Electric Bike Buying Guide
What keeps you from biking some days? If your bike could flatten hills and fight headwinds, would it increase how often you ride? If you could travel further, reach higher speeds, maintain a higher average speed, and climb challenging hills, without arriving sweaty and out of breath, would you consider an ebike? If you always had the closest parking spot, and you never had to sit in traffic, would you consider replacing your car with one? You could save a lot of time and money.
Thanks to ebikes, people of all ages and fitness levels are replacing car trips with something they actually enjoy doing. Riding a bicycle of any kind has health benefits, including less stress, weight loss, increased muscle strength, and better posture, but only an ebike offers the ability to customize the riding experience. An ebike, short for electric bike, is a bicycle with an integrated, battery-powered, electric motor that makes pedaling easier. In some models, pedaling is not necessary at all. The motor can do a little or a lot of the work. How much is up to you. Electric bikes give you the freedom to choose the speed and effort that's right for you.
Electric bikes break down barriers to cycling, like windy conditions, hills, lack of energy, and long distances, and that can dramatically increase how often you ride. It’s easy to get the exercise you need when riding is part of your everyday routine, such as your commute to work. Biking continuously engages your core and strengthens it as you balance while riding. Ebikes are easier on your knees and joints than regular bikes. You get a moderate workout without the pain or soreness after a long ride. When we see ebikes in for regular maintenance the amount of miles on the odometers are impressive. Ebikes tend to get ridden more!
What is an Ebike?
As a true Dutch bike should, the Gazelle Ultimate T10 comes ready for commuting with integrated lighting, a rear rack, fenders, cafe lock, bell, and kickstand.
If you’ve ridden a bicycle before you’ll feel at home on an ebike because there are more similarities than differences between the two. Electric bikes look like regular bikes. They ride like regular bikes. They’re built with the same components, like standard-sized wheels and tubes. They have multi-geared drivetrains with standard-sized cranks, pedals, derailleurs, and chains.
An ebike’s integrated, battery-powered, electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. You can find the motor in one of several places. Hub motors are located within the front or rear wheel hubs. Mid drive motors are located in the center of the frame, between the cranks, where the bottom bracket would be. Powered by a rechargeable battery, these electric-powered engines can be used to propel the bike forward, either by itself or with the rider’s pedal power. In addition to the battery and motor, all ebikes have a controller that cuts power to the motor when the rider is not pedaling or has reached a certain speed. Some ebikes are more powered than others. There are three types, or classifications, of ebikes.
Class 1 Electric Bike: Pedal assist only. No throttle. Max speed of 20 mph.
Class 2 Electric Bike: Throttle assisted. Max speed of 20 mph.
Class 3 Electric Bike: Pedal assist only. No throttle. Max speed of 28 mph.
Class 1 ebikes are sometimes called pedelecs, short for pedal electric cycle. These low-powered ebikes ride like regular bikes. The small motor helps with pedaling, but it doesn’t do all the work. In some states, Class 1 ebikes are treated like regular bicycles, meaning you are legally allowed to ride them anywhere bikes are permitted. Class 2 ebikes offer power on demand via a throttle feature. You can activate and control the motor, whether you’re pedaling or not. To engage the throttle you might twist or push a button. Though some cities and states have additional restrictions on Class 2 ebikes, they are often legal most places where bikes are permitted. Class 3 ebikes, aka speed pedelecs or S-pedelecs, are like Class 1 ebikes in that they don’t have a throttle, but they top out at a higher speed. Class 3 ebikes are generally allowed on roads but not multi-use paths or bike trails.
Shimano recommends that you store and charge your Shimano battery between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For long term storage, a battery should not be fully charged.
An ebike motor is powered by a rechargeable battery, and like any battery-powered device, you will need to charge it. It’s as simple as charging your phone. You plug it into a wall outlet. An ebike battery takes 2.5 to 6 hours to charge, depending on the battery size and type. Some companies offer optional fast chargers or higher amp chargers to reduce charging time. The battery range off a single charge depends on a number of factors including assistance mode, tire pressure, starting and stopping, wind conditions, cadence, temperature, hills, and weight. There are things you can do to prolong the life of your battery, like charging it regularly, and never using, charging, or storing it in extreme temperatures. While the annual electricity cost of an ebike will vary depending on your electricity rate and how much you ride it, charging an ebike typically costs less than $4 per year. Batteries have a limited number of charge/discharge cycles upon which the battery will no longer provide the range that it did when new. A charge cycle is calculated by how discharged the battery is at the time of recharging. If the battery is recharged when it is at 80% charge, that is considered only ⅕ a charge cycle. Under most instances batteries will last several years with daily use. Some ebikes, like the Tern GSD, have optional second batteries that will double the range.
Your ebike will come with a charger like this one. There is no harm in topping off your battery after every ride.
