The ebike scene has an overwhelming array of options right now. Someone looking at tips for buying their first ebike might find themselves completely lost in the weeds and overwhelmed. Our goal is to provide you with some basics before you make your first electric bike purchase.
What Makes Shopping for an Ebike Unique?
Buying an ebike is much different than buying a regular bike. Not only do you have to consider components unique to ebikes such as a battery, motor and controller but you also have an increasing amount of direct-to-consumer brands.
Ebikes are different in that there are a TON of different brands, categories, and styles of ebikes. And in a lot of cases, the local bike store brand might not be your best option. New companies are starting up all the time (you can check out some of our favorites ebike brands). Many offer a variety of styles such as folding ebikes, fat tire ebikes, moped-style ebikes, ultra-light ebikes, cargo ebikes and so many more. There is undoubtedly an ebike for every person and every use case.
Ebike Escape’s favorite Rad Power Bikes is about one-third the cost of a Specialized or Trek ebike. Rad Power Bikes is currently the largest seller of electric bikes in North America. In fact, in 2021 Rad Power Bikes raised a whopping $150 million. How’s that for a vote of confidence? They are just one example of the fact that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a quality ebike.
And what about the age-old advice of going to a bike shop? With ebikes, shopping at a bike shop isn’t always the answer. First you will miss out on a significant number of ebike options since many local bike shops still only work with select brands or the big brands like Trek, Specialized, Giant etc.. You’ll also likely spend a lot more too, usually double or triple than ordering online. But if you want a personalized shopping experience then a bike store or even a store specializing in ebikes can be a great option. Just make sure you are getting an ebike that fits your needs.
Beyond deciding where to buy, there is a lot to sort through. So here are a few tips to make sure you get the ebike that will serve you for years.
Ebike Escape’s tips for buying your first ebike
- Find a reputable ebike brand: It’s more of a challenge in ebikes than in regular bicycles because, frankly, some of the best and most innovative ebikes are coming out of newer companies. How do you make sure one of these new brands is any good? For one, we here at Ebike Escape review bike brands to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. We do the research beforehand so you know you’re reading about quality bikes. Check out our list of top ebike brands for more information.
- Read and watch ebike reviews. Test customer support for yourself!: Reviews — not just Ebike Escape’s, but customer reviews, are a great way to see what people are saying about the brand. Check forums too, they can be a great source of info. Be aware that some ebike brands have been known to moderate negative comments posted in Facebook groups. Try to stick to third-party forums like the RadOwners forum for Rad Power Bikes owners, Reddit, or the forums over at Electricbikereview.com Pro tip: You can also call or email a company’s support team to test their responsiveness. Note that ebikes are currently in high demand so a response may be delayed but the good companies will call or email you back as soon as they can.
- Decide your use case: Much like a regular bike, how do you plan to ride? Off-road on dirt trails? City commuting? Perhaps your focus is getting a workout or simply being able to keep up easier with your riding partner. Options range from high-powered, moped-style ebikes to fat tire ebikes, mountain ebikes, average cruisers, and thin-tired single-speed city riders. So before you start comparing models, figure out what style of ebike you want and then start comparing ebikes with similar characteristics.
- Replacement parts: Something a lot of folks might not think about is what it will cost to replace ebike parts. While many components on an ebike can be found on non-electric bikes there are a few that aren’t. Namely the battery, motor, and controller. Lithium batteries, while long-lasting can lose capacity over the long term, especially for regular users. Sidenote: be sure to follow manufacturer recommendations for charging and store your ebike battery properly to ensure longevity. As you’re shopping, look for prices on replacement batteries. Do they seem reasonable? Replacement ebike batteries on average will cost around $300-600 depending on capacity. There would be nothing worse than not being able to purchase a replacement battery when you need it. Also, note whether they are using a proprietary battery pack or whether they are using battery cases such as the ones made by Reention. The same questions should be considered as it relates to replacement controllers and motors, though these parts in our experience are long-lasting. In fact, some ebike companies use popular components such as motors from Bafang which can easily be swapped if need be. There is also a robust third party marketplace for these motors. Check out other parts too. It’s better if the company uses common quality components such as Shimano or Tektro so you can replace them more easily (and they’ll last longer to begin with!).
- Don’t go TOO low cost: There are a lot of companies we review that make fantastic ebikes at a great price. That said, be careful of those that are TOO low. That Amazon special at under $1,000 might seem like a great solution, but just like the Walmart bike, it’s not a deal if you have to replace it in a few years. Some good examples of low-cost but high-quality brands we like are Rad Power Bikes, Ride1Up, Lectric, Ariel Rider and Aventon.
- Assembly: This is something a lot of people probably don’t think about. How much assembly is required on your new ebike? Some come almost fully assembled (like the foldable Lectric XP 2.0); with others, you either need to be a wrench (what they call a bike mechanic) or take it to your local bike shop. And that costs money, so factor it into the cost of your bike (typically $100-$200). It might not make or break your purchasing decision, but it’s something to be aware of. Worth noting is Rad Power Bikes’ mobile service and that Aventon’s are also sold at bike shops around the country. For those who are handy, many ebike companies provide step-by-step instructions on their YouTube channel. Just be sure you’re confident in your assembly or ask a bike shop to check your work.
- Insurance?: Ebikes aren’t cheap. What about protection? Often you can add your ebike to a homeowners policy. If you have AAA coverage, be aware that their free bicycle rescue policy does NOT apply to ebikes, but their $35 annual RV coverage does. There’s also separate insurance from companies such as Velosurance. This decision is going to be highly dependent on where you live.
- Accessories: Just buying the bike isn’t the complete purchase. You will need some accessories to go along with your bike. A good lock, for one. A rule of thumb some people follow is spending up to 10% of the cost of your bike on a quality lock. Also, a helmet is a must and we also recommend mirrors. A new saddle and/or suspension seatpost will go a long way in providing added comfort. And, check when you buy your bike because some come with racks, fenders and/or lights, and others don’t come with anything. It’s another cost to consider. For our favorite accessories check out our complete ebike accessories list. Many of the products linked within we have written or video reviews on.
- Test out an ebike! One of the best ways to know if a bike is really for you is to get out and ride one. One specification often overlooked by those who purchase online is the weight of an ebike. With the additional components like the battery and motor, most ebikes weigh between 50-80 lb. For some, the weight is not an issue, but for smaller riders or those who aren’t as comfortable riding a bicycle this can be a significant obstacle. This is just one of many reasons we recommend test rides. Facebook groups, or forums like the Rad Power Bikes owners forum are great ways to meet someone local and ask for a test ride. Some companies like Rad Power Bikes have retail locations and more ebike specific bike stores are cropping up (check out Ebikes USA if you are in Colorado).