E-bikes, How to choose the best electric bicycle!

E-bikes, How to choose the best electric bicycle! e-bike e-book

This is a comprehensive look at how to choose the best electric bicycle! This is your FREE e-bike e-book, buying guide! It includes everything you need to know about e-bikes. Getting electric bikes is a big deal. You don’t want to make a mistake.

Updated Aug 4, 2023, originally published July 8, 2023 I will keep the article as up-to-date as I find the newest information and trends.

Electric Bicycle Buyer’s-Guide

There are lots of details to get correct. I will explain how you can choose the best e-bike for you. This is your electric bicycle buying guide. Since it is everything you need to know, then it is going to be long.

As a side note, I have been living in my RV full-time for the last six years. You may think that this article is about how to choose the best e-bike for an RVer (wrong). It will include all this information but I want you to know that this article isn’t about me or living in an RV. I will address every aspect of how to choose the best e-bike.

Euphree City Robin X+ comfort bike with rear hub drive and suspension seat post.
Euphree City Robin X+ comfort bike with rear hub drive and suspension seat post.

Table of Contents

What is an e-bike?

An e-bike is a regular bike with a motor and battery. All the regular bicycle components are there. Every part of an e-bike other than the motor, battery, and way to control the motor power is identical to a regular bike.

PRIORITY E-COAST is a single speed rear hub drive beach cruiser bike with Gates carbon belt drive and a rack mounted battery.
PRIORITY E-COAST is a single-speed rear hub drive beach cruiser bike with Gates carbon belt drive and a rack mounted battery.

Why do you want an e-bike?

You might have a more practical answer but for me, the answer is that bikes are fun and e-bikes are even more fun. The only thing that I didn’t like about bicycling is going uphill. Now, with an e-bike, uphill is just as easy as flat ground. Into the wind is just as fast as without the wind. Downhill still beats flat ground and uphill every time. Distance also seems to shrink. Smiles are more common, especially when going uphill.

Evelo Omega with 750 watt mid drive motor, gates belt drive, and Enviolo CVT rear hub.
Evelo Omega with 750-watt mid-drive motor, gates belt drive, and automatic shifting Enviolo CVT rear hub.

How do electric bicycles work?

Electric bicycles are normal bicycles with the addition of a battery and a motor. The battery and motor make it easier to pedal, especially easier to pedal uphill. The motor gives you a little assistance to help you when you need a little help. On some e-bikes, you don’t need to pedal they act like a scooter.

PRIORITY E-CLASSIC PLUS has a front hub motor with a gates carbon belt drive.
PRIORITY E-CLASSIC PLUS has a front hub motor with a gates carbon belt drive.

Everything you need to know before you choose an e-bike.

This is going to be a deep dive into everything you need to know and consider before you choose the best e-bike. The intent is for it to be comprehensive and cover the subject from end to end. I am going to explain the entire e-bike industry and how some companies try to maximize profit. Some do it by making the best decisions and some do it by cutting corners. Also, I am going to explain which e-bike decisions are the best decisions.

Nui BQi-C3 rear motor with gates carbon belt drive.
Nui BQi-C3 rear motor with gates carbon belt drive.

My intent is to include everything you need to know before you choose the best e-bike. This is going to be a long one because the subject is huge with a hundred-year history.

Can’t you just trust a company to make a good e-bike?

Actually no. There are hundreds of e-bike companies. Some make great e-bikes. Some don’t. How do you tell the difference? Which features are important and which features are only important for marketing? This article includes everything you need to know before you choose the best e-bike (and a great e-bike company).

Priority Current e-bike with a mid-hub drive motor and gates carbon belt drive. In the back it has an Enviolo CVT transmission for shifting gear ratios.
Priority Current e-bike with a mid-hub drive motor and gates carbon belt drive. In the rear wheel, it has an Enviolo CVT transmission for shifting gear ratios.

Do your own homework

I am not endorsing any e-bikes or e-companies. Photos of e-bikes in this blog do not constitute an endorsement. I will point you in the right direction, it is up to you to do your own research. I am not recommending any e-bikes or companies.

Denago City model 2 step-thru e-bike with rear hub drive motor and integrated battery.
Denago City model 2 step-thru e-bike with a rear hub drive motor and integrated battery.

I took three years and looked at about 100 e-bikes before I decided what I wanted in an e-bike. I rejected more junk than I could ever remember let alone recommend. Then I had to find the e-bike with the features that are the most important ones. I will tell you the companies and features that make the very best e-bikes and which e-bikes we have and why we have them.

E-bike companies are trying to provide a product that delivers the e-bike experience that will satisfy their customers and maximize their profit. There are only a few e-bike companies that are focused on providing top-quality great e-bikes.

Mokwheel Basalt ST can be charged with solar panels and has a matching inverter so that you can use your e-bike battery to run AC electric devices.
Mokwheel Basalt ST fat tire “off-road” bike with 750-watt rear hub motor can be charged with solar panels and has a matching inverter so that you can use your e-bike battery to run AC electric devices. (solar panels and inverters are sold separately)

A good indicator of quality is often in the name of the bike. If the name is anything like Me-Joe-e-bike, chances are that you are looking at a minimum-quality e-bike manufacturer. (I made up the name Me-Joe-e-bike and it is only an example of just another e-bike company.)

E-bike history

In 1895 Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted a patent for an electric bicycle. It had an electric motor and battery just like electric bicycles being marketed today. Electric bicycles are not a new invention. The reason that electric bicycles are more popular than ever is that battery technology has grown to make the electric bicycle able to travel long distances with minimum effort.

Screenshot 2023 07 05 at 6.22.05 PM

Don’t ignore the details

My objective is to give you details that will help you recognize a good e-bike and skip over junk-e-bikes. Lots of people get enamored by the motor and look past the technology and parts that are thirty years past their prime.

FAQ, Common e-bike questions that I can answer.

All links open in a new tab. Links will reload this article and jump to the section of the article that matches your question. After getting your answer you can close the new tab and return to the original tab without losing your place.

Seven key points to consider when getting the perfect e-bike, for you.

The answer to these questions is in this article. It really is an everything you need to know article.

Links open in a new tab.

  1. FIT – The bike needs to fit you and your riding style. Get a bike you will enjoy riding. FIT
  2. WEIGHT– Low (lower) weight is an indication of quality.  The best e-bikes weigh less than cheap e-bikes. Can you ride the bike without the battery installed? This probably should be your first test. WEIGHT
  3. MOTOR POSITION – is the motor between the pedals or in the center of the wheel. The best e-bikes almost always have the motor between the pedals. MOTOR POSITION
  4. BATTERY capacity – What good is a motor if there isn’t enough battery capacity to operate it? Get a big enough battery. You don’t want to run out of battery power before the end of your ride. BATTERY
  5. MOTOR POWER – is the motor big enough to give you enough power to climb the hills you expect when you ride without destroying itself? MOTOR POWER
  6. SERVICE – if you have to send your e-bike back to the manufacturer to get basic repairs then it is a huge sign that you may have purchased the wrong bike. SERVICE
  7. PRICE – obviously price increases with good features and quality. Be very suspicious when considering very low-priced e-bikes. PRICE

It is not just about the motor or the battery

Three things make electric bicycles different than standard bicycles. The motor, the battery, and the controller. Electric motors can either drive the wheel directly or drive the wheel via a chain. Which one is better? I will get to that answer.

Mountain mid-drive e-bike

The best batteries are lithium-ion and can store and deliver electricity to the motor for a long enough time period to travel a long distance. The best lithium batteries are from LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony. The third component that is critical is controlling the electricity from the battery to the motor. You need the right amount of electricity at the right time.

The most important thing is that your e-bike needs to fit you!

Your e-bike needs to fit you and your desires. It needs to fit your body and your riding style. Make sure you are comfortable on your bike. My choice is probably different than your choice. My desires are probably different than your desires. What you want to do with an e-bike is probably different than what I want to do. Much of this article is about how to choose an e-bike for you. By necessity, it is also going to have lots of information about how I choose an e-bike — for me.

fixed copy
Kracken folding rear hub drive e-bike.

About me– I remember my first bike ride. Indeed I remember my first and only tricycle. More than six decades later I am still riding bicycles. I have never been a “professional” bike rider. Only once have I ever made a single day seventy-mile ride. I ride for pleasure, not every day but as frequently as I want.

Everything you need to know about e-bike styles

What type of electric bike should you get?

There are multiple styles of e-bikes and one of them is going to fit your needs. Each style has different attributes and each style even has subcategories. Some of the categories overlap. Others stand alone. Over the last decades, I have had road (racing) bikes (not an e-bike category), mountain bikes, micro bikes, and comfort “cruisers”. Other than cargo and other specialty bikes, we have pretty much owned the full range of available bicycles. So I have good insight into the styles available.

Evelo Galaxy SL mid drive motor with Gates Carbon Belt drive and Enviolo CVT rear hub.
Evelo Galaxy SL mid-drive motor with Gates Carbon Belt drive and Enviolo CVT rear hub.

Rare… road-style e-bikes

There are almost no Road (racing) style e-bikes although many comfort e-bikes may have road bike styles including drop handlebars. My opinion is however that drop handle bars, while useful in a sprint don’t help normal bicyclists go faster and surely don’t increase comfort. The purpose of the drop handlebar is to allow for a more efficient aerodynamic position and unless you are racing (something you don’t do on an e-bike because it is called cheating) then you don’t need racing-style drop handlebars.

E-bike styles: Micro, Compact, Comfort/Hybrid, Mountain & Cargo

This isn’t the entire list of e-bikes or bikes. In general, most e-bikes fit into one of these categories. You will probably get one of these styles of e-bikes. As an RVer, you might guess that I picked my e-bike based on its small size and the ability to fold and you would have guessed wrong.

Micro e-bikes

When I was growing up the only people that had micro bikes (that I know about) were small children. Until last year we had never owned any bikes in the micro category. Even then our micro e-bikes had bigger tires than many micro e-bikes.

Tiny e-bike.
Tiny e-bike.

Our micro e-bikes were super fun with twenty-inch tires and no pedals. Our micro e-bikes were bicycle-style scooters. Here is a link to our JackRabbit e-bikes. JackRabbit They were the smallest e-bikes that I thought I could live with in my RV. Some bikes were smaller but bikes smaller than a JackRabbit were not for me.

JackRabbit e-bike and my mountain bike.
My JackRabbit e-bike and my mountain bike. This micro-design e-bike (bike/scooter) is very well designed and requires zero effort to ride. Without the battery or seat, it weighs less than 20 pounds making it a real winner.
Here is a cute video about how much fun you can have on a JackRabbit. We had our JackRabbits for a year and they always worked great and always put a smile on my face.

Some micro bikes have much smaller tires than our micro e-bikes and that makes a good segway to start talking about tire sizes. I am going to talk a lot about tire sizes because it is important and key to understanding e-bikes. Small tire sizes create small bikes. Any bike with tire sizes that are 20 inches or smaller is going to fit into the micro category. However 20-inch tires alone do not determine the bike category. Not all 20-inch tire bikes are going to be mico-sized e-bikes. Tire width also plays a huge part in creating e-bike capability.

Denago folding (folded) rear hub drive e-bike.
Denago folding (folded) rear hub drive e-bike.

