From a Facebook Group Post
I don’t know if I posted this here before this or not. Friends asked how we chose our e-bikes which we purchased in July 2022. Here’s my 2 cents on how we chose our Electra Townie Go 5i -bikes:
We researched before we bought, and have been asked a few times how we chose the bikes we have. This is pretty much the process we went thru. It’s long and opinionated, but this is pretty much how it went:
We wanted something that we’d still have to work at to move down the bike path. We pretty much stick to paved bike paths here in Fort Collins and nearby places. There are so many ebikes out there now, and the prices are all over the map. These are the things that were important to us:
1. Comfort in riding: I have 2 other bikes both of which I had to hunch over to ride. That put a strain on my neck & back and it often seemed like I couldn’t ride for more than about an hour before it was too much. These bikes have you sitting upright with feet slightly forward. Very comfortable with little back and neck strain.
2. Torque sensing vs cadence sensing: Most bikes use a credence sensor to detect that you are spinning the peddles. This is usually a circular array of small magnets in a ring and a sensor that detects the magnets as it spins when you peddle. This creates a pulse that is monitored by the bike controller to detect if the peddles are spinning, and at what rpm they are spinning. The controller interpolates this pulse and controls the output of the motor. A cadence sensor only cares about if you are spinning the peddles, and how fast you are spinning them, it doesn’t care how hard you’re peddling. So long as you are spinning the peddles it will deliver power to the motor. You can add to that power by peddling harder, but it doesn’t really care how hard… how much force you’re applying to the peddles as you peddle.
A torque sensor uses a sensor that measures the pressure you are applying to the peddles (how hard you’re peddling) and delivers power based on that. Peddle harder, get more assistance. Of course, as in a cadence sensor bike, there are different levels of assistance you can use. Generally from 3 to 5 different levels (Ours has 4 levels). A torque sensor controlled bike gives you more of a normal bicycling experience. The cadence sensor controlled bike, while gobs of fun, can feel more like an electric scooter than a bicycle sometimes. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you’re looking for. But that wasn’t what we were looking for.
3. Mid Drive vs Hub Drive: The Townie Electra ebike is available in rear hub drive versions, and mid drive versions. The Rear Hub drive does not take advantage of the gears on the rear wheel. Most ebikes use a rear derailleur and 5-9 gears as on a 10 speed bike. You generally still have to use low end gears to get up hills, and high end gears to move along at a good pace on a flat path. On a hub drive, the motor spins the rear wheel without regard to what gear you’re using. It will alter the amount of power depending on what power assist level you are using – only.
A mid drive moves to bike by delivering power at the pedal cranks. It drives all the power to the wheel, both people power and motor power, via the chain and sprockets just like a non motorized bike. This allows the motor to use the gears just like people do on a normal 10 speed bike. This makes a mid drive more efficient because the motor can utilize the gears to deliver a variable amount of power depending on what gear you’re in. Consequently you can generally get more distance out of a battery charge on a mid drive bike than a rear hub bike.
4. Throttles: We didn’t want a bike with a throttle. Some bikes have a throttle that you can use to move the bike. It’s kinda like an electric motorcycle at that point. They are pretty cool, and they do have a place… for instance if you live in a place that’s hilly and you have to do a lot of starts right up a hill, a throttle assist can give you lots of power right out of the gate to get you moving till you can move the bike on your own people power. It’s there when/if you need it. We didn’t need it. (Through I wouldn’t turn it down if these bikes had it). (I’m talking. About an additional power assist that is either a thumb trigger/button, or a twist of the right hand grip to engage a throttle to power the motor. It would be in addition the the main drive systems).
5. Bike weight: While these bikes are heavy compared to a normal bike, they are about mid point for an ebike. These are about 55lbs each with the battery installed, rack, etc. Many mid drive bikes are up in the 60-65 lb range which is a bit heavy for loading on a bike rack. We needed to be below 50 lbs without the battery to put the on our bike rack. There are lighter bikes, but they generally get more expensive as they get lighter.
6. Use of better quality components: Townie Electra is owned by Trek. They have a good reputation and use good quality components. I’d say ours are good quality mid level complements. Generally speaking, the cheaper the bike the lower the quality of components.
7. Motor power: we wanted a motor/drive system that would deliver enough power to easily get us up a moderately steep hill when we needed it. These bikes use motor/drive system that is one level up from the smallest motor offered on these bikes. The mid drive motor system is made by Bosch. It is the “Bosch Active Line Plus”. They make a lower end unit called the “Bosch Active Line”. They are the same wattage motor, but this one is a bit beefier and delivers more torque than the other which is Important when starting off from a stop and going up a hill and such. There is a noticeable difference.
8. Cool factor: we really like the retro / beach cruiser look of these bikes 🙂
9. Sold at REI: REI has an excellent return policy. If for whatever reason we decide these are not for us, we can return them for a full refund. We also get a 10% dividend at the end of the year.
10. Battery removal and security: The battery on these bikes is lockable and can easily be removed if you are locking the bike up somewhere. The batteries are expensive so we don’t want to make an easy target for theft. We also are parking the bikes in our garage which can see extreme high and low temperatures over the course of the year. Lithium batteries don’t like extreme temperatures. We take the batteries off and charge them in the house where it’s cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and there are less variations in temperature.
11. Fat tires: The balloon tires on these bikes make for a comfortable ride without having to use suspension forks and such. It’s a pretty smooth ride. We’re not racing or going down the path like a racing/road bike, but that’s not what we wanted in these bikes. We both have road bikes for that.
12. These are Class-1 ebikes: Local or ordinances will ONLY allow Class-1 or Class-2 ebikes on bike paths. Class-1 & 2 have a max 20mph assist capability. (You can peddle faster than that is you want. We’ve found about 15mph on a bike path is fast about as fast as we want to go.
Class-3 ebikes can go up to 28 mph on power assist, or faster if you pedal harder. They are best suited for paved roads and such, they are intended as more of a commuter road riding bike or power bike for mountain biking and such. It is sometimes difficult to tell from a website what class an ebike is. If the ebike has an assist limit of 20 mph or less, it’s a class-1 or class-2 ebike. If it’s greater than that it’s a class-3 (which usually has an assist limit of 28 mph). The difference between a class 1 and class 2 is usually that a class 2 has a throttle assist in addition to the peddle assist.
13. Insurance: Your home owners insurance or renters insurance probably classifies Class-1 & 2 ebikes as bicycles. If one is stolen from your home, it is likely covered on your insurance. A Class-3 ebike will likely require a separate policy, or adder to your insurance policy. If you have and Class-3 bike stolen from your property and it is not separately insured, you might be SOL on filing a claim.
I’m sure I’m missing something… we’ve been looking at them for a couple of years so it was a long process. The best thing is just to go test ride some ebikes. Ride a few different types so you get a feel for what you might like. When I was first looking. I was dead set against the mid drive bikes. After riding a few I quickly changed my mind.
Find out what the local laws are regarding ebikes in your area. Your state, county and city may all have ordinances. National parks do as well.
Lastly, ebikes are a lot of fun! 🙂 go ride one!