The world of e-bikes is incredibly diverse. You can’t just pick a bike and expect it to tackle everything that you throw at it. A bike designed for off-roading probably wouldn’t be as great for commuting as a dedicated commuter bike. A road bike isn’t going to let you carry as much as a proper cargo bike. When you are looking to buy an e-bike, or any bike for that matter, it is important that you understand the available options so that you can determine which bike style is right for you. That’s what we want to help you with.
This is a complete guide to electric bike styles. We’re going to walk you through the various options on the market. This includes the overall e-bike styles, plus the features that may influence who the e-bike is for. Hopefully, by the end of this page, you’ll have more of an idea about which bike type is right for you.
Types of Electric Bike Styles
Let’s start with the electric bike styles. Here, we’re going to let you know the various options that are available to buyers. We’ll let you know who each type of bike is designed for, and what sort of features you can expect should you pick that e-bike style up.
City/commuter bikes, as you can guess, are designed for the daily commute to and from work/school. These bikes are often simplistic in their design. They’re not for long-distance cycling, nor are they built for speed. They are built for practicality and comfort.
City bikes will often force the user into sitting in an upright position. This increases comfort over short distances, and they ensure that the rider will have good visibility when traveling through busy cities. Although, this upright position often isn’t fantastic for longer distance riding, nor is it that good for speed.
As we said – these bikes are rather simple in design. When they have gear options, the gear options will be quite limited (as city riders won’t need tons of gear). They may also offer more pedal assist options than other bikes, mostly because it is expected that the people who ride these city bikes for their commute are not frequent riders and thus may need a bit more help.
The battery life will be just enough for people to drive to and from work.
Mountain bikes are designed for off-roading. They’ll often have a huge amount of power in the motor, just to make it easier to navigate through more rugged terrain. They’ll also have some serious suspension to help level out some of the bumps on the trails.
When it comes to build quality, mountain bikes are easily some of the best on the market. This is because they have been designed to be bashed around on the trails. Because of this, mountain e-bike manufacturers have gone to great lengths to design electronics that are well-shielded from the elements, dust, and whatever else the trail throws up. These e-bikes last for a long time.
If you’re expecting fantastic performance from a folding e-bike, you’re not going to get it. Folding e-bikes are designed for one purpose and one purpose only – to provide portability when commuting from place to place.
As the name suggests, a folding e-bike folds up. Most of them fold up in a matter of seconds. Just twist a knob or undo a latch, and you’re done. This makes them perfect for people who may spend part of their commute on public transport, or those who may have limited space in their home.
In order to be as compact as possible, folding e-bikes may sacrifice some features e.g., they may not be as comfortable to ride, and they may not have a huge range.
Cargo bikes are designed for hauling heavier weights. They’ll often have places where you can attach baskets, bags, etc. Some of them will even let you attach a small trailer on the back. This will let you haul around larger loads, or even take your children for a ride.
We’ve started to see electric cargo bikes used by city delivery companies because they are so much better for the environment than gas-guzzling trucks.
Do bear in mind that cargo e-bikes are among the more expensive e-bikes. This is because many of them boast a rather hefty motor (to haul those heavier loads), and a huge battery too. You may also struggle to find a decent cargo bike, mostly because they aren’t all that popular.
Road/touring bikes are built for speed, comfort, and efficiency. If you’re planning on riding long distances on (mostly) paved surfaces, then a road/touring e-bike may be perfect for you. However, they can also make decent commuter bikes, especially for those who are very much into the whole ‘cycling’ experience.
Road/touring bikes will often have a very hefty range on them, and they will force the rider into a slightly ‘hunched’ position, which boosts speed while riding (aerodynamics) and ensures rider comfort.
While many road/touring bikes will have a full electric mode on them, most will expect the user to do a bit of pedaling. This is the only way to ensure that they have a massive range (sometimes as much as 90 miles on a single charge).
Performance and Components
Next up, we’re going to discuss the various components of an e-bike that may impact the overall riding style. If you look for these components on an e-bike, you may get more of an idea about the ‘purpose’ of the e-bike.
