The world of electric bikes is growing and changing rapidly, with literally hundreds of brands offering thousands of models to choose from. In 2020, the ebike world got even crazier, with the global pandemic disrupting the ebike supply chain at the very time demand exploded.
But the overall shopping world for ebikes remains the same, even if people have to wait a month or two to get their new ebike.
There are some big companies with established reputations in the conventional bicycle market, who expanded into ebikes, but the majority of ebike brands are small startups.
In this article, we reveal the top 6 things you should know about ebike brands in the US before buying your next ebike - and how to avoid getting scammed.
There are very few international ebike brands, so the ones available to you will be determined by where you live. In the US, there are about 250 ebike brands currently selling bikes; in the EU, by comparison, there are nearly 500 ebike brands. But there is very little overlap.
In the US, there are the Big Three conventional bike manufacturers - Trek, Specialized and Giant - who each have their own lineup of ebikes. But unlike the conventional bike market which they dominate, the Big Three came late to ebikes, and only have a modest share of the market. The rest of the ebike market is made up of small companies, who work with Chinese factories to develop their products.
To learn more about the brands operating in the US, we have listed many of them on our Family of Brands page.
Today there are many places you can go to buy an electric bike. But unlike other products, where you choose to buy your ebike will determine what kind of ebike you might be getting. It’s good to know this before you even start shopping. The main “sales channels” for electric bikes in the US are:
The choices can be daunting, so let's first start by saying that if you can shop in a brick & mortar store, you should at least start there. It's always best to test-ride a bike before you buy, to make sure it feels good and fits right. Even test ride a conventional bike of an ebike is not available, since this will still give you good information about the comfort and fit of different styles of bikes (fat tire, cruiser, step-through, mountain, folding, cross-country). Once you know the kind of ebike you want then shopping becomes your next challenge.
One of the problems with physical (brick & mortar) stores is that they are typically located in bigger cities, which are inaccessible to many people. And when you do find bike shops to go to, you might discover that their selection of ebikes to choose from is quite limited. One reason for this is that the bike shops are required to purchase inventory upfront, and it can be expensive to stock more than a few models.
But there is another more sinister reason for this. A famous marketing study revealed that when customers are faced with too many choices, they become overwhelmed and just leave without buying anything. Prior to this study, the common marketing theory was that more choices are better for customers. People like more options, so providing more should lead to more sales.
Customers can be attracted to a large number of choices, but when it comes time to make a purchase, too many options can make decision making difficult and lead to fewer sales. So you will see that Costco only sells two models from the brand GenZ (a step-over version and a step-thru version), and stores like Pedego offering 6 or so models, but all from the same manufacturer.
If you shop at a brand store such as Pedego or Rad, there is a good chance that you will find an ebike that will meet your needs. These companies are successful because they have a lot of happy customers. But there is a tradeoff. It's like when you walk into an Apple Store. You are entering the Apple ecosystem, and you are buying into a culture as well as their own line of products. This is true for Pedego and Rad as well - there are people who love their products and services, and people who don’t.
In the online world, by contrast, there is a seemingly unlimited number of ebikes and brands to choose from. But when you look more closely, there are only a few places online where these ebikes are sold, including major general store retailers like Amazon, specialty online retailers like Really Good Ebikes (RGE), and crowded-funded sites like Kickstarter.
In the case of Amazon or eBay, these giant online retailers carry ebikes in most of the popular styles, but from generic Chinese brands. Their products tend to be budget ebikes often selling for under $1,000. At Really Good Ebikes (RGE) we know that the price for a high-quality ebike is typically $1,000 or more, so there is a higher risk at this price point of getting an ebike which could fail in less than a year. Moreover, if there is a problem with the battery or controller - the two weakest links on every ebike - who ya gonna call? Have you ever tried calling Amazon or eBay about a warranty issue with a product? Good luck with that. At RGE, we provide dedicated warranty support, so if you ever have a problem, you come to us first, and we will work with the manufacturer directly to ensure your satisfaction.
Another platform that people use to buy ebikes online is Aliexpress, which is the Chinese version of Amazon. You can find a wide range of styles, and the prices can be very attractive. But you need to know that when you buy from this source, or similar ones based in China, you should expect long shipping timeframes, and limited to no customer service. Of course we would highly recommend against buying direct from China, since you have no idea what you will get, and no recourse if things go bad.
It should come as little surprise that Really Good eBikes is a fan of online ebike shopping. We are one of about 75 retailers who only sell online, maintaining neither storefront or warehouse. But unlike many of these fly-by-night websites, RGE is the real deal. We know our products, we have great relationships with the brands we sell, and we offer the highest level of customer service in the industry, including chat and phone contact 7 days a week.
