by Rob Potts January 15, 2022

E-bikes, also known as electric bikes or pedal assist bikes, are fairly new to most people. They are also one of the fastest growing categories of bicycles, and are rapidly changing lives.
Deciding which electric bike is right for you can be an overwhelming task, so we’ve put together a guide to assist you.

What Is An Electric Bike?

An E-bike is a bicycle equipped with a battery, motor and controller. These bikes have all the typical parts of a regular bicycle, plus these items. When you turn on the pedal assist feature, and start pedaling, it will give you additional pedaling power. A bike in “pedal assist” mode will only give you the additional power when you are pedaling. Most have low to high settings, depending on how much pedal assist you desire. You can change this as you are riding, when you desire more or less assistance. This assistance ranges from a low setting of about 20% of pedaling power, to settings where the bike is doing most of the work, and everything in between. Some units also have a throttle, allowing them to move on their own without pedaling. There are even some bikes that are throttle only.


How Fast Do Electric Bikes Go?

The first thing to remember is that even though E-bikes have a motor, we are still talking about bicycles. They are not scooters. One of the most frequently asked questions concerning E-bikes is their speed. Most electric bikes will help propel you to either 20mph or 28mph. We will get into the different classifications of E-bikes later.

Can it go faster than the motor supports?
Yes, sure. It can go as fast as you can pedal, but the motor stops supporting you when you reach the max speed limitation. With an E-bike, you have the power to reach a speed that is suitable for your way of riding, whether that’s faster than the motor supports or at a speed that’s lower than the maximum motor support speed.


Can I Get Exercise on an E-bike?

Yes! It's all up to you and how much exercise you want to get on your ride, and there are several options to challenge yourself physically.  First of all, most of our models have different power settings, so you can customize your motor assistance and get exercise just as you would on a regular bicycle. With the pedal-assist feature, the motor engages only when you pedal, which allows you to elevate your heart rate, while also enabling you to ride and exercise longer, explore more places, go faster, and easily tackle steep NWA hills.

Empower yourself to get as much exercise as you want with your E-bike.
And… If you prefer, you can also empower yourself to simply have a good time and enjoy the ride without any sweat. In our experience, our customers who get an e-bike tend to ride more often and go on longer rides than before - all while having more fun. In short, they’re getting in much better shape than without an E-bike.


Can I Ride the E-bike when the battery runs out?

Yes, you can still pedal and get home safely after your battery runs out, just like riding a regular bicycle. 


What are the different types of Electric bikes and where can I ride them?

E-bike Classifications

 E-BIKE CLASS SPEED THROTTLE
Class 1 20 mph no
Class 2 20 mph yes
Class 3 28 mph no


Class 1:
A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.

Class 2: A bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.

Class 3: A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph, and is equipped with a speedometer.

Where can I ride my E-bike?
For Northwest Arkansas, pedal assist bikes are allowed on the paved trails and mountain bike trails. Bikes are not allowed to be operated in “throttle only” mode in these areas, and must be used in the pedal assist mode. For roads, you can ride them wherever you ride a regular bike.

Check out this guide from People For Bikes, on laws and regulations for all the states.


E-Bike Components

All electric bikes have:

MOTOR: This is what provides the boost when you’re riding. There are motors with more or less power, some are located on the rear hub (wheel) some are located between the pedals. Generally speaking, those bikes with motors at the rear hub are less expensive. Also, more of the weight is at the back of the bike instead of centered near the middle. This is primarily only a factor when mountain biking.


BATTERY: 
This powers the motor. They are typically located on the front down tube of the bike (either externally or integrated) or on a basket on the rear of the bike. Each type provides pros and cons. Models with a battery on the back are typically less expensive, however, this adds the weight up higher, raising the center of gravity. Models with an integrated battery on the down tube have the weight distributed lower on the bike.
e-bike battery

CONTROLLER:
These are on the handlebars. Some controllers are simple with led lights, others have full LED screens, and others pair with your phone. The controller allows you to adjust the amount of assistance, see how much battery life is left and some tell you how fast you’re going, and total miles on the bike.

 


How to Operate An Electric Bike

For the most part, it’s just like riding a bike!

  1. You turn the bike on, via the handlebar control panel.
  2. Hop on and start pedaling. We recommend not putting the bike in high at first. This can give you more power than desired at first. As soon as you start pedaling, the bike will pedal with you.
  3. Adjust the pedal assistance when you need more or less assistance. Some bikes even have an automatic mode, that senses when you hit hills and need more assistance. As you’re riding, please alert the non electric bike riders when passing them on the left, particularly on hills. (Okay, tell them at all times, but it’s a lot more fun up the hills).
  4. Turn it off when you’re done. You don’t want the bike to run out of power while you’re not riding it
  5. Recharge it when you get home. You can either charge with the battery on or off the bike. This can take anywhere from 1 – 4 hours on most bikes, depending on how low the battery is.


