How to Buy an Electric Bike – 5 Things to Consider

November 15, 2016 4:41 pm Published by


Electric bikes (eBikes) are taking off in the US—especially in cities and towns where traffic is robust.  Folks in the Washington, DC, Long Beach or Santa Ana, CA, and San Francisco or Oakland, CA areas spend more than 75 hours a year in traffic.  Yikes!  eBikes can help cut down on the amount of time you spend in traffic and reduce your carbon footprint— not to mention, they are super fun, adventurous, and offer great health benefits to their riders.  In the last few years, a new generation of electric bicycles has begun to revolutionize our idea of environmentally friendly transportation. These new bikes have all the convenience of cars combined with all the simple economy of ordinary bicycles.  But if you’re new to e-bikes, you might need some help deciding what to look for when shopping so that you can compare alternatives based on the same criteria.

Before we share some buying tips, let’s talk about what an e-bike is, exactly.  An electric bicycle is a bicycle, using the same designs and components as any other bicycle, and can even be pedaled just like a regular bike.  What makes an e-bike different is that it also includes an added electric motor, powered by a rechargeable battery, so riders have an extra boost of power.  They are a fun, reliable, and healthy alternative to cars and traditional bikes.  Unlike some other techy gadgets, the e-bike has a promising future.  For instance, a recent Navigant Research report indicates that electric bicycles will continue to be the highest selling electric vehicle on the planet, with a nearly 35 million unit sales forecast for 2016. Further, global e-bike sales are expected to grow from over $15.7 billion in revenue in 2016 to $24.4 billion by 2025.

What to Look For In an Electric Bike

With the holiday season upon us, now is a great time to start thinking about e-bikes as a gift for someone you know, or maybe even for yourself.  But first, you will want to do your research.  Here are five factors you will want to evaluate in order to get the highest quality product.

  1. Build: This includes rims, spokes, and the frame.  Be sure that your e-bike only has double or triple wall rims, preferably with stainless grommets and minimum 13G spokes or preferred 12G.   The spokes should be stainless steel and brass nipples. Trued and even tensioned rims are very important.  When it comes to the frame, as a baseline, look for AL6061 aluminum, minimum 2.2mm thick main pipes to 1.8mm thick. Heavy TIG welding and gussets are a must.  While it may sound counter-intuitive, light is not always better.  You need a bike with a strong frame because high speeds will be experienced when riding your e-bike.
  1. Battery: The battery is quite possibly the most important factor when distinguishing a high-quality e-bike from a low-quality eBike and determining the overall performance of the e-bike. Also, it’s usually the most expensive part on an electric bike.  We recommend genuine Samsung or Panasonic cells that the e-bike company is getting directly from the manufacturer.  One reason for this is because many batteries coming through 3rd party companies in Asia have a large percentage that are counterfeit. When your e-bike includes a battery and cell purchased directly from top manufacturers, it ensures the safety and quality of the battery. Additionally, on more expensive e-bikes, big 50 plus cell packs should have clear charging limits such as 41V versus 42V.
  1. Brakes and Tires: Brake inhibitors are important for mechanical brakes on Pedelecs. Mechanical brakes often need to be adjusted in order to perform on par whereas Hydraulic breaks self-adjust when applying braking force. You can’t help but think about tires when you think about brakes.  The correct tires are important for the type of ride to be enjoyed. When riding on pavement, puncture resistant, smooth thread tires are best.  But when on a light trail it is better to use an all-terrain tire.  It goes without saying that riders must be safe and feel safe, and tires are important to safety. Enough said.
  1. Warranty and Support: Buying an electric bike is a long-term investment that you want to be able to enjoy for many years, so it is important to think about the kind of warranty an e-bike comes with, the kind of technical and mechanical service that will be provided, and the level of support you’ll receive after making your purchase. Having both a good warranty to back up your purchase and a trustworthy team of experts to provide support and service as you begin using your eBike plays a central role in ensuring that your e-bike experience is successful and enjoyable. For this reason, it’s important to buy from an e-bike company that has a good reputation, has received consistently good customer reviews, and has a proven track record of providing strong post-purchase service. In general, look for a 2-year minimum manufacturer warranty and avoid prorated warranties because these are often just a money maker for the manufacturer.
  1. Range and Speed: E-bike range and speed vary. The lighter varieties can travel up to 20 mph depending on bike style and regulations.  Higher-powered models can often achieve speeds in excess of 28 mph. Depending on the kind of e-bike you ride, you should be able to travel 25-35 miles on a single battery charge.


Tips for Choosing an E-bike: How do you choose the right e-bike for you?

It is very important that you do research so you choose from among electric bikes that are right for your riding needs.  Here are five tips on how to buy the right bike for you, given your unique circumstances:

  1. Usage: Are you going to be commuting, adventuring, travelling, exercising, etc. with your e-bike?
  2. Rider’s Age and Health: Considering your age and general health, determine the amount of power you will need. This includes the expected distance the bike is ridden, mounting the e-bike, throttle or pedelec, etc.
  3. Terrain: What type of terrain will you ride on the most? Also, will you be riding on different kinds of terrain regularly?
  4. Price: How do you get the “biggest bang for the buck”? What can you afford? Where will the bike be stored and will it only be ridden during specific times of year?
  5. Accessories: Which accessories do you need for a better riding experience and to meet your riding needs?

More Resources

E-bikes offer many benefits and advantages but if you don’t get the right one you could end up unhappy and the bike could end up being just another decoration in your garage.  Go into the purchase informed and comfortable with what you know about the product and industry.  If you are interested in learning more about the growth of this industry, Bloomberg Business Week has written a great story on this topic and Lifehacker and have written more about the cost of commuting

Of course you can always reach out to our team of experts and we would be happy to help you select the bike that is right for you.

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This post was written by Jason Behfar

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