The Ultimate Electric Bike Buying Guide

Electric Bike Buying Guide

If you regularly zip around the city but you’re worried about carbon emissions, an electric bike is the perfect solution.

You intend to stop driving and start taking your bike to work, then. Or perhaps you’re just looking for a good excuse to get outside and move around.

The e-bike has become hugely popular over the last few decades, and we’ve recently seen an explosion in interest in these practical and effective modes of transport: the NPD Group reports that e-bike sales have increased by eight times since 2014!

There are many good reasons for this, such as that you can find an e-bike to suit your needs.

How many types of e-bikes are there?

There are two main types of e-bikes based on where their motors are placed: hub motors, where the motor is in the wheel, and mid-drive e-bikes that have motors on their frames. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to e-bike types.

With that in mind, let’s look at the ultimate Electric Bike Buying Guide. We’ll start by taking a brief cycle back in time to the history of e-bikes and how they became so popular.

How Did Electric Bikes Come About?

First E Bike

While we might think of electric bikes as being very modern, they actually date back to the late 1800s!

France had developed a three-wheeled electric bike that made use of a hand-held lever system to give it power.

It didn’t have any pedals! In the U.S., one of the earliest e-bike patents occurred in 1895 for a bicycle that was operated by a battery.

These developments started to motivate the public to become interested in electric bikes, with lots of new designs entering the market.

Interestingly, it was in 1897 when inventor Hosea W. Libbey designed an electric bike that made use of a double-electric motor.

This motor was interesting because it was inside the hub of the crankset axle, and it paved the way for our modern-day e-bike designs.

E-bikes really became popular during the 20th century, with Europe being one of the first regions to experience an increase in e-bike usage as well as their popularity.

This resulted in the mass production of electric bikes. Japan also jumped on the e-bike bandwagon during this century, with their late-90s bike creations that were using NiCad and lead batteries.

But what’s most interesting about these Japanese inventions is that they showed that there was now, more than ever, greater innovation in the industry. It was a really exciting time for e-bikes!

One of the milestones in e-bike history came about in 1989, when the pedelec was created.

This was known as the Pedal Electric Cycle, and how it worked was with the use of pedalling action, therefore making it similar to regular bicycles.

This creation led to other e-bikes that made use of pedalling in their design.

This was a huge e-bike development, especially if you think that pedal-assist e-bikes, which allow you use your leg power or the power of the e-bikes motor, are still very popular today.

Interest and innovation in e-bikes continued to grow, and when the 21st century rolled around e-bike production had increased.

Interestingly, around 2001, the terms “power bike” and “e-bike” were some that were established in society, showing how e-bikes were becoming more mainstream and even infiltrating our language. 

Why Are E-Bikes So Popular?

Wooden E Bikes

We’ve already mentioned how e-bikes are better for the environment, but that’s not the only reason why e-bikes have become such popular forms of transportation.

Here are some reasons why e-bikes are so in demand and will continue to be. 

  • They’re suitable for many people to use. If you’re older or have a disability, you might not be able to ride a regular bicycle. But you can ride an e-bike. In fact, the e-bike audience is broadening, with many people who purchase e-bikes being those who are older. U.S. e-bike company Rad Power Bikes has found that a whopping 82 percent of its customers are in the age group of 45 to 84, as research via Fast Company reports.
  • They boost your fitness. Riding a bike is great for your health and can improve your fitness, but an e-bike can make you even fitter and healthier than a regular bike. This is true even though you can make use of the e-bike motor to take the edge off having to cycle with your leg power! A study by the University of Bristol (via iNews ) found that when people used e-bikes for 20 weeks, they experienced a 10.9 percent increase in their aerobic fitness. When people used regular bikes, they only experienced an eight-percent increase in fitness. The same study found e-biking can improve people’s symptoms related to Type 2 diabetes. 
  • They’re super-convenient. If you need to zip to the shops a few roads away or do other chores, you don’t have to rely on your car. You can quickly and efficiently use your e-bike to get around. In addition to this, the increase in technology and manufacturing of e-bikes over the years has made them even more comfortable and efficient. You can find e-bikes that have adjustable stems so that you can have the handlebar at the right angle for the most comfortable riding experience.
  • They can save you money. You might have to shell out quite a bit of cash upfront when purchasing an e-bike – you’re looking at an average of around $1,500 for a decent one – but you’ll definitely save money in the future by using it instead of your car. You won’t have to buy so much gas for your car, for starters. In addition, you will get more exercise, which could help you to stave off illness and doctor’s appointments!
  • They’re better for the planet. There’s no doubt that using an e-bike instead of your car is so much better for the environment. They’re powered by electric power and human pedalling, and if you use solar power to power up their batteries they’re even more friendly to the environment.
  • They can make you more efficient during emergencies. You never know what can happen to the city’s transportation systems, such as in the case of a natural disaster striking when you least expect it. You never know when the roads will be blocked or you won’t be able to use your car or even purchase gas. Having an e-bike can help to make you more mobile during emergency situations, helping you to get around, shop for essentials during a pandemic, and get to safety. When their battery drains, you can easily and safely charge it with electricity at a variety of places (for more information on where to charge your e-bike, read “Eight Places To Charge Your E-Bike On The Go.”)

