Electric bikes are hitting their stride, with more people than ever riding electric bicycles throughout the world. If you're in the market for an eBike, you have many options to choose from. Yet in order to find the right electric bike, there are a number of things you should ask before making the final purchase. We've outlined some of the main things you need to ask.
Ask if it’s Pedal Assist, Power on Demand or Speed Pedelecs
Pedal Assist electric bikes, sometimes referred to as “pedelecs,” are equipped with electric motors that provide additional power when the bike is being pedaled. A sensor detects when the bike is being used, and provides the selected level of assistance.
Power on demand allows riders to activate and control the motor with a throttle, button, or trigger located on the handlebars, regardless of whether or not they’re actually pedaling.
Some electric bikes combine pedal assist and a throttle, providing the best of both worlds.
Speed pedelecs are the fastest e-bikes, allowing riders to go up to 28 mph. However, their use on bike paths and trails may be restricted. In some jurisdictions, speed pedelecs may not be equipped with a throttle.
Ask about the battery
An electric bike’s battery is one of the most important components of the bike. Be sure to ask who the manufacturer of the battery is. Panasonic and Samsung make some great batteries for electric bikes. If you don’t hear a name you recognize, ask about the battery and make sure it is coming from a reputable brand that will offer support and replacements.
You also want to ask about the capacity of the battery. A very common rating is 36 volts and 10 Ah. On this type of battery rating, you can get 20 to 40 miles per charge, depending on your riding style and how much you pedal. That’s a very good baseline to start with.
When comparing e-bikes, you may want to compare battery specifications side by side, including cell manufacturer, voltage and amperage. This will provide an objective comparison as opposed to manufacturer’s subjective range claims.
Ask about the motor
When purchasing an electric bicycle, ask the vendor about the motor’s wattage rating. The number you typically see on your screen when you are doing internet research is the continuous wattage rating. For example; you might see 350W, that means that’s the wattage that the motor is able to put out on a continuous level for the duration of the charge. The peak wattage rating is what the motor is capable of on heavy load situations. Climbing a hill for example naturally draws more current from the battery. It is good to know both numbers, not just the continuous wattage number.
Does it fit?
Bikes are not really “one size fits all”, so you want to find a bike that matches how you want to ride it. Ask yourself whether you’d rather sit in a relaxed, upright posture or lean forward and focus on going fast. Look at where the handlebars are relative to the seat to get an idea how you will sit on it- the high they are, the more relaxed the riding posture.
Also, consider whether your prefer a traditional frame or a step-through frame. Traditional frames require you to swing your leg over the bike to get on and off. Step-through frames allow you to step right on and off the bike through the middle of the frame. Step-throughs were previously referred to as “ladies’ bikes”, but people of all genders can benefit, especially beginner riders, riders with limited leg mobility, and riders carrying significant amounts of cargo.
Ask about the bike components
Be sure to ask what kind of components are included with the electric bike, especially the shifting system and the braking systems. Reputable companies include Shimano Tektro, and SRAM. However, each manufacturer sells a wide range of components of varying quality and price, which also all depend on proper adjustment for smooth operation.
Assuming you have dealers near you, this is the fun part! After some research has narrowed things down to a few appealing bikes, test ride them if you can. This will tell you a lot about the electric performance the bikes provide, how comfortable the fit is, the quality of the components, and how well they were assembled and adjusted.
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