How to Choose Electric Bike: The Ultimate Guide

Roscoe Drew


Electric bikes (also known as e-bikes or ebikes) are taking the world by storm. With the ability to give you an extra boost while pedaling, ebikes make cycling accessible to more people and open up new possibilities for bike commuting, recreation, and adventure.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about buying and riding an ebike, from types and legal classifications to motors, batteries, frames, components, accessories, and maintenance.

Let’s dive in!

Ebike Basics

An ebike is a standard bicycle equipped with a small electric motor and battery pack. The motor provides power assistance as you pedal, giving you an extra boost to make riding easier and faster.

There are many different types of ebikes available today, but they all work via pedal assist – the motor only engages when you’re pedaling and stops assisting once you reach 20-28 mph. The harder you pedal, the more power the motor provides. However, ebikes do not have a throttle like a motorcycle or scooter – you always have to pedal to engage the motor.

The pedal assist not only makes cycling easier but also allows you to travel further with less effort. Ebikes expand your range and open up new route possibilities you may not have considered on a traditional bike.

Ebike Classifications

In the United States, ebikes are classified into three categories by the federal government:

  • Class 1: Pedal assist only, motor cuts off at 20mph
  • Class 2: Throttle-assisted, motor cuts off at 20mph
  • Class 3: Pedal assist only, motor cuts off at 28mph

Class 1 ebikes provide assistance only while you’re pedaling. There is no throttle. These are the most common type of ebikes and are allowed on most bike paths and trails.

Class 2 ebikes have a throttle on the handlebars so you can engage the motor without pedaling. However, the motor still cuts off at 20mph. Class 2 bikes are allowed in most places that permit class 1 ebikes.

Class 3 ebikes allow assisted speeds up to 28mph but the rider must be pedaling to engage the motor. They are less common and have more restrictions on where they can be ridden.

State and local laws may place additional limits on ebikes, so be sure to check regulations in your area. Always wear a helmet and follow traffic laws when riding any ebike.

Ebike Frame Styles

Ebikes come in the same general frame styles as traditional bicycles:


Step-through frames are easy to mount and dismount. They allow you to stand over the frame and step through rather than swinging your leg over the back. Step-through designs are ideal for casual riders concerned about comfort and stability.


Step-over frames mimic the classic diamond bicycle frame with a high top tube you must swing your leg over to mount the bike. Step-overs offer excellent stiffness and pedaling efficiency for athletic riders.


Folding ebikes have hinges in their frame and components that allow them to fold up into a compact size for transport and storage. Folding bikes are ideal if you need to stash your bike in a small apartment or easily take it on a train or bus.

Consider your riding needs and constraints to choose the right frame style. Step-throughs offer the most accessibility and comfort, while a step-over design is great for performance-oriented cycling. Go with a folder if storage space is at a premium.

Ebike Motors

The motor is what gives your ebike its power assist. There are a few different motor types and positions to consider:

Hub Drive Motors

Hub drive motors are the most common type of ebike motor. As the name implies, they are built directly into the center of the front or rear wheel hub.


  • Simple, clean installation and protection for the motor
  • Even weight distribution improves handling


  • Increased weight in the wheels impacts ride quality
  • Less efficient due to distance between motor and pedals

There are two types of hub drive motors:

Geared Hub Motors

These are internally geared for better hill climbing ability and can provide more torque. However, the internal gears add weight and complexity.

Direct Drive Hub Motors

Direct drive hub motors have no internal gears and connect directly to the wheel. This makes them lighter and simpler, but reduces torque. Better for flat urban areas than hilly terrain.

Overall, hub motors offer reliable performance for most general ebike riding. Front hub motors are becoming more popular for better traction control and balanced weight distribution.

Mid-Drive Motors

Mid-drive motors are mounted in the middle of the bike frame at the bottom bracket. They drive the crankset and pedals directly via the bike’s transmission.


