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How to Choose an Electric Bicycle that Suits Your Need

The electric bike you select must not only provide you with good battery life but it must also be lightweight, affordable, and suited to your style of biking. This article lays out vital pointers to help you choose an electric bicycle.
ThrillSpire Staff
Did You Know?
In 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. became the first person to be issued a US patent for an electric bicycle.
The first rule for buying a really good electric bicycle for yourself is to take a test ride without activating its power. If it rides smoothly like an ordinary bike, it, in most probability, performs better in its electric mode. Before you consider the nuances that differ between various electric bikes, you will need to consider a bike that meets all your expectations. For instance, decide whether you want a cruiser, road, mountain, or hybrid bike. The type of e-bike you select must cater to your style of biking and intended use. Secondly, go in for a bike that is appropriate in height for you and lets you ride comfortably. This article presents a guide for buying pre-built e-bikes.
Type of E-bikes
These are the two methods of operation for e-bikes, which are:
  1. Pedelec/pedal-assisted
  2. Throttle-assisted
1. Pedal-assisted E-bikes
Pedal-assist type of electric bicycle does not have any on-off throttle; however, it does have sensors that respond to the pedaling action of the rider. Following are the two types of pedelec sensor bikes:
a) Rotation Sensing Pedelec
Electric bikes with rotation sensing pedelec are equipped with sensors that are able to assess the forward pedal action and its speed, thereby, revving up the motor to provide more power to the rider. There are assisted levels or settings that can be set by the rider so as to provide just the right amount of power and pedal assistance while riding the bicycle. The motor kicks in within a few seconds after the rider starts to pedal.
b) Torque Sensing Pedelec
Based on the input of power being applied on the pedals by the rider, torque sensing bikes are able to estimate the power needed by the rider and increase it accordingly. The sensors also monitor the rotation of the pedals and how slow or fast the rider is pedaling, thereby, lending more power with every strong push. This feature proves exceptionally useful while riding uphill, in windy areas, and when the rider is tired or needs the extra boost during standing start.
2. Throttle-assisted E-bikes
Throttle-control electric bikes are meant to be ridden without having to pedal much or at all. However, most countries require that electric bikes come with pedals in order to be treated as bicycles that do not require licensing. The handlebar is equipped with a throttle or switch, which enables the rider to start and stop the bike. Much like a motorbike, the power of such an electric bike can be changed. Throttle-assisted electric bicycles with pedals also have throttles that provide the initial boost required to start the bike.
Types of Motors
While looking at various models of electric bicycles, you will come across bikes that have either external or hub motors. Although external side-mounted motors can still be found in some existing models, the trend has shifted to manufacturing electric bikes with hub motors that not only streamline the design of the bike, but also provide greater torque, speed, and efficiency.
1. Hub Motors
The hub motor is usually attached at the center of the front or rear wheel. Most pre-built electric bikes are installed with rear hub motors which do not impede the movement of the steering and provide excellent torque while riding. Hub motors cannot accommodate many gears and are less powerful than crank-driven motors. That being said, front wheel hub motors provide greater traction to electric mountain bikes.
a) Geared Motor
Most electric bikes are equipped with geared brushless bike motors that contain planetary gears, which channelize the power to the wheels. Even though such bikes do not offer much speed, the torque provided by geared hub motors eases the initial start-off. Apart from the excellent traction, these bikes are suitable for uphill riding as well. Such motors reach speeds of 20-25 mph, are lightweight, compact, and limit the consumption of electric power at 200-500w. However, hub motors that consume more wattage and lend greater speed are also manufactured by companies, but such electric bicycles are meant for extreme mountain climbing.
b) Gearless Motor
On the other hand, bikes equipped with gearless direct-drive motors tend to be faster than geared hub motors, and can attain speeds of 25-35+ mph. However, they have lesser torque, consume a lot more power at 300-500w, and tend to be heavier and bulkier. Bear in mind that the federal law does not permit electric bicycles to exceed speeds beyond 20 mph. The e-bikes that do exceed this speed limit are considered as motor vehicles by the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and thus, must meet some mandatory safety requirements.
2. Crank Drive System
While seeing various types of electric bikes, you will also come across many that have their motors placed near the pedals or on the mid-frame. The motor connects with the chain and moves the bike through the rear wheel gears. Therefore, this system lends greater torque to the bike and makes it the best type of motor to have in an electric mountain bike. However, the crank drive system is heavier and found only in pedal-assisted e-bikes, which makes pedaling constantly a must for attaining adequate speed.
Type of Battery
The cost of an e-bike weighs heavily on the type of battery it uses and the voltage is offers. Pre-built e-bikes mostly use SLA (sealed lead acid), or Li-ion (lithium ion) batteries of 24V, 36V, and 48V. Most e-bike conversion kits use NiMh batteries which last longer than SLA, thus, being comparatively more expensive. SLA batteries are affordable but are heavy and last for 1-2 years while requiring 300-500 charges. The life of these batteries can be lengthened by keeping them charged at or above 75% at all times.

On the other hand, Li-ion batteries being lightweight and durable, tend to be comparatively more expensive. There are several types of Li-ion batteries which include the following charge ratings:
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) - Provides 1500-2000 charges
  • Li-Manganese (LiMnO2) - 500-800 charges
  • Lithium-Polymer (LiPo) - 500-800 charges
Make sure that you inquire about the warranty on the battery, before you book the bike.
Weight and Cost of the E-bike
Depending on your indented use and the terrain on which you plan on riding your e-bike, you must consider the weight of the bike before purchasing it. Alloy metal bikes are light and tough, but end up being expensive. A good electric bicycle can cost you anywhere between USD 500-2000+. The type of battery used in the bike, its power and charge ratings, and cost of the battery sum up to impact the overall cost of an electric bike. Therefore, determine the things that you expect your e-bike to have and go in for a model that meets your utility and budget expectations. The weight of the e-bike must also be considered if you plan on buying a pedal-assist e-bike or intend to carry the bike to your apartment so as to prevent it from being stolen.
Finally, always go in for an e-bike that has been manufactured by a reputable brand and is currently in production. This way, you can get hold of any spare parts you may need.