Spring is coming and this is the time when people think about buying a new bike. While most of us have seen an e-bike or heard about them but they still remain a mystery to most people. As the proud owner of a new e-bike I thought I would share some of the wisdom I gained from my experience.
What is an e-bike?
An electric bicycle, also known as an e-bike, is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor which can be used for propulsion. There are a great variety of different types of e-bikes available worldwide, from e-bikes that only have a small motor to assist the rider’s pedal-power (i.e. pedelecs) to somewhat more powerful e-bikes which tend closer to moped-style functionality: all however retain the ability to be pedalled by the rider and are therefore not electric motorcycles.
In Ontario the rules for E-Bikes are as follows:
- They must be able to be pedalled (it is illegal to remove the pedals even if you never use them).
- You must wear a helmet.
- They cannot go faster than 32 km/hour.
- While all e-bikes can use designated bike lanes, scooter style bikes are not allowed on bike trails/ park paths.
Why Get One?
There are several reasons why you might want to get an e-bike. For me, it was to get more exercise, save money on gas and be better to the environment. There was another lady in the store with me and her reason was that her husband has always done all the driving and he passed away. Not wanting to get a licence in her 60s and not being in hood enough health to ride all the time, a new e-trike was going to give her the freedom of mobility to go around to the shops and pick up groceries.
Choosing A Style
There are two main types of e-bikes, ones that look like regular bike and ones that look like a scooter. If you plan on using it strictly for exercise or leisure I would recommend the former. Unlike the scooter style, these bikes can easily be ridden solely on pedal power and they are still allowed on bike trails and paths whereas the scooter style is only good on roads or bike lanes.
If you plan to use your bike for transporting things like groceries you may want to look at a trike or a scooter. If you want to use your e-bike to commute and want an efficient way of getting from point A to point B (in style) then a scooter may be for you.
Next, you need to factor in where you plan to keep it. Regular e-bikes are more lightweight and take up less space if you live in an apartment and will need to bring your bike inside. However, they are targets for thieves since they can easily be stolen or harvested for parts.
Scooter styles are heavier and have key ignition systems, alarms, and locking wheels to help deter theft. However, they are larger and heavier so if you don’t have a garage or shed, that can be a problem.
Once you know what type of bike you are looking for then you can narrow it down by looking at the specs. Notice I haven’t talked about budget. Well that’s because the two styles of bike sell for pretty much the same price so money is not really a deciding factor there, but it is when it comes to the specs.
Lead-Acid vs. Lithium
Your battery is going to be the heart of your bike so in this case I would recommend going with Lithium (if you can afford it). Lead Acid batteries take longer to charge, can’t go as long between charges and are heavier than their lithium counterparts. The downside is lithium is more expensive. For example, the bike I got sells for $1000 for lead-acid and $1400 for the lithium. That said, if your bike is going to be strictly for recreation then there is nothing wrong with going for lead-acid to save yourself some money.
Some of the things to consider when comparing models are:
- What is the weight capacity?
- Can it hold more than one passenger?
- How far can it travel between charges?
- How long does it take to charge?
- Is there a warranty? What does it cover?
Notice I did not ask what speed it can go. That’s because (in Ontario anyway) the speed limit for e-bikes is 32km/hour. Bikes cannot go faster than that. However, if you get a bike style e-bike you can technically go faster than that because while the motor will cut off at 32, you can continue on pedal power which could put you over the limit (at least for a short period anyway).
Purchasing The Bike
Finally, you need to decide where you are going to purchase your bike. Here are a few things to think about.
- Can I buy it assembled?
- Do they offer any type of warranty?
- What is the return policy?
- Are they open year round?
- Do they have a service department?
- Are their prices reasonable in comparison to the market?
I chose to purchase from Mobility Unlimited, which is a very reputable dealer in the GTA. While their prices were slightly on the higher side, their customer reviews are all stellar, and when I visited the store I was not disappointed. Not only to they have a huge selection, they are open year round which means if you have a problem you can always go to them. Not only can you buy the bike already assembled, you can literally drive it out the door if you want to, or they will deliver it for you (my bike was delivered less than an hour after purchasing it).
The big plus is that they have a well reviewed service department. If you are going to spend this much money on a bike you want it to be an investment. By taking proper care of your bike with yearly maintenance, or just having somewhere to go if your bike breaks down is really important. And since this is all they do, I feel much more confident purchasing from them over a store or dealer that sells many different things.
The fellow who helped me was named George and he was great. He was very knowledgeable and patiently answered all my questions without ever trying to “sell” me anything. They also let me take a test drive which was great because you can only learn so much from reading.
As an added bonus, when purchasing I bike there they also give you a membership for Live Green Toronto and TERA (Toronto E-Bike Riders Association). This gives you all kinds of discounts in Toronto as well as helping get you into the e-bike community. I was able to get my lock and helmet at 50% off because of this.
In the end I went with the scooter style. It was a very difficult decision since there were many pros and cons between the different styles. The bike I purchased has two lockable storage compartments which is great and is super comfortable to ride. It can be pedalled (but trust me you are not going anywhere fast), pedal assisted, or just ridden. It has front and back lights, two rear-view mirrors, turn signals, speedometer, alarm, key ignition and removable battery. Since it is lithium it takes 2-4 hours to charge and can go up to 70km between charges. The only downside is that it is rather heavy (120 lbs) so getting it in the house was tough (there is a big step).
Once the weather warms up I will keep it locked in the backyard but for now it is in my living room. I can’t wait to ride it, have some new adventures, get in shape, and hopefully save some money.
I will also have to figure out how to install some sort of cup holder for my Timmys 🙂
If you have any other questions about e-bikes or you have one of your own and have tips to share feel free to jump in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you.