Electric Bike FAQs
Read about electric bicycle FAQs and get all you need to know about electric bikes, specifications and facts.
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Arizona Adopts E-Bike Law (Disclaimer: This is not a legal opinion or legal advice.)
E-Bikes Are Bicycles
Governor Doug Ducey signed into law e-bike legislation, HB 2266, which defines an e-bike as a bicycle. This allows all jurisdictions within the State to follow a standard classification system for e-bikes, like those in eight other States. Local laws do differ. Federal lands, like BLM and National Forests, usually follow State law and have unofficially considered Class 1 e-bikes not in the "motorized" category. State, County, and City parks and lands may adopt rules specific to their location, so always read the restrictions on signage. (E-Bikes are trail approved: Maricopa County Parks).
Either way, there is no ambiguity under the Arizona Revised Statute Title 28, (Chapter Three, Article 11), Section 28-819. E-Bikes are not motor vehicles. Most government agencies and authorities will gradually modify their rules to conform, but are free to exclude e-bikes, especially where safety is a concern. Arizona law:
A. An operator of an electric bicycle is granted all the rights and privileges and is subject to all of the duties of a person riding a bicycle. Except as otherwise provided in this section, an electric bicycle is subject to the same provisions of this title as a bicycle.
B. An electric bicycle is not subject to the provisions of this title relating to certificates of title, registration, vehicle license tax, driver licenses or vehicle insurance.
C. Beginning January 1, 2019, manufacturers and distributors of electric bicycles shall apply a label that is permanently affixed, in a prominent location, to each electric bicycle. The label shall contain the classification number, top assisted speed and motor wattage of the electric bicycle and shall be printed in at least nine-point type.
D. A class 1 electric bicycle or a class 2 electric bicycle may be used on bicycle and multiuse paths. A local authority or agency of this state having jurisdiction over a bicycle or multiuse path may prohibit the operation of a class 1 electric bicycle or class 2 electric bicycle on the path.
E. A class 3 electric bicycle may not be operated on a bicycle or multiuse path unless it is within or adjacent to a highway or roadway or unless the local authority or agency of this state having jurisdiction over the path allows the operation.
Minimum Requirements For Safe Riding
- No matter what or how you ride, you are responsible for your safety or your child's safety. Wear a helmet. Check your bike for proper fit and operation before you go out to ride.
- Under 18 must wear a helmet by law.
- Install a speedometer, so you know how fast you are going. AZ bicycle speed limit is 20mph.
- Wear goggles or appropriate glasses to protect your eyes.
- Install a mirror. Looking behind you without the aid of a mirror makes you pull in the direction you look or become unbalanced.
- Install a bicycle headlight and taillight. Use the light day and night to alert others of your presence and to light your path.
- Wear appropriate, close-fitted, clothing, gloves and shoes.
- Follow all the rules of the road.
- Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes are considered bicycles in the State of Arizona. (Consult your local authority for regulations governing your particular area.)
Get The Most Miles
How To Get The Most Miles Per Charge on your e-Bike
- Pedal more - especially up hills.
- Keep the tires inflated to the maximum rating.
- Keep the battery cool or shaded when not moving.
- Start with a full charge. Efficiency is better on a full charge.
- The motor draws the most power when first starting out. Take it easy. Roll on the throttle slowly and pedal in a lower gear to help the bike get going.
- Back off the power when cruising. The slower you go, the farther you go. Wind resistance has a huge impact.
Relax - Enjoy the ride
- It's fun
- Low maintenance
- Relax – enjoy the ride
- Keep up with the leader
- No driver's license required
- Hills are less of a challenge
- Great option for those with disabilities
- Save money - A lot less expensive than a car
- Ride and keep up with your zealous, fit friends
- Get to work or school refreshed - Get home happy
- Eco friendly - Go for 35 miles on a charge or more
- Get a workout - You can turn off, or turn down the assist
- Health – e-bikes are ridden more often than standard bikes
- Keep the family together - everyone can ride, no matter fitness
Why Ride an e-Bike
From our friends at iZip:
"Most people who own an electric bike use it for their daily commute to work or to take care of errands. They really depend on them to move around! Riding a regular bike already has lots of benefits that a car or other alternative transportation does not offer, like saving time, money in gas, maintenance, parking, tickets and insurance. Biking by itself helps you take care of the environment and your community, be healthy, fit and enjoy more what a city can offer you or simply enjoy the beautiful landscapes if riding off-road. "
"So, why an electric bike? While riding a regular bike is great, if you are using it as your main transportation to go to work or move around you start having some challenges and getting a little bit uncomfortable. Who likes to get all sweaty on the way to work? No one, unless you can take a shower at work and have the time! Who likes to get to work and back home faster? Everyone! An electric bicycle helps you go further, ride smoothly and have FUN all at the same time! What about steep hills? An electric bike helps you climb them with ease. What about a bum knee? An electric bike can keep you cycling. You still need to charge your eBike's battery pack, but you will get an average of 20-25miles [or more] range depending on the rider's weight and type of terrain. The good news is riding an electric bike costs only pennies per charge and you'll save lots of money compared to other ways of transportation."