Motor and Power
The power of the motor will be listed in watts (listed as W). The power of the motor will determine how much potential power the motor could be pumping into the wheels. The more power in the motor, the faster you may be able to go, and the easier your bike will tackle hills, rough terrains, etc. If you’re buying a road or commuter bike, then you probably don’t need a huge amount of power (unless you’re doing a lot of cycling uphill), but if you’re heading off-road, then power is everything.
The motor placement on the e-bike will influence the riding style it is suitable for:
- Hub motors sit on either the rear or the front wheel. If they are on the front wheel, the bike becomes a lot more difficult to control, so front-wheel hub motors are not really preferred by off-roaders where handling is everything. Hub motors are loved by people who lean heavily on pedal assist, mostly because the motor offers much more continual pedal assist. This means that you can maintain a decent, consistent speed. Bikes with hub motors tend to be cheaper than their mid-drive motor alternatives.
- Mid-drive motors sit in the middle of the e-bike. When you pedal on one of these, it feels much more natural, almost like you are riding a traditional bike, just with a bit more pedal assist. Mid-drive motors offer better balancing on the bike, which leads to better handling. This is often desired by off-roaders, or those who want a cycling feel that doesn’t 100% feel like an e-bike.
Battery Capacity and Range
The battery is everything when it comes to e-bikes. After all, without a battery, your bike is just an e-bike.
Batteries of a higher voltage will deliver more power to the motor. So, a bike designed for casual city riding may have something as low as a 24V battery, but a bike designed for serious off-roading may have a 48V battery, and sometimes higher.
If you care about the range of your e-bike, then you’ll want to pay attention to the battery capacity. This will be listed as Ah. The higher the Ah, the higher the capacity of the battery. The higher the capacity of the battery, the further you could potentially ride on a single charge. Bikes designed for touring will often have a higher capacity than a commuter bike or even an off-road bike.
Remember – whenever you buy an e-bike, you should always pay attention to the ‘range’ of the battery. This will list the number of miles that the manufacturer expects that you could get from a single charge of the battery. However, do bear in mind that this is only going to be in ‘ideal’ conditions. Most of the time, you’ll be riding at a shorter range than what the manufacturer quotes.
Frame Design and Materials
E-bikes will often have one of three different frame materials (there are more frame materials for traditional bikes). The frame material will have an impact on the ride, as well as the cost of the e-bike:
- Aluminum frames are the most popular. These frames are very lightweight, which makes them easy to control. The lower weight also ensures that you can get a slightly higher range from your battery. They are great for commuting, although not so fantastic for off-roading. This is because aluminum frames can vibrate a lot. Even with good suspension, off-roading on an aluminum frame could result in some annoying pain in the rear. Although, on the positive side, aluminum frames are solid and should last years, even when put under heavy stress.
- Steel frames are heavier than aluminum frames, and they have broadly the same strength and durability. However, they offer a far smoother ride. This is because steel frames, even without suspension, do well at absorbing vibrations when you are cycling. As a result, they are loved by city riders and commuters. They may even be enjoyed by tourists. The downside is that the frame is very heavy, and this can impact battery life and handling.
- Carbon Fiber frames are lightweight and very durable. Most proper cyclists will ride a carbon fiber frame. They do well at absorbing the shocks of the road, and they provide the smoothest ride. Their lightweight nature means handling is a breeze, and they work just as well for commuting as they do for off-roading. Although, you’re going to be paying a premium if you want a carbon fiber e-bike.
Comfort and Ergonomics
Next up, let’s discuss the comfort and ergonomic features of e-bikes. This, again, should give you a rough idea of what type of riding style the e-bike is aimed at.
There are three main handlebar types:
- Flat handlebars are among the most common of handlebar types, and they work in most situations. When you have a flat handlebar, you’ll be forced to sit in a much more upright position. This is a much more comfortable position, even if it is not the most efficient for speed. These handlebars often give far greater control over the e-bike, and thus they are a firm favorite among commuters, although they also work for mountain biking, cruising, and more.
