An electric bike for commuting can be an extremely useful method of getting from point A to point B. While some opt to go for a regular bike and get some exercise along the way as well, that's not always an option. Sometimes making things a bit easier can get you a lot further, or a lot quicker, and that does make a difference.
The thing is, electric bikes are often more expensive than buying a conventional bike, such as a cruiser bike or a city commuter bike. That price premium isn't always justified, especially since using an electric bike for commuting isn't something everyone can do.
Questions you may be asking?
It this something I can buy at a bike shops near me?
Is it worth the $?
What should I get with so many different types available?
So, who are they for? What are some of the main benefits you get from using one? And last but not least, what are some things you should be careful about when buying an electric bike for commuting? If this piques your interest, read on as we take a look at the answers to these questions. At the end, you'll be able to choose the best electric bike for commuting.
First things first - who can use an electric bike for commuting?
Sure, you might think an e-bike for commuting is great for everyone. However, that's not really the case. For example, they may not be the best choice for the fitness freaks out there. There are people who not only look at a bicycle as a means to get from point A to point B, but also as their daily exercise. Such a person may very well shrug at the thought of going electric. Then, you have people who will need to lift and carry their bike at some point along the commute. Electric bikes are significantly heavier than a regular bike (our Peace Elec Electric Wheel Bike is around 55 pounds give or take accessories). The battery, and the motor, do add a lot of weight, and lifting it may not be an option. With that out of the way, who are electric bikes for commuting perfect for?
People who live in hilly terrains
Cities such as San Francisco are perfect for an electric bike for commuting. Depending on your fitness level, the steep streets may or may not be easy to conquer, especially if they're a part of your daily commute. And even if you are fit enough to climb them, are you able to do that with your basket full of groceries? On a daily basis?
An electric bike for commuting can help quite a bit here. Contrary to popular belief, an electric bike doesn't ride by itself. However, the motor does provide significant help when you're pedaling, making things a lot easier. Now, this isn't infinite - the motor does have a battery that will eventually run out, but that's unlikely to happen if you leave your home with a charged battery (our Peace Elec Electric Wheel Bike for example goes 25 - 40 Miles per charge) Just try to get the best electric bike for hilly commutes you can afford.
People who need their fitness intact for work
It's no secret that riding a bike can be tiring, especially if your daily commute includes a long ride from your home to your place of work. If this is the case, you may find yourself arriving at work already tired, and you have yet to start working. This is especially tricky for people who work something that includes physical work, as their work performance may suffer. The solution? An electric bike for commuting.
When you leave your home, you can use the motor to get to work. It won't require you to push pedals too hard, and you'll even be able to rest in some instances. Or, there's another option - you can use the motor to get back home afterwards. If you're doing physical work, you'll appreciate the fact that you have a bit of assistance when riding towards your home. In any case, you'll find great relief if you opt for an electric bike for commuting.
People who have long and time consuming commutes
If you only have 10ish minutes of cycling to get to work, you're good to go, and you can live with a 7 speed cruiser bike. If you live in a flat-ish city, you could even live with a 3 speed cruiser bike. But that's not the case with many of the commuters worldwide. There are people who have to ride for an hour before they get to work, and just as long when they're done, to get home. It doesn't matter whether or not you're fit enough to do that on a daily basis, it's time consuming and it adds quite a lot of time before you get home.
Using an electric bike for commuting can significantly shorten the time it takes for you to do your daily commute. The distance is the same, but that electric motor will help you get there, and back, faster. You'll also be a bit more rested, which will help a bit with your work performance, and everyone wins.
What do you get if you use an electric bike for commuting?
Considering that electric bikes are heavier, and usually a bit more expensive, there must be some argument to be made as far as the benefits from using one go. So, what advantages do electric bikes for commuting have?
You get to where you're going without being tired
This is more or less the prime thing about an electric bike for commuting. While sure, you still need to turn the pedals (though not always the case with the throttle only option), using an electric bike allows you to do that much less. It doesn't matter whether you're climbing hills or riding on flat terrain, you won't be too tired when you get there. This is especially important when your commute is especially long, or when you've got difficult terrain to conquer on said commute.
You get further, faster
This is pretty much self explanatory. As we mentioned earlier, an electric bike helps quite a bit when it comes to covering long distances. And this is especially true if you're in a rush. That motor can help quite a bit when it comes to turning pedals. So, you'll get to cover more distance, in a shorter period of time.
How do you choose an electric bike for commuting?
Make no mistake, there are plenty of options. You will find many various types of electric bikes, some better than others. Some aren't even worth looking at. So, how do you choose the right one for your commute? Let's take a look at a few important things to pay attention to.
Choose the appropriate class
There are three main classes when it comes to electric bikes. This is done primarily for regulatory reasons, and determining which one is right for you is crucial.
- Class 1: The electric motor only works when you're pedaling, and stops helping you at 20 mph
- Class 2: The motor works when you're pedaling, stops helping at 20 mph, but also has a throttle-only mode
- And Class 3: Works like Class 1, only the assistance continues until you get to 28 mph
If this is your first electric bike for commuting, you might want to look at Class 1. They're the most affordable, and when discussing regulations, most universally accepted. You can ride them on bike paths and streets alike, and some of them are also allowed on mountain bike trails. This is something you'll want to check first, though.
