Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Electric Bikes (Part 1)
July 02, 2022
Electric Bike FAQ
After many years in the ebike business, we have answered thousands of questions from our customers about ebikes. I dare say we are experts when it comes to answering your questions. So without further ado, here are the most common questions we get about ebikes, and our responses. We are going to break this up into a series of blog posts (there are a lot of Qs to A) so If our question was not answered, please let us know and we’ll get right on it. We also have an FAQ about our store if you want to check that out.
WHAT ARE EBIKES?
How do electric bikes work?
Electric bikes or ebikes are very much like conventional bicycles. They have frames made from chromoly steel, aluminum or carbon fiber; they have gears and brakes; handlebars and a saddle. Of course they also have two wheels and rubber tires, and operate by pedal power.
The main difference between regular bikes and ebikes are the electronics. These consist of an electric motor, and electric battery, and a controller which is the brains of the system. When riding an ebike, you can use engage the pedal assist system, which will send a signal to the controller, telling the battery to push electricity into the motor, which will help propel the bike. You can also use the throttle which is found on many ebikes, and this will provide power without the need for pedaling.
WHAT ARE REASONS TO GET AN ELECTRIC BIKE
Are electric bikes worth it?
The price of ebikes has been coming down in recent years, but they do tend to be more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Ebikes offer great value, which is definitely worth the price. For example, many people who rode bicycles in their youth are concerned with riding bikes as they age, due to strain on the knees and other joints. Electric bikes provide a source of power that allows the rider to ride without the need for pedaling, or assists in pedaling which helps in tackling hills and headwinds.
Ebikes also can extend the range of your rides. So you can travel further, explore more areas, and really enjoy the outdoors. This is especially important during pandemic times, when social distancing has become the norm.
Are electric bikes worth it for hunting?
In the last few years ebikes have become very popular with hunters. Many hunters find that fat tire electric mountain bikes help facilitate their hunting activities in a number of important ways. First, a fat tire ebike can traverse rugged terrain and climb hills that would be otherwise hard to tackle on a regular bike. This is especially true if you are hauling a heavy load, such as a deer or other trophy.
Ebikes are also a favorite of hunters because it allows them to move through the environment without leaving scent traces or spooking animal with walking movement.
BUYING AN ELECTRIC BIKE
Why should I get an electric bike?
Riding an electric bike is like riding a magic carpet - you can’t believe the sensation of an electric-powered bicycle until you have had the chance to ride one yourself. They are so much fun, and super practical.
For many commuters, an ebike can replace the personal automobile, saving hundreds of dollars a year or more in insurance costs, registration, parking fees, gas and other related expenses. And when you commute on an ebike instead of private vehicle, you can take more scenic routes and avoid traffic congestion. The cool thing about using an ebike for commuting to and from work (or school) is that you don’t have to work up a sweat. Let the motor and battery do the heavy work, and you will arrive fresh at your destination, without the stress of being stuck in traffic or looking for a parking space.
Will an electric bike get me fit?
There is an unfounded myth that ebikes are somehow cheating. That if you ride an ebike, you are letting the motor do all the work and you won’t get any exercise. The truth is that most people get a great, low-impact workout from riding an electric bike. You can use the motor power to help climb hills or fight headwinds, saving your pedal power and thereby extending the range of your ride.
Bicycling, including riding electric bikes, is a great way to get in shape and stay fit. You can get a great cardiovascular workout, improve lung function and capacity, and reduce stress levels.
There are several popular styles of ebikes on the market today, including step-through cruisers, fat tire mountain bikes, compact folders, and cargo models designed for hauling loads. The best way to figure out which ebike is best for you is to answer a few simple questions.
Where will I be doing most of my riding? If you plan on doing a lot of off-road riding on rugged trails, then a fat tire electric mountain bike might suit your needs the best. They offer excellent traction and stability, which is useful when riding on unpaved and uneven surfaces. Fat tire ebikes are also great for the urban jungle, since they can roll over curbs and ruts in the road, and won’t slide out if you hit a patch of gravel or ice.
