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Choosing a correct e-bike

The e-bike is undoubtedly the best invention the human race has come up in the cycling field recently, and it could be perhaps said that it is almost a revolutionary invention. If we take into consideration the very basic reason why humans took up developing bicycles, it is undoubtedly the human desire to overcome limits given to us by nature, i.e. natural motion on our feet.

Choosing a correct e-bike

E-bikes have recently become a respected and acknowledged member of the (bi)cycling family, and it is not too far-fetched to say that they have recently started to take over the leader of the mainstream after classic bicycles. The e-bike is undoubtedly the best invention the human race has come up in the cycling field recently, and it could be perhaps said that it is almost a revolutionary invention.  If we take into consideration the very basic reason why humans took up developing bicycles, it is undoubtedly the human desire to overcome limits given to us by nature, i.e. natural motion on our feet. The e-bike moves those limits much further, and with them the limits of our joy of activity and experience related to it. 

Answers to questions about advantages of the e-bike, and reasons why to actually purchase an e-bike are provided in our article The e-bike is not for the old only! elsewhere.

Choose your e-bike at experts! Specialist cycling shops that have been focusing on selling e-bikes at least several years are the best place to get real help when purchasing a new e-bike. Stores or dealer who happen to sell e-bikes as an addition to a great number of other commodities (mostly because e-bikes are a good article to sell) cannot provide you with such level of advice as experts in a cycling store that focuses on selling e-bikes.

Before you proceed to selecting your e-bike, you should get acquainted with important answers to questions that you should know before actually selecting and paying for your new e-bike.


Important questions and answers before buying an e-bike


What is it that I should take into account when choosing an e-bike?

If you choose an e-bike with the intention to use it for doing sports regularly, we do not recommend to make any compromise. Simply bear in mind that your new e-bike should be equipped with quality front suspension (air suspension, if possible), sufficient range of gears and geometry that matches your needs. If you select an e-bike in order to make tours on it, reliability and comfort will be the key. Reliable brakes are always important. As far as front suspension is concerned, air shock is the better option, but if you intend to ride hardpack surface, coil suspension will be sufficient, too. Comfort is an important factor, so test the e-bike you like and observe your feelings carefully. Very often, it is possible to set and adjust the e-bike, so if you are not sure about something, ask your dealer. If you are planning to use your e-bike as a means of transport, pay attention to practical aspects of its use, possibility of carrying the bike, quality brakes, drive (motor) performance and how comfortable it is for you to ride the bike.

Does the price of the e-bike match its quality and features? 

When selecting an e-bike, it is important to pay attention mainly to electric equipment and battery quality. At the same time, the quality of manufacturing is important too – and you can judge it by merely looking at the bicycle. You do not actually need any deeper knowledge. Never choose your e-bike solely on the basis of information from a catalogue or Internet. Always have a thorough look at the model of your choice, and if possible, test it too.

Can I tell that an e-bike is good merely by looking at its battery capacity and motor manufacturer?

Definitely not. When choosing an e-bike, many customers focus only on battery capacity and brand of the bike’s motor. However, there are more components that are important and that should be considered when choosing an e-bike. For example, type of brakes and their brand are essential for safe ride, and so it is not advisable to make any compromises in this respect. Shimano brand is always the most reliable choice. Suspension fork is another component that is important for the e-bike reliability and comfort of its use. Brand of the suspension fork and whether or not it has a label with the name the manufacturer and fork type (fork marked is correct) on it, or just the e-bike brand, are indicative of the correct choice. A correct frame geometry is one of the hints for you to tell that the e-bike you chose is a good product and it will be pleasure to ride. Here we recommend you to bet on the experience of established manufacturers and experienced dealers who know what geometries are the best for the given bicycles, and can offer you the best option.

What is the difference between hub and central motor?

The difference is not only in the price mark, but how riding the bike feels. E-bikes with a hub motor are excellent choice for commuting and easy touring. E-bikes with a hub motor have a rate sensor that supplies the e-bike with information about whether the rider is pedalling or not, and if assistance should be activated. If the rider pedals, the e-bike offers assistance. E-bikes equipped with central motors have a more sophisticated assistance system. The engine features a torsion (pressure) sensor that reads the pedalling force from the rider, and regulates the assistance forces based on that. Therefore, the ride with a central motor e-bike feels more natural and is suitable for sporty use. In order for the electric motor assistance be activated, both motors require the rider to pedal.

How can I tell which type of motor is more suitable for me?

First you must determine what is the purpose of your rides. If you are after commuting, a hub drive system will suffice. Should it be that you want a touring bike for trips, any of the basic central drives (Bafang M400, Bosch Active Line) will make you more than happy and will meet your needs. If you are planning to ride mainly off-road, cross-country, you will need to look into the category of the most powerful motors, such as Bosch CX that are not only more powerful, but also more robust, which means that they can withstand greater loads.

