  • Battery diagnostic and checking electrical connections

Do they offer 'cycle cover'?: N/A

Evans Cycles

One-off service cost: Silver £75, Gold £125

Summary of what's included

Silver service

  • Check and adjust the brakes, gears, drive chain, wheels and tyres
  • Clean and re-lubricate the drive chain
  • Wheels trued
  • Update e-bike firmware
  • Clean and reseal all electrical connections
  • Clean and check sensor positions
  • Battery diagnostic and recharge

Gold service

  • Everything in the silver service
  • Full strip down, clean and reassemble of the bike including bottom brackets, headsets and hubs

Do they offer 'cycle cover'?: N/A

Evans Cycles also offers 'quick fix' services, read Evans Cycles servicing price list for full details

Halfords

One-off service cost: Silver from £50, Gold from £80

Summary of what's included

Silver Service

  • Check, clean and adjust gears and brakes
  • Check and lubricate drive chain
  • Check, true and align wheels
  • Tyres inflated and tread checked
  • Electrical connections serviced

Gold Service

  • Everything in the silver service
  • Check for damage, remove and clean the headset
  • Free fitting labour on any replacement parts needed

Do they offer 'cycle cover'?: Yes

Price ranges from £45-£160 depending on the value of your e-bike and the length of cover and includes: a six-week, six-month and annual bike services; unlimited puncture repair; unlimited brake and gear adjustment; free part and accessory fittings and 10% off replacement parts.

Pure Electric

One-off service cost: Bronze £40, Silver £80, Gold £120

Summary of what's included

Bronze Service

  • Check and adjust gears and brakes
  • Check and lubricate drive chain
  • Wheels and tyres checked for damage
  • Full safety check
  • Bike frame wiped down
  • Check e-bike motor

Silver Service

  • Everything in the bronze service
  • Wheels trued
  • Remove, check, clean and re-lubricate drive train
  • Check and adjust hubs, headset and bottom bracket

Gold Service

  • Everything in the silver service
  • Full strip down, clean and reassemble of the bike including bottom brackets, headsets and hubs
  • Update e-bike firmware
  • Electrical connections checked and cleaned
  • Battery diagnostic and recharge

Do they offer 'cycle cover'?: N/A

Rutland Cycling

One-off service cost: Standard £90, Advanced £160, Ultimate £220

Summary of what's included

Standard Service

  • All components checked for wear and damage
  • Tighten bolts
  • Adjust and lubricate drive train components
  • Adjust brakes
  • Update e-bike firmware
  • Diagnostic on all electrical component

Advanced Service

  • Everything in the standard service
  • Full strip down, clean and reassemble of drive train and brakes
  • Re-lubricate drive train
  • True and align wheels

Ultimate Service

  • Everything in the advanced service
  • Full strip, clean and reassemble of the entire bike including bottom brackets, headsets and wheel bearings

Do they offer 'cycle cover'?: Yes

Available as a £150 two-year or £200 three-year plan and includes: a six-week bike check; a standard service at the end of year one; an advanced service at the end of years two and three; free brake and gear adjustments and free e-bike firmware updates.


Service details last updated 22 April 2021