For far too long, bicycles have been a dominant form of transportation. With environmental and health concerns constantly on the rise, it seems that bicycles are the surest way of getting from one place to another. Many cyclists prefer the modern electric bike to the traditional bicycle, only because the electric aspect brings an added advantage of increased speed to the table.
What Is An Electric Bike?
Electric bikes are just modified versions of the custom bicycle. Both have the same frame- pedals included. But the e-bike is mounted on a motor. The motor is usually of the hub-motor, mid-assist or belt drive type, and is connected to the rear wheel. In order to operate the electric bike, the rider needs to pedal the bike so that he can leverage the power of the battery and motor to increase the speed of the ride.
To operate the bike, you need to turn the system on and then twist the throttle, push a trigger or pedal the bike to get it running and fire up the motor. Then you can manipulate the speed of the bike as per your convenience. Usually, e-bikes come with an upper-speed limit, and you also have to adhere to whatever the legal speed limit is in your area.
Different Types Of E-bikes
Because of the growth in production, the sheer number of e-bikes available in the market has increased by a large measure. Almost every category of a bike has an e-bike variant available, and this both a boon and curse. While you do have a lot of options to choose from, sorting through tons and tons of choices can become a headache quite soon.
The new torque sensor motors on e-bikes are very intuitive. This enables experienced riders to get what they want from their bike while honing in on the added advantages that come with riding an electric bike.
Hub Drive and Mid Drive Motors
Electric bikes mainly come in two types- hub driven and mid-drive driven. Hub motors are located on the rear half of the wheel. The others are located in the middle of the bike, which is why they are known as mid-drive motors.
Hub Motors On E-Bikes
They are the most common type of motors for electric bikes. Hub motors operate on a cadence sensor, which is responsible for recognizing the movement of the pedals. Thereby, it provides a relative thrust on the rider.
In a hub-assist motor, the maximum amount o power is placed on the rear portion of the bike, namely, on one of the rear wheels. This makes them excellent for on-road travel. However, because of their weight, hub-assist motors falter when it comes to steep and rocky terrain.
Hub-assist motor e-bikes cater to the needs of cyclists who want to enjoy the quiet pleasures of an electric bike, while also accessing the type o power generally seen in a motorbike.
Mid-Drive Motors On E-Bikes
Mid-drive motors use more sophisticated sensors than the cadence ones used in hub-motor electric bikes. Namely, these sensors are called torque sensors.
These bikes are renowned as high-performance mountain bikes, hybrid road bikes, and cargo/delivery bikes. Basically, they come into play in situations where you need an enhanced torque force- such as in hauling heavy loads, travelling up hills, or riding in a rocky road.
The mid-drive motor is placed between the pedals, in the middle of the bike. The purpose of this placement is two-fold- firstly, it regulates the rider’s ability to ride uphill and downhill as he/she pleases. The central placement also balances the bike, giving you the optimal centre of gravity for adventure or sports bike riding.
The sensor used in a mid-drive assist motor e-bike is important as well. Here, sensors detect your speed when you ride the bike, and that decides how much assistance you get from the motor. Mid-drive motors do very well as mountain bikes but are a bit on the noisy side.
Pedal Assist and Pedal Free Throttle
Another aspect which differentiates the different types of e-bikes is whether they offer pedal assist or pedal free throttle actions.
Pedal Assist Electric Bikes
Pedal assist only electric bikes to have motors which are designed with torque sensors to provide pedal-assist only. The amount of assistance you receive, however, is dependent upon the rate, power, and speed you go up to.
The power output of the pedelec is usually limited to 250 W and it can reach a maximum speed of 25kmph. There are motors which can go up to 45kmph, but acquiring them requires a special driver's license, plates, and insurance.
Pedal-Free Electric Bikes
While many cyclists prefer the pedal only electric bikes because it provides an added feeling of authenticity, the pedal-free electric bike has its own set of perks. This comes in handy in circumstances where you are unable to use the pedal, such as in the case of an injury or a serious health condition. In such a scenario, just using the throttle can help you achieve the speed you desire. Many hub motors and some mid-drive motor e-bikes come with the pedal free throttle feature.
Another important aspect of the electric bike which decides its potency is the battery. The battery power, in turn, influences the range of the bike.
Most of the modern electric bikes use a lithium-ion battery. Obviously, the quality of the battery will depend on the price- the higher the price, the better the quality.
Batteries tend to wear out after a while, so it would be wise to spend more on a high-quality one, which comes with at least two-year warranty. Usually, lithium-ion batteries last for 800 full charge cycles. If you are careful about using the product, they will last for around 2000 cycles.