Bosch, a world leader in ebike drive systems, recommends that you store your Bosch battery between 59 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. That also applies to charging. If you keep your bike in the garage in winter, remove the battery after use and install it back onto the bike just before riding. Cold temperatures can reduce how far you can go on a single charge. Neoprene battery covers can help insulate your battery and optimize your range while riding in freezing conditions.
Some ebikes hide the battery within the frame. Some place the battery on the seat tube or down tube. Others build it into the rear rack. Brompton’s battery is unique in that it integrates into the front luggage.
In addition to a battery and a motor, all ebikes have a controller. The controller connects the electrical parts of the bike, like the battery, motor, and display. If the motor is the brawn of the bike, then the controller is the brain. Bosch-powered ebikes like the Tern GSD have sensors which measure cadence (how fast you’re pedaling), speed, and torque (how hard you’re pedaling) more than a 1,000 times per second. The controller uses that information when it transfers energy stored in the battery to the motor, to make sure the motor gets the right amount of power at the right time. A controller functions not only to modulate how much power is flowing to the motor, but to make sure everything is running smoothly. For example, the controller monitors battery voltage and will shut off the motor when the voltage is too high or too low.
Shimano’s compact, bar-mounted display is protected yet visible on the BMC Alpenchallenge AMP City One.
Most purpose-built ebikes are equipped with a handlebar display, i.e., a control center for the bike that doubles as a cycling computer. Designed to be ergonomic, intuitive, and readable, the onboard display allows you to customize your riding experience on the go. With the click of a button you can activate the built-in lights, change the assist level, check the battery life, turn on walk assist, and view speed, trip distance, total distance and more. Some displays have USB ports you can use to charge external devices like your smartphone.
Ebikes & Smartphones
Many ebikes have smartphone apps you can use to change settings or view riding data. Some are more app-based than others. The Gocycle GX fast folding electric bike has a simple handlebar display, five LED lights that represent battery capacity. Rather than using a separate device, you select your riding mode with the GocycleConnect app, which connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. Two rubber mounts secure your device to the handlebar in the landscape orientation, so you can track current and average speed, trip distance, and information about your motor power, while riding.
The Tern GSD offers four levels of assist from the Bosch system. The drive unit, the heart of any e-bike, is Bosch’s highest torque model.
Ebikes offer greater carrying capacity and extended practical range, with several preset riding modes that let you choose the level of effort that feels comfortable for you. A low assist mode like Eco is good for gentle hills/flats and will conserve more battery than a high assist mode like Turbo. If you get tired or encounter a big hill, you can change your assistance level with the click of a button. Electric cargo bikes typically have a walk assist mode, which uses a gentle amount of motor to help you push the bike with children on board. You will feel the motor help you balance as you take off pedaling from a stopped position.
Smaller than a city ebike, when a full size cargo bike is more than you need, but you want to haul stuff daily, there’s the Tern HSD. The rear rack can accommodate both a child seat and panniers.
Bells & Whistles
Can you spot the 500 Watt-hour Bosch battery? It’s integrated into the frame!
Kickstands, bells, cargo carriers, and fenders are factory components on many of the ebikes we stock. Some have built-in lighting systems and locks too. Chains are covered for keeping clothes clean. Gears are often internal for shifting at a stop and little or no maintenance.
Enhanced by a reflector, a high-power headlight lights the road ahead and helps others see you. Built-in lights are standard-issue on city ebikes.
A rear light is integrated into the rear rack and enhanced by a reflector. Full-length fenders protect the bike, and the rider, from road water.
For your comfort, touring ebikes and most city ebikes have suspension forks. An integrated suspension front fork, like this one from Gazelle, ensures a smooth ride on rough city streets.
With the turn of a key, a frame lock provides an extra layer of security by immobilizing the rear wheel. Also known as a cafe lock, a frame lock is permanently attached to the bike, so you’ll always have it with you.
Cables are internally-routed. A chaincase keeps grease off of clothing.
Tires (quality, condition, air pressure, and rolling resistance) play a big part in how the bike rides. Because ebikes travel at higher speeds, tires are specially made for them by companies like Schwalbe.
Compared to rim brakes, hydraulic disc brakes are more powerful, react faster, and require less hand strength.
