Electric Bike Buying Guide

Introduction to Electric Bikes

One of the fastest growing categories of bicycles today is the Electric Bike - or ebikes as they are known. The purpose of this article is to explain what is an ebike is and answer some of the frequently asked questions that we get in stores.

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

What is an Ebike?

It’s not a moped, scooter, or motorcycle. Rather, an ebike is a bicycle with a motor and a battery. It looks and operates very similar to a conventional bicycle. It has all the key parts of a bicycle like pedals and a chain. And you still get exercise riding it. But unlike a conventional bicycle, every ebike also has a motor, a battery, and a controller. The motor is activated by your pedaling and gives you a boost.

How does an Ebike Assist You?

An ebike provides a gentle assist to your pedaling. The assistance automatically kicks in when you’re pedaling and gently adds power to your pedal stroke. 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). If you have your ebike in Sport mode, the motor would add a 50% boost to your pedal power. In other words, with the motor, you would be pedaling at 150% of whatever is your pedal power.

The assistance is very gentle. Many ebike riders tell us they hardly notice the boost except that cycling has become easier and much more fun. The ebike simply helps to make hills seem smaller and distances seem shorter.

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Ebikes and Exercise

Customers often ask us if they will still get excercise when riding their ebikes. The answer is definitely! There have been a number of studies about physical exertion on an ebike. A study out of the University of Colorado Boulder found that ebikes 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 ebike.

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

Operating an Ebike

Ebikes are very easy to operate. Even if you are not into the latest technology, you will find them simple to ride.

  • Turn On: As simple as ringing a doorbell; e-bikes have a button that you simply press to turn it on

  • Adjust Assist: Most ebikes feature varying levels of assist. Set the bike to assist you as much or as little as you prefer.

  • 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 ebike runs off a rechargeable battery. It can be easily recharged by simply plugging it into an outlet. Most ebikes allow you to charge the battery while it’s still mounted to the bike, or you can easily remove the battery to charge it anywhere there’s an outlet

How far can an Ebike go?

The distance an ebike goes on one battery charge, or it’s range, depends on a lot of variables. Each ebike 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, weight, and the terrain you ride. Some ebikes can go more than 60 miles on a single charge depending on the conditions. Some ebikes even have optional smartphone apps that will let you tailor how much assistance you’re getting from the motor and battery to have even more control over the bike’s range.

Why Should I Consider n Ebike?

There are many reasons why someone might choose an ebike. If biking isn’t as much fun as it used to be – an ebike is for you. Ebikes make hills seem smaller and distances seem shorter. If you want to commute to work, but without getting all sweaty – an ebike is for you. If you want to ride with your partner, but she or he is faster on the bicycle – an ebike is for you. They also allow a variety of people to ride together, both on ebikes 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 ebike is for you.

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Can I Test Ride an Ebike?

Yes, all ERIK’S shops have ebikes and they are all available for a test ride. If you would like, we offer ebike in-store test rides to give you a feel for the boost and to help you get familiar with the controls before you head outdoors. Swing by your local shop anytime to talk with our professionally trained staff.

What are the Differences Between Ebikes?

E-Bikes come in most bike styles including recreational bikes, commuter bikes, mountain bikes, cargo bikes and trikes (3-Wheeled bikes). Each style is going to ride differently based on what it has been designed to ride. Aside from the bike style, e-bikes differ in maximum speed, battery range, 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)

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 Ebike laws. A great resource on Ebike class regulation is People for Bikes’ state-by-state guide to e-bike regulations around the country.

Ebike Maintenance

Maintenance of an ebike 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 ebike 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.

Do I need a license and where can I ride my Ebike?

Ebikes 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 ebikes policies and laws

How can I transport my Ebike?

Ebikes 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 ebike to, and leave space inside your car. But not all car racks are made for the weight of an electric bike.

Some ebikes 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 ebike 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 ebike).

So how do you find the right car rack for your ebike? 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 ebike(s). If you have any questions, contact us or swing by a store. We’d be happy to help you out!

Why Buy an Ebike 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, Gocycle and Raleigh Electric. ERIK’S is the Midwest ebike 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 ebike gets quality checked to ERIK’S 100 point standard. This double check ensures your electric bike is built right!

Once you purchase your ebike 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 ebike 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 ebike 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 ebikes ever since.

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

It is probably clear that we think electric bikes are awesome… but don’t just take our word for it! Check out this page with stories about how the ebike is literally changing lives.

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