Electric bikes (e-bikes) are the hottest category in the bicycling world. This blog will give you the history of e-bikes, their types, and pricing.
Electric bikes are the hottest thing on two (sometimes three) wheels. However, they’re not new. The first patent for an electric bike was in 1895 to Odgen Bolton Jr. Since the 1990s, and the e-bike category has steadily grown while traditional bike production has declined. Today it is estimated there are 120 million e-bikes in China alone.
As the name implies, e-bikes are bikes powered/assisted by an electric motor. The motor provides a boost of power while you are riding. They are not to be confused with mopeds or mini motorcycles. E-bikes must meet specific criteria to be classified as bikes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission defines e-bikes as: “a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface when powered by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” Federal law permits e-bikes to be powered by the motor alone (throttle assist) or by a combination of motor and human power (pedal assist).
There are three classifications of e-bikes:
Class 1: A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
Class 2: A bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.
Class 3: A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph, and is equipped with a speedometer.
Like traditional bikes, there is an e-bike for every lifestyle, surface, and budget. The following questions will help you determine the best e-bike for you.
Question 1: What type of e-bike are you looking for?
Are you looking for a commuter, cruiser, mountain, or road e-bike? Here are the differences between them all.
Commuter: This style of bike is perfect for getting to and from work or running around an urban environment. They usually have wide tires, a comfortable, upright design, and a longer range.
Cruiser: The cruiser is designed for comfort with wide tires and a padded seat to make every journey enjoyable. It’s perfect for casual riders.
Mountain: Designed for off-roading, it has a sturdy frame, knobby tires, and a stiff suspension. It makes going up a steep hill so much easier.
Road: It’s a racing bike with a power boost. While it’s not legal in the Tour de France, a road e-bike is perfect for racing on the open road with narrow tires and a drop handlebar.
Question 2: How much do you want to spend?
E-bikes have a higher starting price point. This is due to the technology involved. We’ll use the low, middle, high scale as we did for pricing on traditional bikes.
Low ($1,000 - $2,000): You really won’t find anything under $1,000 unless you’re looking for an electric scooter. In this range, you are talking entry-level/base models. These can be great beginner e-bikes if you want to stick your toe in this category. Approximately 1/3 of e-bikes fall into this price range.
Middle ($2,000 - $4,000): At this level, you’ll see an increase in battery life, warranty, range, and quality of parts. There are also more options when it comes to the style of the bike.
High ($4,000 - $6,000): Again, you’ll see a jump in product quality from alloy and composite frames, battery life, speed, and warranty. These are for everyday commuters in a big city who don’t own a car, hardcore off-road enthusiasts, and congested urban delivery environments.
Yes, there are e-bikes above the $6,000 range with some hovering around $8,000, but at this level, use the money for a down payment on a car.
Other factors to consider:
Beyond the type and cost of the bike, you’ll need to factor in a few more things. Your cycling experience plays a significant role. Are you OK going 20 mph in a congested city, dodging traffic and pedestrians? How far do you want/need to travel in terms of battery life and to recharge? Proximity to a certified e-bike technician. Like a car, e-bikes require routine maintenance to prolong the life of the battery and bike.
There are a lot of choices in the e-biking universe, but these basics will help you begin your electrified adventure on two wheels. Finally, don’t forget to wear a helmet, follow all traffic laws and turn on your lights if you’re riding at night.