2012 Electric Bike Buyers Guide; Critical Questions

August 11, 2012

If you are thinking about buying an electric bike, here is a list of critical questions you should ask yourself, and a few directions you can go in for your research.

To buy an electric bike is a complicated equation that you should spend a few nights researching before making the big jump. This is the primary goal of this site to provide unbiased testing, information, and opinion on which electric bike or component to buy (we do not accept advertising dollars or sell electric bikes).

Is it possible that an electric bike can save you  money?

Absolutely. If you use your electric bike, it will save you money. In several obvious ways, and also in ways you never thought of.  Read our story on how an Electric bike can save you money. A good car replacement if you want to tote passengers and groceries around (car replacement) is a cargo bike. Read our story on how a cargo electric bike can save you money.

Is it true an electric bike can change your life?


Read our story of intrinsic benefits of an e-bike, and then our hedonistic pleasures of e-bikes to get filled in on some of the secret joys of riding an electric bike. Read this list of inspirational stories for stories of real people and how their lives changed while riding an electric bike.

Do you want to buy a turn key bike or do you want to build it yourself?



If you want a high performance bike for cheap, a home build is the way to go. Go to the build it yourself section.  However don’t forget to factor in many hours of your time to build and troubleshoot a decent bike. If you want a bike that is dependable, worry free, rattle & noise free, and safe, then turn-key bikes are the way to go. Check out our turn key bike reviews.  However our site is new and we have not reviewed every electric bike out there. But by studying this site you will be able to come up with a useful framework so you can easily judge an electric bike on your own.

What if i want to build the e-bike myself? Where do I start?

Go to the build it yourself section. Spend some time on Endless Sphere, the e-bike builder forum, and then check out our list of recommended vendors.

Should I buy a E-bike now or  wait for some future E-bike?

Look at a list of  exciting E-bikes that are coming out in the near future. Although there is no doubt the technology is progressing and E-bikes are getting cheaper and better, right now because of the rarity of electric bikes, you can enjoy a lot of freedoms you will more than likely not get to experience in the future as E-biking becomes more popular.

What is the legality of riding an electric bike?

Laws regarding electric bikes are different according to which country and which jurisdiction you live in. According to USA federal law, as long as your electric bike is under 750 watts and does not go over 20-MPH (without pedal assist) then it is a bicycle and not a motor vehicle. For more information read our story on Electric Bikes and the Law. 

Should I buy online or buy from a brick-and-mortar store when buying a turn key E-bike?


Currie Izip store in Santa Monica


Like everyone else I enjoy the convenience of online shopping. But when it comes to buying  an electric bike, I really recommend you test  ride an E-bike before buying, which means going to a physical E-bike dealer. You will also appreciate the after-sales service that you get from an E-bike store. I strongly suggest that you pay a little bit extra cash and do the right thing, and buy your bike from a local dealer if you are lucky enough to have one in your area. Many bicycle shops are starting to carry electric bikes as well.

Do you want a hub motor or a mid-drive?


Panasonic mid-drive Focus Jarifa


Hub motor bikes are affordable, simple and quiet. Mid drives are the ultimate in efficiency and are great hill climbers, but are also expensive. Read our story on to hub or not to hub. Read our story about 10 turn key mid drive electric bikes, and 10 mid drive kits.

If you want a hub motor do you want a geared motor or do you want a direct drive hub motor?

Geared motors are lighter  weight and more efficient. Read our story on direct drive vs geared hub motor.

Should I get a front or rear wheel drive on my hub motor bike?

Read our story on this subject here.

Is a small and lightweight 250 watt hub motor enough power for an electric bike?

Read our review on this subject here. We think in the USA where you are allowed to have up to 750 watts of power, 250 watts is cutting yourself short.

Do you want to spend the money for lithium battery? Or do you want to save  a bunch of money and go with the old outdated sealed lead acid battery route? Which lithium chemistry should you use?

Read our article on e-bike battery technology here. 

Do you want/need  a purpose built frame that neatly holds the battery inside the frame?


Purpose built frames are really slick, but do cost more money. Basically a purpose built frame has the battery built into the frame like the bike pictured  Faraday E-bike  (battery is in the frame tubes). Read our story about purpose built electric bikes.

How fast of an electric bike do I need?

In  our mind the faster the better. Its always nice to have extra speed on tap, even if you do not use it. But speed adds considerably to the cost of the E-bike, may make it illegal, and may affect its reliability. Of course it is possible to go overboard….read our story on the 10 fastest electric bikes ever built  to see guys who went a little crazy for speed.

How much range will I really get?

Read our calculating watt hour story for the skinny. This is a must read story for any newbie buying an electric bike.

What are the best hub motors available?



Although there are hundreds of types of hub motors available, we only recommend a few of the higher quality ones.  Read our reviews on the BMC hub motor, the Crystalyte Hub Motor, the 9C Hub motor, and  our mini review on three  250 watt hub motors.

What are some weird types of electric bikes that  I have to choose from?



Read our story on electric fat bikes , cargo electric bikes, racing electric bikes, recumbent bikes, cruiser electric bikes, and basic commuter electric bikes.

I just won the lottery and want to buy the best electric bike money can buy?



Read our 10 expensive bikes section….lucky dog. Of every electric  bike on the market right now if money was no object I would go for the M55 (pictured).

I am on a real budget…what are the cheapest electric bikes  I can buy?



If you really want to save money you can go with a $500 turn-key heavy lead acid powered bike (read our Ezip Trailz review). Or you can build your own budget electric bike.(read our $1000 electric bike build story, and our building an affordable commuter story).





Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


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