Your Guide Before Buying An Electric Bike
Posted by Dina Llabore on
Electric bikes are changing the way people think about cycling. They’re simple to use, eco-friendly, and a whole lot of fun! People with mobility issues find it easier, and delivery cyclists can cover more ground. Anyone can enjoy the extra power and assistance of an electric bike.
If you are a first-time buyer, it’s hard to know what features are most important. A little bit of research can ensure that you find the ideal model of bike for your own needs on or off the road. Read on to discover more about e-bikes and how to choose the one you will love.
How Do E-Bikes Work?
These bikes incorporate a battery-powered motor. The motor is there to assist you, but it only works when you start pedaling. Once you head off on your bike, you can start to feel the benefits of an electric current helping you to cover more ground as it aids the bike’s propulsion. Some people think of it a little like a cruise control feature. Once you apply your brakes, the motor stops providing this assistance.
The core of the e-bike is much the same as the pushbike you might be used to riding every day. The motor, usually attached to one of the wheels, is the key difference.
The bikes tend to have a lot of settings. You can alter how much of a boost you’re getting from the motor. For example, you might just want some gentle assistance. However, if you have mobility issues or you’re riding in a region full of hills, you might want more help to make life easier and take some of the strain off your body.
E-bikes are a good solution if:
- You cover a lot of ground on your bike.
- You have mobility issues and need help propelling yourself.
- You want to be able to go further with no extra effort.
Road Bike, Hybrid, or Mountain Bike
Road bikes are often cheaper than the other varieties. They don’t have to face up to the same tough conditions and bumps that a mountain bike might. Also, the tires usually don’t need as much grip. These bikes are great for commuting on the road or cycle paths to work.
Mountain e-bikes are usually a more robust option. They may have strong fenders, puncture-resistant, and fat tires to survive more difficult terrain. They often also include more gears to help with inclines and suspension for the bumpy ride. The motor can also give you a nice boost and make it easier when you are heading up a peak. You can focus on steering and avoiding obstacles rather than worrying about stopping for a breath.
As you might expect, hybrid bikes aim to give you the best of both worlds. They aren’t usually quite as robust as a mountain e-bike, but they may still have suspension and more gears. They are great on concrete surfaces and roads, but they also perform well in the fields or going on a hike. Hybrid bikes are versatile and incredibly popular.
Are They Legal?
There is nothing inherently illegal about an e-bike. In the US, the law can vary from state to state. For example, some states have regulations on the age of riders or the precautions you must take. Some require a helmet to be worn.
Legally, an e-bike is often different from a motorbike due to the fact that the motor isn’t the main source of power. Because it can only assist the rider and you still have to pedal, it doesn’t count as a motorcycle.
If you’re located in the US then there’s a simple way to categorize bikes and understand what is allowed. The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association provides a guideline on bikes based on three “classes”.
Class 1: This is when the motor only starts when the rider pedals. They’re also limited to 20 miles per hour.
Class 2: This type of bike is 20 mph and the motor works whether you’re cycling or not.
Class 3: This bike is limited to 28 mph, has a speedometer and the motor helps you to pedal.
This is an effort to simplify what is allowed. Classes 1 and 2 are allowed in every state and treated like push bikes in the eyes of the law. Class 3 may not be allowed on some routes.
The key takeaway is that US citizens should look into the local state laws on e-bikes. Each state has its own guidelines. You might need to wear a helmet, or you might have to be a certain age to ride your bike. Laws vary from state to state and from country to country, but electric bikes for adults are mainstream and legal almost everywhere.
Pros and Cons of E-Bikes
Every mode of transport has its upsides and downsides. Before buying the best electric bike, consider the best aspects of owning one of these bikes as well as the worst.
- You can travel further. One of the best aspects of an e-bike is the fact that the same amount of effort can get you much further. This means you can explore further afield.
- People with mobility issues can still travel. As well as e-bikes, we stock electric tricycle for adults which are great for those who struggle with mobility. They are stable and don't put any strain on the joints, plus your pedaling is motor-assisted.
- You can tailor your exercise. A lot of people start with more assistance and reduce the motor’s assistance level as they get fitter. It can help you to get used to covering longer distances.
- No more sweaty commutes. This sounds like a trivial thing, but for a lot of us, getting to work with a sweaty shirt is a huge annoyance. You can get some assistance from your e-bike and ensure you’re not too worn out when you arrive at the office.
- They’re good for the environment. This type of transport doesn’t give off harmful fumes or make your carbon footprint any worse. If you charge the battery using solar power, you’re being even more eco-friendly!
