Electric bikes, or ebikes, are quickly becoming the next big thing. They’re already enormously popular in China, Germany, the Netherlands, and other famously bike-friendly countries.
But what exactly is the point of an electric bike? What are the different types of electric bikes? How do you pick the best electric bike for your unique needs? Today, we’re telling you everything you need to know about electric bikes and ebikes.
What is an Electric Bicycle?
An electric bike, also known as an ebike, is a bicycle powered, in whole or in part, by a battery. People enjoy riding ebikes because it makes conventional bicycle riding faster, less tiresome, and more fun.
One of the advantages of an electric bicycle is that it doesn’t require any type of license, insurance, or additional taxes. You can ride them anywhere you would ride an ordinary bicycle.
Electric bicycles also don’t require any special skills. If you can ride an ordinary bicycle, then you can ride an ebike.
Why Ride an Electric Bicycle?
For many people, the primary purpose of biking is to burn calories and exercise. If that’s the case with you, then ebikes might not be the right choice. They certainly take a significant amount of strain off the rider.
However, not everyone can ride a conventional bicycle. For some people, riding a bicycle is difficult. Other people don’t use bicycles to lose weight or burn calories: they just use it as a cheap, efficient form of transportation.
Some people have trouble biking due to strong headwinds, too many hills, and other environmental conditions. Some people just live too far away from work or town to efficiently bike where they need to go.
Some people have health problems. They might have bad knees or exercise-induced asthma, for example. Some people live in warm or cold climates where biking for long periods of time can be uncomfortable.
And then there are some people who just think it’s cool to zip around at 50km/hour on a battery-powered bicycle.
No matter why you want to ride an ebike, there’s no question they’re becoming more popular today than ever before.
Types of Electric Bikes
Just like with ordinary bicycles, there are all different types from which to choose. Some of the most popular varieties of electric bikes include:
-Electric City Bike
-Electric Folding Bike
-Electric Mountain Bike
-Electric Road Bike
Within each category, you can find all different varieties of electric bike. Some bikes look almost identical to ordinary bikes. The only difference is that there’s a big battery where the water bottle would normally sit.
Other electric bikes look futuristic and have a solid metal frame through the middle.
Some ebikes are heavy with thick tires and designed for off-road, winter, or trail use. Others are light like road bikes. Some have large “cargo” areas on the back that let you stack up boxes of groceries.
There’s also a considerable difference between purpose-built ebikes and converted ebikes. Purpose-built ebikes were designed from the ground-up as electric bikes, while converted ebikes are ordinary bicycles that were converted later.
What Are the Downsides of Electric Bicycles?
Obviously, if ebikes were the world’s greatest mode of transportation, then everybody would be using them. There are some downsides to using an electric bike, including:
-Higher cost than most conventional bikes
How Much Should You Spend on an Electric Bike?
Electric bikes are still a relatively new technology, and companies are developing bikes at all different price ranges.
In general, you can expect to spend a minimum of $1,000 on a new ebike. That’s the lower end of the ebike market. Typically, medium-quality bikes with Chinese-made batteries are found on this end of the market.
Most average to high-quality ebikes, on the other hand, are priced at $2,000 to $3,500.
At prices of $3,500 and above, you’re looking at high-quality, German-engineered ebikes with a two year warranty and perks like intuitive controls, dynamo lights, fenders, and other nifty features.
When it comes to electric bicycle pricing, the sky is pretty much the limit. You can find premium-quality electric bicycles sold for anywhere from $7,000 to $50,000.
The ebike industry is changing on a regular basis. A recent crowdfunding campaign for an electric bicycle promised to give you a fully-functional ebike for $700 ($500 for the bike plus $200 for shipping).
As the ebike industry and their popularity grows, there will be more options at all price ranges.
How Far Does a Charge Last?
The most important thing to be concerned about with electric bikes is how far your charge can go. Typically, ebike riders will divide the watt hours by 20.
In the United States, a typical battery pack has 36 volts of power and 10 amp hours of capacity, giving you a total capacity of 360 watt hours. You divide 360 by 20 to get 18 miles, which is the range of your bike on a single charge.
As battery technology grows, you can expect to go further and further on a single charge. Some bikes even advertise 50 miles of range with a 360 watt capacity battery pack.
Giving accurate information about the range of electric bikes can be difficult. After all, you can contribute as much or as little pedal power to the bike as you want. The harder you work, the less your battery has to work and vice versa.
How To Charge an Ebike
Ebike charging stations are popping up in communities across America. They’re well-established in China, Germany, the Netherlands, and other bike-friendly countries.
How Fast Can I Go?
Most low-speed electric bikes won’t go much faster than 20 miles per hour when you’re not touching the pedals. Some bikes can reach up to 30 miles per hour, although some municipalities have laws limiting the speed of electric bikes.
Most ebikes will cut off battery power after you reach a certain speed – like 18 to 22mph. Then, once you start slowing down, the battery will kick back in.
Do I Need to Be a Tech Geek to Perform Maintenance on My Bike?
You might be wondering how hard it is to perform maintenance on your bike. Can you still perform maintenance on your own bike – even if you’re not a tech genius?
Typically, ebike maintenance is more challenging than conventional bike maintenance. There are more parts and systems involved. That’s why it’s often a good idea to buy from a local bicycle shop. That means experienced repairs are always close by.
Even if you’re good with tech stuff and bike maintenance, you might struggle to fix more complex ebike systems, including LCD Display readouts, torque sensing pedal assists, and frame-routed cables.
All About Motor Location
Motor location matters a lot on electric bikes. You can have three main motor locations on a bike, including front motor, mid motor, and rear motor. Each has its own pros and cons:
-Front Motor: A front motor balances bicycle weight distribution between the drivetrain and the motor. It also gives your bike a more compact motor form along with additional front wheel-drive traction (you have more weight over your front wheel).
The main downside is that the weight of the motor can put a strain on the fork and head tube.
-Mid-Bike Motor: A mid-bike motor puts weight in an easy-to-manage position, just under your body. Mid motors have no effect on your wheels or traction, and they typically make it easier to accelerate. This is the most popular type of ebike motor.
The only real downside is that it makes it tough to add a water bottle mount to your bike.
-Rear Motor: Rear motors allow regenerative braking while providing a stable mount. The main downsides are that standing and high-speed cornering become tricky, as you’re dealing with weight in an unfamiliar spot.
If you spend most of your bike ride sitting, then this shouldn’t be an issue. This system is also not typically compatible with internally geared hubs.
Can You Ride an Ebike in the Rain?
You wouldn’t use your laptop in the rain. So should you use your electric bicycle when it’s raining?
Fortunately for those in wet climates, most electric bikes come with built-in waterproof protection directly from the factory.
They’re not going to survive being dunked in a lake overnight, but they’re not going to explode when contacted with a few drops of water (always make sure to look up your specific bike model, as not all ebikes are waterproofed).
How Much Does It Cost to Operate an Ebike?
One of the best things about cycling is that it’s totally free: aside from the cost of your bike and general maintenance, you’re not spending anything except your own energy to get to your destination.
With ebikes, that changes slightly. Typically, the cost for running an ebike (in terms of charging and maintenance) is 6 to 14 cents a mile. For comparison, a motor vehicle typically costs 50 cents per mile.
Should You Use an Electric Bike?
There are all sorts of benefits to using an electric bike. Yes, they’re typically more expensive than conventional bicycles, but they also make biking significantly easier.
For some people, it’s the difference between being able to bike to work every day – or continuing to use an expensive car.
No matter why you want an electric bike, there are more options on the market today than ever before. These options will continue to expand over the coming years.