11 Must-Know Secrets When Buying an E-Bike

Bicycle sign on the street

Did you know that a lot of people are switching to electric bikes? After all, it’s expected for its global market to reach around $21 billion by 2024. That means its annual growth is at 12.5% for the next five years.

The best part is that the future of this market is promising. It’s possible for aspiring business owners since it has opportunities in traveling, fitness, and recreational areas. With that, you’ll have a lot of choices when purchasing an e-bike.

But what are the things you should consider when you buy your first electric bike? Here are some secrets you should look out for.

1. Determine Your Desired Service Level

Whether you get a flat tire or parts replacement, you need to start your e-bike search with the service level you’ll want. For example, some bikers will only need a pump and a patch when they get a flat tire while traveling on a trail. Others might end up needing repair services since a patch kit isn’t enough for their needs.

Also, you might need a trip to the local bike shop before you start shopping. It’s important since you need to determine whether they fix electric bikes. It’s better to know now before you start having problems.

You don’t want to get a flat tire and get turned away by the bike store. Remember, while electric bikes are on the rise, some bike shops don’t service them. Knowing which bike shops cater to you will save lots of time later on.

Another thing you should think about is the warranty. In most cases, you need to find a bike with a warranty that covers the type of service you expect. For example, some e-bike manufacturers don’t come with any factory support — only a 30-day warranty.

That’s why it’s better if you find a bike brand that has both local support and service. It often fits your service level requirements since it’s accessible. But make sure to prepare some extra funds for it.

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2. Check the E-Bike Upgrade Options and Aftermarket Parts

When you buy an e-bike, always ask yourself about your means of upgrading it later. You must know how you plan to replace its parts once it starts breaking down. Is it possible to find the parts and pieces from online sources?

Take note, some bikes will use either generic or name-brand parts. With that, it isn’t that difficult to find parts and pieces for the brakes and motors. The best part is that you can get these parts with a simple internet search.

If you want to get the most out of your bike, make sure to avoid bikes that use proprietary parts. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible for you to work or replace it. The same applies to hot-rodding it for more speed since some bikes will have systems that make it difficult.

3. Find the Right Power Levels

When looking for various e-bikes, the first thing you need to compare is their power levels. Most e-bikes will have 250 watts, 500 watts, and 750 watts. The good news is that you can find more combinations of power levels in between.

Here are the differences between the three:

250 Watts

This power level might not be a lot, but you need to remember that 250 – 300 is a typical power range sustained by professional cyclists. With this, you’ll feel like you have a pro athlete helping you as you pedal your way.

500 Watts

This power level is a more common choice within the United States. It has enough power that will maintain 20 mph (32 km) when cycling through the flat ground. This wattage will make it easier for you to climb hills.

750 Watts

This power level is the maximum legal wattage in the United States. If you use this, you have the means of flying up most hills. Take note, you can do this on the throttle, but you can get to your top speed within a few seconds.

Behold, you need to consider more factors than just wattage. Some bikes on the market can claim that they have 750 watts but have a more compact motor than another with an equal wattage. Claims through advertisements won’t always live up to real-life performance.

4. Pick Your Motor Type

For motors, you’ll have three main types that you can choose from. Your choice will depend on your needs and riding requirements. If you’re into reliability and riding versatility, you should get a geared hub motor.

Direct-drive hub motors are also reliable for most general riding needs. The issue is that they’re likely heavier compared to other motor types. This makes it a better fit for more powerful riding applications.

Most bikers will often opt for a mid-drive engine. Its drawback is that you’re using the drive train to run all the bike’s power. That means it’s more susceptible to wear and tear on various parts such as the chain, derailleur, and rear freewheel.

5. Understand Pedal Assist and Throttle

New bikers should understand the meaning of pedal assist and throttle before buying. Don’t bother asking whether the bike has pedal assist capabilities. After all, most e-bikes sold in the market will often have this feature.

Throttles aren’t as universal as the pedal-assist since some bikes will have it while others won’t. Note that this feature isn’t legal on a global scale. The good news is that the United States allows this feature per the Federal law.

E-bikes that have the throttle feature will have three variants: half-twist, thumb, and full-twist. It’s not that different from a motorcycle. Regardless, you should do your best and get a bike with both these features since it helps you feel the difference.

If you want to have this option, get an e-bike with a throttle.

6. Determine the Better Sensor

Purchasing an e-bike also means knowing the different sensor types. That way, you’ll know whether rotation (cadence) or a torque sensor is better for your pedal-assist. It’s better to know before you even start your search for the right electric bike.

The good news is that both sensors will have the same basic sets of functions. When turning the cranks while pedaling, this feature will sense your movement. It will then tell the motor to start functioning, which will aid in propelling the bike forward.