  • More natural riding feel and balanced handling
  • Better hill climbing ability and torque
  • Uses bike’s gearing for optimal motor efficiency


  • Slightly more complex installation
  • Extra strain on drivetrain components

Mid-drives provide a more seamless riding experience by integrating with the bike’s existing gearing. This also allows mid-drives to maximize power and efficiency across cadences. Mid-drive systems are generally the best choice for performance-oriented riding like off-road, mountain biking, and touring.

Friction Drive Motors

Friction drives attach externally to the rear wheel and drive it via a rubberized wheel pressed against the tire. They are the most basic ebike motor option.


  • Inexpensive compared to hub and mid-drive motors
  • Easy to install, even on bikes not specifically made for ebikes


  • Less refined assist and acceleration
  • Higher tire wear over time due to friction

While great for retrofitting a regular bike into an ebike on a tight budget, friction drives have largely been supplanted by more integrated motor solutions.

Ebike Batteries

The battery pack is the power source for your ebike. However, not all batteries are created equal. Here’s a breakdown of ebike battery basics:

Battery Types

Most ebike batteries today use lithium ion cell chemistry for the best combination of energy density, longevity, and cost. Within lithium ion, there are several formats:

  • Cylindrical cells – Small cylindrical cells in a pack, like AAs. Offers good performance at lower cost but less energy density.
  • Prismatic cells – Large square/rectangle cells for high capacity and range. More expensive but very energy dense.
  • Pouch cells – Flexible envelopes that manufacturers can shape around bike tubes and frames. Streamlined at the cost of some energy density.

Each format has pros and cons. Ask manufacturers which lithium ion type their packs use. High end bikes trend toward prismatic or pouch cells.

Battery Capacity

Battery capacity is measured in watt-hours (Wh). The more watt-hours, the more range the battery can provide before needing a recharge. Batteries range from about 250 Wh on the low end to 750 Wh or more on premium ebikes.

Think about your average ride distances and terrain when selecting battery capacity. More watt-hours means more range, but also more weight on the bike.

Battery Voltage

Ebike batteries output different voltages, usually between 24V and 48V. Higher voltage bikes can provide more torque and allow higher motor speeds. However, higher voltage also increases the load on electronic bike components.

Most ebikes operate on 36V as optimal middle ground. Focus on watt-hours for range and don’t worry as much about voltage.

Battery Integration

Some ebike batteries are integrated into the frame or even removable while others are mounted externally. Integrated batteries are cleaner and more protected but make service more difficult. External batteries can easily be removed for charging or swapping.

Consider your preferences for convenience, aesthetics, and service access. Both options have trade-offs.

Charging & Care

Recharge ebike batteries after each use for maximum lifespan. Fully draining lithium ion cells can damage them. Try to store batteries around 50% charge when not in use for extended periods.

Avoid leaving batteries in extreme hot or cold conditions. Bring them indoors rather than leaving them on the bike outside. Completely charging a depleted battery may take 4-6 hours. Quicker chargers are available.

Take good care of your battery and it will deliver reliable power and range for years of riding. It’s one of the most important ebike investments.

Ebike Tires, Brakes & Components

Beyond the motor and battery system, you’ll want to consider these other ebike components for performance and safety:


Ebike tires need to be robust to handle the extra weight and forces involved compared to a traditional bike. Wide tires with some tread are ideal for shock absorption and traction.

Many ebikes come with wider mountain bike style tires from 1.75″ to 2.4″ widths. These provide stability and the ability to handle variable terrain. Narrower road bike tires can still work well if you’ll mostly be on pavement.

Wider tires typically run at lower pressures – experiment to dial in the feel you prefer. Going tubeless eliminates the risk of flat tubes. Disc brakes (next section) allow room for wider tire sizes.


Ebikes carry more momentum and weight, requiring strong, progressive braking power. Hydraulic disc brakes are the best choice. Discs provide great stopping power even in wet conditions. Hydraulic systems self-adjust pad wear and offer finer control modulation.

Mechanical disc brakes are cheaper but need frequent adjustment as pads wear. V-brakes or other rim brakes should be avoided for ebike use and offer poor wet conditions performance. Powerful hydraulic disc brakes are a wise ebike investment.


