FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
GENERAL ASKED QUESTIONS
CHARGING, BATTERIES & RANGE
MOTORS, SPEED & PERFORMANCE
CLIMATE & WEATHER
Why would I use an e-bike over a regular bike?
There are many reasons:
Get to where you need to go faster and easier than on a regular bike. Depending on how you choose to ride, you can travel without significant effort at up to 20mph on some bikes even higher.
Climbing hills is a breeze... and we aren’t talking about the breeze from huffing and puffing
No sweat. Even though you can ride much faster, you won’t feel like you have to take a shower once you are there.
Safer. That might seem counter-intuitive, since you can go faster than on a regular bike, but you also get an easier start from stopped positions, allowing you to get through an intersection steadier and quicker. When climbing steep hills with cars nearby you can focus more of your energy on controlling the bike instead of propelling the bike.
Easier on those joints. Use the electric assist to ease the pressure on your knees and hips.
Staying together. You may have a riding partner that rides at a different pace than you. An e-bike can even out the pace for both of you.
Ditch the car. The convenience, the ease and the speed of an electric bike make it an alternative to an automobile more often than a regular bike. A study by Portland State University shows that e-bike owners ride more frequently and farther than when they relied on their traditional bike. This was the case for all age groups.
It’s FUN!!! Just try one and you’ll see. Or catch a friend coming back from their first test ride with a big smile on their face.
Do I need a license?
E-bikes are referred to by Alberta legislation as “power bicycles” and the laws around them are consistent with the federal definition of “power-assisted bicycle.” However, the province stipulates that operators must be 12 years of age or older and all operators are required to wear a helmet.
Where can I ride my e-bike?
First and foremost, make sure your bicycle with an electric motor is classified as an e-bike. The definition of an e-bike and rules on where to ride will vary from province to province. For provincial land the rules vary depending on the branch of government.
For Alberta, you can ride an e-bike on:
Any bike lane on the street.
Shared use paths that are reserved for bicycles and pedestrians
For provincial parks, you can ride on paved trails that allow bicycles, but check with the individual park’s management for their rules for unpaved trails. It varies from park to park.
Any trail where motor vehicles are permitted, such as unpaved forest service roads.
In Alberta, you must be at least 12 years old to ride an e-bike on public property.
What about theft?
As best as we can determine, e-bikes don’t get stolen with any more frequency than non-electric bikes. That’s most likely because people tend to lock them up better and because a bike thief needs to get a charger and a battery key to make the bike truly saleable.
The best ways to protect your bike from theft are:
Get a high-quality bike lock. Cable locks are way too easy to cut. High-quality u-bolts and folding locks are better.
If you are parking your bike in your garage, lock your garage. It’s probably the #1 location we’ve seen bikes get stolen from.
When in public, lock your bike in a visible location.
Do I need special insurance?
Check with your insurance company. Some insurance companies do not treat e-bikes as bicycles, so you may need to get a rider added to your homeowners/renters insurance for theft protection.
Aren't electric bikes heavy?
As one of our customers told us, "E-bikes might be heavy to lift, but they are heavenly to ride."
Electric bikes are typically heavier than regular bikes. But the weight of any bicycle (electrical or non-electrical) is felt the most when climbing hills. The electric assist on an e-bike makes up for the additional weight many times over. Where weight does matter is if you need to lift the bike. That's one of the many reasons why e-bikes are favored over electric scooters, which often weigh 150 pounds or more.
If you have to climb several flights of stairs to store your bike, we strongly suggest finding a more accessible storage location.
CHARGING, BATTERIES & RANGE
Do electric bikes recharge when applying brakes or going down hill – like a hybrid car’s regenerative braking?
It’s rare and the concept doesn’t work very well. A few models of electric bikes include a feature to recharge the battery, usually while you are braking. In those cases the range of the battery can be extended 5-10%, while adding several hundred dollars to the cost. However, due to the design of the motors that provide regeneration, you'll often find that the bike is harder to pedal if you are using the bike with the power off.
What is the range I can get from a single charge?
The biggest factor contributing to your range is whether you pedal or just use a throttle without pedaling, along with what level of assist you use. With relaxed pedaling expect 50-80 kilometers on a single charge for most e-bikes. In some cases you’ll go even farther. We have bikes that are getting 125+ kilometers on a single charge. Range will also be impacted by the battery capacity, the hills, wind and your size. Many electric bikes pedal easily as regular bikes. So you can extend the range even further by using little or no power on level surfaces and down hill.
How long does it take to charge an e-bike battery?
A lithium ion ebike battery that is fully depleted will take 3.5 to 6 hours to recharge. Batteries that still have a partial charge when you start charging will take less. In addition, the last hour or so of a charge is used to "top-off" the cells, and you don't have to wait for that process to be completed. So some batteries can be 90% charged in 2.5 hours or less.
How many charges can I get out of a battery?
Most e-bike batteries sold in Canada are lithium-ion, which will provide a minimum of 500 full charge cycles at which point the battery will hold about 80% of its original capacity. Some batteries can deliver up to 1200 charge cycles. If you recharge the battery when it is only 50% depleted, that counts as only 1/2 of one charge cycle. If you usually use your e-bike in pedal-assist mode, combining both pedal power and electric power, you can expect to go 10,000-25,000 kilometers before replacing your battery. That is a lot of kilometers on a bicycle.
How much electricity does it take to charge a battery?
Depending on the capacity of the battery, it will usually take 500-800 watt hours (0.4 - 0.8 kilowatt hours) to charge the battery. Assuming a rate of $0.10/kWh, it will cost you 5-8 cents for a charge that will last you 50 - 80+ kilometers.
MOTOR, SPEED & PERFORMANCE
What is the difference between Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 electric bikes?
