Electric bikes – they’re all the rage now and Thom and I jumped on the bandwagon early. We were on a vacation in Hawaii and decided renting electric bikes would be a good way to see the island. And we were hooked but a little intimated by the prices. The bikes were pretty expensive and we weren’t sure we were ready to commit that fully. Kickstarter to the rescue. We participated in a Kickstarter program and purchased two bikes at a very reasonable price. We did have to wait a few months for delivery but it was worth it in the long run.
What are e-bikes all about? Can you ride without pedaling? How long does the battery last? How fast can you go? It’s really Pedal Assist, so you still have to pedal but not quite as hard. If you don’t want to do any pedaling at all, you may want to consider a scooter or mini-bike. As far as battery life, we can ride ours for 2-3 hours or about 20-30 miles depending on how fast you go and how much you pedal. Speed, due to federal regulations, is limited to 20 miles an hour, although some people do their own modifications.
Our bikes are pretty simple; they don’t have any gears and have fat tires specifically for riding on the beach. And you can find us riding on the beach in Washington State pretty much every sunny day and even some cloudy days (which happen often) when we happen to be at home. We haven’t brought them on the road with us yet, but we have Larry and Myles all ready for them and we’re excited to try them in other areas of the country.
These bikes are great for the beach, but we don’t recommend them for really hilly areas due to the fact that they don’t have gears. You’ll find all sorts of e-bikes out there for all sorts of riders and all sorts of prices.
Choosing an electric bike can be a little confusing and intimidating. We both recommend finding a place to rent one first and giving it a try. After that, you’ll want to think about where you’ll use your bike. On the beach, in the mountains, city streets, etc. The various types of e-bikes out there are:
- cruiser: these are for quick trips over short distances. These are typically less expensive and may be a good starter bike. Be aware that they don’t have the staying power or flexibility for longer distances or steep inclines.
- mountain bike: these are for off-road and will have bigger (and heavier) batteries and will have gears for those hilly areas.
- street bike: for speed (but not necessarily comfort), may or may not have gears, good for getting around town.
- And finally, there’s the hybrid: which is kind of a combination mountain/street bike. These bikes combine speed, efficiency, and comfort and probably makes the best option for most buyers. In fact, this is the market most electric bicycles are intended.
Some things to keep in mind is that the motor and battery adds weight to a bike, so look for products with modern alloys and light, but strong, frames that keep total bike weight down.The very latest batteries and motors keep weight down without sacrificing power but cost more. If you find a cheap bike with a light motor and battery, then check that’s not at the expense of power and performance.
Your choice of bike and battery will depend on how far you want to go between charges and what kind of work the motor will have to do while you’re riding. If you’re only going a few miles each day on flat, well cared for roads and surfaces, then an entry level bike with a smaller battery may be perfect. If you intend doing 20-30 miles a day, up and down steep hills, then you’ll want to think about premium battery power.
Whichever bike you choose, don’t forget your helmet and have fun out there. After all, it’s all about making memories, isn’t it?