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Hudson Martin

How To Buy An Electric Bike [PATCHED]

While the idea of riding a bike instead of driving sounds great for most peoples, working out the logistics of how to buy an electric bike, and which electric bike to choose is where they might start backtracking.

how to buy an electric bike


Even the most intense and focused cyclist has to take time off from pushing themselves and their bike. If riding to work sounds great but you need to arrive fresh, doing it on one of the best electric bikes is a great option. The same goes if you already do most of your trips by bike but you want help with the heavy stuff, or if you just want to ride your bike more and not worry about hills, or riding hard all the time.

Whether you want to conquer miles on the road, tackle steep and technical terrain off-road or glide your way through town, electric bikes are making cycling far more accessible. However, while their benefits are obvious, we often get asked the question: how do you buy an e-bike? The sophisticated technology they use can confuse the electric bike buying process.

I have seen people lose 50 pounds, eliminate prescription drugs and feel a decade younger when riding an electric bike. You can do this too, but you need to choose the correct electric bike for your needs.

The mileage claims by each E-bike manufacturer are just their own claims. When a company states a range of an E-bike, it is easy to alter the range. In fact an E-bike can have an infinite range if you do all the pedaling.

Your weight, the terrain and most importantly the speed affects the range of an E-bike. The best way to compare E-bike range is by comparing the battery energy in Kilowatt hours (KWh).

If two E-bikes have similar drive systems, such as mid drives with similar power, the one with the bigger battery will go further. If the battery is twice the size, it will go twice as far.

E-bikes initially break down into the same categories as conventional bikes: mountain and road, plus niches like urban, hybrid, cruiser, cargo and folding bikes. For an overview of basic bike categories, read How to Choose a Bike.

Primarily for regulatory reasons, electric bikes are also divided into classes that denote their level of motor assistance. Most bike manufacturers and state, local and other entities have adopted this three-class system, which defines e-bikes as low-speed bicycles with fully operational pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (about 1 horsepower). Figuring out which class of e-bike you need is a key decision point.

Most new riders start out with a class 1 e-bike. Class 1 bikes are the most affordable and, from a regulatory standpoint, the most universally accepted. You can ride one on city streets and many bike paths. This class of e-bikes is starting to be allowed on traditional mountain-bike trails, though access is not universal, so always check first.

Manufacturers devote a lot of attention to the power plant in each bike. The design tradeoff is performance versus riding range. A more powerful motor delivers more speed for keeping up with traffic and more torque for climbing hills and hauling cargo. A more powerful motor also burns up the battery faster, reducing your riding range.

Having a big battery helps, of course: Capacities are stated in watt hours (Wh), the number of hours a battery can sustain 1 watt of power before dying. Thus motor power also matters: A 500-watt motor paired with a 500 Wh battery (a common class 3 bike setup) drains power more quickly than a 250-watt motor with a 500 Wh battery (a common class 1 bike setup).

Battery charge time: Most batteries will require three to five hours to fully charge from empty, with large-capacity batteries taking longer. You can buy extra chargers (or carry your charger along) if you plan to commute on your e-bike.

Hub-drive motors: Rear-wheel hub-drive motors send pedal power straight to the rear wheel, giving you a feeling of being pushed along. Note that changing a flat on the wheel where the hub drive is mounted can be more complex than changing a flat on a standard (or mid-drive) bike. Front-hub drive motors handle somewhat like front-wheel drive cars; they also allow a standard bike drivetrain to be used on the rear of the bike.

Torque is a spec to check if you plan to ride a lot of hills and/or haul heavy loads. Measured in newton meters (N m), the listed maximum for an e-bike might range from 40 N m to 80 N m. Your actual riding torque will vary, though, as you change your pedal-assist settings.

Pedal-assist activation and pedal feel: The more performance-oriented the bike, the smoother and more responsive its pedal assist will feel. Test ride several bikes to find one that reacts at the speed and intensity that work best for you.

Built-in security: Some bikes come with rear-wheel locks attached to the frame, and others have locks on the battery that can be keyed to match a bike lock (purchased separately) made by a partner brand.

