Electric Bike Shopping Guide - Types of Electric Bikes

Whether you are interested in e-bikes for environmental reasons, need a boost when hitting the mountain trails, or are a city commuter... we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to answer some of your questions. Before we get into specific e-bikes, let’s explore how they work.

CLASSES OF ELECTRIC BICYCLES

CLASS 1 - PEDAL ASSIST / PEDELEC (pedal electric cycle)

This is the most common type of electric bike, and the most affordable. Most first time e-bike buyers start with this type. Class 1 e-bikes come with a motor that assists the rider when pedaling. However, there is a cap, and the motor stops providing assistance when certain speeds have been reached. Class 1 e-bikes are capped at 25 kilometers per hour in Europe, and 20 miles per hour in the United States. You can still pedal faster than that (going downhill), the motor will just disengage when going above 20 MPH. Class 1 e-bikes are considered the same as traditional bicycles in regard to road rules, so you may use them on any road or trails that allow bicycles.    

CLASS 2 - THROTTLE ELECTRIC BICYCLES

Throttle e-bikes are less popular than pedal assist bikes. They work by the rider engaging a throttle, usually on the handlebar, to control how much power the motor outputs. Throttle e-bike motors are also capped at 20 miles per hour. The rider can still pedal with their own power, or just use the throttle, or a combination of both. The more you pedal, the longer the charge on the battery will last, allowing you to travel longer distances.

CLASS 3 - SPEED PEDELEC

Speed pedelec, or s-pedelec are the second most popular type of e-bike. They also work by assisting the rider only when pedaling, similar to Class 1. However, they are capped at 28 mph instead of 20 mph. Because of this, they may be classified as a bicycle OR a motorcycle/moped, depending on where you live. This means you may be required to wear a helmet, be licensed and insured, or there may be age restrictions. They may also NOT be allowed on certain roads and trails. Check your local laws regarding s-pedelec e-bikes to make sure you are operating them legally.

TYPES OF E-BIKES


ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKES

Electric mountain bikes are great for going off-road and hitting the trails. They will help you get over those tough hills, saving your energy so you can spend doing what you love, longer. Depending on the difficulty of the trails that you ride, you might want to invest in a higher end electric mountain bike. For example, higher end mountain e-bikes have better brakes, and you wouldn’t want to jeopardize your safety if you will be doing serious downhill mountain biking. However, if you are just getting into the hobby, and will be starting out with riding on trails, entry level mountain e-bikes can be a good starting point. Because mountain bikes usually have better suspensions, they aren’t that bad on the road! The suspension will help absorb potholes and road vibrations, giving you a smoother ride than an e-bike with no suspension. Check out electric mountain bikes.

ELECTRIC CRUISER BIKES

Electric cruiser bikes are for folks that care about comfort. They have larger, more comfortable seats, and their handlebars are wider and higher. Cruiser e-bikes have pedals that are positioned more forward, which means the pedals won’t get in your way at a complete stop. This allows you to place your feet flat on the ground without having to reach with your tip toes. You can ride and stop in an upright position, without having to be hunched over the handlebars. It’s like a couch on two wheels! Cruiser e-bikes are for people that have nice, long bike paths or boardwalks in their area. You might not be going near any mountains any time soon, but if you live near a beach, an electric cruiser bike just might be the one for you! Check out electric cruiser bikes.

ELECTRIC ROAD/COMMUTER BIKES

Electric road and commuter bikes are great for people that are looking to use an e-bike for exercise or commuting. This category can vary somewhat depending on the exact purpose you will be using the e-bike for. For example, a strictly pure road bike that is used for exercise or training for a race, will be slightly different from a commuter bike used by a bike courier in a city. Road e-bikes are more sporty and lightweight. They have a forward leaning design and narrower tires. Also, they are easy to ride without pedal assist, saving the battery for when you need help with a tough hill. Commuter e-bikes are also sporty and lightweight, however, they may have thicker tires and a more durable frame. Another option for folks looking for a road/commuter bikes are hybrid e-bikes. They can handle the open road AND trails. Again, if you are looking to do serious mountain biking, perhaps look for a specialized mountain bike, but if you are a commuter who has unpaved or gravel sections you will need to ride on, a hybrid bike can be a good choice. Check out electric commuter bikes.

