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Here's what you need to know before buying an e-bike

Here's what you need to know before buying an e-bike

Electric bicycles, known as e-bikes or pedelecs are popular, and there is a wide range of models and price levels available. But in every price range, there are both good and bad electric bikes depending on your needs. We will show you what to look out for when buying an e-bike.

Jump ahead:

What will you use it for?

It's best to start your search for the perfect e-bike by thinking about what you will use it for. Those who want to commute with their e-bike may want to seek out a folding model or a lightweight model under 45 pounds which could also be carried onto a subway car.

On the other hand, if you're looking to replace your normal car, you can find a smaller solution in a freight bicycle, which can still carry a lot of your things by combining a powerful engine with a small trailer. If you have a need for speed: there are also racing bikes with motors or the S-Pedelec bikes with motors over 250 watts, which can go up to 28 miles per hour but have to be insured similarly to a moped.

A key question about the motor

One of the primary questions you should consider when choosing an e-bike is the location of the electric motor. In principle, there are three alternatives: In the hub of the front wheel, in the hub of the rear wheel or in the middle of the bottom bracket. The three solutions each have different advantages and disadvantages:

  • Motor in the front wheel: minimum effort for installation and removal, and a low-cost solution. But an unfavorable center of gravity and driving dynamics that can take getting used to.
  • Middle: Low center of gravity, stable mounting directly on the frame. On the other hand, higher chain wear and indirect power transmission.
  • Motor in the rear wheel: Direct power transmission at the drive wheel, good compromise with the center of gravity. High effort for maintenance, as well as installation and removal.

None of the three options is inherently worse than the others. It all comes down to riding style and personal preference in the end, which is another reason why test driving is always crucial.

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Not all e-bikes have the motor in the same place. / © AndroidPIT

The gear shift

Also most e-bikes have and need a gear shift, on the one hand to drive faster than about 15 mph, which the engine may support, and on the other hand to be able to pedal comfortably in all situations. As with bicycles, there are two main types here: Hub and derailleur gears. Exotic e-bikes come with expensive planetary gears.

As a general rule, if you ride mainly in the city or flat country, you can easily get by with a seven-speed gearbox, especially on a pedelec, but also on a normal bike without an engine. If you frequently drive in hilly terrain, you should have more gears at your disposal. A derailleur system is robust and proven, but requires more maintenance than a hub system. But it can also withstand higher force, so it's not unimportant for an e-bike.

The battery

While it's not easy to compare bikes based on their battery capacity, since performance varies by type of bike, it is possible to divide them into two camps: permanently-installed batteries or removable.

Built-in rechargeable batteries are often more elegant, especially when they are in the frame, which makes a pedelec hardly be distinguishable from a normal bicycle. But that also means that where the bike normally parks, there must be a way to recharge it, because it is difficult to simply take the battery with you into the home and plug it in. If you park your bike in your own garage, you won't have a problem, but it's more difficult in the city.

Removable batteries have more flexibility at this point. As a rule, they are locked with a key and thus securely stowed on the frame. If you want to cover especially long distances, you can even get a second battery and get twice as far as with one. So, it's more practical to use replaceable batteries, but the built-in kind are more stylish - your choice.

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The question with the battery: fixed or removable? / © Kritkun/Shutterstock

The other components

An e-bike is still a bicycle, and therefore you should also pay attention to the other components, such as the brake system, brake handles, gearshift and lighting (the latter is usually integrated in pedelecs, since the electricity is always there). The brake deserves special attention on an e-bike, because it has to do more than on a normal bike - since you are often going faster and the bike weighs more. That means disc brakes are the way to go. 

By far the best known and most widespread manufacturer of brakes, gears and other bicycle components is Shimano. The different offerings in terms of quality and price are listed in descending order here. Avid and Magura are also recommended brands for brakes.

AndroidPIT unimoke urban drivestyle hero
There are also unusual e-bikes. / © AndroidPIT

Do you have any other tips on how to find the perfect e-bike? Let us know in the comments below!

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