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The Electric Bike Buyer's Guide

Whether you're hitting the trails, commuting to work, or cruising around down there's no doubt that eventually you can use a little help now and then. That's exactly why electric bicycles were invented: to help the comfort of riders, no matter if they're zipping throughout the city or cruising to the park.

So say you're interested in getting one: where are you even supposed to start? There are all kinds of drivetrains, wattages, apms, voltages, bike styles- it can all become overwhelming pretty quickly.

That's why we broke down everything you need to know about electric bikes so you can choose the best style, size, and power for you and your style of riding.

What Is An Electric Bike?

While electric bikes have been on the scene for several decades now, it's only within the last ten years or so that they've become a more viable means of personal transport verses pushbikes. Since they're introduction to the market, e-bike frames have become more streamlined, suspension has improved and motor power has increased, resulting in a modern range of e-bikes that can be ridden just about anywhere.

Simply put, an electric bike is much like a traditional pedal powered bicycle in size, appearance and maneuverability. In fact, with the growing popularity of electric bicycles, it is likely that you’ve seen one riding through the streets but you may not have been aware of it.

Though there are tons of different styles of e-bikes (we'll explain that in a minute), the main difference between an e-bike and a traditional bicycle is that e-bikes operate with the help of two main components: an electric powered motor and a battery. No matter if it's through a thumb throttle or pedelic (a sensor that helps throttle your bike while you pedal), the motor gives your bike power so your legs don't have to. Meanwhile, the battery stores energy for your motor to help extend your ride and excellerate the speed you're riding at.

(Note: the drivetrain [chain vs. belt drive] can also be seen as a component, but since all bikes have some sort of drive we won't necessarily count that as something that sets traditional bikes from e-bikes) 

What Are the Benefits of an Electric Bike Vs A Traditional Bike?

As you've probably already seen, the price of an electric bike- even an electric conversion kit and battery- is a little steep. It might even turn some off to the idea of e-bikes all together, but trust us: if you're going to drop some serious money on your next ride it should be a bike that makes your life easier while also keeping you active, too!

  • An electric bike is an ideal cross between a moped and a regular bicycle- You get motor power so that you can travel further and faster than would be possible on a standard pushbike, but unlike a moped, e-bikes can be ridden on sidewalks, in bike lanes and through parks. If you thought it was convenient to park a motorcycle or scooter, e-bikes are that much easier to park and much more versitile to ride than street-bound bikes. As an added bonus, in most areas you will not require any special license or registration papers in order to ride your electric bike on the road, things you'll definitely need with gas-powered vehicles.
  • Electric bikes are a great form of exercise- Since an electric motor is chiefly designed to assist pedal propulsion, not replace it completely, a bulk of movement the bike has comes from you, the rider. However, the motor gives you the opportunity to boost your own pedal power, so that you can travel faster and further than would be possible on a traditional bicycle. That's what makes e-bikes a fantastic choice for anyone who may struggle with riding a standard bicycle due to joint pain, knee problems or other medical conditions. Instead of a hard struggle to crest a steep hill, getting through a headwind or pedalling the entire distance to and from work, an electric motor can be engaged to give the rider an that extra push required to take the pressure off. 
  • E-bikes are considered to be a “green” transportation option- The increased public awareness in recent years of the need to decrease greenhouse gas emissions has led to a movement of everyday people who are putting aside their gas guzzling cars and gas pwoered bike in favor of an electric bicycle.
  • Electric bikes typically feature a more upright seating position than most traditional pushbikes- These bikes are suitable for anyone who may suffer from back and neck pain when riding. Sitting upright also reduces pressure on the wrists, resulting in a more comfortable and relaxed ride. Additionally, this elevated posture allows you an improved view of your surroundings, meaning that you are in a better position to watch out for moving traffic and any other obstacles that could create a potential hazard for unwary riders.
  • With an e-bike you can commute to and from work quickly and easily- Many people like the idea of riding a bike to work as part of their daily commute, but the reality of a long distance ride, crazy terrain and extended travel time can be enough to put off even the most enthusiastic of riders. Many electric bike models are capable of travelling 15-20 mph and have a range of 20+ miles from a single charge, although some, such as the Green Bike USA GB500, can travel as far as 50 miles from a single charge, increased to 80 miles when using the Pedal Assist System. So instead of slogging it out up and down hills on a pushbike, or being trapped in your car for rush hour traffic, electric bikes can solve all of these problems since they can help you travel further and faster without breaking a sweat. 
  • Electric bikes are typically considered to be more resistant to theft than a traditional pushbike- Since many e-bikes require a key in order to operate them (such as the X-Treme City Rider electric scooter and the Enzo folding electric bike) theft of an e-bike is usually much more difficult than a standard bike. Electric bikes are also available with removable batteries (so you can carry it into your home or office when the e-bike is not in use), providing an additional challenge to any would-be bike thief.

