How to Choose an Electric Bike (Ultimate Guide)

Till a few years ago, not many people were even familiar with the concept of electric bikes. In fact, from 2006 to 2012, electric bikes accounted for less than 1 percent of the annual bike sales in the USA. However, with advancements in technology such as the lithium-ion battery and improvements in power, the electric bike fever has started to catch on.

Now, electric bikes have become a raging trend. According to some industry experts, electric bike sales are expected to grow from 3.7 million bikes in 2019 to 17 million bikes in 2030. Now, this is one train that you definitely don’t want to miss.

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So, if you’re thinking of buying an electric bike, you’ve come to just the right place. Sure, an electric bike isn’t the same as a car, but it does require the same amount of thought and consideration before you make that final choice.

Therefore, we’ve put together this handy guide where we’ll discuss all the factors you need to consider before choosing an electric bike, its advantages as well as its disadvantages so that you know exactly what you’re getting into. Let’s get started.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Electric Bike

Traditional bikes are great, but when you’re looking to kick things up a notch, there’s nothing better than electric bikes. They’re great for your health, excellent for the environment, and just downright fun to ride. However, when bought impulsively, they can turn out to be a hassle too.

Therefore, before you decide on an electric bike, make sure you do your research and account for all the necessary factors in your decision.

To help you out, we’ve rounded up all those factors so that you can quickly get to choosing an electric bike. Here’s what you need to think about.

advantages of an electric bike
advantages of an electric bike

1. Type of Electric Bike

One of the first things you need to consider when choosing an electric bike is the type of electric bike. Just like there are various types of traditional bikes, there are many types of electric bikes as well.

All of them have different purposes, so if you don’t choose the right bike for the right purpose, you will not only end up damaging your bike but could hurt yourself too. The main types of electric bike you need to remember are:

  • Road Bikes
  • Mountain Bikes
  • Hybrids
  • Folding/Commuter Bikes

Which type of electric bike is best for you depends on your needs. For instance, if you’re planning to ride the bike on paved surfaces or at high speeds, the electric road bikes, a.k.a. eRoad bikes, will be perfect.

If you plan to go on trails and hikes, you will need something with more traction, power, and the ability to handle the rough terrain, and that is the mountain bike. Similarly, hybrids can give you the best of both worlds, and folding bikes are great for those who struggle with storage or portability.

2. Class

Unlike electric cars, you don’t need a license to ride an electric bike. However, electric bikes are regulated in some places, so you need to know these regulations and choose the right class of electric bikes accordingly. There are three classes you need to consider in the USA and two in Europe.

In the USA:

  • Class 1 electric bikes have a pedal assist and motor that stops working once you hit 20 mph.
  • Class 2 electric bikes also have a motor that helps till the speed of 20 mph and additionally, has a throttle.
  • Class 3 electric bikes only have pedal assist, which helps till you hit 28 mph.

Class 1 and 2 electric bikes are allowed on most city streets and bike paths, while class 3 bikes tend to have some restrictions. You should check your local laws regarding electric bikes before choosing one.

For instance, in California, you need to be over 16 years of age and wearing a helmet to ride a Class 3 electric bike.

In Europe, there are two regulated classes. There’s the L1e-A bikes, which have a motor power of up to 1000w, and there’s the L1e-B bikes, which have a motor power greater than 1000w.

3. Battery

While a lot of factors, such as the rider’s weight, speed, number of stops, etc., go into determining the range of the electric bike, the battery plays a huge role.

Electric bike batteries have their capacities mentioned in terms of wattage-hours, which can give you a rough idea of how far your bike will take you.

If the wattage-hours isn’t mentioned, you can multiply the battery voltage by the continuous amperage as well. Bigger batteries have much more capacity but are heavier too, which means you’ll need a more powerful motor as well.

Besides that, you should consider what type of battery is used, i.e., a lithium-ion battery or a nickel-cadmium battery. Some bikes can come with two batteries, where one can be used as a backup.

Furthermore, you should consider how long the battery takes to charge and if it’s removable as it can make charging your bike very convenient.

