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Posted by Gregory Maassen on January 12, 2022 - Latest revision March 20, 2022  Reading time: minutes remaining

The Ultimate E-bike Buying Guide and Why Electric Bicycle Components Matter

We have seen many e-bike models since we founded E-bike Lovers. Any e-bike is a good e-bike as long the product is safe, reliable, and used by the owner. Whether you possess a +$12,000 Riese & Muller e-bike or an affordable e-bike from the Internet, we invite anyone to join. But no one wants to bike with failing brakes and batteries.

Thousands of E-bike Models

We are often asked what e-bikes we recommend, and we do not have an easy answer. We estimate that over 160 American manufacturers assemble and produce electric bikes, not to mention the thousands of manufacturers worldwide.

Imagine each manufacturer building several models and the list of e-bikes to review balloons to tens of thousands of models worldwide. Each model has a purpose, and a cargo e-bike is different from a carbon high-speed road e-bike. Some have better parts and services than others.

Few E-bikes Have Unique Components

Although e-bike models have unique frame designs and other artistic features, few have unique components. The market for e-bike components such as battery systems, motors, drive trains, and brakes is dominated by a few manufacturers that supply most e-bike manufacturers and assemblers.

When you buy a well-known e-bike brand such as Riese & Muller, Tern, Trek, and Gazelle, most components are manufactured by others. Even high-profile brands like Harley Davidson or Porsche assemble e-bikes with established component manufacturers.

We do not blame any reputable bike shop for not touching cheap and inferior e-bikes with unknown components. Would you?

e-bike lovers

WASHINGTON DC

The Disclosure of E-bike Components

There are good reasons for e-bike brands to rely on producers of reliable components. Product recalls, lawsuits, and poor customer experiences are costly for any reputable brand.

Not so much for fly-by-night brands with exotic names that sell products designed for obsolescence. The products look great on the Internet but quickly fail in the field. Motors stop functioning, batteries explode, and people get injured and die. E-bike safety is not always a top priority of these brands.

Let us take a look at a few models of brands across price classes:

Model

MSRP

Motor

Drivetrain

Battery

Brakes

Fork

Porsche eBike Sport

$10,700

Shimano

Shimano

Shimano

Magura

Fox

Riese & Muller Supercharger 2

$7,429

Bosch

Shimano

Rohloff

Enviolo

Bosch

Magura

Marzocchi

Harley Davidson RUSH/CTY STEP-THRU

$4,999

Brose

Enviolo

Brand not specified

TRP

Rigid fork

Tern HSD

$3,799

Bosch

Shimano

Bosch

Magura

Suntour

Specialized Como 4

$3,750

Brose/ Specialized

Shimano

Specialized

Shimano

Rigid fork

Yamaha Civante

$3,399

Yamaha

Yamaha

Yamaha

Shimano

Rigid fork

Trek Verve +3 Lowstep

$3,299

Bosch

Shimano

Bosch

Shimano

Rigid fork

SONDORS Fold XS

$2,399

Bafang

Shimano

Brand not specified

Tektro

Brand not specified

Gazelle Medeo T9 City HMB

$2,299

Bosch

Shimano

Bosch

Brand not specified

Brand not specified

Aventon LEVEL Commuter E-bike

$1,799

Brand not specified

Shimano

Brand not specified

Bengal

Suntour

Rad Power RadRunner 2

$1,499

Brand not specified

Brand not specified

Brand not specified

Tektro

Brand not specified

ELECONY EXPANSE 350*

$579

Brand not specified

Shimano

Brand not specified

Brand not specified

Brand not specified

The table suggests that reputable higher-priced e-bike brands universally disclose the brands of their e-bikes’ components. The lower the price, the less likely the components’ brands are revealed, making it difficult for a consumer to check the safety profile of components.

At a minimum, we believe that the brand of an e-bike's motor and the battery should be disclosed. It is a red flag when this is not the case, especially when other components' origins are not disclosed. A good provenance increases the value of an e-bike.

Recalls of E-bikes

We randomly looked on Amazon for an inexpensive e-bike and found the Elecony Expanse. We are not sure if the brakes of this brand are hydraulic: most likely not given its price level.