Frames: Most e-bike frames are made of aluminum, though the full range of frame options (from carbon-fiber to steel) is becoming available. Frame material and design, along with the size of the motor and battery, are the biggest contributors to total weight. Generally heavier than their regular-bike counterparts, e-bikes overcome sluggishness through their motor assist. But a lighter bike will still feel more nimble. So, if you are choosing between two otherwise comparable bikes, a lighter model will likely provide the better ride.

Most crucial to getting a good fit is knowing which size bike frame you need, loosely based on your height. Beyond frame size, an e-bike's frame geometry will determine how it is supposed to fit your unique body measurements. Visiting a bike shop is the best way to dial in your fit so that your knees, shoulders, back, feet and hands are all properly aligned for the riding position you need. You can also visit a fit specialist for a detailed bike fit, which can prevent chronic injury and help you perform your best. Learn more in our article about how to fit your bike.

For years, electric bicycles were bulky, inconvenient, expensive machines with limited battery life. Slowly, that has changed. Ebikes are now lighter, more attractive, and more powerful than ever. You don't need to be physically fit to ride one. They get you outside, reduce traffic congestion, and shrink your carbon footprint. And they're fun!

Updated February 2023: We substituted a new bike for the Rad Power RadWagon, added more safety tips, and added more information about the LeMond Prolog and Harley Serial 1. We also checked links and pricing.

Whenever I talk to anyone about a possible ebike purchase, the biggest deterrent is usually the price. It doesn't help that prices for bikes have shot up in recent years. Multiple factors, including the pandemic, have complicated the global supply chain, and exemptions to a 25 percent tariff on all ebike imports have expired.

Reasonable auto financing options are the only reason a $2,000 electric bike can feel prohibitively expensive while a $6,000 beater gas-powered car has easy monthly payments. Many bike manufacturers and retailers do offer financing through companies like Affirm or PayPal. Your bank might cover ebikes under its vehicle loan program, and some utility companies even offer cash incentives to purchase ebikes. You may have more options than you think.

Almost every major bike manufacturer now makes an entry-level commuter electric bicycle. Right now, the most reasonably priced one is the Trek FX+ 2. It comes in two versions, a step-over and a step-through. (I'm currently riding the step-through.) At 40 pounds, it's pretty light! It rides a lot like the light, versatile hybrid that I rode all through college. It has Trek's proprietary 250-watt hub motor, a 250-watt-hour battery, standard 9-speed Shimano shifters, fast road bike wheels, and hydraulic disc brakes, as well as a few fun extra built-ins, like integrated lights, a bell, a rear rack, fenders, and a kickstand. All in all, it's a shockingly affordable package for everything you need to start your 6-mile city commute.

VanMoof's ebikes are often touted as the best for beginners, but we picked the Cowboy 4 ST (8/10, WIRED Recommends) for the simple reason that, if an electric bike relies heavily on an app on your phone, it should come with a charger. Like the VanMoof, the 4 ST is beautiful, low-maintenance, and easy to assemble out of the box. However, the stem has a built-in quad lock system and wireless charging. Just buy a compatible phone case (a negligible, if slightly annoying, extra expense) and using Google Maps to get around town is easy and painless.

For many years, I recommended Seattle's Rad Power Bikes as a reliable, heavier, great direct-to-consumer bike for people who wanted the option to carry more gear or another passenger. However, their recent lawsuits concerning safety and reliability have given me pause. The company has a new CEO now, but if you're considering buying a new ebike, I would consider a company with a better track record.

Unless you're already an ebike enthusiast, you probably want one that's not too expensive, and that means as close to $1,000 as possible. This is a tough proposition if you want a reliable motor and a frame that won't buckle at 15 mph.

Propella's 7-speed (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the best cheap bike we've found. Reviewer Parker Hall notes that it has trustworthy components like a Samsung battery and Shimano disc brakes, plus nifty accessories like a cool suspension seat. It ships directly to you, which is handy if you'd like to avoid a bike shop. Propella updates its bikes every few months. Since it is a direct-to-consumer bike, we're just warning you that your local shop might have issues repairing it.

However, I can't in good conscience ignore reports of exceptionally bad customer service from the company, which includes sending defective bikes, not returning calls or emails, and not issuing refunds. You may have better luck getting your hands on Specialized's Turbo Vado SL (9/10, WIRED Recommends), which cuts down on weight with a tiny proprietary motor and a battery hidden within the bike's frame. 041b061a72


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