As I was getting more interested in buying and selling e-bikes I figured how little I know about them. I thought e-bikes are the coolest thing ever but I couldn’t possibly decipher product descriptions.
Given that my commute to work was about an hour or more, if I had a long day at work, commuting back home was tough at times. That’s where e-bikes really come in handy. When you’re already getting tired, up that bridge, hill or whatever. Electric bicycles make long commutes A LOT comfier. Also, you’ll feel like you just came straight from the future, which is pretty cool.
If you feel like DYI and already possess a regular bike, you may get an e-bike kit or build one yourself. Either way, my advice would be to get a cheap one. Why would you, presumably a newbie to all of this, buy a $4000 e-bike? Or a more expensive one, for that matter. That’s an insane investment. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I’m just pretty sure you’re not supposed to get the Ferrari F430 GT, right after picking up your driver’s license. Unless, you’re shamelessly rich. If that’s the case stop reading this and get the most expensive e-bike.
When buying an electric bike (much like buying a human powered bicycle) some of the stuff to look at are: frame, suspension, shifter & break systems, cranks & wheels. However, not knowing what any of this means will not hurt you. You’ll learn eventually, or not. You’ll enjoy cycling either way. Who cares about bike snobs. ANY bicycle will get damaged, flat tires are not an uncommon thing, and you’ll need to tighten a screw or belt here and there. Just get a bike and figure out stuff along the way. I never thought I’d find myself buying allen keys and wrenches, but I did. I looked through a couple of you tube videos and I was fixing my bike in no time. Was it frustrating at times? Absolutely. Still, I would do it all over again.
Being totally in control of your transportation – because you can park your bike wherever, move it around as you wish and, fix it yourself, is incredibly empowering. You will never be able to make a quick stop and fix your car when it’s broken. This is not really a skill you can learn in a couple of hours. And, that’s only one in a series of downsides of being a car commuter.
Let’s get into nitty gritty electric stuff now.
E-bikes typically look like hybrids, combo of specialized road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes. There are three basic modes, throttle, pedal assist, or a combination of the two. Throttle mode basically means you can press a button on your handlebar to activate your bike’s motor. Much like a motorcycle. Pedal assist means that you’re getting power only when you’re pedaling. If you don’t want to pedal all the time, get a throttle mode or even better, a combo.
Online reviewers like this one will mention the importance of a quality throttle mechanism. WTF is a throttle mechanisms you’re asking. It’s a mechanism by which the power or speed of an engine is regulated. That’s that button that activates your motor I mentioned earlier, and the mechanism behind it. But you just want to ride a bike, you don’t want to become a professional mechanic, right? My thoughts, as well. This is why we decided to work with Xtreme Scooters, on top of the warranty period they offer lifetime technical support. This is nice. Otherwise, I think it’s pretty complicated for a non-technical person to figure out the lifespan of a throttle mechanisms. I don’t think it’s all easy breezy for a technical person to make that estimate, either.
You’ll find a complete review of battery types to consider when buying an e-bike here. For me, again, this was way too technical. Basically, you can choose between lithium powered and sealed lead acid batteries or SLA. Lithium batteries last longer so you don’t need to charge your bike as often, and they outlive SLAs. The price of lithium batteries is comparably higher. The article I reference notes that it’s easy to steal lithium batteries. Because of that and because it’s a good idea in general, consider getting a bicycle insurance.
An important thing to understand is what all of those units used to describe e-bikes mean. Amperage (amps) is a measure of the AMOUNT of electricity used. Voltage (volts) measures the pressure, or FORCE, of electricity. The amps multiplied by the volts gives you the wattage (watts), a measure of the WORK that electricity does per second. So, watts are basically showing how powerful your e-bike motor is. How much power do you need? It depends on your weight and where you plan to ride your bike. You’re fairly light, your rides are not too hilly? Start with 250 watts. If you’re interested in reading more about this, Micah Toll, a mechanical engineer, writes about it more in depth here.
Well, that would be it. Hope e-bikes make more sense now. Whatever decision you make, enjoy your ride!