COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO E-BIKES

There are few topics that spur as much debate within the bike world as the ever-growing presence of e-bikes. For some, they are an abomination to our pedal-based love, while others find e-bikes to be the very thing that got them on a bike for the first time or let’s them keep pedaling. Like many of you, we’ve wrestled with these same issues, and have found that the better we understand something the smarter we can be about deciding where we stand. This article is here to help you gain a deeper understand of what e-bikes are, who they are for, and how they fit in our world of bikes.

To get you started, we've broken down this article into sections based on riding styles, technology, and legislation. Follow the links below to learn more.

E-Bike Guide Sections

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?  |  WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?  |  TYPES OF E-BIKES  |   REGULATIONS  |  BATTERIES, MOTORS & RANGE  |  FEATURES & ACCESSORIES

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?

THE ELECTRIFIED RIDE

As you likely already know, the “e” in e-bike stands for electric. An e-bike is simply a standard bicycle with the addition of an electric motor, a battery, and some sort of controller to add some smarts into the system. Beyond that, these are much the same as any bike, mountain, road, commuter, etc., that you’ve experienced before. Depending on the type of e-bike (class 1, 2, or 3), the rider most commonly needs to pedal in order to receive any assistance from the motor, and this assistance is limited below certain speeds. Riding an e-bike is much like having the wind to your back or like someone giving you a slight push with they’re hand as you ride along. The controller of the bike allows you to select how much assistance you receive depending on how hard you want to pedal, but this does not change the top speed. Using more assistance makes your ride easier but will use up your battery faster, so you'll want to be sure to match your ride distance to your power selection, leaving some margin for terrain and environmental conditions.

E-Bike FEATURES

  • Utilizes a battery and motor to assist your normal pedaling
  • Motor assistance is limited to 20 or 28mph, depending on class rating, and will not add assistance beyond those speeds
  • There are 2 main types of motors; hub-drive (primarily located at the rear hub vs mid-drive (located at the bottom bracket/crankset)
  • Range is affected by many factors from motor efficiency, battery size, weather, and terrain and must be considered when buying a bike for your needs

Guide Sections

WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?  |  TYPES OF E-BIKES  |   REGULATIONS  |  BATTERIES, MOTORS & RANGE  |  FEATURES & ACCESSORIESSHOP E-BIKES

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WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?

WHY WOULD YOU WANT AN E-BIKE?

There isn’t just one single answer as to why someone would want an e-bike versus a standard pedal bike. Every time we think we’ve locked down who the best fit for an e-bike is, we learn of a new application that makes us say, “Oh, yeah! That is a good use for an e-bike.” Here are a several ways in which e-bikes are a great option for all different types of riders or riding applications.

  • New Riders: For a lot of new bike riders, it can be intimidating and challenging to get started. E-bikes add just enough assistance to help lower the barriers of riding, allowing more riders to find their passion for getting on the bike.
  • Commuters and Family Haulers: Many riders are trading their cars for e-bikes when it comes to their work commute, grocery run, or using them as the family van for school or trips to the park. This trade helps to alleviates congestion on the roads, reduces traffic, and instills a love for bikes.
  • Riders of Mixed Fitness: Riding with friends or partners is one of the best parts of cycling but, often, riders have mixed levels of skills or fitness. E-bikes can even the playing field making the ride more fun for everyone. Plus, being able to keep up with faster/better riders is one of the best ways to improve your riding skills and confidence.
  • Extending Your Ride: Whether you are trying to cram in as many miles as you can in a limited time or just wanting to see how remote you can get, e-bikes let riders explore further and cover ground faster.
  • Older Riders: If you’re like us, you want to extend your riding years for as long as physically possible. As our bodies age, e-bikes allow us to continue to ride, experience, and explore. Plus, this will help keep us healthy and happy, fighting back those years even longer.
  • Riders with Mobility Issues or Injuries: Whether born with a disability or a life event changed how the body works, e-bikes are one of many tools that can be used to get people of all types on two-wheels. Watching some of our favorite bike legends deal with injuries has cemented the powerful role that e-bikes play in keeping these riders as an active part of our cycling community.

