Intro to E-Biking

HUB Cycling’s mission is to get more people cycling more often. Electric-assist e-bikes further this mission because they allow people with physical limits, those with longer commutes, and those facing hilly terrain to cycle more often!

 

What is an e-bike?

Generally speaking, e-bikes are bicycles with an electric motor and battery to help you power your bike, either through the pedals or a throttle. Most have a controller that lets you choose the amount of power the system provides. The key difference between an e-bike and an electric scooter or motorcycle is that an e-bike has pedals.

Why Consider an e-bike: Pros and Cons

Pros
1. E-bikes typically have lower initial and ongoing maintenance costs than cars.
2. E-bikes can save time (both compared to driving and conventional cycling)
3. E-bikes give those who ride them increased accessibility and possibilities. They make things easier for riders who have physical limitations or barriers to be able to keep up with the flow of traffic.
4. E-bikes also allow increased baggage on the bike without any more strain on the person riding - from children to shopping bags!
5. You can get a rebate if you trade in your vehicle for an e-bike and e-bikes are except from PST (read more below) 

Cons:
1. In British Columbia, it is illegal to ride an e-bike if you are below 16 years of age.
2. E-bikes require an expensive initial investment - low-end prices are north of $1500 - $2000. Additionally, e-bike parts are more expensive than conventional bike parts to replace, for example, the battery will get weaker over time and eventually need to be replaced. Check out some tips on how to prolong the life of your battery here!
4. E-bikes weigh more than conventional bikes, and that greater weight means carrying a bike when needed can be difficult and tiring.
5. E-bikes need to be recharged with some regularity so this means some pre-planning to ensure that you aren’t stranded with a bike that is out of juice. Check out this website to find out how long e-bikes can last on a single charge!
 

Considerations for Choosing an e-bike

The type of e-bike you are looking for is largely determined by your intended purpose for the bike. There are many different types of e-bikes: road, mountain, hybrid/commuter, folding, or cargo. 

When searching for your perfect e-bike match, you'll want to consider factors such as:

  • The type of riding you plan to do: Is this bike a replacement for your car? Are you just riding for fun? Are you riding to make the trips you already do easier?
  • Your cycling experience level: Do you ride only to get to work? Is this the first bike you’re buying?
  • How far you'll be riding: What are the average length of the rides you’ll be doing?
  • Your budget: What is the highest amount of money you would be prepared to spend on an e-bike?

  • How fast you want to travel: Would you prefer to have a bike that is capped at a lower speed or are you buying the bike so you can get to your destination faster?
  • Your budget: What is the highest amount of money you would be prepared to spend on an e-bike?

The technical things you need to consider are: 

  • Types of motor: There are two types, a mid-drive motor or a hub-drive motor. The mid-drive motor is positioned in the middle of the bike, usually between the pedals, and a hub-drive motor, is located in the center of either the front or rear wheel (usually the rear). The mid-drives are usually smaller, lighter, more efficient, and suited for hilly areas and off-road use. Hub-drives are super reliable and perfect for bikes intended for long, mostly flat commuting. We highly recommend testing out both types of motors before buying an e-bike to see which is the best fit for you!

  • Types of sensor: There are two types, a torque sensor or a cadence sensor. Torque sensors regulate the motor based on how hard you’re pushing the pedals, while cadence sensors work off of how fast you pedal. Most good bikes use torque sensors, while the lower-end ranges will only use cadency sensors. A lot of bikes will use both types of sensors. 

  • Battery placement: The three most common placements are in the seat tube, in the frame down tube, or on a rear rack. The size, weight, shape of a battery all make a difference to the e-bike. Most batteries last from 3 to 5 years until they start losing some of their efficiency. 

  • The class of the motor: There are three classes, Class 1 is where the motor kicks in only while you’re actively pedaling, and the motor assist stops when you reach 32km/hr. Class 2  has a pedal-assist mode up to 32 mph; it also offers a throttle-only mode. (No other class of e-bike offers this mode). Class 3 works like Class 1 (pedal assist only), but the motor won’t stop assisting until you reach 45km/hr. According to the BC Parks policy, people with Class 1 e-bikes can ride on any BC Parks trail where mountain bikes or other cycling is already allowed. People with Class 2 and 3 e-bikes can only ride on trails and/or roads designated for motorized vehicles, depending on the park.

  • The warranty: Typical warranties can vary widely for electric bikes, from 90 days to 5 years and what is included (battery, frame, motor, comprehensive, etc.) varies widely as well.  In general, you’ll find the following ranges in warranties - 1-2 years comprehensive, 1-3 years battery, 2-year motor, and 2-10 years or lifetime warranty for the frame. Higher-priced models and brands will generally carry better or longer warranties for their bikes. 39

 

 

What's next?

Here is some more information on taking e-bikes on buses in Metro Vancouver, riding e-bikes in BC parks, and general regulation around e-bikes. 

Make sure to have a read of our other web resource pages on route planning, cycling with children, basic bike maintenance, and cycling in the fall and winter. We also have a HUB resource page that has a lot of helpful information about cycling in Metro Vancouver

If you want to take your learning a step further, check out our free StreetWise Cycling Online resource that can help you begin your cycling journey with confidence. 

Our webinars take place throughout the summer, check here for recordings of them in the meantime. You can learn more about getting e-biking in our Intro to E-biking Webinar or dive into our webinar on what municipalities can do to get more people on e-bikes

If you are interested in e-cargo bikes, checkout our resources page on cargo bikes.

Want to take a cycling course in person? We run courses for the general public and can also run courses for your workplace or community.