 

Which Style of Electric Bike Frame is Right for You?

When it comes to choosing the best electric bike frame for you, unfortunately there is no “one size fits all" solution. Instead, determining the best e-bike frame for you depends on three factors: 1) the style of riding you want to engage in; 2) its comfort for your overall height and weight; and 3) ease of mounting and dismounting the bike

1)  There are plenty of frames for any style of riding: Electric bikes are available in a range of styles that relate to the type of riding they are best suited for. While there are hybrid e-bikes that blend styles together, the most popular frames include:

                      i. Commuting – These are closer to road and city bike frames. Specifically designed for regular commutes to work, commuter e-bikes are road bikes with lightweight frames and narrow tires. They often include added extras such as luggage racks for storing a work bag, lights and reflectors for travelling at night and fenders to prevent mud from spattering up on your clothes.

                     ii. Cruising – These frames are based off beach cruiser-style frames. Cruising frames are ideal for relaxed riding and day trips along the coast. These cruisers are stylish and comfortable with an upright seating position, wide tires and swept-back handlebars.

                    iii. Fat Tire – These actually come in many styles (like cruiser and mountain bike styles). They're sometimes referred to as off-road or adventure bikes because these electric bicycles are built to accommodate all terrain “fat tires” that are at least 4” wide. However, these wheels require oversized rear and front forks, which then usually enlarges the overall size of the frame. While they can definitely be ridden comfortably on paved roads, the extra wide tires mean they can also ride easily across sand, snow and a variety of other challenging terrains.

                    iv. Folding– These frames are very basic and kind of small. That said, folding e-bikes are a great choice for anyone who wants to take their e-bike with them on vacation or who has limited storage space at home. They will generally have smaller tires (12-16" to reduce their overall size) and a 1-to-3 bar frame that either collapses down or folds back in half when the folding mechanism is activated.

                     v. Mountain– These frames are exactly like you've seen before: cro-mag, triangle frames with a slight downward slope to the cross bar. Electric mountain bikes are built for riding on rough trails over a variety of terrains just like non-electric MTB's. They are usually heavier than a cruiser or commuter e-bike and have been built with heavy duty suspension systems to absorb any hard hits you encounter. Mountain bike frames will usually have flat or upright handlebars so riders can lean forwards over them.

                    vi. Moped E-Bikes– Ah, now these look more like the bulkier e-scooters and moped you've seen lately. Moped e-bikes are fast becoming popular with riders who are looking to fully replace their car with an electric powered vehicle, due to the fact they are easy to operate and have all the conveniences of an electric bike, but coupled with the conveniences of a traditional moped scooter, such as large padded seats, turning signals and the ability to carry a passenger.

                   vii. Comfort E-Bikes – Comfort frames are a little funky: they sort of look like step-through cruisers mixed with a recumbant bike. However, the comfort range of electric bicycles are ideal for anyone seeking a gentle form of transport that won’t put unnecessary strain on your body. With upright seating and pedals that are higher, riders will be able to sit more naturally and pedal without extending their legs as far as is necessary on more traditional bike frames.

