You may have read the latest reports that electric bikes are outselling electric cars these days. There’s a reason they’re so popular: they’re awesome. If you’re in the market for an e-bike, make sure you get the proper model. Some suggestions:
Know Your Needs
While you may know how you’ll use the e-bike – maybe for commuting or fun – there are other factors to consider, such as the type of terrain you’ll mostly be riding on. Is it flat and paved or hilly and dirt? If you’re generally planning to challenge hilly pavement, try a commuter e-bike with the right tires, range and comfort level for the job. If you’ll mostly be riding on dirt or bumpy roads, then consider a fat-tire, more-durable model with suspension. Commuting to work everyday on it? Calculate the round-trip miles there, to make sure you have the right battery for the job.
Opt For The Right Specs
Speaking of, the larger the battery, the more range the bike has in terms of miles you can ride per charge. You may find it’s worth the extra cost to buy a large battery and not have to charge it up as often. Mileage range depends on road conditions, wind, your weight and the level of pedal assist you use. If you set the pedal assist to a lower level – in which you’re pedaling a bit more vigorously – you’ll find you may well meet the mile range listed by the manufacturer. Real-life conditions often mean that you may come close but will rarely exceed that provided range. Also make sure that the motor size, tire size, tire type, component names, and available upgrades and accessories check off everything on your list. Don’t be shy in asking the manufacturer questions – they know their products inside and out, and can be very helpful.
Sizing It Up
The wrong size bike will be uncomfortable, right from the start. Instead, buy one that fits properly. That means one you won’t struggle to get on or off; in which you get comfortable leg extension with; and can ride with your natural posture. Ask the company what size bike they suggest for your height and inseam. You can always fine-tune the seat height. Also give a close look at how the handlebars are positioned – people often overlook that until it’s too late. Ideally, sit on the bike and test it out before buying it – although that can be difficult these days, as so many e-bikes are solely sold online.
Price Usually Matters
You know that old saying that things are pricey because they’re worth it? That generally applies to e-bikes. Avoid “bargain” models for less than $1,000. Most are horrible, with little power, battery range, or durability. I’ve tested out dozens of e-bikes for this column and can tell you the only sub-$1,000 model that was worthwhile – and I bought it six years ago – is no longer on the market. Literally every other model that cheap I refused to write about because of the lack in quality. So the more a bike costs, generally the better it is – with respect to parts, range, craftsmanship, customer service, etc. That said, there are some less-expensive models that are awesome – one such maker is Ride1Up. And many of the mid-range models are also really good. I personally own a bike from Juiced that’s reasonably priced and I think superior to other bikes in its category.
E-bikes aren’t perfect, so things can go wrong. Eventually, you’ll also need a tune-up. So ask the manufacturer up front how and where you can get support, and how long the bike is warrantied for. In many cases, you’ll need to find an independent bike repair shop or mobile repair service near you for servicing later on. But if the company you’re dealing with has real people answering its phones, chances are good they will at least provide guidance when you need it. After a battery and/or controller went out on my Juiced bike, I phoned the company. While the rep tried helping me fix it over the phone but to no avail, he mailed me replacement parts without me even asking. Now that’s great service. Pedego has an extensive network of shops around the country to service its own bikes and competitor models, as well.