The Electric Bike Buying Guidestaff
The Electric Bike Buying Guide (All About e-Bikes)
Welcome to our electric bike buying guide where our aim is to help you find an e-bike to suit your needs.
There are 3 important questions to ask yourself before buying your first electric bike; what type of bike, drive system and frame size of electric bike is right for me?
We will answer each of these 3 questions in this electric bike buying guide, so grab yourself a drink and continue reading to find which is the best type of electric bike for you.
Why should you buy an electric bike?
There are good reasons why an e-bike wins out over a traditional bicycle or even a car for most shorter distance travel and you will be doing service to the planet by embracing this environmentally friendly mode of transport.
We find that people tend to choose electric bikes if they want to travel larger distances or go faster than their current fitness level would allow using a conventional bicycle, people who want to carry shopping, their pets or heavier cargo and an electric bike is perfect as it’s benefits will far outweigh a traditional bicycle counterpart.
More great reasons for choosing an e-bike include how awesome they are for commuting because you can get to work without being sweat laden or exhausted, or maybe you’re middle aged or older, not as fit as you once where, and you still want to remain active and stay healthy.
So, we covered the practical reasons as to why an electric bike is a great choice but we must not forget that they are also great fun to ride, they are amazing for the leisure rider to get our onto the open road and have the knowledge that whatever their fitness level they can tackle those steeper hills with the pedal assist modes an e-bike offers them, what’s not to like.
So, it’s fair to say that an electric bike has a number of advantages over a traditional bike, and if you use your e-bike as an alternative to a car for commuting distances then you would save enough money to pay for an average e-bike in less than six months.
The types of electric bikes
You find that for the most part, electric bikes come under five main categories which are urban, road, mountain, cargo and city/folding bikes, you will also come across the term hybrid which is typically a dual purpose road/mountain bike, let’s explore these types of electric bikes in more detail.
Electric Urban / Commuter Bike:
Electric urban bikes are often described as “commuter” e-bikes, urban e-bikes are amongst the most prevalent options offered on the market today. Ideal for commutes around urban and city areas, these adept bikes enable riders to make short trips without having to arrive at their destination with sweaty clothes or expending great amounts of energy on the journey. You’ll find this type of e-bike is great on bike paths, urban bikes are particularly practical in terms of carrying cargo and they offer a safe and reliable ride.
Urban e-bikes will characteristically feature a step-through or lower top bar step-over frame and when it comes to build quality and features you’ll find a combination of entry to mid-level mountain bikes opt for internal hub gears for ease of use and low upkeep. Wider tyres will often feature for improved puncture protection and disc brakes are generally used to the increase the stopping power, and it is becoming more common to find some urban e-bikes supplied with front suspension.
Electric Road Bike:
This is one of the most recent classes of electric bikes and they combine the rolling and aerodynamic adeptness of a regular road bike with the painless power of an electric (pedelec) drive system. Having the added electric power now allows cyclists of all capabilities to attack any climb or epic ride with more ease.
With an endurance focus these electric road bikes are ideal for those long days in the saddle or attacking hilly terrain that would make a professional cyclist grimace. The bike frames will stereotypically be offered in either aluminium or carbon fibre which can also be found on traditional high-end road bikes. The required stopping power will be typically provided by disc brakes, wheels tend to be built stronger with extra spokes for strength and stiffness. Tyres will characteristically be a bit wider than standard road bikes (30c +) the added width provides traction, puncture resistance and a more comfortable ride.
Electric Mountain Bike:
Electric mountain bikes are often referred to as eMTBs and they generally tend to be the most powerful electric bikes available. These are basically a normal mountain bike but they offer pedal assist (power assistance), these e-bikes are very capable trail eating machines which typically come in either hardtail or dual suspension versions.
You will generally find that an electric mountain bike will have suspension travel exceeding 100mm (maybe as much as 180mm) they have large volume tyres, making them highly capable for off-road use, these bikes are definitely better than their non-powered cousins, however these eMTBS are perfect for novice and more experienced mountain bikers alike.
Electric City / Folding Bike:
Electric city bikes are a perfect solution for those with limited storage space or for people that want to use their bike as an addition to train or bus travel. You find that city bikes tend to be small and compact which makes them perfect for portability and storage.
A city bike or compact folding e-bike tends to have smaller wheels and limited gearing systems, they are ideal for travelling on smooth surfaces such as those in towns or cities and are great for short trips. You can fit a rack at the front of the bike making them perfect for carrying loads when shopping or for your daily commute.
Electric Cargo (Utility) Bike:
The electric cargo bike is gaining in popularity as they are the load luggers of the e-bike world, cargo e-bikes are a viable solution for people and businesses who need to transport goods over short distances. You have the benefit of reliable and cheap power from an electric drive unit, cargo e-bikes are very capable of allowing you to commute to work, carry groceries, transport pets and to deliver small parcels. Many people are now looking at the cargo e-bike as a viable replacement for a town car.
These load luggers are usually equipped with large storage racks, bigger baskets or even a flatbed for carrying bigger loads, as these electric bikes carry heavier loads it is common that they have manufactured with sturdier frames and a longer wheelbase giving them increased stability.
