What Is An E-Bike? Everything You Need To Know

Written by Dan Paul
Updated on
standing e-bike

E-bikes are growing in popularity, but many find them strange. This article will debunk misconceptions and explain their advantages.

I spent a few days researching topics that people ask when they want to know more about e-bikes. Then, I put together these questions and answered them based on my own expertise.

Most articles about e-bikes go way too technical and don’t answer basic questions. My goal with this article is to keep things simple and give all the important information.

How e-bikes work?

E-bikes are equipped with electric motors that add extra power to the pedaling. Extra power is applied only when you pedal the bike.

Harder you pedal, the more power you get from your electric motor. Putting aside electric motor specifics, e-bike handles look the same as a regular bike.

E-bike classes available in the U.S.

 There are three classes of e-bikes in the United States. Class 1 and 3 are pedal-assist only while class 2 is throttle-assisted e-bikes.

How fast can you go?

The top speed is dependent on the class of your e-bike. In the United States class 1 and 2 can go up to 20 mph. Class 3 can go up to 28 mph.

In Europe, the highest speed available for e-bikes is 25km/h which is 15mph.

E-bike riding modes

There are plenty of e-bike manufacturers on the market. They are all a bit different with riding mode names, but the logic remains the same.

Each mode is good for its purpose and you should know them to get the most out of your e-bike.

Different modes amplify your pedaling with different forces. My wife and I share an e-bike from Bosch which is equipped with a Performance Line CX motor. It is class 3 and has the following modes:

Eco mode

Perfect for achieving the longest possible range from my e-bike. Gives me 60% of my power as an extra.

Tour mode

Adds about 140% of my power as an extra. This mode adapts automatically on the go. If there is a steep hill coming, the motor gives more power and vice versa. It’s quite convenient and very effective.

Sport mode

200% extra power to my efforts. I am not using sport mode on regular basis, but if I do then only on short trips or if I am late.


Approximately 340% extra power. To be honest with you, I am not using this mode at all as the battery won’t last that long. I imagine you could use this mode to impress someone or race with one of your friends.

E-bike riding mode customization

Bosch allows customization of existing riding modes through their app. Thanks to this feature, every cyclist can change the level of support from the electric motor.

For example, I can set higher dynamic values that will lead to more powerful acceleration. Also, I can adjust the maximum speed and through this change, I will extend battery life.

man sitting on an electric bike

Motor placement

There are two types of motor placement on e-bikes. Modern e-bikes have their motor placed on the bottom between cranks. Older and cheaper e-bikes have their motors integrated into the front or rear wheel.

The biggest companies that manufacture high-quality e-bikes place motors between the cranks. I recommend looking at e-bikes with such placement as they have several advantages:

  • Allows connecting the motor with the gears
  • Consumes less battery energy
  • More efficient hill climbing due motor connects with the gears
  • Better handling as the motor is placed closer to the ground and in the middle


If the motor handles the power and acceleration, then the battery is responsible for range. There are two main types of batteries used in e-bikes.

Sealed Lead Acid (SLA)

The older generation of batteries that used for most electric bicycles in the past. Their main advantage is that they are quite inexpensive. The disadvantages are:

  • They are heavy
  • The range is not that great
  • Short life span (around 200 full charges only)


Modern batteries that replaced SLAs. Their only disadvantage is their price as the technology is so new. The main advantages are:

  • They are lightweight
  • The range is much longer than with an SLA battery
  • Longer life span (around 2 years of daily use)

The head-unit

The head unit or control unit is placed between your handlebars. This is like the brain of your e-bike that brings all functions alive. Modern head units are like computers that show all kinds of information. You can connect your phone to the head unit and sync the whole data to your health app.

Handy information that is displayed on your head unit:

  • Available range and how much battery is left
  • You can set up navigation (set up the route)
  • Power input
  • Activity tracking and available to sync it to your phone or computer
  • You can lock your e-bike through an app (additional theft protection)
  • Customize your screen

What range do modern e-bikes have?

The most asked question with an uncertain answer. It depends. Depends, because few factors influence the range.

