Within the last couple of years, electric bikes have become more than a gadget for geeks. That’s in case with the US, in particular. In Europe, for example, they were extremely common even five years ago. We think they can very well shift the future of transportation. So here’s what you need to know about ebikes.
Great bike for the price from Taiwan-based Espin. It doesn’t even look like an electric bike when you look at it, which makes it a safer investment.
You’re getting a very good range thanks to a huge battery that is integrated into the bike frame.
It features a regular cadence sensor with a bit of a lag (like most of them have). Yet, it’s barely noticeable.
Push throttle gives a good acceleration even without active pedal assistance.
Evado series from Hollandia bikes come in several options. What is similar across all of them is affordability and distinct features. Such as, for example, rack-mounted battery and front hub motor.
It’s available with either regular or step-through frames. Spec-wise, the way this bike is constructed means reliability for years of use.
For example, the motor used here is 240-watt Bafang, which is easily serviceable or replaceable. The same approach is applied to spare-parts like brakes – V-brakes are used here.
If money is not an issue, here’s the ultimate electric bike. Yes, it costs like a decent used car, but this is the king of premium electric bikes. No expense is spared here.
It has a mountain version if you want to go backcountry, but even a regular one can offer a lot for off-road.
It’s ideal for longer rides and touring where you need to spend several days in a saddle.
BAM-StepThru has everything we want to see in an ideal electric bike for seniors: affordable price, step-through frame design and excellent technical specs.
This bike has a 750-watt motor or one horsepower (which is a legal maximum in the US). The battery is 672 watt-hours, which is a lot even for longer rides. It has a pretty generic design, so can be replaced or serviced for cheap in the future.
Ergonomics on this bike is excellent – except step-through frame, the handlebar is curved, which means you won’t lean forward to reach it and the body will have an upright position.
Unlike many other electric bikes that have seats that are impossible to use for longer rides, BAM has a comfortable VeloPlush seat that you will be happy to ride right away.
Enzo manufactures a wide range of foldable electric bikes, but we feel that the 350-watt version with belt drive is the optimal one. Talking about other bikes from Enzo, you can upgrade it to have a 500-watt motor, or choose chain drive, too.
So, why belt drive? Well, electric bikes are known to put much more extra wear on chains compared to regular bikes. With a belt, there’s no problem like that.
This is especially important for a folding electric bike that’s likely going to be used daily as a commuter.
Ranger 750 from QuietKat has everything we would like to see in an electric fat-tire bike.
To begin with, the motor is 750-watt, and that what you need in the case of fat tires. Because of increased resistance, especially in mud or snow and sand, less powerful motors tend to strand. But, not this one.
The battery uses Panasonic branded cells, which means great durability for years. It boasts a respectable 556 watt-hours. But again, remember, with fat tires you need to carefully plan your trip and adequately estimate the range, as these bikes tend to eat battery a lot faster than regular ones.
Grace is a reputable German manufacturer of electric bikes that’s been around for a while.
New MX II Trail model features 250 Watt Brose mid-drive motor (previously they were equipped with Bosch motors).
We are also happy to see Rock Shox Yari RC 120-mm fork and Shimano XT gears. This Grace has an efficient braking system from another German brand Magura that will help you stop even on steep hills.
This TREK is pricey, but when it comes to the commuter e-bike, we strongly believe it offers great bang for the buck.
It has 250-watt Bosch motor integrated into its frame, along with the 500-Wh battery, also integrated (but still easily removable Bosch Powertube). What we love most about this bike is that you can purchase an extra battery pack from Bosch and load this bike with enormous 1000 watt-hours of power.
Drivetrain components are from the Shimano Deore range (upper-level). Smartphone-controlled Bosch Hub is the icing on the cake.
Cruiser (also known as beach cruiser) bikes offer a relaxed ride with ease of sitting, thanks to go-through frame profile.
The battery is placed on the rear rack and this placement allowed to load it with a good amount of charge – 513 watt-hours.
The motor is placed on the rear hub and offers 500 watts of power.
Sometimes you need a capable bike to haul some weight and Addmotor’s Motan is a great choice for this purpose.
Unsurprisingly, the bike features a powerful 750-watt motor, which is more than enough to pull 450 lbs (including the rider). The choice of the most powerful (legally) motor is also required by the use of fat tires and its trike construction.
The battery here is also one of the highest-capacity ones – featuring 696 watt-hours of charge. The manufacturer claims it will last the range of 40-45 miles with level one pedal assist.
PFIFF is a German-designed and German-made bike. Their Grazia trike is perfect for seniors who need extra stability, reliable frame and components.
Grazia features a mid-drive Bosch motor equipped with a torque sensor for improved response.
