What is an electric bike? You may have seen the term pop up here and there, but you still don’t know what they’re all about. An e-bike is a motorized bicycle with an electric motor and battery. The development of electric bikes has been documented as far back as the 1890s, when Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted a U.S. patent for his battery-powered bicycle. The electric bike development had continued for decades and had seen many incarnations. Today, they’ve become a common mode of transportation in most places, such as China, where 120 million or more use their e-bikes daily.
Lately, you may have begun to see more and more people out riding their electric bikes in the city. E-bikes have become as popular as ever, so it’s only natural that you would want to get in on all the fun. As you begin to look into buying an electric bike, you might feel overwhelmed with the number of options and specifications involved. It’s important to do as much research as possible when considering the purchase of electric bikes. The last thing you want is to drop a good chunk of change on an unreliable bike and have it fall apart during the first ride.
So, you may be asking yourself, “What do I need to know before buying an e-bike?” We’re going to go over the top ten things you need to know, but first…
What Are the Different Types of E-Bikes?
Settling on buying an electric bike is one thing, and trying to figure out what type of one you want is another. There are several e-bikes you can choose from, such as:
- Electric Cargo Bike: This type of e-bike is useful for transporting cargo or kids. Some brand names have the option of either a front or back cargo box.
- Electric Commuter Bike: This e-bike is built for riding on the road, with added comfort and wide tires to support rider weight and the battery and motor.
- Electric Cruiser Bike: This e-bike is designed for a more comfortable and casual bike riding experience.
- Electric Fat Bike: This e-bike option entails wider tires (hence the “fat” bike) which are almost three inches wider than a mountain bike and are used primarily for heavier rides on the sand, soil, and light snow.
- Electric Folding Bike: This e-bike provides the option of portability, as you can fold it and take it with you anywhere. It can also fit into more compact places, allowing you to maintain space in your garage or home.
- Electric Mountain Bike: This e-bike is a great option for biking on rough terrains or long trails but can still operate smoothly on the road.
- Electric Recumbent Bike: This e-bike allows for a different riding experience, in which the rider is in a seated position with lower back support and three wheels instead of two.
Your electric bike choice will depend on what you’ll be using it for. Will it be for commuting through the city or going on trail rides? Perhaps you’ll need it for transportation purposes or casual riding. Along with the bike, the right tires need to be considered too. Luckily, information on tires can be found in our e-bike tire buying guide. Once you’ve decided which type of e-bike you want, then you can move on to researching what you need to know about them.
Spend the Right Amount
In the case of wanting an electric bike, knowing the right amount to spend is an important factor. Most people will assume that aiming for a lower price point is the better option, but they’re mistaken. E-bikes are an investment, but that also doesn’t mean overpaying for something unreliable.
While you can start with a budget e-bike that will cost you anywhere from $700-$1500, which is a decent starting price if you’re a first-time e-bike rider, we often see major problems with the quality of bike parts and electronics. These bikes are often considered disposable since you may not be able to get warranty help, find replacement parts or find a shop willing to work with you to keep your bike running well.
When you’re looking to take a step forward with a quality electric bike, that’s when the price will start to increase. Something for long-term use may have a price range of $1900-$2900 from reliable brand names. Here’s where you’ll get after purchase care and quality components that can be repaired or replaced.
Premium electric bicycles come with premium parts, specialized fit, reliable riding and a difference you can feel. Things like dropper seat posts, mid-drive motors, integrated batteries and hydraulic brakes are some of the benefits you’ll get. Your bike shop will also be able to better fix and customize your ride.
For a first-time buyer, researching the different price ranges for specific types of e-bikes can help you get a sense of what options can work for your needs.
Due to the investment aspect with electric bikes, it would be a good idea to go with a reputable brand or local bike shop. The reason for this is that you’ll want to ensure that you get a warranty with your e-bike purchase. With a warranty, you’ll be able to increase your chance of receiving replacement parts if your electric bike is ever to run into any issues down the road. If you go with an unreliable brand, the misfortune of having to pay a lot for a faulty bike is something that could happen to you. Be mindful of the length of the warranty before you make your purchase, as they can vary for different e-bikes and e-bike parts.
One of the main reasons the price of your electric bicycle might be so high is due to its battery. Batteries are considered the single most expensive part of an e-bike, but it’s also a major component that you won’t want to cheap out on. In many cases, the better the warranty, the better the battery.
The beauty of electric bikes is that you have the option to charge them at home. Most quality e-bikes use lithium-based batteries, such as lithium-ion and lithium polymer. However, the most important aspect of your battery life is how you take care of it. A well-maintained battery can last between 3 and 5 years. You can practice some specific steps to prolong the battery life, such as:
- Keep the battery in a cool place.
- Don’t charge at temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius.
- When storing a battery, keep it charged between 40%-80%.
- Don’t fully discharge your battery too often.
