So, you’re thinking of getting an ebike. An electric bike is a great upgrade from a standard bicycle, giving you an extra boost of power whenever you need it. That might be when riding long distances, tackling difficult terrain, going up steep hills, or simply to help you if you haven’t yet developed enough endurance to keep up. We go into detail about electric bikes, how they work, the different types, and what to look for in our comprehensive electric bike buying guide. Here, we’ll provide further advice to help you find the exact right type of ebike for you.
Types of electric bikes
Just like standard bicycles, electric bikes come in a variety of types, each with their own advantages and features that will appeal to different riders, needs, situations, and settings. There are two core types of ebikes: city/commuter ebikes and road/rugged ebikes. In each, there are also sub-categories. Let’s cover them.
1. City and commuter bikes
Electric city and commuter bikes are designed for those with heavy commuting needs, such as those who ride to work or school and back on a daily basis, do deliveries, or travel primarily by bike around busy city and urban areas. They are often among the fastest types of electric bikes and offer the longest range per charge as well. You’ll find that many have a rack for cargo, like a backpack, groceries, and other items. They are built to be sturdy so they can carry both you and gear, and are able to withstand loads of stress. They are less aerodynamic than a road ebike but also more comfortable with an upright seated position. The strong frames, usually made of steel, are made to support extra weight. There’s support for different attachments, including racks and fenders.
An electric city or commuter bike is best for city dwellers who travel often for both short and long distances and bring along some cargo with them. They’re one of the most popular ebike options that will suit most people. You’ll find several sub-categories of electric city/commuter bikes.
Electric cruiser bikes
An electric cruiser bike is more for casual and recreational riders, allowing you to sit laid back in a large, comfortable seat as you, as the name implies, cruise around the city, on the walkway at the beach, or around your neighbourhood. Great for getting a bit of exercise or running short errands, they often have a step-through versus step-over frame for easily mounting and dismounting without having to raise your leg over a bar along, and usually have swept back handlebars. For older riders and those with limited mobility, or if you’re riding to work in a dress or suit, electric cruiser bikes are a good option. They sometimes come with accessories like a basket, bag, or rack. They do, however, tend to be thicker and heavier, and they aren’t the best option for long distances nor for getting over hills since you might find them to be a bit wobbly.
Who it’s best for – Electric cruiser bikes are ideal for casual and recreational riders who might go out every now and then, or ride short distances to run errands, visit friends, and get exercise. They aren’t great for hilly terrain, though. They’re best for riding on smooth, flat surfaces. With a step-through frame, they’re also recommended for those with mobility issues as well.
Electric cargo bikes
An electric cargo bike is a larger ebike that is specifically designed to carry cargo. This can range from groceries and boxed items for deliveries, to even another person, like a child. They have been popular for some time in countries like Denmark and are starting to gain steam in North America. They are a viable, cost-effective alternative to using a car when you only need to run short errands or go short distances but still need to bring some cargo along with you. Storage area can be in front of or behind the handlebars. These ebikes offer higher power since they are designed to carry extra weight, which means they’re also very stable. It’s important to look at the payload or max carrying capacity for cargo bikes to ensure it will meet your needs. Factor accessories into the cost of one of these ebikes, including things like racks and child seats, just as you would need for a car.
Who it’s best for – Electric cargo bikes are ideal for those who not only ride often, but who might not even own a car and want to use the electric cargo bike to get around the city. That might include taking a child (or kids!) to school, grabbing groceries, or even doing deliveries.
Electric road bikes
An electric road bike has drop handlebars so you’re sitting in a sportier position than you would using a hybrid ebike. It’s similar to a road or gravel bicycle, and to an electric city or commuter bike, with the names often used interchangeably. They are great for long distances, especially given the lightweight design and aluminum or carbon frame that is made for speed. These are good for paved roads and mixed surfaces like trails and bike paths. Usually with step-over frames and drop-down handlebars with narrow tires, you’ll sit in the more aggressive, facing forward riding position.
Who it’s best for – Like with electric city or commuter bikes, electric road bikes are ideal for heavy commuters who need good power, durable build, and fast speed.
Electric hybrid bikes
Electric hybrid bikes also fall into the comfort/cruiser and city bikes category, offering a nice mix of road, mountain, and touring. It’s sort of the “do-it-all” bike, but keep in mind this means they don’t specialize in any one area. They are designed for recreational riding and comfort on paved and smooth roads and can have either a step-through or step-over frame, the latter of which is similar to what you’d find in traditional bicycles. They feature flat handlebars and an upright seating position, and are ideal for beginners, those riding short distances, or for a bit of exercise. They are more rugged than standard commuter ebikes but not as durable and stable as a mountain ebike.
Who it’s best for – Electric hybrid bikes are the perfect option for city dwellers who want to ride recreationally and are looking for added comfort as they cruise slowly around town to get a bit of exercise, tapping into the electric power only when needed.
2. Electric off-road/rugged terrain bikes
Also known as a mountain bike, electric off-road or rugged terrain bikes are similar to off-road or mountain bicycles. These typically have thicker tires, a more durable suspension system, and are built ruggedly to withstand any terrain. Fat tire versions either come with or can be upgraded to tires that are 4 inches wide versus the standard 2-3 inches you get with other ebikes. These are worth considering if you’ll need better traction, stability, and comfort while riding through especially bumpy and rugged terrain, including snow and even sand. Adjust pressure to go fully inflated for paved roads and deflated for soft or rocky terrain.
You can go farther with these bikes and ride quickly with less effort thanks to the electric power option. An off-road bike also makes it easier to scale larger hills and inclines, offering better stability and control than you’d find with other types of electric bikes.
Electric off-road bikes are best for adventurers who will be traveling through various types of terrain, like at the beach, while in the mountains, traveling to the countryside, or going on trails with steep hills and inclines.
3. Electric foldable bikes
Electric foldable bikes are found across most categories of electric bikes. It’s a nice feature for those with minimal storage space or who want to travel with the electric bike, bringing it in the trunk of a car, for example, on a road trip, up to the cottage, or to a friend or family member’s house to ride together in their area. It can save plenty of space, particularly for those who only ride during certain seasons and want to store the bike neatly away for the winter.
Who it’s best for – Opt for an electric foldable bike if you’re a rider who will want to bring the bike along to different locations, from the cottage to a riding partner’s home in another city. These are also useful if you have limited storage space, or only ride during specific times of the year and have the bike packed away from months at a time.
Find the right ebike for you
With so many ebike options, it can be daunting to figure out the right type of ebike for you. First determine what type of standard bicycle you would be buying, or perhaps already own. Chances are that the electric bike equivalent to that bicycle would be the best option.
Consider where you ride, whether it’s smooth paved roads or rougher terrain, when you ride, and how often. If you plan to take the bike with you often, like up to your cottage on the weekends, a foldable ebike is a worthwhile option to consider in whatever main ebike category you choose.
Consult our comprehensive electric bike buying guide for more considerations and details about the differences to help you make the right decision about which ebike if best for you.
Once you’re ready to take the leap, check out a wide selection of electric bikes at Best Buy Online.