Read more on E-Bike terminology: Watts Up
Frequently Asked Questions About E-Bikes and E-MTBs
How are electric bikes classified?
There are myriad ways to classify a bicycle with an electric motor. Most classification strategies use the following attributes:
- The motor stops assisting the rider at 20-MPH (or 28-MPH for S-Pedelec)
- The motor is activated when you pedal and/or operate a throttle
- The motor has limited power, usually 750 watts or one Horsepower (not a lot of power)
- The bike must be able to be propelled by pedaling alone
- The bike is not registered with the DMV, needs no license plate and requires no driver's license or insurance
- Age limit on faster bikes - helmet required under 18
Where can I ride my Electric bike (especially my mountain e-bike) - Arizona electric e-bike laws? (Disclaimer: This is not a legal opinion.)
Governor Doug Ducey signed into law e-bike legislation, HB 2266, which defines an e-bike as a bicycle. This allows all jurisdictions within the State to follow a standard classification system for e-bikes, like those in eight other States. Local laws do differ. Federal lands, like BLM and National Forests, usually follow State law. State, County, and City parks and lands may adopt rules specific to their location.
Some complain that e-bikes are cheating, they damage the path because of weight or that it opens the door to motorcycles. Of course, anyone that has ridden a pedal assisted e-bike knows that none of this is true. After all, should a lightweight carbon hard-tail MTB be banned for cheating? Some contend that a "motor-is-a-motor" and has no right on a bike path. However, this is completely contradicted by the national trend to permit Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on bike paths. It also recognizes that people with disabilities, through pedal assist, should benefit from access to the many public-funded bike paths in the USA. No, it’s not cheating. E-bikes open a huge opportunity for everyone to enjoy the benefits of a bicycle.
Clearly, all paths on Federal Lands that are marked for ATV use (fire roads) are open to e-bikes (and there are thousands of miles of these in Arizona, such as in the Tonto National Forest). Generally, most bike paths that are unrestricted for mountain bikes, such as on Federal lands (National Forest, National Park, BLM, etc.) may restrict use by e-bikes, but Class 1 e-bikes are not necessarily considered "motorized." It's still a little confusing, but the Department of Interior has seen fit to consider exempting e-bikes as a motorized vehicle (See Durango Herald). Any path where motorized travel is allowed, an e-bike can also use the path. Bike paths along highways are usually not an issue either (albeit ambiguous). However, if you ride at public Park, they can make their own regulations, especially if you behave recklessly. The best way for us all to safeguard our rights to access bike paths with e-bikes is to ride responsibly, be courteous, and don't flaunt your pedal assist. If you are in a park, ask or refer to the signage to validate e-bike use. If a sign says, "no motorized vehicles," it's best to choose another path or get clarification. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are considered pedal assisted bicycles, not motor vehicles.
Classifications for e-bikes (Disclaimer: This is not a legal opinion.)
Every municipality is different in their regulations. City, County, State and Federal lands are all governed differently. To be safe, find out local regulations. In general, when in doubt, while operating any bicycle – pedal, gas, e-bike, or moped – follow these simple guidelines:
- Bicycle or E-Bike:
- Always wear a helmet (under 18 must wear a helmet)
- Obey all traffic laws, including posted speed limits
- Do not use pedestrian walkways or sidewalks, unless specifically allowed
- Limit your speed to 20mph - AZ State law for any type of bicycle
- Use a front and rear light and have reflectors
- At night, all bicycles require a headlight and rear reflector, at a minimum
- Use a speedometer on the bike
- Be exceptionally cautious when approaching or traveling through an intersection
- The bike should be limited to under 1Hp or 750 watts
- Do not modify the motor to achieve higher speeds
- No driver’s license, insurance, license plate, or registration is required to operate an e-bike or bicycle
- All e-bikes must have an official sticker that details Class Type, max speed and max wattage
- Class 1 E-bike: is a pedal assisted e-bike, without a throttle, whereby the motor stops helping propel the e-bike before reaching 20mph
- Class 2 E-bike: is the same as Class 1 but includes a throttle option
- Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are considered bicycles and allowed anywhere a pedal bike is allowed, but subject to local regulation
- Class 3 E-bike: is the same as Class 2, often referred to as an S-Pedelec, where the pedal assist helps up to 28mph (throttle is limited to 20mph, if equipped).