ELECTRIC FOLDING BIKES

Electric folding bikes are a popular because they are compact, convenient, and portable. Most folding e-bikes fold in the middle of the frame and handlebars. These e-bikes are about the size of a suitcase, sometimes smaller! This can be beneficial if you don’t have a lot of space, such as living in an apartment. Their compact size means that you can easily bring the e-bike with you on public transit or in the trunk of your car, then use the e-bike when you get to your destination. Several things to keep in mind, is that folding e-bikes are sometimes heavier than similarly sized e-bikes. Also, due to the cost of designing and manufacturing a folding e-bike, some manufacturers may try to keep costs low by using lower quality bike parts such as brakes and shifters. However, there are plenty of great folding e-bikes out there! Check out electric folding bikes.

ELECTRIC CARGO BIKES

Electric cargo bikes are made to carry stuff - lots of stuff. If George Carlin had an e-bike, it would be of the cargo variety. But seriously, these bikes are great for all kinds of utility. They accomplish that in one of two ways - front loading or rear loading. Front loading cargo e-bikes have the cargo box in the front, between the handles and front tire. This gives you more load capacity, but makes the e-bike very long and handling a little awkward, especially at slow speeds. Rear loading cargo e-bikes have an extended platform in the back, that you can customize for your needs. For example, they may come with racks, bags, or child carriers. They also sometimes come with floorboards on the sides so passengers have somewhere to put their feet. Rear loading cargo e-bikes may give less cargo space, but are much easier to maneuver. No matter which one you choose, make sure to double-check the load capacity to make sure they satisfy your hauling needs. Check out electric cargo bikes.

ELECTRIC FAT BIKES

Electric fat bikes are just plain, good old fun! These e-bikes don’t care what kind of terrain you’re riding on - you can take them on the street, on trails, sand, and even snow! Fat e-bike tires absorb potholes and bumpy roads with ease. You can jump a curb or ride down some stairs without issue. However, fat e-bikes can get pretty heavy because of the larger frame and tires. This means pedaling alone, especially uphill, won’t be too much fun. Make sure you buy one with a good battery, and this shouldn’t be an issue. With a fat e-bike, you can go anywhere! Check out electric fat bikes.

OTHER TYPES OF E-BIKES

Here are some other categories of e-bikes that we’ll briefly mention. Electric tandem bikes are bikes for two (or more) people. They are fun to ride together with a spouse or friend. However, if you are looking to get into the hobby seriously, sometimes the novelty wears off, and most people prefer to get their own e-bike eventually.

Electric recumbent bikes are low to the ground and super comfortable, it’s like sitting (or laying back) in a chair! However, because you are so low to the ground, they are less visible to traffic. Make sure you have a bright flag that sticks up so cars can see you!

Electric tricycles come in two styles. Two wheels in the back are generally cheaper, but they can easily tip over if taking a corner at a faster speed. Be careful! Two wheels in the front are more expensive, but are a lot more stable.

IN CONCLUSION

Remember that you get what you pay for. Motors, batteries, tires, brakes, suspensions, etc… all vary in quality and cost. No name brand batteries and motors may quickly wear out and break. Name brand products have reputations, and depending on the price range, you may get a warranty to protect your investment. Some higher end e-bikes might have a built-in display or an app that you can connect to on your phone.

So it comes down to what you want to do with your e-bike and how much you are willing to spend. Will you be riding on mountains and trails? Commuting to work in the city? Riding along the beach? Getting groceries or taking your kids for a nice ride? Are you just getting into the hobby and willing to spend $500 - $1,500 for an entry bike to see if this thing is for you? Or are you fully committed and willing to spend $1,500 - $5,000+ to get a premium bike that you know you’ll love for years to come?

Hopefully this guide helped you answer some of those questions. Happy e-biking!

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