15 Best Electric Bikes of 2022

Chris Nolte, the founder of Propel, one of the nation’s leading e-bike dealers with storefronts in Brooklyn, NY and Long Beach, CA, advises electric bicycle shoppers to consider why they’re buying an e-bike before making a purchase. “Bikes are built for different purposes. If you’re commuting to work, consider a bike with fenders, lights and racks. If you’re riding leisurely or not carrying around cargo, get a bike without those features to save on cost and complexity,” he suggests. Below are some other essential factors to consider when shopping for an electric bike, according to bicycle experts.

✔️ Battery: “Most batteries are lithium-ion and will be specific to the bike,” says lead mechanic, rider support technician and certified bike fitter at Velofix, Jonathan Perry. Like a cell phone’s battery, power capacity will diminish over time. One of the most important things to consider is whether your battery is removable or built-in. Removable batteries come in handy when you need to lock up your e-bike outside (the battery is one of the most expensive components of your e-bike), enabling you to take it off and bring it with you. And when it comes to battery size, “think about how far you want to go and how much power you want to use,” says Nolte. The distance you plan on riding will determine how large of a battery you need. To determine how much power the battery has, he suggests looking at watt-hours (wH). “Most of the batteries will be at least 400 watt-hours.” Watt-hours are a measure of the amount of energy an e-bike’s battery can supply in an hour. A bike with a 250W motor and 250wH battery can ride entirely unassisted by the rider for an hour before the battery dies. The rate at which one actually consumes the e-bike’s battery will depend on the motor on the bike’s power (wattage) and its use; heavy pedal assist and throttle use, for instance, will reduce your range more than the occasional boost. When it comes to batteries, also keep in mind that if you’re looking for a lightweight bike, a bigger battery can easily add on several pounds. Lastly, charging time is another factor to pay attention to as some e-bike’s take longer to juice up than others.

✔️ Estimated range: If you’re trying to get more range out of your bike, Perry suggests using your legs more.Full pedal-assist or full throttle all the time use lots of watts,” subsequently draining the battery. “Pick a battery that is made for the range that suits your needs” and consider buying “a second battery you can always have charged to replace the depleted battery with.”

✔️ Motor: “The main difference between a $2000 to $4000 e-bike is the type of motor,” says Perry. There are two main kinds of motors that power e-bikes.Hub-type motors can feel rougher. Look for a company with good customer service and a warranty so that they will follow up with you if there’s an issue.” Crank-based motors, on the other hand, are “the more premium option and come from established brands like Shimano and Bosch, which are reputable companies that make a good product. These motors distribute weight better by being low and center of gravity on the bike” says Perry. They also generally offer a smoother operating experience.

✔️ Weight: E-bikes can weigh a lot, with some of the ones we tested clocking in at nearly 80 pounds. Before making a purchase, consider whether the bike is easy to take up and down stairs or move around. “E-bikes will always be heavy. The motors are heavy. The batteries are heavy. To keep the cost low on the bikes and to keep them sturdy, they’re often made of steel and sometimes aluminum. This is a heavier material and a bit more rugged,” says Perry. Consumers should consider handling the bike, or moving it around when not on it, advises Perry. “If it’s harder, get a lighter bike so you don’t worry about the bike tipping over and picking it up,” he says.

✔️ Class type: E-bikes come in three distinct classes.

  • Class 1 e-bikes go “up to 20 mph with pedal assist. They can go faster than that when going downhill, but the electric motor will stop giving you any kind of assistance once you’re at 20 mph,” says Perry.
  • Class 2 e-bikes also “go up to 20 mph when you’re pedaling, but these also have a throttle that goes up to 20mph without pedaling,” he says.
  • Class 3 e-bikes go up to 28 mph. For the most part class 3 e-bikes come with a throttle, but not always. These e-bikes are “almost always not allowed on bike paths, trails and so forth. Check your local laws regarding class 3 e-bikes,” he advises.

✔️ Pedal assist: “Pedal assist is when you pedal you get an assist of a range of 0 to 5. You get to choose the amount of help you get from the motor,” says Perry. Nolte notes that “not all pedal assist is created equal. Some give you predictable and smoother experiences, whereas some are not as intuitive. Some systems replace your pedaling while some augment your pedaling. The difference is the sensors and how they work.” He explains there are various ways to activate pedal assist, the most basic being a cadence sensor that determines how fast you’re pedaling. This can sometimes result in a jerky motion. Better matched to your output is a torque sensor, which “senses how hard you’re pedaling.” For instance, when you’re going downhill you can be pedaling fast but you don’t actually need a lot of power, in contrast to pedaling uphill when you want the bike to provide power.

✔️ Throttle: Some e-bikes come with a throttle that allows the motor to propel the bike without pedaling. Whether you need one or not is a matter of personal preference and the kind of bike you’re riding. Perry advises that consumers looking for a cargo type bike to carry kids or a lot of weight consider an e-bike with a throttle, which is “helpful just to get going.” A throttle is also useful for consumers who simply don’t want to pedal right off the bat after a hard stop, especially when the bike is heavy.

✔️ Gears: Some e-bikes come with seven gears, while others have three or just one. “If you’re an active rider, get some gears on your e-bike,” suggests Nolte. “A bike with no gears will either pedal too fast or too slow, not a comfortable pace.” It’s also important to try bikes on various terrains to ensure you have the right number of gears for you.

✔️ Tires: Thin tires are generally lighter and best for paved, smooth streets. “In places like New York with rougher terrain, you want wider tires and suspension. It will slow you down a little but will give you more traction and comfort,” says Nolte. You can also head into your local bike shop, which can help you select the right tires for your area and market, advises Perry. Those riding a lot might need to consider a puncture-resistant tire to avoid flats.

✔️ Suspension fork: “Front suspension forks provides some shock dampening. When you hit something rough in the road, they [compress] upfront and almost bounce up. For most people, if you don’t intend on taking the bike onto off-road paths, gravel dirt roads or hiking trails, avoid a suspension fork. It will add weight to the bike,” says Perry. But if you think you’ll be encountering a few bumps or potholes when riding, a suspension fork can certainly provide some extra comfort.

✔️ Brakes: E-bikes are typically equipped with mechanical or hydraulic brakes, explains Perry. In general, mechanical brakes are cheaper and require lower maintenance but sacrifice performance. They require the strength of your hands to brake. Hydraulic brakes, on the other hand, feel nicer, are more responsive and easier on your hands but you can expect higher maintenance.

✔️ Extra features: Though the least important of all, you should still consider any extra features your e-bike comes with. Do you like the display? Is it large enough to read and are the buttons easy to adjust? Does the bike have room for a basket in the front or in the back or any extra storage for carrying a purse, backpack or groceries? Does a bell come included, as well as integrated lights? Does the bike have fenders to protect you when riding over puddles? Since no e-bike is identical, pay attention to which features are must-haves or nice extras to improve your riding experience.

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