YOUR GUIDE TO BUYING AN ELECTRIC BICYCLE
If only deciding on what electric bike to purchase was as easy as riding up a steep hill on an ebike… Here are ten tips to help you make the right decision and start riding.
1. CONSIDER YOUR NEEDS
Electric bikes are designed for different people and different purposes. It’s up to you to decide what features is most important. If comfort is key, then a step-through frame may be best. If hill climbing is crucial, a middle motor system or high torque hub motor may be best. If riding long distances is your cup of tea, then a battery of 400 watt-hours or more is most appropriate. Understanding your personal needs will help you pick what features matter most on your electric bike.
2. CHOOSE YOUR RETAILER WISELY
Buying an electric bike should be as much about buying into a bike shop as it is about the product itself. You should judge your place of purchase on three points: vibe, commitment, and quality. The vibe is the feeling you get when you walk into the shop. Is the staff friendly, knowledgeable and helpful? Commitment refers to the shop’s visible enthusiasm for electric bikes. Do they have many e-bikes or just a few stuck in the back of the shop? Knowing that the shop is committed to the electric bicycle movement means they will be willing and wanting to help you make the most of your electric bike years down the road. The last point, quality, refers to the types of bikes that the retailer is selling. Are they brand names that you can research or are they bikes on which information is hard to come by? You want to be sure your retailer is in the business for the right reason and not just to make a quick buck.
3. TEST RIDE SEVERAL BIKES
Perhaps the most important—and fun—part of buying an electric bike is test riding. Trying an electric bike allows you to put aside specs and reviews and research and just answer the most basic question: ‘Do I love this bike?’ If yes, then start asking a few other questions: ‘Does it climb hills in the way I need it to?’; ‘Does the bike fit me in the way I would like it to?’, ‘Does it have the quality and functionality I would like?’
4. HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS
The electric bike is a revolutionary form of transportation. Quality electric bikes are here at last, and they are reliable, powerful, useful, and a joy to use. All in all, an electric bike can be life changing. That being said, not all electric bikes are created equal. There are many electric bikes out there that are far from the ideal of a modern, quality machine. It is up to you as the customer to set your expectations high and demand the best.
5. THE WARRANTY MATTERS
Buying an electric bike is a big investment, regardless of whether it is $1500 or $10000. With a warranty, you can rest assured that your investment is worth it. A two year warranty on parts, motor and battery (with no exclusions for normal use) is reasonable to expect from most electric bike manufacturers with product selling for over $2000.
6. TRUST YOUR INTUITION
It may seem like a jungle of contradictory information out there, and that is not far from the truth. There are many choices, lots of opinions, and not much in the way of trusted organizations that certify and review electric bikes in a systematic manner. What is someone to do? The best strategy is to put your trust in your intuition. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. If a bike is from a brand you’ve never heard of and can’t find information on it, it is probably best to stay clear.
7. TAKE THE LONG VIEW
Being environmentally sustainable is about more than just running on electricity: it’s about the way the bike was built, the quality of its construction, and the after-purchase service to keep it in great condition. You should expect that your bike should last from five to ten years at a minimum with regular service, and that your battery should last from 600 to 800 full charge cycles. And when the battery needs to be replaced, your retailer should be ready to have it rebuilt or recycled, but not thrown in the trash.
HOW EFFICIENT ARE E-BIKES?
Get the actual lowdown on the energy efficiency of E-bikes from bicycle designer Zach Krapfl. Did you know that the payback time on an electric bike in San Francisco is 2 years? There’s simply no better video out there to make the case for ebikes as a legitimate solution to global warming while being way more fun than driving a car in traffic.
8. QUALITY COUNTS BUT SERVICE COUNTS JUST AS MUCH
Electric bikes are not toys, they are transportation. The quality of the bicycle itself, irrespective of the drive system, is extremely important, and doubly important if you plan on riding it day in and day out. While bicycle component quality is fairly easy to judge by looking over the listing of parts, motors and batteries can be a little more difficult. When in doubt, research the motor and battery brands. But remember that the quality of the components won’t make much of a difference if your electric bike is not set up and tuned correctly. Your local independent bike dealer is your ally in maintaining the quality components you invested in.
9. BUY LOCAL
If at all possible, buy local. In the course of even the smoothest possible purchase you will have questions about your bike, and in a worst case scenario you may have problems, so no matter what happens you will want to be within 50 miles of your place of purchase so that they can help you. Besides, your patronage assures that local electric bike experts will be there for you when you need them for years to come.
10. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
The old adage works as much for electric bikes as it does everything else in life. It is not cheap to build a good electric bike that is reliable and has quality components. For throttle operated bikes or bikes with a cadence sensor, expect to pay at least $1500. For electric bikes with a torque sensor, expect to pay $2500 and up. The good news is that a quality e-bike can pay for itself very quickly. And that does not even account for the happiness dividend!