If you are going to travel with your ebike, for instance taking with you in an RV, a boat or even plane, then a folder might best suit your needs. Folding ebikes typically have smaller tire diameters, and one or more folding mechanisms. This allows you to stow the bike in a small area and make them quite portable compared to other models.
On the other hand, if you live near the beach or in a small town or village, you might enjoy a cruiser style ebike, which has the added comfort that comes from an upright riding posture and ease of use.
Which electric bike should I buy?
There are a number of factors to consider when buying an ebike. Price is certainly one of the most important issues. There are ebikes you can find for under $1,000, but many of these have substandard parts and may not last very long. You should be very careful if you are looking for a budget ebike, and we do not recommend shopping for these off mega sites like Walmart or Amazon. You may not get the kind of support you need should anything go wrong, and to meet these low price points, many corners have to be cut.
Between $1,000 and $2,000 there is a wide range of very good models to choose from. Likewise, there are many excellent models that are priced above $2,000. Some premium models sell for as much as $5,000 and up.
Once you know the price range you are comfortable with, the next question you should ask is where you will be doing most of your riding. Knowing this will help you narrow down the choices. For example, if you want a comfortable cruising ebike with a low-step frame that is under $2,000, you might find 3 or 4 models that meet this criteria.
Once you have a few models identified that will meet your needs and budget, then you can start evaluating the major components, and see how they compare. The most important components to consider are the motor, battery, brakes and gears. Does the motor have enough power - measured in watts - to get you where you’re going? Does the battery have enough capacity - measured in amp-hours - to last for the duration of your ride? Are the brakes mechanical or hydraulic, and what size are the brake rotors? How many gears does the bike have, and are the gear components made by well-known brands such as Shimano?
The more questions you can ask and get answered, the more you will be able to narrow down your choices and pick the perfect ebike for your needs.
When to buy an electric bike?
As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present. Especially now, with ebikes in such high demand and ongoing supply chain shortages, some models may not be in stock for months at a time. So once you figure out which electric bike you want, we recommend you get it as soon as possible. Ebikes can be ridden in the spring and summer of course, but with a fat tire bike, you can also ride throughout the year, since the fat tires are capable of riding over snow.
Where to buy/rent an electric bike?
There are many places to buy an electric bike, from big box stores to specialty stores to online stores. If you can go and test ride an electric bike before you buy, all the better. This will give you a sense of how the bike will feel and ride, and it will help you make a good buying decision.
We do not recommend buying an ebike from a big box retailer or mega sites like Walmart, eBay or Amazon, for one simple reason: customer service and support. The best ebikes will come mostly assembled and should ride perfectly once you charge the battery. But problems do arise, and you need to know that there will be an expert to help you should something go wrong. Big sites like Amazon have online chat, but that agent will not be able to help you diagnose a problem with the battery or controller, and you might find it very difficult to reach the actual brand or manufacturer.
Shopping for an ebike at a local bike shop can be a wonderful experience, and it’s great to have a bike tech available to help you if anything goes wrong. But these shops typically only carry a few models, so you will not be able to choose from a wide variety of different kinds of ebikes and different price points.
We believe that the best way to shop for an ebike is online, with a reputable dealer. After you have test-ridden a number of ebike models (if you get the opportunity) then you will be well-prepared to make an online buying decision. But before you click that Buy Now Button, check to see what level of customer service you will get. Does the website have a chat line or toll free telephone number? If you call them do they pick up the phone. Do they seem helpful and knowledgeable when you ask them questions about different models. Do they provide educational materials to help you make this important buying decision? These are all important considerations before deciding where to buy an electric bike.
Where to ride electric bikes?
Ebikes can be ridden anywhere a regular bike can go. From city streets to light trails to off-road single tracks, you can ride ebikes almost everywhere. Just make sure that you keep track of how much battery power you have, so that you don’t run out of juice before your ride is over. You can also check the regulations of your local jurisdiction, because there are still a few places that do not allow Class 2 ebikes, based on an unfounded belief that bikes with throttles can have an adverse impact on trails or are dangerous.
Where to store an electric bike?
There are a number of things to consider when storing an electric bike. First, you don’t want it to get ripped off, so wherever and whenever you keep you ebike unattended, it should be locked up. If you leave the battery on the bike, it should also be locked in place. Of course, if you have a secure garage or other private indoor space, that is the best place to keep your ebike stored.
