The 5-Point Electric Bike Buying Guide
October 2, 2018
Electric bikes are coming! And we're proud to have developed the Aventon Pace 500 as a great option to this new market. But whenever there is a rush to a new product, there comes the inevitable pouring out of confusing information. That's why we put together a quick guide to some things to watch for when buying an e-Bike.
#1 What capacity is the battery? (Fighting False Range Claims)
One of the biggest selling features of an electric bike is how many miles it’s going to cover without running out of juice. Because of this, many electric bike manufacturers have started making wild range claims without really backing it up with any real-world testing. Of course, there are many factors that determine the range of an electric bike, but as a general guide, you can draw some conclusions based on the watt-hours(Wh)* rating of the included battery has.
*Note: watt-hours are equal to battery voltage multiplied by amp hours or Wh=V*Ah, for example, the Aventon Pace 500 is a 48V system and includes a standard capacity 11.6Ah battery, so 556.8Wh.
- 250-500 watt-hours
- A battery with under 500 watt-hours is generally meant for bikes with lower-power motors and with less range. This would include any batteries labeled with less than 10.5Ah when used on a 48V bike. If an electric bike company claims to have 50 miles range with a battery that has less than 500Wh, then they are probably lying to you.
- 500-800 watt-hours
- A battery with over 500 watt-hours is generally meant for riders who want more range on bikes with powerful motors. With batteries labeled 11.6Ah and 48V or more, like our Aventon Pace 500, you can be guaranteed that your bike will have at least 30 miles of range on any mode. A bigger battery will always win in the long run.
- 800+ watt-hours
- If a battery comes with over 800 watt-hours, chances are, you can go for a very long ride without worrying about losing power. The biggest drawback to this is that the bigger the battery is, the more expensive and heavier it will be. You’ll pay a premium for a battery with over 800 watt-hours.
#2 How many watts does the motor have?
Bigger is not always better, but it’s good to find a balance between motor wattage and riding experience. Think of the motor wattage as being similar to the engine size on a car. When you have a bigger engine, you’re going to have more power, but you’ll also drain your fuel quicker. So choose an engine size that fits your needs.
- 250-350 watts
- This size comes with most entry-level e-Bikes. Perfect for flat grounds and getting the most distance possible out of your battery. But for most people, the second they encounter a climb, they’ll be faced with some difficulty.
- 400-500 watts
- This motor size will get an average adult male of 200lbs up a hill at 20mph without any problem. With enough power to give you an exciting ride, a motor in this power range will be fun and give your battery a long life.
- 550-750 watts
- If you’re carrying large loads up hills, then you might want to consider a big motor like this. But for the average person, this is overkill. And a bigger motor, won’t make you go faster, since the speeds are limited by law, and will just drain your battery quicker.
#3 Where is the motor mounted?
There are plenty of pros and cons of each type of motor available for electric bikes. Most electric bikes today are being built with either front hub or rear hub motors because of the limited selection of mid-drive manufacturers. Plus, hub motors tend to give you more bang for the buck in terms of power.
- Front Hub Drive
- This type of motor gives you an all-wheel-drive feel since you can pedal the rear wheel while having the front pull. Although this is great for loose surfaces, such as gravel, a front hub drive motor tends to bog down on climbs. Pulling a heavy load is harder than pushing them up a hill.
- Rear Hub Drive
- These motors give you more traction on the rear wheel since there is more weight pressing down. Rear hub motors also tend to feel more “sporty” and get up to speed fairly quick. Although some say that this motor might make your bike back heavy, you won’t have an issue if the battery is mounted away from the rear. Rear hub motors are also significantly less expensive than mid-drive.
- Mid or Crank Drive
- This motor type is best suited for high-performance bikes and consumers with large budgets for their electric bikes. Mid-drive motors are known for their ability to climb long, steep hills, but it comes with a cost. Mid-drive systems are significantly more expensive and cause more wear on the drivetrain components.
#4 Caliper vs. Mechanical Disc vs. Hydraulic Disc Brakes
One of the most overlooked features of electric bikes is the braking capabilities. As experienced bicycle designers, we believe that the only acceptable brake style on an electric bike is disc brakes, especially on Class III bikes that can go 28 MPH. That being said, there are 2 major types of disc brakes - mechanical and hydraulic. Check which one your electric bike comes with before making a purchase.
- Rim Brakes
- While this is one of the most common brake styles available, it is not always the best. Rim brakes provide great stopping power, as long as weather conditions are clear and you aren’t traveling too fast. But if by chance, your wheels go through mud or rain, then your stopping power can be compromised. For e-bikes, we recommend to always go with disc brakes.
- Mechanical Disc Brakes
- These brakes will not be affected by mud or weather conditions and are generally less expensive. Although these brakes are a step up from rim brakes, they are cable actuated and tend to require a stronger grip when braking. Stopping a heavy electric bike down a hill can become difficult and strenuous.
- Hydraulic Disc Brakes
- Although more expensive, these brakes come with significant advantages. Hydraulic brakes are the same as the system on cars. Anyone with any hand strength can easily stop an electric bike if it is equipped with hydraulic brakes. Hydraulic brakes aren’t affected by grit or gunk like cables can be. We highly recommend buying an electric bike with a hydraulic braking system.
#5 E-bike Classes
While specific e-bike laws can vary from state to state, the California e-bike class system was developed to create some consistency in the e-Bike space so that one type of low-speed electric bike could be used on paths or trails in multiple geographies across America.
- Class I
- Under 750 Watt motor, Pedal-assist ONLY, and limited to 20mph.
- Class II
- Under 750 Watt motor, Throttle, Pedal-assist, and limited to 20mph.
- Class III
- Under 750 Watt motor, Throttle(max 20mph), Pedal-assist, and limited to 28mph(using pedal-assist).
Want to learn more about the Aventon Pace 500 e-Bike? CLICK HERE