If you've decided to purchase an electric bike, you'll find there are many different models available on the market and you might find it difficult to decide which one is best for you. Generally, compared to traditional bikes, ebikes with pedal assist motors will greatly increase your speed and distance. These bikes will allow you to climb hills faster and go farther with less effort. If you're trying to decide which one is right for you, we have several tips to help simplify the process.
Choosing the Right Electric Bike by Activity
Let's look at your riding habits. How often do you intend to ride? What type of terrain will you be biking on? The answers to these questions can help guide your decision.
There are basically three categories of ebikes to consider:
1. Commuter ebikes
A commuter electric bike is designed for safe, urban riding. Often people find that ebikes are more maneuverable in confined areas, such as cities and suburbs, because you have power when you need it. However, with their robust frames, many of these bikes are versatile enough to be used for other activities such as off-road adventures.
Types of commuter electric bikes include:
- Fat-tire: Also known as off-road ebikes, these provide stability and are designed for riding on sand, snow, or other loose surfaces.
- Cruisers: These bikes have a more relaxed frame geometry and are designed for casual riding and short trips.
- Hybrids: Hybrids combine the strengths of mountain and road bikes to create a versatile bike that can handle a variety of riding conditions.
2. Performance ebikes
Performance ebikes are designed for people who want to get more out of their rides, whether that means going faster or having more range.
Types of performance electric bikes include:
- Mountain: These bikes have the same frame and suspension as traditional mountain bikes, but with a powerful electric motor to help you conquer tough terrain.
- Road: Road bikes are designed for speed and distance. With a lightweight frame, these bikes are perfect for anyone who is looking to commute or tour on paved roads.
- Adventure: These bikes, also known as "gravel" bikes, are designed for a variety of surfaces. With a stable, comfortable frame and durable components like disc brakes and suspension forks, adventure bikes can handle just about anything you dish out.
3. Utility ebikes
Utility electric bikes are perfect for those who want to combine the convenience of an ebike with the ability to transport cargo. They are ideal for running errands, taking a child to school, or going on backcountry adventures.
Types of utility electric bikes include:
- Folding: Folding bikes are designed to be portable and can be stored in compact spaces like the back of your car. These bikes are popular with commuters.
- Cargo: Cargo bikes come in a variety of front-loading and rear-loading styles. They are great for those who want to transport groceries or other bulky items.
- Hunting: These durable, fat-tire, all-terrain bikes are built for quiet access when scouting hunting locations. They are designed to carry heavy loads and can handle extreme conditions.
Electric Bike Features
Once you have a good idea of how you will be using your electric bike, it's time to narrow down your list of features, here are several to keep in mind:
- Fit: As you shop for a bike, consider how it will fit your body. Most brands include sizing charts with listed standover heights. Compare these heights with your inseam. For example, if you have a 30" inseam, you will want a bike with a 29" standover height or less.
- Frame: The frame is the foundation of the bike and should be strong enough to support your weight and withstand the forces you will be putting on it. The most common materials for ebike frames are aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, and titanium. Aluminum is a durable option that is lightweight.
- Wheels: The size and design of the wheels will affect the bike's performance. Wheels with spokes are susceptible to breaking, while wheels with fewer spokes are lighter and more maneuverable.
- Brakes: The type of brake system your bike has will determine how well it can stop. Disc brakes are better at stopping quickly and can handle a higher weight load than rim brakes, but they will require more maintenance over time.
- Suspension: If you plan on riding your electric bike on rough terrain, make sure it has the appropriate suspension to help absorb impacts. Front-suspension ("hardtail") systems are found on almost all mountain bikes, while rear-suspension systems are found on full (front and rear) suspension mountain bikes.
- Motor: The electric motor is the heart of all electrics bikes, so make sure it's strong enough for your needs. If you plan on pedaling frequently to help power the bike, you'll need a motor with at least 250 watts of power. If you're planning to ride up steep hills or carry heavy loads, you will need to increase your power levels. Keep in mind, for regulatory purposes, electric bikes are divided into three Classes of motor assistance. You should familiarize yourself with these different classes.
- Battery: The battery should be big enough to last for the length of your intended rides. A battery's capacity is stated in watt hours (Wh). For example, a 250 watt motor with a 500 Wh battery (common Class 1 pairing) will drain power slower than a 500 watt motor with a 500 Wh battery (common Class 3 pairing).
- Charger: The charger is what powers the battery and should be easy to use. Look for a charger that plugs into a standard outlet so you can charge your bike at home or work.
We hope this article helped answer some of the questions you have about electric bikes and how to choose the perfect one for you. Stay safe and have fun on your next ride!