Electric bicycles are bicycles, just with added electric assist from a motor and battery. Many e-bikes come stock with what are called “e-bike-specific” components. But, do you need them when it’s simply a bicycle?
The answer to that question is nuanced, but there are reasons why you should consider parts that are specifically designed for e-bikes.
Obviously, e-bikes have a motor, a battery, a controller and extra wiring. This all adds up and can make the bike significantly heavier. That extra weight alone puts more strain on all the parts, such as the brakes have to be able to work well under the extra mass. Add to that the extra power being put out by both your legs and the motor, and you can imagine the added stress on the drivetrain, the tires, etc.
Several companies make e-bike-specific parts, and one example is the chain. KMC makes e-bike-specific chains that they developed new rivet technology to better handle the additional stresses and improve the life of the chain. They even warranty the chain to last 10,000 kilometers when used with KMC sprockets and chainrings.
“When we first heard about e-bike-specific saddles, we thought it was a marketing gimmick.”
Shimano has a different philosophy than most. Instead of making separate e-bike-specific parts, they engineer all of their components to be able to handle the extra stresses put on by e-bikes, offering an advantage to the company and consumer by offering fewer products, all of which can perform well on an e-bike or a traditional one.
Magura offers four different e-specific brake sets, including one with Bosch ABS, an anti-lock braking system driven by the bike’s electrical system. The advantage of ABS is that it keeps the brakes from fully locking the wheel, which offers the absolute maximum braking power while still offering full control of the bike. When a tire skids, it actually loses contact with the pavement or dirt, and you can go further at higher speeds than if you brake but don’t skid. The added advantage of the Bosch ABS is that it intelligently prevents you from going over the bars.
TAKE A SEAT
When we first heard about e-bike-specific saddles, we thought it was a marketing gimmick. What we found out makes it clear as to why it can be important. When you have an e-bike, you can often climb steeper sections when seated more than being out of the saddle, which changes your position on the saddle more forward. This position requires a different design to remain comfortable, and companies like Selle Royal make saddles with this in mind.
SQlab makes not only e-specific saddles, but they have expanded into grips, stems and even handlebars. They offer a huge variety of options for e-bikes and regular bikes. Your local shop that carries them will actually measure you for optimal fit, sometimes using specialized tools.
There are e-bike-specific tires from companies like Michelin and Pirelli, two companies that are known for motorsports tires, but many bikes are spec’d with non-e-tires, like Maxxis Minion or Schwalbe Magic Mary. We did notice how nice the grip is on the Pirelli e-bike tires when cornering on even slick surfaces.
Overall, we recommend e-bike-specific components for an e-bike, as many are designed to add safety and longevity to your bike and therefore more time spent having fun on two wheels!