Electric Bike Buying Guide

Electric Bike Buying Guide

Electric Bikes (eBike) Introduction

Electric Bikes (eBikes) make riding bikes even more fun for riders of all skill levels. eBikes are one of the most popular categories of bicycles, and are gaining popularity every year. Riders on electric bikes are able to ride places they never thought possible.

If you're a biker looking to rack up more miles, and ride like you never have before, this guide is for you. The purpose of this introduction is to walk you through everything you need to know about buying an eBike.

Want to hear how electric bikes are literally changing lives? Click here for Incredible Amazing Electric Bike Stories.

What Is An E-Bike?

Electric Bikes are not mopeds, scooters, or motorcycles, ebikes are a traditional bike with the addition of a a motor, a battery and other parts that allow the bike to assist the rider. It looks and operates very similar to an analog (human powered) bike, but add varying levels of assist to make the riders effort more powerful.

For many people this pedal assist means they are able to extend their riding options and explore paths previously out of reach. They can ride further, tackle steep hills that once daunted them, or commute to work faster and easier while having MUCH MORE FUN!

How Does An E-Bike Assist You?

An e-bike provides a gentle assist to your pedaling. The assistance automatically kicks in when you're pedaling and gently adds power to your pedal. The amount of assistance depends on a setting that you can control on the bike. Most bikes have settings such as Eco (20% boost), Sport (50% boost) and Turbo (100% boost), making you that much faster!

The assistance feels very gentle even though they provide plenty of power. Many eBike riders tell us they hardly notice the boost except that riding has become easier and much more fun. The eBike simply helps to make hills seem smaller and distances seem shorter.

Am I Cheating Riding an eBike?

Customers often ask us if they will still get exercise when riding their eBikes. The answer is definitely!

There have been a number of studies about physical exertion on eBikes. A study out of the University of Colorado Boulder found that e-Bikes are an effective workout. Another study out of Norway found that riders of electric bikes experience physical exertion 95% of the time. These studies have come to similar conclusions - you get a workout on an e-bike.

This is great news for those that want to get in shape, as the assist literally will give a boost to riders who desire more encouragement and confidence to ride more often and longer distances to better their fitness - and there is an eBike style for every type of rider!

Who Are eBikes For?

It's easy to say that eBikes are for everyone that wants to ride a bike, but why or how is this true? To put it simply, they're just like normal bikes, they just make you more powerful. They give every bike rider extra oomph to ride further, faster and more often than a normal (analog) bike, regardless of what type of riding they're into.

There are many reasons why someone might choose an e-bike. If biking isn't as much fun as it used to be - an e-bike is for you. E-bikes make hills seem smaller and distances seem shorter. If you want to commute to work, but without getting all sweaty - an e-bike is for you. If you want to ride with your partner, but she or he is faster on the bicycle - an e-bike is for you. They also allow a variety of people to ride together, both on e-bikes and traditional bikes, that might have different fitness and physical abilities. If you want to hit the trails for a day of riding, but your legs get spent halfway through - an e-bike is for you.

If you like to ride bikes (or want to ride a bike) and riding an electric bike is riding a bike, than an eBike is for you! While riding an eBike, you just gain the opportunity to ride places that would be out of reach on an analog bike. eBikes are also perfect for those who have physical or mobility limitations preventing them from riding a normal bike. No matter what type of riding you want to do, or where you will be riding, there is an eBike made for each style of riding - so there is an eBike for everyone. Keep reading to learn more about each type of eBikes, and what type of riders they're good for to figure out which style of electric bike is best for you!

It is probably clear that we think electric bikes are awesome and for everyone, but don't just take our word for it! Check out these stories about how the e-bike is literally changing lives.

Can I Ride My eBike In The Rain?

Yes! Most eBikes are designed to be ridden in the rain AND all types of weather, you can even ride them all winter long through the snow. However, you should not ride through puddles so deep that your motor or battery are submerged. If you do plan to be riding in the rain often, there are a few things that will make it more enjoyable like fenders and wearing rain apparel. After you ride in the rain, or your bike gets rained on be sure to dry off your eBike before storing it to help keep your bike in its best shape!

Types Of eBikes

Recreational eBikes

Comfort eBikes

Comfort eBikes

Comfort eBikes are designed to keep the rider in an upright position to be comfortable while riding. These bikes feature a confidence inspiring fit which allows the rider to pedal efficiently while still being able to easily put their feet down while stopping. Due to their upright position with forward pedals, Comfort eBike are also great for riders with some limited mobility, neck/back pain.

Comfort eBikes are great for riders who like to go on leisurely rides for fun, commute with ease, or run errands, while still getting a bit of a workout. If you like to take in the scenery while you ride, and being comfortable is highest on your priority list, a comfort eBike is best for you!