What are the conditions of post-warranty service and what is the availability of spare parts? 

Always carefully read through conditions of post-warranty service and find out about availability of spare parts before you purchase a new e-bike. At the same time, it is advisable to check information about the e-bike manufacturer (reference on the internet, manufacturer’s website etc.) and estimate whether it is a reliable brand with a history, or whether it has been dealing with e-bikes superficially and for a short time. What looks like a great buy may sooner or later turn out not to be worth it at all. A manufacturer with no experience and sufficient service background may not be able to help you if any problems with your e-bike arise, and a great deal becomes nightmare in no time.

Are technical parameters of e-bikes and data related to their range really true? 

Remember that huge range that manufacturers like to flaunt with and mention so often are actually true only in ideal conditions. The upper range values that are usually provided by manufacturers can be achieved only when riding only on a flat route, in ideal weather free of any wind, with the lowest assistance degree used, and with a light rider in the saddle of the bicycle. The actual range is approximately half of those that are stipulated. The real consumption of the e-bike is somewhere between 3-8Wh per a single kilometre ridden. 


Important components of the e-bike

When choosing an e-bike, focus mainly on its most important components, such as motor, battery and its position, controls and others. 

Motor (drive) and its position

The motor and its position is one of the most important parts of the e-bike. There are several options for its placement, but placing it into the rear hub or in the centre of the frame are the most usual options that are used most often. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. 

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Rear hub drive does not require high cadence pedalling, and so it is suitable for flatlands in riding in urban environment. Good acceleration, easy service and very good value for the money are its pros. It has its cons, too: greater loan in the rear part of the e-bike and unequal distribution of energy as the motor helps more or less than you pedal, which results in worse synchronisation.

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On the other hand, having the drive in the central position of the frame is the best option from the perspective of the bike’s balance. This drive reacts not only to speed of pedalling, but to the force applied on pedals, and so it can offer ideal assistance. In addition to that, it is also more economical because it automatically selects optimum revolutions. Higher purchase price and shorter life of shifting components (depending on how well or badly you change gears) are its two downsides.

Battery and its location

Battery that provides the e-bike with necessary energy is another important component of the e-bike. It is necessary to care for the battery properly in order for it to achieve its projected lifetime and correct functionality. This means that you should recharge it regularly at the rate of about once per month (when not riding the e-bike), or to keep it at 50-80% of its full capacity. The position of the battery is also very important. Mostly, batteries are attached to frame or rack. 

Batteries on the frame are ideal as they do not shift the bike’s centre of gravity. They are located on the down tube, and are either fully integrated into the frame, or semi-integrated.

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Rack batteries are used with city e-bikes mainly. The come as a part of the bike’s rack. This means that bikes with them have their centre of gravity moved a bit more towards the back, and this translates into a slightly different riding characteristics of this type of e-bike.

Display and controls

There are 3 basic types of displays and controls: with LED display, with LCD display, and with what is called Smart System.

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LED Display is probably the most often used variant of the e-bike control system. It is used for controlling the degree of assistance, turning lights on and off, and of course, it is where you switch your e-bike on and off. It can have some other functions, too, such as battery charge indication.

LCD Display is the second most often used type of control. It usually works as a cycling computer, too, showing you trip, time, average speed and so on. It can have different functions, too – depending on the manufacturer.

A Smart System features some special functions, such as GPS enabled navigation, recording of the journey etc. In addition to that, it can be paired with a smart phone.

Categories for e-bike selection

Mountain e-bikes      

Mountain e-bike is the most prevalent type of e-bike, that means at least in the Czech Republic. Mountain e-bikes are versatile machines that are intended to be used mainly off the roads and hardpack surfaces. They have a more robust frame build, wheels and bulkier tyres. This type of e-bike uses mainly central drive due to its characteristics, such as hight torque, strong assistance, good balance and many others. Generally speaking, mountain e-bikes are equipped with at least a suspension fork, but there are full-suspension models, too. These e-bikes are not very suitable for road cycling.


SUV e-bikes      

SUV e-bikes are a recent trend that is popular abroad mainly. SUV e-bikes are a cross-breed of a mountain and touring e-bike, and are characteristic mainly for their robust frame, central drive, bulky tires and additional equipment such as mudguards, racks, lights and so on. Their excel both in lighter off-road conditions, and on roads, and are very versatile and comfortable to ride.


Trekking e-bikes  

Trekking e-bikes are suitable for hobby cycling. In comparison to mountain e-bikes, they have a less robust frame with a different geometry, and more narrow rims and tyres. This type of e-bikes may be equipped with either central drives or rear hub motors. They are suitable for riding on tarmac roads and lighter terrain, which makes them the most popular choice among e-bikes.


