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Should You Buy an E-bike Online or In Store?

It can be tough to decide whether to buy an e-bike online or in the store. This guide covers the pros and cons of both and which choice is right for you.
Richard Shrubb
Written by Richard Shrubb
Contributing Author
Toby Hill
Edited by Toby Hill
E-Bike Reviewer

Returning to Cycling?

If you are returning to cycling after a while, this is the best reason to try before you buy. You might be:

  • A senior looking to get healthier
  • Advised by a medical professional to get more exercise
  • Looking at healthier ways of commuting than driving
  • Living in a city and wanting to ditch the car
  • Lacking a car but need greater range than on foot

In the instance where you’ve had a long break from cycling, it pays to see what is out there. Your best bet is to leave your wallet at home and visit an independent bike store with a wide selection of e-bikes available. Here you can test-ride different electric bikes and see what suits you best.

You can also see and experience:

  • Throttle assist versus pedal assist
  • The differences between mid-drive and hub-drive e-bikes
  • How an expensive e-bike stacks up against a cheaper model
  • How road and all-terrain e-bikes meet different rider needs

The first experience of riding an e-bike is always special! You won’t understand it until you sit on one and pedal it. The ‘Aha!’ moment. That said, sales assistants are there for one reason – to make their employer money.

Advantages of Online Stores

Ever walked out of a store with a shiny new gadget having tangled with a salesperson and wondered if you’d done the right thing? A purchase that will end up costing you at least $1,000 isn’t something you want to do immediately, so the time you take in making the right choice online is valuable.

The lack of pressure in buying online is one of the biggest reasons to do it – you choose, and are not pressured into choosing a model that you might not pick otherwise.

Other advantages of buying online include:

  • A far greater selection of e-bikes
  • More in-stock sizes and colors
  • The e-bike being delivered to your door
  • In many cases, free returns and a trial period
  • A wealth of professional and user reviews to help you assess the duds and the good ones
  • Lower prices, even on premium e-bikes
  • Online guides (like this article!) on how to make a selection
  • The availability of closeout e-bikes at reduced prices

By looking around you will soon educate yourself on the matter. In getting that education, you can make a more informed decision.

In-store Hazards and Opportunities

As we showed earlier, there can be no better way of being introduced to an e-bike than by physically riding it. As with car dealerships, some bike shops will have salespeople ready to squeeze every hard-earned dollar out of you that they can.

Though sales staff may be helpful, the issue for you is that you are getting your knowledge from the same source. You can of course ask them endless questions, but a fact-heavy conversation can end up frying both your brain and theirs! This is why it pays to educate yourself by reading up online around a subject to get an education on e-bikes, making decisions on the matter as you go.

Bike shop sales assistants are often extremely helpful and few are on commission (unlike car dealers), so they will help you to a point. On a busy day with a few customers looking for help, they might not be able to give you all the answers you need, no matter how professional they may be.

Hybrid In-store and Online

Many US companies have a hybrid buying experience where you can visit a store and then make the purchase online – or the reverse. Pedego, REI (Co-op Bikes), and Vista Outdoors (QuietKat) all allow you to visit their stores to try their electric bikes out.

In these cases, it pays to leave your payment method at home when you visit the store. Make it plain that you are not there to make an instant purchase decision, though to encourage the sales staff to allow you a test ride it may help to show a future purchase is likely.

Online Research

The majority of your research, however, should be done online. Using your online research you can decide:

  • What your budget is
  • What accessories (mudguards, racks etc) you want
  • How much power you need from an e-bike
  • How much range
  • Comfort vs performance
  • Throttle and pedal assist, or pedal assist only?
  • Class 1, 2, or 3?
  • How many pedal gears you want from the drivetrain
  • Step-through, low-step or high-step frame
  • All-terrain or pure road
  • Front suspension, dual suspension, or none
  • Mid-drive or hub drive
  • Folding or non-folding
  • Weight – frame/fork material
  • Durability (online reputation of the company usually hints at this)
  • Speed of charging
  • Gadgets (like smartphone control via an app)
  • Fat tire or mountain bike tire
  • Utility, cargo, commuter, tourer, trekker, overlander, e-MTB, hybrid or just a bit of fun?

A face-to-face salesperson will have those answers for you. Unless you know what you want from the points above, they will be making the decision and not you!

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About Our Editorial Team

Richard Shrubb
Written by Richard Shrubb
Contributing Author
Richard is a well-established journalist and copywriter with years of experience in the EV and e-bike world. He has worked with international sailing magazines, e-bike publications, and national newspapers.
Toby Hill
Edited by Toby Hill
E-Bike Reviewer
A trained journalist with 30 years of print and online experience, Toby Hill is an avid cyclist who has fully embraced the exciting new ride experiences that e-bikes have brought to his favorite pastime. He's ridden and tested dozens of e-bikes of all styles and technologies.

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