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How to Buy an E-Bike

What to Look for in an E-bike

Whether you want to cruise down the road, adventure onto off-road trails or zip around town, electric bikes are a great choice for any kind of rider. That’s why they’re becoming a popular purchase for people all around the world, with experts predicting that more than 1 million e-bikes will be sold this year. E-bikes are making cycling more accessible — and fun — for more people than ever before, proving they’re here to stay.

If you’re considering buying an e-bike, there are a few things you should know before you make your purchase. Keep reading to learn what to look for when buying an electric bike.

Categories of Electric Bikes

There are several types of e-bikes, with each style offering its own set of features and benefits. It’s helpful to know what kind of experience each type can give you. These are some of the most common e-bike categories.

Road bikes

Road e-bikes are designed similarly to a traditional road bike, making them great for serious bikers looking for a workout. They’re built for city streets, with a lightweight frame, narrow tires and drop-down handlebars for a more aerodynamic ride. They also often feature slimmer, lighter components to increase efficiency as you pedal down the road.

Cruisers

Cruisers are designed for the casual recreational rider who wants comfort and control. They offer a relaxed ride, with an upright seating position and a padded seat. The higher handlebars help your arms stay relaxed during your ride, while the thicker frame and wider tires cushion you from any bumps in the road. Cruisers come in two frame styles, the traditional diamond-shaped frame and the step-through frame, which makes it super easy to get on and off the bike.

Hybrid e-bikes

Hybrid e-bikes are good for paved streets and off-road terrain. They’re great for anyone who wants to bike to work in the city during the week, then take to the trails on the weekend. They often have more power and longer battery range than other e-bikes, allowing riders to go farther and faster.

Commuter e-bikes

Commuter bikes are the perfect choice for easily getting to and from work — without the hassle of finding a parking spot. This style of e-bike also typically has the longest battery range and offers the highest speeds — up to 28 mph! Many commuter e-bikes come with extras, like a rack for carrying your computer bag or a change of clothes for when you get to the office. Some even fold up so you can stow them on a bus or train.

Off-road and mountain e-bikes

These e-bikes are primarily for riding on trails away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With thicker frames and bigger tires, they’re built to roll smoothly over trails, rocks and other tough terrains. They make it easy to smoothly pedal up steep hills or craggy areas. The motor and battery are centered low on the bike for extra stability and control. It’s a great option for those who want to add a little oomph to their exercise routine!

Not sure which style might be right for you? Renting an e-bike could be a great way to try out different models.

E-bike Essentials

As with traditional bikes, there are many elements to learn about before you choose an e-bike, such as the battery, motor and accessories. Here are some other important details to keep in mind when buying an e-bike.

E-bike batteries

The battery is one of the most important parts of your bike because it gives you the power that keeps you riding strong. When comparing e-bikes, look for riding-range specs, often listed in “pedal-assisted miles,” to make sure the battery will give you the range you need.


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Just remember that many variables affect riding range. For instance, there are tradeoffs between performance and riding range. A more powerful motor delivers more speed — but it also burns up the battery faster, which will reduce your riding range.

Other battery factors to consider are:

  • Charge time. Most batteries require three to five hours to fully charge, but you can buy a faster charger if necessary.
  • Number of batteries. Some e-bikes allow you to use two batteries simultaneously. This can extend the length of your ride and give you a backup if you end up with a dead battery. You can also buy an extra battery so you always have a fully charged one whenever you need it.
  • Lifespan. Most e-bike batteries will need to be replaced after several thousand charges.
  • Mount. Batteries integrated into the frame make room for conveniences like bottle cages. However, external batteries are easier to charge and replace.

E-bike motors

E-bike motor technology has rapidly evolved in recent years, with most e-bike companies now offering one of two styles: mid-drive or hub-drive motors. Both types are reliable and energy efficient, but they have distinct features and benefits.

Mid-drive motors. This popular motor sits in the middle of the bike, closer to the pedals, which offers a variety of benefits. The pedal assist responds with a natural feel and having the weight of the motor centered and low helps keep the ride balanced and stable. Mid-drive motors are generally the most efficient and give the longest battery range, making them an excellent choice for all kinds of riders. However, they can be more expensive than a hub-drive motor.

Hub-drive motors. These motors sit inside the hub of the front or rear wheel, sending pedal power straight to the wheel. As a result, hub-drive motors can make you feel as if you’re being pushed along the road or trail. But changing a flat tire on the wheel where the motor is mounted can be challenging since you have to work around the motor.

E-bike accessories and other components

Just like a traditional bike, there are accessories you’ll need to buy when you own an e-bike.

Helmet. Basic bike safety is essential, and wearing a helmet is a must when riding an e-bike.

Lights. These are another essential safety feature. Lights keep you visible at all times during your ride, but especially at night. Some styles (like commuter e-bikes) often have lights integrated into the bike — if your e-bike is on, your lights are on. If you need to add lights, small, USB-rechargeable lights are a great option for increased visibility on the road or trails.

Pump and inner tubes. Even e-bikes get punctured tires, and a pump and extra tubes will help you get back on the road or trail quickly.

Racks. E-bikes can accommodate a wide range of sturdy racks, which can make your e-bike even more functional because you can pack your computer bag, groceries and other necessities.

LCD displays. It’s helpful to have a handlebar-mounted display that lets you easily monitor battery life, pedal-assist mode, riding distance, speed and more.

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Locks. If your bike doesn’t have an integrated lock, make sure you buy a high-quality bike lock to protect our investment when you’re out and about.

Comfort items. Adding a bell or a padded seat cover is quick and easy and can make your ride even more comfortable.

Smartphone integration. This add-on lets you connect your smartphone to an app connected to your e-bike’s computer. You can track GPS locations and service records and even unlock your bike’s integrated lock if it has one.

Where to Buy an Electric Bike

Just like any other bike, you can buy e-bikes online or at your local bike shop. If you’re new to e-bikes or unsure of what you need, starting at your local bike shop is a good idea. The staff will have the knowledge and expertise to help you understand your options. They might even have models you can test ride to get a sense of how the e-bike feels. Plus, they can customize the fit of the bike just for you.

If you decide to buy online, make sure you know what you need and how the e-bike meets those requirements. Be aware that when your e-bike arrives, it will probably need some final assembly, such as fitting the handlebars, seat post and pedals. If you’re not sure how to do this, you may want to buy your bike from a local shop.

No matter where you buy your bike, take your time and find a model that fits you well and meets your long-term needs.

How Much Does an E-bike Cost?

Many e-bikes cost between $1,000 and $3,000. Basic models can be as affordable as $600, while premium models may cost as much as $8,000 or more.

A less expensive option is an electric bike conversion kit, which allows you to add a motor and battery to your traditional bike. However, this can be a fairly complicated task that requires specialized knowledge and tools.

Insure Your New E-bike

Whether you’re traveling across town or across the county, owning an e-bike can help you see your community in new and fun ways. But before you hop on your new ride, make sure it’s protected. Learn more about insuring an e-bike or check in with your American Family Insurance agent to see what coverage you need.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.


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