4. Motor

When it comes to the motor, an important specification you need to check is the torque, especially if you plan to ride up steep hills and mountains. Moreover, you also need to consider the motor position.

There are mid-drive motors and hub-drive motors. Hub-drive motors are located at the center of the wheels, usually, the rear and mid-drive motors are found more towards the center of the bike, between the pedals. Hub-drive motors have been more common and are more inexpensive and versatile.

On the other hand, mid-drive motors are more efficient, light, and small. The center position gives the bike a more stable and balanced feel and can deliver more torque, which makes it ideal for off-road use.

5. Frame

The weight of the bike makes a big difference in how fast you can go, how much effort it takes, and the overall riding experience. Accordingly, the frame of the bike is a major contributor to its weight. Electric bike frames come in a range of materials.

There’s aluminum, which is the most common and will give you a lot of choices. Then, there are also carbon frames, which are much more lightweight and offer a better ride, but they come with a higher price point too.

Furthermore, along with the frame material, you have to consider the frame size as well. For a comfortable, and more importantly, a safe ride, you need to choose the frame size that best goes with your height and weight.

Additionally, depending on your needs, you can also consider the frame designs and see which offers the most convenience.

6. Brakes

This is one of the most crucial yet overlooked features when choosing an electric bike. Since these bikes are equipped with motors to power the bike, and they carry big batteries, they tend to be heavy and can go up to high speeds. As a result, they require much more force to stop.

That’s why you need good quality brakes that can effectively stop the bike quickly and avoid any accidents.

Moreover, this is especially important to consider if you’re planning to ride the bike on busy streets with other riders or pedestrians on the way.

Your best option is to go for hydraulic brakes as they are the most efficient.

choosing an electric bike
Ultimate Guide on How to Choose an Electric Bike

7. Price

Price is a big factor when choosing an electric bike or anything else in the world. Since they offer more power and convenience than traditional bikes, electric bikes are more expensive as well.

You will find electric bikes that cost less than $500 as well as bikes that go well over $5000!

The more features you add and the better ride it offers, the pricier the electric bike will be. Depending on your budget, you can find good bikes under $500 or $1000. You can also learn precisely why electric bikes are so expensive at times.

8. Other Features

There are also several other features that you can consider that will make the bike more convenient and improve the overall experience of riding it. Some of these additional features include:

  • Lights
  • Racks
  • Mounted LCD displays
  • Security features like integrated locks
  • Walk mode allows you to easily move the bike along when you’re not riding it

Advantages of an Electric Bike

If that long list of factors is making you rethink your decision to get an electric bike, here is a list of advantages of an electric bike that might make things a little clearer.

1. Easier to Ride

This is a no-brainer. Compared to traditional bikes, electric bikes are much easier to ride. They are equipped with a motor and pedal assistance mechanism that adds to your pedaling efforts to make the bike move.

This means you can put in less effort to ride the bike and consequently leaves you less tired and sweaty even after a particularly long ride.

This also means that you’re able to travel farther distances, which you wouldn’t have been able to cover on a normal bike. Besides that, if your riding path involves a steep hill or you’re going for mountain biking, an electric bike can save you a lot of effort.

2. Eco-Friendly

One of the biggest advantages of an electric bike is that it’s very environmentally friendly. Unlike normal cars or even motorbikes, electric bikes don’t burn any fuel to run and, therefore, don’t have a massive carbon footprint that could harm the environment.

Since they are battery-powered, they allow you to easily ride to places such as work or go for a hangout with friends or even do a quick grocery run. You don’t need to tire yourself by walking nor harm the environment by driving a car.

3. Keeps You Active and Healthy

It might seem like electric bikes pretty much drive themselves, but that’s not really the case. You do have to put in some effort to move the pedals, and therefore, in that regard, it’s not that different from a traditional bike and much healthier for you than an electric scooter as well.

Riding a bike doesn’t just move your legs. It helps you exercise your arms and shoulders as well. It targets your core, improves your joints mobility, strengthens muscles, enhances metabolism, and overall, is an excellent way to stay in shape.

Moreover, if you’re taking your bike in the mountains, the rough terrain can give you an even better workout.

