Buying and Riding an E-Bike
There’s a lot of confusion about e-bikes. We decided to do a three-part series to clear things up.
Five years ago, I bought the prettiest blue Biria bike. It was an upright commuter bike that I adored and immediately named her Olivia. She was reliable and so much fun to ride. A few months after buying the bike, I moved to a hilly area and she became a little less fun to ride as I huffed and puffed up the hills. One day, I stopped into a local bike shop and they told me about retrofitting my bike with an e-bike kit. This would take my conventional bike and transform it into an electric bike. My new bike had a throttle only, but it would be enough to get me up those hills. And it did.
After four years of riding with the e-assist, I rode a JUMP bike which had pedal assist, meaning as I pedaled, it would provide a little extra boost as I rode. And boy was that fun! I decided that maybe I needed to upgrade. But where should I begin? What did I need? What could I afford? What happens if I need it serviced? What’s the difference between throttle and pedal assist and can I ride this bike anywhere? And why would anyone want an e-bike anyway? So many questions! Luckily, I found some answers.
Over the next three posts, I’ll answer these and many other questions about e-bikes. Let’s start with the basics.
What is an e-bike?
An e-bike or electric bike is a bicycle with the added feature of an electric motor. They can be designed specifically as electric bikes and have components that are built into it. Or they can be like my blue Biria bike that was converted into an e-bike through the installation of an electric kit.
Are there different types of e-bikes?
Yes, E-bikes have been classified in the following ways:
Class 1: Pedal Assist
This bike has an electric motor that works only while the bike is being pedaled. The rider can adjust the motor’s power so that she can go from high to get up a hill, to low when on flat ground, and back up to high when she approaches another hill.
Class 2: Throttle Power
My Biria was converted into a bike that had throttle power. Basically, I could ride the bike as a conventional bicycle and when I needed to go up a hill, I would press a button that would engage the motor and boom! I was coasting up the hill making it feel like that road was flat as a pancake.
Class 3: Speed Pedelec
This type of bike is like the Class 1 e-bike but it is designed to go at speeds up to 28 mph. In some areas, this is considered a motor vehicle and riders may need a license to ride it.
What questions to ask when shopping for an e-bike?
1. What type of assist does the bike provide?
Sometimes a bike has pedal assist only, throttle only, and some have both.
2. How fast can the e-bike go?
In of the US, electric bikes can’t legally go above 20 mph.
3. What is the battery range?
Generally, this will be described in how many miles a rider can go before needing a charge. The range depends on a lot of factors including the weight of the rider, how much you use pedal assist or throttle, and how much stuff you are carrying.
4. What size motor is it?
The motor of an e-bike is described in terms of the number of watts it generates. Typically, somewhere between 250–750 watts. The general rule of thumb is if you are under 200 pounds a 250–500-watt motor should be enough. If you are over 200 pounds, then a motor in the 500–750-watt range would be a better option.
5. Where is the battery located and how often do I need to charge it?
Some e-bikes have a battery that is mounted on the rack. Some are built into the frame of the bike. Make sure you are able to remove the battery so you can charge it at work or in the house. Some manufacturers suggest charging your bike after every ride. This helps to make sure that you have a fully charged battery when you go out to ride again. And if you are not riding your bike for a few months, make sure to recharge it periodically.
Now that you have a bit more information about e-bikes, in part two we’ll explore why you might choose an e-bike, and end the series discussing where to buy and ride an e-bike.