What Type of E-Bike Should I Buy?

Video Transcription:

Hi, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. So, what kind of e-bike should I buy? You know I've actually been debating this and looking at e-bike choices over the last few weeks, and I'll tell you every day there's a new,  great e-bike that is being put out somewhere.  I think it'd be, it's almost a little confusing, it's overwhelming, if you really are somebody that wants to do the research and find like the perfect bike, there's a lot of choices out there. So obviously I can't tell you what bike to buy, but if you're just sort of beginning the process and you want to find out, so what do I need to think about in terms of buying an e-bike, I have some thoughts on that that I think might be helpful.

Remember the first thing is you want to make sure you're buying a bicycle. Remember in Florida as of April of last year I think it is, Florida codified our bicycle statutes so that an electric bicycle, if it meets three criteria, is a bicycle. That's important because if you are ever in a crash, you want the uninsured motorist on your auto policy to apply, and it applies to you if you're riding a bicycle--not if you're riding an electric motorcycle or something else potentially. Bicycles don't require a driver's license. They don't require a tag or licensing for the vehicle. So, just keep that in mind. Remember there's three categories in Florida. You have  pedal assisted up to 20 miles per hour or pedal or throttle only up to 20 miles per hour or pedal assisted up to 28 miles per hour. It's those category one, two or three e-bike in Florida. All are considered to be a bicycle. So keep that in mind.

The next thing is like, where do you begin look for an e-bike? I'd like, and you know, I think you have to decide, first off, how much do you, how much money do you want to spend? Just like everything else, the more money you spend, the better components, generally the lighter the weight, generally more advanced things to make the riding experience a little bit more pleasurable. There are a ton of e-bikes out there for a thousand dollars or less in that range. Some of the e-bikes, generally, the lowest price e-bikes are going to be from China and the issue with them if you're ordering some of these things online is can you get a part for it if you need it? I've mentioned once before, I had someone that I know that had a very nice, cool, Chinese e-bike got slightly hit by a vehicle, dented the rear  wheel, so it was out of true and it trashed the bike because they couldn't order the part. So it was only a 70,000, excuse me, $70 part from what I understand, and it rendered the bike useless. So you don't want that to happen or you buy the inexpensive bike and you ride it until it breaks and you buy another real bikes. So, that's also an option.

So, there are a lot of choices in the thousand dollar range. Sort of the mid range of a thousand dollars is the $1,500 sweet spot, Rad Power Bikes on the West Coast probably have that market. They're most known for that market. They've got a number of great bikes, and they are really rated well. I like the people over at Electrek, E-L-E-C-T-R E-K. They do reviews on bicycles. Micah Toll, Micah Toll and, they, actually, Micah Toll, they really  liked the Rad Power bike. It doesn't have high end components but overall they give it a great rating. They advertise a lot, and you have a lot of choices in the $1,500 range.

Then, you move into the $2,000 range. It used to be that under $2,000, you had an inferior product and over $2,000, you had a superior product in the e-bike world. I think that's sort of blending together these days. There are a lot of choices in the $2,000 range. When you hit $3,000, you really start getting good components, good reviews, good ride quality. You have an opportunity to reduce the weight of the bike, and then when you get above $4,000, you start having a lot of choices of high end, great riding bikes from dealers and other people who are selling these things where you can get it serviced and taken care of.

So, next is like, are you comfortable ordering an e-bike online? When it comes, if you do that, it's going to be shipped to your house, you need to know exactly what  you need to do to put it together. Some e-bikes require assembly, a lot of assembly. Some come where you do virtually nothing other than maybe put the pedals on. I wrote an article about Micah Toll at Electrek who wrote about the Priority Embark, which is a $4,000 e-bike, and they actually deliver it to your house with what they call a white glove service--they bring it, set it up, what have you. That's unusual, but it's also a $4,000 bike.

Weight is an issue that you have to take into consideration. Generally, the more expensive the bike, you have some options about getting less weight. You know, and I haven't even gotten into the carbon bikes. Those are really get higher end but generally, e-bikes are going to be in the range of about 35 or 40 pounds to around 55, 65, 70 pounds on the higher end in terms of weight. Generally in my experience in riding them, they tend to ride when you're under power. Like the weight is irrelevant, but like everything in this world, sometimes you run out of battery or something breaks, and it doesn't work and you've got to pedal the sucker home. I'd much rather pedal, a 40-pound e-bike home than a 70-pound e-bike home. Just something to keep in mind.

Also, like if you are, or how are you going to transport it? Are you going to take it in your car or put it on a rack to transport it from place to place? If it's 70 pounds, it's a lot more difficult than if it's 35 or 40 pounds, and do you want to pay for the difference? Those are, I think, those are serious considerations. I know my friend from California, Clint said, "you know, Jim, like everything that's made for people to use, they're going to break from time to time, and let people not overlook the fact that an e-bike at some point might fail you. You have to get it repaired, and you may be 25 miles from home when that happens."

How much distance do you intend to ride your bike? There's fairly amount, it's a pretty wide range of variance on the battery life of an e-bike depending on how much throttle you use, whether you're very little throttle, you're going to ride further on a battery charge. If you're riding full-throttle mode, you're going to cut that significantly, especially if you're going up and down hills or over bridges, or what have you in our area. But, you know, those e-bikes are going to generally be in the range of about 20, 25 miles on the low end to I've seen the size 50 or 60 miles in the high end. So, that's something to keep in mind, if you, how much you want to ride the bike. I've seen some companies will actually supply two different batteries, one for more extended use and one for less extended use. That's something keep in mind.

Remember when you were looking at the weight of an e-bike, whether you're looking at it with a battery or without the battery because the battery is going to add probably seven to 10 pounds of weight to the, to the bike. How long does it take to charge? Some are really fast at two and a half or three hours. Others are six hours. That might be a factor for you.