Guide Sections

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?  |  TYPES OF E-BIKES  |   REGULATIONS  |  BATTERIES, MOTORS & RANGE  |  FEATURES & ACCESSORIESSHOP E-BIKES

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WHAT KINDS OF E-BIKES ARE THERE?

TYPES OF E-BIKES

Since e-bikes are simply modified pedal bikes, they fill the same riding disciplines and categories. That means you can find e-bike versions of mountain bikes, road bikes, commuter bikes, cargo bikes, and more. The most popular e-bikes have been commuters and cargo bikes as these allow people to replace their cars for many daily tasks while lessening their environmental footprint and reducing their costs. Meanwhile, the mountain and road e-bike categories are gaining popularity as riders look to extend their rides further and further.

Guide Sections

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?  |  WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?  |   REGULATIONS  |  BATTERIES, MOTORS & RANGE  |  FEATURES & ACCESSORIESSHOP E-BIKES

Ever wonder what lies beyond your favorite trails or wondered what it would be like to clear that impossible climb? Mountain e-bikes provide just enough extra oomph to let you explore more, attempt new challenges, and carry more gear. They are also a great option for recovery days without having to jump on a road bike or trainer. So, get out and make that hot lap even longer without worrying about racing the clock.

SHOP E-MTB BIKES

ROAD E-BIKES

Whether your goal is to ride beyond your borders, to be able to hang with a stronger riding partner, or keep your recovery days fun, e-road bikes will give you the assistance to push farther and harder than ever before. Plus, an e-road bike can make your daily commute within biking distance and let you avoid sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

SHOP ROAD E-BIKES

COMMUTER E-BIKES

Looking to ditch your car for your daily commute? Need a good way to haul groceries or kiddos? Built with comfort and cargo in mind, commuter e-bikes are a great way to get where you need to go without breaking a sweat. Match your commuter setup to the myriad of accessories to meet your cargo carrying needs.

SHOP COMMUTER E-BIKES

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E-BIKE REGULATIONS

E-BIKE RULES, REGULATIONS, AND LEGISLATION

While e-bikes are very similar to their human-powered pedal siblings, they do add some new additional considerations for state and local policies. Generally, e-bikes are allowed to ride on city streets, but things can get a bit less clear after that because of the evolving laws and regulations. PeopleforBikes is putting a lot of effort into coordinating state and local policies to help reduce confusion. Their e-bike model has been adopted by several states already and they are pushing for adoption nation-wide. Learn about the regulations in your area using their state-by-state e-bike guide. You can use this resource to check for licensing, registration and age regulations in each state.

There are a few different ways that e-bikes can apply their power assistance, limits to top speeds, and how the rider controls the power output. These factors meant that e-bikes needed a classification system to help create proper rules around their use on trails and on city streets. 

E-BIKE CLASSIFICATIONS

Class 1: The motor assists the rider only while actively pedaling, and the motor assist stops when you reach 20 mph. This is the most common class and is the primary style of e-assist for mountain bikes.

Class 2: Use pedal-assist mode up to 20 mph, but class 2 e-bikes also have a throttle-only mode that doesn’t require any pedal input from the rider. This is the only class with this mode. Class 2 bikes face a lot of regulations and state/local laws as to where they can be ridden and are banned in many areas.

Class 3: Works like Class 1 (pedal-assist only), but the additional motor-assist cuts out at 28 mph. These are primarily allowed on city streets and are found on commuter and road bikes where the extra speed helps them flow with traffic better.

