What are the Best Electric Bikes For Me To Buy & How Do They Work?
What is an electric bicycle?
Throw away all images of a scooter or electric motorcycle. An electric bicycle actually looks almost exactly like a regular bicycle, but with a few extra parts integrated pretty seamlessly. Picture a mountain bike such as the Bakcou Mule or the Eunorau Fat HS with a small motor, a battery, and a controller, and you’ve got yourself an electric bike.
How does an electric bike work?
It’s exactly like the bike riding experience that you are used to. You pedal and steer just like you did as a kid. However, it’s as though you’ve developed a superpower. The electrical components augment your standard bike riding efforts to make you faster and stronger. Ride longer, uphill both ways, with a strong headwind without getting nearly as tired.
How do I choose the right electric bike for me?
Just like any bike, there can be a huge range in comfort and quality, so do your homework to make sure you get the right electric bike for you. At Crankworks Bicycles we pride ourselves in selling quality brands like QuietKat, Eunorau, Bakcou, Ecotric, X-Treme, Electric Bike Company, Lemeego and Revi Bike. Here are a few additional items for you to consider when picking a brand.
When it comes to the motor for an electric bike there is a really big range in power rating, so make sure you look closely before you buy. Power ratings usually range from 250W to 1,000W or even more. Although you may see different limits from state to state, the legal limit in the US is 750W.
As you have probably guessed, much like horsepower, the higher the rating the greater the power. However, power does come at a cost. The higher the power rating the more weight your bike can pull with greater ease, but that power comes at the expense of the battery. It’s a classic tradeoff. Increased power equals decreased economy.
Another factor to consider is the location of the motor. There are three choices when it comes to motor location, rear wheel, mid-drive or front wheel. With a rear wheel hub drive the bike may not feel as nimble and may feel out of balance, with a front wheel hub drive it may feel as though you are having steering challenges.
With the mid drive the motor is centered on the bike at the bottom bracket, when positioned in the middle of the bike and low a rider hardly feels the motor at all. Another advantage to being positioned here is it works in synergy with the gearing on the bike. A motor that is integrated with the gears will give you increased and more efficient power, better hill climbing ability, and improved handling.The Battery
Most of the electric bikes that you will find on the market have one of two kinds of batteries; Sealed Lead Acid (SLA), or Lithium. It’s important that you decide which battery type is best for you, because it makes a big difference in the weight, style, and range of your electric bicycle.
Sealed Lead Acid (SLA)
For years, this was the standard battery for both electric scooters and bicycles. Electric scooters still use the SLA battery, but electric bicycles have converted to newer battery technology that often requires human input, but is much smaller and lighter.
• More affordable
• Large and heavy when compared to newer battery technology
• Shorter riding range
• Shorter life expectancy (roughly 100-300 full charges)
• They have to be immediately charged after you use it
• Higher maintenance costs
Lithium Ion (Polymer/Manganese/…)
With a life span of 2 -3 times that of an SLA battery the lithium Ion is the latest in battery technology. It’s longer life, light weight, and low maintenance reputation makes it a perfect fit for electric bicycles.
Lithium Ion Advantages
• Longer life span. Up to 3 years of daily us or roughly 800 charges.
• A range of up to 20 miles throttle only, or 40 miles with peddle assist.
Lithium Ion Disadvantages
• More expensive
The controller is a really important component for the functionality of the bike. They are usually located on the handlebars, and there are two main types.
• Pedal-activated controllers
• Throttle-based controllers
Electric bikes with a pedal-activated system will engage the electric motor when you pedal without the need to engage a throttle. The controller, found on the handlebar, will allow you to select the level of assistance that you would like for your ride. Assistance levels range from no assistance at all to a great deal of assistance.
A throttle controlled electric bike uses a simple mechanism to help propel the bike forward. It is usually either a twist-grip, or a thumb-press mechanism. Although meant to assist in peddling, with many throttle-controlled electric bikes you can actually ride on the throttle alone. No peddling required.
The bottom line is that electric bikes are very low maintenance, easy to use, and fun to ride.
How do you operate an electric bike?
Electric bicycles are very easy to operate. There are three basic modes.
In this mode you can ride your electric bike as though it were a standard bicycle at any time. The motor creates no extra resistance, so riding feels exactly like a normal bike would feel.
Pedal Assist (or Electric-Assist)
Riding in pedal assist mode is an incredible feeling. This mode uses combined human power and electric power, reach great speeds and ride up hills with ease. With the push of a button on your handlebars the motor will provide electric power to assist as you pedal.
Usually pedal-assist mode has three settings for three different levels of assistance: High, Medium, and Low. Each level is an indicator of the amount of power that will be provided to assist in peddling. On low, you’ll experience an increase in your peddling power by roughly 30%, 60% on medium, and on high, it will basically double your peddling power. That’s awesome.
Been a long day? Wanna take it easy? This mode allows you to sit back and relax while the motor does all the work. All you have to do is control the throttle. Now keep in mind that Federal regulation limit the max speed for electric only mode to 20 miles per hour so it’ going to be more of a leisure ride.
Is there a special license required to ride an electric bicycle?
Since electric bicycles are relatively new to the US there is a little confusion on how they are viewed by the government. According to Federal law, electric bicycles are considered to be in the same class as a regular bicycle. However, there are two conditions.
1. While in electric only mode, max speed cannot exceed 20 miles per hour.
2. Motor power cannot exceed 750W.
Motorized areas of BLM, Forrest Service, private or leased land, like a side x side or 4 wheeler, you can legally ride/drive whatever you want.
At CrankWorksBicycles.com shop at ease knowing that every electric bicycle that we sell falls within this rang so that you can ride free.
A HUGE advantage to this classification is that there is no need to worry about any special registrations, insurances, or licenses to ride your electric bicycle. Not to mention you can enjoy the same rights as bicycles such as the ability to cruise in the bike only lane.
Although most states yield to federal law when it comes to electric bicycles, regulations can differ from state to state. If you are concerned at all about the laws in your state, please feel free to reach out to us and we will point you in the right direction to help get all of your questions and concerns resolved for your state. For a guide on your states e-bike laws go here. Now even if your state does not require it, we strongly recommend that you wear a helmet, and that you have a light and reflective gear for your own personal safety.