Time – no one has it anymore. Our busy urban lives demand urgency which the congested city squares and their traffic jams can not cope with. And with increasing costs, environmental and financial, associated with vehicle ownership, Millenials and Gen Z alike are choosing more flexible means of commuting. This is where micro-mobility solutions like electric bikes are serving their role.
Given their incredible advantages, e-bikes have been gaining popularity all around the globe. This has led to a surge in supply too, and in 2023, you’ll find all sorts of electric bicycles around – from cheap bikes to star sellers, the market is ripe. However, this also means you can find an e-bike to suit your unique needs perfectly.
Here’s what you must consider before making a purchase:
1. Motor Type and Power
The motor type and power output have quite an impact on your riding experience. The higher the wattage of an e-bike’s motor, the faster it will accelerate and the higher its main speed will be. And you’ll be able to go uphill and ride against the wind with minimal effort.
There are a few catches, though.
High-powered motors are heavier, more expensive, and drain the battery quicker. And most importantly, most countries do not allow bikes with 250W on the road, as e-bikes do not require licenses and riders can get into accidents at high speeds. So, beware of your purchase. Higher powers can get you fined unless you’re using it exclusively for off-roading. Make sure to adhere to your local laws.
The type and location of the motor affect your electric road bike’s weight distribution and balance too – hub motors are attached to the wheel hubs, whereas mid-drive motors are located near the pedals. It’s best to get test rides on bikes with such motors so you can choose what feel you prefer.
2. Frame Material
An e-bike’s frame is what holds all the other parts together. Consequently, the frame’s material significantly impacts performance and riding experience. Materials differ according to weight and durability, with common frame materials being aluminium, carbon fibre, titanium and steel.
Aluminium is lightweight and durable, while carbon fibre is even lighter, allowing for a smoother ride but costing more. Although strong and durable, steel is stiffer and heavier than other materials, affecting portability and the bike’s overall feel. Titanium is incredibly light and sturdy, but it is expensive.
If your electric bike’s primary purpose is commuting or long-distance touring, you should prioritise comfort and durability. However, if you plan to hit the slopes and streets for racing or performance riding, you should opt for a lighter, more responsive frame. In our opinion, aluminium e-bikes are perfect all-rounders.
3. Height and Weight Limits
Not all e-bikes cater to all heights and weights, there’s always a minimum rider’s height and maximum weight rating. And, in many cases, returns due to the rider’s height being out of the bike’s range come with separate policies. So, make sure you check product specifications very carefully.
Height and weight are also among the primary variables that distinguish the so-called men’s and women’s electric bikes – the ones for females come with a lower minimum height. However, this labelling isn’t all that inclusive.
Nevertheless, you can always go for electric bikes like E-Movement’s Hunter Extreme which features a bespoke seatpost that the company can customize for shorter riders if necessary.
4. Frame Type
From folding electric bikes to mountain bike frames, step-through frames, and many more, there’s something for everyone in the market. And the type of frame can impact your experience in multiple ways.
For example, if you can swing your leg high and wear loose clothing, you can go for any type of frame; but if you have mobility concerns or wear tight clothing, step-through electric bikes will be great for you. The terrains you’ll be riding on will determine your choice of frame too. Going for a small folding frame won’t be the best choice on rougher trails but mid to full-size folding bikes, non-folding mountain bike frames, etc., will be suitable.
If storage is your main concern, opt for folding electric bikes. But note that the smaller and lighter the bike, the less durable it might be.
5. Battery Capacity
The higher the battery capacity, the farther you can go before needing to plug your electric road bike in. So, you may believe the bigger the battery, the better the experience.
However, bigger batteries are heavier and may limit your bike’s portability. A higher-capacity battery would also be more expensive, so it might be worth considering the trade-offs when choosing your electric road bike. Batteries like 7Ah can serve your daily commuting pretty well, but if you are in for longer rides, 14Ah, 20Ah and larger will serve you well.
6. Wheel Size
Another crucial factor to consider when choosing an e-bike is wheel size; the trade-off is between manoeuvrability and responsiveness. Larger wheels provide a smoother ride, gliding over most road bumps and dips. On the other hand, smaller wheels are more nimble and easy to manoeuvre for quick turns down narrow streets.
In terms of pedalling effort, larger wheels require less work to attain and maintain speed than smaller wheels – but this can be easily offset with the right gear and pedal assist settings.
7. Tyre Thickness and Texture
You’ll find multiple tyres of multiple widths in the market, typically ranging from 2-4 inches.
Fat-tyre electric bikes have been taking the world by storm. And why wouldn’t they? They’re chunky, rugged, stylish, and stable. Still, you should know that fat tyres make a bike heavy. So, if portability and storage are among your primary concerns, it’s best to look for bikes with tyres of narrower widths. These are lighter and faster – best for cruising swiftly along the roads.
You can opt for tyre thickness between the two extreme ranges to get a bike suitable for multiple terrains.
After the frame material and wheel size, you should focus on the electric bike’s weight. Of course, lighter e-bikes are more portable, and you can easily carry them with you on mass transit systems. Additionally, they’re easier to handle and manoeuvre.
However, these are generally heavier on the pocket, with lighter materials like Titanium being more expensive. And some frames can be less sturdy, depending on the frame type and material.
Heavier bikes are more stable and durable, making for a more comfortable commute and cheaper purchase. If the motor is powerful enough, you can use them comfortably to ride uphill or navigate rough terrain. However, their portability is affected, as the heavier steel frame will have you breaking a sweat lugging your bike around when you’re not riding it.
9. Price Range
What you end up paying for your electric bike depends entirely on the factors discussed above, says TechRadar. The better the quality of components you choose – improved suspension, higher capacity battery, more efficient motor, more advanced display – the more expensive your overall package will become.
However, the pricing of brands varies considerably for similar specifications. Multinational companies will charge you higher and you may have to wait for weeks for warranty, repair, and servicing issues. Local small businesses, on the other hand, offer the same quality at better deals.
Having a budget in mind, researching the different brands, and trying out different bike configurations to see which fits your lifestyle and riding profile best are key to making a more informed decision.
Beware of prices that are too good to be true. Such products don’t last long, their brands can go missing, and you’ll end up spending more money on repair and replacement than you intended to save!
10. Post-Purchase Concerns
From needing to claim a warranty to finding spare parts and repair personnel, you’ll quickly realize that buying an e-bike comes with many post-purchase concerns. This is a major reason why buying from businesses based in your state or country is always a good idea – you will be able to rest easy after your purchase. Well-reputed local e-bike companies will solve your issues, like replacement or repair in a matter of days instead of weeks.
If you’re buying from international brands, make sure they have service centres and retailers in your area. And it’s always best to go through your chosen company’s reviews to ensure they are responsive to their customer’s needs and problems.
Electric bikes can enable huge lifetime savings for you if you make the right decision. Make sure to check the bikes’ specifications, the reputation of the company, and market alternatives thoroughly before making your purchase. Comply with your area’s laws and regulations to ensure safe riders.