Electric bikes are booming, they are increasing in popularity all over the world. They are becoming the go-to way of getting around for many people. This includes people who would not normally find cycling accessible and regular cyclists. But if you’ve made the decision to buy an electric bike yourself, you may be uncertain on which type you want to go for.
After all, there’s so many electric bikes out there. You may find trying to decide on any 1 electric bike overwhelming.
Therefore, here in this article, I will help make it easier for you to decide on which type of electric bike you want.
Due to the popularity of electric bikes, there’s now an electric version of every type of bike. Every one of these different electric bike types are designed for certain uses and situations.
Knowing what uses and situations you intend to use an electric bike for can help you decide which type of electric bike you want. This can help you to at least narrow down your choice of electric bike, from all the many options out there.
You want an electric bike that suits your needs. So, I will talk about the most common electric bike types, to help point you towards just that. Before going any further, though, is the below infographic. This is clarifying which electric bikes types are most suitable for the main general uses.
Mountain Electric Bikes
If you’re looking to do a significant amount of off-road cycling, a mountain bike will be the most suitable option. Off-road cycling includes riding on forest trails and down mountains. For this sort of cycling, you want your bike to have good solid suspension. This is to absorb all the bumps from the rugged terrain you will incur, for a comfortable ride. Good solid suspension is something mountain bikes typically provide.
Additionally, mountain bikes will have thick tires, with deep tread. These tires are better equipped to deal with off-road conditions. Mountain bike tires provide the below advantages, compared with tires on many other bikes. Like slick tires, which you’d expect on road bikes, for example:
- Better cushioning, for more riding comfort
- Less likely to puncture
- Provides better grip, for more stability on off-road surfaces
You should also expect mountain bikes to offer a high amount of gears. This is to help you get up varying inclines, whilst out on those off-road trails.
Essentially, this is the go-to bike choice for rugged conditions.
Road Electric Bikes
The purpose of road bikes is self-explanatory, designed especially for riding on roads. Essentially, they are suitable for any paved or tarmacked surface. This makes road bikes ideal for commuting.
These bikes will have the 2 below defining characteristics.
Lightweight – Due to a light frame and thin tires.
Aerodynamic design – Road bikes have drop handlebars. These, combined with the geometry of the bike frame, allow the rider to sit in a stretched forward, low down position. This provides increased aerodynamism.
Both of these above features allow for increased speed. So road bikes are the fastest and most efficient electric bike type.
Having said this though. Certain individual other types of electric bikes can be faster than certain individual electric road bikes. This is due to other bike features affecting speed, like the power of the motor. For example, a gravel electric bike with a 1000 watt motor could go faster than an electric road bike, with a 250 watt motor.
Due to road bikes allowing for fast and efficient riding, they are suitable for the below uses and types of cyclists:
- For commuters who want to get across town quickly
- Long distance road cycling
- General cycling around town
- For people who want to use cycling to get themselves fit/stay active
In a nutshell, these bikes are designed with speed and tarmacked/paved conditions in mind. They are not designed for comfort and off-road conditions. Not to say that road bikes aren’t ever comfortable, it’s just not a priority in their design. So if you live in the City and want to get about quickly, this type of bike is going to be a good bet for you.
Hybrid Electric Bikes
These bikes are a combination of mountain and road bike. They essentially give you features of both, to provide more versatility. There is some compromise with these bikes though, when compared with pure mountain or road bikes. With these bikes, you would expect the below features and characteristics.
- The flat handlebars of a mountain bike, instead of the drop handlebars of a road bike.
- Ability to accommodate wider tires, compared to a road bike.
- Frame geometry allowing an upright riding position, for comfort.
- Either have mounts for luggage, or at least able to have mounts attached.
- Mudguards (fenders), or at least clearance to attach mudguards.
- Heavier weight than a road bike, but lighter than a mountain bike
- More hard-wearing than road bikes, so suitable for light off-road.
- Tend to either have no suspension, or at least a suspension fork. You would not usually expect full suspension, which you can usually get on a mountain bike.
The whole thinking behind hybrid bikes is that they are a general purpose bike. They are built to handle light off-road, like gravelly trails. This makes them better equipped for more varying terrain than road bikes. They are not as well-equipped, though, for all out heavy duty off-road like mountain bikes.
The flat handlebars and upright riding position that hybrid bikes provide means they are not as fast as road bikes. These features do provide the 2 below benefits though.
- More comfortable riding position.
- More Safety. The upright position gives you much more visibility of the surrounding environment. This is reassuring when cycling in urban conditions, with all the potential hazards.
A hybrid bike is a good option, if you’re planning on riding in all sorts of conditions and surfaces. This is as long as it’s never anything too extreme. Below are some of the purposes these bikes are suitable for.
- For commuting and long cycle rides, if you’re more concerned with comfort over speed.
- Rides in the country, where the surface can change throughout the ride.
- For generally cycling around town.
- Light off-road trails.
Gravel Electric Bikes
These bikes are in a similar nature to hybrid bikes, in that they are versatile. They are essentially road bikes, but have a more robust build quality. This makes them suitable to be ridden on all sorts of other surfaces, like gravel or grass for example. Gravel bikes are not as fast as pure road bikes though. A significant reason for this is because they are not as light, due to the more robust build quality.
