What is an eBike and Why are People so Obsessed?
Since you're here, chances are you’ve already heard a thing or two about how great eBikes are. But what exactly is an eBike and what makes it different from the bikes you might already have in your garage?
The Anatomy of an eBike
Regular bike + electric drive system = motor, battery, ride display/control, maybe throttle & a ton of FUN
The Frame: The basic anatomy of an eBike is simple: they have the classic bike silhouette you know and love (wheels, gears, handlebars, brakes, you know the deal), but is modernized by an electric motor and a rechargeable battery.
The Motor: Although an eBike has a motor, it’s different from other motorized vehicles (like electric scooters) in that the motor is meant to augment your own pedaling power, not completely replace it.
Three Classes of eBikes: Most ebikes on the market today, are designed to provide power only up to 20mph (Class-1 and Class-2 ebikes.) This generally keeps ebikers aligned with intermediate or advanced traditional cyclists who generally rides at speads of 15-25mph.
Less common ebikes are designed to provide power up to 28mph (Class-3 ebikes.) Still there are others that can reach 65mph or greater, but those tend to be regulated more closely to that of motorcycles.
Potential Power of an eBike Motor: Just like other motorized vehicles, ebike motors vary in potential power. Since the motor is electric, it's power is measured in Watts (W). Most class-1 or class-2 ebike motors (designed to max at 20mph) range from 250 - 750 Watts. Class-3 and unclassified ebikes that achieve much faster speeds may have motors reaching up to 1200 Watts.
Today, most ebikes are equipped with either a mid-drive motor or a hub-drive motor. Both work great, but sometimes have a little different feel when you ride.
Mid-drive Motors are located on the bike frame right between the two pedal crank arms. As you pedal the ebike, the motor boosts the power sent to the back wheel through the chain.
Hub-drive Motors are located on the hub of the back wheel. As you pedal the ebike, the motor boosts the power by to the back wheel directly.
The Battery: Both mid-drive and hub-drive motors are powered by a rechargeable battery -- generally attached to the bike frame. Modern ebike batteries are made of lithium-ion which are the lightest and most effective type of battery pack on the market today – though no doubt, we'll see some substantial innovation in battery design in the coming years! Lithium-ion batteries also last much longer through multiple charges over the years. In fact, most electric cars today, including Tesla, use lithium-ion batteries, so you know they're the highest quality – as of this writing, that is.
Power of eBike Battery is measured in Volts (V). The higher the voltage, the more readily your motor can power your ride. Typical ebike batteries on the market today are either 24V, 36V or 48V.
Range of eBike Battery is measured in AmpHours (Ah). The higher your battery's amp-hours, the higher your battery's energy capacity can delivery per hour. Most ebike batteries today range from 8-20 Ah.
The eBike Controls: Just like a car gears, gas-pedal and dashboard, eBikes have their own control and display features.
eBike Modes/Levels can be thought of as a new set of gears while many ebikes also have mechanical gears just as traditional bikes do. Depending on the manufacturer, the modes tend to be measured by numbers (Level 1-4 or sometimes up to 5) or Bosch motors, for example, use descriptive terms (Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo.) Either way, they measure how much boost your ebike battery and motor will provide to your own power pedaling the bike. Generally, ebikes have a button pad mounted to your left side handle bar that makes it easy for you to adjust your level or mode. Sometimes the buttons are attached to the display which serves as your dashboard containing information such as your current speed, mileage (odometer), and battery power left.
How far can an electric bike go? And for how long?
As they say, your mileage may vary! Many factors come into play beyond the specs of your motor and battery. As a general rule of thumb, however, you can count on a range between 25 - 100 miles based on the specs of most ebike motors and batteries on the market today. But other factors such as the terrain you're riding (flat, uphill, downhill, paved road, dirt trail, etc.) and other conditions such as headwinds, tailwinds or the weight and weight distribution of the load you may be carrying -- in addition to your own weight.
Rule of Thumb Riding Around Albuquerque on a Free-to-Roam eBike, expect 30-60 miles on a single battery charge. On a Class-1 or Class-2 ebike with a 10-14Ah battery, 500-750W and 36-48V motor, you can expect to ride for 30-60 miles on a single battery charge.
The 3-Class eBike System
The level of help you get from the motor is up to you! Depending on the type of eBike, the motor is controlled either by a throttle on the handlebars or engaged automatically as you pedal. According to PeopleForBikes, eBikes can be sorted into three categories based on top speed and which type of motor controls it uses:
Class 1: use only pedal assist and have a top speed of 20 mph.
Class 2: use both pedal assist and a handlebar throttle to engage the motor. Like Class 1 bikes, they also have a top speed of 20 mph.
