There’s lots of good e-bike news lately. Sales volume is up, more features are being added to the lower-cost bikes, and there are several new models.
The Covid pandemic increased the desire for fun, socially distanced outdoor activities. Biking was an obvious choice for people who preferred to pedal rather than walk or hit a ball. And an e-bike provided welcome assistance to individuals who might need more power to climb hills.
According to the Light Electric Vehicle Association, 2021 showed a 70% increase in imported e-bikes which analysts state is more than the combined number of electric cars and hybrids sold in the U.S. that year.
Most e-bikes come from China, but the spike in U.S. sales has increased funding for American companies. Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes, the largest e-bike manufacturer in the U.S., received more than $300 million from investors in 2021 to help grow the business.
The price of many high-end models increased last year because of supply-chain problems. But, to meet the demand, manufacturers are starting to produce more affordable stripped-down versions. A few basic things to consider before buying an e-bike are:
Why do you want a bike? Are you planning to ride on pavement or trails? Are you more interested in speed or comfort? The bike’s weight, cushion size, suspension, handlebar location, and type of tires are some of the things to consider when buying an e-bike.
- Road: A road-style e-bike has drop handlebars, narrow tires, and is lightweight. This design optimizes speed, at the expense of comfort, for recreational riding on paved surfaces.
- Cruiser: This style optimizes comfort at the expense of speed. Higher handlebars, wider seats, wider cushion, and a suspension system make this style suitable for streets and trails.
- Commuter: This e-bike will transport you around town or to work. Wide tires and a sturdy frame promote stability, while built-in racks help the rider carry cargo.
- Mountain: These e-bikes have flat handlebars and wide tires to help the rider tackle any terrain.
Three classes determine how and where a rider can use an e-bike that conforms to local laws.
- Class 1: Assistance is available only when the rider pedals and is no longer available when the speed reaches 20 mph.
- Class 2: These bikes have a throttle and can travel up to 20 mph without pedaling.
- Class 3: Assistance is available only when the rider pedals and is no longer available when the installed speedometer reaches 28 mph.
The range of a battery depends on its size, number, and how often the rider requests a motorized assist. Pay attention to the charge time when purchasing a new e-bike.
Rad Power Bikes has some new entries that are getting great reviews.
- RadMini 4 Electric Folding Fat Bike: Although this bike can fold up and fit in your trunk, it’s rugged enough to speed over trails and gravelly roads. A front suspension fork keeps the ride smooth, and the wide tires stabilize the bike. The bike has seven gears and can go up to 25 mph when assisted. The battery charge lasts 45 miles, and the bike’s payload capacity is 275 pounds. The list price is $1,499.
- RadWagon 4: This is an exciting e-bike aimed at individuals looking to carry cargo. The payload capacity of this bike is a whopping 350 pounds, and the integrated rear rack can hold 120 pounds of that weight. Optional equipment includes a deck pad, caboose, two child seats, and a cargo bag. The battery charge is 45 miles, and the list price is $1,999.
Specialized is another company whose e-bikes are being well received.
- Turbo Levo Comp: Specialized updated this popular mountain bike for 2022. The motor has improved firmware and a stronger belt. A new integrated computer displays elevation, battery life, and distance. A redesigned frame provides greater comfort. The list price is $5,354.99 – $5,950.
- Turbo Vado 4.0: This is a fast, powerful, comfortable e-bike with a battery range of 80 miles. Reviewers say it operates best on paved roads because the tires tend to slip on wet ground. It has an integrated computer that Specialize can wirelessly update with new features, and Gamin Radar detects cars 460 feet away and displays their location on the screen. Additional equipment includes an array of anti-theft features. The list price is $4,000.