E-Bikes: What They Are, How They Work, and Why You Should Get One

What are electric bikes?

Electronic bikes, also known as “e-bikes”, are regular bicycles with the addition of an electronic drive system to assist your ride. The electronic drive system, consisting of a motor, battery, drivetrain, and throttle, can be used to amplify your pedaling efforts or to fully power the bicycle. Just like traditional bikes, they come in a variety of styles suitable to different uses.

Check out this video with Crazy Lenny himself explaining what e-bikes are.

E-Bike Classes

Electronic bicycles are categorized into three classes based on speed, wattage, and operation. Class 1 e-bikes are commonly known as “pedal assist” or “pedelec” e-bikes. These bikes are pedal assist-only, without throttle, and cap the assisted speed at 20 miles per hour (mph). Class 2 e-bikes are throttle-assisted, meaning the motor can be used to fully propel the bicycle without pedaling. They also cap the assisted speed at 20 mph. Class 3 e-bikes, known as “speed pedelec”, are similar to class 1 in that they are pedal assist-only and without throttle, but they have a higher speed cap of 28 mph. All three classes have a maximum wattage of 750 watts for the motor, which is equivalent to 1 horsepower.

Magnum Premium 48 High-Step e-bike in folded position
The Magnum Premium 48 High-Step folding electric bike features a 500 Watt motor

Electronic Bicycle Styles

Like traditional pedal-powered bicycles, e-bikes come in a variety of styles and designs tailored to be suitable to different uses.

  • Road e-bikes: Road bikes are designed for riding on paved roadways. Featuring smooth, skinny tires and lower handlebars, they tend to be lighter weight and unsuitable for carrying cargo or riding on unpaved, variable terrain.
  • Mountain e-bikes: Mountain bikes are designed for riding off-road on unpaved trails. They typically have shock-absorbing suspension in the front of the bicycle (hardtail) or both the front and back of the bicycle (full-suspension).
  • Hybrid e-bikes: Hybrid bikes combine the best of both road bikes and mountain bikes. With front suspension, upright handlebars, and medium-width tires, they are good for casual riding and short-distance commuting.
  • Cruiser e-bikes: Cruiser bikes, also known as beach cruiser bicycles, are designed for a comfortable, casual riding experience. They have a larger seat and more upright handlebars. They are ideal for casual riding and short-distance commuting on paved surfaces.
  • Fat tire e-bikes: Fat tire bicycles are similar to mountain bikes but with a wider, knobby tire. This allows the bike to better handle more difficult terrain and all-weather riding conditions. For more information about fat tire bikes, check out this blog post or this video featuring Crazy Lenny.
  • Folding e-bikes: Folding electric bicycles are collapsible, folding down to a smaller, more portable size. This makes them ideal for cyclists with less available storage space or commuters whose journey includes bus or train rides. They are typically lightweight, with smaller wheels and a compact frame.  
  • Commuter e-bikes: Commuter bikes, also known as city or urban bikes, are designed for the daily trip to work. They need to reliably get their rider to and from work with a focus on comfort, utility, and more recently, style.
  • Three-wheeler e-bikes: Three-wheeler bikes are also known as tricycles or trikes. Instead of the two wheels of a bicycle, a trike has three wheels, adding stability. While they are usually designed with one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, there are also models with two wheels in the front and the third wheel in the rear. The additional stability and width offered by the third wheel makes a great fit for your cargo bike needs.

How do e-bikes work?

Electric bicycles work by using a battery-powered motor to propel the e-bike. Some e-bikes also include a throttle, which is used to control the power provided by the motor and allows the bike to be propelled without pedaling.


There are three types of e-bike motors: front hub, rear hub, and mid-drive.

  • Front hub motors are located on the front tire. The motor spins the tire, pulling the bike forward.
  • Rear hub motors are located on the rear tire. The motor spins the tire, pushing the bike forward.
  • Mid-drive motors are centrally-located, typically frame-mounted, and propel the bike by powering the drivetrain. The drivetrain consists of the pedals, cranks, chains, and cogs that move the bike along.
IZIP E3 ZUMA Step-Thru e-bike
The IZIP E3 ZUMA Step-Thru e-bike features a mid-drive motor


The e-bike battery is a crucial piece of the bicycle. It impacts your charge time, the distance you can go on one charge, and the power of your e-bike. The majority of e-bikes use lithium-ion batteries. These are long-lasting batteries that are safe, reliable, and offer the most power for their weight. Batteries are either located on the down tube of the frame or mounted on a rack above the rear tire.

Haibike FullSeven 8.0 electric bicycle
The Haibike FullSeven 8.0 electric bike with the battery on the down tube of the frame
Pedego Interceptor Low-Step electric bicycle
The Pedego Interceptor Low-Step electric bicycle with the battery mounted on a rack above the rear tire

Why you should get an e-bike

Ease of Use

Electric bicycles are easy to use, opening up the world of cycling to novice cyclists, people who may not be physically capable of longer rides on a traditional bicycle, and those who simply may not enjoy the effort of riding a bike. They even the playing field, allowing everyone to cycle at the same pace. Electric bicycles are less influenced by weather or terrain. When using pedal assist, hills and wind do not require any extra effort. This is also beneficial for commuters who want to avoid the inconvenience of showing up to work sweaty and winded.

Easy of Transportation

With e-bikes being bicycles at their core, they share some of the benefits of standard bikes, such as ease of parking and avoiding traffic. This is especially useful in urban settings, where parking may be hard to find and rush hour traffic fills the roads. E-bikes can be parked alongside traditional bicycles and foldable electric bicycles are easy to collapse down and bring into the office. E-bikes can help you avoid traffic by using bike lanes, bike paths, and multi-use paths. One benefit electric bikes offer that traditional bikes can’t is speed. With a maximum assisted speed of 20 miles per hour, you can go faster, traveling farther in less time.

Health Benefits

With pedal assist, e-bikes cause less stress on joints compared to traditional bikes, especially the knees, hips, and ankles. The balance and stability required to keep any bike upright help to build core strength, and using pedal assist can help your cardiovascular health by keeping your heart rate at a safe level. While the exact health benefits will vary depending on the amount of pedal assist used, studies have found that the ease of riding e-bikes results in owners riding more overall, meaning more exercise and more health benefits.

Environmental & Economic Impact

Since e-bikes can help get you from place to place quickly and easily, they are a good alternative to a car. Running on electricity from rechargeable batteries, they are energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions. Since they don’t require refueling, they are less expensive to operate, and maintenance tends to be less than car maintenance as well.

Would you like to discuss which e-bike is right for you? Give us a call at 608.276.5921

Join the conversation