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Buying an eBike? Don't make these mistakes

Buying an eBike? Don't make these mistakes

June 24, 2022 | Justin Christopher

EBikes are amazing tools! They empower people who are differently-abled or injured to get outside and remain active, riding partners of different fitness levels to ride together, and save money as an alternative to gasoline costs. There are so many different styles, makes, and models of eBikes for every possible rider and type of use - and unfortunately, that makes it pretty easy to buy the wrong eBike for your needs. 

You'll have a much better eBike experience if you do a little research to better understand which styles of electric bikes are the right match for your needs. Definitely don't make these common mistakes when you click "add to cart."

#1 Choosing an eBike based solely on motor wattage

More must be better, right? Not necessarily. There are definitely specific applications where more motor power is good - towing a trailer full of work supplies, for example. But most casual riders just don't need that much power - for many, a 500 Watt motor produces plenty of torque for fast acceleration and hill climbing, while balancing battery life. 

In fact, buying too much motor power can come with some big downsides, including:

  • Faster battery drain
  • Reduced range
  • Shorter time between required recharges - more time charging and less time riding!
  • for motors over 750 watts, questionable legality

It's better to match the motor output to the rider - lower power motors with less torque for casual, slower riders on mostly flat terrain, and increasing motor power for bigger, heavier riders who tow loads or ride more frequently in hilly terrain.

The legal limit for eBike motor power in the United States is 750 watts. EBikes advertised as 1,000, 2,000, or 3,000+ watts may be interesting technological marvels, but what's the point if you can't actually ride it anywhere?

#2 Buying an eBike with rim brakes

EBikes are bigger, heavier, and travel faster than their "analog" or "acoustic" counterparts without electric motors. You need powerful, reliable brakes to stop safely.

Disc brakes provide the stopping power required for safe stopping from higher speeds when riding heavier eBikes. Look for reputable brands with oversized disc brake rotors, which also help add more stopping power. Quality disc brake systems for eBikes should also include a "motor interrupt" feature that turns off the electric motor anytime you squeeze the brake levers - even if you forget to stop pedaling or release the throttle during a panic stop.

Many budget, "throwaway" eBikes have basic caliper rim brakes that just aren't up to the task (think about the style of brakes on Grandma's "10 speed" from 1982.) The difference is even more dramatic in the rain or mud. For safety's sake, it makes sense to eBikes with rim brakes - disc brakes are the modern, reliable and safe standard for eBikes.

#3 Buying an eBike that doesn't have an adjustable speed limiter

Better quality eBikes offer adjustable speed limiters, allowing the rider to choose the speed at which the motor stops providing assistance. This is an important customization feature that accomodates riders of different levels of speed preference, bike handling skills, and abilities. It's especially useful if you want to share your eBike with others.

If you purchase an eBike that is "locked" at a single speed, you lose the flexibility to raise or lower the speed limiter based on your needs and local terrain.

#4 Choosing an eBike that's illegal to ride on local paths or trails

Before buying an eBike, you should review the local streets, trails, and paths where you plan to ride it. While eBikes can generally be ridden on any paved roadway, that isn't the case for multi-user trails, bike paths, or off-road trails. Rules can vary at the federal, state, county, and city level.

If you're buying a Class III eBike (speed pedelec) capable of 28 MPH, make sure it can be "turned down" with a lower speed limiter to help you meet local trail access requirements. Similarly, it's good practice to make sure any eBike you're considering that is equipped with a throttle will also run with the throttle unplugged and removed, so that you aren't prevented from riding in locations where throttle use is not allowed. Denago's eBike line, for example, offer adjustable speed limiters and throttles that can be installed and removed as desired to help meet local requirements for access.

"Out of category" eBikes that don't meet the Class I, II, III rating system are barred from nearly all trails and bike paths. Avoid them, unless you plan to ride exclusively on property you control, like a private ranch.

#5 Buying an eBike that doesn't have service or warranty parts available

Unfortunately, some brands just don't invest in the amount of inventory needed to resolve warranty claims or shipping damage. Things might be great at first, but in the event you have a claim, you might find that common replacement parts like chargers, batteries, or displays simply aren't available.

Better brands of eBikes keep stock on hand so they can quickly resolve problems and get you back on the road or trail. Before buying, check to make sure the seller has "in stock" service parts for your bike and a plan to keep them on hand in the future. 

#6 Buying an unregulated or "out of category" eBike

Some "eBikes" aren't actually eBikes at all! These include bikes without operable pedals, and bikes with electric motors that go much faster than the legal limit of 28 MPH. In most states, these types of products don't legally qualify as bicycles, and might require insurance and/or registration (which is not required for compliant Class I, II, III eBikes.)

Reputable eBike brands always label their products as required by law. Any eBike you consider should carry a sticker that lists:

  • The Class I, II, or III designation
  • The motor wattage 
  • The maximum speed

Beware of products that lack this labeling or disclosure on the bike or the web page - a serious red flag.

#7 Buying from a brand or website that lacks support

Unfortunately, there are quite a few "fly by night" eBike sellers. Before making a buying decision, you should check:

  • That the seller is available for support - do they have a toll-free phone number? Do they respond to email?
  • Has a real business presence - do they have a street location with an office, warehouse, and inventory in the USA?
  • Check the seller's track record on the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and other consumer review websites. A high volume of complaints, and unresolved complaints, are red flags.

At Bike.com, we want you to have a great riding experience, so we're standing by to answer your questions, assist you in choosing the right model for your needs, and providing guidance about assembly or maintenance. Please write or call anytime.