Classic bike or electric bike? What you should pay attention to when buying

4. Derailleur and hub gears: which gears fit which bike

This question does not arise with:

  • racing bikes
  • mountain bike or
  • gravel bikes

Because these bikes almost always run with derailleurs – i.e. with a large gear range. This means small mountain gears and high speed gears for high speeds. Most trekking bikes also shift gears using a rear derailleur and sprocket cassette.

Hub gears are often sufficient for city bikes – with coarser gears and fewer gears overall. Unless it gets hilly like in Stuttgart or Bamberg. “Then it gets exhausting with a range typically up to nine gears,” says Filippek. Or more expensive, as there are also high priced hub gears that offer more range with eleven speeds (Shimano Alfine) or 14 speeds (Rohloff).

Manufacturers prefer to install convenient automatic gearshifts on city bikes, but they are also expensive. Automated systems are available from Enviolo and Shimano, for example. Some expensive racing bikes, on the other hand, have semi-automated electronic derailleurs. The circuit controls the front derailleur in such a way as to prevent the chain tilting at high wear.

Exceptional belt drive

Instead of a bicycle chain, a toothed belt can transmit power to the rear wheel. Since it works fat-free, the trouser legs also remain fat-free.

The incorporated carbon fibers ensure great tensile strength, while a chain, on the other hand, lengthens over time. E-bikers in particular sometimes have to replace their chain after only 1000 kilometers – whereas a belt can withstand many times that. A carbon belt costs around 50 euros and more.

You can get single chains from 10 euros. “If you extrapolate the costs over the lifetime, it’s worth it,” says Filippek.

Prerequisite: The belt is properly tightened and is straight – otherwise it will also wear out quickly. With a belt you lose the smooth running properties, especially if it is too tight: “The power losses are higher than with a chain”, explains Zedler. Also, you can only combine the belt with a hub gear.

5. The different brakes at a glance

Powerful disc brakes have replaced rim brakes on many bikes. But how exactly do they differ?

  • Disc brakes operate largely independent of weather conditions.
  • Rim brakes, on the other hand, lose their braking effect in the wet.

With disc brakes, we distinguish:

  • mechanical variant, which you operate with a pull cable
  • hydraulic variant – with mineral oil or brake fluid

The more the pistons press on the brake disc, the more precisely the braking force can be adjusted – and the price goes up. Coaster brakes are still common, especially on city bikes. According to expert Zedler, roller brakes have become rare – although they require little maintenance, they are hardly recommended in many areas due to their low braking power.

6. Buy at a retailer or online: it is important to note this

Buying online means buying cheaper. Price differences with the local dealer can amount to a few hundred euros for comparable bikes. If you know exactly what bike you want and what size is right for you, you can confidently take advantage of the price advantage, says Zedler. He recommends everyone else get a thorough test drive at the dealership.

Because: if you order from the shipper, the bike will arrive in a box – usually only pre-assembled. You should be able to attach the handlebars and pedals yourself. For carbon parts you must use a torque wrench to avoid damage.

In general, repair skills are an advantage – for example:

  • change the pipe
  • replace brake pads
  • adjust the derailleur

“You should be able to do it yourself so you don’t always have to go to the dealership,” advises Filippek. Because there you are not always welcome with the sender’s bikes.

Point: Also check the used bike market and the classifieds. Here you can make good deals – like bad buys that other cyclists want to get rid of. However, that assumes you know exactly what you need.

“And there is a high probability that then you will have to put something in the bike or that repairs or new wearing parts will be needed quite quickly,” says Filippek.

With e-bikes, the challenges are intensified: “The need for service is higher than with conventional bikes”, says Zedler. In the event of a software problem, a slamming battery or a stuttering motor, the service of the online merchant is understandably poor. “It’s not so easy to decipher where the problem lies with an online verification,” says Zedler.

Some online shippers are now setting up a network of agencies to offer their customers additional touch points in addition to chat and phone advice.

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