Some fat tire e-bikes will easily handle heavy loads. If the 20-inch tire is a fat tire, then these bikes could bridge into all the other categories with the exception of mountain bikes. It isn’t that you can’t take a 20-inch bike into the mountains, but rather that they don’t excel at being mountain bikes. I will discuss tire width later at length.

One thing that bikes with 20-inch tires all have in common is that they turn quickly. Some bikes with tires 20 inches or less might be described as twitchy.

Compact e-bikes

All bikes in this category will have 20-inch fat tires. Most e-bikes will fit into this category. Some of these compact bikes fold for storage and cleverly unfold to nearly full-sized bikes. These bikes are lots of fun and some 20-inch fat tire e-bikes make good substitutes for larger tire comfort bikes.

Compact folding rear hub drive e-bike with solid rims (no wire spokes).
Compact folding rear hub drive e-bike with solid rims (no wire spokes).

Some (beefy frame) fat tire bikes are great cargo bikes. Nearly all the e-bikes in this category have rear hub motors. I will break down motor types later and have a lot to say about that subject. Most e-bikes sold in the United States are in the compact category and have rear hub motors. Just because most bikes are this style it doesn’t mean that this style of e-bike is the best e-bike or that this style is the best e-bike for you. Most e-bikes offered for sale in the United States are compact rear hub motor e-bikes.

Evelo Dash folding mid drive bike with Gates Carbon belt drive and internally geared 5 speed rear hub.
Evelo Dash folding mid-drive bike with Gates Carbon belt drive and internally geared 5-speed rear hub.

A good way to judge whether or not you want a compact bike is to evaluate how it rides without the motor being on. Until the availability of e-bikes, bikes with 20-inch tires were considered children’s or specialty BMX trick bikes.

20-inch wheel BMX bike doing tricks.

Over the last 100 years, bicycles generally evolved to tires bigger than 20 inches and this change is based on a comfortable fast ride using pedal power. I suggest that electric motors didn’t change the comfort factor based on tire sizes. There is a reason why super big tires (Penny Farthing style) don’t exist anymore. Same for tiny tire bikes. Tiny tire bikes are a fad that comes and goes.

Comfort/hybrid e-bikes

Comfort bikes commonly have larger (taller) tires than bikes in the compact category. Comfort bikes look like standard-sized bikes. A few comfort bikes have 20-inch fat tires but this is less common than larger tire sizes. Some comfort bikes have a more relaxed frame style and several have a step-through frame.

FLX Step Through 2.0 mid-drive motor comfort e-bike.
FLX Step Through 2.0 mid-drive motor comfort e-bike.

Sometimes seats on comfort bikes are low enough to the ground that many riders can put their feet on the ground when still sitting on the seat. One way that comfort bikes accomplish feet on the ground while sitting on the seat is to lower the pedals closer to the ground and move the pedals further forward from the seat.

Denago City model with top tube at the beach.
Denago City model with rear hub drive and top tube at the beach.

Sometimes they also shorten the crank arm to keep the pedals from striking the ground. This positioning places the seat lower. This change also makes the bikes longer because the front wheel needs to be far enough away from the pedals to eliminate rubbing on the feet. As with anything, there are limits to these design changes.

Adjustable stem and front side of e-bike computer display.
Adjustable stem and the front side of an e-bike computer display.
Feet on the ground. A good idea?

Feet on the ground with your behind in the saddle isn’t a good way to judge bicycle fit. Really it was never a good way to judge bicycle fit but it did create a good way for lazy bike salespeople to sell bikes. Sadly this fitting method persists even though we know better and have known better for at least the last seventy years.

Euphree City Robin X comfort bike with rear hub drive and suspension seat post.
Euphree City Robin X comfort bike with rear hub drive and suspension seat post.

I once owned a bike with a low seat height and forward pedals. This put nearly all the weight on the rear tire making the steering unresponsive. The poor steering and braking made this bike unsafe at any speed greater than about ten miles per hour. I quickly sold it. These odd designs make their rounds about every twenty years or so and keep coming back even though they were never good designs.

Urtopia Carbon 1 is a full carbon fiber e-bike with a gates belt drive and only weighs 33 pounds.
Urtopia Carbon 1 is a full carbon fiber e-bike with a gates belt drive and only weighs 33 pounds.

One of the key features of a good comfort bike is that it will typically have higher handlebars with a more upright seating position and put less stress on the shoulders and hands. Most comfort bikes will have more comfortable saddles than other bikes. Higher handlebars also move overall balance towards the rear tire and this too can affect handling. Some really good handlebar and stem designs are adjustable to your comfort.

Mountain e-bikes

Mountain e-bikes take their styling from mountain bikes and typically don’t have 20-inch tires for one good reason. The smaller the tire, the less capable it is to roll smoothly over obstacles. Most skilled riders on a mountain bike can usually roll over a six-inch rock or log. Many can do this without jumping the tires off the ground. Whereas comfort bikes may have larger tires, mountain bikes will nearly always have 26 to 29-inch knobby tires. Putting knobby tires on a 20-inch compact bike gives the compact bike an off-road look and better off-road traction but this doesn’t make a 20-inch tire bike a mountain bike.

Denago EXC2 Mountain e-bike with intergrated battery, Bafang mid-drive motor, 29inch tires and hydraulic disc brakes.
Denago EXC2 Mountain e-bike with an integrated battery, Bafang mid-drive motor, 29-inch tires and hydraulic disc brakes.

Mountain bikes have evolved to be some of the most effective designs and in terms of handling are some of the best bikes for natural riding styles on uneven terrain. E-mountain bikes are either great or sometimes just cheap bikes with electric motors and not suitable for riding off-road.

FLX F5 Trail mid-drive mountain e-bike.
FLX F5 Trail mid-drive mountain e-bike.

Cargo e-bikes

I almost didn’t include cargo bikes as a category but I nearly settled for a 20-inch fat tire cargo bike as my only bike. Cargo bikes excel at carrying (go ahead and guess) stuff. There are many cargo bike designs but in terms of cargo-capable bikes, one thing stands out on every cargo bike. They are all heavy. This fact is the reason I don’t have a cargo-style e-bike. They are too heavy.

Mokwheel Scoria 20" fat tire cargo bike with 750 watt rear hub motor.
Mokwheel Scoria 20″ fat tire cargo bike with 750-watt rear hub motor. The Scoria also can be charged with solar panels and has a matching inverter so that you can use your e-bike battery to run AC electric devices. (solar panels and inverters are sold separately)

Cargo-style e-mountain bikes, outfitted with large (tall) knobby tires and powerful motors can haul massive loads and have been adopted by hunters and outdoors people as a new way to get far into the backcountry without walking or riding a horse.

Here is a video review that includes lots of off-road videos so you can see how a fat tire e-bike works on a loose road.

The one thing that steered me away from cargo bikes is that they are heavy even before you load them with cargo. Some cargo bikes are focused on moving stuff in the city rather than in the woods. They are still heavy and heavy-duty but don’t usually sport knobby tires.

Front wheel hub motor cargo e-bike.
Front-wheel hub motor cargo e-bike.

The reason that I didn’t buy a cargo bike is that I didn’t want to lift extra heavy bikes onto my bike rack. E-bikes are heavy enough just including the battery and motor and lifting my bikes off the ground and onto the bike rack on the back of my RV was too hard.

Everything you need to know about bicycle tires

Tire pressure

Always keep your tires close to the pressure printed on the tire. You should check the pressure before you ride. Low tire pressure can lead to decreased range and to all kinds of problems including flat tires. The only reason to ride on low tire pressure is in sand or snow and then only on fat tire bikes. When you are no longer on sand or snow pump your tires back up to full pressure.

Tires like this one will not work well in the snow.
Tires like this one will not work well in the snow. I have seen great knobby tires and even knobby tires with studs to make riding in snow and ice much easier.

What about flat tires?

I have had every type of bicycle flat tire over the years. You may be able to use an internal sealant that will leak out of your flat tires and then plug the hole. This sealant will thus reduce the number of thorn-based flat tires. There is no way to prevent all flat tires.

I carry a small pump with me while I am riding so that I can pump up the tire during a ride and then make it home with good tire pressure. I also carry a new bicycle tire tube with me and have replaced the tube many times during a ride when I got a flat tire. It is a pain but it is much better than walking. When replacing your tires look for ones that have puncture-resistant belts as part of the tire construction.

What size of tires should you get?

Tire width

Extra width causes more effort to overcome rolling resistance on any size tire. Any bike with a tire width of less than 2 inches is more suitable for the road than for dirt. Any bike with a tire width of only one inch is only suitable for hard surfaces. Dedicated mountain bikes will have a tire width of about 2.5 inches or more. A width of more than three inches is where the fat tire bikes begin although three-inch wide tires are not suitable for sand, loose gravel, or snow. To ride in sand, loose gravel, or snow you need tires about 4 inches wide.

Balancing traction and friction

Smaller tires and fatter tires have more rolling resistance (friction) than taller and more narrow tires. This is all about ground contact. The more ground contact the higher the friction. More ground contact and more friction also equate to more traction. Balance here is achieved when traction is sufficient and friction is minimized. Knobby tires are always less efficient than smooth tires, you get the trend, more work. Wider tires always have more rolling resistance than narrower tires.

Massive tire fat tire bike in deep snow. Even with fat tires it is hard to convince me that you can ever ride through snow this deep.
Massive tire fat tire bike in deep snow. Even with fat tires, it is hard to convince me that you can ever ride through snow this deep. I wouldn’t even use skis. Perhaps a horse? Not if you liked the horse.

Everything however needs to be in balance. Narrow tires don’t work well unless on smooth surfaces and there is a balance to how narrow tires can be. Ice skates have very narrow blades and obviously are super efficient on ice but just as obvious is that they only work on ice.

Tire Efficiency

Efficiency is a description of effort versus results. In an e-bike, you want to maximize the result of a given effort. Bicycles are some of the most efficient machines in the world. Efficiency still matters on an e-bike. It really matters to me. One of my largest joys in cycling is coasting. I love coasting without pedaling. Coasting is like having the wind at your back Coasting and a wind at my back puts a smile on my face.

Semi smooth comfort cruiser tires.
Semi-smooth comfort cruiser tires.

Tires, smooth or knobby

Despite the fact that knobby tires have been and continue to be a very attractive selling point, smooth tread designs will create plenty of traction on all road and packed dirt surfaces at moderate speeds. Mountain bikes benefit from knobby tires when the surface is unpacked. Smooth tires also benefit from lower rolling resistance and much less noise when riding. For fat tires on snow or sand your only option will be knobby tires.

Five inch wide fat tire for riding in sand and snow.
Five-inch wide fat tire for riding in sand and snow.

Guide to tire style, size, and width

Unless you are going to ride in the snow or sand avoid fat tire designs because of extra friction based on maximizing traction. If you are going to ride in snow then knobby fat tire designs are going to be the ticket. Except for use in sand or snow, bicycles should have tires no wider than three inches. Mountain Bike designs should have tires in the neighborhood of 2.5 to 3 inches. Comfort bikes should have a tire width of 1.25 – 2.5 inches. Tires of less than one inch are exclusively used on smooth surfaces.

Rack with various bike wheels and tires.
Rack with various bike wheels and tires. I have to say I don’t understand this picture. These tires are mounted on rims before the spokes are installed. The problem is that you put spokes and hubs on tires before you mount the tire.