- Class 3 bicycles are not allowed on bike paths
- Under 16 may not operate a Class 3 e-bike
- Electric Kick Scooter: is a standing scooter that has a helper motor and may be operated using just a throttle. Is treated and regulated like an e-bike.
- Scooter: is basically a small motorcycle, usually with an automatic transmission, typically between 50cc and 150cc.
- Moped: 1.5Hp (1,500w) max, 49cc max, 25mph max. Need insurance, any class of driver's license, moped registration (but no title), and proof of ownership. Must stay off bicycle paths/lanes and cannot operate on public roadways (but can use the shoulder or travel adjacent to the road). Usually, mopeds are equipped with pedals, safety items: mirror, lights, brake light, turn signal, horn, & speedometer. The ARS is a bit confusing on mopeds, such as the absence of a specific pedal requirement. In any case, ride sensibly, safely, and obey all traffic laws. Wear a good DOT-rated helmet.
- Gas bikes: 48cc max, 1hp max, 20mph max. It's a bicycle with a helper motor.
- OHV: primarily driven or made for operation off road. Must have a title and registration, driver's license, plus an OHV decal. Under 49cc needs no OHV decal.
- Motor driven cycle: is a motorcycle. Title, MC license endorsement, registration, insurance and all safety devices are required.
The vast majority of e-bikes sold at Archer's Bikes are Class 1. More information can be found at: People For Bikes or at Trailforks for places to ride.
What Arizona has to say (ARS 28-101):
24. "Electric bicycle" means a bicycle or tricycle that is equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than seven hundred fifty watts and that meets the requirements of one of the following classes:
(a) "Class 1 electric bicycle" means a bicycle or tricycle that is equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle or tricycle reaches the speed of twenty miles per hour.
(b) "Class 2 electric bicycle" means a bicycle or tricycle that is equipped with an electric motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle or tricycle and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle or tricycle reaches the speed of twenty miles per hour.
(c) "Class 3 electric bicycle" means a bicycle or tricycle that is equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle or tricycle reaches the speed of twenty-eight miles per hour.
Learn About Your New Bike
We recommend taking time to get to know your new bike and accessories. Practice riding in a safe open area, with e-bike power off, until you feel confident riding in more difficult terrain. Practice builds confidence and competence over time. Wear a helmet. Take your time.
What are the fundamental options when looking for an electric bike?
Electric bikes come in myriad shapes and sizes: folding, mountain, sporty, hauling, comfort cruiser, tricycle, recumbent, conversion kits, etc. Prices range from a low of $500 (kit) to $6,000 or more. Conversion kits are the least expensive way to modify your current bike, especially if you are handy. Used electric bikes are available, but sell out fast. Folding bikes take up less space. Where and how you are going to use your electric bicycle will depend on your choice. There is a style that will fit anyone's need.
How much does an e-bike cost?
A good e-bike starts at $1,500. Some bikes are available online for less, but are hard to compare because of poor reliability and high repair costs. You may find a major brand on sale, but not usually less than $1,000. Using a base price of $1,500, 5-year expected life, 1,000 charge cycles, 30 miles per charge, and $0.15 to charge it back up, you would anticipate the bike to last 30,000 miles (115 miles per week). Add in the cost of maintenance and wear items (drive train, tires, tune ups, etc.), at $50 for every 500 miles, your total cost of ownership is: $1,500 (purchase), $3,000 (maintenance), $150 (charge up), TOTAL $4,650. That's less than $18/week or $0.16/mile. That's cheap transportation. Even the battery, which costs around $500-$800, usually the first item to need replacing, adds little to the cost of ownership in the long run. If the residual value of the bike is $375 and you sell it or trade it in, you still maintain a very attractive total cost over time.
How do you make the bike go?
An electric bicycle may come with optional pedal assistance. Some electric bicycles come with an optional throttle to control the electric assistance. Some models come with only one option, some with both, while it may be an add-on option for others. The pedal assist feature allows the motor to add power to the rider's effort on every pedal stroke. The pedal assist power may be adjusted to increase or decrease the rider's effort, through a small control interface. With a throttle (twist or thumb), there is a lever operated by hand and provides a variable input from the rider to increase or decrease the motor assistance. With pedal assist, pedaling is easier, making going uphill or level, as easy as going downhill. Since the power is adjustable, the amount of effort used with each pedal stroke can be made normal, to get full aerobic exercise benefit, or easy, to make up for any physical impairment or just to make the ride a relaxing event. When you have a throttle option, the rider can choose to not pedal at all, letting the motor do all the work, or give adjustable help, depending on the rider's preference, with or without pedaling.
How powerful are the motors?
