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Three Essential Tips for Buying an E-Bike

E-bikes are having a moment and for good reason. The assistance that they provide has opened up the pleasures, conveniences, and benefits of cycling to many more riders. If age or physical ability has limited your range on a traditional bicycle, an e-bike can open up new destinations to you. Many able-bodied riders appreciate the added mileage they can get from the assistance of an e-bike motor. And potential bike commuters who may have otherwise been turned off simply by the prospect of arriving to work sweaty have embraced e-bikes as a healthier and more environmentally conscious alternative to driving to work.

Just a few years ago, e-biking was largely the domain of hardcore hobbyists who had retrofitted their traditional bicycle with a battery-operated motor using an after-market kit. But as more riders became interested in the benefits of e-biking, the market has expanded to include more and more factory built e-bikes to serve those without the technical proficiency for such a project. The number of companies building e-bikes is growing fast, as is the variety of products they offer. It can be hard to keep up.

An e-bike is a big purchase. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $1500 on the low end. It’s also a very personal purchase. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all e-bike. The perfect e-bike is the one that works best for you. The tips below can help you navigate the available options for a factory built e-bike and choose one that will best suit your needs and budget.

Even with more options than ever before, it is also a tricky moment to buy an e-bike. The global supply-chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 have affected the e-bike supply like so many other consumer goods. With complicated supply and growing demand, you may end up paying more for an e-bike in the foreseeable future. So you’ll want to take this into consideration when budgeting for your bike.

Ahead, you’ll find more essential tips on making an e-bike purchase.

1. Be Realistic About Your Needs

When it comes to buying an e-bike, be honest with yourself about how you realistically intend to use it. It’s fun to imagine all kinds of “what if?” scenarios. Effortlessly folding your e-bike in two like a laptop and stowing it in a nook on a commuter train or catching some air as you tear through a scenic mountain biking trail are attractive daydreams. But you won’t find an e-bike that can do both. And it’s possible your actual usage won’t include either. If you plan to use your e-bike to commute in an urban environment, you don’t need fat tires designed for sand and snow, let alone thick tires for trails. If you have space to keep a bike in your home and a designated place to park at work, a folding feature becomes more of a liability than an asset.

So before you head out to your local bike shop, be sure you know what you want your e-bike to be able to do.

2. Like the Shop as Much as the Bike

There are several reasons to buy your e-bike in person at a bike shop, rather than ordering it online. So shop in person if possible.

First, it’s a risky move to buy a bike that you’ve never tried out. The ability to try before you buy takes so much uncertainty away from a big purchase.

A knowledgeable salesperson in a reputable shop can help you match the right e-bike with your needs. This is especially true when you can clearly communicate what you hope to get out of your e-bike. Smaller, locally-owned bike shops are often more service-oriented because they’re interested in developing a lasting relationship with a customer. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are plenty of locally-owned bike shops in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Marin County that carry e-bikes. If you get the feeling that you’re being upsold or the salesperson is more interested in their commission than matching you with the right bike, that’s a good time to move on and try a different shop.

E-bikes, like traditional bicycles, regularly need maintenance. Having a relationship with your local bike shop gives you a great first place to go when you encounter those unexpected hiccups that are beyond your ability to manage at home. When you’re looking at e-bikes in the shop, keep an eye out for customers who are getting their bikes serviced. How are they being treated? Do they seem happy?

Ask a lot of questions. What does the bike come with? What’s the warranty like? How much does the shop charge for routine maintenance? How easy is it to find replacement parts for the bike you’re interested in? Don’t be shy about being an informed consumer.

If you don’t like the vibe when you walk in to look for a bike, walk right back out. Buying an e-bike is the beginning of your relationship with a bike shop, not the end.

If you absolutely must buy your bike online, you’ll need to do some extra research. If you buy from a major online retailer, make sure you’re buying a bike that’s actually sold by them and not a third party. This can make a difference when it comes to returns or manufacturer warranty issues.

3. Budget for the Extras

Before purchasing your e-bike, it’s important to determine what your budget is, and be clear about how much you are willing to spend. Also, have a back-up plan in place in case the options exceed your budget. Are you willing to go 5 or 10 percent above your desired amount? Establish the maximum amount you’re willing to spend in advance, so that you can make an informed decision come purchase time.

It’s unlikely that you’ll walk away with just a frame, a motor, two tires and a battery. If this is your first bike, you’ll definitely need a helmet for starters, and a lock to secure your big purchase. Do you need a second battery? Once you factor in tax, you can be looking at hundreds of dollars more than the sticker price of the bike. (Speaking of taxes, there may be a 15% tax credit for e-bike purchases on the horizon.)

The features on the demo model you try in the shop or are shown in the promotional photo might not be included standard with the bike. Think hard about what you actually need and will use before adding those extras at the register. Likewise, you may want to upgrade certain accessories you know will contribute the most to your daily use, like the fenders, rack or lightning. These should all be considered essentials for e-bike commuters.

If you budget for these hidden costs ahead of time, your total price won’t snowball beyond what you’re comfortable paying.

Buying an e-bike, like any major purchase, can be daunting. But with a little research and being honest about your needs and budget, the rewards are well worth it. With the right e-bike under your control, a world of recreation, utility and convenience will open up to you.

Know the E-bike Rules and Restrictions

Depending on where you’re riding, there may be rules and restrictions that apply specifically to e-bikes. If you’re riding in California, our knowledgeable bicycle accident lawyers have put together a primer on the rules and restrictions that apply to you. Knowing the rules that apply to you helps you be a safer rider and avoid e-bike accidents.