Ergonomics on this bike is excellent for elderly riders: step-through frame design, ergonomic seat and reliable fork.
To begin with, let’s define electric bikes, how they operate and differ from regular bikes. In basic terms, these are bikes equipped with a battery and motor that gets activated with a push of a pedal (or throttle, sometimes). With that said, there are several types of electric bikes and ways they differ from one another.
Type of motor based on where it’s located is probably the main defining point for all e bikes today. Not only it affects how the bike handles, but also its cost. There are three locations where the motor can be placed in an electric bike – wheel hub (either rear hub, which is most often, or front hub) and near the crank (also known as mid-drive).
That’s what you want to see on a more expensive bike. The motor is placed between the pedals. Mid-drive provides better torque and thanks to its centered position, better handling and balance during the ride. The center of gravity is also right where it should be.
Since it requires a special frame that will house the motor, mid-drives are almost exclusive to more well-known brands. They have the engineering capacity to design such a frame and manufacture it, as opposed to generic brands.
Mid-drive motors are recommended when the ultimate balance is required – for example, in the mountain (mostly downhill) electric bikes.
These have been around for a while, as a cheaper and more reliable option. Most bikes sold in Europe have hub motors. Hub motors are optimal when you plan to ride a smooth hard surface.
A motor can be placed on either front or rear wheel, with the latter being the most popular option.
These motors are easily replaceable and can be easily serviced as even now there’s only a handful of manufacturers. In the case with mid-drive motors, even though they are still manufactured by the same companies, they are often proprietary. This will result in higher repair or replacement costs.
Hub motors have their downsides, too. First, the center of gravity is shifted towards the wheel, which makes it harder to use these bikes on uneven surfaces. Secondly, changing a tire on hub-powered ebikes often becomes a challenge, even after some practice.
In any case, electric bike manufacturers today do a pretty good job of matching the optimum motor location with the type of bike and its intentional use.
Motor power is measured in watts with the most common values of 250, 350, 500 and even 750 watts (which is one horsepower).
You now may be under impression that the more power you have – the better. Well, that’s not always true. In fact, even 250 watts is enough. During a Tour-de-France race, on average, professional cyclists that win the race will sustain approx. 320 watts of power. And that’s with all the hills and speed racing needed to win. So, even a smaller 250-watts motor is like having a pro racer helping you pedal.
This number doesn’t only give a power value, but a range as well.
Pedal-assist and throttle
All electric bikes have pedal assist built-in. Not all of them, however, have throttle functionality. The reason is that in many places around the world (like Europe, for example) throttle is not legal. In the USA throttle is legal. And since manufacturers have served these markets for years before e-bikes came to the US, they are gradually applying the changes.
Many people prefer having a throttle as an option even though they use a pedal assist system (PAS) most of the time.
All electric bikes today use the most common 18650-type batteries (same are used in Tesla cars). They are usually manufactured by either Samsung, LG or Panasonic. Cheaper bikes can feature no-name batteries, but these are not recommended.
The battery block itself can be different from bike to bike. These batteries can be either proprietary or generic. The first is usually installed on more expensive bikes and is harder (and more expensive) to replace. Generic batteries, however, may not look that fancy but are easily replaceable.
Since there’s no standard in measuring and reporting battery capacity, each manufacturer has their own approach here. When reading through the specs of different models you can see statements of Voltage, amp-hours (ah) or watt-hours (Wh). However, by using a simple formula you can quickly measure how batteries compare against each other:
V (volts) * ah (amp-hours) = Watt-hours (Wh)
48V * 10ah = 480 Watt-hours
After this calculation, simply compare two batteries by Watt-hours to get a better understanding of what range you can expect.
There are so many variables that can either cut the range by two or increase it – the type of terrain, rider’s weight, throttle-only cycling, or with pedal assisting only. Still, based on our experience, a ballpark number for battery consumption is 20 watt-hours per mile.
As a result, by knowing the exact watt-hours value of a battery and knowing that on average you will spend 20 watt-hours for each mile of the ride, a 480 Wh battery will last for 24 miles.
Torque sensors measure how hard you push the pedals. You push harder and get more assistance from the motor in return. This is a more advanced technology and therefore, it gets installed in more expensive bikes. Many upper-grade models use torque sensors exclusively.
Overall, torque sensors offer a better experience and more of that superman-like feeling when climbing steep hills.
Budget electric bikes feature only cadence or rotation sensors. They measure how fast you turn your pedals. With higher turn frequency comes more assistance from motor.
Luckily, as technology sees more applications, it becomes cheaper. As a result, many electric bikes today use both types of sensors. You, as a consumer, ultimately win by getting the best of both worlds.
To simplify regulation many states today try to assign all existing electric bikes into three categories (classes):