We have also seen the steady rise in popularity of 3 wheeled cargo bikes, the electric tricycle is now seen as a great solution of carrying larger loads as it offers further increased stability and functionality over its 2 wheeled counterparts. If a tricycle is on your wish-list then you may wish to take a look at our recent electric tricycle for adults article where we review some of the best e-trikes.
The Drive System (Electric Motor)
You will find that there are 2 main drive systems commonly available with electric bikes; they are hub drive and crank drive and the 2 are quite different.
Hub Drive System
This is the most common of the two and it features a drive unit (motor) which is situated in the hub of the wheel, either the back or front wheel, and it propels the bike forward. A hub drive system can usually be used in 2 modes; a pedal assist mode allowing electric power to complement your pedalling or a throttle control mode which operates more like a motorcycle giving you power without pedalling, you get to ride and the bike pedals for you.
The hub drive motors are cheaper than their crank drive counterparts and is the de-facto drive system for the majority of electric bikes manufactured today.
Crank Drive System
A crank drive motor is integrated in the lower frame and incorporates the pedals themselves, the system works through directly powering the chain to the rear wheel gearing system. The advantage of a crank driven electric bike is that the electric power is supplied instantly and generally offers more torque which helps when attacking steep hill climbs.
The crank drive system is generally known as a pedelec drive and gives power to the bike only when the rider rotates the pedals. This type of drive system is more expensive to buy than the hub drive and most people tend to favour the hub drive in terms of cost and overall performance, the most common manufactures of hub drive motors include Shimano, Panasonic, Bosch, and Yamaha.
Choosing the size of an e-Bike Frame
Choosing the correct frame size for your height is very important as it will determine both your riding and comfort experience, you have a multitude of factors when choosing the type of bike that suits you, however the most important measurement when choosing an electric bike frame is that of your height measurement and using that you can the determine the size of frame required (see table below).
Height 4’ 10″ – 5’ 2″ Frame Size 13” – 14”
Height 5’ 2″ – 5’ 6″ Frame Size 15” – 16”
Height 5’ 6″ – 5’ 10″ Frame Size 17” – 18”
Height 5’ 10″ – 6’ 1″ Frame Size 19” – 20”
Height 6’ 1″ – 6’ 4″ Frame Size 21” – 22”
All the other stuff you should know
We have covered the main topics and now we want to give you all the other information that you should find useful when considering buying an e-bike. Things like how fast can they go, battery capacity, charging an electric bike, and best of all how an electric bike can help save you money.
How fast can an electric bike go?
You will find that most e-bikes will happily travel along at 25 kph (15 mph), you could go faster, this depends on the size of the motor and how much pedalling you wish to do alongside any additional pedal assist modes your electric bike may have. Most e-bike motors have good torque so they get you achieve desired speed fairly rapidly which makes them ideal for city, urban or rough terrain use.
We tend to stay clear from quoting top speeds for e-bikes in different countries (as they are subject to change), at the time of writing the USA is 20 mph (motor power alone) and a 750 watt top limit, however we may cover the subject of electric bike laws in a forthcoming article.
You should look for 2 important metrics when you buy an electric bike which indicate the power of the electric motor, they are as follows:
Amp hours (Ah): The amp hour metric usually described as Ah gives you the battery capacity which in simple terms translates that the higher the number the further it will travel on a single charge, typically you will see 10Ah which is a good starting point.
Voltage: The voltage metric described as V gives you the power rating of the electric motor, typically you will see 36V or 48V which is a good starting point.
You will find that the more power you use when riding the more battery capacity will be consumed, this is why you can select pedal assist modes to help when needed and reduce battery consumption for a longer range if desired.
Charging your electric bike
It’s a fairly simple job to charge up your electric bike when needed, most e-bikes come with a dedicated charger and all you have to do is plug it into a household power socket and wait between 3 to 5 hours.
Most e-bikes get about a 25 mile range from a single battery charge but there are some more expensive electric bikes that come supplied with larger capacity batteries allowing you to travel up to 40/50 miles per charge however these batteries will need a couple more hours to fully charge up.
Saving money with an electric bike
You can save yourself a large amount of money by choosing to travel by electric bike power over using your car for shorter distance journeys, let’s say on average an e-bike costs $0.03 a mile to run (electric cost alone) and you then compare that to the cost per mile of your car, whopping saving right?
You should also pride yourself that you are being much kinder to the planet by embracing green energy, so if you haven’t taken the step of buying an electric bike then what are you waiting for, it’s time to take that plunge and start your e-bike journey today.
We really hope that you found the information in this electric bike buying guide useful and we have answered many of your questions about e-bikes. Why not browse our website and see which electric bicycles or tricycles match your needs, you never know you could be starting your electric bike journey sooner than you expected.
(You can see the current prices and availability of some our best selling electric bikes in the product slider below.)
POST TAGS: electric bike buying guide, electric bike buyers guide, electric bicycle buyer guide, e-bike buyers guide, ebike buying guide, buying an electric bike, buying an electric bicycle.