How Far Will My E-bike Go?

This varies a lot. You’ll see bikes that say their batteries are 350wh, 500wh, 600 and so forth. What does this mean? Essentially, the bigger the battery, the farther it will go on a single charge. Also, some motors pull more power than others. We have bikes that will get you anywhere from about 30 – 90 miles on a single charge. How far also depends on where you are riding and how much pedal assistance you need. I.e. one bike set on high, and riding lots of hills may only get you 30 miles on a charge, but will get you say 90 using it on low on flatter roads.


Do I need an E-bike and Why?

We think you do! Many of those who scoffed at E-bikes not long ago, are some of their most avid riders today. Electric bikes are enjoyed by beginning to advanced riders, and everyone in between. When they first came out, many people thought riding an e-bike was “cheating”. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Here’s who we see riding them:

  • New riders. That obviously applies to many “new” riders who haven’t been on a bike in years or decades. With a pedal assist bike, you can start riding and having fun on day one, instead of slowly getting into shape the painful way. When you can crank up the pedal assist on a hill, you’re going to ride a lot more miles!
  • Riders wanting an equalizer to ride with faster riders. Every day, we see situations where someone wants to ride with their spouse or friends who are more avid riders, faster, younger or all the above. The pedal assist equalizes this, so that now a slower, newer rider can go ride with others, stay up with them and still get a great workout! That means more fun and more time with important people in your life.
  • Riders who want to ride more hours. We see this at all skill levels. In fact, pedal assist mountain bikes are exploding here in our area. Okay, maybe exploding was a bad word to use when it comes to a bike with a battery, but you get the point. Many have discovered they can ride their same trails, just ride a lot more miles as the pedal assist gets them up the hills faster and with less effort. This means more miles and better physical conditioning.
  • Anyone for a variety of uses. If you are commuting to work, stick the pedal assist on high, get there fast and without working up a big sweat. An avid rider may ride the bike in low one day for a great workout, then may just want a casual ride around the neighborhood, or use it for a trip to the grocery store where you don’t want to work up a big sweat. Still way better and cheaper than taking the car.


Do You have E-Bikes to Test Ride?

Yes, both our Rogers and Springdale stores have e-bikes for you to try. We do not have every make or model, but we will have enough different models for you to get an idea of what you like. Take one on a test ride and work with our Outfitters at the stores, to figure out what is the best bike for you. As always, every bike we sell comes with a 30 day test ride, so if you decide you got the wrong bike, bring it back and swap it out for a different model.

Springdale Shop


How Can I learn More?

You can send us a message at: info@lewisandclarkoutfitters.com, visit one of our stores, or set up a physical test ride or phone consult here.


There are a lot of different types of E-bikes... What’s the Difference?

We essentially categorize electric bikes in the same categories as other bikes: Mountain Bikes, Paved Trail / Hybrid bikes, or Multi-Surface / Adventure type bikes. There are also trikes (3 wheels). All these bikes differ by the surfaces you can ride them on, maximum speed, and technology. You’ll also see bikes with skinny to fat tires, and different frame styles.

