Which ebike is right for me?
Buying an electric bike can be very intimidating. Because this technology is relatively new, most people haven’t grown up around ebikes. You might know everything there is to know about carbon fiber frames and Shimano drivetrains, but that won’t help you very much in deciding whether a 750W motor makes more sense than a 500W motor or whether a 36Volt/15Amp hour battery is better than a 38volt/14Amp hour battery. What about torque? Will you be able to feel the difference between a motor that delivers 64Nm of torque vs 50Nm and is that difference meaningful when I’m riding my bike to work? And what’s a newton meter (Nm) anyway?
To help new riders navigate this complex buying process we’ve put together a quick guide to assist in the purchase of your first electric bicycle. Thanks to increased innovation and skyrocketing demand, we’re in the golden age of ebikes right now-which is why you’re suddenly seeing lots of them on the road these days. And with prices at the pump continuing to skyrocket you don’t have to be Walter Mercado to predict that ebike demand will only continue to go up.
Three factors to consider
If you ask us, the type of ebike that’s right for you depends on three factors essentially: lifestyle, cost and personality. Lifestyle and personality usually go hand in hand and cost is pretty easy to quantify.
Are you a bike courier or food delivery driver? If so you probably want something that’s powerful, safe, and super durable. Maybe you’re the type who just rides for fun and fitness and just wants something that keeps you in shape while riding around town. If this is the case you probably want something sportier and more nimble with a smaller motor.
As far as cost goes, you could fork over five, six or even thirteen thousand dollars on an ebike by established, high end manufacturers like Trek or Specialized but that can be pretty out of reach for a lot of buyers, especially if you’ve never even ridden an ebike before. The advantage of buying from one of those retail brands is that it’s pretty easy to find a shop in your neighborhood that sells their bikes, so bringing one in for maintenance is potentially more turn-key. The downside to this is you will pay through the nose for a bike that could end up sitting in your garage collecting dust.
We have a better idea. How about spending maybe $1000 or $2000 on an electric bicycle that is of comparable quality, looks just as cool, will be just as fun to ride and might change your life for the better. And if it cuts down on trips to the gas station… Sorry, the sound of ears perking up is deafening and I forgot what I was going to say.
Style of riding and lifestyle
Do you like riding upright in comfort or are you looking for a bike that is built more like a road bike? Every ebike has its own personality and every rider has their own preferences when it comes to what they like riding and what kind of lifestyle their choice of bike communicates to others. There are ebikes that look like fixies, ebikes that resemble classic beach cruisers, ebikes that are more utilitarian and packed with unique features and ebikes that look more like mopeds than bicycles. Before you decide which electric bike is right for you, it’s important to know all the options available in this price range.
Do you like riding fast?
Typically the more powerful the motor, the faster the acceleration of the ebike. Tire size also plays a significant part (thinner tires go faster on pavement but don’t do well on rougher terrain for example). Fat tires are more puncture resistant and practical but because they create more friction with the road, they’ll never be as fast as skinny road tires will on smooth pavement.
Big motors certainly carry more of a thrill but the downside to a powerful motor is that it will drain the battery faster and require more powerful brakes and a sturdier frame. The battery has to be bigger to compensate for the additional weight you’re carrying and high capacity batteries definitely cost more. As the motor output increases, so does the cost of the ebike so keep that in mind when deciding what you want to buy.
If you have a need for speed we recommend these ebikes: Juiced Bikes Scrambler, Aventon Level Commuter, Ride1Up 700
Do you want an ebike that will still provide you with a good workout or would you prefer minimal pedaling effort?
Ebikes are split into three classes. Class one ebikes don’t typically include a throttle and the motor only engages when you pedal. You might have heard the term pedelec used to describe certain types of ebikes. That just means it’s “pedal assisted.” Class one ebikes are only allowed to travel speeds of up to 20mph and as far as the law is concerned, are treated just like regular bicycles.
Class 2 ebikes are where you start seeing the addition of a throttle in combination with motors that provide pedal assistance. The major difference between a class two and a class three ebike is that class 3 ebikes are able to reach speeds of up to 28 mph whereas class two ebikes have to top out at 20 mph. The laws vary state to state in terms of where you are actually allowed to ride an ebike which makes this all the more confusing. To make things even less clear, lots of ebike manufacturers make it pretty easy to “unlock” bike speeds over 20 mph and sometimes over 28 mph!
To be honest, the class distinction is very confusing and we wouldn’t put too much stock in whether or not a bike is advertised as one class vs the other. All you need to know is that lighter framed ebikes will have smaller motors, provide less assistance while pedaling and for the most part will not include a throttle. These are more suitable for riders that are more interested in fitness riding, which could apply to urban commuters or weekend warriors motivated to get outside on Saturdays to work up a good sweat.
Ebikes for riders who like to pedal: Ride1Up Roadster, Propella SS
Do you want an all-terrain ebike with fat tires?