                  viii. E-Trikes – There are many styles of electric tricycles, from the big-wheel style to simply a cruiser with a 2-wheeled rear axle. Although not as common as some other styles of e-bike frames, electric trikes are a great choice for riders seeking the stability of a tricycle combined with the ease of an electric powered motor. E-Trikes are also available in a “drifting” range which can be enjoyed by both teenagers and adventurous adults.

                    ix. E-Kick Scooter – Just like the name suggests, these look just like any old kick-scooter. Electric kick scooters are highly portable and easy to maneuver through crowds, making them a fantastic way of travelling the last mile from the station to your office or for navigating across college campuses.

b)    Determining the bike's comfort for your overall height and weight: In order for you to be comfortable riding your e-bike you need to correctly determine what size frame will suit you best. The most common method for determining this is to measure your inseam (i.e. distance from the bottom your foot to the bottom of your crotch); the correct frame size should be roughly .65 times your inseam measurement.

If you are unsure about sizing there are numerous charts online that can assist in determining the correct size frame for you based on your height and inseam measurement. Some models are specifically designed for taller or shorter riders, such as the petite 15” eProdigy Banff cruiser e-bike or the larger sized 19” eProdigy Jasper electric cruiser.

c)    How easy is mounting and dismounting the bike: Here we're comparing step-through (or “unisex”) frames vs diamond (or “men’s”) frames. If you look at most electric bikes you will notice that some have a high cross bar (such as on the eProdigy Logan commuter bike, where you would need to swing your leg quite high, up and over in order to mount/dismount) and others have no cross bar (or a very low and sloping one like the X-Treme 300W Trail Climber Mountain Electric Bike).

  • Which is easier to ride? This is purely a matter of personal preference as either type can be ridden by both men and women, but a step-through frame will be easier to manage for shorter riders or those who may struggle with balance or flexibility, since the mount/dismount process only requires a small step.

Remember: riding an electric bicycle should not be an extreme physical challenge. E-bikes are made to make things easier for the rider, so if you’re struggling to get on and off the bike and ride it, chances are you have the wrong bike frame.

 

How to Choose the Right Drivetrain

The drivetrain of an e-bike refers to the various parts that provide power and torque (or rotational force) to turn the wheels of an electric bike.  The typical drivetrain is composed of a chain or belt, some form of gearing system and a crankset (or sprocket) that is turned by the chain/belt. The right drivetrain will have you cruising with no problems, but the wrong one will make riding your e-bike tricky.

a)    Gearing systems: Have you ever seen someone pedal really fast and barely get anywhere? How about someone using only a few cranks to go far? That's all due to a bike's gearing. Gearing systems come in three basic varieties, single speed, internally geared and multi-speed derailleur.

                      i.        Single speed gear: As the name implies, single speed bikes have a single gear ratio. This makes them cheaper, simpler and lighter but it also means they are less efficient if you travel outside of the single gearing range. Electric bikes with single speed gears (such as the Populo Sport V3) are better for short distance rides on flat roads. 

                     ii.        Internal gearing system: Internal gears are all contained in the wheel hub, which means they are protected from mud or anything else that could potentially jam up the gears. Because of this, they are a very low maintenance system. Internal gears use a “planetary system”, where interlocking gears rotate around the “sun” gears near the center. They are an efficient gearing system for casual or cruising rides, but are not designed for high-stress use (handling steep hills or travelling off road). Internal gearing can be found on the popular Fifield range of cruiser bikes.

                    iii.        Multi-speed derailleur system: A derailleur system makes it possible for a bike to change gears by shifting the chain between various sized sprocket wheels for more efficient riding. Many derailleur systems will have a front and rear operation, which gives you a greater number of gears to choose from (which is what makes a derailleur system ideal for riding on varied terrain and up and down sharp inclines). While electric bikes may have 6-speed gearing systems (the Green Bike USA GB3P is a common choice with 6-speed gearing), others like the Smart Motion Catalyst mountain bike may have 10-speed (or higher) gearing systems. Some people may be a little intimidated by the idea of so many gear options, but they are easy to manage with a little practice.

