What is an e-bike?

What is an e-bike?

An e-bike looks less like a motor scooter and more like your typical pedal option, but with a few added components to give it power.

E-bike Types

There are several different types of electric bikes. There are hybrids and cruisers, cargo and performance, road and mountain, commuter, and recreational e-bikes. Which one is right for you depends on what you need from your e-bike and where you plan on riding it.

Motors & Pedal Assist Modes

Motors on the best electric bikes have different levels of power ranging from 350W up to 1,000W. In the United States, the legal limit is currently 750W, but states can set their own limits. The higher the power rating the more weight it can pull, however, a higher-powered model pulling more weight runs the battery down faster. Buying an extra battery from a bike shop will make sure you stay powered up.

There are two types of motors used on the best electric bikes, mid-drive and hub-drive motor. The mid-drive motor sits in the bottom bracket where the pedal crank arms attach to the frame. This placement gives riders a more natural feel when pedaling. With the motor's weight centered in the e-bike, many riders find that it's easier to maintain balance too.

Hub-drive motors are in either the front or rear wheel hub. Hub-drive motors in the rear wheel create a feeling of being pushed along the road. With the motor in the front wheel hub, it feels like being pulled.
There are typically three or four levels of pedal-assist on most e-bikes. Some levels allow you to save battery power while others provide more boost. The names of these modes vary by manufacturer but may be called eco, turbo, or boost modes.

The pedal assist mode determines how much power you get from the motor. You need to pedal at the same time as the motor is assisting you. With the throttle mode available on some types (more on that later) the motor powers you forward without the need for pedaling.

Pedal-assist means riders can go farther and climb hills easier. Switching between the different modes lets riders set the pace. You can work harder and get more exercise or let the motor do more of the work. While using pedal-assist may seem like it prevents riders from getting the most out of their riding workout, it also means riders travel further distances. Some riders are more interested in getting from point A to point B in a cheaper, less stress-inducing way than driving a car.

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