It seems like fat tire ebikes are all the rage right now. Because they usually have the most powerful motors and can be ridden almost anywhere, they can be the most fun ebikes to ride. All terrain bikes are great if you live in rural areas or are looking for something to ride on trails as well as paved roads.
A model like the Lectric XP for instance, is a fat tire ebike that appeals to outdoor enthusiasts because of its portability. Not only is it a rugged bike but it’s foldable and can be stored easily on an RV or pickup truck even if you don’t own a bike rack. If you do a lot of road trips to more wild destinations, then a fat tire ebike might be very appealing. Just know that these tend to be the heaviest, most expensive ebikes and since they tend to be ridden the hardest, will require more maintenance than something that is purely meant for pavement.
Fat tire ebikes for outdoor lovers: Lectric XP, Aventon Aventure
Do you live in a hilly area where you need multiple gears?
If you’ve never ridden an ebike you might not appreciate the ability of even a small 250Watt motor to flatten hills in your neighborhood. The more powerful the motor, the more easily an ebike can tackle all but the steepest of hills. If you live in the midwest for example, or Florida, there probably aren’t a ton of hills you encounter in your daily commute, rendering the need for multiple gears pretty non-existent. A gentle grade should still be easy for a single speed ebike to handle with very modest pedaling effort as long as you are in a higher level of pedal assist.
However, if you live in an area with rolling hills, like San Francisco or Santa Barbara, gears are essential. Even a powerful 750Watt or 1000Watt motor is no match for a 15% grade hill. Electric bikes like the Aventon Level Commuter and RadCity 5 by Rad Power Bikes combine big motors with 7-gear drivetrains.
Great ebike options for hillclimbers: Aventon Level Commuter, Rad Power Bikes- RadCity 5
Do you want a bike with a throttle?
All class three ebikes have a throttle in addition to pedal assist capabilities. If you’re riding an ebike with a beefy frame and fatter tires then you’re always going to get a throttle. Bikes that weigh 60 or more pounds require a lot of torque to get you moving from a dead stop and you don’t always want to rely on the strength of your legs to push you forward. This is especially true if you’re at a busy intersection and cars are right behind you! That’s when a thrusty throttle is your best friend- when you need to get out of people’s way as quickly as possible.
The only ebikes that don’t include a throttle tend to be smaller framed models that look more like road bikes. They have skinnier tires that are designed for smooth pavement and are intended for riders that don’t want to stray too far from the “pure” riding experience of a conventional bicycle.
Class 3 ebikes with throttle and pedal assist modes: Rad Power Bikes- Radmission, Ride1Up Core-5
Do you want a sensible ebike or something that’s sexy and cool?
There are a couple types of ebikes you might see on the roads that don’t really look like ebikes at all. One of the most popular examples is the Super 73 which is marketed as an “electric motorbike” because it’s designed to look more like an Italian motorcycle than a traditional bicycle. The appeal of the Super 73 is its iconic design, its huge 4-4 ½ inch tires and hyper-fast motors that deliver between 1000-1200 watts of peak power. They aren’t cheap though and range from $2200-$4500 in price.
Another ebike that also doesn’t exactly look like a bicycle is the RadRunner by Rad Power Bikes. This is more of a moped style ebike. You might call the RadRunner the Swiss Army Knife of ebikes because of its dizzying array of interchangeable accessories. Among the many accessories offered are wood panel sideboards, bench style seats, center consoles for additional storage, saddle style bags and all sorts of useful front and back basket combinations (to name just a few). In fact, Rad Power Bikes claims there are over 330 accessory combinations possible with this model, which seems almost impossible but we’ll take their word for it.
Between the Super 73 and the RadRunner we’d recommend the latter because of its versatility and its approachable $1500 starting price tag. It also comes with a lot of standard safety features, such as an integrated rear light, and is suitable for riders as short as 4’11 and as tall as 6’2.
Our favorite non-sexy ebike that doubles as a car replacement: Rad Power Bikes- RadRunner 2
Do you want a bike that can accommodate multiple child bike seats?
Technically, you can add a child bike seat to the front handlebars or the rear rack of most ebikes. Cargo bikes, however, are designed to hold heavier payloads and are often used for transport of up to three small children (or sometimes even one smaller sized adult). After test riding and researching the many options available, it’s clear the gold standard for affordable cargo ebikes right now is the RadWagon 4 by Rad Power Bikes. This is the Dodge Caravan of ebikes- long, roomy and able to transport small families on a single trip. Cargo bikes are built for hauling hundreds of pounds of weight, including groceries, food deliveries and small children.
These ebikes are best for families or delivery workers because they are configured and integrated to support an impressive number of accessories like baskets, panniers, child bike seats, pet cages, you name it. They are also among the safest options for ebikes and usually come with heavier duty brakes, bright headlights and brake lights, and extremely durable frames that are built to last.