Guide Sections

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?  |  WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?  |  TYPES OF E-BIKES  |  BATTERIES, MOTORS & RANGE  |  FEATURES & ACCESSORIESSHOP E-BIKES

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UNDERSTANDING BATTERIES, MOTORS, & RANGE

BATTERY CAPACITY, MOTOR POWER, AND RANGE

When selecting an e-bike, the primary question to answer is determining the balance between power, capacity, and range that you'll need. Designers work to match these needs to the specific type of bike they design, but there are tradeoffs that must be made. Be sure to consider your riding conditions, terrain, and weather when selecting your e-bike.

Guide Sections

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?  |  WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?  |  TYPES OF E-BIKES  |   REGULATIONS  |  FEATURES & ACCESSORIESSHOP E-BIKES

BATTERIES

  • Capacity: Big batteries provide more capacity, but quickly add weight to the bike which affects handling and range. Some bikes allow the use of a 2nd battery for additional capacity.
  • Watt Hours (Wh): the amount of hours a battery can supply 1 watt of power before being depleted. 
  • Range Considerations: Hilly terrain, heavy loads and cold or windy weather can adversely affect range.
  • Charge Times: General charge times range from 3-5 hours or longer for larger batteries.
  • Mounting Locations: batteries can be internal or externally mounted. External are easier to charge or replace, but internal can provide more room for bottles and accessories, and look nicer too.

MOTORS

  • Mid-Drive: these motors are mounted around the cranks of the bike providing a natural feel and very efficient power delivery with good weight distribution. Most e-bikes Jenson USA sells are mid-drive. These are especially ideal for full-suspension mountain bikes.
  • Hub-Drive: the motor on these bikes is usually mounted at the rear hub. They are cheaper, but tend to be less efficient, harder to change flat tires, and are not ideal for weight distribution.
  • Power Usage: A 500Wh battery and 500-watt motor will deplete the battery much quicker but provide more power output than if the same battery is matched to 250-watt motor. 
  • Torque: the measure of force (Nm) that can cause an object to rotate about an axis. More torque is needed for hilly terrain or heavier loads.

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E-BIKE FEATURES & ACCESSORIES

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING AN E-BIKE?

As with any bike, there's a lot more to consider than just the frame. For an e-bike, your search begins at your riding style and motor/battery needs but you will want to compare other features, components, and accessories, as well. Plus, you'll want to be sure you are finding the correct fit in order for you to be comfortable throughout your ride.

  • The Controller: Most e-bikes will have some sort of controller with an LCD display to help you navigate the settings and options of your e-bike and monitor your battery capacity, mileage, and range. This is also where you can quickly select yoru pedal-assist modes.
  • Pedal-assist levels: Whether you are looking to get the most range or the most assistance, e-bike controllers offer 3 or 4 assist levels, ranging from Eco to high power for speed and torque. 
  • Smartphone compatibility: Some of the higher-tier bikes will be able to connect to your smartphone to get even more functionality from your bike. This can include GPS, deeper stats, ride communities or bike locking features.
  • Additional accessories: Many e-bikes are offered with integrated accessories or the option of upgrading your bike with add-ons. Many work across brands, but some are optimized for the brand's specific line of bikes.
    • Lights for commuting in the evening safely
    • Racks can be used to haul gear, groceries or even extra passengers
    • Locks can be built-in to the frame or software to help deter would-be theives
  • Component quality: Just like normal bikes, higher priced bikes will be spec'd with better components. We find that with e-bikes it is more important to focus on strong components over lightweight to ensure they will hold up to the extra weight and torque of an e-bike.
  • Frame Material: Most e-bikes are made of aluminum, but you will get more range and better handling with a lighter bike. If your wallet can handle it, going with a carbon frame and lighter (but still strong) parts will improve the ride characteristics and range you can ride.

Guide Sections

WHAT IS AN E-BIKE?  |  WHY CHOOSE AN E-BIKE?  |  TYPES OF E-BIKES  |   REGULATIONS  |  BATTERIES, MOTORS & RANGE  |  SHOP E-BIKES