How To Choose Your 1st Electric Bike
Updated: Jun 18
What Are Electric Bicycles?
The term electric bike may conjure up images of motorbikes or scooters fitted with electric motors rather than traditional engines. But this could not be further from the truth, as they are more closely related to regular bicycles.
Electric bikes look very similar to regular bikes. In fact, some electric bikes are indistinguishable from non-electric versions at first glance. You would be forgiven for thinking that the bikes we manufacture at SDREAM are not electric, thanks to their styling.
When you look closely at an electric bike, you will notice additional components. It will have a motor, battery, and a controller that give it enhanced capabilities over a regular bike.
How Do E-Bikes Work?
The idea of an electric bike is to assist the rider using its motor and battery. You still have to pedal an electric bike, but the motor amplifies the effort you put into the pedals. Therefore, riding up steep hills and into headwinds is much easier. You can also ride further without getting tired and arrive at your destination without being hot and sweaty. However, they are great for fitness too, as you can choose how much assistance the bike gives you at any time
Electric Bikes vs. Traditional Bikes
There are many similarities between electric bikes and traditional bikes. Both types of bikes use the same components, such as similar wheels and handlebars. They also share the same geometry, so they handle in the same way, and riders don't have to get used to an abnormal riding position.
The addition of the motor and battery does add to its weight. However, this is not something you need to worry about due to the motor's assistance.
When you ride an electric bike for the first time, everything will feel familiar. Operating the brakes and changing gears is precisely the same as what you would be used to from riding a regular bike. Components such as brakes are usually more powerful to cope with the bike's extra weight and higher speeds.
Of course, the main difference is the electrical drive system. As you start to pedal an electric bike, the motor seamlessly kicks in. It only takes a couple of minutes to get used to it, but the wave of torque from the motor is addictive.
What Are The Classes Of Electric Bikes?
When you buy an electric bike, you need to be aware that there are 3 different classes. Knowing about these classes is essential, mainly so you can ride your bike within the confines of the law. But, electric bike classes will be a significant determining factor of which electric bike you buy; these classes are as follows:
Class 1: Also known as "pedelec," these electric bikes assist your pedaling only. The motor assists your pedaling up to 20 mph.
Class 2: These electric bikes also have a pedal-assist mode up to 20 mph. However, class 2 electric bikes also allow you to ride with a throttle, so you don't have to pedal at all.
Class 3: Similar to class 1 electric bikes, but they have an assisted top speed of 28 mph.
If you are totally new to electric bikes, you may want to start with a class 1 bike. Class 1 electric biles are the most affordable, and they fit in with most local laws. You can ride class 1 electric bikes on roads and on bike paths. Some mountain bike trails permit class 1 electric bikes, but not all. So if you want to ride your class 1 electric bike on mountain bike trails, you should check if they are permitted before you ride.
Class 2 electric bikes are permitted to be used in the same places as class 1 bikes. The reason for this is that they have the same limited top speed.
Class 3 electric bikes work exactly the same as class 1 bikes, but they can go much faster and are more powerful. Electric bikes in this class are generally used by commuters. Their extra performance allows you to climb hills and carry heavier loads. However, class 3 electric bikes are not permitted on many bike paths or mountain bike trails.
It is essential to check your local laws and regulations regarding electric bike classes before you buy. These rules are likely to change, so knowing what you can and can't ride in specific locations is valuable knowledge to have.
What About Electric Bike Batteries And Riding Ranges?
Electric bike manufacturers work hard to balance their bike's performance with their range. More powerful electric bikes go faster, while their higher torque makes riding uphill easier. However, more powerful motors deplete their batteries more quickly, which reduces your range.
It is actually quite challenging to determine which electric bike has the longest range. Many factors will make a difference in how far you can ride on a single charge. For example, your weight and the profile of your journey will make a difference. Heavier riders will burn up more battery power, as will hilly journeys.
Therefore, when you compare the stated ranges of electric bikes, you will see vast differences.
