A Guide to Selecting an Electric Bicycle
Even though it’s becoming more and more common to see electric bicycles nowadays, the idea of a battery-powered bicycle actually dates back as far as 1895! But it wasn’t so practical until recently. In the 1990s, manufacturers started to use lightweight NiMH, Nickel-Cadmium, or Lithium Ion batteries in electric bicycles. These batteries could also hold their charge for a long time. We’ll see that some electric bicycles can go 25 miles on battery power alone!
There are lots of advantages to using an electric bicycle instead of a standard bicycle. It has been shown that using a pedal-assist bike allows people to ride a bike with less stress on their joints. And the times that they have to pedal can provide the same amount of exercise as if they were riding a regular bike. It can also help you negotiate rough terrain, travel up steep inclines, or go further and faster than you would by just pedaling alone. And it also gets you places with less pollution or traffic jams!
We’ll go through some of the options among electric bicycles, noting the different models, and some of the features that distinguish one model from another. If you enjoy bike riding, you’ll find an electric bike can be even more enjoyable!
What types of electric bicycles are there?
We can classify e-bikes by the extent that you have to pedal them. There are 1) Throttle electric bikes, and 2) Pedal assist bikes.
Throttle electric bicycles are the easiest to operate, as they only require the rider to twist the throttle in order to get moving. They employ a throttle that gives you a boost, even if you’re not pedaling. You’ll probably have to pedal when going uphill, though.
Pedal-assist electric bicycles, on the other hand, use the motor to provide power to the rider while they are pedaling. These bicycles are a bit more difficult to operate, as the rider must pedal in order to get the power assist from the motor. You have the option of turning the battery off, and just riding the bike with the pedals.
Also, there are models that allow you to switch between throttle mode and pedal-assisted mode, to regular bike pedaling mode. That’s a feature of the Heybike Cityscape Electric Cruiser Bicycle.
Heybike Cityscape Electric Cruiser Bicycle
Electric bikes are divided into three classes:
Class 1 and Class 3 bikes are pedal-assist bikes. The distinction between them is that a Class 1 bike employs the pedal-assist feature only up to a speed of 20 mph, while a Class 3 bike employs the pedal-assist up to 28 mph. (For comparison, most people only cycle at a speed of 12 mph.)
Class 2 bikes are throttle electric bikes, which you can engage up to a speed of 20 mph.
Types of Electric Bicycles
We can also classify e-bikes by their purpose and intended use:
Cruiser bike: These are for recreational use, on paved, flat surfaces. They have wider tires, are constructed to absorb shocks, and have higher handlebars. An example is the Sohoo 26” Beach Cruiser Electric Bike.
Sohoo 26” Beach Cruiser Electric Bike
Commuter or urban bike: These are for helping you manage your commute quickly. They have narrower tires and narrower seats than cruiser bikes. An example is the Engwe Commuter Mini-Electric Bike. It weighs 63 lbs, has a wheel diameter of 14 inches, and is foldable.
Engwe Commuter Mini-Electric Bike
Mountain bike: These have wider tires and lower handlebars for better management on rough, unpaved terrain. An example is the Philodo Fat Tire Electric Mountain Bike.
Philodo Fat Tire Electric Mountain Bike
You can also find folding mountain bikes, such as the Avantrek Cybertrack 200 Electric Bike. It’s a pedal-assist bike, that can go 25 mph just on battery power, and up to 50 mph if you pedal. It folds in just three steps, allowing you to store it away in the trunk of your car, or in a closet.
Avantrek Cybertrack 200 Electric Bike
Road bike: These are made for speed on paved roads. They’ll have a lightweight construction and narrow wheels so that you can achieve higher speeds. An example is the Asomtom Electric Road E-bike. Instead of having a detachable battery, the battery is concealed in the frame of the bicycle. That makes for a more lightweight design, and protects the battery from water seeping through if it rains.
Asomtom Electric Road E-bike
What reviewers say
We went over some customers’ impressions of the electric bicycle that they bought:
Assembly: Many companies will assemble your bike for you, for an extra fee of around $125. You can also try assembling the bike yourself, although some customers noticed a rattling sound at first until they corrected the issue.
Suspension for a smooth ride: A customer noted how his bicycle has a front-wheel suspension fork that is lockable so that you are assured of a smooth ride.
Can add accessories: If you want special accessories that your model doesn’t have, you may be able to add them yourself. One customer added mirrors, a water bottle holder, and a bike carrier bag to his electric bike!
Here are some tips and features of different electric bicycles, which may help you make a decision when shopping:
Insurance and legal issues: Since they’re quite expensive, it’s recommended to get insurance when you purchase an electric bicycle against theft or damage. Also, there are a number of legal issues about the use of an e-bike, depending on which state in the US you reside, such as age restrictions, the need to wear a helmet, maximum speed, licensing, and more.
Waterproof: Take note of the IP rating of your electric bicycle. It indicates “ingress protection” against the penetration of dust or water. An IP54 rating means that the battery is safe from sprays of water. But you probably won’t want to submerge the unit in water.
Recharging the battery: Many bicycles have a removable lithium-ion battery, which you hook up to a charging port with a USB cable. For example, the TotGuard Electric Bike has a battery that charges fully in 5 hours. It has an indicator light, to tell you when it is fully charged. It is able to go for 28 miles just on battery power and over 50 miles in pedal-assist mode.
Step-through vs. Step-over bikes: You’ll notice that some bikes are “step-through” and some are “step-over” bikes. The difference is in the construction of the frame. A step-through bike doesn’t have a high, horizontal bar joining the seat to the handlebars. Removing that horizontal bar made it easier for women wearing dresses to mount such a bike, since they didn’t have to raise their legs to get on or off. An example of a step-through bike is the Himiway Cruiser Step-Thru Electric Bike.
Himiway Cruiser Step-Thru Electric Bike
The alternative is a step-over bike, where you have to lift your leg over the bar to mount or dismount. An example is the Sohoo 26” Step-Over Electric Bicycle. The extra piece to the frame makes it more sturdy, and able to handle off-road, rocky terrain.
Sohoo 26” Step-Over Electric Bicycle
We went through some features of the different electric bicycles on the market. They’re a definite upgrade from the traditional bike with which we’re all familiar. You can get a comparable amount of exercise and fresh air that you would with a traditional bike, but with the ability to go faster and further, with less exertion. Look over the Best Reviews Guide list, and choose an electric bike that suits you!