Here is a guide to electric bike types.
If you’re looking to change from your old normal bike to an e-bike, you’ll need to start by narrowing down to the electric bike type you want.
With the plethora of options available, you’ll obviously find one type that best suits your needs.
Fortunately, e-bikes are now incorporating new technologies such as powerful crank motors, high-capacity Li-ion batteries, and intelligent sensors which alter the assist level depending on your pedaling.
As a result, electric bikes are now traveling faster and further than ever before.
Here are the most common electric bike types you will come across on the market.
#1 MTB Electric Bike
An MTB electric bike is simply a mountain bike that has an integrated motor which assists the rider.
This motor will only kick in when you’re pedaling and the level of assist could be adjusted in various modes.
In the bike’s highest mode, some motors can even quadruple a rider’s power.
In the earlier years, electric MTBs were fitted with a hub motor on the rear wheel, but this option has gradually disappeared since the motor overheats quickly.
Some low-end eMTB models still use hub motors though high-quality models incorporate mid motor designs.
With electric mountain bikes, you have the option to choose between full suspension or hardtails.
Hardtails usually lack suspension on the rear and there’s no sufficient reason to ride one not unless you ply in the city or on well-maintained roads.
Besides being relatively cheap, electric mountain bike hardtails give no advantage over full suspension, especially when you’re riding off-road.
But when it comes to traction, safety, versatility, and comfort, full-suspension eMTBs are pretty much unbeatable.
Where can you use your eMTB?
- Completely relaxed tours. If you want to enjoy the countryside, your eMTB will easily get you through relaxed rides on gravel or well-maintained roads.
- Off-road flows. If you want to challenge yourself on technical trails or improve your riding technique, then an electric mountain bike is your best bet.
- Extreme sport. Want to explore your limits in the steepest and toughest terrain? An eMTB is up to the task for the most technical climbs and descents.
Advantages of Electric Mountain Bikes
- Uphill Climbs Are a Breeze. Nothing is as exciting as getting to the peak of the hill without feeling sweaty, and an eMTB guarantees exactly that. Better yet, you can easily master small root passages or blockages uphill, where you’d probably get stuck with a normal MTB. Starting up on steep slopes will be effortless with an electric MTB.
- Feel Safer Downhill. You’ll obviously feel safer as you descend rough terrain since the bike’s center of gravity is lower because of the electric motor.
- Overcome Power Differences. You will often see homogenous groups on normal MTBs; similar fitness levels or age. With an eMTB, however, all performance differences are eliminated and no one will be excluded – probably due to unfitness. And this is all thanks to the electric support.
Disadvantages of Electric Mountain Bikes
- eMTBs are Expensive. Let’s face it; you’ll have to dig deep into your pockets to acquire an electric mountain bike, especially if you have a great demand for quality. In addition, eMTB rechargeable batteries are expensive, and this only adds to the maintenance costs.
- They Are Heavy. When you’re on your eMTB, its weight won’t play a huge role. However, this gets tough when you must dismount and probably carry your bike. Electric mountain bikes are quite heavy and could be tough to carry uphill.
- Components Wear Out Faster. Most eMTB individual components wear out faster since they are not specially designed for electric mountain bikes. The bike’s weight usually has a negative impact on the brake discs and pads, whereas extra forces on the motor reduce the lifespan of the cassette, chain, and chainring.
#2 Folding Electric Bike
Folding bikes are usually lighter and smaller than standard bikes, with smaller wheels and shorter wheelbases.
Despite being designed to be light, the motor inevitably adds some extra weight to the entire machine.
With folding bikes, it is crucial to ensure that its folding mechanism isn’t hindered by the engine.
While this might not be a problem with a folding bike designed to have an engine, you might experience difficulty should you retrofit your bike with an engine.
Folding e-bikes come in different types; those with a single gear and those with multiple gears.
And as you probably know, there are various gear transmissions; ranging from 3-speed to 18-speed (for folding e-bikes).
Alternatively, you could choose to have customized gearing system that fits your riding expertise and general use.
And when it comes to pedal assist, there are 3 to 6 levels for folding e-bikes, depending on the price, brand, and model.
Advantages of Folding Electric Bikes
- Assisted Cycling. Most folding e-bikes have assisted pedaling modes that allow you to cruise through steep terrain and rough routes with minimal effort.
- Rechargeable. Folding bikes usually have the option of recharging the battery should it run low or drain completely.
- Better Acceleration. Folding bikes generally have better acceleration all thanks to the smaller wheels.
- Compactable. Folding e-bikes can be easily folded, making them compact enough for storage in tight spaces or carrying around in the trunk.
Disadvantages of Folding Electric Bikes
- Not Sturdy. Many people feel that folding e-bikes are not as stiff and sturdy as regular bikes
- Poor Ride Quality. Although you’ll probably get better acceleration, the smaller wheels on folding bikes mean that your ride quality is affected by potholes and bumps.