Differences Between Regular Bikes And Electric Bikes

Regular Bike vs Electric Bike

You might be wondering what the differences really are between e-bikes and regular bikes. 

Basically, an e-bike is the same thing as a regular bike, and many states in the U.S. define it in this way by stating that the rules that you have to follow if you own a bicycle will apply to your e-bike.

However, the main difference between them is that an e-bike has an electric drive system that makes use of a motor and battery.

E-bikes will have a drivetrain that combines the power and a throttle, which is basically how one can control the power.

Let’s look at these four features in greater detail, especially since they are the only elements that make an e-bike different from a regular bike.

The electric motor

This is basically the first thing you might think of when we speak about e-bikes. It helps the bike to create an effortless ride.

How it works is that it drives the crank instead of the wheel. This enables it to be even more powerful.

In addition, since it’s located lower to the ground, it enables the rider to make handling the bike much easier.

You don’t have to use the electric motor all the time. You can engage it when you feel that you need a boost to your ride, such as if you have to get up a steep hill and don’t have the leg power for it.

The battery

A regular electric bike battery will allow you to enjoy up to 40 miles of riding, but your range will depend on various factors, such as how often you use the e-bike and how often you make use of its power.

The battery is the most expensive part of the e-bike. Many e-bike batteries are lithium ion batteries, which have a good capacity.

Batteries will last up to five years before needing to be replaced. 

The drivetrain

Drivetrain From E Bike

The e-bike’s drivetrain does two important functions: it gives power to the bike’s wheels and transforms torque and speed with the gears.

What that means is that if you encounter a tricky element on your ride, such as a steep slope, you can increase the power.

The throttle

The throttle basically works by helping you to control the bike’s motor. On some bikes, you’ll find that there’s a throttle right on the handlebar.

When you twist it you’ll get the motor to work, making it super-easy and convenient to get more power in your bike whenever it’s required.

On a pedal-assist electric bike, you just have to push the pedals and the motor will give you a power boost.

Some other e-bikes will enable you to press a button to engage the throttle and motor – it’s really that easy.

What About Sensors?

Electric bikes have sensors that provide power in different ways. There are two types: torque and cadence sensors.

Torque sensors monitor the bike’s motor according to how much you’re using the pedals. Cadence sensors, on the other hand, work according to how fast you pedal.

You’ll find that quality bikes will make use of torque sensors, in part because they don’t match your speed with power, therefore enabling you to get the power you need when you’re not moving fast.

Budget bikes making use of cadence, but many bikes will have both sensors in their design.

After you take the above elements into account, you’ll find that regular bikes and e-bikes are pretty much the same.

They have the same design, with a frame and two wheels, handlebars, and pedals.

What About Bike Maintenance?

Even when it comes to maintaining your e-bike, you’ll be able to do so in pretty much the same way as your regular bike because they share so many of the same components.

So, when you want to take your e-bike to a repair shop, you can most likely bring it to the same shop where you’d take a regular bike.

When you want to clean your e-bike, you’ll avoid hosing it down with a pressure spray to prevent water from getting into its components and use a rag with soapy water instead, in the same way that this is the best method when cleaning your regular bicycle as it prevent rust and damage to any delicate parts of the bike.

When it comes to maintaining your bike, the only real difference between the two types of bikes comes into play when something goes wrong with the electric components of your e-bike.

If this occurs, an e-bike specialist should be consulted. 

What About Riding An E-Bike Vs. Regular Bike?

You might wonder what the riding experience is like when you use an e-bike versus a regular bike.

This is something important to consider because you don’t want to be disappointed.

Interestingly, although e-bikes and regular bikes are pretty much the same thing, there are a few differences that are experienced by people who ride e-bikes instead of regular bikes.

One of the biggest ones is when it comes to the motor.

On an e-bike, this motor helps to give you a boost of power, which can increase your ease of riding, but essentially the experience of pedalling will be the same on both e-bikes and regular bikes.

It’s been said that the real difference between the two bikes is that when you use an electric bike you’ll just feel that it’s easier to use.