This system of classifying electric bikes is being adopted by several provinces and all over the world as a means of regulating electric bikes. The classifications are as follows:
Class 1 - is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling (thus no throttle), and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 2 - is a bicycle equipped with a throttle that can propel the bike up to a maximum of 20mph with the rider pedaling, and may also have the ability to achieve up to 20mph with the rider assisting, without the use of a throttle.
Class 3 - also known as a "speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle," is 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 miles per hour.
For all classes, the maximum power output is 750 watts (1 h.p.).
Perhaps the most important aspect of this classification system is how some provinces are treating Class 3 e-bikes. While these bikes are permitted in bike lanes on streets, they can be restricted from shared use paths, such as those in parks and "rails-to-trails" paths that are designed to be shared by cyclists and pedestrians
Should I buy a bike with a mid-drive motor or hub-motor?
They both have their benefits. Hub motors tend to be a little easier to operate if you are a less experienced cyclist, because they require less shifting of gears. Mid-drives tend to get a little better range for equivalent battery capacity, because you'll get more efficiency by shifting. While theoretically you get better hill climbing with a mid-drive, you'll usually find both types will climb just about any hill. Finally, it's usually easier to change a rear tire with a mid-drive. But the real test of determining which type of motor is best for you is to ride both and compare.
What's the difference between a cadence-sensor and a torque-sensor?
With a torque sensor, the power that is delivered is increased in proportion to the amount of pedal force the rider is applying. So as you pedal harder, the motor automatically delivers more assist. As you reduce pressure, you get a little less assist. It’s essentially amplifying whatever power you are applying to the pedals. You have multiple levels of pedal-assist, with each level representing a higher or lower amplification of your own power. A torque-sensor can feel more like riding a conventional bicycle than a cadence-sensor. It also tends to deliver power smoother.
A cadence-sensor, perhaps more appropriately called a crank-sensor, delivers a uniform amount of assist at each assist level, regardless of the amount of pressure you are applyng. It is activated just by getting the crank turning. Because a cadence-sensor is not reading your pedal pressure, the power delivery is not quite as smooth or “bike-like”. But it’s fairly easy to adapt your use of the controls to smooth out the power delivery. Some people prefer a cadence-sensor because it tends to provide a great sensation of power without applying much pedal pressure.
The best way to know which type of pedal-assist is right for you is to try them both.
How fast can an electric bike go?
If you are pedaling, you can go as fast as you are able to pedal it. However, most bikes stop providing electric assist while pedaling at 20 mph (Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes). Some will provide assist going at speeds up to about 28 mph (=45 kilometers per hour – Class 3 ebikes.)
How important is motor wattage? (also - I'm really big, so don't I need a 1000-2000 watt motor? - or - I want to go fast, so don't I need a lot of wattage?)
The benefits of a high wattage motor are very overstated. With a properly designed e-bike and e-bike motor, you'll find that you get far more power than you need with 500 watts or less. There are many 250 watt motors that deliver as much torque as motors that are 500 watts or higher. The design of the motor and the gearing of the bike are far more important than the wattage of the motor.
Higher wattage correlates with higher power consumption, so using a higher wattage motor means you'll need a bigger battery to go the same distance. The most expensive part of your e-bike is the battery, thus a larger motor, requires a larger battery which leads to higher cost.
As for hauling a lot of weight, we have several 300lbs+ customers that do fine at 250-350 watt motors.
Can I ride an e-bike as a regular bike - without the electric power?
Yes. And it is easy to switch back and forth. For example, you might want to use the power only when you are going up hills.
Do I have to pedal?
It depends on the bike. Some electric bikes sold in Canada allow you to operate by simply turning the throttle without pedaling. Europeans have stricter rules, requiring that you pedal - which we support. If you think you'll get by without pedaling, think again. Even for e-bikes that have a throttle, you'll need to pedal when going up long, steep hills, although you won't have to pedal hard. Pedaling is more fun, extends the range of your battery, extends the life of your motor, and extends your own life too.
Is servicing an e-bike any different than a regular bike?
Look at an e-bike as being comprised of two groups of parts – mechanical and electric.
Mechanical parts are the same parts that you’ll see on non-electric bikes. Servicing mechanical parts can be performed at any bike shop.
You might find that your bike parts might wear a little faster than on a non-electric bike – especially brake pads, chains, cogs and tires. But that’s because most people put many more miles on their e-bike.
There is some basic maintenance that you can do on your own, like keeping your tires properly inflated and lubricating your chain.
The electrical parts don’t require any maintenance. If you do run into a problem with an electrical part, you’ll want to go to a shop that has some expertise in servicing e-bikes.
While not really a maintenance task, you do want to make sure that the battery keeps some charge in it. If you don’t, it might discharge to a point so low that you can’t charge it anymore, thus killing your battery – an expensive mistake to make.
AlbertaEbikes has a complete service department for both mechanical work and electrical work, with expertise servicing electrical parts for from many different e-bike brands.
CLIMATE & WEATHER
How much will I reduce my carbon footprint if I use an ebike instead of a car?
Our favorite question! It takes the carbon footprint of over 60 e-bikes to equal the carbon footprint of one single occupancy, gasoline-powered car. In provinces that depend more on coal, it might be around 20-30 e-bikes compared to one car. No matter how you calculate it, even though an ebike uses electricity that might come from fossil fuels, the amount of CO2 emitted compared to a car is miniscule.
What about leaving my electric bicycle out in the rain?
The motor and battery are sufficiently sealed to be protected from the rain. However, we do suggest that if you are carrying your bike on the back of a car and rain is in the forecast, that you place the battery inside the car. Driving 90 km/h in a downpour with the battery exposed is like pressure-washing your battery. That's a lot different than riding your bike in the rain.