Commuter eBikes

Commuter eBikes

Commuter eBikes are designed to efficiently go from point A to point B, in and around the city. These bikes will have mounts for racks, fenders and bags to be able to carry gear and have weight distributed evenly.

Almost any Recreational Bike could double as a commuter bike, but if you're looking to specifically drive less and get places faster while carrying your gear, a commuter bike is in your future. Interested in commuting? Check out our Commuter Challenge Video!

Hybrid eBikes

Hybrid eBikes

Hybrid eBikes are a cross between bikes made for pavement and bikes made for dirt, while still being quick and nimble on all surfaces. Hybrid bikes feature a more aggressive, forward leaning fit than comfort bikes making them efficient. Hybrid bikes will often have front suspension to soak up bump on the road, and keep the front tire on the ground while riding off road.

Hybrid bikes are great for riders who like to ride a variety of ways, on all types of surfaces while racking up miles. If you like to go on long distance rides on bike paths or road AND like to ride gravel roads and flowy single-track, but only want to have one bike that can do it all - check out our selection of Hybrid Bikes.

Fitness eBikes

Fitness eBikes

Fitness eBikes (sometimes called Flat Bar Road Bikes) are built for speed and efficiency on paved surfaces. They are designed for longer, challenging rides for working out. They position the rider in a forward leaning, aggressive position that distributes the riders weight though the seat, handlebars and in the rider's core.

Fitness bikes are great for riders looking for just that - to ride their bike to improve their fitness. If you're looking to work hard, go fast and rack up miles on roads or bike paths with an emphasis on getting a workout, a Fitness bike may be right for you!

Trike and Recumbant eBikes

Trike and Recumbant eBikes

Trike and Recumbant eBikes are designed to allow the rider to sit more comfortably than a standard upright bike by taking stress off of the spine, hands and hips. These bikes have 3 wheels which provide balance that an upright bike cannot, this stable ride conserves energy that would be used keeping a 2 wheeled bike upright. Recumbent Trikes will feature many ways to be adjusted to fit with a wide range of body types and injuries which allows more people to continue to ride. These bikes are fun to ride too!

Trike and Recumbent eBikes are the go to for riders who can no longer ride an upright bike, due to injury, mobility impairments or an aging body. They are also perfect for riders who need help with balance, or riders who have cardiac limitations . Recumbent trikes are also for anyone who wants to have the most comfort while being closer to the ground.

Mountain eBikes

Hardtail eMTBs

Hardtail eMTBs

Hardtail eMTBs are built with front suspension only, the rigid rear provides the most climbing efficiency - on eMTBs, this means the battery will last longer if there are lots of long and steep hills. Hardtail mountain bikes are perfect for riding single-track and the paved paths to get to the trailhead.

Hardtail eMTBs are great for people who will mainly be riding their local single track and dirt trails. If you're a rider who wants to mountain bike, or a current hard tail rider wanting to do more laps while tackling climbs that were normally out of reach, these types of bikes are right for you!

Full Suspention eMTBs

Full Suspension eMTBs

Full suspension eMTBs are built with front and rear suspension to be able to take on rougher terrain while increasing traction and comfort. The addition of rear suspension makes the bike feel a lot smoother over rough terrain by soaking up the vibrations and bumps from the trail. This also helps keeps both wheels on the ground while blasting through technical sections of the trail.

Full Suspension eMTBs are great for people who will be riding off road on technical terrain. If you like to get to the top of a climb as quickly as possible to enjoy the thrill of riding the downhill part of the trail, and ride through skills sections wherever you are, and like having variety on your mountain bike ride, a full suspension eMTB is for you.

Road eBikes

Endurance eRoad Bikes

Endurance eRoad Bikes

Endurance eRoad Bikes are designed to rack up the miles while working hard and going fast. They are designed with a slightly aggressive riding position that is comfortable over long rides, and usually have features that reduce road vibration to make long days of working out in the saddle a breeze.

Endurance eRoad bikes are perfect for riders who only want to ride paved surfaces (roads/bike paths), and rack up as many miles as they can while getting a great workout in and going fast! If you want to ride further and faster than ever before, and explore routes with bigger hills that were previously avoided, check out endurance electric road bikes!

Gravel eRoad Bikes

Gravel eRoad Bikes

Gravel eRoad Bikes are designed to ride not only on paved surfaces, but also to excel where the pavement ends. These bikes typically feature wider tires, and mounts for racks and bags to carry gear, making them great for not only riding the path less traveled, but also for bike packing and commuting.

Gravel ebikes are the perfect bikes for people who like ride to get away regardless of the surface under the tires. These eBikes are for people who want a bike that is capable of a commute through the city during the week but are ready to be loaded up for a long weekend ride or camping adventure into the woods. If this sounds like your ideal riding - an Electric Gravel Bike is a great option for you!

