Buying An Electric Bicycle? Here Is What You Need To Know

September 25, 2021

Electric bikes are a great option for those who do not want to invest in a car. They're practical, affordable, and they keep you fit! Did you know that the price of electric bike batteries has dropped over 87% in the past few years due to mass production? Now is the right moment to buy an electric bike and enjoy an eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered vehicles.

If you're a beginner and this is your first e-bike, finding the right one can be especially intimidating. So many choices, so many specs, so many new models on the market each year. How do you know that you went for the right bike? Let's talk about electric bikes and what you need to consider when you're buying one.

Where Do I Even Begin?

Before diving into numbers and specs, you need to think about the intended use of your electric bike. Determining your fitness level, inspecting the terrain you will ride on, and figuring out your budget are just a few steps to take before visiting a bike shop (even if it's an online one).

Where will you ride? While some people prefer country roads and city pavements, others enjoy difficult terrain. Think about the trips you want to take and whether you'll ride in the snow, dirt, shallow water, or sand. If any of these terrains seem like the right landscape for you, you'll have to look into bikes with a tougher frame, a better suspension, as well as wider tires.

What's your budget? Many people either underestimate or overestimate electric bike prices, which leads to uncomfortable situations. We have written about electric bike costs before, therefore,  you can easily identify which of the three price categories applies to you as a rider (electric bikes under $1000, those priced $1000-$2000, and above $2000). Make sure to put a number on a piece of paper, as knowing your upper limit makes it easy to eliminate unattainable choices. It's also important to keep in mind that bike maintenance comes with a cost as well.

How fit are you? Determining your fitness level is important, as it helps determine how much assistance you need while biking. Beginners and inexperienced riders 

might overestimate their stamina and go for a bike with a lower power rating, which turns out to be especially problematic while riding uphill.

What type of biker are you? Do you plan to use your electric bike as a daily commute around town, or do you want to embark on adventures and explore the charm of bikepacking? While some prefer simple and short rides, others will climb mountains and ride over shallow rivers. Your individual preferences will determine the price for example, if you only commute around town the price tag will be lower. 

Are you interested in used bikes? Electric bike prices might seem unattainable at times, especially if you go for a hunting bike or a mountain bike. That's why buying a used electric bike seems to be a good option if you don't want to compromise. This way, you get to buy an affordably priced bike that supports your preferences and biking style.

What Type of A Bike Do I Need?

Depending on the terrain you will bike on and your biking preferences, you might need to look into specific bike categories. After you determine which category fits you best, we can discuss brands and specs as well. So, what type of biker are you?

The cruiser. If you plan on biking through town while visiting the store or keeping your daily active minutes in check, comfort should be your primary concern. Electric bikes with a step-through or diamond frame are great choices for beginners, as they ensure stability and practicality. In addition, as you bike with your back straight and directly above your seat instead of leaning forward, you can expect a much lower injury rate amongst short-distance bikers of all ages.

The commuter. This bike type is dedicated to those who find themselves wishing for a faster ride now and then but still aren't interested in any extreme biking. Whether you want to exercise, go to work or visit your grandmother, this bike category does the job. The commuter is designed to support your everyday needs and endeavors, as the bikes often come equipped with a rack, lights, and several low gears.

The mountain rider. If you find yourself seeking adventures and want to experience biking on dirt, sand, or snow, you will have to look for an off-road bike. Such models are designed for long and adrenaline-fueling runs, as they have better suspension 

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and fat tires. For those interested in the before-mentioned, we have written a guide for buying fat tires. With such bikes, you can do various tricks and jumps as well.

The hunter. Many nature lovers spend their time in the woods, but they don't relax - they hunt. If you're a hunter at heart, you might want to look into these sturdy bikes with lights, storage space, wider tires, and several low gears for uphill climbing. 

The folding bike. Students and business people love this electric bike category, as folding bikes make great companions even in crowded spaces such as the bus or the train. Although you cannot expect smooth performance at all times, especially when driving against strong winds or climbing uphill, this bike is perfect for in-city riding. We have previously written a post on what to look for in a folding e-bike.

The converted bike. If you want to save money and are good with DIY projects, consider the possibility of converting your mechanical bike into an electric bike. These can replace a commuter or a cruiser, becoming a great customized vehicle for those who want to control each bike component.

What Brand Do I Go For?

The next easiest step to take is to determine bike brands that seem to be up your alley. By choosing and selecting several options, you will further decrease the range of choices left. But, of course, it's easier to choose from fewer models.

We have dedicated a whole post to the best e-bike brands, but we'll recap this below.. To make things easier for you, we'll divide them into several categories based on the terrain they are meant for.

