Getting a commuter electric bike is, a lot of times, a better option than driving a car on congested roads.
Interestingly enough, considering how 2020 started for everyone, it also has transformed the bicycle industry in a good way.
eBikes can be now affordable, stylish and reliable. Regardless of the high number of alternatives, these are some of the most reviewed by people.
Commuter’s Buying Guide (Update for 2022)
Although seen as a new-fangled technological invention of the modern world, the first electric bicycle for transporting was invented over 120 years ago.
A bit of history and background
In 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted the first US patent for a battery-powered bike, and there were several changes and updates in the years following.
These days, e-bikes are becoming an increasingly popular way of getting around.
Combining modern technology and innovative designs, the latest cycling tech is changing peoples’ journey to work and back around the world.
E-bicycles are often referred to as pedal-assisted bikes, which means that a battery powers a motor, subsequently assisting with the pedaling motion of the rider.
What is trending in 2022?
As you will see, many manufacturers are either upgrading their most successful models or launching an entirely new series.
This, of course, comes with the high price of buying the latest update.
As a result, many users would instead modify their standard bicycles.
Personally, I think this is not a bad move. There are so many electric bike kits that you can buy online.
If you decide to go for a DIY electric bike project, it is advisable to buy the kit as a whole.
My suggestons is to ensure the motor and battery are compatible.
Most users buy the same brand reference as they know already what works for them.
Anyway, if you want to save money and learn more about how electric bikes work, this is a great way to do it.
What makes an e-cycle good for commuting?
This is, of course, the million-dollar question! In simple terms, they are fundamentally a standard, non-complex bike that has been fitted with at least a motor (rear or mid-drive), a battery pack and a controller.
They are available in a whole host of different styles and designs therefore, you can ride comfortably along city roads.
Another characteristic is that they typically have narrower tires and a slim-lined saddle.
In some ocassions, manufacturers add a front suspension system (low rating though).
What I love most about this e-bike category is that any element that powers it is well designed (to make it look sleek), solid and lightweight (in most cases).
A great example is the Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0. It was designed to assist the rider in a way that makes the experience more enjoyable without losing the purpose of the bike.
What makes them good or bad?
Like any other standard bicycle, they have various positive and negative aspects. Nonetheless, some limitations could be a deal-breaker for riders. Let’s look at what those aspects are:
– They are fitted with hub (rear) or mid-drive motors.
– Since the electronics are minimalist, they require little maintenance.
– Overall weight is better than e-MTB.
– They come in at an accessible price range.
– There are more options than any other categories available in the market.
– They can reach higher speeds when fitted with the right electric bike motor.
And the limitations
– Usually, they don’t come with any suspension (you may need to pay extra for it).
– You can’t customize them much, meaning it is not a good idea to upgrade a single element (poor quality of some components). You may need to consider changing the whole system.
– Due to the affordable price of some models, you could experience many issues with the quality of the elements.
– Tires may not be the best for all terrain types.
Should I Use My e-Bike to Go to Work?
It may sound like a silly question, but some factors might change your mind when deciding to ride your e-bike or not.
Access to showers
Not all workplaces have showers, and cycling to work could mean that you could be smelly. If you don’t mind this, you will easily get to the office while still gaining the health benefits of riding.
Also, consider the storage space available at your office; you won’t be able to hang the e-bike due to its weight.
Whether you are a seasoned cyclist or a beginner, they are well suited for everyone, including older cyclists, individuals with poor mobility, or anyone who would appreciate the extra boost.
It has been noted that some of them have issues with batteries exposed to the elements.
If you feel like something doesn’t look great after inspecting all the connections of the battery, then don’t ride it on a rainy day.
What do You Need to Know Before Buying One
These are the most essential points.
Weight and portability
The weight of the e-bike is also essential, particularly when you consider that they are much heavier than traditional cycles.
A reduce weight is associated with increased torque, and the motor and battery canbe more efficient. However, with technology ever advancing, commuter bikes are getting lighter all the time.
Style and design
To some extent, style is a matter of personal preference, but the type of e-bike you choose will depend on the terrain you are cycling on the most.
As well as the traditional commuter e-bike, a hybrid design could also be ideal for a city commute.
Combining the agility and lightweight nature of road bikes with the increased stability and more comfortable seating of a mountain bike design, they are a popular choice.
Why is the design important? There are two (2) types of frames only associated with electric commuter bikes and foldable ones:
– Low-step: as its name says, the top tube is low. Generally, this is the type of frame women could benefit from.
– High-step: this is the typical high tube design seen in 80% of the bikes on the street. Frames usually are bigger in size than the low-step one.