4. Versatile

All the added features of an electric bike also make it that much more versatile. For instance, if your traditional bike could only take you to the nearest shop to grab some drinks, your electric bike can let you do a lot more shopping and carry it all easily thanks to the motor support.

It can let you travel farther distances, let you tow heavy loads, or easily ride along with children. Moreover, with the variety of models and hybrids available, you can ride your bike on the roads or even off-road.

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville even launched a bike-sharing program that allowed students to check-in and check out electric bikes to use on the campus.

5. Doesn’t Require a License

Despite the motor and battery within these electric bikes, you don’t need to have a license to drive them. If you went for an electric car, a traditional car, or even a motorbike, you would need to get a license to drive it around.

However, there are no such requirements for electric bikes. Although, as mentioned earlier, electric bikes are regulated in some places depending on which class of bike you have.

For example, in New York, laws and regulations have recently made it legal to ride an electric bike on some streets and highways. Therefore, make sure you read up on the rules and regulations regarding electric bikes in your area.

6. Convenient for the Elderly and Recovering

As mentioned earlier, electric bikes are easier to ride yet are good for your health too. This makes them an ideal mode of transportation for the elderly or those who are recovering from an accident.

The electric bike can easily help them get around without putting too much strain on their bodies.

It’s safer and more convenient as the pedal assistance can let them work out their muscles without the full burden of riding a normal bike.

According to one electric bike company based in Seattle, more than 80% of their customers were between the ages of 45 and 84. If they were regular bike riders before, the electric bikes could help them ease their way into their old lifestyle.

How to choose an electric bike
An elderly man riding an electric bike

7. Easy Maintenance

It might seem like electric bikes are very complicated machines with their motors and batteries, and, therefore, will be much more difficult to maintain. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Electric bikes aren’t that much different from traditional bikes when it comes to maintenance.

Just as you would clean and oil a regular bike, you simply need to regularly lubricate the electric bike, keep it clean, and check its wheels and pedals every once in a while.

The only additional thing you will need to do is charge its battery, which also isn’t very hard.

8. Price

You’ll notice that we’ve mentioned price in the advantages as well as disadvantages of an electric bike, and you’ll find out why in a bit.

On the positive side, electric bikes are much more inexpensive than cars. This not only refers to buying a car but also driving and maintaining it.

 Even if you already own a car, its repair and maintenance and the regular fuel costs will add up to be greater than what it would cost to ride an electric bike.

Additionally, if you compare them to buses or the subway, it might not be cheaper, but it does let you go anywhere you want, whenever you want.

Disadvantages of an Electric Bike

We’d be lying if we said that electric bikes are entirely perfect with no faults or drawbacks at all. There are a few disadvantages of an electric bike that you need to be aware of before you make a decision.

1. Weight

Since electric bikes have additional components, they do tend to be heavier than traditional bikes. As a result, this makes them harder to move around, carry, or even store at times. Moreover, their extra weight also makes them harder to maneuver at times.

2. Price

There’s no debate over the fact that electric bikes are more expensive than traditional bikes. You would have to spend at least $1000 to $2000 to get a good electric bike, although you can get some decent ones under $500 as well.

However, as mentioned earlier, electric bikes are still cheaper than cars, and any initial cost you pay gets covered by the long-term travel savings.

3. Charging Time

The charging time of an electric bike is one of the more concerning disadvantages of an electric bike. Its battery has to be regularly charged, even if you’re not using it, and that can take anywhere from one to five hours to completely charge.

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Final Thoughts

In a world where transportation is rapidly evolving and leaning towards battery-powered and eco-friendly vehicles, it seems electric bikes will be leading the race. They are much faster and convenient than traditional bikes and much less inexpensive than electric cars. While they do carry some disadvantages, their vast number of advantages more than makeup for it.

Furthermore, with the way their popularity is rising and technology is advancing, any drawbacks they have will soon be a thing of the past. Therefore, if you don’t have an electric bike yet, now is the time to start thinking about it, and you’ve got this ultimate guide on choosing an electric bike to help push things along!