If you’re interested in a premium cargo ebike there are many good options with mid drive motors rather than a rear hub motor like the RadWagon4. Tern is our premium cargo ebike maker of choice and their GSD model is hands down one of the best premium cargo ebikes money can buy. It has many of the same design features of a RadWagon but offers an upgraded German engineered & built Bosch mid drive motor and can haul up to 440 lbs. Whereas the RadWagon retails for $1999, a Tern GSD will run you as much as $6,500.
The most popular cargo ebike on the planet currently: Rad Power Bikes- RadWagon 4
How much are you willing to spend?
Once you figure what kind of ebike is right for you then it simply comes down to how much you’re willing to spend. In this guide we are mainly focusing on ebikes that cost between $1000-$2000. In future guides we will cover ebikes in the $2,000 and up range.
Whatever your budget, our aim is to help set the right expectations for you on what you can expect when an ebike costs $1900 vs one that’s only $1050. Budget ebikes will usually be pretty barebones as far as features go and they come with less expensive components. You’re not always going to get front or rear fenders, headlights, or a rear rack if you can only spend $1100 on an ebike. As you move up in price, those components will usually be included in the price of the bike, and you may even get upgraded shifters and upgraded disc brakes, although with a similar size battery or motor as the budget ebikes. Once you’re spending upwards of $1500 you’ll find ebikes with 750W motors, longer battery ranges and more high end components like hydraulic disc brakes.
Ebikes under $1200
$1000-$1200 is a solid price point to target for your first ebike and in our opinion spending less than $1000 is a mistake. Cheaper bikes are out there, sure, especially on Amazon, but those manufacturers have to scrape the bottom of the barrel on their components to keep the cost down, sacrificing quality and durability. Those cheapo bikes don’t usually come with great customer support either, whereas many of the brands we feature go out of their way to treat their customers well.
There are a number of serviceable options in this range for budget oriented riders, like the Ride1Up Core 5, the Lectric XP and the Aventon Soltera. All three of these brands are building a strong reputation in the ebike industry and you’ll find dozens of articles, reviews, and YouTube content related to these ebikes.
Ebikes between $1200-$1600
If you’re targeting more than $1200 for an ebike you have two options. You can start with a budget ebike like the ones above and just load it with optional accessories like fenders, upgraded seats, racks, baskets, brakes, etc or you could opt for a higher caliber ebike altogether. When you buy a higher caliber ebike like the RadRunner 2 or a MagicCycle Cruiser, you’re not only getting a lot of those aforementioned features included in the price of the bike, you’re also getting a more powerful motor.
It’s a big jump to go from $1100-$1200 all the way up to $1600 but it’s certainly worthwhile if you are interested in a higher performance ebike that comes more or less fully loaded. However, if you’re perfectly happy with something smaller and more nimble, like the Ride1Up Roadster or Aventon Soltera, you don’t need to jump into this price tier, although we’d recommend adding lights and fenders, which you will need if you plan on riding in wet conditions.
Ebikes between $1600-$2000
If you’re willing to spend up to $2,000 on an electric bike that really opens up a lot of options when it comes to ebike styles available. For instance, the RadWagon 4 Electric Cargo Bike starts at $1,999 and includes a 750W motor, mechanical disc brakes, an adjustable stem and includes a rear rack. The Model E from the Electric Bike Company is a beautifully designed and fully customizable beach cruiser style ebike that starts at $1799 but comes with a 1000W max output motor and hydraulic disc brakes. The Juiced Bikes Scrambler is more of a moped style “adventure bike” that boasts a powerful 750Watt Bafang motor and also includes hydraulic disc brakes. Do you see a pattern?
Ebikes in this tier usually come with the most powerful motors allowed by US law, which is 750 watts for sustained riding. You will find that many bikes will advertise “peak power” output of 1000 or 1200 watts but you only reach that level of output when you’re riding hills fyi. Bigger more powerful motors mean these bikes accelerate at a faster rate then less expensive ebikes, which can make them more dangerous to ride. They also tend to be heavier, like the Model E, where it’s essential to have the added stopping power that comes with hydraulic disc brakes.
Our favorite ebike under $2000 at the moment: Aventon Aventure
There are certainly quality ebikes out there for people that can only spend around $1,000, you just have to know what to expect, as there are certainly limitations. As you spend upwards of $1500 you can expect more features, like fenders, racks and 7-speed drivetrains and some upgraded components. Once you’re spending $2,000 on an ebike you’re going to have many more options to choose from, including cargo ebikes, moped style ebikes, access to higher end brands like Electric Bike Company and Juiced Bikes and access to the most powerful motors allowed by law. But again, you don’t have to spend $2,000 to get a great ebike.
As long as you understand what you’re looking for first; how you like to ride, where you’ll be riding, what the primary function of your ebike is going to be, what your fitness level is; that will go a long way towards guiding you towards the right purchase. There are so many choices out there so we highly recommend doing a bit of independent research first before committing to such a large purchase. Hopefully this guide has provided you with a good baseline.