How to Choose an E-Bike
If you’ve previously purchased a bicycle, you may already know what style and size bike is ideal for you. However, when shopping for an e-bike, there are some additional factors to consider. With so many styles and options available, how do you know which e-bike you should buy? Here are some tips for how to choose an e-bike that’s best for you.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Shopping for an E-Bike
First, ask yourself a few questions. These questions will help you narrow down the style, classification, and features of the ideal e-bike for you.
- How often will you ride?
- What type of riding will you be doing?
- What is your cycling experience level?
- How much assist are you expecting from the bike?
- How fast do you want to travel?
- How far will you be riding?
- What terrain will you be riding over?
- What is your budget?
E-Bike Options to Consider
Classifications & Styles
Electric bicycles are categorized into three classes based on speed, wattage, and operation. The most common type is Class 1, also known as “pedal assist” or “pedelec” e-bikes. These bikes have an assisted speed cap of 20 mph and require the rider to continue pedaling while the motor assists. Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes are less common due to legislation in some areas classifying them as motor vehicles.
Electric bikes are also available in a variety of styles based on the rider’s needs. For the urban commuter, there are road or commuter e-bikes. For the more adventurous rider, there are mountain and fat tire e-bikes. For a more casual or multi-purpose ride, there are hybrid and cruiser e-bikes. For added stability, try a three-wheeler e-bike. There are e-bikes that fold down for easier storage and portability, as well as e-bikes with baskets or racks for travelling with cargo.
Regardless of how you plan to use your e-bike, there is a class and style for you. To learn more about e-bike classes and styles, check out our blog post Electric Bikes: What They Are, How They Work, and Why You Should Get One.
When it comes to purchasing an e-bike, the battery is one of the biggest factors to consider. The capacity of the battery determines how far you are able to travel on one charge while using the pedal assist. A large battery will allow you to travel farther on a single charge, but will typically be heavier than a battery with a short range. The terrain over which you are riding should also be considered when choosing an e-bike battery. If you are riding over hills, you would want a larger battery than if you were sticking to more level surfaces.
Batteries will typically require at least three to five hours to fully charge, so make sure you are factoring in charging time when planning your rides. There are some e-bikes that allow for multiple batteries, which can extend your ride time between charges. A removable battery can make charging easier.
The motor of an e-bike helps to power the bike when using pedal assist. The motor is either located on the wheel ( a “hub” motor) or integrated into the gear system (a “mid-drive” motor). Hub motors directly propel the wheel they are mounted on, while mid-drive motors use the whole gear system. Similar to how terrain impacts your e-bikes battery, you should also consider terrain when picking the motor of your e-bike. A mid-drive motor makes navigating hills easier by changing the torque. Additionally, you would want a larger motor for climbing hills than riding on level surfaces.
Other E-Bike Features
While the classification, style, battery, and motor are the major factors in determining which e-bike is right for you, there are other features that may be important to you. For example, you may want integrated lighting if you ride in the dark, or integrated racks if you bike with cargo. While many e-bikes include a monitor or control mounted on the handlebars, some have more advanced features than others. Consider what features you need in an e-bike as well as features you would like to have but aren’t deal breakers.
How to Fit Yourself for an E-Bike
Just like traditional bicycles, electric bicycles aren’t one size fits all. It is important to choose an e-bike that is the right fit for you. You should choose a frame size based on your overall height as well as your inner leg measurement. If possible, you should try out the e-bikes in person to make sure they not only fit right, but also feel right.
Wearing the shoes you typically wear while cycling, straddle the bike. You should be able to straddle the top tube of the frame with your feet flat on the ground. For a road, commuter, or hybrid e-bike, you should have at least 1 to 2 inch clearance. If you ride a mountain e-bike, you should have at least 2 inch clearance. While pedaling, when your foot is in the 3 o’clock position, your knee should align with the ball of your foot.
When it comes to the feel of the e-bike, the weight of the bike as well as battery and motor placements can impact how you feel riding the bike. Electric bikes do tend to be heavier than their traditional counterparts, so make sure you can handle the weight of the bike itself. This is especially important if you need to take the e-bike onto public transportation or stairs during your commute. If the battery is mounted on a rack above the rear tire, the e-bike has a higher center of gravity than if the battery is located on the down tube of the frame. If the battery is located on the down tube of the frame, the bike has a lower center of gravity, resulting in a more balanced ride.
When you’re ready to purchase an e-bike, buy from a reputable bike shop. Ideally, work with a shop specializing in e-bikes for long-term support and maintenance services. While electric bikes are fun, buying one is also an investment into a method of transportation. Make sure to ask about the warranty on your new ride. A quality e-bike should last at least 5-10 years if properly serviced.