The Basics of Electric Bikes

Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, have generated a lot of buzz in the bicycle industry and continue to grow in popularity. While e-bikes have been around for many years, the technology and options have expanded, and there’s now an electric bike for almost every type of ride. Whether you bike for fun, exercise, or to commute, an electric bike can give you the extra boost you need to enjoy your ride even more.

E-bikes are bicycles with a battery-powered motor that helps turn the bike wheels and reduce the effort required to pedal. There are two types of electric bikes: pedal-assist bikes and throttle bikes. On pedal-assist bikes, the motor only activates as you pedal and gives you more speed and power per pedal rotation. Most pedal-assist motors stop giving you a boost when you hit 20 to 28 MPH, making it easier to stay in control of the bike. A throttle e-bike has pedals if you want to ride traditionally, but also includes a throttle that can activate the motor even if you aren’t pedaling.

In addition to the assist type, there are two types of drive systems on electric bikes: mid-drive and hub-drive.

Trek e-bike

On mid-drive electric bikes, like the Trek Verve e-bike, the motor is located where the bottom bracket would be on a regular bicycle. This gives the bike a lower center of gravity and a similar feel to a traditional bike. Mid-drive motors are also more efficient and offer more range than most hub-drive systems. Most pedal-assist bikes use a mid-drive motor so your ride feels natural and as close to a traditional bike as possible. Since you’re still required to pedal, a pedal-assist bike with mid-drive is the best option if you need the boost of an electric bike but want to use your bike to stay active.

A Super73 electric bike

Hub-drive electric bikes, like SUPER73 bikes, have the motor on the rear wheel. Hub-drive motors are less complex and easier to maintain, They can also operate indepently of the pedals, giving you an extra option to enjoy your ride. Most throttle bikes use a hub-drive system, allowing you to power the motor without the need to pedal.

E-bikes also give you the option to adjust the amount of boost you receive while riding. Most e-bikes come equipped with a handlebar-mounted +/- power switch—on higher settings, the motor will provide more assistance, while lower settings deliver less boost. Depending on the model of the electric-assist bike, you’ll usually have three to four assist level options and can quickly change between them using the +/- switch.

Who Should Get an E-Bike?

Almost every rider can benefit from an e-bike. The added boost of the pedal-assist motor allows you to ride farther and faster, take on tougher terrain like hills and inclines more easily, and ride comfortably in spite of injury or physical limitations.

Riding an e-bike

For commuters, e-bikes are a great way to make your commute a little faster. They are especially great if you have a longer commute but want to reduce your carbon footprint and bike to your destination. You won’t get stuck in traffic either, so you may even arrive at your destination faster than by car. Plus, the pedal-assist motor reduces the work required to pedal uphill—a great bonus if your trip requires you to go up inclines. E-bikes require less physical exertion than a standard bike, so you’ll arrive at your destination feeling fresher and ready to go! 

E-bikes are also a great option for less experienced riders riding in a group. When riding with frequent cyclists, it can be hard to keep up if you don’t bike often. The extra boost from a pedal-assist bike will help you keep up with the group without tiring yourself out on longer rides.

A couple riding Trek Verve e-bikes

Riders who are recovering from an injury or are unable to ride a traditional bike will also benefit greatly from a pedal-assist bike. Since the motor can be adjusted to provide the right amount of assistance for you, you’ll be able to get the boost you need whether you want the motor to do more work or just need a little push as you heal from an injury. The ability to customize the assist your e-bike provides also makes them a great option if you’re getting into cycling and don’t want as vigorous of exercise to start out. E-bikes can provide a great low-impact workout so you can get moving without straining an injury or putting extra stress on your joints. To learn firsthand the tremendous benefit of an e-bike for someone who is unable to ride a traditional bike, read SCHEELS customer Ashley’s personal story below!

E-bikes are available in almost every bike style. Whether you prefer riding on a cruiser bike, mountain bike, or hybrid bike, you’re sure to find the right e-bike for your next ride. If you want to learn more about each style of bike, check out our guide to choosing a bicycle!

See the Difference

The biggest benefit of an e-bike is allowing more people to enjoy riding, especially if they’re unable to ride a traditional bike whether due to injuries or health limitations. SCHEELS customer Ashley shares her story of how an electric bike changed her family!

"I LOVE biking and my kids do too. But my husband has had significant health issues his entire life (open-heart surgeries, collapsed lungs, etc.), and his physical exertion is quite limited. Our kids LOVE playing with Dad; however, there are some activities Dad shouldn't do and that’s hard for all of us.

“A few years ago, SCHEELS had a Trek e-bike we couldn't pass up—the kids and I were so giddy at the thought of Dad riding with us! That first family bike ride... there just aren't words. The e-bike is a game-changer. It gets our whole family active together and out with some of our bike-riding friends, and it’s put my husband back into a world that he couldn't be physically active in before!”

– Ashley | SCHEELS Customer

SCHEELS e-bike customers: This bike is a game changer

Electric bikes offer a variety of benefits for every rider. While they’re especially popular for riders who are unable to ride a standard bike, everyone can find an e-bike that suits them and their favorite riding conditions. Interested in learning more about e-bikes? Stop into your local SCHEELS and talk with one of our Bike Experts. They’ll tell you about the latest e-bike technology and take you on a quick test ride so you can get a feel for electric bikes yourself!

Article By: SCHEELS