What Are the Differences Between E-Bikes?

Now that we've covered every style of eBike, you may wonder what makes models within each style different from each other. Aside from the bike style, e-bikes differ in maximum speed, battery range, components and technology interface.

  • Motor Power: Motors are rated by the wattage they create. Generally, the higher the watts, the more powerful. Most bikes are going to be capable of the same top speeds based on their class but a motor with higher wattage will reach max speed quicker
  • Speed: Depending on the model, e-bikes have a maximum speed of either 20 or 28 MPH. Once above the maximum speed, the motor will stop giving you assist
  • Motor Placement:
    • Center drive: Center drive motors are the most current technology. Placing the motor at the center of the bike keeps the center of gravity lower and towards the middle of the bike, giving it a balanced feel. They also allow for easy tire changes since the wheel comes off like a standard bike (versus hub drive)
    • Hub drive: Hub drive motors sit inside an enlarged hub that's built directly into the rear or front wheel. Hub drives e-bikes can be a little harder to control because there is a lot of extra weight over one of the wheels
  • Battery Placement:
    • Integrated: Integrated batteries are built directly into the bike, usually in the downtube. This brings the center of gravity closer to the ground and in the middle of the bike, creating a more balanced feel. E-bikes with integrated batteries look very much like a traditional bicycle - it can be hard to tell they are different. They give the bike a clean look
    • Rear rack: Rack mounted batteries are attached to the bike via a rear rack
  • Battery Ratings and Range: Batteries are rated by wattage. A battery with a higher wattage rating will supply more power to the motor and have a longer range
  • Technology Interface: The controls of the e-bike are different depending on the brand but all provide similar features. These typically include the ability to adjust how much assist the bike will provide, a battery level readout, and typical cycling computer functions like speed and distance
  • Types of batteries:
    • Lithium Ion: This type of battery is the most desirable because it has the longest lifespan and is lighter
    • Sealed Lead Acid: These batteries are less expensive, but have much shorter lifespans than Lithium Ion batteries and are also much heavier. (We don't sell anything with these and they're becoming very rare)

Components Of An eBike

All e-bikes have three things not found on a conventional bicycle.

  • Motor: A small compact electric motor that provides a boost when you are pedaling.
  • Battery: The motor runs on a rechargeable battery.
  • Controller: Usually found on the handlebar, it allows you to adjust the amount of assistance the motor gives you, see how much battery power is remaining, and how fast you are going.
  • Apps: Some eBikes can be connected to apps that help the rider fine tune their bike to fit their individual desires.

How To Operate An eBike?

E-Bikes are very easy to operate. Even if you are not into the latest technology, you will find them simple to use.

  • Turn On: As simple as ringing a doorbell; e-bikes have a button that you simply press to turn it on.
  • Pedal: Once the bike is turned on, hop on and ride. The motor will gently kick-in once you start pedaling.
  • Turn Off: Most e-bikes automatically turn off after a period of inactivity, but they can also be turned off by the same button you pressed to turn it on.
  • Recharging: An E-bike runs off a rechargeable battery. It can be easily recharged by simply plugging it into an outlet. Most bikes allow you to charge the battery while it's either still mounted to the bike, or you remove the battery to bring it to your desk or in the house with ease.

What Is The Battery Range Of An eBike?

The distance an eBike can go on one battery charge (range) can vary between models and rider variables, but can be more than 60 miles!

Each e-bike model has different ranges which vary depending on motor and battery. Other things that will influence range include your speed, how much assistance you ask the bike to provide, rider+cargo weight, and the terrain you ride.

The displays on eBikes will show how much battery power and range you have left while you ride, and some e-bikes even have optional smartphone apps that allow you to set how much assistance you're getting from the motor and battery based on the length of the ride you want to do.

The Three Classes Of eBikes

Electric bikes are divided into three classes based on the level of potential motor assistance.

Class 1 Electric Bikes:

  • Must be pedaled to receive assist
  • Motor assist stops when a speed of 20mph is reached
  • Allowed on city streets and most bike paths

Class 2 Electric Bikes:

  • A handlebar-mounted throttle operates motor assist, even without pedaling
  • Motor assist stops when a speed of 20mph is reached
  • Allowed on city streets and most bike paths

Class 3 Electric Bikes:

  • Must be pedaled to receive assist
  • Motor assist stops when a speed of 28mph is reached
  • Allowed on city streets but not permitted on most bike paths and trails

Before buying, it is a good idea be sure to check your state and city's current E-Bike laws. A great resource on E-Bike class regulation is People for Bikes' state-by-state guide to e-bike regulations around the country.

