Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
I’m thinking of buying an electric bike, but I’ve heard some brands have quality problems. Can you tell me which brands are best?
First of all, congrats on getting ready to join the ranks of satisfied e-cyclists. Zipping around town on an electric bicycle will save you money while easing pressure on the environment. (Look, Ma! No gas!) Because a battery-powered e-bike helps you conquer hills with little effort, you can roll up to your destination without feeling tired and sweaty. (Another benefit is that cyclists claim to be happier than those who commute in other ways, according to a 2013 Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium study.)
Prices for electric bicycles range from a few hundred dollars to more than $4,000. You may be tempted to purchase from the lower end of this scale, but these less expensive machines lack power. “They’re not practical for serious commuters because their top speed is only 12 to 16 mph, and the batteries don’t hold a charge for long,” explains Dave Dierker, who has been dealing in e-bikes since 2002 as founder and co-owner of ElectricRider
The e-bike industry is growing rapidly, with new companies popping up — and disappearing — all the time. Your best bet is to choose a well-established brand that is more likely to be around if you need to replace parts later.
For ready-made electric bikes, Dierker recommends the brands Montague and Enforcer, both of which he has found to be reliable. Or, he suggests finding a standard bicycle that’s comfortable and suits your needs, and then installing a conversion kit to turn it into an e-bike. ElectricRider sells e-bikes and conversion kits, and it also provides how-to and troubleshooting videos.
Finally, be sure to educate yourself on local and state laws pertaining to e-bikes after determining the best electric bicycle brands for your lifestyle. The League of American Bicyclists offers a rundown of cycling laws by state.
Photo by ElectricRider: Electric bicycles bring about all kinds of benefits: You'll commute with a little less effort, save money on gas, and take a lesser toll on the environment.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+.