b)    Belts and chains: The use of a belt drive or a chain drive will affect the level of ongoing maintenance required, as well as what type of gearing system will be compatible.

                      i.        Belt drive systems: A drivetrain that uses a belt will generally be much lighter (weighing about half as much as a drivetrain with a chain) and they are very low maintenance. For this reason belt drives are often used on folding e-bikes like the Enzo belt drive folding electric bicycle, since the goal of a folding bike is to be as lightweight as possible. The belts are made from a continuous loop of carbon fiber tensile cord; because they don’t have lots of moving parts, you can expect a belt system to last at least twice as long as a chain system, and potentially they can last up to ten times as long. In terms of maintenance, belts don’t require lubrication and they will not rust because there are no metal components. However, a belt drive system will only work with single speed or internally geared e-bikes since the belt can’t be shifted onto different tracks.

                     ii.        Chain drive system: Chain driven systems are still a lot more common than belts, since this is the original technology that has long been in use on a traditional pushbike. Because of this, they are easier to service and replace (since they are so common). The main advantage of a chain drive system is that it can be used with a multi-gear derailleur. However, chains can rust if they are not properly maintained (although some brands such as AddMotor use rust resistant chains) and will eventually stretch as a result of general use. In order to prolong the life of your chain drive system you will need to periodically lubricate the chain (to keep it turning smoothly) and aim for smooth gear changes to prevent jarring to the system.

 

Understanding the Difference – Mid Drive, Rear Hub Drive & Front Hub Drive Motors

While it may not seem that important where the motor is located, it actually makes a huge difference on how the bike operates and how it feels when you're riding it:The details of electric bikes will describe the e-bike as either having a mid drive, rear hub drive or front hub drive. These definitions explain where on the e-bike the electric motor is situated: either in the front tire (front hub drive), the rear tire (rear hub drive) or in the center of the e-bike frame (mid drive).

a)    Front hub drive motor: With these drives you'll utilize a front hub motor located laced (or "spoked") into the front wheel. Forward propulsion is created by spinning that tire and as a result, it will feel like the e-bike is being pulled forward. This is considered to be a very simple and low maintenance location for the motor, and it allows for all sorts of gearing systems located on the rear hub.

The downside to these is that front drive hub motors make the front of the electric bike heavier. That means you can struggle with keeping traction on steep trails that have a loose surface such as gravel. This also can become dangerous if you're not careful on slick surfaces, as the front wheel can slip as you throttle into a turn (especially if it's a powerful motor). For these reasons, front hub drive motors are not a great choice for electric mountain bikes that will be travelling on differing gradients and surfaces.

However, front hub drive motors are an ideal choice if you’re mostly planning to ride around town or through the city and you want a low fuss setup. Front hub motors are also often used on electric scooters and e-trikes, which is perfect because there's enough weight keeping the electric vehicle balanced.

b)    Rear hub drive motor: A rear hub drive motor is located in the rear wheel, so it creates a more natural riding sensation of being pushed along rather than pulled forward. If you’re a regular pushbike rider, a motocycle rider, or a moped enthusiast, then this sensation will be more like what you are used to.

Rear hub motors are the best choice when you are seeking a more powerful motor, since they are less likely to slide out under high power originating from the rear of the bike. Since the motor is located underneath the bulk of your weight (below the seat) you will be able to get better traction with a rear hub motor, particularly in wet weather or on loose surfaces. 

Though the rear hub motor is not compatible with internal gearing, it is a great choice for riders planning to go off road (such as electric mountain bikes).

c)    Mid drive motor: Mid drive motors are located in the center of the electric bike frame and send power directly to the drivetrain instead of through a hub. Because of this, mid drive motors feel very much like riding a standard pushbike; and since the motors drive goes through the e-bike gearing system, it allows the motor to utilize gearing for a more efficient use of power.

