The world of electric bikes is growing and changing rapidly, with literally hundreds of brands offering thousands of models to choose from. There are some big companies with reputations in the conventional bicycle market that made the move to ebikes, but the majority of ebike brands are small startups.
In this article, we reveal the top 7 things you should know about ebike brands in the US before buying your next ebike. For a complete list of ebike brands - including the ones we sell at Really Good eBikes, and the ones we don't - head on over to our Family of Trusted Brands page.
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.
To learn more about the brands operating in the US, we have listed them on our Family of Brands page. If you want to see a broader picture of the ebike world, especially the thriving European Market, we recommend you take a look at e-Bike Base, a comprehensive guide to ebikes in the EU.
Unlike many products, where you buy your ebike says a lot about the kind of ebike you might be getting. The primary sales channels for ebikes 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.
The problem with physical stores is that they generally are located in big cities, and don't carry many of the brands that are available online. The brands they do carry are some of the best on the market today, such as Haibike and Trek, but they can also be quite pricey.
If you shop at a brand store, such as Pedego or Rad Power Bikes, there is a good chance that you will find a great 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 a family of products.
Once you know the kind of ebike you want (step-through, fat tire, mountain) then shopping becomes your next challenge. Of course we would highly recommend against buying direct from China, since you have no idea what you will get, and no recourse of things go bad.
We also don't recommend shopping for an ebike on Amazon or eBay, because the brands listed there are typically very low quality Chinese imports, often under $1,000, with poor customer service and very limited warranties, if any.
So it should come as little surprise the Really Good eBikes is a fan of online ebike shopping, and we'd like to share a few tips from what we've learned in the last few years of running this store.
First, you should only buy from brands or dealers who adhere to MAP (minimum advertised pricing). That means that if you want to buy a Green Bike GB750, the price will be the same regardless of who you buy from.
This may seem counterintuitive, since most shoppers are looking for the best price, and if one dealer is willing to sell the bike for $100 less than another, that would be a good thing.
But then you will see the start of price wars, with each dealer offering a lower price than the one before - a race to the bottom. And sure, while you might get a good price - the best price - you have paid a price because that same dealer will not be there to provide customer service, or to help you if there is a warranty issue.
Finally, a word about crowdfunded ebikes. There have been many ebikes which got their start on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but far far fewer who delivered on their promise and became sustainable companies who could honor warranties and provide long-term customer service. While these types of ebikes may be the most innovative, they are also some of the most risky from an investment perspective.
The average ebike we sell retails for about $1,300. Of course, there are ebikes on the market for under $1,000, and others that exceed $10,000.
The price of ebikes is affected by a number of factors, including the cost that brands pay for manufacturing, ocean transit, warehousing, and business administration. Other key factors include the profit expectations of ebike brands and their owners/investors, the cost of sales and marketing, and how well their business run - how efficient they are at what they do.
All of these cost considerations flow down to the retailer, so if we offer one 48V/500W ebike with quality components for $1,500, and a comparable ebike for $1,800, the difference in the price may have little to do with the quality of one bike 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 distributed from brand warehouses to retail stores or to customers via FedEx or UPS. In August 2018, the US imposed tariffs on imported ebikes, the cost of which brands are passing 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 product from iPhones to Microscopes built there. The best ebike companies will go to China, meet with the factory representatives, and be involved in the design and construction of their bikes from start to finish.
In the case of lower quality bike, the brand may simply place an order on a website like Alibaba, import the bikes, and resell them in the US 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.
Indiegogo and Kickstarter are the two most well-known crowdfunding sites on the internet. Crowdfunding allows startup entrepreneurs to raise money for a venture via 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.
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 work investing in a crowdsourced ebike that you can pre-pay for at a low price. But do your homework.
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.
Dealers work as intermediaries between ebike brands and the consumer. To create an online ebike store is relatively easy, and there are now over 50 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. Aks 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.