Buying an electric bike can be intimidating and frustrating at times. When I set out to build this site I had just spent over $2,000 on a bike I found online that ultimately didn’t end up working out very well.
Shortly after buying it I chose to resell it on Craigslist at a huge loss and start over. It wasn’t powerful enough and felt unstable. I was worried about who could fix it down the line if it broke and I just didn’t feel comfortable with the motor style and pedal assist integration.There is so much effort required to learn what components really matter; the motor size, battery type and amp hours etc. but so much money is at stake it’s worth digging in so you don’t end up regretting your choice.
Test Ride Before You Buy
The best way to compare electric bikes is to ride them and many large cities have electric bike shops that offer daily rentals for ~$30. Take a weekend trip and rent a bike for the afternoon! It may seem like a hassle but this is worth doing before you settle on a purchase. As an alternative, you can search Craigslist for used electric bikes nearby and then test ride them. This will also give you a chance to ask the original owner why they are selling and what they did or didn’t like about the bike.
Understand Weight and Placement
Weight plays an important role in how an electric bike may or may not fit in your life. Heavier bikes are harder to lift and will hurt more if they fall on you or a friend at the bike rack. This really comes into play if you ever have to walk your bike home after getting a flat tire or running out of battery and can be a limiting factor if you live upstairs or plan to ride the bus/train and have to lift it a lot. Some electric bikes are too heavy for traditional racks like those on the front of busses and might even be too heavy for your car’s roof mounted bike rack! Think about all of this before buying but also realize you can reduce the weight by removing the battery pack or explore options like electric powered trailers.
Where the battery pack is mounted on the bike also makes a difference. The higher up it is, the higher your center of gravity will be and that can cause the bike to tip over sideways or even backwards more easily. I prefer mid-frame designs that keep the battery low but some of my favorite high-end bikes still use a rear saddle-rack design that can work okay if the battery isn’t too heavy.
Consider Your Weight and the Bike’s Power
Next big consideration is your weight! That’s right, if you’re a heavier rider I’d recommend paying extra for a higher Watt motor and higher Voltage battery. These two measures determine how strong the motor will be and how much energy goes into driving the strength of the motor. In parts of Europe there is legislation limiting the power of ebike motors to 250w and because of this, most bikes there are built with pedal assist to help boost power and extend the ride. Pedal assist mode is a setting that requires the rider to pedal along in order to make the electric motor kick in vs. just using a throttle to go.
Another big consideration when buying an electric bike is how you intend to store and maintain it. Will you be parking it in safe places and keeping it inside? If so, you might be okay with a fancier computer system, built in lights and other bells and whistles. If you’re going to leave it outside in the rain, vandalism and theft become more of an issue along with general wear and tear.
I’ve tried many ebikes over the years but the one I own and use most includes built in fenders, a welded on rear-storage rack and a water bottle holder. These may seem like simple considerations but at the end of the day I want to stay dry, I want to avoid noise and rattling and I need water. My bike also uses a hub motor which I feel is more balanced and durable. The motor placement and computer style also just look more like a bike and that helps keep away unwanted attention. This bike really fits my lifestyle!
Everyone’s different and there are lots of bikes to choose from out there with more coming every day. I hope the reviews on this site help you make an informed decision because electric bikes are good for the environment, healthy to ride and more social ways to get around than cars. Good luck!