- Drop bars are popular among those serious about cycling. They have a flat handlebar in the middle, and on either end, you have further flat bars pointing inward toward the rider. One of the main benefits of drop bars is that riders have more options when it comes to hand placement. With a drop bar, a rider can easily adopt a casual position (like what the flat handlebar provides) or a more aggressive riding style, which is built for speed and power. If you want a versatile e-bike, then drop bars are preferred.
- Cruiser handlebars are very casual handlebars. They are designed for easy cycling. Not exactly comfortable, but easier. When you are seated in front of a cruiser handlebar, you’ll adopt a very comfortable seating position. These handlebars often leave enough space to attach a basket, lights, etc. in front of them. They are awful for serious riding, though. They aren’t efficient, nor comfortable, to hold onto over longer distances.
Did you know that your saddle choice will have a huge impact on your riding?
- Recreational riders e.g. commuters tend to work better with broad saddles. While you won’t get the most power behind your cycling, you’ll be much more comfortable on that bike.
- If power is everything, then opt for a narrower saddle. They aren’t always comfortable to sit on, but you should be able to get much more power behind your legs as the seat provides far less resistance.
- Mountain bike saddles will often provide extra padding around the bones on your rear end. This can help to cushion some of the bumps along the trails.
Obviously, the more padding your saddle has, the more comfortable it gets. However, you will gain comfort and sacrifice power. If you’re just commuting to work, then an e-bike with a very padded saddle can work wonders. However, if you are touring, or aiming for speed on your bike, you might want a lightly padded saddle.
The suspension system is designed to absorb the bumps of the roads and trails. There are three suspension options you have:
- No suspension is for smoother roads. E-bikes designed for commuting, city travel, or even road touring, may not have suspension on them. This does mean that the road may cause a few vibrations in your rear end while cycling, but it shouldn’t be too bad.
- Front suspension bikes allow for a bit of shock absorption while riding. They are lighter weight than their full suspension counterparts, and they are often a firm favorite among mountain bikers covering lighter trails or those that may be tackling a lot of hills and slopes.
- Full suspension e-bikes will absorb almost all of the shocks of the road/trail, but they are a bit heavier (this means a lower battery range), more expensive, and you sacrifice handling. Full-suspension e-bikes are only really ideal for those who are tackling some serious off-road trails.
Use Cases and Suitability
In this section, our goal is to tell you which e-bike may be suitable for your specific purpose. We’ve included a handy chart here. It should make your e-bike choice a little bit easier.
|Who It Is Suitable For
Families who want to ride through the roads in their local area.
Price Range and Value
City/commuter bikes will often be the cheapest e-bikes that money can buy. This is because the vast majority of people picking up e-bikes will often be commuters who aren’t looking for anything extravagant. These e-bikes will often have a very limited feature set i.e. no suspension, and limited gearing. This helps to bring the price down. Although, they are not especially versatile bikes.
Mountain bikes will often offer the best bang for your buck. They are incredibly versatile, and while they are built for off-roading and mountainous areas, they can work on roads too. However, do bear in mind they are up there with the more expensive bikes on the market, mostly because the best e-bikes have higher-powered motors and some decent suspension.
If you are after ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to range, then road/touring bikes are your best bet. While they only really work on paved surfaces, or maybe a dash of light off-roading, they often have the highest potential mileage.
As you can see – when it comes to e-bike styles, you have a wealth of different options. Remember, you shouldn’t just buy the cheapest option available. You need to pay attention to the style of the bike, the features, etc. to determine whether the bike is right for your cycling needs. After all, there is no sense in buying something like a commuter bike if you’re whole plan is to head off-road as you’d need a mountain bike for that. We promise you that if you do your research (and this article will help), you’ll end up with an e-bike that will be enjoying for years and years to come.
Cycling News: https://www.cyclingnews.com/features/commuter-bikes-what-are-the-differences-and-how-to-choose-the-best-bike-for-you/
Rattan Bike: https://www.rattanebike.com/blogs/ebike-classes/a-comprehensive-guide-to-ebike-frame-materials-types-advantages-and-disadvantages