Folding electric bikes have an upright seating position, making them great for riding in traffic.
They are also an excellent choice if you have combinational transit options – like riding to the station, boarding a train, and biking to work.
They are also ideal for short commutes, since you can fold them and carry them wherever you want to.
#3 Fat Tire Electric Bikes
What sets fat tire electric bikes apart from other e-bikes is that they feature tires which are at least 4 inches wide and rims that are at least 2 inches.
As a result, they have more contact with the surface, giving better traction and smooth rides.
Fat tire electric bikes are made around wide-forked frames which can comfortably accommodate the wide rims.
The most popular fat tire e-bike is the hardtail with a rigid fork.
Since most of these e-bikes use tires that are at least 4-inches wide, in addition to running them on low pressure, even your rigid bike could feel as if there’s a suspension as tires adapt to irregularities on the riding surface.
But if you often ride on a rocky, rooty or uneven surface or want to run the tires at a higher pressure, a full suspension bike would be a great option.
Wheel swapping is also a possibility since some fat e-bikes are designed to use the fat-tire rims as well as the conventional 27.5 or 29-inch MTB rims.
If you want to occasionally switch between these options, consider buying a bike frame with several configuration options.
Most fat tire e-bikes are designed with 26-inch wheels, though the 27.5-inch wheels are available as well.
Larger wheels are usually faster rolling and make obstacles easier to push through or over.
A fatter tire means you’ll have a cushier ride. Five-inch tires, for instance, give more float on soft ground as opposed to 4-inch models.
Unfortunately, fatter tires are slower, heavier, and bouncier on firm surfaces.
Tire pressure is also a crucial aspect to consider if you need to fine-tune your bike’s performance.
With 5-inch tires and in the softest conditions, for instance, you might ride on pressures as low as 2 psi.
In rougher or firmer terrain, or for high speeds, you’ll want more pressure to increase tire support and sharpen the handling.
Advantages of Fat Tire Electric Bikes
- Minimal Maintenance is Required. Fat tire bikes are made to withstand shock and are constructed with sturdy and high-quality material frames which won’t get damaged by little hits or bumps.
- Comfortable Riding. Fat tire bikes have a suspension system that’s part of the tires, making them spongier at low pressure. And since the tires are made of elastic rubber, there’s better shock absorption, and ultimately a comfortable ride.
- All-weather Bikes. Fat tire bikes can be ridden in any weather condition, whether snowy or muddy.
Disadvantages of Fat Tire Electric Bikes
- Quite Heavy. Fat tire e-bikes are heavier than most regular bikes and this means that they are hard to go fast. The greater weight also makes them less portable.
- Take Time Getting Used To. For beginners, fat tire bikes could feel different to ride and require more pedaling effort hence taking longer to get accustomed to.
Fat tire e-bikes are designed for use on off-road terrains and can stand against the toughest riding conditions, whether sandy, snow-filled or muddy without sinking into the ground.
#4 Hybrid Electric Bikes
Electric hybrids are an excellent choice for anyone looking for all-round versatility.
They are typically a blend of standard road bikes (built for speed) and MTBs (built for toughness).
This makes them tougher than normal road bikes but not quite as heavy as MTBs.
They are suitable for riding on roads and can also easily cope with some light off-road use like bridleways and canal paths.
Some hybrids have a front fork fitted with some little suspension to absorb shock as you ride over rough ground while others have a rigid fork.
The riding position on this bike could vary from completely upright to a sportier position depending on your preferences and comfort level.
Advantages of Hybrid Electric Bikes
- Come Equipped with Extra Components. Most hybrid e-bikes come equipped with extra components like pannier racks, built-in lights, and mudguards, components you might not find in regular bikes.
- Wide Gearing. Hybrid e-bikes have a relatively wide gearing and this leaves you with numerous speed options.
- Many Mounting Points. Hybrid electric bikes generally have more mounting points that are built into the structure (frame).
Disadvantages of Hybrid Electric Bikes
- Not As Robust As a MTB. Rough trails and steep terrains could easily destroy your hybrid, punishments that your MTB will take with ease.
#5 Road Electric Bike
Road electric bikes are another option and are distinguishable through a few aspects:
- Athletic Position. Road e-bikes are designed to minimize the rider’s frontal profile from wind, therefore placing the rider in a lower, more athletic position compared to other bike types.
- Skinny Tires. Tires on most road bikes usually have a width of 23mm, 25mm or 28mm. However, there are currently road bikes with tires wider than 30mm.
- Drop Bars. Although there are road bikes with flat handlebars, most of them feature curled-shape drop handlebars that offer several hand positions in addition to letting the rider change their frontal profile according to the terrain.
