Like any purchase you make it is best to be informed and understand the basics of the product you are buying. When it comes to electric bikes it is no different.
Why buy an electric bike?
An ebike could be a good choice for you if:
- You live in a hilly area
- You are lacking fitness or have limited mobility which makes a non-electric bike more difficult
- You want to save money on commuting
- You live in a hot climate
- You hate public transport (especially in Covid times)
- You don't want to ride into work and be forced to change clothes/shower every day
- You want a fun way to stay fit
- You are looking for a fun new hobby
What type of electric bike should I buy?
Before you think of purchasing you need to define a few things first:
- Primary use of bike
- Look and style you like
Bikes can range from as little as $600 all the way up to $12,000. A mid-range bike will cost around $1,500-$3,000. Once you go above $3,000 you should be buying a high quality brand with great quality parts. It is important to understand what you get for you money and key features to look out for.
Some of the key features of the bike which dictate cost include:
The higher capacity the battery the higher the cost. This means that your battery life range increases. Lower quality bikes will have a shorter range. If you only use the ebike for short distances this may be an area where you can save money.
This is easiest seen in the charging time. Smaller low-amp chargers will take longer and are therefore cheaper. You want the battery to charge in a reasonable time so when you wake up in the morning you have a fully charged battery. If you are opting for a lower cost model it may just be easier to buy a second spare battery which can resolve this issue at a relatively low cost (around $250 for spare battery).
This is the heart of the electric bike. In general the lower cost bikes have hub drive motors and the more expensive use mid-drive motors. This means that the additional sensors (torque sensors) provide a more smooth ride. In general hub motors are older technology and require more maintenance but can last just as long as their more sophisticated counter parts if they are looked after.
Here you are looking at how the motor and battery is integrated into the design. Cheaper models will appear as an after thought. You want the motor to feel secure and not be poorly installed.
The price difference comes down to the quality and workmanship of the material. Cheaper bikes will not have the same flex in the frame and may have poorer quality frames. Carbon fibre frames for example are far more expensive due to the high labour costs involved in manufacturing.
Primary use of bike
If you understand what you will predominately use the bike for this will go a long way to nailing down the perfect model to suit your needs. Key questions to ask yourself prior to purchase are:
- Will you ride in the city or off-road?
- Does it need to be portable, or stored easily inside?
- What sort of terrain will you be riding on?
- What is the average distance I will travel?
- Do you need an upright style seating position?
- Do you need to haul cargo?
- Do you need a low-step frame (for easy bike mounting)?
There are many different style of electric bikes but they can be categorised in 4 main styles:
This folding ebike tends to be lighter and smaller (12-20 inch wheels). It is foldable and is generally more portable. This is an excellent model if you commute or like taking weekend excursions. This allows the bike to be easily transported or stored.
The City ebike tends to resemble non-electric bikes and is generally larger and designed for comfort. Most city bikes come with additional storage which can be on a back rack, front basket or side saddle bags. City bikes cannot be folded and are not quite as portable as folding ebikes. A city bike may have a higher load capacity and can have normal or fat tyres depending on the style.
The Mountain ebike resembles the traditional mountain bike. The wheels tend to be bigger and many new models come with fat tyres. These bikes are excellent if you like off-road riding and some are even used for racing. The bikes also tend to be larger with wheel sizes generally over 20 inches. They tend not to come with any storage racks but may have LCD display screens. This bike is a good choice for active riders or larger riders due to increase load capacity. They are excellent for off-road cycling through the forest or on dirt tracks.
The Cargo ebike tend to have powerful motors, optional rack accessories for transporting gear or additional passengers (including children). They usually only come in one frame size but offer adjustable seat, stem, and handlebars to fit a wide range of riders. Can be a good choice for parents or delivery drivers. Some may also have dual batteries to increase range which may be why many delivery drivers choose this model.
Look and style
For some this is the most important thing to consider. If you are spending good money you want to be happy with the look of your bike. Ensure you like the overall look of the bike and that it is comfortable and easy to ride for you. For example some folding ebike models are too small for larger riders (height and weight may not be suitable).
Some bikes may not come with all the necessary accessories but most retailers will sell these independently if not included on your bike model. Some accessories may include:
- LCD display
- Front and rear lights
- Storage bags
- Mud guards
- Spare batteries
For the best chance of buying a bike that suits your needs and will provide you with trouble-free riding ensure the seller provides the following:
- Battery charger
- Tools to adjust seat and assemble bike (if not fully assembled at purchase)
- Warranty information
- User guide (important to read to avoid voiding warranty)
- Maintenance guide (requirements to keep bike in good working order)
- Assembly guide (if required)
- Test ride
- Returns policy (should be on website)
- Recommended store for service (if not provided by seller)