- They’re not cheap. If you’re serious about cycling then you might already spend a fair amount on bikes and cycling gear. For an e-bike, it is a big initial investment, especially if you want a model that is capable of going off-road.
- These are heavier than manual bikes. The extra weight of the motor and battery is something to think about. If you often need to take your bike on the train, for example, an e-bike might prove to be a challenge.
- There are some extra maintenance and some storage considerations. Your bike battery might need to be stored separately to keep the battery stable. It’s also a good plan to get a regular tune-up at a bike store.
Understanding the Motor
The main difference between an e-bike and a manual bike is the motor. This is what provides assistance while you cycle.
The power from the battery is fed into the motor and turned into physical force which is used to spin the wheel. This only works if you are already pedaling.
There are multiple setups for e-bikes and their motors. In some bikes the motor is on the front wheel, in some, it is on the rear, and in others, it is positioned in the middle and works in partnership with the drivetrain. All of these give the rider assistance. For those who have never felt it before, it feels a little bit like someone is pushing you along to start with.
Front vs Mid vs Rear Hub Motor Position
1. Front Hub Motors
As you can guess, front hub motors mean they sit on the front wheel hub and help to spin the front wheel. This is the style for the majority of affordable e-bikes.
The motor power is translated directly to the wheel so it doesn’t wear the drive chain. However, some people find it tough to balance on this bike because the motor makes it “front-heavy”.
2. Rear Hub Motors
Rear hub motors power the back wheel. They need a specifically designed rear wheel, which is why the e-bike conversion kits don’t work well on the back wheel. The force coming from behind has a more natural sensation for most cyclists.
3. Mid Hub Motors
A mid-hub position is great for those who want a bike they can take off the road. They have a good balance and even distribution of weight, rather than feeling heavier in one part of the bike. They engage the drivetrain which means it’s also easier to do maintenance on your wheels.
The main downside to the mid-hub position is that the bikes tend to be much more pricey. Consider whether or not you need the extra functionality and balance before you part with the money. For a lot of road cyclists, it is overkill.
For the motor to work and provide the help you need, the bike needs a battery. Many modern bikes have lithium-ion batteries. This is the same technology used in most smartphone batteries.
Your battery is directly linked to the power the e-bike is capable of providing, and it also impacts the range of your e-bike. More on the range later.
Many bike batteries have batteries that provide between 250 and 500 watts of power. This impacts the help you get from the motor, especially when you are going up steep inclines. It also has an impact on how long the battery will last between charges.
Another key metric is Amp-hours. The Amp hour of an e-bike battery refers to how much charge it can hold, and therefore how long you can use it before you need to put it on charge. A higher Ah rating means that the battery is likely to last longer. However, the Ah rating alone doesn’t account for how much power is being used at any given time, so it varies from one bike to another.
On the same bike, if you have the choice between a 21.5 Ah battery or a 17 Ah battery, the 21.5 Ah will provide longer between charges.
The Range of Your E-Bike
The Ah rating plays a significant part in the range of your bike. This refers to how many miles you can typically do before it needs to be charged again. You don’t need to do any complex sums to work out the range. When you buy a bike, it comes with the range listed in the product specifications. Like most things related to bikes, it varies hugely. You might find that you get 20 miles per charge, or you might find that you get 70.
If you are planning to take your bike out for long journeys and significant commutes, it is a good idea to get a longer range. The bike might be more expensive, but it is better than getting stuck with flat battery miles from home.
Are The Batteries Replaceable?
It depends on the model, but the majority of e-bike batteries can be replaced. Over time, batteries will degrade. Your phone’s battery is a useful comparison again. After a couple of years, you will find that your phone doesn’t hold as much charge. The same naturally happens with an e-bike battery so it might need to be replaced.
You can contact the manufacturer or the store where you purchased the bike to make sure you are getting the right model of battery. Get a professional to make the changes. This usually means going to a bike store.
Some bike batteries can be refurbished or reconditioned. A bike shop might offer this service. They can replace the individual cells within the existing battery. This means that the health and lifespan of the battery will be replenished.
How Long is the Lifespan of a Battery?
How long should you expect to get out of your battery before it needs maintenance? It depends on how well looked after the bike battery is. For example, a battery that is exposed to extreme temperatures will degrade much more quickly.
Other factors come into the lifespan of your battery, too. However, it is likely that it will start to degrade after three years. The battery will still be usable for a couple more years after this, but not at its optimum level.
You can use a voltmeter to check if the power is being supplied to the motor drops. If you get your e-bike serviced regularly then this is something that the bike technician is likely to check for you.