Another popular source for ebikes online are crowdfunding sites. Indiegogo and Kickstarter are the two most well-known crowdfunding sites on the internet. Crowdfunding allows startup entrepreneurs to raise money for a venture by collecting small contributions from many backers, as opposed to large investments from a select few.
In a way, the term "crowdfunding" is a misnomer, because so many of the companies that are using platforms like these are not actually doing it to get funding. They are really using it as part of their marketing strategy, to go direct-to-consumers to sell their products.
In this model, a prototype of a new concept ebike will be developed by a startup company, and they will seek funding to get it into production. They will also use their campaign to generate social media interest, in the hope of going viral with their concept ebike. If they meet their funding goal, then they usually go to a factory in China and place an initial order, which may or may not fulfill all of the crowdfunded orders they received.
There have been many ebike models which got their start with crowdfunding, but far far fewer who delivered on their promise. Many crowdfunding campaigns for ebikes fail to reach their financial goals, and even when they do meet their goals, they could take months to deliver your new ebike. Moreover, these startups might never become a sustainable company that can honor warranties and provide long-term customer service.
But should you dare to buy your next ebike from a crowdfunding platform? If you are not in a hurry to get your bike, then it might be worth investing in a crowdsourced ebike that you can pre-pay for at a low price. But do your homework. While these types of ebikes may be the most innovative, they are also some of the most risky from a personal investment perspective. Not all startups are the same, and you should study the founders’ plan and make sure they are going to be around to provide customer service and warranty support.
The average ebike we sell retails for about $1,300. We have some nice budget brands for just under $1,000, and we have some top-of-the-line fat tire electric mountain bikes for over $5,000. But the price of something and its quality are two separate things, especially when it comes to ebikes.
People often think that expensive products have a better quality than lower cost products. Sometimes it’s true but I can guarantee that’s not the case every time. Companies make huge profits with “luxury” products because we are a bit dumb and buy these products. For example, in perfume or handbag industry the products they make are quite cheap to manufacture but when these products are transported to stores the price tag on them rises vastly. Especially if your purse is manufactured by a famous brand. Another good example is the “Apple people” who buy those expensive phones and laptops no matter what. Someone could ask, is that worth it?
The price of ebikes is affected by a number of factors, including the cost that the brands pay for manufacturing, ocean transit, warehousing, and business administration. Other factors include the profit expectations of the owners/investors, the cost of marketing, and how well their business is run, or how efficient they are at what they do.
All of these cost considerations flow down to the retailer, so if we offer one 500W fat tire electric bike with high-quality components for $1,500, and a comparable ebike for $2,000, the difference in the price may have little to do with the quality of one bike components and build quality over the other.
Likewise, when shopping for ebikes, you should be aware of the warranty you will be getting with the bike, and if the company has a track record that suggests they'll be around if and when something should go wrong with the battery or controller.
Most electric bikes on the market today are manufactured in China, shipped to the US on container ships, then stored in warehouses until their dealers place orders. In August 2018, the US imposed tariffs on imported ebikes, the cost of which the brands pass on the customers in the form of customs surcharges.
It should be noted that some of the best manufacturing occurs in China, with highly technical products ranging from iPhones to Microscopes built there. The best ebike companies will go to China several times to meet with the factory representatives, and be involved in the design, engineering and testing their bikes, from start to finish.
In the case of lower quality (cheap) ebikes, the brands may simply place an order on a website like Alibaba, import the bikes, and resell them in the US (often on Amazon or a “burner” website for a profit.
There are a few US companies like Prodecotech, which will have the parts manufactured abroad, but assembly takes place in the US; and there are still fewer companies which build ebikes from scratch in the US.
So it is very important that when research ebikes, you should look closely at the About Us page of the manufacturer or brand, to see who they are, how long they have been in business, and if they have been recognized for producing high quality electric bikes.
Dealers work as intermediaries between ebike brands and the consumer. To create an online ebike store is relatively easy, and there are now over 40 online ebike dealers in this crowded space.
To make sure you are working with a good dealer, you should make sure that the company is legitimate, and not some fly-by-night outfit. How do you do this? Read their About Us page, their Shipping & Returns Policies, and other pages which discuss how they run their business. Give them a call or start a chat with them. Ask questions.
The best dealers will have a chat application running, so that you can ask questions while you are on their site. They should also have a toll-free phone number for you to call, and an email address where you can write.
In the case of Really Good eBikes, we like to think of ourselves as advocates for our customers. So if there ever arises a warranty issue, we are there for our customers. We work closely with our family of brands to make sure the customer is kept whole, and that all legitimate complaints are addressed in a timely fashion.