Electric bikes: how to choose the right one


March 25, 2022


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Electrical bikes

Do you want to effortlessly cycle to work without working up a sweat or enjoy pleasant adventures in the countryside? If so, an electric bike may be right for you. In this article, Éric Pérusse, resident bicycle specialist at SAIL, goes over the different types of electric bikes and suggests questions to ask yourself before buying one.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about electric-assist bikes and how to choose the right one for you.

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All our SAIL stores carry bicycles. However, we recommend checking with your local branch to ensure the bike model you’re looking for is available. You can also buy your bike online, an easy and convenient solution.

1. What’s an electric-assist bike? How does it work? Who’s it for?

Electric bikes are equipped with a motor located near the pedals or rear wheel. They’re often called electric-assist bikes because you still have to pedal to move forward. By contrast, fully electric bikes are similar to scooters. You can choose from several assist modes, including eco, sport and turbo. The mode you use depends on how fast you want to go and the terrain you’re cycling on. You can easily toggle between modes on the control screen attached to the bike’s handlebars.

The motor is powered by a battery, which makes electric-assist bikes more expensive than regular ones. Their range and battery life vary according to the brand and model. For example, Garneau is a Quebec-based brand that manufactures several electric-assist bikes to suit a variety of needs. In general, hybrid bikes have a 500 Wh battery with a range of about 30 (in maximum assist mode) to 100 kilometres (in minimum assist mode). They also average about 500 recharge cycles. Keep in mind that these are only averages and can vary according to factors like the road and weather conditions and the cyclist’s weight. The battery can be charged by plugging it into a 120-volt electrical outlet. It takes anywhere from two to eight hours to fully recharge.

Electric-assist bikes are suitable for people who want to develop their cycling abilities without expending much energy. They’re perfect for cycling to work, taking short trips to the grocery store or going further or faster on your favourite bike path without exhausting yourself.

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of electric bikes?

The biggest advantage of electric bike is the speed and power provided by the motor. No matter your physical ability, you can ride an electric bike for several hours over dozens of kilometres without breaking a sweat. Plus, you have complete control over the speed with the tip of your thumb.

However, you’re dependent on the bike’s battery life. You must ensure you have enough charge for your entire trip. Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling to pedal a very heavy bike. Because of its weight, be sure to have a suitable storage solution so you don’t have to lift the bike and carry it up a flight of stairs to your apartment. For example, storing your bike in a garage or ground floor shed is ideal.

3. Different types of electric bikes

Electric assist features are now available on a variety of bikes, including:

Electric-assist road bikes offer great performance on the road with minimal effort.
Electric-assist mountain bikes are perfect for cycling on steep trails and maximum pleasure on descents.
Electric-assist city bikes are great for cycling to work or running errands in the city without using your car.
Hybrid electric-assist bikes are versatile and suitable for riding in the city and countryside.
Electric-assist fat bikes are designed to make it easy to pedal in the snow.
Cargo bikes are very sturdy and come equipped with racks to effortlessly transport groceries or small children.
Utility off-road bikes are similar to fat bikes but have enhanced suspension to move silently and nimbly over forest trails. They’re ideal for fishing and hunting enthusiasts.

4. Frequently asked questions

How much do electric-assist bikes cost?

The price varies depending on the type of bike. For example, the power of the motor, battery life and quality of the frame, wheels and crankset can all impact the price. Moreover, bikes with optional features like enhanced suspension, disc brakes and a telescopic seat tend to be more expensive. You can expect to pay between $2,000 and $5.000 for an entry-level or mid-range bike, and over $5,000 for a high-end bike.

How do you lock up an electric-assist bike?

To prevent theft, you should never leave your electric-assist bike outside unattended. Always secure it with two high-end bike locks. Keep in mind that high-quality locks usually cost around $100.

One lock should be used to secure the frame and front wheel, while the other should go around the back wheel and a mount that’s securely attached to the ground.

How do you transport your electric-assist bike with your car?

Electric-assist bikes are heavier than regular bikes and require a sturdy bike rack. Ideally, look for one that can be installed at the back of a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Front-wheel drive vehicles risk leverage by the large rear load.

5. 3 expert tips for choosing an electric-assist bike

  • Electric bikes are similar in size to regular bikes. Therefore, if your city bike is small, your electric bike should be too. The vast majority of models are unisex.
  • It’s important to consider what type of frame is right for you. For example, a step-through (ST) frame makes it easy to get on your bike if you have limited mobility or often wear inflexible clothing.
  • When shopping, tell the sales staff how you’ll be using your electric-assist bike, the average distance you’ll be travelling and the type of routes you intend to take. This information will help them find a model that best suits your needs.



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