Most of us know a thing or two about bicycles. Heck, we’ve been riding them since we were little kids. We know about wheels, brakes, and how to do a mean “wheelie” to show off for our friends. We know how fast we can go for we had lots of races and beat our surprised brothers and scared our poor mothers. We know what kind of accessories we would need or desire such as headlights, taillights, and mirrors. But now that we’ve grown up (a few decades ago), our new electric bikes can offer us much more. We will have to learn new things that didn’t pertain to the pedal-only bikes we owned as children. Our e-bikes have batteries and motors that can take us farther than our own feet and knees will allow.
If you are looking to purchase your first electric bike or electric bike conversion kit, most of us focus on two main things. Speed and distance. Yes, speed is still an important factor, even at our age. Though we are not trying to win any races, we want our pedal-assist motors to give us enough speed for the longer trips than we once rode. It’s darn humiliating to be passed by a youth on a pedal-only bike when you have turned your motor on.
We would like a wide range of speed for our various pursuits. Slower is great for sightseeing and other more leisurely bike rides. But we would prefer for them to be able to go a little faster if we are using them on our commute to work or meetings, especially if we are running late. A standard e-bike or bicycle equipped with a conversion kit can offer us up to 45 kph speeds but here in Canada most will top out at the legal 32 kph speed limit. Some of the more entry level bikes may also top out at 20 kph so it’s important to ask these questions prior to purchasing. When we are riding and carrying a backpack or something that weighs a bit, such as groceries, our speed may also decrease.
The other thing we look for in our electric bikes is how far a battery charge will take us. Again, something to remember here is that added weight will affect distance. A 125 pound (56kg) woman will get a longer distance out of her battery charge than a 250 pound (113kg) man. When we purchase our e-bike or conversion kit, we must also consider battery size into our equation. If you are just planning on using your electric bike to go shopping only a few blocks away then you’ll be OK with just about any size battery but if you plan on travelling further then you need to do your research first.
Speed and distance are also affected by the power of the motor. The more powerful an electric motor is the more chance you have of achieving those higher top speeds while ascending hills, but you have to also keep in mind that the most powerful motors will also deplete your battery the quickest. Some people come into the shop insisting on the most powerful 500W motors because somebody told them that this is what they need. Although more power is nice to have for concurring the steeper hills, in our experience the 350 watt motors provide the best of both worlds!