Charging the battery is the only frustrating aspect of an electronic bike since it needs to be charged for close to 6 hours for a 40-minute drive.
Range refers to the distance an e-bike can cover with one full charge. This is the most important aspect of the product. The range of the bike you choose should be conducive to the distance you plan to cover each day, especially if you will be using the bike for your daily commute. Again, if you won’t be travelling a long distance each day, then you don’t need a bike with an exaggerated range.
The range of the bike depends on the battery, speed, your weight, the terrain you travel, and the assistance you require from the motor.
It is smarter to buy a bike that has a slightly high range than what you require, to keep room for battery-related depreciation.
Can You Maintain An E-Bike On My Own?
It is best if you buy your electric bike locally so that you can be present when your bike is assembled. This will make room for specific torque ratings, screws and the like. Also, the fit will be made to suit the rider to improve the comfort level of the bike.
While you can complete the basic maintenance tasks such as cleaning and polishing the bike on your own, technical checkups such as a monthly examination of the battery and the motor should be completed by an expert for added security.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Owning An E-Bike
While e-bikes can be fun to operate, it does have some unpleasant repercussions. Listed below are some of the pros and cons of owning an e-bike:
- They provide higher speeds with lesser effort. Although the speed of the motor is limited, the rider can make the vehicle go faster with extra pedalling, this is especially suited to new riders or those who are trying to get in shape.
- Since it requires a minimum effort to drive an e-bike, you can use this as your transport to work each morning. You wouldn't have to worry about sweating in your work clothes. Also, you'll be able to avoid the city traffic during rush hours, because the e-bike can be ridden on the sidewalk, across a park, and through an alleyway. This makes it a better bargain than a car in many ways.
- E-bikes can also help older people to keep up with the younger riders with more stamina. Also, e-bikes are fantastic for long rides, because they prevent you from wearing yourself out too much, while still giving you the benefits of a whole workout.
- This being said, electric bikes are definitely way cooler than normal bikes. You might even be asked a few questions by curious onlookers once you’re on the road.
- Electric bikes have a complex frame. They come with more parts than a normal bicycle so that automatically means that there are more parts that can wear out. Although the electric bikes we have in the market today are very good, the possibility of something breaking down or malfunctioning completely cannot be eradicated.
- E-bikes are a lot heavier than normal bikes, mainly because of the extra attachments that they come with. Namely, these are the battery, electric motor, and controller. Normally this wouldn't be a problem unless the battery was to run out of juice and you had to haul the bike up just by pedalling.
The batteries need to be charged for long periods of time after each rode. Also, batteries wear out every 2-5 years and need to be replaced. That does add a significant amount of money to the maintenance costs of this vehicle
Why Should You Bike An Electric Bike?
After all, is said and done, the question remains- why exactly do you need an electric bike?
The only reason why you should own an electric bike is if you want to amplify your riding speed. This means you can trade a car ride to the office for a refreshing bike ride. How much effort you need to put in depends upon whether you buy a pedal assist bike or a motor assist one. Electric bikes can also be a viable option for those who cannot or do not want to take up cycling anytime soon.
Electric bikes do tend to raise a few eyebrows, because of how fast they can accelerate within a short period of time. This may create some issues with pedestrians if the rider is not careful enough. They also need special licenses, insurances, street legalities and many other government permits. But it is not different than getting a permit for riding any other vehicle. And e-bikes are a very harmless form of transportation too.
Also, the DIY e-bikes that you can create at home are also deemed dangerous by many. But honestly, it is all a question of who is at the wheels. In the hands of an inexperienced rider, even an innocent bicycle can injure quite a few people.
The Best Electric Bikes Of 2018
Selecting the perfect e-bike can be a tedious process. there are too many options to choose from. And if you are a new buyer, you might have no idea what you’re even looking for. This is where compilations such as this one come in handy.
Each electric bike is made up of the same components- the frame, accompanied by the motor and the battery, as well as suspension brakes and the like. Your choice of bike should depend on the terrain you travel each day, the distance the bike can cover on one full charge (range), the type of motor in use, and whether it fits your needs and comfort requirements.
When you’ve finally weighed all your options and settled on the perfect choice, don’t hesitate to ask for a test drive before sealing the deal. As much as you would want to depend on the internet and word-of-mouth, only you can be the best judge of what you want.