Chain Drive vs Belt Drive
Belt drives are becoming increasingly popular and work well with electric options. Unlike bicycle chains which are made up of links, pins, and rollers, belts are a single piece, a carbon fiber cord with polyurethane teeth and a nylon outer coating. Because they don’t have moving parts, they last longer and require little to no maintenance. Chains wear as material is removed over time. Known as chain stretch, chain wear affects performance and can cause wear to other components. Belts don’t stretch. They won’t rust, and you don’t have to lubricate ever, so you’ll never get grease on your clothes. Belt-driven bicycles are ideal for commuting. Belt drives are quiet and stealthy, clean, low maintenance, and smooth. Wondering why all bikes aren’t equipped with them? Belts aren’t compatible with every bike. Belt drives require a specially-designed (or modified) frame and internal gearing for shifting. Unlike a chain, you can’t break a belt to remove or install it. The frame needs to either have an access port to slide the belt through, or a design that does not require the belt to go around the chainstay. Belts are incompatible with derailleur systems because they can’t flex sideways like chains can, so they can’t shift from one cog to another for different gear ratios. Instead, an internal gear hub is used for different gear ratios. Because the components, including the internally geared hub, cost more, you’ll pay more for a belt-driven bicycle. If it’s within your budget, it might be worth it, especially if you’re a bicycle commuter. Belt drives won’t be replacing chains anytime soon as bicycle chains are available at any bike shop and are compatible with more bikes. Their length can be modified by adding or removing links. They’re also easier to find and replace.
A carbon belt doesn't require oil or lube, ever. That's a big reason why it stays cleaner.
With an internal gear hub, you can shift even when you’re not pedaling, and the gear system is protected from water and grit.
Ebike vs Regular Bike
If you want to get there in less time, get an ebike. You’ll be able to reach higher speeds and maintain a higher average speed than you would on a regular bike. You can travel greater distances, which will increase the number of places you can bike to. Electric assist does some of the work for you, so it’s easier on your knees and joints. You can plan longer, more challenging rides, and you’ll always be able to keep up on group or social rides. Ebike riders tend to get more exercise because they spend more time on their bikes. Your ebike will give you a boost when you need it, like when you’re climbing a steep hill, carrying a heavy load, or dealing with a headwind. On a regular bike, you have no choice but to rely solely on your leg power. Even if you’re very fit, that can feel like a chore. Having that added power can mean the difference between using your car or enjoying all the benefits biking has to offer. You can accelerate faster from a stopped position and get through intersections quicker. Taking the kids to school, picking up the groceries, or dropping off a package at the post office is much easier with an ebike as the additional weight of your cargo does not increase the amount of effort you need to provide. On an ebike, you choose the effort that feels comfortable for you. You never have to break a sweat unless you want to. Electric bikes generally cost more than their non-electric counterparts. However, if you’re using it instead of a car, it will pay for itself in no time. Electric bikes tend to be heavier and thus more difficult to transport, though folding ebikes have changed that.
Ebike vs Car
Thanks to ebikes more people are replacing car trips with something they enjoy doing. Many households use an ebike in lieu of a second family car, and some have avoided owning a car at all. Especially in urban areas, electric bikes are a faster, more pleasant way to get around. The cost of charging and maintaining an ebike is a fraction of what it costs to maintain and drive a car. And while a quality ebike will run you a few thousand dollars, that’s still cheaper than most used cars and far more reliable. Sure, you can get a flat tire, but that’s an easy, low cost repair that you can do yourself. You’ll never be stranded like when your car breaks down. If you dislike sitting idly in traffic, consider an ebike. You won’t be stuck in backups due to road repair or crashes. Your travel time will be more consistent. You’ll always have the best parking spot. You can get to work quickly, and you won’t arrive sweaty and out of breath. Electric bikes make school drop offs fun. By not driving, you save time and money. You will be happier and healthier not sitting in a car.
Ebike vs Scooter or Moped
In most places, low speed electric bikes are treated just like regular bikes and can be ridden anywhere bikes are permitted. Motorized scooters and mopeds, which travel at higher speeds and have more powerful motors, are classified as motor vehicles. To operate them, special licensing and registration is required, whereas ebike owners are not required to register their bike or have a driver’s license.
Our Electric Bikes
The electric version of our best selling bike. The Brompton Electric folds to two-thirds the size of other folding ebikes, and it's easier to carry.
The ebikes we stock are designed to supplement your pedaling rather than replace it. You'll still get the exercise you want, all the while traveling faster and further with less fatigue. Want to drive less or not at all, ride to work, ride with your kids, pick up the groceries, haul something heavy, travel with your bike and enjoy life a little more? Some ebikes are better at transporting people and their stuff. We select our ebikes mainly for their value as transportation. This means low maintenance and safety in all seasons. Comfort, durability, and cargo or passenger capacity is key.
Why Clever Cycles?
Your ebike will be professionally assembled for you. We'll give it a safety check, once it's assembled and tuned. Should you need it shipped, it will be packed up expertly and shipped to you in a timely manner. At Clever Cycles, we take care of you down the road, starting with a free safety check after about 100 miles or 30 days of riding. We keep a record of your order history and can tell you when your last tune up was and what was done. If you need your serial number, we have that too. You can schedule an appointment when it's time for a tune up, so you won’t be without your bike for longer than necessary. We're available to help 7 days a week by email, chat, or phone.
Though much less to own and operate than the cars they can replace, quality electric bikes can still cost several thousand dollars. We can help you spread out the cost over time. Have we missed something? If you have an unanswered question, let us know.