Class 3: slightly faster with a top speed of 28 mph but they use only pedal assist motor engagement.
Comparing Styles of eBikes
You might be wondering what is the best electric bike, just like traditional bikes, eBikes are produced in a variety of different styles to accommodate different riders and activities. There are several different types, including but not limited to:
Hybrid eBike - City Cruisers & Off-Road
Cruiser eBikes are designed for more casual riding. This style puts an emphasis on comfort with a larger seat and a more upright riding position, making it perfect for midlife adults, less-abled people or anyone looking for a comfier, more casual model.
Mountain eBikes (eMTB)
Like fat tire models, mountain eBikes are designed to handle off-road conditions. This style is perfect for thrill-seeking adults who want to take their eBike off the beaten path.
The step-through style features a lower profile than other styles, making it easier to mount. This style is great for older adults or less-abled people. The step-through type frame can be combined with other styles of tires, so it’s totally possible to get a step-through style fat tire or mountain eBike.
As the name implies, cargo eBikes are ideal for those who need to ferry things from one place to another. They feature space to secure anything you may need to bring with you, like groceries, briefcases or even another person (or two.) This style is best suited for commuters and parents with young kids. eBikes can be augmented with foot platforms and cushions for riders who are looking to carry small passengers (most eBikes can carry up to 130 lbs of cargo or passenger weight).
Fat Tire Off-Road eBike
Fat tire eBikes are designed to be ridden on all sorts of terrain since the larger tires provide great shock absorption. True to its name, this style features tires that are at least 4 inches in width. Fat tires are well-suited for active adults and adventure seekers who want to broaden their riding horizons.
Foldable eBikes are perfect for individuals who transport their bike frequently or have limited storage space for their eBike, like urban commuters and students. These eBikes are designed to fold into themselves so they’re small enough to store in apartments or overhead compartments on buses or airplanes.
Electric Trike / Three-Wheeled Electric Tricycle
Three-wheeled (trike) eBikes offer increased stability and potentially more real estate for cargo. This style is well-suited for parents, active adults or commuters that have places to be and things to transport.
Between different bike styles and accessories, eBikes are super versatile and can be customized to fit in with any purpose or lifestyle.
Benefits of eBiking
Besides the seemingly endless ways that you can outfit & accessorize your eBike, there are also countless ways the eBiking can help individuals make positive changes in their day-to-day lives.
According to a 2018 study by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, eBike riders bike more often, take longer average rides and make more different types of trips than traditional cyclists. eBiking promotes a steady heart-rate increase rather than a sudden one which promotes fat burn.
A study by the Annals of Leisure Research showed that people who get 120 minutes of outdoor activity a week show decreases in symptoms of anxiety and depression and increases in cognition and overall well being
Since the motor takes some of the pressure off of the rider, eBiking is perfect for those looking to ride for therapeutic reasons. It’s easier on the joints than normal cycling and can allow for longer rides with less pain.
eBikes can make it possible for older and less-mobile folks to enjoy cycling again. eBikes also provide additional stability for those with balance issues.
By now you’ve probably heard the adage that “sitting is the new smoking.” While yes, riding a bike does require you to sit, moving your legs continuously for 20 to 60 minutes sure does add some movement to an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
eBikes are far cheaper than owning a car, require very little maintenance and don’t require any continued expenditures. On top of that, investing in an eBike could possibly earn you a $1500 tax credit!
Using an eBike to travel shorter distances instead of driving reduces your carbon footprint and promotes a personal sustainable lifestyle
The motor assistance and accessible styles offered by eBikes make it possible for people of all ages, lifestyles and fitness levels to incorporate eBiking into their everyday lives
eBiking naturally enables a sense of community while maintaining social distancing guidelines. eBikes make it possible for you to travel longer & farther, creating endless opportunities for outdoor fun
The motor assistance that eBikes provide makes it easier to ride uphill, in wind and professional clothes without breaking a sweat like you might on a traditional bike. Plus, eBikes aren’t subject to traffic jams!
The rise of eBiking and interest in greener methods of transportation are sending the message to cities that citizens want more livable communities. In September of 2020, the city of Albuquerque established its first “Active Street” in collaboration with Vision Zero -- the road was closed to automobile traffic in order to promote socially distanced outdoor recreation and greener transportation alternatives
The Bottom Line
eBikes are the wave of sustainable transportation and with countless benefits and opportunities to fit your personal needs--who can blame them? Here at Free-to-Roam eBiking, we want you to expand your world through eBiking.
According to Jay Walder, CEO of bike-sharing company Motivate, “There are two types of people in the world, people who have never tried a pedal-assist (eBike) bike and people who won’t shut up about them.”
Are you ready to ride?