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7 Things You Need to Know About E-Bikes

E-bikes offer riders the ability to ride further, ride longer, and ride faster, but even with their advanced technology, they’re not as complex as you might imagine. However, we recognize that purchasing an e-bike is an investment, and we know you’re probably curious about how owning an e-bike might differ from the old 10-speed you’ve had in your garage for ages.

This list compiles seven of the most commonly asked questions we hear at the Peak Sports Bike Shop along with the answers you’ve been looking for!

What are e-bike classes, and what are the differences between Class 1, 2, and 3 bikes?

Three classes of e-bikes are used to distinguish the top speeds and assist functions of e-bikes so municipalities can better regulate their use. Here’s a brief run-down of the classes and their features:

  • Class 1 e-bikes offer riders a top assisted speed of 20 mph, and provide that power through pedal-assist only. Though you can still ride faster than 20 mph, the assist function won’t provide any help beyond the 20 mph limit.

  • Class 2 e-bikes also offer a top assisted speed of 20 mph, though that power is delivered through both pedal-assist and a throttle, meaning riders can choose whether or not to pedal to generate momentum.

  • Class 3 e-bikes assist riders up to 28 mph through pedal-assist only. Similar to Class 1 e-bikes, riders can still ride beyond the 28 mph limit under their own power, but the motor will stop providing assistance once the rider achieves 28 mph.

  • For all classes of e-bikes, the amount of assistance offered can be adjusted on-the-fly using a handlebar-mounted control. Though different manufacturers vary in how the power is divided, this means the rider ultimately chooses how much–or how little–the motor assists during a ride, meaning you can choose how easy or challenging it is to pedal.

What kind of range can I expect from my e-bike?

The range an e-bike can achieve varies widely based on the amount of assistance a rider is using, the size of the e-bike’s battery and motor, and the type of terrain being covered. In general, riders on flatter terrain in a lower assistance level can often expect to achieve ranges anywhere from 30 to 80 miles or more. Conversely, if you ride in a higher assistance level on steep terrain, you can expect a range closer to 15 or 20 miles. For most of our guests, range isn’t an issue, as our e-bikes tend to offer assistance beyond the average distances they’re expecting to ride. However, if you are seeking a bike capable of longer commutes or epic, multi-day rides, most manufacturers offer range-extender batteries that can add an additional 30-50% capacity to your bike’s battery.

How does maintaining an e-bike differ from non-electric bikes I’ve owned in the past?

While e-bikes are more complex than non-electric bikes because of their batteries, motors, and additional wiring, caring for one is simple and not all that different from other bikes you may have owned. Just like non-electric bikes, the main things you’ll need to do are the following:

  • Keep the chain clean and lubricated with a quality chain lube. Because e-bike motors put additional torque and power through the drivetrain, keeping your chain clean and lubricated goes a long way toward extending the life of your chainring and cassette. Fortunately, cleaning and lubricating a chain takes just a few seconds, and usually only needs to be done once every couple of weeks. If you’re unsure how to do this, feel free to stop by the Peak Sports Bike Shop for a quick demonstration! Even with regular cleaning and lubrication, expect to replace your chain a little more regularly than you might on a non-electric bike due to an e-bike’s additional torque.

  • Maintain proper tire inflation. Under-inflated tires increase tire wear and are one of the most frequent causes of flats. Every bike tire will have a recommended pressure range either printed or embossed on the side of the tire. For most riders, it’s best to pump your tires to the middle of the recommended range.

  • Keep an eye on brake pad wear. Most e-bikes use powerful, hydraulic disc brakes to provide plenty of stopping power, and due to their heavier weights, they tend to use up pad material a little more quickly than non-electric bikes. Pads can be visually inspected without any special tools. If you’re unsure how to do this, we’ll happily demonstrate the process during your next visit to our shop!

  • Have your bike serviced regularly. Depending on how often and how far you usually ride, plan on bringing your e-bike in for service one to two times a year so our technicians can inspect common wear items like your brakes and chain to ensure your shifting stays smooth and accurate.

