7 Things To Consider When Buying An E-Bike
So you're thinking of buying an e-bike online? You have many options, from inexpensive "basic" e-bikes to more expensive ebikes for riders with more sophisticated tastes.
There’s lots of upsides to owning and riding an e-bike. For example it can be more efficient than driving a car especially if you live in a urban or suburban area with bike lanes. In fact, there's nothing more satisfying than zipping past a long line of gridlocked traffic while riding an e-bike.
Other than walking, e-bikes are one of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly modes of transportation. Unlike cars, electric bikes produce no significant pollution when in operation.
E-Bikes Are Multi-Functional
Perhaps you're not considering an e-bike as a primary mode of transportation. Yet. Most riders start out thinking they'll just explore the neighborhood, but soon start looking for new destinations and reasons to ride. Using a cell phone holder on the handlebars and the USB port on the better displays, you can use the bike route function of Google Maps to choose the safest route.
However, have you considered that an e-bike can be used for all kinds of purposes, like:
● Fun and Adventure
● Commuting / Errands
● Bike Tours
As e-bike enthusiasts, we understand, it can be a bit intimidating to buy an electric bike online. That’s why we came up with these 7 things to consider when buying a new e-bike. Read on…
#1. Electric Bike Classes
There are three (3) classes of e-bikes:
#1. Class 1 e-bikes: Class 1 are Pedal Assist (PAS) electric bikes that have a maximum assisted speed of 20 MPH. The pedal-assist uses sensors to read your pedal cadence and/or how much force you are applying to the pedals.
#2. Class 2 e-bikes: Class 2 have a throttle, and go up to 20 mph. And you don't have to pedal to benefit from the motor. You just turn the throttle and away you go. Even though they aren’t as fast as Class 3 e-bikes because of the throttle some jurisdictions consider them a motorized vehicle.
#3. Class 3 e-bikes: Class 3, pedal-assist e-bike reaches up to 28 mph – climbs better and able to handle heavier loads. They may have throttles that only assist to 20 MPH. Class 3 aren’t permitted to ride on bike paths or mountain bike trails, and are typically only street legal.
💡Tip: Before purchasing your e-bike, check the area you live for any licensing, registraton, insurance, or other riding restrictions.
#2. Types of E-Bikes
There are three primary types of eBikes:
Pedelec, aka Pedal Assist
A Pedelec, also known as a pedal assist (PAS) e-bike, engages the motor by pedaling and you can adjust the level of assistance from low to high.
Pedelec with Throttle
On the other hand, adding a thumb or twist throttle to the e-bike provides motor power when you want to take a break from pedaling. You can cruise around town without moving your legs as if you were riding a motorcycle or scooter, just engage the throttle and off you go!
Speed Pedelec, High Speed
Riders who need to cover distance quickly while riding on surface streets and bike lanes (banned on almost all bike trails and paths) opt for speed pedelecs. Capable of overtaking traffic, riders should be extremely capable of dealing with a variety of traffic situations common to motorcycles and mopeds.
💡Tip: For a state by state guide to e-bikes check out People For Bikes, State By State Policies & Laws Guide to electric bike regulations around the country.
#3. Performance vs. Riding Range?
Many consumers focus on motor size and battery size, but that only tells part of the story when it comes to performance and riding range.
E-bike performance is about more than just the amount of get up and go an e-bike has and how long the power will last. It's also the experience you have as a rider.
Better performing e-bikes have a better level of parts and PAS technology and generally focus on ride quality and user experience. Inexpensive e-bikes focus more on affordability, using lower grade parts, basic tech and minimal upgrades or features. Both can be equally fun to ride - especially if you only ride around the block, but with a performance e-bike you'll be more confident going farther, faster and riding more often.
When comparing e-bikes you’ll notice a broad range of specs, from 20 to 100 pedal-assisted miles. Why? Because several design variables affect your riding range:
Motor Size - larger motors consume more battery - especially in wind and on hills
Motor Size to Battery Ratio - watt hours (WH) compared to motor wattage.
PAS sensor type - a torque sensor can add 15+ miles in range over cadence
Tires - narrow or wide, fast rolling or high friction, firm or soft
Throttle usage - no rider input means the motor and battery do all the work
In addition, there are many environmental factors that will also affect range:
Wind - adds resistance
Weight - more weight requires more power to move the same distance
Hills - require extra power, which means extra battery
Surface Type - harder surfaces yield greater distances
Rider Ability - an understanding of using proper gearing will add miles to range
When all is said and done, consider how you will use your e-bike, how effectively it can handle different terrains and how fast it can speed up and come to a complete stop.