Can you test drive it?
One of the biggest mistakes a buyer can make is skipping the test drive.
A test drive should be long enough for your to feel the power of the motor, the brakes efficiency, the conmfort of the saddle (and suspension if any), and finally, decide how it feels while riding.
Nowadays, many manufacturers offer the possibility to test drive whichever model you want. Of course, you will need to look after it, and to come across as a serious buyer.
What Motor is Good for an e-Commuter Bike?
The answer to this question will depend on what your particular situation is. There are three (3) types of motors commonly used for e-bikes: direct drive (hub), geared hub, and mid-drive.
Manufacturers have identified that commuter e-bikes would be usually fitted with direct-drive and geared hub motors due to their common purpose.
Also, this motor would have 250 to 500 watts of power, which should be more than enough for commuting
Each motor classification has specific points. In this case:
– If you frequently have to tackle hills, which require a lot of torque and motor resistance, then an e-bike with a geared hub motor will be the right one.
– Now, if you’re riding primarily flat areas and like to have some good speed, a direct drive (hub) motor is what you need.
Mid-drive motors are commonly seen on expensive models, but having these motors doesn’t mean your e-bike is better. There are some motors that generate resistance when pedalling, something you may not want.
Check our electric bike motor guide for beginners if you want to read further about mid-drive, direct-drive, and hub motors.
How Far Can You Commute on an Electric Bike?
Like most gadgets these days, they also feature lithium-ion batteries, with the size and quality determining how many miles or kilometers you can go per charge.
On average, an ideal capacity would be around 7.5-10 Ah and 20 miles. This is considered a minimum range expectation.
It is important to note that a battery offering a longer distance range per charge, it will be bigger and therefore heavier.
If you plan to travel only around 15 miles at a time, a 50-mile range would mean an unnecessarily larger motor and battery, adding weight that you don’t need.
It is also important to remember that power capacity, terrain, rider weight, weather, and other variables can impact performance.
The batteries are probably the biggest concern for e-commuter bikes; as with any other battery-powered gadget, it is likely to deteriorate over time and will eventually need replacing in the future.
Should I Go For High-End Brakes?
If you are frequently traveling on busy roads through rush hour traffic, good brakes are not only essential for cycling, but can make all the difference in a life-threatening situation.
As any other electric bike, these ones also come with either rim or hydraulic disc brakes.
Rim brakes are a more affordable option, often seen on entry-level bikes. On the other hand, hydraulic disc brakes have more power and offer improved reliability and effectiveness in all weather.
You will need to decide if paying more for a better braking system is worth for your needs.
How Much Could a Commuter Electric Bike cost?
With e-bikes ranging from a few hundred dollars (like the Ecotric Dolphin Fat Tire), right up to thousands (top ones like the Scrambler Ducati e-bike), price is probably the most important determining factor when buying the right model.
Cheap is not always the best option.
Often affordable models are imported from China, and they are more likely to consist of no-name parts (huge mistake!!! as in warranty issues or available / compatible spare parts).
You can feel the quality of big-name motors, such as Bosch, Shimano and Yamaha. Cheaper e-bikes tend to feel less smooth and jerking when accelerating.
Paying more money could translate into good quality, warranty, customer service and serviceability.
For a mid-level e-bike, you are looking at spending around $1000-$1500. Within this price range, it is still likely to require some replacements but should need little other maintenance in the meantime.
The overall cost of running your e commuter bike is minimal, with reports indicating that charging the battery will cost under $10 each year for the average user.
The battery will need replacing every few years, but it is still much cheaper than running a second car or paying for public transport.
Maintenance is Critical
Care and maintenance are not that much different to a traditional bike. In regard to the power system, a little maintenance is required.
If you have any issues, you should refer to the manufacturer, always! It is adviseble to select a model with an excellent warranty to be on the safe side.
Attempting to open the motor, change parts, or modify any sensitive element could make the warranty invalid.
Also, it is recommended that you don’t let the battery go dead; instead charge it when it is below 50% and keep it topped up.
Full charging can take several hours, and it is a good habit that you remove the battery when storing the bike away for a long time.
Should You Buy a Commuter Electric Bike?
While there will always be some cyclists out there who would argue that a power-assisted bike is cheating, that is fast becoming an outdated view.
It’s not like bike riding needs to be a competition all the time; there is no prize that you are working towards. Instead, we cycle because it’s fun and enjoyable, and having an extra boost of power does not take that away.
Allowing for power-assisted pedaling so that you can travel further with minimal effort, considering a commuter electric bike is a great way to get from A to B without getting too hot and sweaty.