The way they work is pretty simple: The motor kicks in with extra assist when you pedal, and there are different levels of assistance. That's it. Just turn it on, pedal, and go! You can also turn the assist mode off and ride it like a regular bike. And e-bikes stop assisting at a certain speed (in the U.S., it's 20 mph or 28 mph depending on class) for safety, of course.
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This article first appeared in Electric Bike Report in June of 2013. Since then, we’ve made some changes to our motor selection - our Direct-Drive motors are now all High-Torque 6x9 wound, so they run slower (approximately 15mph at 36v or 20mph at 48v), and our Geared Motors have been replaced by a 500w version, (approximately 20mph at 36v or 28mph at 48v). The Direct-Drive is now our Heavy-Duty motor and the...
Weight: The biggest practical difference between an electric bike and a standard one is the weight. Those batteries and motors are heavy! Of course, the weight is more than offset by the power assistance, but if you have to manually lift or maneuver your bike a lot, this will be a consideration. And if you cycle long distances, don’t forget that if your battery runs flat, the extra weight will make riding even harder.
As electric bike options continue to expand, more brands are integrating the battery more seamlessly. That makes them look sleeker (and more like a real bike). Batteries are expensive, so make sure there's a good way lock the battery to your bike if you'll be keeping it outside. Overall weight is important. Some battery and motors can add 15 pounds or more to the bike. With assist, you won't feel that much when you're riding, but you will if you have to carry your bike up stairs or lift it onto a bike rack.