Try an e-bike: A guide to electric bikes for the curious beginner

I like driving my e-bike a lot that I not often take my automotive out of the storage, even when temps are within the 100s or beneath freezing. I’ve ridden in rain, snow, and, often, off-road. Sedona, Arizona is not very bike-friendly, though mountain biking (search
“white line path”) is common. When a tiny fraction of Phoenix — over 4 million — decides to flee valley warmth for the cooler mountains, we’re simply overrun.

I am not a commuter, however I journey most days to favourite venues: Dozens of mountaineering trails; espresso outlets; the library; breweries; and music venues. My common journey is 2 to 4 miles a method, however vary as much as 10 miles.

Here is a rundown of my take for key e-bike decisions:

My first e-bike was a fundamental hard-tail mountain bike with a 350W rear hub motor, single-speed, giant 700c wheels, 5 ranges of pedal-assist solely, and no throttle. However, after greater than 1,200 miles over a 12 months of driving, I selected a really completely different model: 750W motor; 20-inch fats tires; a throttle, and pedal help. Here is why.

AdditionallyBest e-bikes to ride in 2020 CNET


A lot of Euro-e-bikes provide 250-watt to 350-watt motors, that are tremendous for Europe’s largely flat cities. However my city is hilly, and a 350W motor, whereas sufficient on delicate grades, made for gradual happening lengthy grades.

High velocity was typically a problem too, because the bike topped out at about 18mph. Once more, tremendous for Europe and congested cities, however typically I wished to cut back the differential of my velocity versus visitors.

Most inexpensive e-bikes have a rear hub motor, however there are mid-drive, entrance hub motors, and all-wheel drive bikes, too. I’ve discovered my rear hub motors to be completely acceptable, however I’ve by no means ridden a mid-drive, so I could also be lacking one thing.


Peddle help provides motor energy solely whenever you’re peddling. However typically I like so as to add most motor energy to hawk effort, like beginning up from a cease. Or not pedal in any respect. Throttles are extremely advisable.


Whereas I am fairly energetic — I hike some 15 miles to twenty miles per week along with biking 25 miles per week — I am not athletic. The 20-inch fats, 4-inch large tires provide a decrease middle of gravity and extra stability. Bigger diameter wheels deal with obstacles higher than smaller wheels, however that is not often an issue on metropolis streets.

The fats tires are wider and put extra rubber on the highway — a bigger contact patch — for traction, braking, and luxury, on the value of better rolling resistance. That is why highway bikes have slim, high-pressure tires and mountain bikes have fats tires.

On an e-bike, after all, rolling resistance is not a giant situation. The upper common speeds — my human-powered biking averaged 10-12mph, whereas e-biking is about 50% sooner — places a premium on traction and braking. With nobby 4-inch large fats tires and air stress lowered to 5PSI to 10PSI, I’ve ridden within the snow.

If I had a selection, I would favor a motorbike with tubeless tires, as they are usually extra dependable than tube tires. In the present day, tubeless tires are a rarity amongst 20-inch fat-tire bikes, however which will change.


A lot of the bike riders round city have accident tales, one thing I have been spared. However I take into consideration security each time I journey.

Your e-bike ought to have entrance and tail lamps powered from the principle battery, and you need to all the time journey with them turned on. Some lights are fairly wimpy, so do not be shy about augmenting manufacturing facility lights with add-ons.

Horns are fascinating, however the overwhelming majority are available solely two varieties: Too loud (scaring pedestrians) or too gentle (unheard by drivers). Conventional bike bells are good for pedestrians who aren’t grooving out to tunes on their AirPods. 

I often put on a high-visibility jacket in summer season, and, in cooler climate, I put on a bike jacket product of woven Kevlar-type material. I additionally put on a ventilated bike helmet in the summertime and a full-face motorbike helmet for cooler months. Europeans not often put on helmets for commuting, however there drivers there are cognizant of bikes. In America, not a lot.


Disc brakes are widespread on e-bikes and are a should. Hydraulic — versus mechanical — disc brakes are preferable as a result of they’re self-adjusting. Brake pads aren’t costly or tough to exchange, however since e-bike speeds are larger and the bikes heavier, you will exchange them each 1,500 miles or so.


Two points to contemplate past measurement: Folding and step-through. Most distributors will give a spread for urged rider top, however your leg size is necessary, too. Most frames spec a “standover” top, and you may need a few inches of slack, or agony might comply with. 

Many 20-inch fat-tire bikes additionally fold. It seems like a good suggestion, however most are so heavy — 60-plus kilos — that even after folding, they don’t seem to be very transportable. I’ve by no means folded my folding bike, nor tried to load it into my automotive. If folding and portability are necessary to you, think about a Brompton or maybe a 30lb e-scooter.

I remorse that my present e-bike will not be a step-through design. Typically my cargo is excessive sufficient that throwing a leg over is a problem. The world’s largest promoting motorbike, the Honda SuperCub, has a step-through design. I now get why that model is common.


E-bikes usually dispense with the entrance derailleur (widespread on highway bikes), which reduces upkeep. Electrical motors are extraordinarily dependable however search for some safety for the cable popping out the facet of the hub motor. E-bikes require little extra upkeep than pedal bikes.

Most bike outlets will work on e-bikes, however bear in mind that some, involved about legal responsibility, or targeted on high-end bikes, do not. Bike elements are pretty standardized, so getting components is simple.


You may most likely need to carry cargo typically, so racks are a should. Mine got here with a again rack, to which I connected a few folding baskets large enough for a grocery bag. One I depart unfolded for carrying bike lock, random stuff, and laptop. The opposite often stays folded. In moist climates, go along with waterproof panniers.

I added a suspension seat submit and a large, cushioned bike seat. Since pedaling is non-obligatory, keep away from exhausting, slim highway bike seats. The suspension seat submit might add a few inches to the seat top, so be limber sufficient to deal with it, or get a step-through.

I added a motion-activated rear mild, which is extraordinarily helpful since there’s nothing to recollect besides charging as soon as a month or so. An add-on horn completes my setup.

The take

Though I like the comfort of ignoring parking or visitors, principally I simply love driving. It’s simply enjoyable.

There are environmental causes, too, however these aren’t prime of thoughts. Certain, driving into the recycling middle on my bike provides me a blast of performative advantage strokes, however I nonetheless benefit from the journey even when nobody sees me there.

Bicycles are having fun with distinctive demand nowadays. For many people, an e-bike would be the most versatile selection.

For an additional take with good recommendation, try this first-time patrons video:

Feedback welcome. I am wanting to buy an electrical stand-up scooter or e-scooter, for much more flexibility and enjoyable. In case you use one, I would love to listen to about your expertise with it within the feedback.