Last Updated on November 12, 2021 by Igor Karni
More cities are becoming bike-friendly and well-designed for bikers. Electrically assisted bicycles offer more advantages over regular ones. Riding an electrically assisted bike isn’t as tiring. And you can take on pretty much any city landscape you want and still win.
How to choose an electric bike for city rides? Choose an e-bike with a high handlebar and an upright seating position. Consider models with medium-size to large-size wheels. Make sure the seat is comfortable and battery life is sufficient. It is useful to have a basket or a rear rack installed to help carry a sack or a backpack.
Yes, you will still need to pedal your bike. An electrically assisted bike will not ride by itself like a moped. Still, an electric bike offers a much lighter exercise experience, compared to a regular bike. As my wife once noticed, you can ride an electric bike on any terrain as if you were riding on a smooth flat street.
If you have decided to purchase an electric bike, you might be wondering, which one should I choose? What do I pay attention to when selecting an electric bike for a city? What size is right for me? Which bike gear do I need to consider? These were exactly the questions I faced when purchasing my first e-bike.
Yes, there are e-bike models, specifically designed for city rides. In addition, the number of models keeps growing, as e-bikes are becoming more popular. In this post, I will not be recommending any specific electric bike model. Model selection varies, depending on where you live, your local dealers, and availability. Moreover, new models with improved specs are launched frequently.
We will list a number of important factors to consider when selecting an electric bike for city use. There is no single electric bike on the market today that is good for every purpose.
Electric bike for city trips – a casual rider
For city trips, you are likely to be looking at casual rides that last 1-2 hours. You will need to be able to leave your bike in a parking lot or tie it to a metal fence for a couple of hours when running city errands.
You may also be interested in a child seat to be able to take your child on a ride with you. You are likely to be looking for a comfortable and easy ride that will not leave you sweating when you step off your bike.
If the above describes some of your needs for a city-ready electric bike, consider the following factors when purchasing a new e-bike.
Medium to large wheels
For a city bike, medium or large wheels are a better choice, as they will allow fewer pedal moves per distance traveled. This is especially true if your city has well-designed dedicated bike routes, on which you will not be interacting with a lot of cars or pedestrians. 24” to 28” is a good wheel size choice for a city bike.
There are bikes models that have smaller wheels (below 24”). These models should not be your first choice for a city bike but may work well if you are choosing an electric bike for commuting.
Sufficient battery life
You will need sufficient battery life, which does not necessarily need to be too long (this will save you cost and weight). You should be looking for an electric bike with a range of about 25-50km on a single charge. The battery capacity of most e-bike models starts around this range. A longer distance is not usually required, as there are usually top-up points within the city or at your final destination.
There are batteries that could last 100km or more on a single charge. Batteries are getting better as technology improves. However, batteries remain quite expensive.
Moreover, advanced and longer-lasting batteries are often heavier. You may want to consider this when making your choice. For casual city rides, long battery life is not usually a top consideration.
For a pleasant city ride, a comfortable seat is paramount. You want to have a smooth and pleasant ride. For you, your city bike is a means of transportation and fun. Make sure your bike’s seat is soft and comfortable to take you around.
Seats are usually replaceable, widely available, and not expensive. If on the e-bike model of your choice, seat comfort does not meet your demands, you should be able to buy a new seat or a cushioning seat cover without any difficulty.
High handlebar and upright seating position
I recommend a high handlebar and an upright seating position for a city electric bike. A high handlebar keeps your body upright, while you will have to bend your back to reach the handlebar with the sport variation.
The upright seating position also gives you a better ability to look around, when you ride. The sports position handlebar will have you look mostly on the road. This is usually not the most pleasant front view and head position when traveling in town. Sports variation makes it more difficult to see other bikers, pedestrians, and other potential obstacles, which can certainly be plenty on often-busy city streets.
In sports variation, you will have to bend your neck to look ahead. While seating upright you will be looking ahead with ease.
Number of e-bike speeds
Similar to regular bikes, electric bikes also have various speeds. You want to have a minimum of four electric assistance levels/speeds for a city electric bike, including a zero speed where electric assistance is turned off. If your city is not too hilly, this would usually be more than enough.
Zero speed is when electric assistance is not activated. This speed is usually a default one when you turn on your electric bike. At zero speed, there is no electric assistance. You can still pedal your bicycle. You will go as fast, as you can pedal.
First speed will serve you well on flat streets, or when you want to give yourself a bit of exercise going up not too steep hills. On second speed, you can take on small and medium hills without much effort. The third speed is usually there just in case you would like to go a bit faster or if you encounter a steeper hill.
Child seat mounting
A family ride on an electric bike is a fun adventure. Take your child with you and she will certainly appreciate this trip a lot! If your child is below seven and she does not have her own e-bike (and not many seven-year-olds have their own e-bikes!), it is a good idea to consider the child seat mounting option.
Not all e-bike models are designed to carry a child seat. Make sure you ask this question in a store or from a dealer. Depending on the model, child seats can be mounted on the rear of a bike (over a trunk), in the middle of a bike (over a frame), or on the front part of a bike (on a handlebar).
Shopping basket or trunk
When traveling in a city, there is often a need to carry extras on a bike. Be it your shopping list, a bouquet of flowers for a dear one, or a packet to pass to a friend. There is usually something that will require extra space.
Many electric bikes designed for city travels are already equipped with a clip-on / clip-off shopping basket (or pannier), or a trunk, or both. Just do not forget to ask if your bike is already equipped or you can additionally purchase and install such accessories.
Easy Tip: Do not miss the list of my favorite e-biking accessories.
Foldable electric bike
A foldable electric bike could be a great solution for city commutes, but not so much for casual city rides. Why? There are several details to take into account.
Yes, foldable electric bikes are great if you need to take one in the metro or on a train or leave it in your office during your working day.
However, a foldable electric bike is almost certain to have smaller wheels; thus, you will have to pedal a lot more for your distance. In addition, a foldable model is unlikely to have child seat mounting options.
For the rest, and if you do not need a child seat to be mounted, or you are OK with pedaling more and faster, a foldable e-bike may well serve your demands.
Keep in mind that normally an e-bike is usually twice as heavy as a conventional bike. Thus, if a conventional bike weighs around 10-13 kg (22-28 lbs), a full-size electric bike would weigh around 22-25 kg (48-55 lbs).
Weight is usually not an issue if you live in a house or a townhouse and you can roll out your e-bike right from your garage. Weight becomes a bit more of an issue if you need to take your e-bike up and down the stairs in an apartment building without an elevator.
Foldable electric bike models are usually both smaller and lighter. Lighter and smaller models will give you more flexibility to maneuver in traffic, crossing roads, parking, and taking public transportation, such as metro, bus, or train.
Always try before you consider buying
There is usually an option to try before buying. At a minimum, you can try various models at your local specialist e-biking store or at a local dealer. There are often e-bike rental places, where you can try a model that you like (or a similar one) for a couple of hours or even for a day trip.
Pay attention to the details that we have discussed above, have fun, and make a better-educated buying decision.
E-bikes and other types of nature-friendly electric-assisted transportation are quickly becoming a new standard in cities. If a city-ready e-bike is your choice, try a few and then go for it. Happy riding! I am sure you will not regret your choice.
And we, at Easy e-biking, will be doing our best to help answer your questions and make your e-biking decisions easy. This is our goal. Enjoy!