The most important factor is the battery capacity. Higher capacity batteries have a longer available range. The downside is that e-bikes with longer range cost more. Another factor is what power riding mode you use and whether you climb a lot of hills.

Don’t forget, that the head unit will show the estimated range. You don’t have to cycle around with a constant fear that you will run out of battery.

Are e-bikes loud?

The short answer is no. Many people think that e-bikes and scooters are the same. In reality, they have nothing similar in terms of noise. E-bikes are almost silent except for the little sound that comes from the electric motor. Many people won’t even hear this sound as the sound from your tires will be louder.

What e-bike types are on the market?

I have written an article about different bike types available on the market. Each type has its purpose with advantages and disadvantages. E-bikes are no different and nowadays there are many types available.

Most common e-bike types:

  • Touring e-bike
  • City e-bike
  • Speed e-bike
  • Hybrid e-bike
  • Gravel e-bike
  • Cargo e-bike
  • Folding e-bike
  • Mountain e-bike (eMTB)

If you are not sure which e-bike you should buy, read an article about bike types and learn which one suits you best. Remember that e-bikes handle no different from regular bikes.

Will e-bike make you lazy?

Have you been wondering whether an e-bike can make you lazy, because of its electrical motor? Obviously not.

Australian research shows that people who use e-bikes have several health benefits over those who don’t cycle. E-bike cyclists improved their mental and physical conditions altogether with overall well-being. They felt generally happier.

What I found beneficial is that e-bikes allow cycling together for people with different fitness levels. My wife can’t cycle as much as I can, but thanks to the e-bike and its electrical amplification we can have long journeys.

If you want to read more about cycling benefits, I have written an article on this topic. It covers the main benefits and will motivate you to start cycling.

E-bike can save your money

E-bike is a great substitute for those who travel short distances to work using personal cars or public transport. Gas is getting more expensive and finding a parking place is sometimes terrifying.

E-bikes are fast, you can avoid traffic jams and at the same time burn calories and keep your fitness level up. Instead of refueling your car, buy a cake instead.

Environmentally friendly

Owning an e-bike is a great contribution to a climate-friendly environment. They produce 40 to 140 times fewer greenhouse gasses than average cars. Moreover, 75% of the footprint is due to manufacturing and the rest is actual use.

On average, an e/bike is around 8 times more efficient than a train. Also, e-bikes are very light and cause much less damage to public roads. As a result, public roads need fewer repairs and machinery produces fever emissions.

bike maintenance kit

Maintenance requirements

Maintenance requirements and repairs are no different from regular bikes. You need to replace your tires either when they wear out or when you’ve been using the same set for 2-3 years.

Brake pads should be changed every 15,000 miles or when they are less than 1/8 inch. 

The battery is built to last at least two years in case of daily active usage. Many local shops offer additional guarantees, so you don’t have to worry about such things at all.

E-bike safety

E-bikes are expensive, they bring attention and you need to make sure that they are safe and secured. I have written an article about the best locks for bikes, but with e-bikes, there is a little trick available.

Every time you finish your ride, take a head unit with you. As soon as the head unit is disconnected, the motor won’t function. This is a very handy trick as the value of an e-bike will drastically decrease if the motor is not functioning.

E-bikes and long-distance commuters

I have a friend who is using his e-bike for longer distances. As he doesn’t have time for a re-charge, he bought an extra battery. Thanks to the second battery, he has a range of over 120 miles.

E-bikes are a perfect fit for greater distances and their batteries are changeable.

E-bike competitions and social activities

Companies and cycling unions are hosting different events for e-bike enthusiasts. There are multiple tours and races available across the United States and Europe.

Could you be interested in e-bike events? I have put together separate calendars for the U.S. and European e-bike events. 

Final thoughts

E-bikes are here to stay. They are durable, comfortable and growing in popularity year to year. Take a look at my article about the best electric bikes for big guys available on the market.

Photo of author


Dan is the owner of Sportscalorie. His mission is to educate people through his own experience. He proudly says that cycling changed his life.