I’ve seen some e-bikes with the motor by the pedals and others with the motor on the rear wheel. What’s the difference?

E-bikes are offered in primarily two styles: mid-drive and hub motor. Mid-drive e-bikes position the motor right by the crank arms, which means power is delivered in a smooth and natural way. It feels like you, but you’re much stronger. Mid-drives also put the additional weight of the motor low and right in the middle of the bike, which helps lower your center of gravity and ultimately provide a more stable ride.

Hub motors are usually found on the hub (center) of the rear wheel. These motors can be added to wheels without needing to modify the bike frame, which lowers the cost of the bike while still providing ample power. The main benefit is that e-bikes with hub motors are generally less costly than mid-drive e-bikes. However, since these motors are located on the rear wheel, their power delivery might feel more delayed than a mid-drive e-bike–almost like you’re getting a nice push behind for an extra boost. Additionally, since the motor is located on the rear wheel, it doesn’t provide the same lower center of gravity found on mid-drive bikes, and it can make changing a rear flat more cumbersome as the wheel is heavier and the motor needs to be disconnected (usually a single wire) before the wheel can be removed from the bike for repairs.

How long will it take to charge my e-bike?

E-bikes use high-capacity lithium-ion batteries to provide long-lasting, reusable power. Because of their size, you can expect a fully depleted battery to reach full charge in around six hours, though this time may vary based on the capacity of your bike’s battery and the throughput of the included charger. That means even if your commute somehow eats up your entire battery, you’ll have plenty of time during the workday to top off your battery for the ride home.

Additionally, the lithium-ion battery on your e-bike doesn’t have a “memory,” meaning if you only use a portion of its charge on your ride, you can top it off quickly without worrying about causing damage or reducing its capacity. That means you can jump on your bike for a quick ride to town and then top it off quickly when you get home so it’s ready for your next outing.

Will my e-bike have enough power to help me up the hill I live on? It’s really steep.

In the vast majority of cases, yes. Though e-bikes come with a wide array of motor and battery combinations that offer differing levels of power, nearly all e-bikes still have a wide range of gears to use on your ride. Even e-bikes with smaller, lower-powered motors will offer ample help on even the steepest climbs when the bike is put in a low gear. With plenty of torque available, you’ll still find it easy to pedal. Depending on the e-bike, you may not rocket up the hill in record time, but you can be assured you’ll reach the top without breaking a sweat!

How much do e-bikes weigh?

E-bikes, just like their non-electric counterparts, come in a huge array of sizes and weights. The e-bikes we carry from Trek, Specialized, Santa Cruz, Electra, and Orbea tend to average around 50 pounds. That said, we offer some lightweight commuter and road bikes that come in under 30 pounds and some heavy-duty full-suspension mountain bikes that edge closer to 60 pounds. In general, you can expect more available power and torque on heavier bikes since they tend to be built with larger capacity batteries and more robust motors. That said, even our most lightweight e-bikes still offer plenty of assistance and range since their motors and batteries aren’t having to push as much weight down the road or trail.

One thing is common between nearly every e-bike, though. If you expect to transport your e-bike on a hitch-mounted bike rack, plan on purchasing an e-bike-specific platform rack capable of handling the heavier weight of e-bikes. E-bike-specific racks are reinforced and use heavier gauge materials to ensure your e-bikes are held steady and secure even when the roads get bumpy.

We hope this FAQ answered any questions you may have thought up during your research into the wide world of e-bikes! That said, if you still have unanswered questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Our Bike Shop sales guides are huge fans of e-bikes, and they love introducing folks to all the fun e-bikes can offer! Feel free to drop into our bike shop at 135 NW 2nd St. in Corvallis or give us a call at 541-754-6444. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have, give you a tour of our awesome inventory, and even set you up on a test ride so you can experience all the fun firsthand!