This article presents all the variables that you’ll have to take into consideration before deciding which ebike to buy. Answering the questions below, and reading the in-depth articles linked from here, will allow you to be a more informed customer who can choose the ebike which most suits his/her needs. Pay particular attention to the after-sale service.
Which kind of ebike do you need?
A city ebike, a folding one, or maybe an electric mountain bike? Ebikes, from this point of view, are exactly like normal bikes: there are many different kinds. In order to understand which one is the best for you, think about how you are going to use it most.
Will you use it to commute to work, or maybe to go shopping? In this case, go for a city ebike, with a step-through frame, mudguards and pannier racks.
Will you use it mainly for some day trips around town during the weekend? Or even for some long trips lasting many days and miles? Then it would be better to choose a trekking ebike, more confortable to use for long periods of time; choose a bike with a high capacity lithium battery (at least 400Wh) and puncture-proof tyres.
In the last few years more and more producers have bet (and won) on the success of electric mountain bikes (or e-mtbs), in order to reach a younger audience and renew the image of ebikes, often associated with senior users. E-mtbs are pretty cool, and they give their best when going uphill on mountain tracks.
Other kinds of ebikes that can be very useful, especially to commuters who want to carry their bikes on trains or buses, are folding ebikes.
Last but not least, pay attention to the law concerning ebikes in your country. You don’t want to spend money on a vehicle which is technically illegal in your area.
Which kind of cyclist are you?
The choice of the means of turning on the electric assistance is a very important one.
If you live in a country where the motor can be turned on just by pushing a button, without having to turn the pedal, then you may be tempted to go for this kind of ebike, which is surely easier to use; if you rely too much on the electric assistance, without “helping” the motor by pedalling, be aware that the range of your ebike may be limited.
If you live in Europe, or in other countries where the motor can be turned on only while pedalling, you have to choose between two kinds of ebike sensors. If you are already used to cycling, and you don’t mind pedalling, you can choose a torque sensor, which will give a more natural feeling.
If on the other hand you are not used to cycling, and you mostly want to reach your destination without any effort, a simple cadence sensor will be more useful to you, allowing you the so-called “symbolic pedalling” (turning the pedals without actually making any effort, relying almost exclusively on the motor). Please refer to the article about ebike pedalling sensors for a more in-depth discussion of these differences.
How long will your typical journey be?
Will it be a short journey, of less than 7 miles, completely flat? In this case any ebike will do just fine, and you can be perfectly content with a relatively cheap ebike with a low-capacity lithium battery (however, always pay attention to the after-sale service). Of course, you can always spend a bit more to have a higher-quality ebike, with for instance a more confortable saddle, more reliable brakes, a more silent motor…
Will your typical journey on an ebike be longer, more than ten miles? Then it will be necessary to spend a bit more to have an ebike with higher-quality components, both mechanical and electric ones, starting from a high-capacity lithium battery which will not die on you miles from home. This is even truer if your typical journey will consist of long uphill sections. Have a look at our page dedicated to ebike price ranges.
What kind of after-sale services do producer and seller offer?
This is a very important point. Ebikes are now a mature and reliable product, but something can always go wrong. Choose a seller which can offer precise assurances on the after-sale service, and who is able to provide basic assistance on-site.
The ebike market is growing fast, and some people try to gain an unfair advantage by importing low-quality ebikes to sell them cheap, and then disappear leaving the customer in the dark. If you need a spare part, some producers are readier than others to provide one. The warranty on the battery is particularly important, as this is a component whose performance WILL degrade over the course of the years. A producer who offers a full 2-year or even 3-year warranty can gain the trust of the customer.
How to choose the best ebike seller
Once you have identified the ebike sellers that are nearby, it is useful to contact them (per email or, better, with a phone call) asking for some information, for instance about the models that they sell, the possibility to try or rent ebikes, the warranty and the post-sale services. The attention and care that they’ll use in replying will be a good first test of their reliability.
Try to agree on a date and hour to visit the shop, specifying that you would like to try the ebike before buying it. This is very important: the ebike will be your companion for the following years, and you have to make sure that it is the right one. Have the retailer show you the basic functions of the controller, or how to remove the battery in order to charge it.
Try the ebike as long as you can, going uphill, testing the different levels of assistance, and even disactivating the motor completely, to see whether the pedalling stays smooth or not; try also to lift it, to make sure it is not too heavy, especially if you have to carry it over some stairs at home or in the office.
Don’t limit yourself to testing one ebike: try as many ebikes as you can, for instance with motors on different parts of the ebike, or with different batteries.
Buying ebikes online
Ecommerce is a fast-growing business, and many websites sell ebikes. If you choose to buy an ebike online, you may save dozens or even hundreds of euros or dollars. However, research the seller before committing (you can google the name of the website and see if somebody on the internet has had a bad experience with them); as usual, ask for details about the warranty. Serious online retailers collaborate with a network of mechanics dislocated on the national territory, so that the customer is not forced to send the ebike in a parcel. Offering a courtesy ebike would also be a very welcome step.