- No Suspension. Contrary to mountain and flat tire bikes, road e-bikes lack suspension. This is because most of the surfaces covered on this bike are smooth and flat, not requiring the additional comfort that comes with suspension. If a road bike user needs additional comfort, then this will be provided by wider tires.
Advantages of Road Electric Bikes
- Lightweight. Road bikes are typically lightweight and this creates the potential for higher speeds.
- The Drop Bars. Drop bars in electric bikes help create a powerful transfer of pedaling energy to increase overall efficiency.
- Reduced Friction. The thin tires on the bike reduce friction.
Disadvantages of Road Electric Bikes
- Lack Comfort. Road bikes are primarily designed for speed, and this compromises comfort. Besides, the lack of wider tires and suspension forks implies that you’ll feel the slightest road imperfection while riding.
- No Mounting Points. Most road bikes lack mounting points, so you might not put normal fenders or mount a normal rack on the bike.
#6 Cruiser Electric Bikes
Unlike most e-bikes that require some serious cycling, cruiser bikes are designed for everyday casual riding.
They are particularly fun to ride due to their big soft seats, the wide handlebars, and the upright riding position which will make your beach cruising experience memorable.
The most conspicuous differences between cruiser e-bikes and other electric bikes on this list are the wavy-looking frame and swept-back handlebars.
The frame could also be step-through for men or women with bad knees.
The battery is usually mounted on the rear rack to give room for the step-through frame, though it could be mounted on the seat tube.
Cruisers always come with pedal-assist or throttle-only modes, with the more costly models coming with different levels of pedal-assist.
Most cruiser bikes are great for city riding, let alone the beach paths.
Most of the models available can get you to speeds of 20mph, which is what most e-bikes can comfortably achieve.
Advantages of Cruiser Electric Bikes
- Comfortable Riding. Cruiser bikes are designed to be ridden in an upright position and this makes the whole riding experience comfortable.
- Longevity. Cruiser bikes are often equipped with removable motors and batteries, there is guaranteed longevity of the bike and its components.
- Look Great. Cruiser e-bikes look classier than your normal electric bike. The sexy curves and frames on these bikes look better than the plane frames present on standard bikes.
Disadvantages of Cruiser Electric Bikes
- Difficult Handling. Cruisers are often larger and heavier, hence handling tends to be difficult. The inadvertently don’t match the levels of maneuverability offered by other bikes.
#7 Commuting Electric Bikes
If you’ve decided to do away with the hassle of public transport, then a commuting electric bike would be a great option to get you through the unwanted traffic snarl ups.
Commuter e-bikes typically have a simple construction, which makes them incredibly lightweight.
And unlike road bikes, commuter bikes have high handlebars which give the rider an upright position.
Besides, most commuting e-bikes come with a solid fork frame rather than a suspension fork, making them less ideal for off-road ventures.
Depending on your needs, you might also have to choose between a rigid one-piece or a foldable frame bike.
Advantages of Commuting Electric Bikes
- Minimal Maintenance is Needed. Commuting electric bikes boast a simple construction design and this reduces the need for frequent maintenance.
Disadvantages of Commuting Electric Bikes
- Battery Replacement Could Be Costly. As with most e-bikes that have conversion kits, replacing the battery could be quite costly.
- No Off-Road Capabilities. Most commuter e-bikes are designed to be ridden on tarmac and pavements, so lack the off-road capabilities you might need.
#8 Recumbent Electric Bikes
Electric recumbent bikes are 3-wheeled vehicles that are designed for everyday commuting.
There’s probably no other e-bike that fits electric motors as perfectly as a recumbent bike.
And why is this?
The great ease of pedaling and the ergonomic sitting position make your ride incredibly pleasant.
Besides, the built-in aerodynamic advantage of a recumbent bike could be exploited electrically to offer more range.
Electric recumbent bikes come in various styles.
First, we have long wheel bikes that are usually more upright and the pedals typically lower that the seat.
They are made with long frames to help soak up slight bumps on the road.
Second, we have short wheelbase recumbent e-bikes that have higher pedals with the seat being more reclined.
Their frame is typically shorter and lighter.
Advantages of Recumbent Electric Bikes
- More Comfortable. Recumbent bikes are often preferred due to their extra comfort. Most come with a larger seat that makes them more enticing than upright bikes.
- Easier To Get On. Recumbent electric bikes come with a low frame structure and this makes this easier to get on and off as compared to upright bikes.
- Higher Weight Limit. Recumbent electric bikes have a higher weight limit and are capable of withstanding up to 400lbs in weight.
Disadvantages of Recumbent Electric Bikes
- Expensive. Recumbent electric bikes are quite expensive when compared to normal electric bikes.
- Longer and Heavier. The design of recumbent electric bikes makes them longer and heavier, and this could present problems with storage.