Whether you want to save on car and gas money or spend quality time outside without feeling exhausted and sweaty, an e-bike is a smart solution. These nifty, less-physically-taxing bicycles are popping up all over cities, suburbs, and small towns — and with good reason. They’re convenient, energy efficient, and a joy to ride. But the market is saturated with options, making it difficult to choose. What are the best electric bikes for women, and will you have to pay an exorbitant price for a good one?
While the best bicycle is going to depend on your specific needs (commuter bikes are different from off-road bikes, for example), there are some capabilities that you’ll want your e-bike to have regardless of the brand. We spoke with First for Women reader Maury Steiner (54) and her husband Mike (59), who bought KBO Commuter Electric Bikes one year ago, to learn about the pros and cons of e-bikes and find out what features really matter for women.
What are the most important e-bike features?
No matter your situation and needs, certain bike features are more important than others. Here are the top things to look for:
- Battery quality. Buying a bicycle with a good battery will save you from having to replace it a year later — Maury and Mike recommend a bike with a Samsung battery. “We’re thrilled with how little battery we use,” Maury shares. “We used it for 40 miles once, and the battery wasn’t even half gone.” Other good brand options are Panasonic and LG. In general, a Lithium ion battery will last you a long time and is lighter than other options.
- Gears. You don’t need gears, but it’s a good idea to have them. They’ll allow you to use your bike like a regular one if you want to exercise. Plus, it’s important to have a fall-back plan in case your battery ever fails or dies.
- Breaks. Look for e-bikes made with top brake brands, which will keep you safe and last a long time. Top brands include Shimano, Magura, and Tektro.
- Warranty. The best e-bikes typically come with a one to two-year warranty, which tells you that the seller is confident in the product. Some companies allow you to buy a warranty on top of the bike price, which may not be as good a deal.
- Extra features. Some bells and whistles might not be that great (like a water bottle holder, which you can buy separately). Others, however — like a repair toolkit and fenders, which cover your tires and help prevent debris from puncturing them — are worth it.
If you’re looking for electric bikes for women, there are additional features to keep in mind:
- Height. Most bicycles accommodate people who are 5’4” and above, which means that shorter people have fewer options. If you’re 5’3” or shorter, look for bikes with a “size small” frame.
- Weight. The weight matters when you are trying to load the bike onto a car rack or bring it inside to charge it — some batteries don’t come out of the bike for charging. “The KBO bike is heavy,” Maury admits. “The good thing is that you can take the battery out of it and bring it in the house and charge it.” Another positive: Maury notes that a heavier bike feels more stable when you ride it. Plus, lighter bikes may compromise on battery and motor quality. (The lightest e-bikes weigh a little over 20 pounds. Most e-bikes are about 50 pounds.)
- Step-through style. If your bike is still a little too tall, having a step-through frame will make it much easier for you to mount the seat.
How much are electric bikes?
Electric bikes have a wide price range, with the least expensive models starting at about $500 and the most expensive models reaching $13,000. For a long-lasting bike with a decent battery range and useful features, you’ll probably spend between $1,000 and $2,000.
Cheaper models may be worth it depending on your needs, but be aware that you’ll make a few sacrifices. For instance, less-expensive e-bikes have a battery range of about 30 miles per charge or lower. Cheaper models also tend to come in just one size, and they can be heavy. (Cheaper batteries tend to weigh more.)
How fast do electric bikes go?
Wondering why it’s hard to find an e-bike that goes over 28 miles per hour? Federal law has established a three-class system for e-bikes that limits how fast they can go. Different towns, parks, and restricted areas can then choose to allow only certain e-bike classes. The three classes include:
- Class 1: E-bikes with a motor that only provides assistance when the cyclist is pedaling. When the bike reaches 20 miles per hour (mph), motor assistance stops.
- Class 2: E-bikes with a motor that can move without any pedal assistance. When the bike reaches 20 mph, motor assistance stops.
- Class 3: E-bikes with a motor that only provides assistance when the cyclist is pedaling. When the bike reaches 28 mph, motor assistance stops.
As a result, most electric bikes sold online can go a max speed of 20 mph, and some go a max speed of 28. (Some bikes have an adjustable speed limit, meaning you can set the max speed to comply with local requirements.)
Where is the best place to buy e-bikes?
You can buy e-bikes online or at a brick-and-mortar store. Buying online might appeal to you if you hate sales pressure and like to have plenty of product variety. On the other hand, you may prefer to buy in-store if you want to test out the product. Also, having a point of contact is helpful if something goes wrong with your bike; it can be more difficult to solve problems through online customer support.
Many small, local bike stores are now selling electric bicycles due to popular demand. Nationwide stores including REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Walmart also sell various e-bikes in different styles, from mountain bikes to commuters. Some of the most popular online sellers for multiple brands include Bike.com and Amazon. (Keep in mind that many e-bikes are sold directly on the brand’s website.)
How difficult is it to set up an e-bike?
If you are buying an e-bike online, you will probably have to do at least some of the assembly. The difficulty ultimately depends on the brand and the instructions provided. Knowing that the process is a deterrent for some buyers, many manufacturers will ship bikes that are at least halfway set up. Other companies will provide two options: You complete the full assembly, or you pay an additional cost for the company to ship it partially assembled.
If the process seems daunting, ask a friend or a family member to help, or take the parts to a local bike shop. You may have to pay a fee, but knowing that everything is set up properly will give you peace of mind. Also, there is some benefit to setting it up yourself — learning the parts of the bike now will make it easier to perform repairs without help later.
What are the best electric bikes for women?
With all of these must-haves in mind, from price to battery quality, we think that Maury’s KBO Step-Thru Commuter Electric Bike is a great choice. But it’s not the only option out there. For more choices, check out our list of the best electric bikes for women. (You might also consider this list of the best three-wheel electric bikes, which give you more stability.)
At the end of the day, Maury says that her purchase was absolutely worth it. “It opened up a whole new door of opportunities and activities for us to do, because we can travel on our bikes,” she says. “We can take them places and travel far and pack our backpacks … and you’re outside in the fresh air. It’s not sedentary; you’re not just sitting there not pedaling, although you could do that if you wanted. Overall, I think it’s a great, healthy thing to do.”