You won’t feel exhausted if you have to cycle up a hill, as you would with a regular bike, for example, because you don’t always have to use the power in your legs – that’s what the motor is there for!

Couple Riding E Bikes

This makes e-bikes much more versatile and convenient, no matter what your current fitness is currently.

One of the best things about e-bikes is how they give you the chance to choose how much effort you want to put in when cycling.

If you want to pedal more, you can let your legs go the extra mile.

If, on the other hand, you feel like getting a bit of help from the motor, you can cycle so that your feet only have to softly touch the pedals while the bike does most of the work for you.

In this way, it’s like you have two bikes in one product. E-bikes are also safer, which can make you feel more confident.

By giving you a boost of power when you need it, you can weave into traffic more smoothly while also preventing yourself from lagging when you need to navigate trickier terrain.

This can help to keep you safe on the road.

What About E-Bike Riding Rules?

You might worry that there are rules in your city that will prevent you from using an e-bike as compared to a regular bike, but ultimately the rules are pretty much the same for both.

It does, however, depend on the state in which you live.

In many U.S. states, you don’t need to have a license in order to ride an e-bike, and you don’t have to register or insure it.

In addition, wherever you’re allowed to ride a bike is usually where you’ll also be able to ride your e-bike so transitioning over to an e-bike isn’t something that will be a mission.

However, some states have other e-bike rules in place, such as that you have to have a license in order to use your bike, therefore treating your e-bike in a similar way to a moped.

Where you can ride your e-bike also varies from one part of the country to the next: in some places, you can make use of bike paths and multipaths, while in others you’re not allowed to do so!

It’s always a good idea to check with your local authority to be sure that you know what the rules are pertaining to e-bikes in your city or county.

How E-Bikes Are Classified

Illustration Of E Bike Classes

Have you heard about e-bike classes?

There are basically three e-bike classes, which are basically how they’re categorized.

The United States has Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 e-bikes. Most of the e-bikes that you can buy on the market are Class 1 or 3.

So, let’s look at these classes in greater detail.

Class 1 E-Bikes

These are electric bikes that have a motor that’s no more than 750w. It helps you while you pedal to give you an electric boost.

You can ride up to speeds of 20mp on these bikes with the electric assistance. 

Class 2 E-Bikes

These are e-bikes that contain a throttle. You can use the throttle up to the speed of 20mph – this is the legal limit for throttles. 

Class 3 E-Bikes

These e-bikes are also known as speed pedelecs. They’re allowed to have up to a 750w motor and they’re allowed to give you motor power up to the speed of 28mph.

After that, you have to rely on your leg power.

The Main Types Of E-Bikes

Earlier, we mentioned that there are two main e-bike categories that are based on where their motors are located.

Let’s look at them in greater detail:

Hub Motor E-Bikes

Road E Bike

There are two types of hub motors: direct drive motors and geared motors.

  • Direct drive: these are large motors that use the whole hub shell as the motor. They’re durable and fast, but also quite heavy.
  • Geared hub motors: these are lighter and smaller than direct drive motors. They have more torque, too, but less maximum speed. Hub motors can be found on the front or rear wheel. The benefit of front hub motors is that they give you an all-wheel drive feeling. Rear hub motors are more efficient when dealing with more power.

Mid-Drive Motors

Mid Drive E Bike

These motors keep the motor closer to the bicycle’s center and push the power down to the bike’s rear wheel.

They’ve become common and popular because they are smaller and lighter than hub motors. They enable riders to use lower gears to get the power they need.

Now that we’ve looked at the types of motors you can get on an e-bike, let’s jump into the different types of e-bikes on the market based on what you’ll use them for.

Cargo E-Bikes

Man Riding Cargo E Bike

These are e-bikes that have the goal of allowing you to transport items, such as grocery bags, hence their name.

You’ll find that they weigh between 44 and 88 pounds, and they make use of rear and front pannier racks so that you can commute to work, take a trip outside of town with some essentials that you’ll need, or fetch your kids from nursery school.

They’re excellent for you if you need storage capacity on your e-bike on a regular basis.

Folding E-Bikes

Man Sitting Next To E Bike

These are a great choice for you if you don’t need to carry a lot of weight but want the convenience of being able to fold up the bike under your work desk!

If you’re light on your feet and need a bike that will be easy to store in a tiny apartment and travel with, the folding e-bike is your best bet.

Cruiser E-Bikes

Black E Bike

These bikes are best for casual riders who want to feel comfortable when they’re zipping around town.

These bikes will have large seats and upright riding positions, and sometimes also make use of wider tires to increase the comfort level when you’re navigating tricky terrain.

