5 Common Mistakes E-Bike Shoppers Make
With e-bikes flooding the marketplace this Black Friday, it’s important to educate yourself before buying mistakes are made. Common mistakes are no surprise since e-bikes are a newer, more unregulated product being heavily marketed in the US this holiday season. The first thing to know is that e-bikes are not a toy. They are transportation vehicles, so safety and health are the two most important considerations when your family is involved. Check out what e-bike professionals don’t always want you to know and get a handle on some of the most common pitfalls before you shop.
From the #5 least bad to the #1 worst, these mistakes can easily be avoided by finding the right e-bike.
#5 Mistake: Buying an e-bike with an inadequate number of gears.
Gears matter on an e-bike, mainly because, unlike a regular bike, you will be moving much faster – sometimes 15 mph, sometimes 20 mph. What bike makers already know is that a 7-speed e-bike is not comfortable to pedal at higher speeds. The appropriate number for e-bike pedaling is at least 8-9 gears. Why do some e-bikes come with only 7 gears? Because they are cheaper to make. Yes, you may pay less for a cheaply made e-bike, but the quality and comfort of the ride and the e-bike's longevity could suffer. Don’t get a bike with under 8 gears!
#4 Mistake: Buying the wrong type of pedal assist.
Pedal assist comes in two flavors: one operates using torque sensors and the other offers cadence sensors. Cadence sensors are better and more plentiful in the e-bike marketplace. The reason is mainly that cadence-powered pedals are just like cruise control. Power is either on or off and different manufacturers give you several speeds to cruise – such as Level 1 (5 mph), Level 2 (10 mph), Level 3 (15 mph), and so on up to Level 5
But what’s wrong with torque sensors for pedals? Torque sensors measure how hard you are pressing the pedals and send power to the motor based on your pedal speed. Since pedal speeds change depending on your ride, the e-bike sensor could incorrectly anticipate the speeds you wish to maintain, making it more of an effort to pedal faster. If you add knee issues or the heavier weight of an e-bike, this could be a game-changer in the wrong direction.
If you’re unsure which type of pedal-assist you prefer, test a torque-sensor e-bike and decide. You will more than likely prefer cadence sensors.
#3 Mistake: Buying an e-bike without a throttle.
Throttles (or thrusters) are a big part of what makes e-bikes fun, yet some e-bikes don’t even include them. Many buyers make the mistake of buying an e-bike without a throttle or buying one that has the type of throttle that presents problems. As an extra boost of power separate from pedaling, the throttle makes the bike move via a simple thumb push or handle twist. The best type is a thumb throttle. Most others are activated as a twist of the bike grip handle. This can result in you twisting your hand in an awkward flex for prolonged periods of time. To add to this issue, try standing next to a bike with a grip throttle and grabbing it in the wrong way. This can cause your e-bike to lurch forward unsafely before you even get on it. Not to mention how it might lurch right into street traffic.
To get the extra power, or to simply power the e-bike when pedaling slows down, a thumb throttle is the most comfortable, safe, and fun. It’s especially useful when you have both a thumb throttle and pedal assist on your e-bike.
#2 Mistake: Buying an e-bike with a poor riding position.
Riding position is critical and a hunched-over posture with low handlebars will wreak havoc on your head, neck, back, and wrists. The optimum ergonomics for the long rides afforded by an e-bike are upright handlebars, straight back, and pedals positioned more forward than a standard bicycle. With the head weighing in at an average of 11 pounds, just imagine the stress on your neck if you were to take a longer ride, like over an hour. Knowing that the average ride on an e-bike can easily be longer, find a bike with the most upright position for your body.
Don’t lean down, sit up when you ride with e-bike power.
#1 Mistake: Buying an e-bike with a cheaply made battery.
Did you know the most expensive part of an e-bike is its battery? It makes up close to one-third of the total build cost. That’s why the first thing some e-bike companies will do is to use a cheap battery cell, with poorly constructed plastic casings. These batteries are not only going to shorten the life of the e-bike, but they make it patently dangerous. Lithium is flammable when holding a charge, so when cheaper cells with plastic casings overheat, they can expand. And if they have an internal short, they will catch fire. This was once a huge issue when cheap hoverboards flooded the market over a decade ago. Please be safe and only buy an e-bike that uses Samsung, Panasonic, or LG batteries. Remember, just like in other industries, there are counterfeit batteries trying to pass as these great brands as well.
Buyer beware: Get an e-bike that is certified to have the best batteries with brand names you can trust.
It’s unfortunate that e-bikes vary so greatly from product to product. The endless choices are not easy to navigate, but with the right knowledge, you don’t have to settle for an inferior e-bike this holiday season. As always, we are here to answer any questions you have about our excellent e-bike products and want you to enjoy a special offer this coming Black Friday.
JP Blake is co-founder and CEO of E-Lux Electric Bikes, founded in 2014 in Fountain Valley, California. As an electric bike industry pioneer and overseas manufacturing expert, JP has logged several years from China to Thailand, co-creating luxury e-bikes for the US market. JP has contributed his insider perspective to local government projects including bike lane expansion on the coast of Huntington Beach and aiding the OC Transportation Authority in the development of bicycle and e-bike trails.