Do I Need A License And Where Can I Ride My E-Bike?

E-Bikes can be ridden just about anywhere a conventional bike can be ridden. It's always a good idea to check with your local municipality to make sure you're abiding by the local laws.

Check out this People For Bikes site for information on riding e-bikes policies and laws.

E-Bike Maintenance

Maintenance of an e-bike is largely the same as a regular bike. Motors are sealed and don't require special maintenance. The only thing you need to do that's different is keep the battery properly charged, which is as simple as plugging it in after a ride. Since the motors and batteries are sealed, they can also be ridden year round in any weather.

Do I need to do anything when storing my electric bike over the winter? What if I want to ride it all winter? There are some things you should do to your e-bike when storing it over the winter or any extended period the bike won't be ridden. You can also certainly ride it all winter as well! Check out our blog that has info on what to do when storing your electric bike, so it is ready for next season, and what to know if you're going to ride it in cold temperatures.

How Can I Transport My e-Bike?

E-bikes are heavier than non-electric bikes because of their motors and batteries. As a result, you might not be able to easily put it into your trunk like a regular bike.

When putting your electric bike in your car isn't an option, we recommend using a car rack. They're easy to install, easy to secure your e-bike to, and leave space inside your car. But not all car racks are made for the weight of an electric bike.

Some e-bikes weigh upwards of 60 pounds, and many car racks just can't handle that weight. Most trunk racks are not compatible as they typically have a per bike weight limit near 35 pounds. Even most hanging style racks are out because most are rated for 40 pounds per bike.

Tray style hitch car racks are the best option (the only option, really). We recommend this style because you don't have to lift your e-bike high up off the ground and maneuver it onto a hanging style rack. Each of the bike's wheels are secured to a tray that holds the bike. Also, there are several options rated for electric bikes.

But, even with tray hitch racks, you'll have to check the capacity. Some racks have a 60 pound per bike capacity, BUT you have to be aware of the total weight capacity! Even though a rack may have a 60 pound per bike weight capacity, the entire rack may only have a 100-pound total capacity (meaning it might only hold one e-bike).

So how do you find the right car rack for your e-bike? Click here for the car racks that we carry that could work for electric bikes. Again, it's important to verify the rack is rated for the weight of your e-bike(s). If you have any questions, contact us or swing by a store. We'd be happy to help you out!

Can I Test Ride An eBike?

Once you have the type of eBike in mind, you may want to go for a test ride. All ERIK'S shops have e-bikes and they are all available for a test ride. If you would like, we offer e-bike in-store test rides to give you a feel for the boost before you go on the road and to help you get familiar with the controls. Swing by your local shop anytime to talk with our professionally trained staff, or chat with us online!

Why Buy An E-Bike From Erik's?

Quality Brands From a Name You Trust: It's true what they say, 'you get what you pay for.' There are many unknown electric bike brands making bad products – that are sometimes downright dangerous. At ERIK'S, we offer a huge selection of the most trusted brands in the industry including Specialized, Aventon and GoCycle. ERIK'S is the Midwest e-bike expert. We only sell quality electric bikes that we know, ride and service.

Professional Assembly & Service: All electric bikes that we sell at ERIK'S are built by professional assemblers following ERIK'S strict quality standards. After assembly, every e-bike gets quality checked to ERIK'S 100 point standard. This double check ensures your electric bike is built right!

Once you purchase your E-Bike from ERIK'S, you can be confident we stand behind our bikes. We offer ERIK'S Parts Warranty, which extends the manufacturer's warranty on non-electric components on new bikes purchased from ERIK'S. This covers defects of any non-electric related components for as long as you own your new bike. If your E-Bike has issues, we will service your bike or work with the manufacturer to fix the problem.

In-Store & On-Street Test Rides: Swing by your local ERIK'S to check out our huge selection of electric bikes. We offer in-store test rides to get you familiar with the e-bike controls and pedal assist motor before riding on the road. And of course, our test rides are free whether you are riding in-store or on-street.

Electric Bike History: ERIK'S started selling electric bikes over 20 years ago with the EVG Electric Bike by EV Global (Lee Iococca). We have been big fans of e-bikes ever since.

ERIK'S has one of the largest selections of e-bikes in the Midwest. Check out our selection online here, or swing by your local ERIK'S to learn more and take a test ride!

About Erik's

Erik was only 13 when he started ERIK'S in 1977. His first bike, a hand-me-down from an older family member, sparked his interest in bikes. With entrepreneurial spirit, and the money he saved from his job as a paperboy, Erik began his business. ERIK’S Bike Board Ski has grown into the Midwest’s leading bike, snowboard & downhill ski retailer. We are passionate about our sports & experts on all the gear we carry! Learn more about ERIK’S History.

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