For those who will bike on roads, we suggest Cannondale bikes. This manufacturer has sponsored many bike tours and perfected its craft through trial and error. Getting a bike from Trek is another choice you cannot go wrong with, as they have patented lots of their bikes due to their fantastic aerodynamics! Rad Power Bikes is a good choice as well, especially if you want a stylish bike. 

Nakto is a great choice for road lovers who want to take casual, movie-like rides through the city. It's one of the most affordable choices as well. 

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If you're a mountain lover, you can't go wrong with Juiced Bikes. This brand specializes in mountain bikes and sports bikes, but they remain affordable and practical. IZIP Bike is another brand focused on simplicity, stability, and balance, favoring a mountain rider.

Ancheer is a great choice for those who are willing to pay slightly more for a premium bike. This brand has a fantastic reputation, as well as one of the best customer services in the business. However, you can also go with the previously mentioned brands like Cannondale or Trek models.

As an honorable mention, hunters will love QuietKat - a powerful bike tested on Colorado's most difficult terrain. The only other brand equally loved by hunting enthusiasts is BAKCOU, with their motto "know no limits."

Know Your Specs

Motor Types

You first have to choose whether you want a frame motor or a hub motor. Of course, there is no right or wrong as you have to consider all the advantages and disadvantages of each model, but we can share some basic information.

Frame motors are centered, mounted on the bike's frame, and they provide assistance based on your pedaling effort and the chosen help level. However, they require more maintenance, especially if we're talking about mountain bikes or hunting bikes- the high speed creates lots of vibrations traveling through the metal frame, and this causes motor deterioration over time.

Hub motor systems sit on one of the two wheels, so we further dissect the categorization into front and rear hub motors. Affordable bikes have front hub motors, which rely on you to some level - you have to pedal to initially engage with the motor. Unlike rear hub motors connected to your drivetrain, front hub motors give a "push-pull" feel while driving because they're not directly attached to the pedaling system.

Rear hub motors reduce manufacturing costs and provide better value, which is why they're a very popular choice amongst experienced riders.

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Battery Specs

When making judgments about electric bike batteries, you should rely mostly on numbers. Before checking the battery size and checking if it will fit your bike's frame, you need to determine whether your battery gives enough power for an hour.

Many look for Volts and Amps when buying a new power source, but it's better to focus on Watt Hours or Amp Hours. You can easily convert Amp-Hours to Watt-Hours by multiplying the number of Amp Hours with Voltage. 

The higher the Watt-Hours, the better the deal. Besides that, take into account the battery's weight. Any additional weight on your bike will strain the motor and the battery itself.

Range

The bike's battery determines your electric bike's range, but the motor has to be taken into the equation as well. Some batteries work better with some motors and worse with others. 

The level of assistance you're using when you're pedaling needs to be taken into account as well, but our best piece of advice is that you should look for compatible battery and motor models. 

Gears

Low gears help with climbing, and they make pedaling quite easy. Along with your battery's assistance, they can provide you with a seamless driving experience. You won't even break a sweat.

High gears are great when you're descending (going downhill), making biking much harder. If you're looking for a workout, you can pedal, but you can also use the bike's assistance to rest. 

Although both are useful, you can look for a bike with a greater number of particular gears. Get more low gears if you feel like your fitness level isn't quite up there.

Bike Weight

Heavier bikes make pedaling a lot tougher, especially if you're a lightweight person, but they ensure great balance and stability. So they're usually a choice for those who are already somewhat fit.

Lighter bikes make great city bikes, but they're more prone to mechanical issues and damage. If you're a beginner or a lightweight person, try to get a lighter bike. Your luggage and any other add-ons will only make the bike heavier, which is especially impractical for kids, teens, and the elderly.

Accessories

A good bike needs to be a good companion, so make sure to check out whether you get any lights, baskets, storage space, etc. You should at least make sure that you can add these if you wish to do so, which is why we suggest all buyers check out prices for these replaceable parts.


Conclusion

When you're first entering the process of buying an electric bike, you need to consider a lot of choices and preferences. Getting to know your biking style is the only right way to go, especially if you are a beginner buying your first bike. After that, you can focus on a few brands and consider the specifications of each bike. You'll slowly create a list of possible choices, and then you can check out online reviews, forums, and blogs.

Make sure to take into account all costs and read a few reviews so that you can see what professional bike riders and electric bike enthusiasts consider very important bike features. Good luck, and make sure to take your time - choosing an electric bike isn't easy, but it's surely rewarding.

About the author

Emma was born and raised in the UK, studied in Amsterdam (where she discovered her passion for biking), and is currently living in Ohio. Her main passion is cycling, that's why she is always looking for an amazing new e-bike to make her journey even more unforgettable!

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