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10 Quick Tips for Buying an Electric Bike

Buying your first e-bike can be overwhelming. We’ll help you cut to the chase with these 10 quick tips for buying the perfect electric bike for your needs.
robb dorr
Written by Robb Dorr
Toby Hill
Edited by Toby Hill
E-Bike Reviewer

We’ve compiled 10 quick tips to help you make an informed choice when buying your next e-bike — whether you’re looking for a smooth ride to get around town or something more powerful for off-road adventures on the weekend.

1. Choose the Right Electric Bike Class for You

The three electric bike classes are defined by their maximum assisted speed and whether or not they have a throttle.

  • Class 1: E-bikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
  • Class 2: E-bikes that also have a maximum speed of 20 mph, but are throttle-assisted. By using a throttle, you can ignore the pedals and rev up the motor by hand to help propel yourself forward without expending your energy.
  • Class 3: E-bikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, but can travel up to 28 miles per hour instead of just 20 mph like the first two classes.

The class of e-bike you choose will depend upon your needs and preferences.

If you want to go fast, then consider a Class 3 e-bike. If you want the added benefit of pedal assist and don’t mind putting in some of the hard work yourself, then a Class 1 will be your best bet.

If you’re looking for a purely recreational e-bike, or you just something that will allow you to get around town without breaking a sweat, then a Class 2 might be what you need.

2. Choose the Right Type of E-bike

E-bikes come in a variety of types, each designed for various riding styles. For those wanting an electric bike for short city commutes or urban riding, a commuter or folding e-bike is ideal.

If you’re looking for something with the ability to handle varied terrain, a fat tire or hybrid e-bike is recommended. For something that can handle heavy-duty off-roading, such as rocky trails with sharp inclines or declines, a mountain e-bike is a must.

For cyclists wanting a sportier ride, city/street e-bikes are light and fast. Alternatively, cargo e-bikes feature a heavier and thicker frame, allowing the rider to cart heavier loads as needed.

The style of electric bike you choose should reflect how you’ll be using it. For example, if you want to use your e-bike to go grocery shopping, you’ll want to get a cargo e-bike with a heavier frame and plenty of storage capacity.

3. Choose Pedal Assist, Throttle, or Both

Pedal assist and throttle are two different ways of controlling the amount of power you send to the e-bike’s motor. The pedal assist operates by detecting when you’re pedaling and then automatically increasing the motor’s power to help you along. The throttle works by allowing you to push a button directly on your handlebars (or simply twist them) to control the speed.

The main difference between these two types of electric bike features is that with a throttle, you can ride without pedaling at all. With a pedal assist e-bike, however, you must still pedal for the motor to kick in and help you along.

4. Determine if You Need a Mid-Drive or a Hub Motor

The main difference between the two types of electric bike motor is that a hub motor is located in the rear wheel, while a mid-drive system is placed inside the frame.

Hub motors are cheaper and easier to maintain, but they’re not as efficient as mid-drive systems. Mid-drive bikes are more expensive, but they also offer more torque and power than hub motor models, as well as longer range.

It’s important to consider the pros and cons of each motor when choosing the ideal model for you.

5. Know the Difference Between Cadence Sensors and Torque Sensors

Torque-sensing and cadence-sensing are the two primary forms of pedal assist systems (PAS). Cadence sensors measure the number of times that you pedal per minute, while torque sensors measure how hard you are pushing.

While torque sensors are more expensive than cadence sensors, they use less battery and offer a more realistic riding experience that’s in sync with your movements. Cadence sensors are easier to install and therefore come at a cheaper price tag than e-bikes with torque sensing. They’re less efficient when climbing hills, however, so are better suited for casual, flat-terrain riders who don’t need the extra power that torque sensing offers.

6. Choose the Right Battery Range and Power

The battery range and power of an electric bike are two of the most important factors to consider when buying. If you intend to ride your e-bike on long trips, you’ll need a model that has a long battery life.
The battery range is affected by how much weight your bike is carrying, as well as the terrain and your riding style. The more you rely on your e-bike’s motor for propulsion, the more you’ll drain the battery.

But the larger your battery capacity, the more distance you can travel between charges.
A good rule of thumb for determining how much power you need is to consider what kind of riding you plan to do. If you’re planning on taking long rides through mountainous areas, then go for a bike with more power.

On the other hand, if you’re just going to use your e-bike around town or on flat terrain, then less power will suffice.

7. Consider the Ideal Electric Bike Weight

The weight of your electric bike is an important factor in determining how much work you’ll have to do while riding it. A heavier bike will require more effort from your muscles and tendons, while a lighter one will allow you to pedal with less exertion. That said, a heavier e-bike may have a more powerful motor and battery.

E-bikes can range in weight from 18 pounds to upwards of 70 pounds, however, the most common weight for a standard electric bike (including motor and battery) is around 45-55 pounds. This can vary depending on what type of motor is used, but if you’re looking for something sturdy yet easy to maneuver, keep this number in mind when shopping around.

8. Recognize Your E-bike’s Service and Maintenance Requirements

Service and maintenance are important for the long-term health of your electric bike. All e-bikes need regular service, but the frequency will vary by manufacturer.

Most manufacturers recommend servicing your bike every 500 to 1,000 miles, with some requiring more frequent visits depending on the type of riding you do (for example, if you commute in heavy traffic or ride off-road).

If you’re unsure whether your model requires servicing, check out its user manual or contact the manufacturer directly before taking it to an authorized dealer for a tuneup.

9. Check Your Budget

Electric bikes come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. While some high-end e-bikes out there cost several thousand dollars, many budget electric bikes cost less than $1,000.

Generally, the more money you spend, the better quality bike you’ll get. More expensive models tend to be lighter, have better battery life, and offer more features than the cheaper ones.

The key to finding a good electric bike is doing your research and making sure that you’re buying from a reputable manufacturer. It also comes down to what features and specifications you’re looking for in an e-bike and how much money you’re willing to spend on them.

10. Familiarize Yourself with the Electric Bike Warranty

The length of a warranty is an important consideration when buying an electric bike. Most manufacturers offer a 1-year or 2-year warranty on their products, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t always cover wear and tear or mechanical failures.

Be sure to read through the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly before riding your new bike for the first time so you know how to operate it safely and securely. Additionally, keep track of all maintenance records as well as any parts replaced during repairs, as this will help make for easier claims down the road.

Warranties vary widely from one manufacturer to another in terms of what they cover, so be sure you understand exactly what kind of protection comes with yours before purchasing an electric bike.
When you know what to look for, buying an electric bike is a lot easier. By following our top ten tips above, you can find one that fits your needs, budget, and lifestyle with ease.

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About Our Editorial Team

robb dorr
Written by Robb Dorr
Robb is a massive cycling enthusiast who has more than 20 years of non-motorized cycling experience. He started to lower the barrier of entry to cycling and reduce the intimidation people can experience when getting into the cycling world.
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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