Class 2 bikes are often allowed in the same places Class 1 bikes are. This is due to the fact that both top out at 20 mph when it comes to the motor assistance. However, they also have a throttle-only mode which doesn't require that you pedal - this might come in handy.
Class 3 bikes are where you want to be. They're faster and more powerful than Class 1, but also cost a bit more. You do get better performance that helps a lot on climbs, or when you've loaded the bike and it's heavy. However, they're usually restricted on most bike paths and mountain bike trails.
The law has a saying in this, too. Before you choose the class, make sure you check the regulation rules for your state. Also, check with the land managers at the places you intend to ride at, if you want to be safe.
Note the battery
The battery, or power plant, on every electric bike for commuting is a key part of the design process. The usual tradeoff is either in performance, or riding range. For example, a more powerful motor, as the one you'll get with a Class 3 bike, has a lot less range than a Class 1 motor with the same battery. This is especially true if you ride in the more powerful modes as well.
When you're looking at getting an electric bike for commuting, you'll find everything from a 20 mile range, to 100 mile range. Here are five bikes that have a lot longer than that, too. This is due to the fact that riding range is affected by a host of variables. A large battery does help, and the capacities are usually stated in watt hours (Wh). This is the number of hours the battery can provide 1 watt of power before it dies. Therefore, a 300W motor with a 300 Wh battery will drain power a lot faster than a 150W motor with that same 300 Wh battery.
Aside from the capacity, you should also note the charging time. If fully empty, usually an electric bike will require anywhere between three and five hours to charge completely. A larger capacity battery may take longer. If you're commuting, it would be smart to carry your charger with you, or get an extra one to keep at work, for example. You can also often buy faster chargers, but they do cost a bit more.
You could have more batteries
Another solution is using two batteries at once, but this depends on the manufacturer. If not, you can also buy an additional battery and carry it with you. If yours dies - you just change it. Oh, and keep in mind that this is only possible with an external battery - frame integrated ones might give you trouble.
Mid-drive motor vs hub-drive motor
There are two main types of e-bikes when it comes to the motor. You either get a mid-drive motor, or a hub-drive motor, and both have their own pros and cons.
With a mid-drive motor, the motor is placed on the middle of the bike, and it provides power directly to the crankset. This results in a very natural pedal feel, especially when you're in higher power modes. The motor's weight is also pretty centered, which gives you great handling, stability and balance. However, this does require a specific crankset to be used.
On the other hand, with a hub-drive motor, you have a massive rear hub that houses the motor itself. Power is transferred directly to the rear wheel, which results in a sensation like you're being pushed along. The benefit here is that you can use any regular drivetrain on the rest of the bike, with standard run-of-the-mill components. The downside, though, is that changing a flat tire can be more complicated, and the weight being all at the back can be a bit tricky to handle.
While both have their pros and cons, as we mentioned, we would recommend a mid-drive motor, since they're much better to handle - something that's important for a day-to-day commute.
Oh, and while we're discussing the motor, note the torque (indicated in Newton meters, Nm). Higher torque gives you more instant power, something that is very useful if you're riding on hills or hauling a heavy load.
Consider the quality of the frame and components
The frame itself is the largest component on an electric bike for commuting. You can choose between steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, etc., and they all come at different price points. Aluminum is the most common solution. It's a great middle ground between price, weight and stiffness. You'll want a lighter frame, since the motor does add quite a lot of weight. There are plenty of advantages when riding a lightweight commuter bike - you can find a bit more info in our handy guide here.
Then, you'll want quality components. This will vary wildly with the price, as less expensive bikes tend to compromise on components. With a high end electric bike for commuting, you'll get a premium drivetrain, shifters, tires, brakes etc. This is usually worth paying extra for, if you've got the budget for it.
A few other considerations
The things we spoke about above have the main impact on your electric bike for commuting experience. However, they're not the only things to consider. There are a few others that have to do with finesse, but you'll feel them nonetheless.
First, you'll want to note the activation and pedal feel on the electric bike for commuting. The more performance-oriented it is, the smoother the pedal assist feels. See which one reacts best at the intensity and speed you'll ride it at.
Then, there's the pedal assist levels. A good electric bike for commuting should have multiple modes, so you can choose between an eco mode that save battery, or a turbo/boost mode that gives you more torque and speed at your disposal.
See whether or not you get any integrated accessories. Since you've got an electric motor, you can have a host of things for which you'd usually need a battery. Lights at the front and rear immediately spring to mind, and you also often get a handlebar-mounted LCD display. This will show you what's going on with your e-bike at any moment. Some higher end models even have smartphone integration, so you can get GPS and other advanced functionality. If you have an integrated lock attached to the frame, that can also sometimes be opened with your phone.
Wrapping things up - should you get an electric bike for commuting?
Let's get one thing straight - they're expensive. Compared to a regular bike for commuting, you'll be paying a hefty price premium. However, if you're in one of the categories where an electric bike for commuting can come in handy, that price premium is usually worth it. In fact your electric bike may save you a lot of money compared to driving your car! If you find yourself needing a bit more power on your daily commute, by all means go for it.