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Andy’s top tips on buying an ebike. - Handlebar Jack

Andy’s top tips on buying an ebike.

 

Hey Everyone! 

My name is Andy and I'm the founder here at Handlebar Jack. Because I design and manufacture ebike accessories, my friends always ask me what kind of ebike they should get. I get it, it’s a big decision, so I thought I’d lay it all out there so that everyone can weigh the pros and cons, because with so many choices out there it can be pretty overwhelming. So, I'm here to help. Now, I'm not going to talk about a specific model or brand, my goal is to arm you with the information that you need to evaluate the models and brands on your own.


Let's break down all the different types of ebikes that are currently available. There are 

  • Folding bikes 
  • Mountain bikes 
  • Commuter bikes 
  • Road bikes 
  • Cargo bikes 
  • Beach cruisers 
  • Even an electric tandem bike! 

And let’s not forget the regular, standard ebike. 

There’s also electric trikes out there. They have three wheels, they're big, they're cool, they've got two wheels in the back and one in the front. While those are great, I'll add that to the list and we'll have to have a separate discussion about one down the road. 


But, actually, the choices just don't stop there. Let’s talk motors. 

ebike motors hub motor vs mid drive motor

There are two different types of motors for ebikes, as well. You can have a hub motor, that is located in the wheels, or a mid-drive motor, that is located in the frame attached to the cranks on ebikes. Motors power are typically rated by Watts ranging from 250 watts to 750 watts. Mid-drive Motors measure torque and Newton meters where Hub Motors don't. (Crack open those physics textbooks to figure out what a Newton meter is…What's a Newton meter??!!!)


Then you have the batteries. Most commonly, ebikes have 36, 48 and 52 volt batteries. But we'll talk later in detail about what Watts amps and volts mean in relations to these battery systems. 


Ebikes are sold in different classes, as well: Class one, two, and three. This varies in each state, but this generally means that some e-bikes have a throttle and some don't, some can go 20 miles per hour, others go 28 miles per hour. Did I mention that ebikes cost a lot of money?

I'm going to break down all the pros and cons and make your journey of purchasing an ebike easy, and it starts with two important questions:

  1. Where do you want to ride?
  2. What's your budget?

 

Let’s break it down…

 

Question 1: Where do you want to ride? Do you want to commute to work? Do you want to hit some trails on the weekends? Do you want to drop the kids off at school? Or maybe you have a bad knee and you can't ride as far as you used to. You see why this first question is important once you know the answer to this question we can look at the different styles of ebikes that fit how you want to ride.


Standard ebikes

standard ebike

Let's talk about my first category: standard ebikes. There are a number of different styles that fit into this category. These typically have a high crossbar or a diamond-shaped frame, but there are easy step through models, as well. These types of models are good if you're not that tall or have some joint issues and have trouble swinging your leg over a high bar. 


Our standard category of ebikes also have fewer accessories they may not include racks or fenders, and they may have reflectors instead of rear lights. Standard types of ebikes tend to well have standard size tires: nothing too knobby, or too thick, or too thin like a road bike tire. They tend to have nice grip that gives you a smooth ride. Standard ebikes also have some sort of front suspension. Fork options will vary based off of your price range. More of the budget-friendly options forego a front suspension fork with a rigid fork, which will impact the comfort of your ride, but they're cheaper. 


Folding -eBikes

Folding ebike

Another style of bikes are folding eBikes. These bikes do what the name says: they fold in half, and the handlebars fold down. They store in a very compact manner and are convenient for people who don't have a lot of space. So if you live in an apartment or just don't want a large ebike taking up space in the garage, a folding ebike may be right for you. They also tend to have smaller wheels, which can impact the comfort of the ride, and typically the battery capacity is a bit smaller, as well.  This is definitely more of a niche type market ebike, but if it's what you want they're pretty amazing.


Fat Tire ebikes

Fat Tire eBike

Fat Tire ebikes are next, and these things are super fun to ride. Again, like the name indicates, they have big three or four inch wide tires. These bikes are a bit of a crossover as they work well on streets, bike paths and light trails as well as sandy beach paths.  There's a huge subset of utility Fat Tire e-bikes that work well for recreational off-road riding, and even hunting activities. Like many e-bikes, Fat Tire e-bikes in particular tend to have a lot of accessories, from rear racks to surfboard racks and trailers with lots of cool stuff that can expand the utility. Some to consider about Fat Tire e-bikes, however, is that they are big, heavy and clunky, which can make them a bit cumbersome getting them into a bike rack and moving them around.



Beach Cruiser ebikes

Next we have beach cruiser style ebikes. These bikes have a very relaxed riding position and are typically bit bigger, with bigger tires. Beach cruiser ebikes come with a wide, comfortable saddle and swept back handlebars, which gives you that really nice relaxed riding position. They are good for general riding around on street riding bike paths, but definitely not for trails or off-road because beach cruiser style ebikes don't have a front suspension fork and they rely on bigger tires to add comfort to your ride.