Motors come in various sizes, commonly from 250 watts to 1,200 watts or more. However, that is still not more than two horsepower (1,500w). Most government agencies limit power to 1Hp (750w) to be considered a pedal-assisted bicycle. Larger motors, measured on wattage, provide more assistance to climb hills or to get up to speed. This is analogous to the size of the engine in your car. Smaller motors use less energy, are less costly, and will have a longer range for every watt-hour pulled from the battery. Larger motors are heavier, will not go as far per watt-hour used, but provide much greater push in all situations. Lighter riders may want to look at smaller motors, while larger riders may want the added benefit of increased power. However, a caution note when comparing wattage, not all motors are created equal. 250w only tells you how much power the motor consumes, not how much power is transferred into forward motion. For example, center drive motors are more efficient, thus are typically lower in wattage. Conversely, a big (and heavy) 1,000w, direct drive, hub motor, sounds huge, but is very sluggish at slower speeds. Also, larger wattage motors need bigger (and heavier) batteries. Bottom line: you need to ride the bike for yourself and decide after the test ride.
What battery do I need?
Batteries come in different voltages (usually 24, 36, or 48 volts - sometimes even more) and different sizes, usually from 6 amp-hour to 20 amp-hour. Lead-acid batteries are great for golf carts, cost less, but weigh a lot, have a short life span, and require frequent maintenance. All modern bicycle batteries are made from Lithium. They are more compact, weigh less and are very reliable. The life of Lithium batteries is anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 charge cycles, and around three to six years, depending on how much it is used. The usable power of a lead acid battery drops dramatically as the power is depleted, making the last 30% of little use. Lithium-ion batteries allow the battery to be useful down to 10%. Battery energy (think: the size of the gas tank) is rated in Watt-Hours (or Amp-Hours). Higher numbers equal more power. Modern batteries do not need to be continuously charged or stored while connected to an electrical source. Batteries should be stored at room temperature (ideally), but only charged after they get low (do not leave any battery unattended on a charger). Commonly, the battery is attached to the rear rack or along the frame down-tube leading from the handle bars to the pedals. Depending on how much you pedal, and the size of the battery, your range will be anywhere from 15 to 40 miles or more. Higher voltage batteries, which must match the motor voltage, store and transfer energy more efficiently. Higher amp-hour batteries have a longer range because they store more energy, but also weigh more. For example, a 24 volt, 6 amp-hour battery will provide the least power and shortest range. If the rider desires only a moderate range and less motor assistance, the smaller battery will be lighter and the overall cost of the bicycle lower. Sporty models (lighter-faster) cost more, have more power, will go farther, but may weigh less than an economy model, adding to the fun factor. Some bikes are made for hauling, have larger motors and heavier batteries, but go at a very conservative pace.
There is a balance between battery voltage and battery efficiency. Given current battery and motor technology, 24 volts is fine for a front wheel, 250 watt, hub motor, with a low expectation of power. 36 volts works best for mid-drive, because the motors work more efficiently, and the distance of the battery from the motor is short. 48 volts is best for rear hub drive systems, improving electrical power transfer and low speed torque. However, because battery cells are connected in series to achieve higher voltages, 48 volt (and higher) systems degrade faster than 36 volt systems (given equal Watt-Hour ratings). Higher voltage systems transfer energy more efficiently to the motor than lower voltage systems. But remember, just because a system is higher voltage, does not mean it is necessarily better (although, they usually are).
Battery power is measured by its ability to hold electrical energy for future use. Bigger cells last longer and can provide greater amounts of energy under heavy load. Amp-Hour is a unit of measurement showing how much current can be delivered over a period of time. For example, a 10AH battery can delivery one ampere of electricity for ten hours before it is depleted. However, it also has a current limit. Most 10AH batteries cannot deliver more than 20 amperes at any given moment. Greater Amp-Hour ratings yield longer distance on a ride and more maximum power for climbing hills. Sometimes, you will see the capacity listed in Watt-Hours. This is essentially the same result. Dividing Watt-Hours by the battery voltage gives you the Amp-Hour rating. A 36V 700WH battery has an Amp-Hour rating of about 20AH. Look for at least 10AH on a given battery to get the best results. Lower ratings are OK but you will not get as far.
Wattage (horse power) is a measure of how much power the e-bike motor uses, bu not necessarily how much power it puts to the ground. 250 watts is the smallest practical motor power, while most bikes top out at 750 watts, which is very powerful. Government regulations limit maximum power to 750 watts (one horse power) on e-bikes, in most all jurisdictions. Electric scooters, mopeds, pedicabs, OHV and motorcycles can go well beyond the 1 HP limitation. Hub motors do need to be of a higher power to work with heavier loads or climbing hills, but center drive motors work very well at 250 watts. Center drive is more efficient and can leverage different gear selections. The most common bikes have 250 watt center drives and 500 watt hub motors. Also important is that just because a motor is rated at 500 watts, a motor that is 1,000 watts will not necessarily be twice as powerful.