Look for ebikes with mid to high-end derailleurs and shifters from Shimano or SRAM to smoothly transition between gears under motor power.

Stronger crankarms efficiently transfer power from mid-drive motors. Narrower chainrings better match motor cadences. Ebike-specific gearing choices improve drivetrain longevity.


Front suspension forks absorb bumps and add control. They allow you to run higher tire pressures for less rolling resistance without sacrificing comfort.

Full suspension ebikes provide even greater capability for aggressive riding. However, rear suspension saps some motor efficiency so only opt for it if needed.


Headlights and taillights extend your visibility and riding time. Integrated lights powered via the ebike battery are convenient and self-charging but may lack brightness. High lumen USB rechargeable lights offer exceptional visibility at a low cost.

Displays & Controllers

These allow you to control assist modes and power levels, monitor speed, battery charge, and more. Integrated displays like the Bosch Purion or Shimano Steps systems provide an ultra clean cockpit. Separate handlebar-mounted displays like those from Bafang also work well.

Look for a simple and intuitive controller interface. More expensive color screens offer aesthetics and connectivity at the cost of vulnerability in wet conditions.

Ebike Accessories

Beyond the bike itself, accessories can enhance your ebike experience:


Always wear a helmet when riding your ebike. Models with enhanced head coverage like MTB lids are recommended. Integrated lights and cameras like the Lumos helmet enhance visibility and record your rides.

Phone Mounts

Phone mounts allow you to safely follow GPS navigation or training apps while riding. Weatherproof mounts keep your phone visible yet protected.


Handling an ebike can make shoulder checks difficult. A handlebar mirror improves rear visibility and awareness over your shoulder.

Baskets & Panniers

Front baskets and rear panniers let you haul cargo and run errands. Waterproof panniers help keep your stuff safe in wet conditions. Baskets hold odd shapes and oversized items.


Always secure your ebike when parked. U-locks provide the best theft protection, supplemented with a cable for securing both wheels and the frame. Ebike-specific locks have longer shackles to accommodate fatter frames.

Luggage Racks

Racks bolted to mounting points allow quick installation of baskets, panniers, and other bike bags. Folding rear racks are less obtrusive when not hauling cargo.


Full fenders keep water and debris from spraying up at you in wet conditions. They turn an uncomfortable ride into a pleasant one.

Suspension Seatpost

A suspension seatpost helps isolate bump forces from your body. They allow you to run higher tire pressures for speed while maintaining comfort.

Adjustable Stem

An adjustable angle stem lets you customize your riding position. Upright stems take pressure off your wrists.

GPS Tracker

Mini GPS trackers hide inside your ebike frame and can remotely report its location if stolen. peace of mind for just a few bucks a month.

Performance Upgrades

Once comfortable on your ebike, components like wider handlebars, better saddles, and grippy pedals can enhance the riding experience further.

Riding & Maintaining Your Ebike

Once you’ve chosen the perfect ebike, a bit of care and proper riding technique will keep you rolling happily:

Pre-Ride Checklist

Make these quick checks part of your routine before every ride:

  • Battery charged
  • Tires inflated
  • Brakes functioning properly
  • Bike in proper working order
  • Helmet on and fastened

Taking a few minutes to inspect your ebike and gear can prevent issues on the road or trail.

Proper Riding Position

Since the motor provides assistance, you can keep a lower cadence on an ebike compared to a traditional bike. Sit upright with a slight bend in your elbows to reduce strain on your arms, back, and neck. Keep pedaling to activate the motor, but no need to grind a high gear.

Shifting Gears

Use lower gears when accelerating from a stop and climbing hills. Shift to higher gears for faster riding on flats and downhills. Let the electric assist handle the power while you shift gears smoothly.


Give yourself plenty of stopping distance since you’ll be moving faster. Gently feather the brakes rather than grabbing a fistful. Front and rear brakes balance each other out. Most of your stopping power should come from the front hydraulic disc.