Tire sizes

Tire sizes really affect performance, weight, and efficiency. Get the tire size right and other details kind of fall into place. E-bike designs with internally geared rear hub motors benefit from the fat tire designs that were initially designed for biking in snow and sand. Before these fat tire designs came on the market (focused on riding in the snow) almost no one purchased fat tire bikes due to the extra rolling resistance. Fat tires allowed for more space that higher wattage internally geared rear hub motors needed.

20-inch tires and smaller

Any bike that has tires less than 20 inches tall is only suitable for adults that don’t care to go fast. They are best at slow speeds on smooth surfaces. They excel however in compact folding designs. A typical car trunk can easily hold two folded bikes with 16-inch tires. Tires less than 20 inches tall do not allow for much room for the motor and spokes. Motors on 16-inch tire bikes are typically underpowered for anything other than flat terrain.

20-inch fat tires

20-inch fat tires couple nicely with e-bikes due to the above comment about internally geared hub motors. The 20-inch size also makes for smaller frame designs and allows bikes to take up less space especially when folded. Without motors, the fat tires suffer from rolling resistance (especially when underinflated) almost to the point that walking the bike is easier than pedaling it.

Folding rear hub 20-inch fat tire rear hub motor e-bike with battery behind the seat post.

26-inch tires

This tire size used to be the standard for mountain and cruiser-style comfort bikes. Some mountain bikes now have increased tire sizes. Cruiser-style comfort bikes nearly all still have 26-inch tires. The first fat tire bikes had 26-inch tires. 26-inch tires offer a balance between rolling over obstacles and lower weight as compared to larger tire sizes. Usually, the largest fat tires are 26 inches tall. Most people will find 26-inch tires an excellent choice.

27.5-inch tires

The 27.5-inch tire is typically chosen by cyclists that think the 29-inch tire is too tall but want a slightly taller tire than the more popular 26-inch tire. I like both the 29 and 27.5 tires but think the 26 is a little too compact. Although I had years and years of riding mountain bikes with 26-inch tires. Tami didn’t like the 29-inch tires but is fine on the 27.5. I don’t know of any bikes with fat 27.5 tires. Most 27.5 tires are 2 inches wide. Be careful picking a bike with an odd tire size; finding replacement parts may be difficult.

29-inch tires / 700 mm

This tire size is the standard for bikes ridden on the road. 29 inches is the same as 700 mm and the 29-inch tires name is associated with mountain bikes. 700 mm is associated with road bikes. Typically the 700 will be followed by a C indicating that the tire is mounted to the rim as a “Clincher”. The nomenclature is typically written as 700c. Whereas the 26-inch mountain bike tire is standard some people, especially taller people prefer the 29-inch tires. 29-inch tires offer the highest obstacle clearance.

Denago Fat tire rear hub motor e-bike with massive battery.
Denago Fat tire rear hub motor fat tire e-bike with a massive battery.

Everything you need to know about e-bike weight

What to look for in regards to weight.

E-bikes weigh more than other bikes because they are e-bikes. At a minimum, you need to add the battery and motor to the weight of the bike. Battery weight is directly associated with range and indirectly associated with uphill power. Motor weight is associated with power. The longer range your bike has the further you can go between charging the battery. The bigger the motor you have the better your bike will maintain speed while climbing.

Denago EXC2 Mountain e-bike with intergrated battery, Bafang mid-drive motor, 29inch tires and hydraulic disc brakes.
Denago EXC2 Mountain e-bike with an integrated battery, Bafang mid-drive motor, 29-inch tires, and hydraulic disc brakes.

Anything that increases weight has to be overcome by power. Extra power to overcome extra weight has to come from somewhere and when your bike is heavy power either comes from the motor or you.

FLX Gladiator 2.0 mid-drive motor fat tire e-bike.
FLX Gladiator 2.0 mid-drive motor fat tire e-bike.

Lighter bikes are always more efficient than heavier bikes. Motors have to overcome weight, aerodynamic drag, and friction. It doesn’t matter if I am the motor or if on an e-bike the electric motor is doing the work. Lighter-weight bikes are always more efficient and thus they are easier to ride. Heavy designs will require more work.

Everything you need to know about e-bike motors

What kind of motor should you get?

There are basically two choices for e-bike motors. You can have a rear hub motor or you can have a mid-drive motor. The most expensive e-bikes almost always use a mid-drive motor. E-bikes with rear hub motors are usually lower cost. For some riders, it doesn’t make a difference. Both motor styles have one thing in common, they both work and are really fun. The advantages of mid-drive motors are extensive with one exception, they cost a little more than hub motors.

Rear mounted battery with rear hub drive.
Rear-mounted battery with rear hub drive e-bike.

If a bicycle has a motor doesn’t that mean it is just a motorcycle?

Putting an e-bike motor on a bicycle does not make it a motorcycle. This is because of the limited motor size and capability. The largest (street legal without a license in the United States) e-bike motors are less than one horsepower. The smallest motorcycle motor (50-cc moped size) available typically creates more than three times the horsepower of a typical e-bike.

At most, you can say that an electric motor creates a power-assisted bicycle. E-bikes on flat ground accelerate faster than bicycles without motors. E-bikes going uphill are handicapped and slow unless they are also pedaled at the same time. Without pedals, e-bikes have very limited performance. Speed restrictions, required on all e-bikes, limit top speed.

Denago folding rear hub drive e-bike.
Denago folding rear hub drive e-bike.

Heat is the enemy of motors

Electric motors are great at creating low RPM torque but this causes heat buildup inside the motor. Reduced motor speed and the related increase in heat will decrease your motor life span. Your e-bike needs to allow the motor to operate at an ideal speed to minimize heat buildup. All other things being equal a motor that spins fast will have a longer life than a motor that lugs at low speeds.

E-bike motor sizes

Motor sizes are expressed in terms of watts, like a lightbulb. The bigger the motor, the more watts the motor will consume. Bigger motors consume the battery faster. Rear hub motors drive the rear wheel of the bike directly. Rear-hub drive e-bikes have the biggest and heaviest motors.

Heavier motors however don’t directly translate to more effective motors. A mid-drive e-bike motor that is one-third the wattage and weight of a rear hub motor will consume about one-third of the battery power but develop the same amount of power to the rear wheel because it takes advantage of the gearing.

Denago City Model 2 rear hub motor e-bike with top tube.
Denago City Model 2 rear hub motor e-bike with a top tube.

Whereas wattage is the common term to describe motor battery consumption the term torque is a much better term to describe motor ability. The best e-bike motors have lower battery consumption and higher torque and take advantage of gearing to accomplish a given task. The highest-rated e-bikes do not have the largest motors in terms of weight or watts but all have high torque. Torque is what takes you up the hill. Hub motors at low speeds consume at least twice the wattage for a given torque when compared to a mid-drive motor in the correct gear.

High-wattage hub motors are the heaviest motors you can put on an e-bike. Hub motors weigh much more than mid-drive motors for a given performance. Mid-drive motors are almost always lower in weight and wattage when compared to hub motors.

Rear hub motor
Rear hub motor

How big a motor do you need?

More bigger is more better! No one ever complained that their motor was too big until they tried to lift it.

Bigger is better is not true with e-bike motors. You need a big enough motor but having a bigger motor where you never use it to full capacity is just extra weight. Mid-drive e-bike motors can be smaller and have the same performance as hub-drive e-bike motors so the answer isn’t as easy to get as you might think. One advantage that a large motor has is that it is not going to build up heat as fast as a smaller motor that you are running at full throttle. A large motor used at minimum torque will outlive a small motor that is used at maximum torque.

Battery size and motor size have a large effect on the price of the bike. Bigger and more capable will drive the price of the bike up.

For a mid-drive e-bike motor, the smallest motor you should consider will be 250 watts of continuous current. Motors smaller than 250 watts are rare and would only be enough if you only ride on flat terrain. For a hub-drive e-bike motor, the smallest motor you should consider should be 500 watts of continuous current.

Rear hub drive motor with crash guard
Rear hub drive motor with crash guard

Maximum size should be big enough to help you climb the steepest terrain you encounter. On a hub-drive motor 1000 watts might not be large enough to climb the steepest hill. For hill climbing you should instead look at high torque (100 – 180 Newton meters is a good range) mid-drive motors geared for climbing. Mid-drive motors with proper gearing and 120 nm of torque climb very well.

Rear-hub or Mid-drive motors

Should the motor be inside the wheel?

If the motor location is in the center of the wheel you are looking at a hub motor. Electricity applied to the motor makes the wheel move. A hub motor e-bike doesn’t need pedals or a chain. If the motor location is between the pedals you are looking at a mid-drive motor. If the chain is removed on a mid-drive motor e-bike, even if the motor is on, the bike doesn’t move; you have to get off and push it.

Electric bicycle wheel rear motor
Electric bicycle wheel rear motor

The location of the motor has a large effect on the distribution of weight. Ideally, the weight on any bike should be balanced between the tires. Extra weight positioned lower on the bike is better than weight positioned higher on the bike. If you have a hub motor then weight is shifted aft towards the rear tire. If you have a hub motor and carry the battery aft of the pedals then even more weight is shifted aft of center. If you carry your battery above the rear tire on a hub motor e-bike you have all the extra weight on the rear tire and your weight is also shifted higher on the bike.

Weight distribution affects bicycle handling. Obviously, the largest weight on the bike is the rider. Extra weight on an e-bike (primarily the motor and battery) can adversely affect how the bike handles. Avoid bicycles that have extra weight aft of the pedals.

Everything you need to know about e-bike gears

Does the rider help the motor or does the motor help the rider?

On an e-bike, you have two choices for motors. If you have an e-bike with a rear hub motor then you will assist the motor to create a given performance. If you have an e-bike with a mid-drive motor then the motor will be there to assist you to create a given performance. Both choices work for most riders and the differences are subtle but real.

Rare front hub drive e-bike motor.
Rare front hub drive e-bike motor.

On a hub motor e-bike, the rider helps the motor until the bike is up to speed. On a mid-drive e-bike, the motor helps the rider until the bike is up to speed. This difference is why I prefer mid-drive e-bikes. I want the motor to help me, not the other way around.

Hub motor e-bikes are a lot like scooters. Push the throttle and go. The rider does not have to think about which gear the rear hub is. On a hub motor e-bike the bike moves without the need for the rider to change gears… in fact, if you have a throttle, even if the chain or pedals are removed, many hub motor e-bikes, with a throttle, will still move along just like a scooter.

Gears on a hub motor e-bike

A rider only changes gears on a hub motor e-bike to change the speed of the pedals as they are rotated. It doesn’t really matter to the motor if the rider changes gears or not. The only benefit of pedaling is to help the motor at low speeds. The rider’s effort on a hub-motor e-bike helps the motor. On a hub-motor e-bike, it doesn’t matter what gear the rider is in at any given time except to help the motor.

Rear hub drive with a large gear for climbing.
Rear hub drive with a large gear for climbing.

Hub motor means the motor only has one gear

On a hub motor e-bike, the motor only has one gear. The rider may have multiple gears but the motor only has one gear. It doesn’t matter how many gears are on the bike gears are for the rider. If you have a hub motor e-bike your motor only has one “gear” and only one gear ratio. For each revolution of the motor, the wheel makes one revolution. Hub motors are like cars with only one gear, the only advantage here is that electric motors can create good torque at low speeds. Gasoline engines only create good torque at higher RPMs.