How hard the motor can turn the wheel, over a given distance, is torque. Knowing the torque of a motor is useful when comparing different motors by the same manufacturer. However, there is no standard for the torque measurement, so comparing motors among different manufacturers is questionable. Think of torque as the ability of the motor to spin the wheel. If it's a center drive, then downshifting will provide more torque at the ground - you can climb a hill more easily. That's why center drives are best for mountain bikes. Hub drives are at a significant disadvantage when starting out because the torque is engineered to be maximized at cruising speeds, not from a dead start. Increasing starting torque on a hub motor is a trade-off for top speed: more torque at startup equals a lower top speed.
How do I charge and care for e-bike batteries?
Lead-acid batteries require relatively continuous charging during breaks of more than a month (trickle charge). They do best when connected to a high quality trickle charger, with limited current, and are kept in a climate controlled area (32-70 degrees). They last longer if you recharge them before they get to about 50% discharge. Deep cycling does deplete the battery life more quickly. Expect most lead-acid batteries to last about 300 cycles or two-years, before degrading. Chargers can break, batteries can leak toxic fumes and gasses, or may cause a fire. Never leave any type of battery, even lead-acid, unattended for long periods, while connected to a charger.
It is always a best practice to plug the charger into the battery first, then plug the charger into the wall. When disconnecting, unplug the charger form the wall, then unplug the battery. This procedure helps minimize voltage surge when charging.
The newer Lithium-ion type battery does not need to be continuously charged. They can be safely stored in a climate controlled environment for 6-months or more, with no detrimental effect (32-68 degrees). They do best if stored in a safe place from causing an accidental fire and put at about 50% charge before storing. These newer batteries get 1,000 or more cycles, and can last as long as five years, before substantially degrading. As they degrade, you get less range. You can, however, charge your battery back to 100% before every ride. If the battery was at 50%, this will count as 1/2 of a charging cycle (you get 2,000 1/2 cycles). Never leave any type of battery, even lithium-ion, unattended for long periods, while connected to a charger.
Unplug your charger when unattended and after the battery has reached a full charge.
All batteries should be kept out of extended sun and temperature extremes. Many will show an error when allowed to exceed 104 degrees. As well, they work poorly when cold (below 35 degrees) or hot (over 100 degrees). Don't leave your battery out in the hot Arizona sun (like on a car carrier - even while moving).
Always recycle old batteries properly as they could cause an accidental fire or contaminate the environment.
Leaving the battery on the charger might be dangerous should the circuitry malfunction in the battery or the charger. Furthermore, it's best not to leave any charging battery unattended, just to be safe. It is an electrical appliance, and the safest way to handle it is never to leave it unattended, especially overnight, and limit the charging time to four hours. If it is not charged in four hours, give it a break to cool off. The charger and the battery may get warm but never too hot to touch.
If your battery shows signs of swelling, hot spots, or damaged electrical terminals: stop using it. Recycle it properly, referring to the manufacturer's guidelines. A good reference is Call2Recycle.org. Many manufacturers charge for the recycling service at the time of purchase. That means you may have already paid for recycling at Call2Recycle.
Maximize Battery Lifespan
Where does the motor attach?
Motors may be attached or configured in many ways: clamped on the back and with a friction wheel to push the tire, a motor attached to the side of the bike with a chain driving the wheel, integrated into the wheel hub (front or back), or as part of the pedal crank – mounted in the center of the bike frame. The most common configuration is the motor integrated into the wheel hub. The motor is what provides the assistance. It can be attached to the tire, the hub, the chain or the pedals. With the most common hub motor, the bicycle looks like a normal bike, except for a larger wheel hub. This leaves a lot of space for a bike rack and the battery. It also protects the motor from damage and moving parts away from the rider. Mounting the motor on the rear hub gives added traction, but also some complexity if you need to change the tire. With the hub motor in the front, there is less complexity, but less traction overall. Tire mounted motors are generally easy to install, but very unreliable (and usually are found as kits). Center drive motors mount at the pedals, provide good balance and give easy access to change flat tires. They are newer and more complex, but are gaining in popularity. Older styles include having the motor hang on the side, driven by a chain, but have lost popularity because they are damaged easily, are low wattage, and require frequent maintenance.
What type of motor is best?
