The best eBikes designed for commuting to work or school share some common features and functionality. In this article, we'll share what to look for when shopping for a commuter eBike, and also some things to avoid when shopping for this type of bicycle.
Commuter eBikes are one of the best available options to replace car trips. Modern commuter electric bicycles can travel at high speeds, have a long range between charges, and are packed with convenience features that make commuting by bicycle easier and more fun.
High-power motors capable of 28 MPH (Class III) speeds
Better eBikes for commuting feature high-power motors (typically 500 watts) that produce plenty of torque for fast acceleration and climbing hills. Both hub drive and mid-drive motors area common on commuter eBikes and either can be used for successful commutes to work or school.
Most eBikes designed for commuting are Class III models, which mean they provide pedal assist at up to 28 MPH. These higher speeds are ideal to better keep up with car traffic, allowing riders to "take the lane" when needed.
Commuter eBikes often have throttles
Many riders want to arrive at work or school free of sweat, especially those who don't have showers or changing facilities at their workplace. Commuting by eBike is admirable, but no one wants to arrive for an important meeting drenched in sweat from a challenging bicycle ride.
An eBike equipped with a throttle allows you to travel at up to 20 MPH, without pedaling. Just push a button or twist a grip, and the electric motor will turn on to propel you, without pedaling. Some commuter eBikes don't have throttles (especially those with mid-drive motors) so make sure to shop around if this feature is important to you. Throttles are more common on commuter eBikes that use rear hub motors.
Sufficient range for round-trip commutes without charging
Better eBikes for commuting have battery packs that allow you to get to and from the office without having to charge during the day. Before buying, check the real-world range tests to make sure you'll have enough battery power to get home without running out at the end of the day.
Range varies based on rider weight, terrain (flat vs. hills), battery capacity, and how much pedal assist or throttle the rider uses vs. power from their own legs. The battery capacity of an eBike is measured in watt-hours, and you can think of it like the size of the fuel tank on a gasoline car. Look for a commuter eBike with a capacity of at least 600 watt-hours for a better chance of doing a round-trip eBike commute without charging during the day.
If your commuter eBike lacks sufficient range, bringing the charger to work to charge during your work day is also an option - just make sure you have a secure place to charge first.
A rear rack for carrying cargo
Most riders who commute by eBike need to carry some gear along with them - perhaps a work uniform, lunch, briefcase, or a laptop computer. An eBike equipped with a rear rack is a must for this type of use.
A rack is the base on which you can build for carrying more cargo. Add a basic rack-top bag to hold small items like lunch, shoes, or repair kit. For riders who need to carry more, mounting panniers on your rear rack adds enough space to securely carry laptops or a change of clothes.
It's also common for rear racks to have a mounting point for a tail light, adding an extra measure of safety to your commute. Always use front and rear lights when riding at night.
Commuter eBikes have fenders to keep you and your bike dry in wet weather
For riders in wet climates, fenders are a must on an eBike intended for commuting. Fenders keep road spray on wet days away from your bike and body. Fenders keep your eBike cleaner, reducing time spent on maintenance, and more importantly, help keep your clothes dry.
You'll find fenders as a stock feature on many commuter eBikes. Fenders can also be added if your favorite eBike doesn't include them and you plan to ride in the wet.
Unfortunately, eBike theft is a reality in some cases. You'll of course want to use a quality lock, but some commuter eBikes have anti-theft features built right in. For example, some models use a security PIN code on the display, which stops the eBike from powering up until the correct PIN code is entered. Denago's Commute Model 1 line, for example, uses this type of PIN lock.
While a PIN code may not stop a bike thief, at least you'll have the satisfaction of preventing them from using the eBike features!
You should also look for a commuting eBike that uses a locking key to secure the battery to the frame. Without this feature, it's just too easy for a thief to steal your eBike battery, which is the most expensive part to replace.
Heavy-duty tires meant specifically for eBikes
Many budget eBikes use tires that simply aren't up to the task of bicycle commuting. If you intend to commute to work or school by eBike, make sure your eBike has the right tires. Tires on commuter eBikes should:
- Be eBike speed rated for 28 MPH. Only better tires intended for use on high-speed eBikes will meet this criteria. Just as with an automobile, higher speeds demand better tires for safe handling and braking.
- Include reflective sidewalls. Reflective tire sidewalls "light up" when hit with a headlight, an important safety feature for commuting by eBike in the dark.
- Use an anti-puncture belt or strip between the inner tube and tire tread. You can't afford to be late to work due to a flat tire. Better quality tires intended for bicycle commuting include features that reduce the chance of a puncture.
Just as with a car, tires on an eBike are a critical component that contribute to safety and performance.
Built-in front and rear lights
While it's possible to add battery-operated headlights and tail lights to any bicycle, the top commuter eBike models offer lights as a built-in feature. Look for commuter eBike models that include both front and rear lights, a must for riding in dim or dark conditions.
What to avoid when shopping for a commuter eBike
It's possible to ride to work or school with any bicycle. But you'll have a safer, faster, more comfortable experience if you use the right tool for the job.
Here are a few types of bikes and specs to avoid when shopping for a new eBike with commuting in mind:
- Tires that aren't puncture-resistant. Flat tires will make you late for work! An eBike that uses tires that are susceptible to punctures isn't a good choice for commuting.
- Avoid eBikes that lack mounting points for racks and fenders. Some very inexpensive eBikes completely lack the mounting points on the frame to add these important accessories.
- Most riders like a "heads-up" riding position on a commuter eBike, which makes it easy to look around in traffic. Bikes with very low, aggressive handlebar positions where the rider is hunched over may not be the best choice.
For eBike commuters, the time is now
There's never been a better time to consider an eBike as an alternative to your car commute - it's faster, easier, and more convenient than ever! The team at Bike.com can help you choose the right gear for bicycle commuting. Write or call anytime for guidance.