E-Bike Buyers’ Guide For Beginners

November 20, 2023

So, you’re thinking about buying an e-bike. Your friend has one and can’t stop smiling. Or you’re interested in reducing your carbon footprint. Or your neighbor’s kid rides one everywhere and loves the freedom. Or you want to save some money. Or riding a bike provided you with the most amazing memories that you’d like to revisit, now that you have some time, just without ALL of the required exertion. Where do you start?

How are you planning on using this bike?

Most of us are simply looking to stretch our legs: feel the breeze on our skin and through our hair while we scoot through town to run errands, or check out a new venue, or grab an ice cream scoop, or explore the local bike paths, or meet up for coffee. Start by thinking realistically about how you’re planning on using this. Is it for trails, or carrying groceries and kids? Are you planning on longer road rides with a group, or will you be out on solo excursions? How aggressive would you like to be on this bike – forward like a tour racer, or upright like the Dutch, or somewhere in between? Will you be taking this off-and-on your car? Do you want a throttle, or would you prefer a more natural bike feel? (Note: Most e-bikes with throttles utilize hub-drive motors that lack the ability to directly translate pedaling force; although, some newer, torque sensors are attempting to replicate the immediate engagement style of mid-drive motors.) Be honest with yourself, and be willing to test ride several models – your vision of yourself on the bike may conflict with the reality of the ride. I generally recommend bikes with a low step-through that allow you to easily get your leg over the bike.

How much bike should you buy?

There are 2 basic styles of e-bikes – Budget or Performance. Every e-bike is one of these, and the majority of e-bikes we’ve sold are budget e-bikes.

Budget e-bikes are less expensive, but they’re still bicycles! (Read: Fun to ride!) Budget bikes have less strict manufacturing policies, and they may not even meet all the requirements for UL certifications that many landlords require these days. (Note: Most e-bikes from bike shops meet high consumer safety standards.) These e-bikes are cheaper, and they usually employ proprietary equipment. They are more prone to failure, and they often require component-specific replacements. Budget e-bikes are likely to incorporate some accessory upgrades (turn signals, brake lights, or color displays) that can obfuscate their actual value, and there are a lot of paid reviews online that can make them seem like an unbelievably good deal. Many of these e-bikes are not available through bicycle shops, and that should be a warning sign: if you’re planning on getting a cheaper e-bike, make sure that you buy it somewhere that will continue to service it! These e-bikes can be life changing; however, they are not generally as reliable as their more expensive counterparts. We offer budget e-bikes from Velotric and Aventon, and these bikes are subject to a $150 build fee in order to secure the warranties from the manufacturers.

Performance e-bikes tend to have more robust batteries and electrical systems. They still incur wear-and-tear on mechanical parts, like chains and brake pads, but they utilize batteries and motors that have been tested to have longer lifespans. Most performance e-bikes use more traditional bike parts that are universal and higher quality than their budget counterparts, and they offer replacement parts easily and readily through bike shop channels. If you’re looking for a daily transportation replacement, we recommend e-bikes that employ batteries and motors from reliable manufacturers like Bosch, Shimano, Mahle, and Yamaha. We offer performance e-bikes from Kona, Benno, Urban Arrow, LeMond, Willier, and more.

NOW: Go test ride some bikes! We will add more – reviews, motor distinctions, and suggestions – in the future, but you should get out there and try some e-bikes. There’s never been a better time to start, and we would love to help you find the right equipment!

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