Things to Know Before Buying An E-Bike
During summer you’ve seen a lot of people out riding e-bikes. You get excited. You jump online and do a quick bit of research, order the first Chinese e-bike under $1000 and it arrives a month later… and falls apart a month after. You don’t want to do that! Take your time, do a little bit of due diligence and make sure you’re getting the best e-bike for you. Here are the 12 most important things to consider when buying an electric bike.
What kind of e-bike do you want to ride?
- Electric road bike – lighter, for recreational riding on the streets and commuting
- Electric commuter bike – like a road bike but with additional comfort
- Electric mountain bike – for trails but can still handle the road
- Electric cruiser bike – for comfort and style
- Electric folding bike – extra light, great for saving space
- Electric fat bike – stylish and a heavier ride, useful for riding on any surface including sand, soil and light snow. Can be used on trails but not ideal given the weight
- Electric cargo bike – for utility; not pretty but you can carry so much more, useful for deliveries or taking kids with you
- Electric recumbent bike – a different style which offers lower back support from a seated position, perfect if you struggle on two wheels
The answer really depends on what you will use the bike for. Are you going to be zipping around the city delivering food? Are you trying to take the edge off your commute? Or are you an off-grid rider looking to tear up the trails at every opportunity? Perhaps you don’t know and just want to test ride a few to find out what fits; a local dealer can help you there. If you already have a pedal bike that suits all of your needs, ask the dealer about conversion kits.
Related: ENVO D35 vs Rad Power RadCity 4
Choose Your E-Bike Dealer Wisely
Buy local if you can. Buying online is risky for an investment like this. Sure, there are tons of options to buy e-bikes online, but you can’t get a feel for how the bike rides, the quality, or effectively communicate with the dealer to see if they’re trustworthy.
There are so many advantages to purchasing an e-bike face-to-face, asking all your questions and knowing the people to call if you have an issue. The dealer can talk through your needs and help you find the best e-bike for you.
E-bikes are not disposable products! As an investment, it’s best to have a local business supporting you for years to come. When you support their business, they’ll support you back. Reliable after-purchase customer service is invaluable. Also, when you fancy an upgrade, you’ll know where to go for a solid product and a fair deal. As an electric bike dealer in Canada, we understand the value of this long-term relationship.
Spend The Right Amount Of Money
You may groan at this one. As e-bikes become more popular, people see them and want their own one straight away. That fear of missing out kicks in and they just want to get in on the action. It’s okay to treat yourself and get a cool new piece of kit that’s as fun as it looks. However, it’s still designed for transport, so you don’t want to skimp on the price. This doesn’t mean overpay – a $10,000 electric bike is not what you’re after – it just means that an e-bike is an investment as much as it is a recreational device.
Electric bikes go on sale at varying price points:
Cheap electric bikes - $700US and below.
These are Chinese imports which have a reputation for breaking easily. You get what you pay for.
Budget electric bikes - $700 - $1500.
These will be e-bikes aimed at beginners. They do the job and can last quite a while, with a further range and better specs than the cheaper models. They just won’t do anything special and you may find yourself wanting to upgrade sooner than you expect.
Mid-tier electric bikes - $1500 - $2500.
A leap forward in quality, these bikes are recommended if you’re going to use the bike often and want it to hold up long-term. You can expect components from trusted brands, a more thoughtful design and an adaptable riding experience.
Premium electric bikes - $2500 - $4000.
In this range, the bike will have all specialized parts from name brands, including the drive system. Read up on the components to see if you’re actually getting a premium e-bike or if the dealer has simply pumped up the price.
Ultra-premium - $4000 and above.
These are for true enthusiasts who know their stuff and understand why they want parts costing $1000+ per component rather than a whole bike.
The bottom line: it’s tempting to see two e-bikes that look similar and go for the cheaper one, but when you look closer, you’ll realise that the slightly higher price tag could reflect a drastically better machine which will last you more than a year.
Think About LongevityYou should expect your electric bike to last at least five years with regular servicing, and that your battery should last from 600 to 800 full charge cycles. Check out reviews and speak to the dealer about the average lifespan of the bike or conversion kit you’re investing in.
Size and Weight Are Important
Choose an electric bike you can manoeuvre comfortably. E-bikes are generally heavier than their traditional bike counterparts due to the motor and battery weight, usually in the 5-7kg range. So, while an e-bike glides around smoothly on a ride, they can be tough to lug up a flight of stairs. If your health restricts you or you’re not overly strong, a smaller, foldable bike may be ideal, so you can take them into the gym/office/bus with you and not have to worry so much about theft or space. Bigger and taller riders will usually prefer a larger frame and wheels to ride comfortably. If you already have a bike which you love and fits you, you might consider a conversion kit.
Power Is Relative
The fun stuff. The power of your e-bike depends on your weight and if you intend to ride up a lot of steep hills. If you’re commuting through Vancouver and are fairly small, 250 watts will probably do you. If you’re a bigger person, or think you’ll be going out riding in hilly terrain, 500 watts is probably more your speed. However, the downside of higher power could be less range or a heavier, more costly battery.
If you test ride at a local dealer, you’ll be able to feel the difference. If you’re too heavy for the power range, the bike will feel sluggish, but a bigger battery may feel more cumbersome when moving the bike without pedal assist.
Watt Hours (WH) is another metric which can leave new electric bike riders scratching their heads. The range of your e-bike per-charge will depend on your weight, the level of assist you use and the terrain. Your dealer will have done the math for you, but this is a general range at a cruising speed. Knocking out a 5-mile morning commute each day means you can get away with a smaller battery. If you ride long distances regularly, a battery of 400 watt-hours or more is most appropriate.
Is It Easy to Maintain?
Can you maintain your e-bike easily? Many e-bike brands have come and gone in recent years. If you buy an unknown brand or from an online seller, you could end up with a product made from the cheapest possible parts and no support. An established dealer will have a history of customer support and a continued supply of spare parts for all versions of their electric bikes.
Check if your seller has designed the electric bike with modular components which can be easily replaced and upgraded. At EBikeBC, we designed our flagship ENVO D35 with high-quality, modular components for this very reason.
There are a few things to look out for to keep yourself safe on an e-bike. Your brakes need to have stopping power to match your motor. Hydraulic disc brakes are ideal for this. Smart cut-off will ensure smooth stopping and restarting so you don’t jolt or kick out on a ride. Also check for suspension on the fork and seats, as well as integrated lights and reflectors. All of these safety features, big or small, add up to the safest possible ride.
Expect a Warranty
Buying an e-bike is an investment, so you should expect a warranty on parts, motor and battery for the first two years. Most manufacturers will offer this as standard if their product is up to scratch.
Keep It Secure
To keep your investment safe from thieves, your e-bike should have a lockable battery and a quick release front wheel. If somehow a part is taken, such as the LCD monitor, a reliable dealer can easily replace it.
Weather the Storm
The best e-bike in Vancouver is the one which can stand up to the rain. You want your LCD, battery, controller and motors to all be splash resistant so you don’t have to worry about riding in the rain or leaving the bike outdoors. You’ll want the electrical components to be dust proof too.