Learn More about Electric Bicycles
Skooterama Electric Bicycle Buying Guide
Oh my! Where do I start?? There is so much to consider! We have distilled it down for you here:
- Local terrain?
- Local weather?
- Available bike lanes?
- Desired range?
- Desired speed?
- Local regulations?
- Desired purpose; commuting, exercise, recreation, light cargo hauling?
- Physical abilities?
E-Bike Classes: There are a few states that treat e-bikes like other motorized vehicles and require the driver to have a license. More than half the states view e-bikes as bicycles – DEPENDING on fast they go and whether they are pedal or throttle controlled. There are 3 classes of e-bikes:
Class 1 covers pedal-assist bikes, there’s no throttle to get the bike going; the electric part works only when the rider is pedaling. The assist quits at speeds above 20 mph.
Class 2 bikes also have an electric motor that works up to 20 mph, by either pedaling (pedal assist) – OR - with electric propulsion alone via a throttle control.
Class 3 limits an electric bike’s pedal assist to 28 mph and requires a speedometer.
There are also more powerful electric bikes that can look like bicycles but functionally are more like motorcycles. These are supposed to be ridden only in designated off-road areas. For this guide, we’ll focus on the three classes that most resemble a conventional bicycle.
Don’t forget to check local regulations!
There are many types of e-bikes, each designed to do specific things very well.
Commuter/City E-Bikes are meant to serve as practical transportation. They are a much more cost-effective alternative to expensive, fossil-fuel-dependent automobiles. Many users report getting to work a little faster on their e-bike because they aren’t stuck in morning “I’m gonna be late” traffic. Others who have been commuting for years report they can happily continue to do so with recent changes in their mobility. Designs vary from traditional narrow tires and straight handlebars to beefier models with fat tires and thicker frames. Experts say fat-tire bikes—which can be difficult to get going on pedal power alone—are gaining in popularity as electric versions have become more widely available.
Folding E-Bikes are typically considered a more portable version of the city e-bike. Their hinged frame design is a bit different allowing them to be folded in half at the middle into a more compact shape. These are attractive to those who have limited space at home, need to pack it into a trunk or take it on a train or bus.
Performance Road E-Bikes
Performance Road E-Bikes are lightweight speed machines that feature slimmer, lighter components, and an aerodynamic riding position, both meant to increase efficiency over long distances. Even though they’re fast and relatively light, performance bikes still aren’t for everyone, because the aggressive riding position can be uncomfortable for some riders. The assistance offered by an electric motor makes it possible to cover longer distances and handle steep grades with less of the fatigue associated with conventional bicycles.
Mountain E-Bikes with their beefier frames, bigger tires, and suspension components, mountain bikes are built to handle trails, large rocks, logs, and other rough terrain and obstacles. Racing videos of mountain e-bikes on the internet reveal that their riders sometimes expect the bikes to handle much more than that, like big air jumps, among other demands. Adding an electric motor to a mountain bike makes a lot of sense for someone who wants to experience the thrill of downhill riding but may not have the fitness to handle the grueling uphill slog.
Cruisers, often referred to as Hybrids, offers road bike efficiency with its upright sitting posture, relaxed arm extension and cushier seats combined with the thicker frame and wider tires of a mountain bike to ease the terrains’ bumps and valleys. This type of e-bike can be taken on paved roads or be taken on light off-road trails with ease.
Cargo Electric Bikes
Cargo Electric Bikes are meant to handle light cargo or passengers. With more robust components, they are the beasts of the bicycle world. Often with front or rear compartments, extra seats, and 2 or 3 wheels, they can ferry goods or people. Adding the extra weight obviously makes it more difficult to mobilize, so the electric motor becomes a game changer.
All bikes carry some potential for injury, but one that can travel at 20mph + adds a whole new level of risk! The driver has less time to slow down or stop, and impact with anything, stationary or not, is worse. The take-away here? Wear a helmet, bright colored clothing, obey traffic laws, use bike lanes when available, and most or all…be aware of your surroundings! Use only the proper charger for the lithium-Ion batteries, store them properly, get only manufacturer recommended replacements, and don’t leave a charging battery unattended. Lithium-ion battery fires are rare, but they do happen, and they can be surprisingly violent!
Studies reported in respected health Journals concluded that although riding city e-bikes resulted in lower metabolic, cardiovascular, and perceived effort, they still met the intensity level associated with healthy physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization and the American College of Sports Medicine. (The ACSM Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular exercise.)
Some cycling purists have been critical of e-bikes because of their ease of pedaling. For others, they are a godsend that they are grateful for! Aging, Illness or injury can quickly become e-biking - or - no-biking.
The extra boost from a battery and an electric motor has opened up cycling to people who might not otherwise have been able to ride.