New to Electric Bikes? Start with the Basics

We all see bikers on bike paths, side streets, and in parks, and we normally just assume they are riding classic brake-and-pedal bicycles. However, sometimes the riders may actually be riding electric bikes, or e-bikes for short. While these are very similar to your typical idea of a bike, there are also some key specifications you should know. 

Electric bikes are the same as classic bicycles and come with a frame and pedals. However, they are customized with an electric motor, usually which is a belt drive, mid drive motor, or hub motor that is attached to the rear wheel of the bicycle. This gives bike riders the options to either ride the bike as a classic bicycle, use battery power to let the motor propel the bike itself, or use both manual and motor power.

Since electric bikes use a battery, it must be charged before riding. In general, simply turning a few notches and starting the bike via a throttle or a trigger well turn the motor on and allow the bicycle to operate just like an electric scooter would.

Electric Bike Classes

In general, there are three different classes of electric bikes. First, some electric bikes start the motor when riders are pedaling and will stop assisting the rider when he or she reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour. The second class is just like the first class except these electric bikes also feature a 100% throttle-powered option. The third class is just like the first category except the pedal assistance will help up until 28 miles per hour instead of 20. 

So just how powerful are these bikes? In general, it depends where you live. Europe has stricter rules than other areas such as the United States. In Europe, electric bikes can only have up to 250-watt motors. The United States has looser rules, normally allowing up to 600 watts. As you might expect, electric bikes in the United States are speedier and more powerful than those in Europe. 

There are many reasons to invest in an electric bike. First of all, you don’t need a driver’s license or any sort of insurance in order to ride. They can also help you pass frustrating traffic, as you can use them on sidewalks and to cut through side streets. Just like regular bikes, these can also be taken on public buses or trains, and they also save you money on parking because they can just be connected to a bike rack or a pole. 

Electric bikes are also healthier for the environment than a typical vehicle, seeing as they do not use gas and don’t produce a slew of emissions. Electric bike batteries normally take between three and five hours to fully charge. Of course, depending on the size of the battery, it may take less or more time. Some electric bikes have an external battery that can easily be taken off to be charged. Other bikes have integrated batteries that are built-in so you have a space for a water bottle or small bag. 

You might be wondering how far you can make it on an electric bike without needing to charge it. This, of course, depends on how advanced a bike is. In general, electric bikes are able to use motor power somewhere between 20 and 50 miles on one charge. The most high-end bicycles can make it somewhere around 100 miles, but there are several variables that matter. The distance an electric bike can go depends on the motor, the battery, the tires, and the powering system. Typically, electric bikes that use a throttle operating system will drain the battery quicker than those without one. 

Also, what many riders forget is that weather conditions and the intensity of the terrain also impact the distance riders can get out of an electric bike. Rougher conditions cause more resistance and normally reduce the distance a rider can go on one battery charge.

Of course, consumers looking to purchase an electric bike are going to be concerned about the cost. The most commonly purchased electric bicycles range anywhere from $400-$2,000. This will vary based on the features in the power of the bike, and bikes with more bells and whistles and higher ranges can cost even more. Of course, an electric bike can normally only carry one person, but they do make tandem electric bikes and electric bikes that have rear seats. Some electric bikes can also be charged through solar power or wind power.

Extras will normally come at a higher price, but it is important to remember that in the long term, and electric bike can actually save money. People who are able to commute to and from work on an electric bike ultimately end up saving an exponential amount of money that they would have spent on gasoline and parking for a vehicle. As mentioned, these also save people time because they can avoid congested traffic, especially in a big, bustling city. 

Riding bikes is also a healthier option than sitting in traffic, and you can expect to burn somewhere between 300 and 400 calories an hour on an electric bike. Depending on the specific bike you are riding, and how much the motor helps you pedal, you may burn more or less calories. Either way, you are contributing to your health by investing in an electric bike.

Lastly, before buying an electric bike, you will want to make sure that the one you want to purchase abides by the laws, registration, age limits, and other rules in your specific state. You will also want to check out if your local area offers partial purchase subsidies for electric bicycles, as some cities offer discounts of a couple hundred dollars and other cities offer electric bicycle share programs.


Jason has owned an ebike for 3 years and loves them for many reasons - mostly because they offer low cost, energy efficient, and emission-free transportation which also has physical and health benefits.

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