Things to know before buying an e-bike
Let’s talk about electronic bikes.
E-bikes, or pedal-assist bicycles have been gaining in popularity globally in recent years, and the industry experts agree that e-bikes are here to stay. Despite their prevalence, there are a lot of questions surrounding the e-bike. What are they, exactly? What’s the point? Where can they go? How fast can they go?! Can I ride one?!?
What are e-bikes? What’s the purpose of an e-bike?
One thing should be made clear: an e-bike is not an electric motorcycle or moped. E-bikes are pedal-assist bicycles, so the rider has to be pedaling to engage the motor. As you pedal, an internal motor kicks in to help generate some of the force to propel you and the bike forward. The harder you pedal, the harder the motor works as well, up to a certain point. As you can imagine, this decreases the amount of effort required to ride at fast speeds, or up hills.
Essentially, e-bikes extend a rider’s capabilities. A pedal-assist e-bike can help you ride farther and faster, while still getting exercise and getting outdoors. This makes them appealing to a lot of riders, or future riders. Any abled rider can ride an e-bike, but certain models are geared towards a specific customer. These might include:
- Commuter – get to work faster and fresher, or carry more groceries with ease!
- Riders with varying abilities or chronic injury history – take the pain and strain out of hill climbs.
- Riders wanting to keep pace – ride with faster, more experienced, or higher ability riders.
- Senior riders – just because your body is slowing down doesn’t mean you have to!
- Any rider wanting to ride farther or faster, an e-bike can take you there.
Although the pedal-assist feature increases the bicycle’s initial cost, many e-bikes have integrated or included accessories such as lights, racks, and/or fenders, which are additional costs in a standard bicycle purchase. They’re significantly less expensive than a car, and you may find yourself driving less and e-biking more!
Where can e-bikes go?
In the state of Washington and around the Pacific Northwest, e-bikes are allowed on all roads that are already open to cyclists (paved, gravel, or dirt), as well as shared-use paths. Depending on the class of e-bike, riders may need to be 16+ years of age, and riding on sidewalks can be restricted for pedestrian safety. Public roads and bike lanes are fully open to e-bikes.
Off-road access, such as mountain bike trails, is less straightforward and is one of the more contentious issues surrounding e-bikes. State legislators around the nation are working to establish these guidelines. In general, trails maintained by the National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management which is open to motorized vehicles also allow electric mountain bike (eMTB) access. This means if it’s open to a motorcycle, it’s open to an eMTB.
Our advice is to research the trail management policy before you ride there. Also, we’re happy to help point you in the right direction for our local trails. To get you started, a map of eMTB accessible trails can be found at peopleforbikes.org.
How fast can e-bikes go?
This depends on the specific model of e-bike, but there are three general classes:
- Class 1: pedal-assist up to 20 mph
- Class 2: throttle-on-demand up to 20 mph, pedal option
- Class 3: pedal-assist up to 29 mph
The brands we carry at the Bicycle Barn, Specialized and Trek, tend to focus on Types 1 and 3, which are considered pedal-assist. Most e-bikes have multiple levels of pedal-assistance, from “economy” which maximizes battery life, to “turbo” which maximizes power. This allows the rider to tailor the riding experience to the circumstances. For example, you can arrive at work sweat-free using a high-power level, and then get a workout in on the commute home with low or no pedal-assist.
Like any electronic device, e-bikes require recharging after use. The life of the lithium-ion batteries depends on the size of the battery, the motor, and the level of pedal-assist.
Can I test ride an e-bike?
Absolutely! There is a full range of comfort, commuter, and mountain e-bikes to choose from. We encourage you to come test out the possibilities of what an e-bike can do for your riding.
Take one for a spin to see what you think! As Walla Walla’s only authorized dealer, we are proud to offer a wide selection of Specialized and Trek e-bikes.
All in all, e-bikes are a young and exciting technology in the bicycle industry, and they are poised for continued growth. They allow riders to go farther, faster, and to new places. We’ve shown time and time again it’s impossible to ride them without smiling, but you’re more than welcome to try!
Questions? Swing into the shop, or give us a call at 509.529.7860.