City Or Mountain? Here's How To Choose The Best E-Bike In Three Easy Steps
E-bikes are flat-out amazing. That’s why they’re getting so popular, and it’s the reason why you’re seeing them on every street, trail, and road around the world. If you’ve never thrown a leg over one, you should, whether you’re an urban commuter, avid mountain biker, or you just want to experience a completely new form of freedom that only a bicycle, electric-assisted or otherwise, can provide. While we love every aspect of riding our regular bikes on our local trails and roads, no one can deny the appeal of electric-assist mountain bikes. It’s right there in the name: ”assist.” These bikes don’t pedal themselves—they give back what you put in by serving up a little extra power to your legs. That little bit of extra pedal power goes a long way in a variety of scenarios, and it completely changes the experience of riding to offer something new to shake up your regular routes. We wouldn’t say it’s better or worse, it’s just different. And that’s a great thing. If you’re looking for a new e-bike but don’t know where to begin your search, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a simple breakdown of how to pick out the best e-bike for you.
ROAD OR OFF-ROAD? WHERE WILL YOU BE RIDING?
The first question you’ll need to answer when shopping for a new e-bike relates to where you’ll be riding it. Of the countless byways, paths, and locales that you’ll undoubtedly wish to explore, they can all be categorized into one of two distinct types: road and off-road. “Road,” in this case, refers to any riding area that has relatively smooth pavement, concrete, asphalt, or tarmac. These types of riding surfaces are the most common found in urban and suburban areas, and are ideally suited for e-bikes with smooth and/or skinny tires. “Off-road” surfaces are exactly what the name implies: these surfaces are found away from the smooth pavement and tarmac roads frequented by road cyclists and beach cruisers, and instead are ideal for wide, knobby tires and mountain bikes. They may contain dirt, sand, gravel, or any combination of loose, natural soil. So to recap, if you’ll be doing most of your riding on smooth “road-like” surfaces, then go ahead and narrow down your e-bike search to models with smooth or skinny tires, and ones that bike manufacturers typically classify as “road,” “lifestyle,” or “city.” If most of your riding will be done off-road—that is, on surfaces that are not paved but contain dirt, sand, or other natural terrain—start looking for an e-bike that bike companies classify as “e-mtb,” or “e-mountain bike.”
COMFORT OR SPEED? EVALUATE YOUR RIDING STYLE.
After you’ve determined where you’ll be riding your new e-bike most often, the next step in your e-bike acquisition odyssey will be to figure out your riding style. Are you an experienced road cyclist, mountain biker, or commuter? Then chances are that your bike-handling skills are well-developed, and you probably want a bike that will go fast and possess a fun and fluid steering feel. If this sounds like you, then no matter if you’re looking for a road-style or off-road-style e-bike, you’ll want to find one that is designed for speed. For road, city and lifestyle e-bikes, look for designations such as “sport,” and “speed” in the model name or description, or e-bikes that have relatively aggressive geometry that will put you into a powerful pedaling position. Your local bike shop will be your best resource for this step of your e-bike journey. If you’re in the market for an off-road e-bike that offers plenty of performance, then you probably want one with full-suspension so that you can tackle the roughest and most technical trails with confidence. Now, if you’re not an experienced bike rider, then don’t worry—there are plenty of e-bike models out there for you. When it comes to road and city e-bikes, look for models that have a relatively upright riding position, and that have a very stable ride quality and predictable handling characteristics. You may also wish to seek out models with comfort-oriented features such as a cushy saddle and ergonomic grips. Features like these will make for a more comfortable ride no matter where your e-bike takes you. When it comes to off-road riding for novices, consider getting yourself a hardtail e-mountain bike. All other things being equal, a hardtail bike will typically be less expensive than a full-suspension alternative, it’ll be easier to maintain, and it will have a more efficient ride quality for venturing onto the occasional paved road or commute.
DIAL IN THE DETAILS
You’ve determined your most common riding terrain and you’ve evaluated your priorities in terms of balancing comfort and performance. You should now have a short list of e-bike models from which to choose, and it’s time to figure out which one is best for your needs. Obviously, cost is an important consideration for all new bike shoppers, so weigh up your choices with your budget. But also remember that picking out a new bike shouldn’t just be about the straightforward cost. Be sure that you’re also considering the value of what you’re getting. For example, if two bikes cost the same amount, but one features a higher quality frame or a better performing drivetrain, then be sure to factor that into your purchasing decision. There’s a lot of great bikes out there, so do your due diligence to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Also remember that a new bicycle should be all about fun, and your bike should spark a passion within you that makes you want to ride it every single day. Pick out one with your favorite color or a paint job that speaks to you aesthetically. Test ride a few different models and opt for one that just feels right. Splurge a bit on some accessories like a new helmet or sunglasses. And remember, your local bike shop will always be your best resource for figuring out the very best bike and gear for you.
Need a little more inspiration for picking out the best e-bike? Here are two models that are great for all types of riders—albeit for the two opposite ends of the terrain spectrum...
FELT VERZA-E: The Verza-E is the perfect bike for urban environments. It features an upright riding position and ergonomic touch points for comfort, along with a rear rack and a headlight for versatility. It's classic step-thru frame shape makes it a great option for all riders.
FELT REDEMPTION: The Redemption is the ultimate e-mountain bike. Featuring a robust frame that offers exceptional durability and a full-suspension system to both isolate its rider from hit trail hits and ensure perfect handling, the Redemption is a great choice for experienced and novice mountain bike riders looking for the added boost of an electric-assist motor to extend their range and increase their uphill speed.