E-Bike Prices - How Much is an E-Bike?
There isn’t a standard price for e-bikes for sale. Like cars, the price can vary hugely. You can get affordable options if you need them, or you can go all out and get a top-of-the-line e-bike.
E-bikes start at around $500-1000 on the low end. In this price range, you can get a decent bike. It’s likely to be a road bike, and have a front or rear wheel motor.
If you are able to spend a little more, between $1,000 and $2,500, you will find some budget mountain bikes and road bikes with better batteries.
If you spend over $2,500, you’re entering the realms of top-quality electric cycling options. If you part with this kind of money, expect a reliable bike. This price range should also give you the choice of mid hub motors, which will mean better balance while you’re on the road or out on the trail.
E-Bike Warranties - Will My Purchase Be Protected?
Each manufacturer has its own warranty structure. You should always check before you buy a bike. A lot of manufacturers offer 12-month protection on their bikes. The Green Bike USA GB500 is an example of a bike that has a 12-month warranty.
Many e-bike manufacturers offer longer warranties on the frame. Even if your bike’s battery isn’t protected, you might be covered if the frame breaks or becomes warped over time.
E-Bike Maintenance - How to Keep Your Bike in Good Condition
All bikes need some maintenance, and the addition of a battery and motor can make e-bikes a little more demanding. There are some simple tips you can follow to keep your bike in good condition for years to come.
- Regularly clean your bike. Dirt and grit can easily build upon a bike, even if it has fenders. These can get into the mechanism and cause breakages.
- Don’t let your battery spend a long time in freezing temperatures. Below zero temperatures are bad for batteries and can make them degrade much more quickly.
- Try to leave your battery charge level between 30% and 80% while the bike is not in use. Below this and the battery could get damaged.
- After a long period of time not using your e-bike, be cautious when you take it out of storage. Check the tire pressures and the brake lines. It’s a good idea to take a gentle test run to see if everything is in good working order.
- Take your e-bike to a bike shop regularly. It’s a good idea to get your bike seen by a professional. A springtime checkup after a winter of being stored is ideal. They will check the battery health, tires, and brakes, as well as the motor and other components that might be prone to wear.
You can follow our full guide to e-bike maintenance to ensure that you keep your bike in top condition and ready to ride when you need it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do E-Bikes Charge When You Pedal?
No, this is a common misconception. The motor uses the battery’s charge to run. When you pedal, you are not generating extra power or charging the battery in any way. This makes it even more important that you keep your battery charged and don’t run out of juice.
Do E-Bikes Work in Winter?
Your e-bike will have no issues working in the wintertime. If you live in an area where the temperatures drop significantly, it can cause battery-related issues. You should not take your bike out in sub-zero temperatures. This can cause the battery to degrade, and this means you will need to replace it or get it reconditioned much sooner.
If you live in a warmer climate where the winters aren’t too harsh, you don’t need to worry about using the bike unless the temperatures drop to freezing.
How Do I Fix My E-Bike if it Has Issues?
Some of the issues that can crop up with your bike might be fixable without taking it to a shop. If you are an experienced cyclist, you may already know how to patch or replace a tire. This is the most common issue that people experience. It’s common to slash a tire when you’re out on difficult terrain.
If you have issues with your battery, and it is not holding power, or there appears to be a fault with the motor, you should take your bike to a specialist bike shop. Alternatively, contact the manufacturer for more guidance. You should not attempt any potentially dangerous repairs yourself.
What Are Step-Through E-Bikes?
Step-through bikes have a lower section through the middle of the frame, meaning you can physically “step-through” when you need to mount or dismount. This is great for people who struggle to mount the bike seat ordinarily. For example, someone with hip problems will be able to get on and off the bike without pain.
Because these bikes are easy to mount and dismount, they are also popular among people who are having to hop on and off the bike all the time. Delivery drivers may well prefer this design.
Choosing the Best E-Bike For You
Your choice will usually boil down to your budget, as well as what features you require. Consider the range you need, so that you’ll never run out of juice. Also, think about where you will be taking the bike. If you plan to go on hills and off the road a lot, then a road bike is not going to cut it.
The range of electric bikes continues to grow as people realize what a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transport this is. Make sure to get an e-bike you love by doing your research beforehand and understanding the features and functions.
Check out our full selection of electric bikes. You'll be sure to find one that fits your needs perfectly: https://www.ebikejoy.com/
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This comment about the Electric Bicycles are very interesting.John-Michael Mahnke on