Most commonly available motors are either direct drive or geared drive. Both direct drive and geared motors use electric power from the battery to turn the wheels. Direct drive motors have no gears and no brushes, reducing wear and complexity. Geared drives tend to be smaller and provide greater power (torque) when starting off or at lower speeds, but are more complex and have a greater number of wear points. Both types come at various levels of quality and performance. Direct drive motors have fewer moving parts and may last longer, are quieter, weigh a little more, but have better efficiency at normal speeds. Geared drive motors deliver power from the start better, weigh a little less and provide more consistent power delivery at all speeds. Opinions about which is better is somewhat subjective, leaving rider to decide what functions suit them best. A more sophisticated motor is a stepped motor, such as the Shimano E8000. Stepper motors are DC motors that move in discrete steps. They have multiple coils that are organized in groups called "phases." By energizing each phase in sequence, the motor will rotate, one step at a time. With a computer controlled stepping you can achieve very precise speed control. For this reason, stepper motors are the motor of choice for center drive systems as they can more precisely apply torque, yielding a smooth and natural feel to the motor. Most all center mounted drive systems are geared. Mounting the motor at the pedals allows the motor to used the bicycle's gears, improving efficiency and transfer of power at different speeds.
Rear Wheel (hub) drive e-bikes
Rear wheel (hub) e-bikes offer a good economical solution, as they are the simplest method of adding a motor to a bike, providing pedal assist and/or throttle to an e-bike. The design is less complicated and easier to manufacture as well, so rear wheel / hub drive e-bikes can be priced more competitively. It also puts all of the extra weight on the wheel for best traction. Compared with mid-drive e-bikes, rear wheel (hub) motors are much more common, making up perhaps 90% of the e-bike market. The biggest downside for rear drive is it is very difficult to change a flat tire. The wheel is heavy and the axle is usually bulky and keyed. As well, the bike can become unbalanced if the hub is very heavy or the battery is mounted on the back too.
Front Wheel (hub) drive e-bikes
Front wheel (hub) e-bikes, like rear wheel, offer a more economical solution, especially if you are doing a conversion or a trike. The design is less complicated and easier to manufacture as well, so front-wheel-drive e-bikes can be priced more competitively. Front drive is a disadvantage for traction though, because there is little weight on the tire compared to rear drive. A big advantage for front drive is it is much easier to change a flat than a rear drive.
Mid-drive offers the highest efficiency and performance for e-bikes. They are more expensive than hub-drive e-bikes, but offer superior performance, especially in hilly terrain. Mid-drives incorporate the bicycle's transmission as the gears for the motor, allowing the electric motor to operate in the optimum RPM range. Because they are more efficient, the battery can last longer (which can also made the bike lighter, since a smaller battery can be used.) Mid-drive e-bikes also handle better than their rear wheel / hub drive cousins, because the weight of the motor is balanced in the middle of the bike. Mid-drive has some downsides: they can be noisier than hub drive models, and are more complicated to service. Despite these downsides, they are usually the best choice for riding in hilly terrain, or off-road. By far though, mid-drive motor setups make changing a flat very straightforward, as it is just like any bike.
What about the brakes?
Brakes can be rim-style or disk. Disk brakes come in mechanical and hydraulic. Rim or V-brakes work by squeezing the rim of the wheel and have been used for years. Disk brakes are newer, but have been perfected to the point where they are better than rim brakes. Disk brakes work by squeezing a small disk attached to the wheel. Mechanical disk brakes work using a wire that is pulled at the brake handle to apply pressure to the disk. Hydraulic brakes are similar, except they use a fluid, usually brake fluid or mineral oil, to transfer the pressure to the disk. Disk brakes stop better than rim type and work better when wet. Hydraulic brakes are more reliable and stop better with greater feel and road feedback. Disk brakes are preferred on an electric bike because of the increased weight of the bike, applying better stopping power. Nearly all of the newer electric bikes come with disk brakes because they have become almost as inexpensive to install as rim brakes. Mechanical disk brakes are less expensive and work well, but do require more maintenance and attention. Many bikes will cut off the motor when the brake is actuated.
How does the bike "know" how much power to apply?
Speed sensors limit maximum power assist for most bikes at 20mph (S-pelelec 28mph). Cadence sensors tell the motor controller how fast you are pedaling. Torque sensors tell the controller how hard you are pedaling. speed, cadence and torque sensors may all be used to help the motor controller modulate the power provided to the motor. A speed sensor helps the rider stay within the federal regulations and guidelines, limiting power-assisted bicycles usually to 20mph (State and Local laws may vary - AZ is 20mph). Cadence, and the more advanced torque, sensors help the controller make the motor feel natural and efficient. If the bike only has a throttle, it is unlikely to have cadence or torque sensors, as they would be superfluous.
How fast can I go?
Any bicycle, electric or otherwise, can go quite fast. None of the electric bikes have a governor or speed limiting device, other than to stop applying power (helping) after a preset limit (usually 20mph or 28mph). Obviously, pedaling or going downhill, you can go over 28mph. Electric assisted bicycles, foot-powered elect/gas scooters, and gas-powered bicycles all fall into a general bucket of law enforcement. Simply put, they are not automobiles, motorcycles, mopeds or ATVs. For the most part, they are unregistered, unlicensed and not titled or plated, need not be insured, and require no license to operate. The laws in Arizona are not exactly clear, leaving enforcement and interpretation up to local law enforcement. In general, Federal laws restrict speed to 20mph and less than 750W at the motor (under 49cc for gas). To be as safe as possible in regards to the law, keep your speed under 20mph, stay out of traffic, use bike lanes as appropriate, yield to pedestrians, obey all traffic laws, wear a helmet and be courteous. In Arizona, Law enforcement may interpret your riding how they see fit, considering public safety first.