Another important consideration is weather, and how it can affect a stored bike. If you like in a place with high humidity, over time this can cause metallic components on the bike to corrode. So you want to make sure that you wipe down your bike frequently to avoid the progression of rust.
Finally, and perhaps most important, you do not want to store the battery in any extreme environment. For instance, a few hours in a hot truck can really cause damage to an ebike battery; and if you leave a battery in a freezing garage, it can cause the device to go into a sort of hibernation mode.
Will an electric bike get me fit?
If you can find a regular bike that fits you, then you can find an ebike that will fit. For shorter riders, we recommend that you measure your inseam and compare that to the lowest seat height specification on bikes you are reviewing. Likewise, some shorter riders prefer a step-thru model, since they can stand over the frame when not moving, keeping both feet squarely on the ground.
If you are a heavy person, make sure to check the maximum load capacity of the ebikes you are reviewing. Most electric bikes today can carry loads of 250 lbs or more.
You can check out our bike fit guide, which will help you determine if a certain bike will fit your body. You want to make sure that you can rotate the pedals through the full cycle, without your knees getting crunched up. You also want your shoulders and elbows to have a relaxed posture, so you do not experience strain during your ride.
How long will an electric bike last me?
A good ebike should last you many years, as long as you do regular maintenance and get service as needed. The limiting factor is the electric battery, which will have a lifespan of 800-1200 cycles before it looses the ability to hold a charge. This typically occurs after a couple years, and when it does, you can either buy a new battery or get the battery you have packed with fresh cells. There are several companies in the US that specialize in testing and rebuilding ebike battery packs.
How does an electric bike save me money?
There are several ways that an electric bike can save you money. The most obvious way is if you can get rid of your car and use your ebike for all your transportation needs. You will be able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year in such expenses as registration, insurance, gas, and parking. But even if you do not get rid of your car, every time you use your ebike instead, you will be saving on gas, not to mention getting a good workout and doing your part to reduce carbon emissions.
Can electric bikes be ridden anywhere?
An electric bike is legally considered a bicycle, so you can ride them anywhere a regular bike is allowed. That includes on streets, bike lanes, and off-road trails. There are a few jurisdictions around the country that still place limits on the use of Class 2 ebikes, since they have an unfounded belief that ebike throttles make ebikes more dangerous. Just remember that all the rules of the road that apply to conventional bikes also apply to ebikes. This includes speed limits, and stopping at signals and railroad crossings. And even if it is not legally required where you ride, you should always wear a helmet and other safety gear. When riding at night you want to make yourself visible to drivers by wearing light, reflective materials, and using front and rear lights.
Can you pedal an electric bike?
All electric bikes come with operable pedals, and you can ride an electric bike just like a conventional bike. With the electronics turned off, you can pedal an ebike, and shift gears just like a normal bike. In fact, the legal definition of an ebike includes the requirement that the pedals operate. If they did not, the vehicle would be defined as a scooter or moped.
Why get an electric bike vs. a regular bike?
There are many reasons people decide to get an electric bike over a conventional bike. While you can ride an ebike just like a regular bike, there are several added benefits when you add a motor to a bike. The electric power on an ebike will assist you in pedaling, which is helpful for going up hills or fighting headwinds. It also allows you to ride without getting all sweaty, which is great if you plan to use your bike for commuting.
Another reason people like ebikes over regular bikes is that they can extend your range. Let’s say you went out for a ride on a regular bike. After an hour or two your legs might get tired and you head home. But with an ebike, you could go for 3 or 4 hours, still get a good workout, but let the electronics on the bike do some of the heavy lifting. This will allow you to travel farther, and see more sights than if you were on a traditional bicycle.
Can I get electric bike insurance?
Insurance is not required to own and operate an electric bike. If you want to insure your ebike against theft, there are insurance agencies that can help. Before signing up for a new policy, however, I would recommend checking any existing policies you have to see if your ebike is covered. For instance, many homeowners’ insurance policies will cover personal property, and if you have vehicle insurance, you might be able to add your electric bike to that policy.