Gears and motor heat

To allow the motor to spin fast and keep heat build-up low the e-bike designer needs to allow the motor to spin at an ideal speed and dissipate torque-created heat. The motor on a hub motor e-bike varies in speed with bicycle speed. If you ride your hub-motor e-bike slowly you will be riding the bike with a low motor speed. When at low speeds and high torque is needed a hub motor e-bikes will always build up more heat than when it is at a lower torque and higher speed.

Denago folding rear hub drive e-bike.
Denago folding rear hub drive e-bike.

Advantages of hub motor e-bikes

Hub motor e-bikes cost less to produce than mid-drive motor e-bikes. Lower production cost creates lower consumer prices. There are no engineering advantages of hub motor e-bikes. To the rider, riding a hub motor e-bike is easier because of the few options that actually affect performance. On a hub motor e-bike, you change gears only considering what the rider wants, the motor does not benefit from a gear change.

Perhaps the largest advantage that a hub motor e-bike has versus a mid-drive e-bike is that hub motor e-bikes are simpler to operate. They don’t require nearly the number of gear shifts to be in the ideal range and they are more forgiving of mistakes made by the rider.

Denago City commute e-bike with rear rack and fenders.
Denago City commute e-bike with rear rack and fenders.

Hub motor e-bikes only have a 1 to 1 gear ratio

If you have a hub motor e-bike, regardless of the number of gears they might have on the chain, you have a single-gear ratio bike. To vary the speed on a hub motor e-bike you change the amperage from the battery delivered to the motor. On a hub motor e-bike, you cannot vary the gear ratio.

FLX Babymaker 2.0 stealth e-bike with rear hub motor and carbon belt drive.
FLX Babymaker 2.0 stealth e-bike with rear hub motor and carbon belt drive.

The hub motor only has one gear ratio to work with. The chain has nothing to do with the operation of a hub motor. Once the motor is assembled at the factory the only way to adjust the gearing of the bike is to put it on different wheel sizes. Motor revolutions will always be one revolution per wheel revolution.

Denago rear hub motor.
Denago rear hub motor.

On a 20-inch tire, this means that for each motor revolution, the motor will move the bike forward 62 inches. The same motor on a 26-inch tire will move the bike forward 81 inches. The same motor on a 29-inch tire will move the bike forward 91 inches. Obviously, given the above three examples, the bike with the smaller wheel will climb better and have the lowest maximum speed.

Rear hub drive.
Rear hub drive.

Multiple gears on a hub motor e-bike are for the rider, not for the motor. On a mid-drive e-bike, the multiple gears are for both the motor and the rider.


Hub motors have a history of breaking spokes. This is because they are able to apply torque directly to the wheels (via the spokes) and loosen the spokes. The loose spokes eventually break. All spokes on a wheel should be about the same tension. Check your spokes every one hundred miles to make sure that they remain at about the same tension. To do this you can squeeze them together in pairs or tap them lightly with a small tool like a screwdriver. As you tap them they should all create about the same tone. If you find a spoke that creates a lower tone, then that spoke is loose.

Advantages of mid-drive motor e-bikes

The first advantage a mid-motor e-bike has is lower weight and better weight distribution because the weight is between the tires. All mid-drive e-bikes (that I know about) have multiple gears on the rear hub.

Compared to a hub-motor e-bike, a mid-drive e-bike is more like a motorcycle. The power from the motor is delivered through the chain to the wheel.

On a mid-drive motor e-bike, the motor assists the rider to create the desired performance. All the effort to the wheel is delivered via the chain. To limit stress on the drive train (gears and chain) it is very important that the rider is in the proper gear for a given task. For climbing and initial acceleration make sure the gear ratio is small. Then change gears to achieve a larger gear ratio as the terrain changes and the speed increases.

Mountain e-bike mid drive motor
Mountain e-bike with a mid-drive motor

Multiple-gear, mid-drive e-bikes

Motor effort on a mid-drive e-bike goes through the chain and the gearing. To make it easier for the motor you can choose different gears to change the gear ratio. The changes in gear ratios on a mid-drive e-bike, when properly performed, act as a power multiplier (at low speeds) or as a speed multiplier at high speeds. The amount of torque the motor produces is limited and the gearing can create better results for a given motor size.

The more gears you have and the larger the gear range on a mid-drive e-bike the more potential you have to be in the best gear for your bike and your motor. If you are not concerned with the correct gear ratio then you might as well get a less expensive hub-motor e-bike. While you are at it you might as well get an e-bike with only one gear. Single-gear hub motor e-bikes are less complex and have a lower weight than any other combination of multiple-gear bicycles.


High-power mid-drive e-bikes have a history of breaking chains. Do not start from a standing stop in a high power assist level and especially don’t start from a high pedal assist level and stand on the pedals. Instead, start riding at low power assist levels in lower gears. The same holds true for climbing hills, here high power assist levels are good, but make sure you change your gears to a low climbing gear before you start up the hill.

The best e-bikes for climbing hills

E-bikes make climbing hills easy. The best e-bikes for climbing hills have the biggest motors. Since you are choosing a big motor you should also match the big motor with a big battery.

Here is a basic outline of motor sizes and types associated with climbing hills. For mid-drive motors, you should choose a motor size of 500 watts or larger. For hub-drive motors, you should choose a motor size of 750 watts or larger. The reason that you can use a smaller motor on mid-drive bikes is that the motor is aided by the gearing. Gearing allows the motor to spin faster when in a low gear and thus creates less heat build-up. Heat is the enemy of electric motors.

For mid-drive e-bikes, choose a battery with more than 500 watt-hours. For hub-motor e-bikes, your battery size will be substantially larger. Here is a direct link to battery sizing. Everything you need to know about e-bike batteries The link will open in a new tab.

Everything you never knew that you needed to know about gear ratios.

What gear ratio is best for me?

On the rear hub, the smallest number of teeth you can have is eleven. This is because the gear needs to be round. An eleven-tooth rear gear is a little larger than 1 inch. On the rear hub, the largest number of teeth you can have is about 42 and this gear is more than four inches. The tooth count between the two gears creates the gear range. This rear hub would be called an 11/42. Gear range is limited to be able to shift easily between gears and collect all the unneeded chain length when using the smallest gear.

E-bike rear hub motor kit
E-bike rear hub motor kit

The smallest number of teeth on a front chain ring is about 30. Normally the smallest number of teeth on the front chain ring is about 40. If your gear ratio is wrong on the climbing side a sudden burst of power may raise the front wheel off the ground. Very large front chainrings are possible but rarely used. Large chain rings on the front can create much higher speeds, but poor climbing.

E-bike gear ratio examples

As an example let’s say you have two gears at the rear wheel (I have ten gears at the rear wheel). And at the pedals, you have a 34-tooth front gear. At the rear wheel, you have a climbing gear with 34 teeth and a “high speed” gear with 11 teeth. The 34-tooth front gear with a 34-tooth rear gear creates a one-to-one ratio (a low-speed climbing gear).

The 34-tooth front gear combined with an eleven-tooth rear gear creates a gear ratio of 1/3.09. This means that for each revolution of the motor the rear wheel will rotate 3.09 times. The 34/11 combination will create a much faster speed than the 34/34 combination per motor revolution.

The above discussion about wheel size could be multiplied by either 34/34 (1) and a 20-inch wheel will travel 62 inches per motor revolution or it could be multiplied by 34/11( 3.09) thus the 20-inch wheel would travel 194 inches per revolution. On a 29-inch wheel, this means a forward travel of 281 inches per motor revolution. Inches traveled with numbers less than 100 would be good for climbing whereas numbers near or above 300 would be very difficult to climb with.

A bike designed with a 1/1 ratio would be biased for climbing steep hills with higher motor RPM and would deliver lower battery consumption (while climbing) and lower heat buildup. Since the bias is to make the bike climb steeper hills then it would not have a high top speed. To change the bias to a higher speed all the designer needs to do is increase the number of teeth on the front chain ring or decrease the number of teeth on the rear wheel.

About my e-bike motor and gearing choice

Why did I want a mid-drive motor?

About my bike motor and gearing. My mid-drive Bafang M 600 e-bike motor is rated at 500 watts continuous output and 850 watts peak output and 120 nm of torque. My motor has a 44-tooth front chain ring with ten available gears at the rear hub. The torque number is the important number.

Bafang M600 mid-drivee-bike motor
Bafang M600 mid-drivee-bike motor

The gear teeth range from 11 teeth for the fastest gear and 36 teeth for the climbing gear. This gives me a 1/1.22 gear ratio climbing gear and a 1/4.00 high-speed gearing. Since I have 27.5-inch tires the climbing gear delivers 105.3 inches of travel for each rotation of the motor. The high-speed combination gives me 345.4 inches of travel at the high-speed gear.

So far the combination of 105 inches for climbing is working out fine. The high-speed gearing, when I am full out at 120 pedal RPM (using power assist level 5) delivers a peak speed of 29-30 miles per hour. Really I don’t care if I go that fast.

So if I decide that I want a bike that climbs steeper hills better I could do one of two things and both would be very easy. First I could change the front chainring to 40 teeth and that would give me a lower slow gear of 95 inches or I could change the largest gear on the rear to a mega range 42-tooth rear with the 40-tooth front giving me a low gear at 82 inches. The 40/42 combination would climb very steep hills but not go as fast when the 40/11 combination is used.

Bafang 40 tooth front chain ring for a M-600 motor.
Bafang 40-tooth front chain ring for an M-600 motor.

The point is that I have options

Unlike a hub drive motor, my mid-drive e-bike has the ability to change to fit my needs. Even though I may never do any of these modifications the fact is that I could make my e-bike a better fit for me.

What about the other gears?

I have ten gears at the rear hub on my mid-drive e-bike. The gears between the minimum gear and the maximum gear give me the ability to choose the best gear for a given condition.

10 speed cassette
10-speed cassette

Changing gears

It is a good time to introduce gear changes. On a mid-drive e-bike with a throttle, it is very important to let up on the throttle when changing gears to reduce the stress on the drive train. On a hub motor e-bike regardless of the throttle let up on the pedal pressure prior to changing gears to reduce drive train stress.

Automatic throttle cutoff

If you have a mid-drive e-bike with a throttle then you should also have an automatic throttle cutoff that will cut power to the motor when you shift. If you don’t have a throttle on your bike then slightly reducing the pressure on the pedals will accomplish the same thing.

Everything you need to know about e-bike batteries

What to look for in an electric bicycle battery?

Advances in battery technology are the reason e-bike is available now and not during the last century. Batteries have more energy density when compared to weight than ever before. Batteries are easy to recharge and easy to use.


The most important thing you need to know about batteries is that they need to match your motor voltage. Putting higher voltage batteries on motors not designed for higher voltage batteries creates a huge risk. The current design standard is 48-volt batteries. If the battery is less than 48 volts it is a sign that the manufacturer is not up to date or trying to cut corners. See below under “voltage sag” for more information.

Voltage and wire size

The reason you want a higher voltage is to allow for the same current to be transferred to the motor with smaller wires. Early e-bike models often had lower operating voltage and often had problems with overheated wires and connections.

What is voltage sag?

When you put a battery under load the voltage does not remain the same. Voltage is measured at a battery that is resting. A 25% drop in voltage when under load is not uncommon. This is why you want to start at a higher voltage. Remember that voltage drop, at the same current, causes increased heat at the wires and connectors.


How big a battery should I get?

The second thing you need to know about batteries is that capacity is measured in watt-hours. The bigger the number of watt-hours the longer the battery will last and the better the battery will pull you up a large hill. Here I recommend that you get a battery with at least 500 watt-hours.