Also, once you try the bike on for size, you can be fully aware of how well it works for you. If possible, ride the bike on the road you would normally take with it, to assess how well it does on that particular terrain. Pay attention to the motor output, the brakes, the pedals, the comfort- basically everything you can think of at the moment.
With that being said, here are some of the best electric bikes of 2018.
This fast electric mountain bike runs on a powerful 350-watt mid-drive motor. It also has a peak power output of 750 watts. The motor and the battery are well protected even in rough weather, considering that the bike is completely waterproof. The bike also has 3 different riding modes- throttle control, pedal assist and pedal only. With the throttle the only option, you can go up to speeds of 20 mph, which goes up to 28 mph when you switch to the pedal-assist mode.
Like all the bikes of the FLX range, this bike also comes with a charger, battery, LCD display, along with anything else you might need to ride.
- One of the most affordable bikes of the FLX range.
- The LCD control offers tons of information
- The motor is incredibly quiet.
- The positioning of the battery and the built of the frame makes the bike much useful for off-road uses.
- NO rear suspension means that the ride is bumpy
- The tires are standard and do not offer puncture protection
- The control centre is not removable, which leaves it at the risk of being scratched.
- Handlebars too narrow for a mountain bike
The SwagCycle uses a 36V battery and a 250W motor which can be charged in 2.5 hours. You can easily get 15 miles of continuous use from a single charge. It is easy to ride, has zero emissions and can support more than the average weight of an adult. The handlebar display and controls allow you to operate the bike fully, which means you can check the battery life, honk the horn, accelerate and brake from the handlebars themselves. The bike also comes with a super convenient micro-USB port so that you can charge your devices as and when you ride.
- Shorter charging time.
- One of the best lightweight folding electric bikes in the market.
- The versatile aluminium frame is sturdy and safe, without adding too much weight to the frame of the bike.
- The bike is not conducive for taller riders
- The battery is not easily removable
- Not suitable for long rides, although the manufacturer does specify that it can go for a distance of 15 miles
- The battery does not last for a long time.
This specific bike has a strong 500W motor and a 36V 10AH Lithium-ion battery. It can go up to speeds of 3.5 mph with the help of its Shimano External 7 Speed Gear. As a lightweight bike, it can lift an impressive load of almost 250 lbs. This bike offers strength along with speed and should be on your checklist of options.
- Falls into the category of some of the best electric bikes under $1000
- It is safe to say that the bike is extremely powerful for the price range it comes at
- The battery is long lasting and can go up to 25 miles on a single charge
- Consider this option if you are looking for cheap electric bikes
- The only problem with this bike is that the controls seem too basic in comparison with the other electric bikes of a similar range.
This foldable electric bike is made from ultra lightweight aluminium alloy. The foldable design allows you to store it easily in your garage and save space. The 36V/8Ah lithium-ion battery can keep the bike operative for 15.5 miles on the throttle mode and up to 31 miles on the pedal assist mode. The lithium battery charger that comes with the bike provides fast charging, allowing the bike to be fully charged and functional within 4-6 hours. The 26" magnesium alloy integrated will have an anti-slip resistant covering, making it the ideal ride for rainy days when the roads are slippery.
The mechanical front on this e-bike is equipped with a 21 speed Shimano professional design, which provides it with the perfect climbing ability. One of the unique things about this bike is its wireless design which enables you to set the various specs through your smartphone. It is relatively simpler to control the lights and record mileage because of this system. The wireless system is compatible with iPhone OS devices and GPS.
- The aforementioned wireless connectivity is definitely a plus
- The handlebar control is superior
- The bike itself is compact and collapsible, which make it very easy to store.
- It is relatively smaller in size than the other mountain bikes
This phenomenal piece of technology has a lightweight alloy frame, which improves its acceleration, range and the ease of transportation. It is powered by a 250W brushless motor, which can support it to a maximum speed of 37 miles at a maximum speed of 15.5 mph. There are nine assistance levels on the bike, which makes it a perfect fit for newbie adolescents as well.
- The brushless 250-watt motor provides for improved speed and control
- The padded seats provide comfort while you ride
- Its frame is made up of aluminium, which makes the bike itself lightweight and easy to maneuver.
- The bike can handle off-road cycling
- Attractive design
- Although the bike can handle rocky terrains, it would be best to not use it for uphill rides.
- It is quite high-priced for the number of features it offers
This completes the list of the best electric bikes currently available in the market. The list takes into consideration several components of the electric bike and makes it choices accordingly. However, as we stated earlier, preferences differ from person to person, so when you pick out your ideal e-bike, make sure you take it for a test spin first.