Like hybrid bikes, they also allow for wider tires compared to pure road bikes. Again, allowing these bikes to competently deal with more situations beyond the road.
Unlike hybrid bikes (but exactly like road bikes), gravel bikes have drop handlebars. Yet the geometry of the frame is designed for you to sit in a more upright position than a road bike, though. This allows for more comfort. Making use of the drop handlebars still allows you to get in a more aerodynamic position, compared to hybrid and mountain bikes. Therefore, this is more of a halfway house.
Making use of the drop handlebars for more efficiency helps reduce fatigue. You may appreciate this on long rides. The motorized pedal assist can reduce fatigue instead though. After all, that’s what it’s there for.
You may use a bit of trial and error to determine which combination of using the motorized pedal assist and making use of the drop handlebars is best for you. The factors below may influence your execution of this.
- Using the drop handlebars, to reduce fatigue and increase speed, can help minimize your reliance on the motorized pedal assist. This would preserve more battery, to give you more range (the distance you can ride per battery charge).
- You may prefer to use the motorized pedal assist to reduce fatigue and increase speed, whilst you’re holding the top of the handlebars. As opposed to the dropped part of the handlebars. This is so that you’re riding in an upright position, for more comfort.
Electric gravel bikes give you the flexibility to toggle between these 2 options.
In keeping with their versatility, gravel bikes usually host the below features.
Have a high amount of gears – This helps for cycling in various situations, like changing inclines. If you’re cycling up steep hills, your gear choice can complement the electric assistance. The gears can even reduce your reliance on the electric assistance, to help prolong your battery range.
Able to host different tire sizes and types – This is handy for accommodating different riding scenarios. You can swap a thinner tire for a wider tire on this bike, for example. This can be if you wish to switch to off-road cycling, after you’ve used the bike for road use. You can even swap out tires with different tread, for different situations. This can save the need for having more than 1 bike, which will save you money.
Gravel bikes often come equipped with racks to allow you to carry luggage. This increases their suitability for lengthy touring rides.
They’re versatility makes gravel bikes a superb general purpose bike, like hybrid bikes. Yet, as they’re not narrowly focused on any particular discipline, they’re not for everyone. This can be for the below reasons.
- If you want a bike only for off-road (particularly heavy duty off-road), then a mountain bike will be your best bet.
- If you intend to only ride on roads, if say you live in the city, a dedicated road bike may be your preferred option. This is especially if you intend to get about quickly. Having said this, though, the electric motor of a gravel electric bike can make up for any shortcomings in speed. This can be whilst still having the capability of cycling, where pure road bikes would struggle, for if the need ever arises.
- Gravel bikes tend to start at a higher price point than hybrid bikes. So, if you’re looking for versatility, you may opt for a hybrid bike for this reason.
Cruiser Electric Bikes
A cruiser electric bike is a great option, if your priority is comfort and you want a laid back approach to cycling. These bikes are designed with comfort and leisure in mind. They are not designed to be efficient, fast or for off-road use. You may opt for this type of electric bike, if you wish to go cycling for the below purposes and you want some extra assistance.
- Enjoying leisurely, casual cycle rides. This can be to take in the sights, or a day out to the beach, or park.
- General day to day errands, like going to the shops.
- General cycling around the town.
- To visit friends and places, like a museum or library.
Cruiser electric bikes are comfy because they are designed so that the rider is seated in a comfortable position. The below design features achieve this.
- Large saddles, ergonomically designed for comfort.
- Frame geometry, that causes the rider to sit in an upright position.
- Handlebars that are in a leaning back (easy to grip) position.
These types of electric bikes usually come with a cargo rack on the back. This makes them ideal for a trip, to pick up a few things from the shop. It is also common for cruiser electric bikes to have stylish designs.
Folding Electric Bikes
It’s good to know you can get electric bikes that can be folded. This makes life a lot easier when it comes to storage and transportation. Folding electric bikes, fold into a compact size to save space. This is ideal for the below situations.
- For storage – Folding your electric bike, can allow you to store it indoors, where you may otherwise not have the space indoors, for an unfolded bike. Like if you live in a small flat, for example. This is ideal for protection against theft and weather.
- Commuting – Folding electric bikes, can fold small enough for you to take them onto a train or tube. This is providing they’re not too crowded.
- Keeping at your desk – If you’ve used a folding electric bike for your commute, you may keep it by, or under your desk, rather than outside. Again, this will protect against weather and theft.
- General travel – You can even keep your folding electric bike (whilst folded) in the boot of your car. This is a better option than using a roof rack, due to the protection against weather. If you’re driving to a cycling trail, or on a cycling holiday, then this will be handy. Aside from weather, like heavy rain or hail even, this will also protect against any flying debris.
All the other types of electric bikes, such as mountain, cruiser and fat bikes, can also be folding bikes. So, you can buy the most appropriate type of electric bike that best suits your needs, that can also fold as well.