As all of the motor weight is low and centered on the frame, mid drive motors create a lower center of gravity, so you’ll feel more stable when riding. This setup also allows for quick release on both wheels (a stand out feature on the range of Biktrix e-bikes), an advantage if you have minimal storage space or want to be able to transport your electric bicycle in the trunk of your car.

 

Comparing Electric Bike Motor Wattage – How Much Power Do You Need?

Think of the wattage of a motor sort of like a displacement is to a gas powered motor. Instead of "66/80cc" we're talking about "250/500/750/1000w".

When it comes to choosing an electric bike, most people are chiefly concerned with the potential power output of the motor (wattage) because they assume that a more powerful engine will deliver a faster e-bike. E-bikes are not race cars, and the “bigger is always better” complex does not apply here. Most, no matter what the wattage, have a comparable top speed of 15-20 mph.

Electric bike specifications will usually state a maximum recommended rider weight that is based on the motor output and the specific capabilities of each individual model. These can be great in determining whether or not a particular electric bicycle would offer sufficient power for each individual. If after researching the manufacturer recommendations you are still a little unsure then it is wise to err on the side of caution and go for the larger wattage: after all, better to have a slightly more powerful motor than one that struggles to get the job done.  

Still, while we love electric cycling, it's important to keep your expectations realistic.

How can you figure out the wattage you need? Just answer these questions

  1. What type of riding you are planning to do- If you are looking for an electric mountain bike to ascend steep mountain trails then you are going to need more power than you would for a cruiser bike that’s going to be moseying along a level boardwalk. If you plan on making your motor cluimb hills go with a higher wattage motor, otherwise stick in the 250-500w range. 
  2. Weight of the ride- By that we mean the weight you're asking your electric motors to pull. That includes yourself, the frame, and all additional items you plan on carrying. The heavier the weight on the e-bike, the more power it will need. For example, riding with a hefty backpack or pulling a trailer behind you will require more power than riding with a backpack. 
    If  you try and ride an underpowered electric bicycle up a hill then you are forcing the motor to operate beyond its capabilities which could cause the motor to burn out. This is due to the level of strain it is subjected to. On the flip side, if your electric bike is underpowered and you are only using it to cruise around town on level roads then it won’t be a big problem (although the bike will probably feel sluggish and have a slow take-off).

250 watt motor will be more than capable of propelling some riders around town on flat roads like city streets and near the beach.

To carry weight exceeding 200 lbs. then a 350-400 watt motor would be a better option. Motors of this size should be able to successfully operate going up hills, but not without you providing supplementary pedal power.

If you're a heavier rider or want to be able to cruise up a hill without pedaling at all then you will need to start looking at the more powerful 500750 or even 1000 watt motors. These specialized electric bikes are ideal for riders who may find the smaller motors underpowered, and are favored by a range of professional athletes including NBA and NFL players, including the Day 6 Sampson Comfort e-bike, named the official bicycle of 18-year NFL football player and 7-time Pro Bowler Lomas Brown (measuring 6’5” and weighing in at 287 lbs.), in addition to World Champion NBA Piston’s power forward Rick Mahorn (a lofty 6’10” and weighing 380 lbs.). Bikeberry stocks a range of high powered electric bikes including the 1000W AddMotor Motan M-5800 and the 1000W QuietKat Apex FatCat. There are even electric bikes engineered to assist with heavy outdoor work (such as moving work gear on a farm or transporting game back from a hunt), like the 6000W QuietKat Prowler.

 

What Difference Does Battery Voltage and Amp Hours Make?

So you've decided what style of electric bike you want to buy, determined ideal size and reached a verdict on step-through vs diamond frame. You’ve selected the perfect drivetrain, motor location and motor output,  but when you start looking at battery descriptions you keep seeing variations of the same formula: 36V and 12AH, 48V and 10AH, 24V and 8AH…what does it mean? And how do you decide what you need?

