How to Choose an Electric Bike: 10 Criteria to Consider Before Buying

Last Updated on November 7, 2022 by Igor Karni

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Thinking of purchasing an electric bike? Here’s a list of 10 things you should know about electric bikes before buying one. No matter what type of e-bike or budget you are considering, we got you covered!

1. What you are buying your electric bike for?

While it might seem obvious, this first piece of advice is not always self-evident. Before spending several hundred (or even thousands) of dollars or euros on an electric bike, or even before deciding on which electric bike to buy, make sure that you actually enjoy riding it; that your journey is feasible, and that you will not be facing any issues with it (problems with parking it, to plug it in, etc.).

Once you have that figured out, you can move on to deciding what type of electric bicycle you are thinking of using; would it be strictly an e-bike-to-work schema, meaning comfort above all and an upright position to avoid back pain? 

Read also: How to select the best – mountain, touring, commuter, cruiser, junior, city here or here, trike, folding, hybrid, cargo, road, gravel, kids’s here or here e-bike – in our comprehensive e-bike selection guides.

Or would it be more of an e-bike for commuting and having fun with, meaning a bit more power and possibly more trail-oriented wheels and tires? Or perhaps thinking of using it somewhere with big hills, therefore requiring a good engine and easy pedaling? Paths between two villages and therefore the need for a large autonomy to go back and forth?

Our advice on this matter is to perhaps take the time to rent an electric bike for a month or so, or purchase a second-hand bike for a not-so-large budget. The aim here is to test it out before going in, guns blazing, and spending your money on something that you might not be satisfied with later. 

You can also go to your local retail chain shop (such as Walmart or other) and leave with one of the excellent entry-level, city, or gravel e-bikes. The investment will be small and you will have a decent bike to fall back on in case your future electric bike breaks down.

2. Electric bike motor and torque

If we take away the classic mechanics of a bike, the engine is the key part of your electric bike. We advise you to pay close attention to its torque, expressed in Newton-meters, which will accompany you on climbs and will allow you to start off at a speed which, in town, is quite important for your safety.

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Bosch is one of the undisputed leaders, and our tests show us time and time again that whatever the range, their models meet the cyclist’s specifications. Bosch’s blind spot is in the light engines where brands like Fazua are doing very well. 

Respectable manufacturers (Specialized, for example) sometimes opt for in-house engines: it is difficult however to advise on those without having them tested first. The feeling of riding with custom-built motors is never standard; it can amaze some and disappoint others.

Read also: Front, mid-drive, or rear e-bike motor. Which one to choose? And, What is the difference between e-bike motors?

3. Type of pedal assistance available

Make sure you try out different types of e-bikes before you buy one yourself, and in particular, different types of motorization. A pressure sensor drive (sometimes called force or strain) gives a pedaling action much closer to what you would get using a mechanical bike. 

A rotation sensor drive, which is found on the more entry-level bikes, will inevitably have a slower response to your pedal strokes and a small delay between the activation of the engine and your pedaling efforts. The effect, once started, will feel a bit more like that of a moped and less like a bike.

Read also: How to use gears on an electric bike (mechanic and electric)? And, How to switch electric assistance levels on an e-bike?

4. Electric bike price

The price is an important element in the choice of an electric bike, because the quality of bikes can vary alongside their price levels. Generally speaking, you can say that electric bikes, with no nasty surprises, start off at around 2,000 dollars or euros. 

At lower prices, there are often compromises to be made – or some excellent (or not so excellent) surprises. As you go up in price, you can find higher-end components, more powerful engines, more accessories, and, often, more gadgets. 

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The connected aspect of an e-bike can easily make it 1,000 dollars more expensive than an e-bike with the same characteristics but without this package of extra gadgets. Do not hesitate to read our tests and guides to find out how to spot the best electric bikes!

Finally, do not forget to consider regional, municipal, and company subsidies, which can allow you to get the same quality eclectic bike for a lot less.

Read also: How much does it cost to own an e-bike? And, What is the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes?

5. The maximum distance on full assistance

When a manufacturer announces a range of autonomy, expressed in miles or kilometers, that the e-bike could travel on a single charge, always take a look at the lowest figure. 