How far can I go?
The bigger the battery, the farther you can go. A lighter rider on a lighter bike will go farther. Small profile, high-pressure, tires go faster, easier. Several factors affect range: temperature (warmer is better), wind, hills, tires and pressure, how much you pedal, battery age, motor design, battery type, etc. A 24v 10Ah battery supplies 240W-Hours of energy. A 48v 10Ah battery supplies twice the energy at 480W-hours. A 36v 20Ah battery holds twice the energy of a 36v 10Ah battery. Under moderate load, assisted with pedaling, most bikes will go 20 miles before needing a charge. Some models will go 40+ miles between charges. Under a hard load, the bike might only go 5-10 miles before running out. Of course, you can always pedal home. Lithium Ion batteries will last three or more months without being charged, sitting on the shelf. That said, Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for storing, charging and disposal. Major factors affecting distance on a charge: Wind, human effort, battery capacity (in watt-hours), voltage (higher voltages are more efficient), weight (both the bike and rider), hills (even with regenerative systems, you never get much back), tire pressure (keep those tires filled), maintenance (a rubbing brake can rob a lot of power), motor RPM (every motor has a sweet spot - usually slow, hard pedaling is a power waster), battery age, and charge (the first half of the battery charge is livelier than the last half).
What is the controller?
The controller is the brain. It interfaces the motor to the battery, through user input (throttle or pedal assist). The controller is the central electronic unit that controls when battery power is applied to the motor. It does this by interfacing to the most, if not all, the electric bicycle specific components including the battery, throttle, sensors, motor, brake override, and display. The controller regulates everything for smooth, dependable operation.
What about insurance?
Many times, your homeowner or renter insurance may allow you to add your bike to the policy. However, it may be a better idea to purchase a separate policy from an insurer that specifically covers e-bikes. EBR has a good article on insurance that may help. Either way, make sure you are protected with a good lock and be very careful where you store your bike.
What about regenerative braking?
As you pedal up a hill, you create potential energy that can be recaptured on the decent. Equally, if you are going 20mph, coming to a stop can generate power. This potential and kinetic energy can be captured through the motor or braking system to charge the battery. On a Prius electric car, which weighs two-tons, this can translate into a significant amount of energy. On a bicycle, it is really negligible. With most electric bikes, the notion of recapturing lost energy is small because most of the kinetic energy used to accelerate or climb a hill, is lost in wind resistance, tire flex, heat loss and other factors. Potential energy, by virtue of the ride down the hill, is quite small (you don't weight that much). In other words, there is nothing to gain through regeneration. Comparing two bikes, one with regenerative braking and the other without, both will travel about the same total distance on a given charge. In the end, it is hard to justify the added cost of regenerative braking on an e-bike.
How can I transport my e-bike?
E-bikes are heavier than non-electric bikes because of their motors and batteries. As a result, you might not be able to easily put it into your trunk like a regular bike. When putting your electric bike in your car isn’t an option, we recommend using a car rack. They’re easy to install, easy to secure your e-bike to, and leave space inside your car. But not all car racks are made for the weight of an electric bike. Some e-bikes weigh upwards of 60 pounds, and many car racks just can't handle that weight. Most trunk racks are not compatible as they typically have a per bike weight limit of 35 pounds. Even most hanging style racks are not an option because most are rated for 40 pounds per bike. Tray style hitch car racks are the best option (the only option, really). We recommend this style because you don’t have to lift your e-bike high up off the ground and maneuver it onto a hanging style rack. Each of the bike’s wheels are secured to a tray that holds the bike. Also, there are several rated for electric bikes. But, even with tray hitch racks, you'll have to check the capacity. Some racks have a 60 pound per bike capacity, but you have to be aware of the total weight capacity too. Even though a rack may have a 60 pound per bike weight capacity, the entire rack may only have a 100-pound total capacity (meaning it might only hold one e-bike). We carry Kuat bike racks that are rated for the weight of an e-bike? Read more: Kuat Racks.
What about an e-bike versus a gas bike?