City e-bikes 

As their name suggests, city e-bikes are intended for urban cycling and are ideal for commuting to work or shopping. Mounting them is easy due to low down tube and special geometry of the frame. This is why they are very popular with the elderly and people with limited mobility. They are characteristic with their comfortable upright sitting position that enables you to have a good view of what happens around you. Moreover, they are good for shorter rides, and are rather easy to maintain.


Folding e-bikes  

Folding e-bikes are suitable for riding in urban environment. As their name suggest, they can be easily folded and loaded into a car. You can even hop into a tram or subway train with them! They are an ideal means of transport in large cities and excellent for commuting to work. They are easily storable, and so they fit in an office and can be stored in a flat, too. As they have wheels with smaller diameter, they are suitable for shorter rider.


Ladies’ e-bikes  

These bikes have geometry and lengths adapted to females and their figures. Mostly, this is reflected in smaller size frames, more narrow handlebars, shorter cranks, or ladies-specific saddles. Ladies’ e-bikes are most often found in mountain and trekking e-bike categories. Women love them also because these bikes have colours appealing to women.


Some other possible categories of e-bikes:

Kids e-bikes  

These are e-bikes that are suitable for children. They are easily manoeuvrable, sturdy, and they have an attractive children specific design. They are distinguished mainly based on their wheel diameter, ranging from 12” wheel to 27.5”. Today, you can even come across e-pushbikes, but most often sizes from 24” to 27.5” are produced.

Road e-bikes

Road e-bikes are a fairly new category in the world of e-bikes. They are based on road bikes and they feature a special small motor and battery that are adapted for a road bike frame. These e-bikes are very light and are built for fast rides on tarmac. Since they are light and fast, they allow their riders to cover a large distance in a short time. Their purpose is mainly sporty use or racing.

The correct size of your e-bike

There are some rules that can be taken into consideration when selecting a correct size of your new e-bike. The taller the riders are, the larger frame size they should have. Size charts are recommendations that could be taken into account, however, it is always the best practice to test the particular e-bike size, and have (at least) a short ride on it. Observe your feelings: are you comfortable on the bike, not too stretched, is the length of the bike OK for you, is your head up a bit too much despite your body is in sporty position?


* Data provided in the chart are for guidance purposes only, and can differ based on brand and geometry of the frame.

The ratio between length of torso and legs is what the chart does not see and therefore does not consider at al. Top tube of each bicycle has different length, and so if you happen to be “in between” two sizes, it is important to try the bike before buying it. For example, people with height of 175cm will have to decide whether they buy a 17” or 19” frame. Dealer’s staff can help you fine-tune your riding position, and replace stem or seat post if necessary, and thus adapt your riding position to your needs. If you are not purchasing your very first bicycle, comparing your old bicycle with the new e-bike could come handy, too!

E-bike geometry: the diagram

E-bike geometry represents a sum of all angles between various parts of the frame (its “tubes”). The geometry is very important for the rider to be able to adopt a correct riding position on the e-bike, i.e. the saddle should not be too high or too low, shins of the rider should have a correct angle with the pedal axle when foot is put on pedal, the suspension fork on the e-bike should work correctly on the particular e-bike, the rider should not touch the ground with the pedal, but the centre of gravity should be sufficiently low. Each e-bike type has a geometry that is suitable for its intended use, and the role of geometry is crucial for comfortable ride and rider's feelings during the ride. Suitability of geometry is an added value provided by established and renowned e-bike manufacturers who have years of experience with what works and what does not.


Size of wheels

There are literally tons of good pieces of advice regarding the question which size of wheels is the best one. In brief, it can be said that standard 27.5” mountain bike wheels are more agile and easier to rotate, which makes them more suitable into technical terrain. On the other hand, the larger-sized wheels, 29”, have greater rotation energy thanks to which they are more suitable for performance riding. This means that if a rider lives in a flatland and rides many kilometres in high speed, 29” wheels will be more suitable for them; on the other hand, people from hillier regions could benefit from 27.5” wheels more. Only after his has been settled, the height of the rider will influence the decision. In general, it can be said that 29” wheels are more suitable for technically skilled people who are taller than 185cm. Tall people usually are not concerned about the difference between the two diameters as much as shorter people.

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If you read these lines, you should be equipped with all important basic information related to your purchase of an e-bike. Do not discount the selection though as it is very important for your good feeling from the ride, and also due to the fact that purchasing an e-bike is a rather large investment. If you are not certain with your selection, ask experts for advice.

If you happened to require answer to some important questions related to correct care for and maintenance of your e-bike after you have purchased one, read the following article: How to take care about your e-bike?

We wish you a lucky selection and many happy hours ridden in the saddle of your new e-bike!


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Author of the article

Mgr. Zdeněk Jašek Other articles by the author


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