Some estimates are that if you divide the watt hours by 20 this will give you the range on flat ground at about fifteen miles per hour (thus 25 miles). Rough estimates are rough, plan accordingly

FLX 2.0 Battery
FLX 2.0 Battery

What kind of battery should I get?

The only type of battery you should consider is a lithium battery. Every other type of battery, especially lead-acid batteries are not suitable for your e-bike. In the future, I may change this recommendation to solid-state batteries but the current state-of-the-art battery will contain lithium. Currently, Lithium-Ion batteries are the best for e-bikes.

Do e-bike batteries charge while riding?

No, e-bikes do not charge or recharge while riding. They also do not recharge when going downhill or braking. This has been tried but only extended the range by a very minor amount. Now that I said all that there is one exception. I cover this design here. Advanced e-bike designs Link opens in new tab.

Lithium battery technology

Lithium technology, the same lithium batteries that made cell phones and electric vehicles possible made e-bikes a wonderful application for lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are very lightweight when compared to other battery technologies. Lithium batteries are even more important for e-bikes than for cars because it only takes a small lithium battery to power e-bikes.

Rear rack mounted e-bike battery.
A rear rack-mounted e-bike battery is not in an ideal location for weight distribution.

Lithium battery safety

Quality lithium batteries are safe when they are used in quality correctly designed products. If however, the user doesn’t respect the nature of lithium batteries they can create an uncontrollable fire and noxious fumes while they burn. Gasoline has the same problems.

Charging your e-bike battery

How do you safely charge an e-bike battery?

I never charge my e-bike battery inside the bike. Instead, I always recharge the battery outside the bike in a safe location just in case there is a problem during charging I will be able to disconnect the charger and the bike is not at risk. I also always charge in a safe place. This may all be based on baseless fear but other than riding your bike the most risky thing you can do is charge your battery. Most lithium battery problems occur when charging.

How long will your e-bike batteries last?

E-bike batteries do not have an unlimited life span. A battery’s life depends on how much you use it. Battery life is dependent on how fast you discharge the battery (faster=shorter life). This is one reason to have a large battery because overall the discharge will be slower than on a tiny battery. Life is used up by discharging and re-charging. The number of times you discharge your batteries is called a charge cycle. Using your battery is the reason you got an e-bike.

If you want your battery to last the longest time, discharge it slowly and recharge it slowly. Fast chargers decrease battery life.

What is a “charge cycle”?

A charge cycle is a 100% discharge followed by a 100% recharge. Two 50% charge cycles equal one full charge cycle. Why is this important to know? Because the life of your battery is measured in charge cycles. Lithium-ion e-bike batteries can only be charged from empty to 100% full about 1000 times.

Don’t worry about partial recharge or partial discharge. Lithium-ion batteries do not require full discharge before recharge. Partial recharge only counts as a partial charge. Even when lithium-ion batteries are not able to take a full charge they are still capable of partial charge. The way you will know is that your range will be reduced.

If possible, keeping your lithium-ion batteries between 20% and 80% of a full charge will increase the total number of charge cycles.

How to treat lithium batteries safely

  • Never attempt to modify a lithium battery pack. This is something that needs to be done in a controlled environment with proper safety measures in place.
  • Don’t ever charge with the wrong charger. Using the wrong charger at best will not charge the battery properly. At worst the wrong charger will cause excess heat and may result in a fire.
  • Battery chargers need to be maxed to the battery pack. Never try to charge faster by altering the charger. Not only do you risk a fire but you will also ruin the batteries.
  • Don’t change the charger in a misguided attempt to overcharge the battery. You will ruin the battery.
  • Charge the battery in a safe place so that if something goes wrong it won’t be a safety hazard.
  • Do not let the battery sit on the charger for extended periods. Remove them from the charger as soon as they are full.
  • Do not ever attempt to charge a battery that is too cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder). Likewise do not attempt to charge a battery that is too hot. Don’t let your lithium battery sit in the sun unprotected.
  • Keep your batteries at room temperature in a dry place. Electricity and water don’t mix well.
Lithium battery charger
Lithium battery charger

How to treat lithium batteries for long life

  • Never attempt to modify a lithium battery pack. This is something that needs to be done in a controlled environment with proper safety measures in place.
  • Do not ever completely discharge your battery. Restarting a dead lithium battery takes special chargers. When you hit 90% discharged, you are done. Turn your battery off.
  • Use your battery at a low power setting. Power level 5 creates high amperage and decreases battery life.
  • Do not fully charge a lithium battery to 100% power without using it right away.
  • Do not store a fully charged or fully discharged lithium battery. Store lithium batteries at about 80% of a full charge. Recharge every six months or so back to 80% if you are not using it.
  • If you store your bike outside, take your battery out of the bike and store it inside.

More information about lithium batteries

I have written other articles about using lithium batteries in my motorhome. We are very happy lithium battery owners. In an e-bike, you have lithium ION batteries. In my motorhome, I have lithium Iron phosphate batteries. Lithium ION batteries have higher energy density than lithium iron phosphate batteries. Lithium ION batteries are not as safe as the batteries in my motorhome. The construction however is similar.

They are both constructed from lower voltage cells and then combine the voltage to power the usage. A big difference between the batteries in my motorhome is that each battery in my motorhome each have a better built-in Battery Management System (BMS). E-bike batteries do not have a robust BMS. The BMS protects my motorhome batteries from overcharging and over-discharge. You have to protect your e-bike batteries because you don’t have a built-in protection system.

This information in this article will explain more but remember it was written about batteries with built-in protection systems, not e-bike batteries. Ten Lithium Battery Myths and Answers

Controlling the power from the battery to the motor

How do e-bikes control the power to give you the best most natural ride?

E-bikes have adopted microcomputers to precisely control the amount of power delivered to the motor according to the rider’s needs and desires. These computers make e-bikes controllable through a large range of power. The rider can use the controller to change between power settings and increase the power output to climb hills and then later limit power to increase endurance.

On a hub-motor e-bike, the controller is a separate component mounted somewhere on the bike. On a mid-drive motor e-bike, the controller is built into the motor.

Bafang M-600 e-bike controller removed from the motor.
This Bafang M-600 e-bike controller was removed from the motor. Notice the cooling fins to keep the controller cool extending its life.

Power settings

What is an e-bike power setting?

Power settings adjust the amount of power that flows from the battery to the motor. Typically they range from one to five, with power setting “one” being the lowest setting and “five” being the highest setting. My bike can also be operated with the power setting at zero meaning that the motor will not get any amperage from the battery and essentially you are riding a normal bike. I can also achieve the same zero assist level by turning the battery off or riding the bike without the battery installed.

FLX blade 2.0 color computer display.
FLX blade 2.0 color computer display.

Power settings relate to the maximum speed and the maximum speed will typically only be achieved at the highest setting or when going downhill. However, power settings also relate to the amount of power associated with the bike climbing steep hills.

Denago e-bike computer display
Denago e-bike computer display.

Do you need or want a throttle on your e-bike?

This introduces the question of how the motor knows to assist the rider. If your bike has a throttle then you can vary the amount of power that the motor will get from the battery using the throttle. My e-bike does not have a throttle. E-bikes without throttles are categorized as Class 1 e-bikes. The only purpose of the motor is to assist the rider.

Class II e-bikes have a throttle and Class III e-bikes go faster up to 28 miles per hour. By moving the throttle, the rider can accelerate without moving the pedals. The difference between Class II and Class III e-bikes is the maximum speed achievable (assumes flat ground) but no one ever mentions it. All bikes can exceed 28 miles per hour going downhill. You better have good brakes and a really good helmet.

Bicycle thumb throttle
Bicycle thumb throttle

What is pedal assist?

Pedal assist refers to how the bike knows when to help the rider. All electric bikes have pedal assist. Ideally, the motor would know when the rider wanted some assistance (like when climbing hills) and then the motor would apply power to the wheels to help the rider. Of course, if your bike has a throttle then you could manually apply the power to tell the motor when you desire some assistance. On electric bicycles without throttles a bicycle with a torque sensor will “feel” the rider pushing on the pedals and then apply the power automatically.

Cadence vs torque sensors (pick one)

Associated with the question of throttle is how a Class 1 e-bike knows to assist me and deliver amperage from the battery to the motor. There are two commonly used methods. The first older and less natural method is to use a cadence sensor that notices that the pedals are making a rotation. If the pedals are rotated then the motor controller sends the electricity to the battery.

E-bike control buttons on comfort style handle bar.
E-bike control buttons on a comfort-style handlebar.

The best cadence sensors will require only a small amount of pedal rotation before the controller sends amperage from the battery to the motor. All cadence sensors however can be fooled by what is called ghost pedaling where the rider creates the rotation but does not actually push on the pedals. When ghost pedaling, the motor does all the work.

Torque sensors work differently. Torque sensors measure how much pedal pressure the rider puts on the pedals and based on how much pressure will deliver amperage from the battery to the controller to the motor. With a torque sensor, there is no such thing as ghost pedaling. To achieve maximum speed or hill climbing power you need to push on the pedals. The controller then delivers a corresponding increase in amperage to the motor.

Advanced e-bike designs

Every bike I have talked about so far has a chain between the pedals and the rear wheel. In 1975 a patent for a chainless drive bike was issued and Mondo Footloose created an e-bike in Germany that uses this idea.

Mando Footloose folding e-bike that does not use a chain between the pedals and the e-bike motor.
Mando Footloose folding e-bike that does not use a chain between the pedals and the e-bike motor. This is a very interesting design and I wonder how well it works. A chain-drive bicycle is about 95% efficient in transferring rider effort through the chain to the rear wheel. On this e-bike, the rider spins a generator between the pedals to create electricity.

The propulsion for the wheels comes from the electricity through a hub-drive motor in one (or perhaps both) of the wheels. The conversion of mechanical motion to electricity between the generator and the battery and then from the battery to the motor will perhaps be 70% efficient. Is there a battery? I am not sure. Another question is does the e-bike have regenerative braking like an electric car? Again I am not sure.

Mondo Footloose e-bike folded.
Mondo Footloose e-bike folded position for storage. This e-bike is very different than most bikes. I wish I had more information to share.

Thinking about these chainless e-bike designs, it would be interesting if the generator size were to be customized to the rider. Stronger riders could turn a larger generator whereas other riders could use a smaller generator. The generator could recharge a battery and have nothing to do with the locomotion of the bike. Indeed the bike could be used as a stationary exercise bike and then taken out for a ride later.

E-bikes without wheels!

The following picture is a bike that is really different and I wonder how well it works. You can tell by the picture right away that it comes from Canada. Someday I would love to try it, but it is unlikely that my RV will be in Canada when it is snowing.

Envo Flex Electric Snowbike
Envo Flex Electric Snowbike

How to first learn how to ride an e-bike

This list assumes you already know how to ride a bicycle.

  • Turn your bike on. Typically this means pressing the on button for a few seconds but several models do this differently.
  • Put the bicycle in the lowest gear or at least a lower gear. This will make starting out from a standing start easier.
  • Put the bike in the lowest power assist level (zero power assist if available).
  • After you are moving increase the power assist level by one step. At this time, as you are pedaling you should feel the assistance from the motor start helping you pedal.
  • Experiment with different gearing, power assist levels, and climbing hills.
  • When possible return to the lowest gear and low power settings before stopping. This will help the bike be ready for the next time you start.


