Best E- Bike Buyer Tips
What is an e-bike?
An electric bicycle is a regular bicycle that has been designed to incorporate a motor, rechargeable battery, and controls. The rider can rely on pedal power, battery power or a combination of the two, depending on leg tiredness, a headwind, hill grade, or just mood. Aside from their obvious function, they are quiet, non-polluting vehicles of fun and fitness.
How would I go about choosing an e-bike?
If you are new to the world of e-bikes, you probably find it confusing and likely question whether there is even an e-bike that would work for you. We have written an Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide. It’s pretty comprehensive, not too long (only 20 pages or so) and is available to you free. You might also check out this Electric Bike Glossary.
But not everyone has the time or inclination to do that much reading. So here is the nitty gritty on choosing an e-bike, with technical jargon kept to a minimum.
It all boils down to the style or type of e-bike that suits your purpose, how far you want to ride it, and what kind of performance you want out of it.
There is actually an e-bike designed for pretty much any purpose or combination of purposes you might have mind. For example you might want to:
- Find a low cost, fun and sweat-free way of commuting or running errands
- Engage in low impact, low intensity exercise
- Rediscover road or mountain biking abandoned for reasons of health or age
- Enjoy quiet and convenient access to camping and hunting areas
Browse through our catalog of styles (link) and see what looks best for you.
Pro Tip: Always shop for an e-bike with your purpose in mind.
Basic E-Bike Styles
Commuter e-bikes are designed to get you to work, school or just around town without breaking a sweat. They are also known as hybrid e-bikes because they have the wheels of a road bike (small to thin tires) and the handlebars of a mountain bike. This combination makes for good riding comfort and maneuverability.
Cruiser e-bikes (also known as beach cruisers) are similar to the commuter (or hybrid) e-bike but are a little more rugged and comfort-enhanced for a cushy ride. They have wide extra padded soft seats, thicker tires, and offer a more comfortable upright riding position. Cruiser e-bikes are fine for errands downtown, relaxed leisure time riding, and tooling around the neighborhood. They will also handle sand and snow.
Comfort e-bikes are similar to cruisers but ergonomically designed for people who find it difficult to lift their knees very high or have bad backs. A comfort e-bike has a seat that sits further back and a pedal position that is higher. Some even have back rests.
Fat Tire E-Bikes
The principal distinguishing feature of the fat tire e-bike is the tire itself, which is generally around 4 inches wide. This is what prevents it sinking into sand and snow and gives it great traction. It is also great for feeling confident in higher speed turns on regular road surfaces. Fat tire e-bikes also generally have sturdier frames.
In addition, a frequently overlooked benefit of the fat tire, certainly in a commuter or cruiser bike, is that it can obviate the need for front and rear suspension. This is because the tires themselves provide a great cushioned ride.
There is s folding version of almost every type of e-bike. So now you have personal transportation in an e-bike that you can take anywhere and keep anywhere you have limited space.
Live in an apartment? Got a boat? Got an RV? Got a plane? Then a folding e-bike is the perfect e-bike for you. Most folding e-bikes fit easily into a car trunk or closet.
Also known as e-MTBs, mountain e-bikes are ruggedly designed for the punishment of outdoor adventures. However, most of them are limited to a street legal 20 mph. So aside from being able to handle the rigors of the trail, the e-MTB remains a go anywhere e-bike.
Step Through E-Bikes
The step through e-bike is all to do with the design of its frame. It eliminates the traditional upper crossbar.
The step through frame is especially beneficial for comfort, convenience and ease of use. It is great for Baby Boomer and Gen X riders and anyone with lower limb mobility issues. It is also well suited for delivery bicycles or trips with frequent stops.
The step through is also inherently safer than a crossbar bike because a rider who loses balance can simply step through the bicycle frame without getting tangled up in it.
Step Over E-Bikes
The step over or crossbar design is structurally stronger and therefore lighter than a step through. This can matter a great deal in the world of regular or performance pedal only road bikes, where ounces count. But in the e-bike world it is really a matter of style and personal preference.
The step over is traditionally associated with male riders but the unisex step through e-bike has gained wide acceptance among male Baby Boomer and Gen X riders.
The three wheels of the trike bring obvious stability to the biking experience with battery power providing a pedaling boost. The riding position is upright or recumbent.
E-trikes come in many configurations. Some are simply for those desiring the biking experience but who have issues with balance. Others are designed for utility and cargo carrying capacity.
Range & Performance
Here we have to get a little (high school level physics) technical. However, this knowledge is important and can really help you shop one e-bike against another.
Range and performance relate to battery voltage and amperage. The manufacturer has already matched the motor to the battery.
So far as performance is concerned, just remember that the higher the battery voltage the more pep or acceleration you can get out of it. E-bike batteries typically come in 24, 36 and 48 volts.
Range is all to do with battery size (the amount of stored energy) and how fast you use it up.
All batteries have a voltage rating and an amp-hour rating. You multiply the two together to arrive at watt-hours. Volts x Amp-Hours = Watt-Hours. This is an objective measurement of comparison as between batteries.
A rule of thumb is that you can expect to use from 12 to 24 watt-hours per mile. This is a very wide difference but is accounted for by wide differences in rider weight, bike weight, tire pressure and type, terrain, weather, speed, age of the battery, how much you pedal, and how hard you gun the motor.
For example, Susie’s e-bike has a 24 volt / 20ah battery and Jenny’s e-bike has a 48 volt / 10ah battery. Both e-bikes have 480 watt-hours of stored energy and the same theoretical range. However, Jenny’s e-bike has more power (volts) and if Jenny over-guns her e-bike, she will use more energy and not get as far as Susie.
Below we have set out a tabulation of approximate e-bike range estimates based on our 12 to 24 watt-hours per mile rule of thumb.
|Volts||Amp-Hours||Watt-Hours||Range in Miles (12 watt-hours/mile)||Range in Miles (12 watt-hours /mile)|
In our opinion, for best enjoyment, you should have a minimum 36 volt / 10ah battery.
E-Bike Cost Factors
The cost of an e-bike is determined by:
- The power of the motor
- The voltage and amp-hours of the battery
- The quality/quantity of its components/accessories
You will readily see from this site that there is a wide range of prices. The mid range is in the area of $1,200 to $4,500. We try to offer an e-bike to fit every budget and also offer financing to make the investment affordable.
The Upside and Downside of E-Bike Ownership
- Although not cheap, it is definitely inexpensive compared to owning a car
- An excellent mode of personal transportation, especially for short distance commuting
- Helps you keep fit while enjoying the outdoors
- No licence required
- Comes in configurations to suit different purposes
- Expensive initial investment, although financing is available
- Heavier than a regular bike
- Rather complex parts requiring greater maintenance than a regular bike
Based on the rapidly increasing numbers of happy e-bike owners in the USA, the verdict is in and the jury has found that the e-bike is simply a Transport of Delight!