Road E-Bikes

Blue E Bike

Electric road bikes are focused on speed, in the same way that road bicycles are – this makes them perfect for when you and your cycling buddies get together.

These bikes look very similar to road bicycles, but they give you a nice electric boost when needed.

They tend to put you in a bit of leaning forward “racing” position so that you can zip around town.

Electric Mountain Bikes

Electric Mountain Bike

If you’re taking your ride off the road and into rocky terrain, you’ll need to make use of an electric mountain bike.

These bikes are packed with small motors that assist you to ride further distances and faster, while also making those difficult climbs feel much less stressful.

What about fat tires?

Putting fat tires on your electric mountain bike is recommended if you want to navigate lots of different types of terrain.

These fat-tire bikes can help you to feel more comfortable no matter where you’re cycling – you could be in wet, muddy conditions or on a gravel road without a hassle.

A fat-tire electric bike can be even better than a mountain bike because of their larger tires that give you better grip.

They also enable you navigate tricky terrain in a smoother way so you can feel more confident wherever you use them.

Pedal Assist (“Pedelec”)

Pedelec E Bike

This is basically a regular bike that comes with a motor. The motor senses that you’re pedalling and then gives you a bit of power to assist with your cycling.

These pedal assist e-bikes sometimes come with a throttle.

One of their biggest advantages is that you can choose how much leg power you want to use, and then let the motor take over a bit when you feel exhausted.

Throttle-Only E-Bike

Pedal Free E Bike

This bike comes with a motor that’s controlled by a throttle. You don’t first have to pedal with your legs in order to get a boost from the motor.

You can choose to make use of the motor just by engaging the throttle.

It can be said that throttle e-bikes are quite similar to e-scooters or mopeds, and in some places will be regarded as such from a legal perspective.

Speed Pedelec

Speed Pedelec E Bike

This e-bike works in a similar way to the standard pedal assist bike. It’s also designed in the same way.

The only difference between them is that the speed pedelec allows you to achieve more speed. This also means that in some cities and regions this bike requires you to have a license. 

What Is A Hybrid Electric Bike?

White Hybrid E Bike

Hybrid electric bikes basically give you the best of leisurely cycling and going off the beaten track.

They can handle a lot more than smooth tar roads, such as potholes and rougher terrain outdoors, thanks to their fatter tires and excellent suspension.

This makes them very versatile and they might be just what you need if your riding is a regular blend of city rides and outdoorsy adventures.

What’s The Difference Between An E-Bike And Moped?

Now that we’ve looked at the differences between e-bikes and regular bikes, let’s also consider the important differences between e-bikes and mopeds, taking various elements into account. 


Electric bikes have pedals so you can still get exercise from them as you would when using a regular bike. Mopeds, on the other hand, generally don’t have pedals.

Driver’s Licenses

One of the things that makes e-bikes so convenient is that you usually don’t need a driver’s license to use them.

Mopeds, however, do require the rider to have a driver’s license and this is because they’re similar to motorbikes.


Moped vs E Bike

You can (usually) use your e-bike wherever you’d use a regular bike, and that includes on paths and bike lanes.

If you own a moped, you’ll be more restricted. While you can use your moped on street bike lanes, you won’t be able to use your moped on sidewalks.

Your e-bike can sometimes be used on sidewalks, depending on the state in which you live!


One of the biggest differences between e-bikes and mopeds is the speed that they can reach.

On an e-bike, you’ll likely be able to reach about 20mph. On a moped, you can reach speeds of 30mph.

Related Questions

Is using an electric bike cheating when it comes to exercise?

You might think that using an e-bike instead of a regular bike is cheating because you can use the motor instead of your leg power. But that can help to make exercise more accessible.

You don’t have to make use of the bike’s motor if you don’t want to, but it’s nice to have it there if you need it.

How long will your e-bike battery last?

You can expect to use your e-bike for about 35 to 100 miles depending on your usage before you have to recharge its battery.

You can make your battery last longer by never storing a flat battery and never charging it in very cold or hot temperatures.

How fast can you really go on an e-bike?

You can get to about 25kmh on an e-bike. If you try to cycle faster than this, the motor won’t work and you’ll need to use your body to move faster.

That said, e-bikes can make you move faster because of how they make cycling feel less strenuous.


You want to buy an e-bike, but maybe you’re just not sure which one to get.

There are loads of different e-bike types that can make your head spin!

In this e-bike guide we’ve looked at the main types of bikes that are on offer as well as what you need to know when it comes to how e-bikes vary from mopeds and regular bikes.

By reading this guide, you’ll be in a much better position to make the right e-bike choice for you and your lifestyle.

Happy biking!

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