Do not start in high gear or at a high power assist level until you are used to how the bike feels when accelerating. High pedal assist levels can supply quicker acceleration than casual bicycle riders cannot equal.

Up-to-date bicycle design standards

Don’t buy an out-of-date bicycle just because it has a motor.

I am going to list a few changes that have been incorporated (and invented) over the last few years that have made huge improvements to bicycle design. Is the e-bike that you are considering designed to today’s standards or is the design out of date?

Aluminum or carbon fiber

The first design standard that is currently state of the art is your bike frame will be either aluminum or carbon fiber. Both are very light and very strong. If a bicycle is made from steel it is woefully out of date.

Hydroformed aluminum

The very best bicycle frames are not made from tubing but rather they are formed by a special fluid press that shapes the aluminum tubes into a shape that is the most desirable for distributing more weight to the parts that are under the most stress and less material and weight to parts that will not be subject to as much stress. Hydroforming works similarly to a bicycle tube that takes the shape of the tire and rim when inflated. The difference is that aluminum is “inflated” when it is hot and retains shape when released from the mold.

Integrated battery, motor, and controller mounts

Since the shape of hydroformed aluminum frames allows for designs around these “extra” components on an e-bike on quality e-bikes they can be integrated into the design. If these components seem to be hanging on the frame as an afterthought this is a sign that it is a dated design and the manufacturer is trying to cut corners and increase profit.

Bafang M510 mid-drive motor
Bafang M510 mid-drive motor integrated into a hydroformed frame.

Chainless bicycle drive

Shaft Drive

Shaft-drive bicycles are not new. The first reference I found was from 1880. The chain is replaced with a shaft and this design is used on several motorcycles. Currently, shaft-drive e-bikes are rare and novel. Most bicycle shops won’t work on a broken shaft-drive e-bike.

Honbike HF01 Chainless, Foldable Shaft Drive Commuter
Honbike HF01 Chainless, Foldable Shaft Drive Commuter notice also the seat.
Shaft drive with hub motor
Shaft drive with a rear-hub motor on a Honbike HF01 folding bicycle.

This next picture shows the internal workings of a typical shaft drive on a bicycle. In this picture, the pedals and crank are on the left side of the picture. Obviously, the wheel goes on the right side of the picture. One of the reasons that the shaft drive isn’t more popular is that they don’t work well with multiple external gears on the rear hub.

Shaft drive cut away to show internal components.
Shaft-drive cut away to show internal components.

Since shaft drive components are designed as part of a purpose-built bicycle. Shaft drive systems are almost always heavier than chain drive. Other than getting rid of the greasy chain they don’t offer any major improvements to the drive system on a bicycle.

Gates Carbon Drive

Perhaps the number one advancement in bicycling (besides electric motors) is that the chain has been replaced by a belt drive. Belt drives are long-lasting and grease free but have one limitation, they don’t work on bicycles with rear derailleurs.

Gates Carbon belt-drive
Gates Carbon belt-drive.

Belt drives only work on hub drive or on mid-drive bikes with only one exposed rear gear. On mid-drive bikes, carbon belt drives may be coupled with internally geared rear hubs and this makes a fantastic combination. If you have a mid-drive motor you will not be able to break a Gates Carbon Belt drive like you could a chain if apply very high torque by standing on the pedals going uphill in the incorrect gear.

Gates carbon belt drive and internal hub gearing on a FLX e-bike.
Gates carbon belt drive and internal hub gearing on an FLX Blade 2.0 e-bike.

Internal rear hub gearing

Internal gears inside the rear hub are not new. The first patent for an internal geared hub was in 1902. My bicycle in the 1960s had an internal geared hub. Internal rear hub gearing isn’t new but combined with a carbon belt drive it is a good option for mid-motor e-bikes.

A bike with an internal gear hub will look like a single-speed bicycle and act like a multiple-speed bike. The advantage of internal rear hub gearing is that they are protected from the world. They are slightly less efficient than external rear gears but that assumes that the external gearing is well-oiled and clean. One huge advantage is that the internal gearing places the hub more centered between the mounting points and this means that the spokes are closer to even spacing.

FLX Blade 2.0 mountain e- bike with carbon belt drive and internal geared rear.hub.
FLX Blade 2.0 mountain e-bike with carbon belt drive and an internally geared rear Rohloff hub. This bike looks like it may be ideal. I haven’t tried one.

The disadvantage of rear hub gearing is that the combination of the rear hub with the gears inside weighs slightly more than external gearing. Obviously, if you have internal hub rear gearing you can’t have a rear hub motor.

Rohloff internally geared hub

Rohloff internal geared hub.
Rohloff internal geared hub. coupled with an electric shifting motor to change gears.
Rohloff rear hub showing internal gears
Rohloff rear hub shows 14 internal gears. The gear range between the lowest gear to the highest gear is 526%. A large gear range on an externally geared derailleur-equipped ten-speed rear gear cluster bike with two front chain rings is about the same as a Rohloff rear hub with only one front chain ring.

Enviolo internal geared hub

Enviolo makes an internal rear hub with a large range of “gears” that does not actually contain any gears. It is like a CVT transmission on modern cars. I tried one ten years ago and was very impressed. Since this hub acts like a CVT transmission it allows for gear range with no steps between gears. Like most internal hubs, the Enviolo is sealed to weather. The Enviolo also has a much lower price than many internal hubs, for this reason, I expect to see Enviolo rear hubs on many bikes in the future.

Enviolo rear hub with gates carbon drive belt
Enviolo rear hub with gates carbon drive belt

The Enviolo rear hub looks a lot like a rear hub drive motor on an e-bike. It instead replaces the gears and derailleur that would normally be found on the outside of the hub or internally geared hub like the Rohloff. The “gear range” between the lowest “gear” to the highest gear is about 380%. On an e-bike, this “gear range” should be plenty. The Enviolo rear hub is ideally coupled with a mid-drive e-bike motor and Gates Carbon Belt drive. Advances in the Enviolo rear hub allow stationary shifting and even automatic shifting without the need for the rider to shift gears.

Internal cutaway enviolo rear hub
Internal cutaway Enviolo rear hub. As you can see, there are no gears in the Enviolo hub. Instead the large “spheres ” allow the transfer of pedal power past these spheres to the output side of the hub which drives the wheel.

This video describes the function of the Envilol hub better than I can. Words with pictures (especially moving pictures) are more descriptive than just words.

Like some other rear hubs, the Enviolo can be coupled with electronic shifting and when equipped can make bike riding without thinking about shifting possible.

Axle style

The current best axle style for holding the front wheel on the bike is called a through axle. This style of axel is both stronger and provides for a more precise alignment of wheel components. Current best rear axles include quick-release levers to allow the rider to remove and repair the rear tire without additional tools during the ride. The only e-bikes that may benefit from bolt-on wheels are cargo e-bikes.

Through axel and brake disc.
Thru axel and brake disc on a suspension fork.

Headtube style

The current strongest and most durable head tube style (sometimes called a steerer tube) is tapered. In the tapered headtube, the lower bearing races are bigger than the upper bearing races and this extra size creates a stronger joint at the top of the fork. If the e-bike doesn’t have a tapered headtube it is a sign of where the manufacturer was trying to save a little money. The best available forks and thus the best available frames have adopted tapered head tubes.

Everything you need to know about suspension

Why would you want an e-bike without suspension?

Suspension creates comfort. The first shock absorber on any bike is the size and air volume of the tires. Taller tires have lower approach angles and thus have an advantage when soaking up variations in terrain. Tires with more air volume absorb changes in terrain. Longer spokes also absorb bumps better than shorter spokes. Like every other decision in bicycle design, it is a question of parts working together to create a balance between performance and weight.

FLX Weapon X full suspension mountain e-bike
FLX Weapon X full suspension mountain e-bike with a mid-drive motor.

Mechanical bicycle suspension on an e-bike is normally only for the front fork. Cheap front suspension forks are almost always just a spring that can take some of the jolts out of a road surface change. All good front suspension forks have some kind of shock absorber rebound control device. A fork that only has a spring without the ability to control the rate of returning to full length is a sign of a place the manufacturer is trying to save money.

A suspension stem

A lighter alternative to a suspension fork may be a suspension stem. These create a “spring” mounted between the handlebars and fork to absorb some of the jolts. A suspension stem will never be equal in ability to that of a suspension fork but remember that the air in the tires, and the flex of the fork all contribute to a front suspension system — not just a shock-absorbing fork.

Cirrus Cycles Kinekt Suspension Stem
Cirrus Cycles Kinekt Suspension Stem

One advantage a suspension stem has over a suspension fork is that when coupled with a lighter “rigid” fork the suspension stem usually provides a reduction in bicycle weight. A non-suspension carbon fork is lightweight and has some shock-absorbing ability. This is a good place to save some weight.

Suntour NCX suspension seat post.
Suntour NCX suspension seat post allows for some shock absorption without a rear suspension.
Cane Creek Thudbuster G4
Cane Creek Thudbuster G4. This seat post uses a “rubber” bumper between the moving parts to soak up the bumps. Someday I would like to try one.

Full suspension (rear suspension with a front suspension fork)

E-bikes rarely have a rear suspension. That goes double for mid-drive e-bikes. Placing a poorly designed rear shock absorber on an e-bike creates a potential problem point and is usually only found on higher-end mountain e-bikes. A good substitute for a rear suspension e-bike is a cushioned saddle and suspension seat post.

Full suspension mid-drive fat tire e-bike.
Full suspension mid-drive fat tire e-bike.

Everything you need to know about bike parts

Bike parts are not all equal. Some are junk waiting to break.

The quality of the components on an e-bike varies greatly. The best e-bikes have quality name-brand bicycle components. For years the go-to name for quality bicycle components has been Shamino. Brakes, shifters, and related components are sold to bicycle manufacturers together in what is called a groupset. There are different quality levels in name-brand groupsets and they are usually chosen with an eye toward lightweight durability.

Promax adjustable stem.
Promax adjustable stem.

This list is Shimano’s mountain bike groupset hierarchy, from least expensive to most expensive. Sometimes components of a groupset at the lowest levels are mixed to create the look of higher-end components. Make sure to check multiple parts for the name.

  • Shimano Tourney
  • Shimano Altus
  • Shimano Acera
  • Shimano Alivio
  • Shimano Cues (Cues is the replacement for the Altus, Acera, and Alivio groupsets.)
  • Shimano Deore
  • Shimano SLX
  • Shimano Deore XT (electronic shifting)
Shimano Acera derailleur
Shimano Acera derailleur

Besides Shamino — Sram and Microshift have quality groupsets. The lack of a name brand on groupset components is an indicator of a place the manufacturer is trying to save money and is hoping that the customer won’t notice.

Mcroshift rear derailleur.
Mcroshift rear derailleur.


Pedals are attached to the crankset. For years there has been multiple chain rings on the crankset this has evolved to a single front chain ring. Nearly all e-bikes have a single chain ring crankset. On mid-drive e-bikes, the crankset is usually built into the motor. If you have a rear hub motor e-bike you will have a separate crankset.

This e-bike doesn't have a crankset or bottom bracket but rather the pedals are attached to the motor. This represents the state of the art in motors and bicycle frame design.
This e-bike doesn’t have a crankset or bottom bracket but rather the pedals are attached to the motor. This represents the state of the art in motors and bicycle frame design.