An electric bike with a large battery will help with your range. You can see how large a battery is by looking at its "Watt-hours (Wh)." This figure determines how many hours it can endure 1 Watt of power before it completely depletes.
Another thing to be aware of when looking at the range is the motor's power. For example, if a 500-watt motor is powered by a 500 Wh battery, it will drain its power more quickly than a 250-watt motor with a 500 Wh battery.
Check out this Bosch range calculator for accurate range predictions.
What About Charging Time?
It takes about 3-4.5 hours to charge most batteries from empty until they are 100% full. However, larger batteries will take longer. Many electric bike riders that have long journeys often buy extra batteries or an extra charger.
You can keep an extra charger at work or carry an additional battery in a backpack. This way, you can be sure to have enough charge for your commute. However, you can ride an electric bike without the motor's assistance, but you will notice the extra weight.
What Other Features Should I Consider?
When choosing your new electric bike, you should consider what integrated features are available to you. Here is a little overview of what you can expect.
Lighting - Most electric commuter bikes have integrated lighting. These are usually LED lights mounted on both the front and rear of the bike. You will find that higher-end bikes have brighter and more powerful lights to keep you safe in low light conditions,
Racks - It is often a good idea to choose n electric bike with a rack. These racks allow you to carry all sorts of things. They are strong enough for heavy items and can be fitted to both the front and rear of the bike.
Handlebar-mounted LCD displays - The LCD display that all electric bikes use gives you lots of important information. It allows you to keep an eye on your battery life. It indicates what level of assist you are using, how far you have ridden your speed, etc.
With this in mind, make sure your new electric bike has an easy-to-read display. There is nothing worse than trying to read a hard-to-read display while riding through heavy traffic.
Smartphone integration - Some high-end electric bikes can connect to your phone wirelessly. With the use of an app, your bike can have additional features. For example, these features may include GPS, an indicator for your bike's next service, or even ways to locate it if it is stolen.
Built-in security - You may come across electric bikes with their own anti-theft systems. Some electric bikes lock the rear wheel to the frame, and the battery can only be removed with a key.
Pedal Assist Levels
Most electric bikes give you 3 or 4 assist levels. Which one you choose at any time will depend on your route, how hard you want to pedal, and your range.
You can get the most range using the bike's eco mode. Alternatively, you get more speed and torque in higher assistance modes.
Pedal Assist Activation And Pedal Feel
If you choose an electric bike that focuses on performance, its assistance will feel smoother and more responsive than lower-end bikes. If you can, try to ride a few bikes to see how they feel and react. This way, you will get a good idea of what is available, and you will find one that suits you best.
How Much Is An Electric Bike?
Electric bike prices can vary between $600 to more than $8,000. However, most electric bikes start at around $1500. Higher-priced electric bikes will have better engineering and components. These more expensive variants are generally designed for serious mountain bikers. They have lots of power, battery life, and expensive components.
Lower-cost electric bikes have lower-quality components. These bikes will likely have off-brand components and batteries to keep the cost down. The lower price doesn't necessarily mean they are bad bikes, but you need to be realistic about their capabilities and how robust they are.
How Fast Does An Electric Bike Go?
When you are pedaling an electric bike, it will go as fast as you can pedal. However, most electric bikes have a limited speed when it comes to assistance. Class 1 and 2 electric bikes stop assisting you at 20mph. Some class 3 bikes will continue assisting your pedaling up to 28mph.
Do I Need A License?
You can ride an electric bike without a license as long as its motor is less than 750W and it is limited to 20mph using the throttle.
How Many Charges Do I Get Out Of A Battery?
Most electric bike batteries are lithium-ion. These are higher quality than lead batteries and can be charged at least 500 times. Afterward, they only hold about 80% of their original capacity.
Some more expensive batteries can be charged up to 1200 times. It is worth noting that only charging a battery from 50% of its charge counts as only 1/2 of one charge cycle.
You can expect to ride 10,000-30,000 miles before replacing your battery if you often use assisted pedaling.