Cargo or Utiliy ebikes

Cargo eBike

Another style of ebike is the cargo or utility ebike. These purpose-built bikes are made to carry more than one person or cargo. They tend to be longer and heavier and have a ton of accessories like: 

  • Kids-seat compatible attachment points
  • Running boards
  • Front and rear cargo baskets 
  • Front and rear fenders 
  • And even dual battery options!

Like fat tire bikes, cargo ebikes are big and heavy and will take up a lot of space in your garage. But these bikes work great if you live in a small community and want to replace a lot of your daily driving with an ebike.


Most of the ebikes we just talked about have a top assisted speed of about 20 miles per hour, but some can go as fast as 28 miles per hour, like the bikes in our next category: Commuter ebikes.


Commuter ebikes 

Commuter eBike

Commuter ebikes share a lot of similar design traits with standard ebikes. They tend to be diamond or step-through style frames. Commuter ebikes tend to include integrated headlights, tail lights, and on some of the newer ones, the rear tail lights are connected to your brakes and they actively turn on when you're braking. They come with front and rear fenders, and that helps keep the water and road grime off while riding. They also tend to be class 3 ebikes which means they're faster with a top speed of about 28 miles per hour for all the bikes we've talked about so far. There are models available with hub motors or mid-drive motors, and in another video I'll break down the differences between these two types of motors.  But the next few categories of ebikes we're going to talk about are almost exclusively outfitted with mid-drive motors. 


eMTB or e-Mountain Bikes

mountain e-bike

If you're in adrenaline junkie and you love hitting the trails, then an e-mountain bike or eMTB is for you. These bikes are designed to be as nimble as a regular mountain bike. Like I mentioned earlier, e-mountain bikes are exclusively fitted with mid-drive motors. The reason behind this is that the weight of the motor is centrally balanced and built into the frame. Because the mid-drive motor drives the chain to multiply the pedal power of the rider, these bikes are much better on hills, versus rear hub motors. And since the motor is housed in the bottom of the frame where the cranks are located, this leaves e-mountain bikes open to a host of third-party components and upgrades, everything from quad piston hydraulic brakes, automatic seat dropper posts, high-end shifters and a myriad of front fork suspension options. eMountain bikes come in a few different base configurations, including front suspension and full suspension ebikes. As you can imagine, a full suspension ebike can be a bit costly, but man they make a huge difference on the trail.  


eRoad Bikes

road e-bike

Like e-mountain, bikes, e-road bikes only have mid-drive motors for the same reasons, as it keeps the bike nimble and the center of gravity as close to the cranks as possible. Many of the really nice high-end e-road bikes have a completely integrated battery that's not removable. This trade-off is made to keep the bike as sleek and aerodynamic as possible, and again, e-road bikes are very close to standard road bikes, so that you can add just about any road bike accessory or upgrades that you like. 


Off Road Private Land Use eBikes

 

The last category of ebike I'm going to talk about, but not spend a whole lot of time on, is the whole category of off-road private land-usage only ebikes. In the United States, the legal power limit for any ebike is 750 watts, and now there are a ton of ebike manufacturers out there that make a thousand watt ebike, 5000 watt ebikes and, in my humble opinion, you're very quickly getting out of the realm of something recreational and into something more professional. That also raises the risk of injury considerably. So I would only consider one of these types of bikes if you have a ton of experience with these types of machines.


Let’s Talk Budget

Feeling closer to identifying the right ride for you? This is where budget becomes a consideration. The more budget-friendly ebikes tend to have rear hub motors, where pricier models tend to have mid-drive motors. The quality of the bike components also impact price, such as things like the type of frame material, hydraulic disc brakes versus mechanical disc brakes, the quality of the derailleur shifters, saddle and even the pedals. 


In future videos I'm going to dive into all of these details that we just spoke about. I'm also going to talk about the pros and cons of the different motor styles and I'm going to help you understand the power ratings and demystify amps and volts in your ebike battery systems. 


Where to Buy an eBike

So now you're probably thinking, “Andy all this information is amazing, but where do I buy an ebike?” 


Well, there are many options out there. You can buy one from an online bike manufacturer. One thing to consider there is that if you do so, how do you get that serviced? And I have an answer for that. Does it also make sense to buy from a local bike shop versus a big box store? You can do that, as well. Sometimes local bike shops will offer in-store service packages and will know the brands they carry well, and as a bonus, you’re supporting a small business, which is great. The bigger shops will sometimes offer warranty programs, too, and may have a bigger selection for you to choose from. It's not a quite clear-cut answer as there's pros and cons to all of these choices, and again I'm here to help you through this journey.  


Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or on my website at HandlebarJack.com.

Ride on, friends…

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