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Tips on Buying Your Best Electric Bike
Jan 30, 2016
Are you having trouble deciding which electric bike is best for you?
There are a lot of electric bikes out there and the choices can be a bit overwhelming.
While some of them may rank very high in the reviews, is it really the best eBike for your particular needs.
It’s important to buy the best electric bike for you, not what somebody else thinks is the best electric bike.
Let’s go over a few points to narrow down what will be the best electric bike for you.
Your Local Dealer. First of all I highly recommend buying an electric bike from your local dealer. There are number of reasons for this.
One of the most important reasons is that test riding variety of eBikes will help you determine which bike feels most comfortable to you. There are a wide variety of eBike types to try: commuter, touring, road, beach cruiser, cargo, mountain, folding, etc.
Test ride as many eBikes as you can to get a feeling for which type fits you the best.
Another reason to buy a bike from your local dealer is that they will be able to help you with repairs and maintenance and handle any kind of warranty issues that may come up.
In addition to riding eBikes at your local dealer, eBikeevents/festivals provide a great opportunity to test ride a wide variety of electric bikes.
If you do buy an electric bike online, make sure you read as many reviews about the bike as you can and make sure that the company’s warranty and support will help you in the long run.
How much power do you need? Bigger is not always better. High power systems are fun if you are looking for a rush, but they are generally heavier because they need a larger battery to give you a decent range. Some of the bikes with high power systems feel more like a motorcycle and less like a bicycle.
250-350 watts might not seem like much but it can be just enough for everyday riding and those systems are generally lighter.
The “feel” of the power also depends on where the power is being applied; some mid drives can feel like a higher powered hub motor because they can leverage the power across the range of the bicycle gearing. A mid drive motor does require that you are shifting the bike properly so that the motor doesn’t get bogged down in too high of gear.
Test riding a number of different electric bikes with different power and motor types will help you determine what is right for your riding.
How much range do you need? Having a lot of range seems like the right way to go but there can be a significant cost. The battery pack is generally the most expensive part of an eBike so determining your realistic range is important.
Most standard eBikes have around a 400 watt hour battery pack that will provide 20-35 miles of range depending on the riding conditions (hills, headwinds, etc.), how much pedal power you are providing, and how much weight you are moving (yourself + cargo).
The watt hours are the capacity of the battery pack and it can be determined by multiplying the volts x amp hours, for example: 36 volts x 11ah = 396 watt hours.
Here’s a range tip: if you are commuting to work, you may want to have an additional charger at work so that you can top off your battery for the ride home. That is an inexpensive way to extend your range.
Use higher assist when you really need it (get somewhere quick with minimal sweat) and use less assist when you have more time and want to get more of a work out.
How much should you spend? Like many other products, with an electric bike you generally get what you pay for. It is important to evaluate how often you think you will use your electric bike to determine your price range. Here are some tips on the price points.
If you will be riding occasionally then you may not need the highest quality bike with all the high tech features. For this type of eBike I would recommend the $1,200+ price range. You can buy less expensive eBikes but you may run into quality issues that can be frustrating.
If you will be riding a lot (commuting to work, taking the kids to school, etc.) then I recommend a bike that can handle the daily miles with reliable components. These generally have high quality batteries that can last many charge cycles (longer lifespan). These are generally eBikes in the $2,000-$3,500 price range.
If you are into high tech features, larger batteries, full suspension, cargo bikes, etc. then you will generally be looking at spending $3,500 up to whatever you are comfortable spending.
You may “test the eBike waters” with a lower price point eBike and then find that you upgrade to a higher quality eBike after some time. Electric bike kits can offer a relatively low cost option to add electric assist to a bike that you already own. Watch out, eBikes can become addictive!
Photo courtesy of Felt Electric.
Enjoy the rides! Those are some tips to help you focus in on what will be your best electric bike. Try not to get too bogged down with all of the technical details and go with an eBike that is comfortable for you to ride and performs the way you want it to.