While the idea of electric bicycles has been around for quite some time, they’ve rapidly been pushed to the limelight in the past decade. And thanks to superior technology, improved electric batteries, and a variety of price points, this two-wheeled electric vehicle has become an ideal mode of transportation for riders everywhere.
Simultaneously, the number of options can seem a little daunting to choose from when sifting through the vast types of electric bikes on the market. Do you need a hub motor or mid drive system? Are electric hybrid bikes ideal for your route, or should you opt for an electric city bike? Making the big jump can be challenging – trust us, we know – and that’s where we come in.
Generally, e-bikes can be categorized into two main types based on the location of their motor: hub motor electric bikes and mid drive electric bikes. Or you can simply make your decision based on your specific travel needs. Let’s take a closer look below.
Hub Motor Electric Bicycles
Direct drive hub motors are larger in size, using the entire hub shell as the motor. Though faster and more durable, their heavier size results in less efficiency. These motors are always engaged and have no moving parts, resulting in an almost completely silent run. On the other hand, geared hub motors are smaller in size and could pass for a regular wheel hub. Designed with moving parts, these motors carry a more noticeable louder hum when in use.
Mid Drive Electric Bicycles
Mid drive systems are designed with the motor near or on the bottom bracket. This system allows riders to use whatever gears are on the bike, which as a result, allows the motor to turn closer to its ideal rotations per minute (RPMs) and be more efficient when traveling. With the motor located at the cranks, mid drive systems tend to have better weight distribution, creating a more balanced ride as a result. Known to feel more like a “normal bike,” mid drive systems are ideal for their ability handle trips that include long climbs.
Electric Hybrid Bicycles
An ideal choice for all around versatility, electric hybrid bicycles blend together traditional road bikes with mountain bicycles. As a result, these aren’t as heavy as mountain bikes, but they’re tougher than the typical road bike, making them ideal for commuting or riding local trails. You can also make your own electric hybrid by retrofitting an electric kit onto a great hybrid bike.
Folding Electric Bikes
If you’re looking for an e-bike that’s ideal for short distance commutes -- think biking to the train station, for example -- then folding electric bikes are your best bet. They’re typically lighter and smaller than most electric bikes, and have an upright seating position, which is perfect for cycling in traffic. Keep in mind that with their unique ability to be folded and carried, an average folding bike can weigh anything between 20 and 30 pounds, but with the addition of a motor, that can take the weight up to around 40 to 50 pounds.
Electric Mountain Bikes
Designed to explore trails or take on mountains, electric mountain bikes tend to be heavier and more powerful, allowing you to bike into the wilderness as well as take on obstacles like rocks and logs. Look toward investing in a high power electric bike (preferably between 500 and 750 watts) to address the demands of steep hills. Also, when it comes to breaks, search for mountain bikes that have disc brakes, as they offer improved stopping power under rough conditions.
Electric City Bikes
Typically designed with a more comfortable, upright sitting position, e-city bikes are perfect for cruising your local neighborhood in style. Usually a steel construction and paired with fatter tires than usual, these bicycles are ideal for casual, sweat-free cycling experiences. While speed may not be a top priority, torque and acceleration are due to frequent stopping when exploring your city.
These days, nearly every category of bicycle has an electric version available. And hopefully this guide assisted you in making the right decision as you take the big leap into the world of electric recreational vehicles.