You may be wondering how often you should charge your e-bike and how long the charge lasts. The recommended answer is to charge after every ride, as it’s a good rule of thumb to not leave your battery discharged. If taken care of correctly, you can have up to 1000 charge cycles depending on the battery type.
The best way to get a “feel” from the performance of a motor is to take it for a test ride, if possible. During a test ride, you can determine how it will operate, especially down steep hills or how much more torque is necessary for going uphill. The power of a motor comes from its amount of Watts. The more Watts a motor has, the more power and Watt-hours you’ll get while riding your bike. However, with bigger motors, you’ll be using more battery power which increases your need for charging time.
There are two different styles of e-bike motors that can affect their power output:
- Mid-drive motors: This motor is mounted around the chainrings in the middle of the electric bike.
- Hub motors: This type of motor can be found within the back or front wheel hubs of the electric bike.
Both styles have their pros and cons when it comes to aspects such as torque and range. It’s important to look at all the factors involved to ensure you go with the right style for you. A test ride at a local bike shop is a beneficial way to tell what the riding experience will be like with a mid-drive or hub motor. So, how long do electric motors last? The motors on e-bikes can last up to 10,000 miles at the bare minimum if properly cared for.
When buying an e-bike, most people wonder about its range. The question of how far it can go on a battery charge can vary depending on a variety of things. Factors such as your weight, the wind, tire pressure, how often you use the pedal assist, and the terrain you’re riding on can affect the range. Your battery can also influence the range at which you can travel. For example, if you’re making 4-8 km commutes, you can get an e-bike with a smaller battery. If you’re planning on taking your electric bike on long-distance bike rides, then a battery with higher Watt-hours can give you far greater range.
Remember to keep in mind that this can vary depending on the riding conditions. A general understanding of your battery, motor, and your type of e-bike can help determine the distances you can travel. At the very least, you’ll always have the option of pedalling back home yourself.
Feeling comfortable on your e-bike is an integral part of the riding experience. Keep in mind what kind of riding style you want, whether it’s upright or leaning forward. Leaning forward while riding a bike is recommended, as it distributes weight between your bones and pelvis. The riding style can also depend on the type of e-bike you purchase, as there are different bike riding positions for different bike models. In some cases, a step-through bike may be easier for those who have trouble with mounting and dismounting their bikes. The comfortability you have during bike riding is important to maintain, as one small change can offset the entire ride.
In addition to providing a comfortable bike ride, its size and weight should also be considered. The weight of an e-bike has to do with the motor and battery. Electric bikes are generally heavier than standard bikes, with a weight of around 23-27 kg. If the weight and size of the e-bike are a potential problem for you, then you may want to look into smaller-scale electric bikes, such as ones that fold. This way, you aren’t lugging a heavy bicycle with you if you need to hop on a bus, fit it in a car, or go up or down a flight of stairs. Larger framed bikes with bigger wheels might be necessary for accommodation purposes if you’re a taller rider.
Aside from always wearing a helmet, there are a few things you’ll want to look out for. Make sure your brakes have the stopping power to match your motor and ensure all integrated lights or reflectors are working. It may seem like small-scale worries, but keeping up with safety features will make for a better ride. Most established bike brands have been tested for safety and have received a safety certification.
Pedal-Assist & Throttle
When it comes to an electric bike, there are two styles of motor engagement: Pedal-assist and throttle.
- Pedal-assist: The motor will engage only when the pedals are rotated. A torque or cadence sensor will determine whether pedalling is happening and how hard you are pushing. It then assists by providing a corresponding power amount from the motor.
- Pedal Assist with Throttle added: Allows for the option of riding without pedalling, as it engages the motor. You still have the ability to pedal with or without the assistance of the motor but you will have the additional option to use a throttle.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Whichever option you choose, you’ll always have the manual pedalling to fall back on.
The basic routine maintenance involved with servicing an e-bike is the same as any ordinary bicycle. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your electric bicycle is well-maintained:
- Use a sponge with a cleaner and gently wipe down your e-bike after every ride. Be careful not to get any water in the internal components of the bike, as it can corrode its electrical parts.
- Apply lubrication to the mechanical parts of the bike once a week, such as its chain and brake. Make sure the bike is clean before doing so.
- Check your brake pads once a month to examine if they need replacement. You’ll be able to tell, especially if there’s significant wear and tear.
- Keep your tires inflated properly. The best way to check is to use a tire pressure gauge or use your thumb and push down on the tire.
- Take care of your battery. If you’re unsure about what that entails, the manufacturer’s instructions will show you how to maintain your battery health.
How often should you service your electric bike? Your e-bike maintenance guide will be able to tell you how often e-bikes should be serviced. Regularly taking care of your investment will ensure that you’ll continuously have a positive bike riding experience.
Now is as good a time as ever to get your hands (and feet) on a new e-bike. Not only are they becoming the new norm, but they offer versatility and many opportunities for bike riding. If you’re ready to take the next step toward buying an electric bike, visit our shop in sunny St. James today.