Here is a post I found on a Facebook Group, which happens to be private so I could not share it direct. The author has come up with some great points about buying your first eBike, or what is often said, to buy your second eBike first.

With more than 400 brands and various models of eBikes, this has some really great information and suggestions. At the end of the article are some comments I have.

So you’re thinking about buying an ebike… (repost with updates) by Vinh Nguyen

As there continue to be queries about what/how to buy and as the industry is changing at breakneck pace, I am updating my post from January 2023, hope it is useful to some.

Here are a number of factors to consider, listed in the order I would generally follow. For the sake of simplicity, I will be making a ton of generalizations so please be mindful when clarifying or criticizing. Warning: this is a long post (even longer than last time)!

Bike Style. You will first need to focus on the style of bike you want. The large majority of bikes start with the same type of frame, which is a sturdy version of a hybrid frame, with various sub-styles: commuter (slicker tires, racks, lights), trail (heavier/sturdier components, knobby tires), or comfort (upright position, sweptback handlebars, padded seat); many bikes offer both mid-step and step-through comfort versions. As with “acoustic” bikes, the industry is now offering a dizzying amount of micro-specialization to fit all use cases and tastes while also adding models that are made possible only through e-power. Fat tire (4 inches wide) bikes have gotten more popular as a go-everywhere option, either as full size (I call them SUV bikes) or with smaller 20” wheels (often foldable) which have the advantage of a lower center of gravity. The latter have also been adapted to become cargo and/or passenger bikes, with an elongated base, a heavy duty rack, and power to match. At the other end of the spectrum are stealthy lightweight road bikes with hidden batteries and unobtrusive motors. Some manufacturers have also introduced trikes which offer greater stability in most (but not all) cases.

Service & Support. Most ebikes are sold through a direct sales channel; you will get phone and email support and a replacement part mailed to you if needed. You will need to take it from there and will be best served by being handy and/or having a trusty local bike store (LBS) that can handle the more difficult issues. Increasingly, ebikes are now seen in LBS showrooms. If you see an ebike online that you like and your LBS is an authorized dealer, this may well be the best of both worlds. Larger, more established brands (both traditional and ebike-specific) will have their own network of stores, but geographical coverage is often limited to large metropolitan areas.

Price. Thanks to competition and an easing of supply chain constraints, the current sweet spot seems to be in the range of low $1K to $2.5K. For this, you should be able to find decent bikes to suit at least 75% of bike styles and use cases. I would stay away from sub-$1K no-name online purchases through Amazon or Walmart, these are Chinese knock-offs of suspicious quality and zero effective warranty. Prices can go up dramatically for name vendors like Trek and Specialized and European manufacturers, but this is no different than for acoustic bikes where increases in frame and component quality (and overhead, engineering and support) follow a very steep upward curve.

Class & Throttle. In the US, choices are 1, 2 or 3. Class 1 will provide pedal assist up to 20mph; Class 2 is same as Class 1 but adds a throttle; and Class 3 does not have a throttle but will provide assist up to 28mph. There is some, but not universal, correlation to motor type (see below). Some manufacturers will send you a Class 2 bike with instructions on how to override the 20mph limit; others will sell you a throttle separate from the bike for you to install yourself. In both cases, the decision to have a non-compliant Class 3 bike is yours. I personally would like my Class 3 bike to have a throttle for those times when it’s needed.

Weight and Balance. An important factor is how comfortable you are with handling the bike both at rest and in motion. The typical hybrid will range from mid-50lbs to mid-60lbs, and a fat tire bike can exceed 90lbs. Weight matters a whole lot when lifting the bike onto an auto rack. Racks that can handle 2 ebikes are expensive, and those that have a ramp are even more so. For many, balance may be an even more important factor. A lower center of gravity is better and concentrating weight in the middle of the bike is better. A mid-drive will feel slightly more balanced than a hub-driven bike. Those who are really challenged with balance should look closely at bikes with 20” tires and super-low centers of gravity.

Geometry. Geometry is inherently part of the bike style, with wheelbase and riding position the key factors. Riding position ranges from relaxed, fully upright (cruiser) to fully forward lean (think Tour de France riders). Bikes are generally sized to a person’s height, but every bike will have its unique geometry to fit the intended use. Of all measurements, the one most likely to elicit an immediate reaction on a test ride is reach, the horizontal distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the center of the handlebar tops; you don’t want to feel either too stretched out or too crunched up. Hybrids generally have a comfortable-for-most riding position that is neither too leaned back nor too far forward. You can also change out different components over time as you figure out what works best for you, with a new handlebar and an adjustable stem likely to make the most difference. If being able to put your feet fully down when stopped is a priority, then cruisers are a natural choice, with some manufacturers featuring “flat foot” technology. Bottom line is that if you can at all, test ride a bike before you buy, so you don’t hate it a month later.

Power. The objective is to get as much power as you need, plus a little more. You want the bike to help you get up the hardest hill you will climb (on top of the max effort you want to expend). Unfortunately, there is no verifiable way to assess power output across bike manufacturers. Motor wattage will be listed as “nominal” (typically 250/500/750W) or “peak” (anywhere from 500W to over 1,000W). Another measure is torque, stated in Newton-metres (nm). The higher the torque, the better the climbing ability. I’ve seen torque listings ranging from 50nm to 140nm (these are peak numbers), but many manufacturers don’t list them at all. In all cases, take power numbers with a huge grain of salt. The effect of wattage and torque on power delivery also depends on the type of motor (see below) and how well the motor is mated to the bike at hand (combination of weight, drivetrain, and programming). German manufacturers tend to underrate their motors and these bikes will often overperform others with the same specs. Note that 750W is the highest allowable nominal power for use on US roads or official trails (your state may vary).