Handling Skills

The extra weight and power of an ebike requires deliberate steering and handling. Look farther ahead and take wider turns. Move your body weight low and inside. Practice in empty parking lots if the handling feels twitchy.

Trail Etiquette

When passing hikers and traditional bikers politely announce yourself and provide ample room. Remember you’re moving faster, so take extra care. Uphill travelers have the right of way.

Wet Weather Riding

Reduce assist levels to avoid wheel slippage in wet conditions. Hydraulic disc brakes provide extra control. Fenders and waterproof shoes/gear keep you comfortable and rolling through showers.

Night Riding

Bright headlights and taillights are essential if riding at night. Reflectors provide an extra layer of visibility. Stay on familiar routes and use lower assist levels at night.

Maintenance Best Practices

  • Recharge battery fully after every ride
  • Check tire pressures frequently
  • Inspect brake pads for wear
  • Lube the chain every few months
  • Keep the bike clean and dry
  • Perform a full annual tune-up

Taking care of your ebike will maximize reliability and lifespan. Ebikes have more components than a traditional bike so stay on top of maintenance.

Ebike Ownership Perks

Ebikes offer plenty of advantages beyond just the riding experience:

Improved Health

Ebikes provide light exercise that improves cardiovascular health. The assist takes the edge off hills and headwinds. You arrive energized instead of exhausted.

Expanded Mobility

Ebikes open up cycling to those currently unable or hesitant to ride a traditional bike due to age, fitness level, or physical limitations. More people can experience the joy of cycling.

Longer Range

Pedal assist extends your effective range, turning a quick 30 minute ride into an epic 2 hour adventure. Explore new destinations you couldn’t reach before.


Running errands and commuting around town are simpler when you don’t have to worry about showing up tired and sweaty. The ebike lets you ride casually.

Fun Factor

Ebikes put the thrill back into cycling. The extra power makes every ride feel fast and gives you the freedom to roam.

Cost Savings

When used for regular transportation, an ebike can save you money on gas, car maintenance, and parking. That new ebike pays for itself over time.

Are Ebikes Right for Me?

If you’re on the fence about buying and riding an ebike, consider these factors to decide if cycling with electric assist suits your needs:

Your Goals

Think about how you plan to use your ebike. Are you hoping to commute in work clothes without breaking a sweat? Looking to go on longer rides for fun and fitness? Or do you want to venture onto rougher mountain bike trails? Your goals will help narrow down what type of ebike makes the most sense.

Your Current Fitness Level

Out of shape and intimidated by the idea of a 10 mile ride? An ebike provides the perfect solution to gradually improve your cycling ability at your own pace. Even seasoned cyclists benefit from the reduced physical exertion ebikes provide.

Your Terrain

Hilly urban streets or remote rural landscapes can be daunting prospects on a traditional bike. Ebikes flatten those hills and extend your range to cover more ground with less effort. Snowbirding to a warmer climate for the winter? Bring your ebike along.

Your Budget

Ebikes range from around $1,000 on the low end for simple commuters to $5000+ for high performance models. Determine how much you’re willing to spend. Compare the features and components of bikes in your price range to select the best value. With proper care an ebike can last many years, so focus on quality parts even if that means spending a bit more upfront.

Maintenance Ability

Are you comfortable doing basic bike tune-ups and repairs? Or would you rather have a shop handle all maintenance? Certain ebikes require more mechanical aptitude than others. Factor in your skills or desire to learn as you shop.

Local Regulations

Make sure your municipality allows electric bikes on bike paths and trails. Some prohibit ebikes or have restrictions depending on the class. Google your local ordinances to avoid any surprises. Consider advocating for improved ebike laws if they seem outdated.

Safety Concerns

Like any bicycle, know that ebikes carry risk and require defensive riding habits. But today’s ebikes offer stability assist features to build confidence. Start slow on paths before venturing into traffic. Always wear a helmet!

Weather Resistance

Something to consider if you live in a place with harsh winters. Quality batteries lose capacity below freezing or in extreme heat. Look for weatherproofing like theft-resistant bolt-on batteries you can bring inside or heated glove compartments to overcome climate challenges.