💡Tip: Generally, e-bike estimated range is measured by two factors: motor wattage and battery watt hours. Wattage is a measure of the power that the motor produces and consumes, and watt hours is a measure of the battery capacity. So, at full capacity, a 500W motor consumes 500 watt hours.
Watt hours (WH) is a way to measure the energy capacity of a battery, in terms of range performance. To calculate the watt hours of a battery, simply multiply the voltage by the amp hours (Ah). For hub-motor e-bikes, the WH and motor watts should be at least equal. A battery WH that exceeds a motor's wattage by at least 25% is considered an extended range battery.
How and where you ride also matters. The harder the motor works, the more battery it uses. Throttle use, headwinds and hills all cause accelerated battery usage in higher PAS levels.
To charge fully, most batteries require up to 4 to 6 hours. With large capacity batteries taking a bit longer.
External batteries are easier to charge and replace. And fully integrated batteries give you room in the frame for accessories like a water bottle cage or small bike bag.
💡Tip: Battery life span is typically 800 FULL charges, with a half charge only counting as 0.5 charges against the total.
#5. Hub Drive Motor or Mid-Drive Motor
Hub Drive (Geared or Direct Drive)
Hub Motor / Direct Drive: Completely silent and set inside the hub of the rear or front wheel, the direct drive motor sends power straight to the wheel giving you a feeling of being pushed along. The motor and wheel turn at the same speed, so it builds momentum as it goes. Best for high speed flat commutes, good for climbing most hills, not “steep” hills, excellent for exercise, transportation and fun. Difficult/impossible to pedal after battery dies.
Hub Drive / Geared Hub: Internal gearing allows the motor to always run at optimum speed, even if it's faster or slower than the wheel is turning. The internal gears cause an audible whirring sound that is about as loud as a whisper. Best for carrying heavier loads and steeper hills! But work well for all applications such as commuting, exercise and recreational fun.
Mid-Drive / Center Drive
Located on the bottom bracket where the crank arms attach to the bike frame, a mid-drive motor's pedal assist responds with a natural feel, and with the weight of the motor centered and low, helps keep your ride balanced and stable. The better motor systems do not have throttle capability.
Efficient, lighter weight, and typically the longest range because the motor uses your bikes gear system for optimal performance and torque. They are excellent for all applications; hills, speed, distance, commuting, exercise, fun and adventure.
💡Tip = A mid-drive motor uses the gearing of the bike to increase and decrease power, allowing smaller motors to provide similar power as larger hub motors.
In an electric bike, torque (turning force) is the ability to rotate the rear wheel. Higher torque will rotate the wheel easier and create more acceleration, especially from a stop. This means a bike with higher torque is easier to get moving from a stop or uphill.
Measured in Newton Meters (Nm) the listed maximum for an e-bike might range from 30 Nm to 80 Nm.
When it comes to e-bikes, torque is important, especially if you plan to ride a lot of hills and/or haul heavy loads.
💡Tip= Your actual riding torque will vary as you change your pedal assist settings.
#7. Pedal Assist Levels
An e-bike is more than just its motor and battery. You should also take into consideration, Pedal Assist Activation and Pedal Feel.
Most e-bikes offer varying assist levels, allowing you to preserve battery power at lower levels or summon more speed and torque at higher levels. Each level "caps" the amount of power the motor can use, limiting it's speed and battery usage at all but the highest level.
The more performance oriented the bike, the smoother and more responsive its pedal assist will feel. This is directly related to the PAS technology used. The "gold standard" is a bottom bracket torque sensor that measures input at the pedals.
💡Tip = Riding into a headwind or uphill in level 4 will conserve more battery by limiting the amount of battery power the motor can use. The top level is "uncapped" allowing excessive battery use.
Buying An E-Bike
As you continue to think about buying an e-bike, keep in mind that even the best electric bikes cost far less to purchase, maintain and operate than a car.
If you're on a budget, online brands offer the most value and a savings of about 33% over similar e-bikes at retail stores. Generally there is some simple assembly with online purchases, but most shippers will deliver to a bike shop for assembly and you still save hundreds of dollars.
However, e-bikes do require regular maintenance and service. Buying an e-bike at a bike shop means local service. But even if you have a bike shop do the maintenance on your online purchase for you, your costs will be minimal compared to owning an automobile.
If you have questio
ns, or need advice on which e-bike is right for you, get in touch with us, we’d love to help you choose the best e-bike.