Electric Fat Bikes
These bikes are gaining in popularity. Where they may have once appeared to be a fad, it looks like they are here to stay. With whole fat bike communities forming. These include fat bike social media groups and groups that get together for fat bike rides.
The main feature of fat bikes (essentially their whole essence), is that they have very fat tires. These tires are the widest in the market. Generally speaking, they are twice as wide as mountain bike tires. Fat bikes allow you to ride in all sorts of conditions, where you would not normally be able to ride a bike. These include riding on snow and sand. Naturally, these fat tires are ideal for riding in off-road conditions.
You can pump these tires up to a lower pressure than other tires, due to their higher volume. This higher volume and lower pressure of the tire provides the below benefits.
- Makes for a comfortable riding experience, even when riding on-off road conditions.
- You won’t feel the rocks and bumps as much (if at all) whilst riding on off-road trails. You’ll just feel the gradient of the surface you’re riding on.
- Even if you’re riding a fat bike in urban environments, the fat tires are excellent for allowing you to get over steep curbs and certain steps.
- These tires can give you a floating feeling whilst riding, which can make for a fun riding experience
- Not directly to do with the low pressure and high volume of these tires, but fat bike tires have a huge amount of grip. This is ideal for off-road conditions, as well as giving you more stability. This makes these tires great for wet conditions and cornering.
You will not usually expect full suspension on fat bikes, this is because the fat tires reduce the need for it. This can save you a bit of cash. You may sometimes have a suspension fork, on fat bikes though.
Fat bikes are not the most efficient and fastest of bikes. Due to the weight of the tires, they can take a bit of effort to get accelerating. Although, if you have an electric fat bike, this is where the extra assistance from the motor will come in helpful. Besides this, the design of fat bikes is coming on. We are starting to find that fat bikes are becoming lighter, with some having a carbon frame. This helps mitigate the weight of the tires.
There are many Fat Bike fans out there, mainly for the 2 below reasons.
- Fat bikes are very versatile, like gravel and hybrid bikes. This is due to all the many conditions they allow you to ride in.
- They are so much fun to ride. Riding fat bikes, allow you to monster truck your way through all sorts of obstacles. This is as well as the general floating feeling they give.
Electric Cargo Bikes
If you’re intending to carry cargo, an electric cargo bike will be very beneficial. The motorized assistance comes into its own here. It will help you maintain speed, accelerate easier, get up hills and minimize fatigue, whilst carrying cargo on your bike. You can even use these bikes to carry passengers.
Cargo bikes generally come in the 2 below variations.
Front loader – This type of cargo bike is fairly self-explanatory. It has a large bucket at the front for carrying cargo. These bikes can be problematic to maneuver though. This is due to the position of the cargo bucket being at the front.
Rear loader – With these bikes, the rear of the bike is often stretched to allow you to have room for a lot of cargo. Here, you can have lengthy pannier bags. You may even sometimes find floorboards on each side of the bike for carrying cargo. If you’re carrying people on the back of the bike, they can rest their feet on these floorboards.
Cargo electric bikes can act as a replacement for your car. This can even be if they are only used to replace some of your car journeys. They can be used for shopping trips, school runs and commuting. Generally, anywhere you need to take anything with you. Using a cargo electric bike to replace certain car journeys has the below benefits:
- Better for the environment
- Reduces congestion
- Saves on fuel costs
- Solves parking issues and cost
- Keeps you fitter and healthier
If you can use a cargo bike to replace a car altogether, think of all the money it will save you.
Many businesses have started using cargo electric bikes for haulage. This saves them the expense of maintaining a van, not to mention the cost of purchasing a van in the first place. Often, cargo electric bikes help businesses to deliver their goods quicker than vans. This is especially in towns and cities. The below statistics back this up.
Average speed of driving a car/van in UK city centers – 5mph to 11mph
Average speed of cycling in UK city centers – 10mph to 15mph
This is because bikes are far less affected by congestion than motor vehicles, due to that you can cycle past gridlocked traffic. The increasing amount of dedicated cycle lanes helps further with this. Cycling can also open up short cuts and more direct routes not available to motor vehicles. This can include through parks, or alongside canals, for example.
If you’re thinking of buying an electric cargo bike, you may want to pay particular attention to the below considerations.
Motor – It’s worth considering opting for as powerful a motor as you can afford. This is though, as long as it’s within the legal limit of local laws. You may want all the assistance you can get, particularly when carrying heavy cargo and/or going up hills.
Battery – Carrying cargo draws more power from your battery, due to the extra weight. Therefore, your battery capacity is likely to be a bigger consideration than normal with a cargo electric bike. The higher the capacity of your battery, the more range you’ll get.
Hopefully, I’ve now been able to give you a clearer idea of what type of electric bike you want. Having said that, the information in this article, can only help you narrow down what you want so far. Once you at least have an idea of what type of electric bike you want, there are other considerations to account for. These will help you fine tune your choice of electric bike, even further.
Once you have established what type of electric bike you want, that is the first step out of the way, when buying an electric bike. This helps eliminate that initial overwhelm you may incur when you first start searching for an electric bike to buy. When you’ve finally bought an electric bike, it’ll open up a whole new world of cycling for you.