Personal Circumstances

For example, ebikes open up cycling for seniors looking to maintain active lifestyles or those recovering from injury. Busy parents haul kids in cargo bikes instead of minivans. Commuters avoid traffic and parking costs. Test ride ebikes specifically suited to your needs.

If most of these factors line up in favor of an ebike for your lifestyle, chances are you’ll love the experience of riding one. Of course not everyone needs an ebike, but for many the benefits outweigh any limitations.

Ebike Shopping Tips

Once you’ve decided an ebike could improve your life, use these tips to shop for the right model:

  • Try out multiple ebikes to compare ride feel and handling
  • Test throttle vs. pedal assist-only models
  • Climb a few hills to test motor power and battery range
  • Check tire size, suspension, and brakes meet your needs
  • Ensure good ergonomics and proper bike fit
  • Research quality of battery and drive components
  • Opt for durable metal frames over carbon fiber
  • Look for weather sealing to protect components
  • Make sure removal batteries can come inside for charging
  • Consider included warranties and local dealer service
  • Calculate costs of maintenance and insurance needs

Take your time test riding and don’t feel pressured. Buying the wrong ebike can lead to buyer’s remorse. An enthusiast shop with expertise will steer you the right direction. Avoid direct to consumer brands with no local support.

Sites like offer detailed analysis of the latest models. Check their reviews and compare specs to narrow down options. Consider where and how often you plan to ride so you choose the optimal ebike for your budget and needs.

Smart Ebiking – Ride Safely!

Ebikes offer wonderful benefits, but they also come with serious responsibilities. Follow these rules of the road and trail to ensure safe sharing of public spaces:

  • Wear a helmet and protective gear, even on short rides
  • Follow all standard bicycle traffic laws
  • Ride defensively – assume cars don’t see you
  • Use lights and reflectors day and night
  • Brake early and signal turns well in advance
  • Keep speeds low on crowded mixed-use paths
  • Announce yourself audibly when passing pedestrians
  • Avoid startling hikers and animals when riding off-road
  • Don’t modify your ebike’s top assisted speed
  • Carry ID and don’t ride impaired under any substance
  • Consider supplemental insurance to protect yourself financially

The ebike community needs to lead by example. Taking the time to ride safely and courteously will prevent accidents and encourage acceptance of ebikes.

With great e-power comes great e-responsibility! Let’s work together to share our roads and trails safely.

Ebikes – The Future of Green Transportation

Ebikes represent an exciting opportunity to reduce car dependence and embrace cleaner transportation options. As battery technology improves and prices keep dropping, ebikes make the switch from cars an easy choice for more people.

Ebikes consume a tiny fraction of the energy compared to electric cars. Widespread ebike adoption can meaningfully lower greenhouse gas emissions.

They provide carbon-free mobility and reconnect us with our communities in the process. The positive impacts ripple out as more people discover the utility and joy of riding ebikes.

In a future of self-driving cars, ebikes will become an integral link, efficiently covering short urban trips. Integrated mobility combining shared ebikes, electric scooters, and public transit will transform cityscapes for the better.

The ebike revolution has only just begun. As prices fall and new models broaden the possibilities, embracing electric-assist cycling can help create a healthier planet and more vibrant society.

Let’s Ride!

We hope this guide has filled you with inspiration to get out and ride an ebike. With so many models and customization options now available, there’s an ebike for just about every need and budget.

Ebikes lower barriers to entry, reduce physical exertion, expand your radius of exploration, and put a smile on your face. They represent personal freedom combined with eco-conscious transportation.

Do your homework, find a quality bike suited to your needs, invest in safety gear, learn proper riding techniques, respect the rules of the road, and enjoy the ride.

May the electric wind be always at your back! We’ll see you on the trails. Let’s roll.

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Written By Roscoe Drew

I'm Roscoe Drew, your go-to enthusiast for everything electric! My world revolves around the thrill of discovering and sharing the latest in electric bikes, scooters, and tools. Join me and we'll discover the freedom and fun that an electric bike can bring to your life.
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