Here are the differences between the two sensors:

Rotation (Cadence) Sensors

This sensor will know when you’re pedaling while determining your speed. But it won’t know the intensity of your pedals. No matter what brand, a rotation sensor will often look like a disk surrounded by magnets, with the sensor mounted on its frame.

Torque Sensors

This type of sensor is often a feature that comes with higher-quality e-bike brands. In typical builds, they’re located at the bottom bracket. That enables it to know the intensity of your pedals as soon as you put pressure on the crank.

Its main advantage over its rotation counterpart is that the motor will help you more if you’re harder on the pedal.

7. Think About the Battery Quality

For an e-bike on the market, most will consider the battery as its most expensive component. That’s why you need to ensure that what you buy comes with a set of high-quality cells within and that you maintain proper battery care.

The majority of high-quality bike brands will have reputable battery brands like Samsung or LG. But you must remember that your battery choice depends on different factors. It can be any of these:

  • Amount of power drawn
  • Range you need
  • Type of application

A good rule to follow is to avoid old technologies for your battery. In most situations, generic brand cells will have these problems. The type of battery the e-bike comes with can be an indicator of its quality.

8. Pick the Right Battery Style

After determining the quality of the battery, you should look at its battery style. Ask yourself whether it uses proprietary technology. This will often determine the ease of battery replacement when it dies.

If your bike of choice has a generic battery that you can mount to the frame, you’re in luck. It’s likely for you to get a battery replacement from other vendors. That means you won’t worry about availability as long as it’s within the same style.

Otherwise, a good alternative is a bike with a replaceable cradle. This choice allows you to unbolt it along with the battery and replace it. Even if you use a new type of battery, no one will notice any difference.

For brand-name batteries with proprietary technology, you’ll most likely have a more difficult time. It means you’ll often need to pay more money to get the battery replaced. The worst part is when the manufacturer stops making that specific battery type.

9. Think About the Battery Capacity

It’s hard to compare various batteries. After all, manufacturers use different units of measurement when making their claims. Some will display it using amp-hours while others will make it about the watt-hours.

But how do you compare the batteries of e-bikes using their capacity? If you want to know the watt-hours, you need to multiply its voltage with the amp-hours. With this formula, you’ll have a more definite way of comparing batteries since they now use the same units.

It also allows you to find out various battery information as long as you have two of them. For example, if you have the watt-hour rating and the voltage, you can use the formula to solve for the amp rating. With this, you have an accurate means of comparing any battery.

The formula to convert Ah to Wh is: (Ah) * (V) = (Wh)
For example, if you have a 2 Ah battery rated at 5 V, the power is: 2 Ah * 5 V = 10 Wh.

The formula to convert Wh to Ah is: (Wh) / (V) = (Ah)
For example, if you have a 10 Wh battery rated at 5 V, the current is: 10 Wh / 5 V = 2 Ah.

10. Disregard Range Claims When Purchasing an E-Bike

The formula mentioned above is essential. It gives you the means of determining the true range of an e-bike. Some manufacturers will claim that a bike will have a 20 – 40 mi (32 – 64 km) range while others will have 80 – 100 mi (130 – 160 km) and have the same battery capacity.

The reason why these claims happen is due to a set of factors. Often, the speed of the bike will determine its range. The faster the bike goes, the more battery energy it will consume, shortening its effective range.

Speed is only the tip of the iceberg. The range calculation needs a lot of variables that the range can be between 10 and 50 miles (16 – 80 km). The former happens when the bike is at full throttle with a heavy load in an uphill climb.

If you’re asking an expert, they’ll often lean towards the more conservative estimate. They will usually give you a realistic range based on values derived from average riders. With that, you’ll have better expectations when buying an e-bike.

11. Test Ride Several E-Bikes

The most important part of purchasing an e-bike is to test ride it. The good news is that it’s also the most fun part, meaning you have no excuse not to do this. With a test ride, you can set aside all of the mathematical specifications.

That way, you can focus more on answering whether you love the bike. It allows you to answer all your questions without the need for research and reviews. If you want to know whether it can climb hills the way you intend to, a test drive will give you a final image.

Regardless, you should test-ride several different e-bikes before deciding to buy. It enables you to become confident in your choice. Remember, test-riding answers significant qualitative factors that you’re looking for in an ideal e-bike.

What’s Next?

Purchasing an e-bike isn’t as tedious as most people think. The main issue is the lack of knowledge on what to look out for. Use our tips, and they will help you to get the best e-bike that fits your needs.

There are many benefits of riding an electric bike, and if you’re not sure about what else to do, don’t hesitate to ask for an expert. It’s better to get someone reputable to give you advice than make a costly mistake.

Mike Reyes

I'm Mike Reyes, a guy behind eDrivePlanet.com. I have a background in electrical engineering and I was interested into technology since my early age. My passion is sustainable transport and energy, and my objective is to make eDrive Planet a pillar of the electric vehicles industry with hopefully millions of site visitors each year. I am counting on you, please spread the voice!

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