Bottom bracket

The bottom bracket is between the pedals and contains the bearings that allow the crankset to spin smoothly. The current designs place the bearings outside of the frame and this allows for more rider torque than internal bearings. On mid-drive e-bikes, the bottom bracket is built into the motor.


Cassettes are the gearing on the rear wheel. They allow the rider to choose the correct gearing for the motor (on mid-drive e-bikes) or for the rider (on rear hub e-bikes). Current bicycle designs have cassettes with between 7 and 12 gears. Cassettes with a high number of gears cost more and require a thinner (higher price) chain and higher quality derailleur.

10 speed cassette
10-speed cassette


The cassette will come with a matching chain. The way to choose a replacement chain is to pick the one with the matching number of gears on the cassette. Don’t replace a ten-speed chain with a seven-speed chain.


The derailleur is the component that moves the chain between gears on the cassette. The more gears you have on the cassette the better the derailleur will be required to smoothly shift gears. Derailleurs are spring-loaded to accumulate unnecessary chain length. The best quality derailleurs now have a clutch that controls the spring and reduces chain slap on rough terrain.

10 speed Shimano Deore derailleur with clutch.
10-speed Shimano Deore derailleur with clutch.

Derailleur hanger

A derailleur hanger is a small piece of aluminum that bolts to the frame and to the derailleur. A huge sign of a low-quality bicycle is that the derailleur hanger is built into the frame. If you break a derailleur hanger you replace the hanger. If you break an integrated derailleur hanger then you replace the frame or the bicycle. Do not buy any bike that does not have a removable derailleur hanger. If you already have a bike without a removable derailleur hanger either sell it or start saving money for a new bike.

Bolt on derailleur hanger
Bolt-on derailleur hanger.

Shift levers

I use the term lever but now there are some high-end bikes with electronic derailleurs that operate from battery power. If you have an electronic derailleur then you probably are not reading this article. I want electric shifting. For the rest of us, the shift lever needs to match the derailleur otherwise you may not get good gear changes.

Shimano gear shifter.
Shimano gear shifter.

The best brakes = Hydraulic disc brakes

For the last twenty years brakes have become far more capable and good hydraulic brake systems are an easy way to judge bicycle quality. Cheap bicycles almost universally have cheap mechanical brakes. This is an area for most customers to overlook. The gold standard in modern bicycle brakes is a front and rear disc rotor coupled with hydraulic-powered brakes. Today even big-box store bikes have hydraulic brakes. The days are past when the bicycle rim is used for braking. The very minimum braking system on any quality bike will have disc brakes.

How do hydraulic brakes work?

When pressure is applied to the brake lever, that pressure increases the pressure at the caliper moving the brake pads to contact the brake disc. This causes friction on the brake disc slowing the bike. When the brake lever is released, small springs retract the brake pads. One of the key reasons that hydraulic brakes are better is that there is no mechanical friction between the brake lever and the caliper. This lack of friction allows for precise control.

Hydraulic disc brake and rotor.
Hydraulic disc brake and rotor.

The reason that hydraulic disc braking systems are a better choice is that they offer greater stopping power and control. Stopping power is related to how hard the brakes can be applied without causing tire skidding and control allows for a strong quick and firm application of the power without causing tire skidding. The second characteristic of a good hydraulic braking system is the quality brake rotors will almost always be 180 mm although smaller 160 mm rotors are still popular. Larger rotors dissipate heat better and provide better stopping power over long descents.

Hydraulic brake levers and thumb throttle.
Hydraulic brake levers and thumb throttle.

Looking at the brakes is a good test of whether or not the manufacturer is trying to cut corners, lower expenses, and increase profits.

Magura MT5 4 piston hydraulic brakes caliper and lever.
Magura MT5 4-piston hydraulic brakes caliper and lever. Some brands are very good, even if they are not well known.

Everything you need to know about accessories

Cargo racks, baskets, and splash-controlling fenders are options that should match the frame from the manufacturer. A good manufacturer will have thought of these things as part of his overall plan for the bikes.

If you are not a racer, why don't you want a kickstand?
If you are not a racer, why don’t you want a kickstand?

Racks and baskets

I have had many bikes with rear racks and like the utility of the rack and what it offers. The bad part of a rear rack is that you either need a step-through frame design or you need the ability to swing your leg over the rack while getting on the bike.

Rear rack holding an e-bike battery.
This rear rack holds an e-bike battery. This puts a lot of weight high on the bike and over the rear tire. Put too much weight aft of the rider and it un-weighs the front wheel. It is not a great combination.


I don’t use fenders on my bike but if I lived in an area known for rain (and riding on wet streets after it rains) count me in. A good manufacturer should have integrated fenders for any bike you are considering.

Suspension fork with fenders.
Suspension fork with fenders.

Everything you need to know about safety accessories


As for safety lights, they offer additional protection even when riding during the daytime. In the daytime, I recommend flashing lights both clear and red both on the front and the rear of the bike to help car drivers both see and avoid you. At night, keep the flashing clear light in the front of the bike pointed down. These flashing lights are not for you to see with but rather for others to see you.

Nice headlight on this FLX e-bike,
Nice headlight on this FLX e-bike,


Folding rearview mirror
Folding rearview mirror. Being able to see behind you is a good thing. Enough said.

Helmets, eye protection, and gloves

E-bikes can go much faster than regular bikes. On a bike, you are nothing more than a high-speed pedestrian. At least wear a good helmet. To keep the skin on your hands, wear gloves.

Bicycling in Fairbanks in May can be a cold ride.
Bicycling in Whitehorse Canada in May can be a cold ride.


As opposed to the lights already mentioned, headlights are for you to be able to see obstacles in the dark. For riding at night a 500-900 lumen headlight will provide you the ability to see obstacles in your path. Doubling the headlight by having one light on the bike and a second light on your helmet provides better coverage. These headlights don’t replace the flashing safety lights I have previously mentioned.

You don’t have to buy a new bike to have a great e-bike

Why can’t you convert your bike to an e-bike? — You can.

Assuming you already have a good bicycle that fits you — you may be able to convert your current bicycle into a great e-bike. These conversion kits in many ways are equal to or better than many e-bikes you can purchase. They have all the capabilities of a factory e-bike except that the motor and battery won’t be integrated into the frame. Conversion kits cost quite a bit less than new bikes. Remember, I already identified that e-bikes have three additional components. To make a regular bike into an e-bike you have to have a motor, a controller, and a battery.

Bafang color computer display.
Bafang color computer display.

The easiest way to convert a regular bike into an e-bike is to buy a motor already installed in the wheelset and use a battery mount where your water bottle usually mounts. Don’t forget that a hub motor e-bike has a separate controller. This controller may be built into the battery. Otherwise, you will need to find a place for this third component.

Bafang M-600 mid-drive motor
Bafang M-600 mid-drive motor. Motors like this one could be on your current bike. I wouldn’t however put a nine hundred dollar motor on a twenty-year-old, one hundred dollar bike. Or maybe I would.

Replacing the wheel with a rear hub motor, however, isn’t the only way to convert a regular bike into an e-bike. Bafang (and other companies) have conversion motors so that you can convert your bottom bracket to a high-power mid-drive motor. Remember that you will not need a separate controller on a mid-drive motor e-bike. Couple a mid-drive motor with a large battery and you can have a very capable e-bike for a fraction of the cost of a factory-designed e-bike.

Johnny (Nerd-Out) knows this subject inside and out. I have been promising (threatening) to include him in an article for a long time. I trust him to tell me straight up when I don’t understand something or can’t explain something.

Some of my friends have made great e-bike conversions. And, I happen to know an expert in e-bike conversions. I highly recommend that you contact Johnny for a consultation before you attempt a conversion. I also recommend that you get your e-bike conversion parts from him. His store is dedicated to the subject. Here is a link to his website. Johnny Nerd-out

Pricing e-bike conversions

If you price an equal hub drive conversion with the purchase of a new wheel (probably two new matching wheels with new tires) then you will almost always spend less money on a mid-drive e-bike conversion. The extra cost of the mid-drive motor will be offset because the motor will be smaller and you don’t have to buy a new wheel. Even if you needed new wheels I would still go with a mid-drive conversion.

Everything you need to know about e-bike prices

Price is always an indicator of popularity

When the demand for any item goes up, assuming supplies for the item are limited, then prices will be higher. Don’t think that the prices of components, labor, and shipping drive the prices.  Popularity has far more to do with driving increased demand, than the cost of production.    

Price can be an indicator of quality.

Quality components, at low prices when they are available in a completive marketplace, and if the quality is discernable by the buyer, can result in buyers paying more for higher quality items.

Beware of component overload with increased prices. Fenders and cargo racks on bikes do not increase performance and they should not bump the price into a higher price category.

E-bike pricing zones (2023)

Prices in U.S. Dollars

Less than $500 – If the price of a quality e-bike is less than $500 you should be suspicious that the bike is stolen property.

$500-$1000 – This pricing zone is occupied by bikes having the lowest quality components. Expect to find small batteries, small weaker motors, and cheap components that may work, but will usually not work well for very long and will soon break. When they do break it will be unusual to find exact replacement items. Don’t expect to have up-to-date designs at this price point. Typically parts and especially the batteries will appear to be hanging on the bike rather than as part of the bike design.

$1000-$1500 – At this price point you may have some quality components and a mix of other lower-quality components. Expect to have an adequate battery and rear hub drive motor. All bikes at this price point should have hydraulic disc brakes without exception. This price point I consider to be an acceptable entry level. Watch out, especially for heavy bikes. Many of these e-bikes weigh more than 80 pounds. With increased prices, the weight of the bike should decrease.

$1500-$2500 – All the components on the bike should be name-brand. The battery should be 48 volts and integrated into the frame. Reject any bike at this price point where the battery is not integrated into the frame. At the higher half of this pricing, you should be getting a mid-drive motor with a torque sensor controller. Shock absorbers will be more capable. Don’t expect a full suspension (front and rear) shock absorber at this price point. The total weight of these bikes should be less than 60 pounds.

$2500-$5000 – Some of these bikes are pricy beyond value. Popularity drives some of these manufacturers to ask for very high prices. Frankly, this price point can be very dangerous for the consumer and very profitable for the manufacturer.  At the upper end of the price category, some bikes are overpriced based on marketing campaigns by more than $1000.  Most of these beyond-value bikes will tout an especially good warranty. Be especially wary of bikes that are promoted by famous people. All bikes in this buyer beware category will have weights of more than 60 pounds.

Some bike makers however increase the quality and not just the price. This price point is where the chain may be replaced with a carbon belt drive, nearly always on a mid-drive motor with an internally geared sealed multiple-gear drive train. Shock absorbers will be more capable. Some of these bikes will have full suspension frames.

Above $5000 – This is the zone where performance doesn’t increase but instead, weight decreases. Nearly all the bikes in this price zone will be made by major manufacturers of quality bicycles. As weight decreases, both motor sizes and battery size can decrease without sacrificing performance.  Expect the highest quality components and probably electronic shifting.  Each year you may be able to purchase some of these bikes at huge discounts (thousands less) as dealers make room for new model years.

Everything you need to know about e-bike rebates

How to get a rebate on your e-bike purchase!