  • Surface: Off Road, Paved Trails, Gravel/Dirt. Mountain bikes will do all surfaces, which is a pretty cool feature. Paved trail bikes typically have skinnier tires and rigid forks (no shocks) on the front. These will only go on pavement. Some Multi-Surface bikes have features, such as front-suspension, that make them look more like mountain bikes, but still aren’t built to handle rough, mountain bike trails. These bikes will handle paved surfaces and gravel/dirt roads and the easier mountain bike trails.
  • Motor Power: You’ll see motors classified as having say 40, 60, 80 nm of power, The more the power, the faster they will reach the desired speeds. This does not necessarily have anything to do with top speed. Mountain bikes typically accelerate faster than other bikes, but generally only have a 20mph top speed.
  • Speed: Some pedal assist bikes will get you 20 MPH, some 28 MPH.
  • Motor Placement:
    • Center drive. These put the motors between the pedals. Pretty much any mountain bike should be a center drive, as is more evenly positions the weight. This is much less important for other types of bikes. It does allow for tire/tube changes to be a bit easier.
    • Hub drive: Hub drive motors are inside the rear wheel. These are typically more affordable then center drive bikes.
  • Battery Placement:
    • Integrated: These batteries are attached to, or built into the downtube.
    • Rear rack: Rack mounted batteries are attached to the rear rack of the bike. This typically makes the bike less expensive, however, it does put more weight on the back of the bike.
  • Battery Ratings and Range: The manufacturers rate their batteries by wattage. The higher the wattage, the more power, which gives you more riding time.
  • Controller: The controls of the e-bike are typically on the handlebars. Some are simple buttons illuminated with LED lights, and others have full LED screens. The controller lets you determine how much riding assistance, how much battery life is left. Some let you see your current speed and how many miles the bike has on it.
  • Types of batteries:
    • Lithium Ion: All of our bikes have Lithium batteries. We don’t recommend anything else.
  • Tire width: You’ll see some bikes that have skinny tires, some really wide 4” tires and many in between. One of the cool things about an e-bike with fatter tires is that since it’s an e-bike, it’s still great on pavement. However, please keep in mind that the fatter the tires, the heavier bike and you do still have to lift the bike. Also, not every rack will hold a bike with 4” wide tires. Don’t get us wrong – the bikes with really wide tires are a blast to ride, off road and on road. You just want to make sure you can transport them.
  • Frame style – step through versus regular. Many bikes have a low step through bar. Are those women’s bikes? The short answer is no. Many people prefer the ease of getting onto / off of a bike with a lower top tube. We see as many men get these as women for that reason. Also, if you get a bike with an easier step through, it makes it a great all around bike for multiple people in the household. One consideration of the non step through models. If you’re getting one that’s a non step through model AND a battery/rack on the back, these are a little tougher to get on, as you can’t swing your leg around as easily.

 


Maintenance and Care

Maintenance of an e-bike is mostly the same as a standard bike. You can still ride in all weather conditions (even when wet outside). The same as a regular bike, you should never power wash it. The chain still needs cleaned and lubed and other components need checking regularly.
Battery: This is important. Lithium batteries do not like being at 100% all the time, and they really do not like being at 0%. 0% can ruin the battery. If you’re storing the bike over the winter, make sure you keep the bike charged up, as we don’t want you to be sad come spring when your battery doesn’t work. On the other hand, don’t feel you have to have it fully charged all the time. Batteries like being around 80%. Many people charge when their bike drops below 50%.


Do I need a license?

No, it is just like owning a regular bicycle.


How do I Transport an E-Bike on my vehicle?

Electric-bikes are heavier than non-electric bikes. Typically, about 15 – 30 lbs heavier than a standard bike. For that reason, they mostly can be transported in pickups or on tray style hitch racks. Trunk mounted racks are not typically capable of carrying an e-bike. Even the hitch racks where the bike hangs from arms, cannot support an E-bike. Many take the battery off when lifting the bike, as this can save 7-10 lbs. If you’re opting for one of the bikes with really fat tires (3” or more) not every bike rack will transport these models. Not sure what rack to get – ask us.
Click here to view our rack selection. Look for one that will support bicycles of at least 60 lbs.


Are all brands of E-bikes alike?

Not at all. We only carry brands that meet our quality standards. We’ve seen a lot of e-bikes in the shop that were purchased online and so many times, they were at or near the cost of bikes we carry, with inferior parts, frames, etc.
We have e-bikes starting at $1,200 and going up to nearly $8,000, and we will work with you to make sure the bike you are buying meets your needs. Different riders, types of terrain and types of riding require different bikes. Some just want to ride around the neighborhood, while others want to mountain bike the most technical trails in the area.


Why buy a bike from Lewis & Clark instead of Online?

  • Build: When your bike comes in, it will be professionally assembled by a professional bike assembler, then inspected by a mechanic. That ensures it will be safe and operating as it should;
  • Maintenance: Every bike we sell comes with free lifetime tune ups! So as long as you’re the original owner, we’ll tune it up for you. This includes both the physical components and the electric ones. This will ensure you get the most out of your bike.
  • 30 Day Test Ride: If you decide you got the wrong bike, we’ll give you what you paid for it toward another bike.
  • Support: If you buy a bike online, it’s often you versus the company who sold it to you. We stand behind all our bikes and will take care of you. We’ll work with the bike companies on warranties, and will service your bike when problems arise
  • The support of a local, family-owned store. We have been in NWA for nearly 22 years. Come see us and test ride a bike. Our people will work with you to find the right model, and we’ll also work with the bike companies on any warranty issues. Our full-service Bike Mechanics at both shops will also keep your bike well maintained.

 

SHOP E-BIKES