This equation is describing the battery's voltage (V) and its amp hours (AH). When considering battery voltage, it can help to think of it as similar to the term “horsepower” that is used for describing a car engine. Just like more horsepower equals more engine power, a higher voltage equals higher power.

Most e-bike manufacturers will offer batteries that are between 24 and 48 volts, since these sized batteries offer a good supply of power without making the overall cost of the e-bike too expensive. 

The battery amp hour rating is describing the energy storage capacity of your battery. If voltage is like the power of a car engine, then the amp hour rating would be like describing how big your gas tank is. It will determine how far you will be able to travel on a single battery charge. The higher the amp hour rating is, the further you can expect to ride.

** Watt Hours: You may see an electric bike battery described by its number of watt hours, which is the amount of energy in the battery. It is determined by multipling the voltage by the amp hours (V x AH = watt hours). This is a useful equation for accurately comparing battery size and potential power, because two batteries may have differing voltage and amp hour ratings but still perform in a very similar manner if they have a comparable number of watt hours.

To illustrate, if you have a 24 volt, 12 amp hour battery and a 24 volt, 6 amp hour battery, you might mistake them for being similar in performance (after all, they are both 24 volts). But if you compare the watt hours you will see that the first battery has 288 watt hours (24 x 12) and the second only has 144 watt hours (24 x 6). While the two batteries might accelerate at the same speed due to their matching voltage, the battery with 144 watt hours won’t travel as far as the battery with the higher 288 amp hour rating.

It is important to note that possible riding distance also depends heavily on the riding conditions; this includes carrying weight, road incline, wind conditions and whether or not you are pedaling in conjunction with using the electric motor. A smaller rider who is pedaling along with the motor, travelling on a flat road and with a tailwind will obviously go a lot further than a heavier rider who is battling a strong headwind, while relying solely on the motor to power them up a hill.

How does the Watt Hour help determine the best motor for you? 

A battery can only use as much of the motor's wattage as it can, and most riders end up under or over-powering their motor/battery assembly because of it. The watt hour will tell you how many watts that setup is cable of utilizing, and to assure your electric bike's got the most efficient system- one where it is not being overpowered or very underpowered- find a motor close to the amp hour you're looking for.

For example, if you've got a battery that's for 48v's and 14ah, that will give you a watt hour or 672w's. A 48v 1000w motor will be severely under-utilizing that battery, so you'll want to go with a 48v 750w battery to give you the best pairing for the best miles per charge and power distribution.

Choosing A Battery – Lithium Vs Lead-Acid Explained

Most electric bicycles will come with either a lead-acid or a lithium battery. Although some other variations may be available, these are undoubtedly the two most common types currently favored by e-bike manufacturers.

While this can be a somewhat divisive decision (longtime riders tend to have strong opinions about which they think is best) the fact is that lithium batteries and lead-acid batteries both have their own benefits and disadvantages.

a)    Lead-acid batteries: Unlike the lead-acid batteries you may find in a car (which can leak toxic battery acid if they tip over), the ones used for e-bikes are referred to as “sealed lead-acid” batteries (or SLA) and they are contained within a hard plastic case, protecting you from any harmful substances.

Advantages: Sealed lead-acid batteries use a technology that has been around for quite some time, so they are viewed by many as a tried and tested product. they are much cheaper than lithium, which can have a big impact on the overall price of your electric bicycle. SLA batteries also have a high power output potential that far exceeds lithium batteries (lithium don’t like too much current). Since sealed lead-acid batteries can produce such a large amount of current they are a popular choice for high powered electric bikes.

