You’ve seen the bikes around your neighborhood. They look like so much fun! You want one! But ebikes have so many different specs and price points. Here’s what I would consider, in your position.
Can I build my own bike?
Many affordable bikes now come direct-to-consumer—meaning that they are pre-tuned or partially assembled in a box. As Peter Flax recently noted in Bicycling magazine, these bikes do not get nearly the testing or vetting that bikes from a bigger manufacturer get. Unless you’re not riding much or for many miles, or are experienced with modifying your own bike, I recommend working with an established manufacturer that has a dealer network. I also do not recommend a smart ebike. As we can see with VanMoof’s recent implosion, you may have difficulty getting your smart ebike repaired if the company folds.
Why do some bikes cost more?
They have higher-end components. Batteries and motors from high-end brands like Bosch and Shimano often are more powerful and cover more distance, with a 90- or 120-mile range, as compared to the 15-20 mile ranges you’ll see on more affordable bikes. However, this may not matter if you have a short commute.
What terrain do you live on?
If you live in a flat area, you’re probably fine with a 250-watt motor, which is the European speed standard. However, if you live near hills or haul a lot of stuff, you might want to consider a 500-watt or 750-watt motor and a few extras, like hydraulic disc brakes, which will help prevent you from skidding into traffic.
I would also look for a mid-drive motor instead of a hub-drive motor. Mid-drive motors are located in the center of your bike and feel more natural. A hub drive is on your rear axle and shifts your center of gravity backward, which takes some getting used to. It can throw you off balance when you’re going up steep hills.
Follow some basic safety tips.
Not sure where to start? The biking advocacy group PeopleForBikes recently released their safety education program, E-Bike Smart, which they created in collaboration with the League of American Bicyclists and Bicycle Colorado. Do not leave your bike battery charging overnight, and do not let your children ride your bike unsupervised. An 80-pound child should not be piloting a 65-pound bike, even if the motor makes it possible for them to do so.