You have some tech issues about e-bikes, you know. There's two main configurations of e-bikes. You have mid drives where the motor is where the pedals are in the crank in the center of the bike, and you have hub drives where the motor is in the rear hub. Typically, they can be in the front, but most the ones that we see advertised are rear hub-drive motor, and a lot of very good e-bikes are in both categories. Some people really prefer and think that the mid drive is preferable over the hub drive. Hub drives have been around for a long time. They typically are a little bit less expensive to purchase and manufacture so they, they tend to hold the cost down a little bit. So you don't usually see mid drives until you reach at least $3,000 typically and then into the $4,000 and above where you get a mid drive. They do equal out the balance on the bike because you have more weight in the center of the bike when you have a mid drive. I think people are going to have preferences one over the other. I mentioned in an article I wrote that I was at a bike shop having some work done on my bike, and the guy mentioned that if somebody brings in an inexpensive, Chinese e-bike with a hub drive, he won't even take it off and change the tire if it's flat. They're concerned that there's a connection between the motor and that hub, and if you break the connection, inadvertently trying to change to the tire, he said, "you know, I don't want to be responsible for replacing this e-bike." Just something to keep in mind. You know, getting it serviced, how easily that can be done and how confident you are you can do it yourself.  I think there's something to talk to the bike people about that you're ordering from.

You know, I think that I have gotten a lot of information just looking at reviews on e-bikes.  I've mentioned Electrek which I love their website. I love their, they do video reviews and written reviews. Bicycling.com has done reviews. I think there's a lot of people now coming out with, you know, the best e-bikes for 2019 and 2020 and that kind of thing. Bicycling.com has always got information on e-bikes. There is ElectricBikeReviews.com which I've seen and enjoyed their reviews as well. Cycling Weekly does e-bike reviews. Wired, which is generally a kind of a business-type magazine, does e-bike reviews. Consumer Reports. I saw one recently from Consumer Reports, and they did a really nice job of breaking down the mid-drive motor from the hub motor and some of the other considerations that we have to consider when we're buying a bike. There's Luxe Digital, L-U-X-E Digital. They do bike reviews. Bike Ride does them, and also by B-Y, ByWays.org does them. These are just some of the people that I've seen that have bike reviews out there, and I think anything you read is helpful to increase your knowledge base and make some decisions about what you want.

So, you know, I think the advantage of e-bikes are they are so much fun to ride. Everybody talks about how much fun they are to ride, and they come in the configurations, so many of them, come with wider tires, so they can go in a wider variety of locations from gravel to strictly off-road. They are, of course, they're all niched out as well. They have e-bikes for road riding. They have e-bikes for commuters. They have e-bikes for transportation, putting your kids on them, put two or three kids on the back, a hundred pounds of gear. They have those out there that I've seen carts on the back like for hauling debris and what have you on e-bikes. They have one for every purpose that you can imagine. So I think it's a matter for me is like how much do I want to spend and now what is the best I can get within that price range? If you really want to get some quality, I think you're going to be at generally at around $3,000 or above in terms of the higher end components, hydraulic disc brakes, rather than mechanical, the components that go on the bike in terms they all come with a digital readout. They all, generally, have built-in lights front and back which is a real advantage over some of the bikes we're buying because you can put $200 pretty easily into light into a light package.

So, those are the big issues for me, and I think that ultimately, it's so helpful, you know, to walk into a dealer's location and see 10 e-bikes that you can try and talk and get a handle on. Otherwise, you're pretty much if you're not dealing with a dealer, whether it's a major manufacturer like Trek or Specialized or Giant, or what have you or people, you know, like Phil down in Punta Gorda with Pedelec and you know, he's just an e-bike dealer, and there there's a lot of guys around like that. So, the advantage is that you can go in and try a bike. You can talk to them about the pluses and minuses of it, and you know that if the bike breaks where you can take it to get it serviced. You start ordering a bike, even from one of these great companies. There's some really good e-bike companies but they may be in California or Canada, or what have you, and you have the issue of service. They may not have a dealer network, and if you're someone who's really not handy, you're really going to be tied down to whatever that dealer network would be, or whoever is going to replace it or repair it for you.

So, those are my thoughts. I'll keep you posted on what I ended up doing. Somebody, thank you very much, said I was too young to get an e-bike. I'm not getting it because I want to make an easier ride. I'm getting it because I think they are just cool. I'm going to get one that my wife would really enjoy riding it. I think it would enhance our riding experience together. You know, my good friend, Paul Gagnon down in Venice, he rides 50 miles in the morning and then rides his e-bike 50 miles in the afternoon just for fun. So, I mean, I think that's the e-bike experience, and I think that's what I'm looking for as well. A lot of people are. There's a lot of people that are riding these things effectively every day.

On my usual ride, I see this nice lady who is a no spring chicken, and she's riding along at 18 or 20 miles per hour, very simply, moving along looks effortless. She's in an upright position. It's just a cool experience. So, let me know if you have questions about e-bikes. I'd be curious about people's experience in buying an e-bike, using it, getting it serviced, problems you have run into, the good, the negative. We're going to, we're working on putting together an e-bike guide. Kati and our team are working to put together some information on buying an e-bike and where you can buy them in and kind of the choices and probably condense some of the things I've talked about here into some type of a buyer's guide which I hope will be useful and people will request and get some information out of it.

So, I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. I'm here for you. If you've been injured in a bike crash or in a car accident anywhere in Florida, I'm a phone call away. Don't hesitate to let me know how I can do and what I can do to help you. I look forward to seeing you next time, and let's decide what kind of e-bike you need to buy.
Okay. Take care. Bye.


Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.