This would be the closest figure to the normal use of this chosen electric bike. Often, if you choose this type of cycle, it is because you do not want to make many efforts – especially for a trip between home and the office.

If an e-bike can do “40 to 120 km” (25 – 75 miles) on a single charge, imagine that the 40km (25 miles) advertised range reflects a typical scenario in which you will mostly use the engine’s most powerful mode. Some manufacturers offer accurate calculators, taking into account your weight and the average gradient of your typical route.

Read also: How far can e-bikes go? What is e-bike range on a single charge? And, How fast are e-bikes?

6. Removable (or not) battery

This consideration is crucial when considering purchasing an electric bike. The reason why we insist on its importance is that if you do not have a power outlet in your garage or you can’t put your e-bike in your house, you’ll appreciate being able to charge its battery by removing it from the frame. 

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Fortunately, most batteries are actually removable. A few electric bikes that do not have a removable battery have made this choice for reasons of limiting weight (making a very light e-bike) or style (hiding the battery entirely within the frame). 

In any case, this element should be very well considered before making your purchasing decision!

Read also: What are the differences between e-bike batteries? And, How to properly store an electric bike?

7. The ability to have your e-bike repaired easily

An electric bike is not really easy on the pocket; therefore, you would not want it breaking before you can fully enjoy it.

We recommend having it serviced every 1,000 to 2,000km (600 to 1200 miles), depending on your usage. However, unlike a mechanical bicycle that can be repaired anywhere, the shop you choose must have the skills and competencies to fix the electronics and the electric engine of an electric bike.

Generally, if you buy an e-bike from a street retail shop, they will most likely be able to handle the after-sales service. However, if you choose to buy online, you should consider asking the retailer or brand if they have partnerships with physical service centers. 

If not, there is a risk that your new e-bike could be out of service for a long time because of the logistics involved. It can take several weeks from the time you detect a breakdown, to the time you ship it out for a repair, the repair taking place, and your e-bike returned to you.

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This advice also depends on the type of e-bike you decide to buy. If an e-bike classic design and standard components, you will have no trouble finding and replacing spare parts if something goes wrong. 

If you opt for an electric bike with unique or rare components (I am thinking of all modern connected bikes, such as Cowboy or VanMoof), it will be difficult to go through a third-party service that is not the manufacturer.

Read also: How to clean your electric bike (and not mess up)? And, How to prepare your e-bike for winter?

8. The shape of your e-bike’s frame

The shape of the frame, style put aside, needs its own special attention; would you want an e-bike that is easy to step over (think dresses, suits, tight clothes…) or an e-bike having a more versatile and rigid frame? 

A high or closed frame will be easier to attach and more pleasant to ride on rough roads, but a low or open frame will be easier to straddle.

Read also: Which electric bike to buy? Making your educated e-bike selection choice – also in this article, and this article. And, best folding e-bikes for women, reviewed and compared.

9. E-bike weight

An average electric bike is considerably heavier (over 20 kg or 44 pounds) compared to its mechanical counterpart. If you do not have to carry it, this detail is not really relevant to you when deciding on the type of e-bike to buy. The engine, even at the minimum level of electric assistance, will compensate for its weight. 

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Photo credit Himiway bikes

However, if you know you would be carrying it upstairs, lightweight bikes are your best friends; you can get down to around 15 to 17 kg (33-37 pounds) with such machines. Their price is often higher and such models may generally have non-removable batteries, for weight-saving purposes.

Read also: How heavy are e-bikes? And, Can an e-bike pool a trailer?

10. Gadget and equipment sold with the e-bike 

Last but certainly not least, the equipment sold with your e-bike is an important factor to consider, particularly thinking about the budget. If you buy a fully equipped electric bike, with quality mudguards, proper lighting, a luggage rack, and a kickstand – which, for us, is the standard for the city – your budget could vary from 200 dollars or more, depending on the range you choose.

If you are aiming for a fun bike for trail riding or mountain biking, you should also make sure that the bike’s equipment is well adapted to your activity – for example, you would not necessarily need a kickstand or lighting.

Read also: E-bike brands, manufacturers, models, countries: complete list (560+).

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