How to Choose an Electric Bike

How to Choose an Electric Bike
7 min read
11 November 2022

It can feel like you're discovering a superpower by riding an electric bike or e-bike for the first time. The pedal-assist electric bikes allow you to go faster, carry more cargo and children, get closer to your destination and enjoy extra power on long rides.

E-bikes are initially broken down into the same categories that conventional bikes: road and mountain, plus niches such as urban, hybrid, cruiser and cargo bikes, and folding bikes.

Understanding the Three Classes of Electric Bikes

Electric bikes are divided into different classes based on their motor assistance level. This is primarily for regulatory purposes. It is crucial to determine which type of e-bike you require.

Class 1: The motor only kicks in when you pedal and then stops at 20 mph.

Class 2: This class also has a pedal-assist mode that can reach 20 mph and a solely throttle-powered mode.

Class 3: This class is solely pedal-assist (like in class 1), but the assistance continues until you reach 28 mph.

E-bike Batteries, Riding Ranges and Motors

Manufacturers pay a lot of attention to the bike's power plant. Performance vs riding range is the trade-off in design. A stronger motor provides more power to keep up with traffic, and more torque to climb hills or haul cargo. You will also experience a shorter range of riding due to a more powerful motor.

Comparing e-bikes is easy: You'll find a wide range of riding specs, such as 20-100 miles with pedal-assisted. Because so many factors affect riding range, this is why you'll see broad specs on prospective e-bikes.

A big battery is a good thing: Watt hours (Wh) are the time a battery can hold 1 watt of power without dying. It is also important to consider the motor power: A 500 Wh motor coupled with a 500Wh battery (a typical class 3 bike setup), drains more power than a 250 Wh motor and 500Wh battery (a popular class 1 bike setup).

Battery charging time: Most batteries take three to five hours to fully recharge from empty. Larger batteries can take longer. If you plan on riding your ebike to work, you can purchase additional chargers or bring your charger. You can also purchase faster chargers.

A number of batteries: Some ebikes allow you to use two batteries simultaneously. This allows you to extend your ride and if one of your batteries is dead, you can always have another. An extra battery can be purchased to keep your battery fully charged or to replace it at the end of its life (typically, several thousand charges).

Mounting of batteries: The frame has space for bottle cages and a small bag. However, external batteries are much easier to charge and change.

E-Bike Motor Location: The mid-drive motors can be found on the bottom bracket, which is the place where the crank arms attach the bike frame. Hub-drive motors are located inside the hub of the rear tire, while some motors may be found on the front.

Motors with mid-drive: This setup is common for many reasons. The pedal assist provides a natural response and helps to keep the ride stable and balanced.

Hub-drive motors for rear wheels: These motors transmit pedal power directly to the rear wheels, giving you the feeling of being pushed along. It is possible to change a flat on the hub drive's wheel, but it can be more difficult than changing one on a standard or mid-drive bike. The front-hub drive motors work in a similar way to front-wheel-drive cars. They also allow for a standard bike drivetrain to be mounted on the back of the bike.

Other key E-bike features and components

Of course, your e-bike is more than it's motor and battery. These are just a few of the details you should consider when comparing ebikes.

Pedal-assist activation, pedal feel: A bike that is more performance-oriented will have a more responsive pedal assist. You can test-ride many bikes to determine which one reacts best at your speed and intensity.

Levels of pedal-assist: Most bikes have 3 to 4 levels of assist, which allows you to conserve battery power (eco mode), or summon more speed (in turbo/boost mode).

Integrated accessories: E-bikes come now with a variety of accessories.

Lighting: This is an important safety feature that can be found on commuter and city bikes. There are many lighting options, and high-end bikes have more powerful lighting.

Racks: These sturdy racks are usually found on cargo ebikes and can hold heavy loads. You can also use e-bikes to carry a variety of racks. However, you will need to confirm that the rack will fit your particular bike model.

Displays mounted on the handlebar: An e-bike has a lot of moving parts, so it is helpful to have an LCD display on your handlebar that allows you to monitor battery life, pedal assist mode, miles were ridden and speed.

Smartphone integration: High-end ebike electronics can be connected wirelessly to smartphones. Some apps include GPS, service records, and other screen capabilities. You can even unlock your bike's lock with some apps.

Security built-in: Some bikes have rear-wheel locks that attach to the frame. Others have locks on the batteries that can be keyed to match the bike lock (purchased separately).

Component quality: E-bikes at different price tiers represent similarly tiered component quality. E-bikes that are less expensive won't come with high-end features such as smartphone integration and will also include value-priced parts. Premium brakes, tires and shifters will perform better than regular bikes.

Frames: While most e-bike frames can be made from aluminum, there are many frame options available (from carbon fiber and steel). The main factors in total weight are the frame material and design as well as the size of the battery and motor. E-bikes are generally heavier than regular bikes, but they can overcome sluggishness by using motor assistance. However, a lighter bike will feel more agile. If you have to choose between two bikes that are similar, a lighter bike will probably offer a better ride.

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