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The 2024 Guide to Buying an Electric Bike

By Aisla Ross

Published March 27, 2024 • 6 Min Read

Now’s a great time to buy an eBike. The quality of available models is only going up, and if you’re looking for ways to use your gas-powered vehicles less often, taking more trips on an eBike could help to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

You’ll be pedalling, of course; eBikes aren’t actually a ‘slow moped’ or ‘very slow motorbike’. They’re bicycles, with motors. And that motor will provide you with an assist up the kind of hill that might be difficult to summit with only pedal-based power.

Before buying an eBike, here are some of the key things to consider for making your purchase.

Decide what kind of rider you are

The main types of eBikes to look at are city bikes (including cargo bikes), road bikes, and mountain bikes. They all have their pros and cons, so it’s important to consider what kind of rider you are so you can narrow your choices down to the right model.

For the weekly grocery haul

If you’re really just planning to do short trips from point A to point B without ever getting off tarmac, then a city bike might be your best fit. You might even consider a cargo bike for extra capacity to haul goods, groceries, kids, and pets around your neighbourhood.

For the daily commute

If your eBike is chiefly going to be for commuting on, a foldable city bike that you can easily bring up to the office, rather than leaving locked on the street, can be a good option that will give you peace of mind that it’s in a safe place. Foldable bikes are also a great option if you’re short on storage space in your apartment.

For trails and long-distance routes

If you’re a serious mountain biker or road cyclist, then it makes sense to get an eBike for that specific purpose. Like their traditional counterparts, electric mountain bikes (also know as e-MTBs) and road bikes have specialized features that help you travel on off-road terrain or long-distances, with the added bonus of motor assistance to help you travel faster and farther.

Work out your budget

You’re going to want to have an idea of your budget before going to the store. Depending on the features you want, a new eBike could cost anywhere between $300 and $10,000.

One of your deciding factors might be the cycling range you’d like your bike to have. Are you taking a short-distance ride to get to work everyday, or planning long-distance adventures on your eBike?

Typically, you can expect lower-cost models have smaller batteries, which means they’ll have a shorter cycling range. Pricier models tend to have better battery optimization, which increases their range, so you’ll be able to travel farther.

You may also want to calculate annual maintenance costs of owning an eBike: Just like a regular bike, you’ll need to look after your eBike’s brakes, tires, gears and chains – plus its battery health. Experts recommend budgeting around $150 for eBike maintenance.

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Consider purchasing a second hand electric bike

To save money, and reduce the consumption of new goods, consider looking for a second hand model. It’s possible to find well-maintained second hand eBikes at a local bike shop, or a specialist second hand seller in your area. Online buy-and-sell websites or community groups may also prove fruitful in your search.

Shopping second hand eBikes: What to look out for

Just as you would with a second hand car, you’ll want to know how much the model you’re looking at has been used. If the mileage is high, the brakes, gears, and cogs might be pretty worn if they haven’t been replaced — so ask about the bike’s maintenance in order to make an informed decision.

Most important of all, given that this is an eBike you’re looking at, is what state the battery is in. If the eBike’s been used quite regularly for short trips, that can actually be a good thing: it means the owner was charging the battery regularly, which helps keep it in good condition.

Warranties for eBikes don’t generally transfer to second owners. So if the battery is going to need replacing soon, consider whether you’re willing to factor in the extra cost. Also, check to see if the eBike battery you’re looking at is still on the market. The batteries are typically unique to the specific eBike model and brand, so check online to ensure that you can still purchase one.

Tip: Always make sure to ask for proof of ownership from the seller, so that you’re not contributing to bike theft.

Keeping your eBike safe and secure

If your home or tenant insurance doesn’t cover eBikes, consider taking out a specific policy for your new purchase. It’s also worth considering investing in a good lock — a U-lock or heavy-duty steel chain with a padlock from a reputable manufacturer could help to prevent the theft of your eBike. When locking your eBike, if you can’t store it inside, choose a well-lit space where there tends to lots of foot traffic. Also, consider checking to see if there’s a bike registration program with the police in your area, and keep a note of the serial number on the frame — that’ll assist in making it easier to recover your eBike if it does get stolen.

Practice cycling safety on the road

You’ll also want to keep yourself safe when on the road. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Make sure it fits snugly on your head — it shouldn’t slide forward and back when you move. Also get some front and rear lights for your new eBike, as well as reflectors, and a bell. And, if it’s been a while since you did much cycling, consider taking a cycling safety refresher course so you can feel confident and be on top of all the traffic laws.

Talk to the staff at your local bicycle shop

If you have a decent eBike shop in your area, that could help you in your search for an eBike. Consider talking to the specialists there; tell them your budget and your life story — or at least, let them know what you realistically plan to be doing on your new eBike!

Ask to take a range of models for a test spin. Test spins could help you decide which model’s for you.

And while you’re in the store, do ask if they do tune-ups and other eBike maintenance. If they do, it’s much more likely that you and your new eBike will have a long-standing relationship, rather than a short one where it ends up languishing in the garage for the next few years because it’s a hassle to send it away for repair.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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