Some states and the federal government have rebates associated with the purchase of e-bikes. These rebates sometimes are tax credits. Sometimes the rebates are associated with the local utility companies. Make sure to check and double-check any rebates that may apply to your e-bike purchase. Sometimes these rebates are restricted only to the lower-priced e-bikes. This link gives a high-level overlook of some of the available rebates. E-bike purchase incentives

Everything you need to know about locking your bike

How to keep your e-bike safe from theft.

Don’t leave your bike unattended and unlocked. Both are parts of your security plan. If you need to store your bikes outside make sure you lock your bike to something secure that isn’t easy to move. If you can put your bikes inside your house, garage, shed, RV, or vehicle. They are safer when they are inside and all these things offer protection on many levels. The number one reason they are less likely to be stolen is that they are out of sight.

Given time and current technology a deliberate thief can defeat every locking device. I will offer a few small tidbits about each of them, how they protect your bike, and even some ideas about how a thief might try to defeat your lock. They already know, and you too should know.

Battery and seat

The battery and seat are removable. Don’t trust the lock on your battery to protect your battery. Take both the battery and seat off the bike if you store the bike outside. Plus the battery is the most expensive part. No reason to lose everything to a thief.

Seat post clamp to quickly adjust and remove your saddle.
Seat post clamp to quickly adjust and remove your saddle.
The seat supplied with our e-bikes was high quality. I wish that we had a little more comfort in this area.
The seat supplied with our e-bikes was high quality. I wish that we had a little more comfort in this area.

Cables are sadly easy to cut

If you are going to lock your bike to something you are going to need something to wrap around the fixed object. Cables are easily cut and are your lowest line of defense. My cable is long enough to go around all the removable parts of both bikes and locks to my bike rack.

Chains are stronger than cables but some chains are not strong enough

A good chain is hard to beat. Make sure that it is made from thick links of hardened steel. Standard bolt cutters will break before a good chain will break. To cut through a chain your thief will probably use a portable grinder. Your chain needs to be so thick that the thief has to cut through both sides of the link. Make sure your chain is the correct length. Don’t give the crook extra chain to work on. You want most of the chain difficult to access with a grinder.

Our bike lock with a massive chain and our cable lock.
Our bike lock with a massive chain and our cable lock.


Your battery should lock to your bike but you should never trust this lock to keep your battery locked to your bike. Take your battery inside and keep it warm and dry.

I use both cables and a chain for two separate locking systems. A large “master lock” is on the cable. It would be much easier to cut the cable than it will be to cut through this lock. My chain lock has a built-in high-security lock. The key slot on this lock isn’t something that is easily picked by a thief. Most crooks don’t have the special knowledge or tools to pick this lock. Notice that the end of the chain fits into the lock. Before a thief would not attack my lock they will instead attack the chain.

Kryptonite Evolution 1090 Integrated Chain Lock
Kryptonite Evolution 1090 Integrated Chain Lock. This is my choice for the most secure bike lock. I wish I had two of them. I got mine at REI and have been a member for a long time before REI had retail stores. You don’t have to be a member to shop at REI. Link at the bottom.

One of the newest tactics that thieves will use is to superglue the lock keyhole and then you won’t be able to unlock the bike. Then the thief will return later with the proper tools to cut your lock. The only answer to this is to stay close to your bike.

Tracking devices

If you decide to put a tracking device on your bike it may help to get your bike back. Make sure to put it in a place that is difficult to find and extremely hard to remove. Crooks know about these tracking devices. If it is attached to your seat, it is likely you will find your seat, without your bike, in a ditch or dumpster someplace.


If you can’t see the bikes it may help keep your bikes safe. As I mentioned above inside storage is better than a cover. But a cover is better than out in the open. I kind of wish my bike lock could somehow be exposed through the cover so that a potential thief could see that the bikes are securely locked with a huge chain.

PRO BIKE TOOL Cover for Outdoor Bicycle Storage
PRO BIKE TOOL Cover for Outdoor Bicycle Storage. Notice that this cover is big enough to completely cover both my bikes and most of the rack. It isn’t perfect but it is the best that I have found.


Sometimes you need to purchase bicycle insurance on top of your homeowner’s plan. Sometimes it is included. Since all good e-bikes are at least $1000 make sure that your deductible for the insurance isn’t higher than the value of the bikes. If your bike is stolen both the police and your insurance are going to want to know the serial number. Your motor may have a separate serial number.

Everything you need to know about a bike rack for your car

Taking your bikes to new riding locations is one of the fun things about bicycle riding. A good bike rack for your car makes this easy. For us, we have the bikes with us everywhere we go in the RV and then can transfer them to the car (including the rack) and go find fun rides.

On this subject, I have a big advantage. I have already written an article that describes our bike rack. The most important aspect of a bike rack is that it needs to be robust enough to carry your e-bikes. Make sure that the bike rack is rated for the weight of your e-bikes and that your bike rack works well with your bikes. Lock your bikes to the rack and put your cover on the bikes when they are on your bike rack. Link to our article about our bike rack. Swagman RV Approved Bike Rack

Fitting our e-bikes to our bike rack on the back of our RV.
Fitting our e-bikes to our bike rack on the back of our RV.

Everything you need to know about e-bike service

Most of the parts of your e-bike can be serviced at most local bike shops. Tires are tires. Rear tires on rear hub motor e-bikes are a little harder to service than rear tires on mid-drive e-bikes. Your local dealer may have never serviced a carbon belt drive but this is actually easier than working with a chain because there is only one gear on each end and no grease.

Make sure that you pick a bike that can be serviced without sending it back to the manufacturer. If the company that makes your e-bike can’t get service for your bike without sending it back then you have a real problem when (notice I didn’t say if) your bike fails.

Does your e-bike company stock replacement parts in the US? No one wants to wait for parts lost on some container ship in the middle of the ocean.

What you need to know about e-bike laws

Ok, there are limits to articles and e-books. Every jurisdiction has different rules for e-bikes. I couldn’t possibly know about every e-bike law. A few things on this subject stand out some only have laws restricting Class II and Class III e-bikes. Class I e-bikes are good to go. Mackinac Island is an example that restricts only Class II and Class III e-bikes and allows Class I e-bikes.

What Class e-bike should I get?

The difference between Class I and the others is the throttle and maximum powered speed. Class I does not have a throttle and is restricted to 20 miles per hour. Class II e-bikes have a throttle. Class III the speed increases up to 28 miles per hour. If there is a no-e-bike law and you remove the battery, then regardless of the motor, you have removed the “e” and thus you only have a normal unpowered bike. This is a really good reason to make sure you can pedal your bike without the electric motor being powered by the battery.

The ideal e-bike for me

I got a great e-bike but not one that matches my ultimate wish list. I don’t have endless money so I didn’t get my entire wish list. Where I am sure you can tell from the above that my ideal e-bike would have a mid-drive motor integrated into the frame with an integrated battery.

My ideal bike would be a relaxed mountain-style e-bike with an internally geared hub (ideally the hub would be an electrically shifted, CVT transmission with a huge range and no actual gears to fail) and carbon belt drive. Really I got nearly everything I wanted in an off-the-shelf e-bike but just like everything else in life, there was a little compromise.

What e-bike did we choose?

All you really have to do is look at the top picture on this post. Here is a link to our review of the FLX Step Thru 2.0

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Note, this post contains numerous photos from free stock image suppliers and e-bike companies who gave me permission to include their images in this article.

As you know, our blog income is zero – this allows us to be independent and just tell the truth.  We do not get income or commissions. No, we don’t make paid endorsements.  We don’t make recommendations but instead, we will tell you what we like (or dislike). The links are only provided as a quick reference to help our readers.

The e-bike we chose is the FLX Comfort 2.0. You can find it and other FLX e-bikes at this link. FLX E-BIKES

Link to our e-bikes FLX Step Through (Comfort) 2.0 mid-drive e-bike

E-bike purchase incentives were found at FLX e-bike purchase incentives

Link to our micro mini e-bikes. JackRabbit

Mokwheel e-bikes contributed pictures and ideas to this article. Mokwheel

Denago e-bikes contributed some of the pictures in this article. Denago eBikes

Niu Bikes contributed pictures in this article. Niu

More photos and ideas were contributed by Dan at Kraken Adventure Bikes

Link to our mid-drive e-bike motor. Bafang M-600

Gates Carbon Belt Drive Gates

Cirrus Cycles Kinekt Suspension Stem Kinekt

Suntour NCX suspension seat post. Suntour

Another great suspension seat post. Cane Creek Thudbuster (ST)

Rohloff internally geared hub. Rohloff

Promax adjustable stem. Promax

Stock photos (royalty free) contributed by Stock Adobe

More stock photos (royalty free) contributed by Shutterstock

Link to article about our bike rack. Swagman RV Approved Bike Rack

Build your own e-bike by referring to this website. Johnny Nerd-out

Link to our bike lock. Kryptonite Evolution 1090 Integrated Chain Lock

Recreational Equipment, Inc REI Link to my bike lock at REI my Kryptonite bike lock

Link to our bike cover. PRO BIKE TOOL Cover

11 thoughts on “E-bikes, How to choose the best electric bicycle! e-bike e-book”

  1. OMG, thanks for letting me look at the article early. I was ready to make an ebike decision and your article has really opened my eyes about choosing an ebike. I will pm you please help me evaluate what is a good bike. I will run some bikes past you please tell me what you think about them.

  2. Excellent ebook. Probably more than I will ever want to know but I know now. We love our step-through design and fold-up so we can carry them in the back seat of the car.

    Our tires are 20 x 4.0 so love the fat tires and they are nobby so they do well in the gravel and sand. I do like to inflate mine to about 60% but Ninette like hers full.

    I do want to upgrade our brakes though, they always squeak. We carried around our old mountain bikes for 3 years and if I exaggerated we may have put 20 miles on them. We have had our electric bikes now for just over 2 years and have over 500 miles on them. So it is important to get something you will love and use.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    1. “Brakes always squeak when you ride them”, all the time, or only when you are braking.

      If only when braking they may be dirty. First, try cleaning the disc with alcohol. If that doesn’t work, replace the brake pads. To do this you will have to remove the wheels.

  3. Thanks for the detailed info. I’m rode an ebike from Burlington VT to Montreal a few weeks ago. I loved it. I’m not ready to give up my road bike yet, so I’ll keep this missive handy for future reference.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I have miles and miles on both road bikes and mountain bikes. My e-bike gives me legs like I used to have… actually better than I used to have. I can climb better than ever.

  4. I’m guessing you were sponsored for this article. For that long an article just to tell us what you picked is not helpful. There are several other e-bikes that meet your specs. RAD Bike comes to mind.

    1. If my intent was to only show off what I picked then I sure went the long way around to before I got to the point… The companies that were mentioned at the end of the article all responded to my requests for pictures. Rad however did not.

      1. I thought it was very well written and very informative. With the many new entries in the last few years in the e-bike field, I would have liked to see your list of the top five to ten e-bikes. Readers could then use your ebook to compare which bikes meet their needs for features and of course, price.
        As a disclaimer, my wife and I have been on Rad Rovers since early 2019. The bikes have traveled on the back of our RV thousands of miles and the e-bikes have hundreds of miles on them. I carry the parts, tubes, and tires that I know might fail. And the tools to fix and maintain them on the trail or in camp…
        Sadly the number of folks that come to me with mechanical issues that can’t be addressed because of supply, complexity, and or price is way too many. They sit while we ride.
        Thanks for giving me the chance to respond.

  5. Pingback: E-Bike review FLX Step Thru 2.0 - FoxRVTravel

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