Electronic Bikes are still a fairly quiet (no pun intended) market in the world of recreational athletics. You really don’t tend to see a lot of them around right now, but you’ve probably come across a few in your summer travels. You’ll only continue to see more, as the interest in eBikes have grown to the point where car manufacturers like Audi are getting involved in making them. While they tend to weigh a bit more than standard bicycles (so you can’t just sling them over your shoulder as easily,) you can use an eBike to push your journeys a bit further, help you up those tricky hills and even keep your ride going while you need a minute to recover. eBikes have also come down in cost over the past few years so that picking one up is in the same price range as some road bikes.
Why an eBike?
If you’re a very casual biker, an eBike is a great way to take those rides to the next level. eBikes get their name because of an electric battery-operated motor that can kick in (at your discretion of course) to assist your pedaling. That assistance ranges from being as simple as a partial motorized kick where you still pedal alongside to fully doing all of the pedal work for you and moving at a partial or maximum speed (most eBikes can go unassisted at around 30 km/h.) Where would you need this battery assistance? It’s really up to you. I’ve never been great with hills and I live halfway up a pretty major hill in my city. If I were to bike to work, I’d probably get part of the way up and have to stop and walk a bicycle the rest of the way. An eBike would help me save time and get home faster, whether it be through a partial assistance where I’m still pedaling, or by fully dragging my lazy self the rest of the way. Sometimes you just want to stretch your day out a little bit further and an eBike can help you with that too by helping give you that little push to get a few kilometers further.
As you look for your eBike, something that you will soon come across are the 2 most common motor types available – Crank motors and Hub Power. Both have their positives and negatives.
Hub Power motors (pictured left) tend to be a little bit more common nowadays because of their straight ease of use, especially for manufacturers. The motor sits in the wheel base and is easily repairable (and even replaceable.) The fact that it sits with the wheel it powers means that you get a very high efficiency out of it in return. Downfalls of Hub Power, however, include cost and weight bearing. It might seem that your ride “feels” a little bit heavier since the motor places a little bit of extra weight on the wheel it’s powering. Hub power also tends to be more expensive than a crank motor.
Crank motors don’t cost as much as Hub motors do. They also don’t sit on the wheel base and that usually results in a better “classic” cycling feel. Since they work directly with the bike’s gear shift, you’ll find you get better performance on steeper terrains too. While the up-front cost of a crank motor eBike might be cheaper, you should be aware that the whole motor is sealed. That means that if one part of the motor fails, you’ll probably need to replace the whole thing instead of just the one piece that’s failed on a Hub motor.
Did you know Best Buy has been carrying eBikes for quite a while now? With nearly 10 different models to choose from ranging from 3 to 10 speeds, you might just find your first (or next) eBike at Best Buy. Here’s a look at some of the models up for grabs:
If you’re looking for a good eBike for simple terrains and biking around the city, starting with EZ Pedaler might be a good idea. They tend to be a bit heavier than some of other eBikes out there and don’t offer as many speed choices, but are a good option for daily commutes or weekend rides through the city or shoreline.
The one benefit that the EZ Pedaler has over all of the other models is its battery. While you don’t get as much “oomph” as the other models (a 50-60 km travel life) in exchange, you get a shorter charge time (around 4 hours) and a longer life span (around 700 charges.) Let’s say that you take your bike out 3 times a week. At 700 total charges, that means that you’ll be replacing your battery somewhere between 6 months to a year later than most models. The EZ Pedaler models also have a higher maximum weight allowance than other models as well.
The EZ Pedaler X350 (pictured right) has a very strange looking frame that resembles more of an exercise bike when you see it. However, it’s been designed that way to fold and collapse for easier transport. This is another feature that a lot of eBikes out there don’t have. If storage space is at a minimum, and is one of your considerations, keep this model in mind.
The EZ Pedaler T500 has a great look to it. It has a 5 stage electronic assist and the heaviest maximum weight allowance of any eBike I’ve seen at 275 lb. It also has a smaller overall frame than most eBikes. However, it is the heaviest one out there, weighing in at around 60 pounds. As I had mentioned earlier, it seems that the EZ Pedalers are also great flatter terrain bikes so you probably won’t have a lot of luck with this one up in the mountain. However, bells and whistles aren’t really that important for something that you will be using to burn a few calories around the town, so consider taking a look at this or the X350 for those needs.
Both models come with a 1 year parts warranty.
The Benelli models available right now tend to be on the higher side of speed selections, offering between 8-10 speeds depending on the model you choose. I believe they’re the best looking eBikes out there too, going all the way with either a super modern, or super classic look. The 8 Shimano shifter-assisted speed Classica, for example is one that looks very old-timey on the eyes but not in performance. With 4 different electric assistance levels, Classica’s onboard Samsung battery lasts up to 600 charges and its motor can take you up to 32 km/h with a 70 km total charged travel life. At only 49 lb, it’s not the lightest but it is one of the lighter eBikes out there. My bias is showing, but this is far and away my favourite eBike by both look and capability.
If you’re looking for something lighter and a little faster, the Benelli Alpan has 10 speeds (again, with Shimano shifters.) It has the same battery specs as the Classica, but has a smaller frame and 5 different assist levels, of which you can switch in and out of on the fly with relative ease. This is considered to be more of an outdoorsy, rugged bike (whereas the Classica is more for in-city biking) and has more of a modernized look and feel to it. The Alpan does clocks in a couple pounds lighter at 47 lb and comes in a couple of colour choices as well.
Both models come with 1 year parts and labour warranties.
There are still more models to choose from, but this should give you a start on the search for your eBike. Check out the full line of eBikes available online only through BestBuy.ca
By Matt Paligaru, Editor Emerging Technology
I’ve been an avid gamer and gadget enthusiast from the first time I picked up a Colecovision controller at a young age. I’ve written for XBox Addict, Vancity Buzz and Rebellion Media, covering everything from Gaming to Mixed Martial Arts. I am also co-host of the G3 Podcast. Follow me on Twitter “@paliontology” and I’ll be more than happy to talk shop with you.