If you are about to become one of those e-bike devotees, who have given away comfort of their cars or discomfort of public transportation in their daily commutes to work, to drop kids to school or after-school activities, or to visit parents, who live on the other side of the city, then this article is for you.
How to choose an electric bicycle for easy regular commutes? Choose e-bikes with a high handlebar, small or medium size of wheels and a detachable battery. Consider an e-bike with a foldable frame, install a rear rack or a basket for luggage. Install mudguards and chain guards. Always try a model that you want to buy.
There are several e-bike models designed for regular commutes. Let’s see what we need to pay attention to, when considering daily e-bike commutes and making those commutes easy and pleasant from the start.
What to look for in an e-bike for regular commutes?
I think a keyword here is “regular”. If you are going to be doing something often, as often as morning and evening commute to and from work, for example, spending a few minutes in preparing your trips will save you tons of time down the road.
Here are a few useful tips for preparing your e-bike commute.
High handlebar and upright sitting position
Choosing an e-bike model with a high handlebar that would allow you to sit upright would be my preferred sitting position for commutes. Why? There are several considerations for this choice.
First, you want your back to be up straight and not bent forward as on most sports bike models. This sitting position will take care of your back, especially if you are not a regular biker and just starting. Moreover, you will not feel tired or feel any back pain arriving at your destination.
Second, the upright sitting position gives you better visibility of your route, which is critical during a city commute, as cities can become quite busy, especially during their morning and evening rush hours. If you plan to commute to work, this is when your e-bike’s wheels will hit those busy streets.
Third, I find that by having an upright sitting position you will enjoy your rides more. You will not have to bend your neck to look forward. Rather you will naturally see everything that is happening in front of you, giving you an overall much more pleasant experience of each commute!
Fourth, it is worth mentioning that an upright riding position is safer and gives better visibility in traffic.
Foldable vs one-piece frame
Having foldable or a rigid one-piece bike frame is a choice you will have to make.
I would argue that foldable e-bikes are better suited for city commutes, especially, if your city commute includes several modes of transportation. Say if you are first e-biking for a few kilometers/miles and then have to take a train or metro, a foldable e-bike could make a better choice.
First, it will be more convenient to carry a foldable electric bike than a rigid frame one. This is even truer if you are using busy public transportation. Others will certainly appreciate your electric bike taking less space.
Second, if you are storing your e-bike in your office during a workday and there is no dedicated parking space for bikes (this is less and less the case these days, but still, not all office buildings are equipped with bike racks), a foldable model will be much easier to fit into an office.
If your commute is a simple e-bike commute door to door and you do not need to save space either on public transport or in your office, a one-piece frame could serve you better.
Obviously, one more option would be to buy a foldable model and not fold it without a need. For similar size e-bikes, a foldable model will be slightly heavier, as it will need to account for the folding joints.
Smaller to medium wheels
In general, foldable e-bikes tend to be smaller in size and, thus have smaller wheels. Having a smaller bike size and smaller wheels could be beneficial for heavy traffic city commutes, where you have to maneuver on busy streets, being part of morning or evening rush hours.
Smaller wheels will naturally have you pedal more frequently for the same distance. This will not be a big deal for short commutes, 20-30 mins. long. However, it may feel not so pleasant if you have to commute for an hour or so. Smaller wheel sizes for an adult city e-bike would range from 20” to 24”.
If your regular commutes are bypassing busy city streets and do not include lots of stops on traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, you may consider medium size bike and medium-size wheels, which will range from 24” to 26”. Medium size e-bikes retain good maneuverability, at the same time, these models will give you more speed and distance for your pedaling efforts.
Detachable battery to recharge
Although it isn´t a critical feature, having a detachable battery is a convenience that will help you have more battery power when you need. What would you do if you have forgotten to charge your e-bike overnight and need to leave on your daily commute in a few minutes? Assuming that you still have enough battery power to take you one-way, having an option to detach and recharge your battery at your destination is a useful one to have.
Most modern electric bike models already provide detachable batteries. Just make sure a model you are considering has one. If you are making regular, same destination commutes, it may also be useful to buy a second charging unit and keep it at your destination point.
Having a detachable battery is a good security measure as well. Batteries are often some of the most expensive parts of an e-bike. Detaching a battery and taking it with you, especially if you leave your e-bike on public parking for many hours, makes your e-bike less attractive for theft.
Rear or front basket and rear rack
Even if you do not think so right now, it is likely that, almost always, you will have to carry an extra load with you. This could be your office briefcase, or a change of clothes, or a gym bag, or a laptop, or groceries on the way back home in the evening.
There is a vast selection of easily attachable clip-on front or rear baskets (panniers). Your e-bike may even have one already available at the time of purchase. A rear rack is another good piece of gear to have installed. It does not take much space or weight but is very handy to carry bags, baskets or sacks.
Another option to carry this extra load is to have a backpack. For those who love backpacks (and I am one of them), having a backpack is all you need. A backpack can fit it a laptop, office papers, even some groceries if required. One nuisance of carrying a backpack is that it can leave a sweaty spot on your back. And this is certainly not what you would choose to have on your arrival at the office!
Read how not to sweat on your e-biking commute in a separate post.
Few extra tips
Here a few extra commuter-friendly features.
Installed mudguards will help keep your clothes be free of dirt and water stains. Again, many electric bike models will have mudguards installed by default. However, for some strange reason, some models still don´t, so make sure you ask for them.
Installed chain guards will stop your trousers or jeans from greasing or caught by a bike chain. Certainly, another must-have feature!
Nearly all current models of electric bikes will have disc brakes instead of more traditional V-brakes. Disc brakes offer improved braking power over V-brakes and work well in all weather conditions. We will talk more about disk brakes in other posts.
Commuting on an electric bike can and should be lots of fun. Why not? You are using the power of an electric motor to move you forward. Moreover, you are enjoying all the fun of regular biking without spending nearly as much effort.
Choosing the right e-bike model for your type of riding will ensure that you are most pleased with your e-biking experience from day one. Spend a few moments understanding your own needs and select type of e-bike that will be right for your anticipated routes and uses.
In addition, there is always an option to try! Ask your local e-bike dealer or rental agent to rent out a model that you are considering to buy. Spend a few hours testing it on the road, paying attention to the tips, listed above and in other posts on this site. This will be time well spent and you will make a much better-educated decision when finally making a purchase.
You may also want to take a look at How to choose an electric bike for a city? for some further tips.
and, certainly, do not miss “how to choose an electric bike for cross-country trips”.