Other brands we have never heard of are Engwe, 3y Electric Bike, Mukpet, Bright, Rattan, Ecotric, Vivi, and the list goes on. As expected, the brands of components are rarely disclosed for these lower-tier products, and it is impossible to know whether the parts are safe and durable. We can only guess with hardly any safety standards for e-bikes in the United States.

Any e-bike is a good e-bike as long the product is safe, reliable, and used by the owner.

e-bike lovers

WASHINGTON DC

Recalls happen to the best in the industry and are a good thing. Please think of the high-profile cargo e-bike recall by Riese & Muller of the $8,919 Packster 70 cargo bike and the $9,999 Stromer ST5 electric bicycle. Shimano recalled the CX75 Disc Brake Calipers, and Specialized recalled battery packs used with its 1st Generation Turbo Levo and Kenevo electric mountain bikes.

These reputable brands responsibly take products off the market or offer repairs, which we may not see with cheap, unknown Internet brands. Safety comes at a premium in life, and e-bikes are not exempt from this rule.

Tips for Buying an E-bike

  • Invest in Quality: If the e-bike has no known components, be careful and reconsider, regardless of the e-bike’s brand and slick marketing. Ask the seller who manufactures the battery, motor, and brakes of the e-bike. Ask for specifications, safety certifications, and warranty details. Anonymous parts may have something to hide, and they are often cheap and inferior to branded components.
  • Buy From a Reputable Dealer: Support your local dealer and buy an e-bike from your community bike shop. You will need to service your e-bike sooner or later, and qualified staff can assist with making purchasing decisions.
  • Invest in Safety: A good e-bike is a safe e-bike. The e-bike may not have a safety certificate, but its components may have a safety rating. Buy an e-bike with parts from reputable manufacturers such as Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and Rohloff. If you buy from a reputable manufacturer and through a certified dealer, you are ensured they will recall unsafe products.
  • Focus on Safety: Safe and reliable e-bikes are expensive, and safety comes at a price. Be ready to spend money on an e-bike with durable components. Consider buying a second-hand quality e-bike from a reputable dealer if you cannot afford a new quality e-bike.
  • Test Drive a New E-bike: Have you ever purchased a car without test driving the vehicle? Most likely not. The same should be true for e-bikes. Consider test-riding the e-bike. If you buy on the Internet, ensure you can return the e-bike without shipping costs. Test ride the e-bike on longer trips, not just around the parking lot of a shop.
  • Insist on Service Support: Like a car, an e-bike needs regular service. Ensure that the brand has a service network to fine tune your new e-bike after its first 100 and 1,000 miles and perform scheduled service calls. Even if you have an internal hub with a belt, the oil needs to be changed annually. Brake pads, chains, and cassettes need to be inspected and replaced often after 1,500 – 2,500 miles.

Conclusion

Reputable e-bike brands happily disclose the brands of their e-bikes’ components. The lower the price of an e-bike, the less likely the components’ brands are revealed, especially for lower-tier e-bikes.

As Europe has much higher e-bike safety standards than the US, consider buying European e-bike brands or American brands that use European e-bike parts. Bosch, Brose (motors), and Magura (brakes) are from Europe. Shimano, Yamaha, and Suntour (forks) are based in Japan. Fox is an American company listed on the NASDAQ producing quality forks. These are brands with established safety and quality controls. Check if the battery has the UL logo as this is an important safety certificate.

Be aware of deals on the Internet. Check out our tips for buying an e-bike to lower the risk of buyers’ remorse and unsafe e-biking. There is a good reason many bike shops cannot service unknown brands with unknown parts as they do not know the safety profile of components. The moment they service a brake of dubious origin, a bike shop is liable for the functioning of the brake. Instead of servicing the brake, have a quality braking system installed.

We should not expect a quality bike shop to take irresponsible safety risks, and we believe neither should you by buying an e-bike with unknown parts.

We do not blame any reputable bike shop for not touching cheap and inferior e-bikes with unknown components. Would you?


Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

Gregory discovered e-biking after 20 years of overseas work as project manager for the World Bank and USAID. He writes about e-mobility and e-biking in the DMV area, and loves the outdoors (white water kayaking, hiking and biking). He lives with his wife, Janet in Washington DC.


Favorite e-bike: Riese & Muller Super Charger Class 1 touring e-bike.


Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

FOUNDER E-BIKE LOVERS


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