Disadvantages: The biggest disadvantage of using a sealed lead-acid battery on an electric bike is that they are very heavy; heavy enough to significantly impact the potential range of distance you can travel from a single battery charge. The other problem with SLA batteries is that they only have an expected lifespan of 100-200 recharge cycles, which can be only as little as 10% of what you’d expect from lithium.

b)    Lithium batteriesThese batteries are typically mounted low and centered on the frame. In addition to making the e-bike more stable, this also means these batteries don’t stand out too much to casual observers; many models of electric bike actually conceal the lithium batteries directly within the frame itself

Advantages: The small size of lithium batteries help to keep electric bikes evenly weighted opposed to other batteries that weigh part of the bike down. They're fantastic for their small size and minimal weight, with some batteries projected to travel distances of 100+ miles. You can even potentially combine several lithium batteries and achieve a range far more powerful than you could with a sealed lead-acid battery.
The other big plus to a lithium battery is the extended cycle life (or number of recharges you can expect throughout the life of the battery). In comparison to the 100-200 recharges you’d expect from sealed lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries have an average cycle life of 500-1000+ recharges.

Disadvantage: The only real downside to lithium batteries is that, while they will last longer, they cost quite a bit more initially. In the long term, lithium batteries may be comparable in cost to lead-acid batteries (e.g. lithium costs five times as much to purchase up front, but should last five times as long), but for the initial outlay of your electric bike, you can expect to pay more.

 

E-Bike Wheels – What Size Will Suit You Best?

The sizing of electric bike wheels can vary, but most commonly you will see e-bikes are fitted with 16”, 20” or 26” wheels. Just like regular bicycle wheels, this sizing refers to the diameter of each wheel (or the distance from the center of the wheel out to the rim). While many people believe that wheel size does little beyond determining how high off the ground you will be, varying wheel sizes can actually have a large impact on how your e-bike handles and what kind of ride quality you can expect:

a)    Small wheels – 16”: Wheels that are 16” in diameter or smaller are typically only found on electric bikes for children or on folding e-bikes. These smaller wheels are lighter and they generally take up less space than other sized wheels/frames, minimizing the overall weight of the e-bike and making it easier to carry. However, because of their small size they're not as well equipped to deal with any bumps or obstacles in the road. This means that if you’re not travelling on a perfectly smooth road or path, with 16” wheels you will definitely feel it!

Recommended for children and adults around 5ft tall or shorter

b)    Medium wheels – 20”: 20” wheels are more popular than 16" wheels and are found on many models of folding bikes, as well as e-bikes specifically designed for inner city riding. These smaller wheels wheels are more responsive to steering and give you a greater level of maneuverability, something that is of higher importance when you’re travelling in and around other vehicles or pedestrians. The increased agility of 20” wheels is coupled with faster acceleration, since their reduced weight produces a lower moment of inertia (how much torque is needed to accelerate). This enables the 20” wheels to take off faster from a complete stop than what you would expect riding an electric bike with larger wheels.

However, 20” wheels are not a good choice if you want to comfortably cruise off a paved road on to a trail or sandy street. If you encounter a pothole on an electric bike with 20” wheels, the wheels can drop in much deeper and harder than they would on a larger wheel. Likewise, the smaller the wheel, the greater the exaggerated impact of any bumps you may hit. 

Recommended for teens and adults around 5'5" on paved surfaces

c)     Larger wheels – 26”+: Larger wheels are by far the most popular choice, particularly if you are looking for a comfortable ride. Most commonly a 26”, these larger wheels have a lower “angle of attack”, which basically means that obstacles seem smaller in comparison to big wheels. This makes larger wheels a smart choice for anyone planning off road riding (where you might encounter rocks, tree roots, large sticks, etc.) or riding across cities where you will encounter potholes and curbs.

While smaller wheels may benefit from faster acceleration, 26” wheels are better able to store inertia once they are already in motion. This means that if you have two comparable electric bikes (same sized motor, battery, approximate weight, etc.) but one had 20” wheels and the other had 26”, the e-bike with the larger wheels could “coast” without pedaling or engaging the motor for a longer period of time than the 20” wheels. This also means 26” wheels require less energy to maintain a constant speed.

The downside to 26” wheels is that they require a longer wheelbase, which in turn reduces the maneuverability of the e-bike. So you won’t be as agile or stable zigzagging at lower speeds, but rather will perform better at higher speeds in wide open spaces.

Recommended for adults who are completely comfortable maneuvering 26" bikes

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