Looking for a new e-Bike? Don’t buy one before you read this guide
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or maybe we all have😂, you might have noticed the e-bike craze going on worldwide. You have probably seen some zooming around your town or there is probably a neighbor that got one not too long ago. To be honest, you have dabbled with the idea of owning one just for simple pleasure, but then you start thinking about what actual use you might give it, and surprisingly you have probably discovered some advantages that make the idea more attractive. But which e-bike is the right one? With so many choices and all the noise about them, it is easy to get overwhelmed and get drawn by cheap claims and even cheaper prices. Don’t despair this guide aims to give you important things to check out while doing your research online, and questions you want to ask in-store.
We have broken down the most important e-bike considerations into these categories:
For most people, this is their main consideration because it is what is making them seek an e-bike aside from the fun factor, which we can all agree is one of their main attributes. Usability refers to how you will use the bike, whether is for commuting, errand running, work, leisure, exercise, or a combination of the above. Past your particular selection, it is most important to think about what you need and how you will be performing that activity. For example, will you be carrying passengers in your commute? kids to school? will you be needing a carrier or rack to carry your groceries, briefcase, tennis racket, and yoga equipment, delivery crate? Also, does the bike fit? Do you need a low-step bike or are you too tall to ride it? We strongly recommend scheduling a test ride when possible, to address all these concerns. These questions will lead you to the more specific next categories.
This is the main one for most people and the most important consideration for us as well. You wouldn’t buy a car without seatbelts or that hasn’t been crashed tested so why would you consider a vehicle that you don’t know how is put together? We don’t want to scare people with this topic but we feel it is very important to highlight it given all the options you are faced with e-bikes these days. That said, we are looking at two main considerations:
First, is the electrical components, mainly the battery but also the wiring system and motor. There have been real safety concerns with some of these untested lithium batteries that have caused serious damage to homes and users. It is most important that the bike you are considering is equipped with a quality battery that has been tested for that application. You want to look for the UL Approved, this means that your battery and entire wiring and electrical system have been inspected, and tested, and is safe for use. Without this certification, you are running the very real risk of a battery failure, a run-off charge, or an electrical fire or explosion.
Second, is the structural construction of the bike itself. The frame of the bike is the backbone that holds not only all the parts together, but also holds your weight, and the weight of all the passengers and cargo you place on the bike. E-bikes are already heavy compared to regular non-motorized bicycles and their frames are supposed to be designed to handle those weight considerations not only while standing still, but also as you are rolling down the road at 20-30 mph. There are a lot of companies out there producing e-bikes just by adding electrical components to their regular bicycle frames and there have been frame failures that have led to serious accidents. We recommend that you look to see if the bike you are considering is EFBE tested. EFBE testing simulates hundreds of thousands of cycles of multi-directional stress to the bike’s frame and fork, ensuring that the structure of the bike can handle the use and abuse by riders.
These safety considerations are especially important if you are considering carrying children with you on your e-bike. You want to be able to concentrate on enjoying your ride and not worry about if your bike will break down in the middle of your ride. This leads us to our next category.
Closely tied to safety and usability is the service component. All vehicles need service at some point in time. Whether it is something as simple as fixing a flat tire to something more important like what happens if there is a malfunction in the electronic system. What kind of support the manufacturer will give you? Do they have a physical dealer network that can assist you? Going back to the safety category, most bike shops will not accept e-bikes for service if they are not UL-approved. We are one of them, and doing so would be a huge liability that can probably lose their insurance coverage in the event of a fire. Most of us do not think past the purchasing moment but considering this component will not only save you dollars but a lot of headaches later on. We recommend visiting your local dealers and asking questions about their service capability for the bike you are considering buying. Look closely at the brand and reach out to them, ask what kind of warranty they have, does it cover the electrical components, and if they have a dealer network to assist in after-sales service. Moving on to the next category.
This category encompasses the previous ones a great deal as it takes into account, usability, safety, and service. Here you should ask yourself, while that is an attractive price, what would be your ROI? Normally nicer e-bikes that have been through the testing we have mentioned and offer a network of after-sales services would be more reliable and therefore more enjoyable for many years, making your ROI a lot more attractive than just an initial price sticker. One thing we want to stress is that when buying an e-bike you are investing in a vehicle, you are not buying a toy that you’ll dispose of 6-months or a year down the line, you are potentially keeping that vehicle for the next 10-15-20 years and you want to ensure you are getting something that fits your needs, is safe, and that you can service during that time. All those things will play into your enjoyment and peace of mind while operating and storing your new e-bike. The final category.
Is the e-bike that I’m buying legal in my community, the answer for most people is yes, however local communities may have different restrictions on the type of e-bikes and where they can be used. It is always a good idea to consult with your local county/city council and review local bike laws for more information.
For us here in Florida, the passage of HB 971 resulted in the creation and rewriting of statutes to address e-bikes. In removing “motorized bicycles” from the legal definition of the bicycle in section 316.003(4), Florida Statutes, the Legislature created a new subsection (22) dealing with e-bikes. It also removed completely the prohibition of anyone under the age of 16 riding or operating a motorized bicycle or e-bike. This new law makes e-bikes that fit this definition legal in the entire state.
“Bicycle or tricycle equipped with fully operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts” which fit into one of three classifications.
Class 1 includes those e-bikes with a motor that assists only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to assist when the e-bike reaches 20 miles per hour.
Class 2 is an e-bike with a motor that may be used to exclusively propel (without pedaling) and ceases to assist when it reaches 20 miles per hour. These e-bikes typically come with a throttle since the motor can be used without pedaling and can be known as a throttle assist.
Class 3 is an e-bike with a motor that only assists while the rider is pedaling and ceases to assist when it reaches 28 miles per hour.
Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes are typically known as pedal-assist since they do not include a throttle.
Here is a good resource for a quick overview of Florida’s e-bike law.
We hope that this blog post will guide you on what to look for when considering your new e-bike purchase. As always, we encourage you to reach out to us for questions regarding our e-bike offering as we’ll be more than happy to guide you on your purchase and schedule a test ride on one of our models. We say goodbye for now and leave you with this very applicable proverb by Benjamin Franklin:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”