Motor. Choice is between hub and mid-drive motors. Hub motors have been around a long time, continue to be refined, are less expensive, and more frequently found in budget-friendly bikes. They are typically matched with a cadence sensor; the sensor sends a signal to the motor to propel the wheel at a level determined by your pedal assist setting (PAS). If there is a large discrepancy between the PAS setting and your pedaling cadence, you will feel some forward lurching. Mid-drives almost always use a torque sensor to deliver power proportionate to the pedaling effort, scaled to the selected PAS. Torque-driven motors are described as delivering a more natural, smooth pedaling feeling and to be more efficient; increasingly, we are seeing them show up with hub motors. These factors make it impossible to objectively compare power output across bikes. The only way to unequivocally determine if a given bike has enough power for you is to test ride it up the steepest hill you can find.

Motor Life. The motor is likely the single point of fatal failure for your bike. Batteries can be replaced, and Asia-sourced generics can often be available for several years. On the other hand, today’s motor may be obsolete and a replacement not available 5 years from now. Buying bikes with motors from established brands (Bosch, Brose, Bafang, Shimano, Yamaha etc.) will enhance but not guarantee prospects for long-term support and serviceability.

Batteries. Get as much battery capacity as you think you need, plus a margin. Battery range claims by manufacturers are done under ideal conditions (flat and smooth pavement) with a pro rider providing a fair amount of self-propelled power. Whatever numbers are given, reduce by a third or more as a safe estimate of what you will get. Buy a spare battery if you want to go on longer rides or as a backup. There have been several news stories about battery fires, especially in NYC; these appear to have in common the use of cheap aftermarket batteries and chargers by cash-strapped delivery workers. Safety precautions include: (a) using OEM batteries and chargers; (b) unplugging the charger once the battery is full; and (c) avoiding storing your bike/battery in extreme heat conditions.

Drivetrain (AKA groupset). This refers to the collection of chainring, chain, derailleur, cassette and hardware associated with your contribution to moving the bike forward. You want to see MTB (not road) components which are stronger and can handle the extra torque from electric motors, with a chain specifically built to ebike specs. Manufacturers are often not forthcoming with this information, especially if they use entry-level components; this is a real shame as a couple of steps up in the quality of the derailleur can make a huge difference in smooth shifting and less gear wear, for a negligible additional cost. An option that is increasing in popularity is belt drives, which are quiet and grease-free, require little to no maintenance, and last a really long time. Belt drives are paired with internal hub gearing mechanisms (speeds are changed inside the sealed rear hub), ergo necessitating the use of a mid-drive motor.

Tires. The tires your bike comes with reflect the intended use, but you have wide latitude to change, with the width of your forks the limiting factor. Commuter bikes generally have 1.5”-2” wide tires, with trail/comfort tires around 2”-2.5”. Commuter and comfort tires tend to have smoother, faster-rolling tread, while trail tires will have knobby tread for better grip. An all-around compromise is touring tread, which is somewhere in between. I recommend puncture-resistant tires and/or Flatout or Slime injections.

Comfort Elements. A good-fitting saddle that you can ride on for several hours cannot be taken for granted; it may take several tries to get the right one for your bum. A suspension seatpost will help a lot (the articulated version is far superior to the straight up-and-down kind). A front suspension will take pressure off your wrists, elbows and shoulders. For bikes with fixed front forks, you can substitute a suspension stem.

Brakes. Disc brakes are a must. The larger the rotor the better (180mm seems to be the sweet spot nowadays), hydraulic are better than mechanical brakes, and the more pistons the better.

Internet ReviewsElectricBikeReviewis the largest site, with the most bike reviews. The site goes over in great detail the features of the bikes (about 80% of the review) but provides only a cursory account of their actual performance based on a short ride around the neighborhood. Manufacturers pay a fee to have their bikes reviewed, but there are so many reviews that there likely is little to no bias effect. My preferred site is ElectricBikeReport, which has a much smaller bike population, but is highly technical. About 50% of their review is about the bike features, while the more interesting other half is about performance, using standardized tests – thus producing comparable data across bikes. The site is ad-supported. Finally, also has some bike reviews within a larger EV site; their reviews are somewhere in between the two others.

So that’s a lot to consider. Not surprisingly, the more and better options (including service) the more expensive the bike. In general, I’ve seen that vendors are offering pretty good packages for the money (that’s what competition does, right?). Do your research, shop around, and if at all possible, do a test ride before making a decision. Happy riding!

Just a few of my comments

Torque Sensor

Always look for an eBike using a Torque sensor. They will provide a more natural bike feel as the motor will provide assistance based on the effort you are putting in. Do not confuse this with motor torque. This figure in Newton Meters or Nm, basically lets you know the hill climbing ability. the higher the number the better the bike will be able to climb hills. If you live in a hilly area, try and get a bike with 60 Nm or more of torque.

Innertube Sealant

The author mentions SLIME as an option. While Slime will work at temporarily filling small punctures, it has a two year life span before it gets hard and you will need to replace the tube. Yes, innertubes are not 100% air tight as you have to add air every so often, even with a sealant. I have found that with an innertube sealant, you may not have to add air as often if you did not use a sealant. I would recommend any number of other sealants on the market: Stans, Flatout, Orange Seal, MucOff Innertube sealant, all of which say lifetime or ten year life. I have used MucOff in some of my bikes.

Sealants are helpful to get you back to your car or home if you run across something that will puncture a tire. Such as goatheads, staples, pieces of glass. Nothing, will seal off a large gash. In any case, you will need to patch the hole in the inner tube at some point.

Hope this post is helpful. Leave any comments. Thanks and Pedalon!