Dollar-for-dollar, Gas bikes generally cost a lot less and are more powerful than an electric bike. They do require much more attention and maintenance. Without question, they are noisy, messy and smelly. Gas bicycles come with a small, often 2-stroke, motor (oil is premixed with the gas). Some may have a 4-stroke motor, often larger and heavier, but most bicycle frames cannot handle a lot of stress, so large motors are unusual. More power is just a motorcycle. Just like an e-bike, the gas motor is used to provide extra pedaling power to the bicycle. Electric bikes do cost more than gas bikes, but are clean and friendly to the environment, with far less maintenance. With either motor type, the rider may use the motor to assist in pedaling, reducing the effort used to move the bicycle. All electric bikes have the option of turning off the motor and even leaving the battery at home, making the bike a traditional pedal bike. Gas bikes are very cumbersome to operate without the engine running. For more on gas bikes, go to the Gas Bike FACs page.
What does Wikipedia have to say? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#Arizona)
"Motorized electric bicycles and tricycles meeting the definition under the applicable statute are not subject to title, licensing, insurance, or registration requirements, and may be used upon any roadway authorized for use by conventional bicycles, including use in bike lanes integrated with motor vehicle roadways. Unless specifically prohibited, electric bicycles may be operated on multi-use trails designated for hiking, biking, equestrian, or other non-motorized usage, and upon paths designated for the exclusive use of bicycles. No operator's license is required, but anyone operating a bicycle on Arizona roads must carry proof of identity. A "motorized electric bicycle or tricycle" is legally defined as a bicycle or tricycle that is equipped with a helper motor that may be self-propelled, which is operated at speeds of less than twenty-miles-per-hour. Electric bicycles operated at speeds of twenty miles an hour or more, but less than twenty-five miles per hour may be registered for legal use on the roadways as mopeds, and above twenty-five miles-per-hour as a registered moped with an 'M' endorsement on the operator's driving license. However, mopeds in Arizona are prohibited from using bike lanes on motor vehicle roadways. The Arizona statute governing motorized electric bicycles does not prohibit local jurisdictions from adopting an ordinance that further regulates or prohibits the operation of motorized electric bicycles or tricycles." (Note: to be registered, a vehicle must comply with all the legal requirements, such as, lights and mirrors.)
From The IMBA
The following is an excerpt from the IMBA website ( Rules of the Trail ) and represents a very logical approach to mountain biking:
"[The] IMBA developed these "Rules of the Trail" to promote responsible and courteous conduct on shared-use trails. Keep in mind that conventions for yielding and passing may vary in different locations, or with traffic conditions.
Ride Open Trails: Respect trail and road closures. Ask the appropriate land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness.
Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you and the environment around you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don't cut switchbacks. Don't ride around standing water which results in widening the trail. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in. Consider improving the trail experience for those that follow by picking up and removing any litter.
Control Your Bicycle: Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits. Social conflicts on trails often result when riders are going too fast.
Yield Appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you're coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Mountain bikers should yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to all users headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe, controlled and courteous one.
Never Scare Animals: Animals such as horses are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, dismount from your bike, walk around them on the downhill side of the trail, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.
Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear."
More from People For Bikes
Touring on an e-bike
The idea of taking long excursions on a bike can be daunting. However, commuting, short touring,or extended trips, all are within your reach with an e-bike. On low power, or level one assist, most trips of 35-45 miles are within the capabilities of the standard battery pack. Trekking or commuter e-bikes are made to be efficient at higher speeds, with low rolling resistance. That means you can go farther per charge than on a mountain e-bike or cruiser e-bike. Many trekkers take their charger on longer rides, stopping for a "charge" break along the way. Fortunately, trekking bikes are reasonably light weight, where the battery and motor adds only 15-20 extra pounds. You and your gear, plus water (1-pound per 16oz), usually weigh over 250 pounds. That means a 100-mile ride is achievable.
The 28mph Haibike XDURO Trekking S 5.0 (Bosch motor) and the 20mph Haibike SDURO Trekking 5.0 (Yamaha motor) are very smooth and efficient. I was able to ride mine for 55 miles on power Level One, over moderately level ground, and still had a few watt-hours to spare on either bike. It took a little over two hours to charge back up. Obviously, your distance and recharge time will vary, but with prudent use, longer distance is not unreasonable. The iZip Protour uses the 48v/500w Currie TranzX motor for S-Pedelec assisted speeds of up to 28mph, and features a cell phone interface for control and stats. I got a little less mileage on the iZip (45-miles). Interestingly, the Haibike Bosch 36v/350w system seems to have about the same power and range as the iZip. But, the iZip feels faster. I did try all the bikes at full power climbing hills and found they all could be completely depleted in about 15 miles, when ridden hard. Recharge time after that was a little less than 4-hours.
Trekking bikes are also a good choice for commuting. Ditch the car and go green. These bikes are very reliable and way cheaper than a car. They cruise pretty fast too. Specs aside, all three bikes are very highly rated, come in several sizes and with different options. The best part is you can come to our shop and test ride them before you buy.