Choosing the right electrically assisted bicycle (EAB)

The purchase of an electrically assisted bicycle is not trivial. Depending on the user's profile, the EAB can be used for daily transportation in the city, for work, for road cycling or for difficult terrain (mountain bikes) or for family outings. This complete guide to electric bicycles also includes the dimensions of professional "cargo" or "longtail" bicycles, which we will discuss.

In addition, in order to choose the right electric bike, it is important to know how to differentiate between a speedbike and an electric bike. Speedbikes are electric bikes that differ from EABs in their characteristics as well as in the regulations that apply to them. We will therefore discuss these differences in order to define what an electric bike of the EAB type is and thus be able to choose it properly.

Once we have defined what an electrically assisted bicycle (EAB) is, we can study the advantages of the different models of EABs in order to refine the choice, which should always be the best possible compromise for each cyclist.

Quel vélo électrique ou VAE choisir ?-1

The elements of choice according to the type of bike

Choosing a VAE or choosing a speedbike is not the same thing at all. A VAE is an electrically assisted bicycle. According to the law, the EAB allows an electric assistance to pedaling (thanks to a motor) between 6 km/h and 25 km/h. Beyond that, the assistance is cut off for safety reasons. The electric power is limited to 250 W. The VAE is thus considered as a traditional bicycle:

  • no compulsory registration ;
  • use on cycle tracks in town when they exist;
  • helmets are mandatory for children under 12 years old;
  • sufficient insurance under civil liability;
  • etc.

The autonomy of an ACV depends on the weight to be moved (bike + rider) and the capacity of the battery. The speed is also a criterion to be taken into consideration, but the maximum speed of an ACV is 25 km/h. Beyond that, the cyclist's strength alone provides the effort.

Speedbikes are also vehicles that are similar (by their shape and design) to EABs. But the law considers them as mopeds (article R311-1 of the Highway Code). The characteristics of these speedbikes are therefore different from those of electrically assisted bicycles:

  • the speed limit can be 45 km/h ;
  • speedbikes are not allowed on bicycle paths;
  • the wearing of a helmet is mandatory for all users and passengers;
  • specific insurance must be taken out by the owner;
  • etc.

Now that these differences are explained and the specific characteristics of each type of vehicle are understood, the EAB framework is clearer.

Choosing according to the intended use of the electric bicycle

Choosing an electric bike according to its use means managing to define what the user wishes to do with his bike over the duration of his ownership. The use may vary over time, or the choice of bike may be for several uses. But before buying a bike, every future owner must ask himself why he wants to buy an ACV.

The substitution to a usual means of transportation

The purchase of an EAB can be considered for daily commuting. To this end, the bike could replace a car, public transport or facilitate a journey that takes too long for the worker to make on foot. Thus, in an ecological way, the bicycle would become an interesting means of transportation to get to work. It will be necessary to determine the distance to be covered (to determine the minimum autonomy necessary), to define the type of road used (to choose the right tires), but also the approximate hours of use (a worker in 3x8 will have to ride at night and will thus need to choose adapted accessories for his electric bike), etc.

Use in a sport or leisure activity

Some users may consider the purchase of an electric bike as a way to start a sport or to change the limits of a sport already practiced. For example, on difficult terrain, an electrically assisted mountain bike can allow you to overcome larger or longer obstacles. Or on long distances mixing roads and paths, an electrically assisted bicycle of the VTC type can drastically increase the total distance covered. This type of bike does not always make you do more effort, but it allows you to change the route and diversify the framework of the sport.

Cycling as a leisure activity can also be an opportunity to purchase an electrically assisted bicycle. Whether it's for a simple ride with your child in an adapted seat, as a family or as a couple (electric tandem bike), each personal use has its answer thanks to an adapted EAB.

Integration within a professional practice

An EAB can also meet professional criteria. We don't always think about this possibility, but many professions can use an EAB to meet their professional obligations:

  • deliverymen of goods in town and downtown (thanks to the electric bikes of model "cargo" or "longtails");
  • craftsmen who work in the city center, who do not have large volumes of tools or materials and who are looking for parking in order to visit their clients (real estate agents, door-to-door salesmen, etc.);
  • Renters of electric bicycles in a fleet with maintenance or other services;
  • etc.

The EAB can therefore easily be integrated into the heart of a professional practice. Professional electric bicycles are sometimes more expensive. But even a legal entity (provided that certain conditions are met) can benefit from an ecological bonus for the purchase of a VAE.

Take an interest in the user to better choose the electric bike that suits him/her

Knowing which electric bicycle to choose according to one's profile is a question that helps identify the needs of the future user. Generally, the owner is the same person as the user, but not necessarily (fleet of rental bikes in town).

In the same way that a cyclist will not go far without a bike, the bike will not ride without the cyclist. This pairing must therefore be coherent and work in synergy. The user's needs will not be the same if he or she is a person with reduced mobility (some cargo bikes are equipped to transport people with disabilities), or if he or she has other specific characteristics that define the bike that suits him or her:

  • the rider's height and weight ;
  • the clothing habits of the person (no central bar if the person regularly dresses in skirts, chain and crankset protector to avoid greasing the pants or calves, etc.) ;
  • the cyclist's interest in new technologies (a connected bike allows many options for guidance, distance calculations, air pollution measurements, bike tracking with real-time position, etc.);
  • the choice of the electric bike according to the design will satisfy the people who seek to harmonize the style of the bike with their environment and their tastes;
  • etc.

It is therefore by determining the user's profile that we can also calibrate the EAB (motor, battery, frame and wheel size, level and comfort of the saddle, quality of the brakes, various equipment, etc.). It is therefore up to each person to ask themselves what they want and what suits them in order to make the right choice.

But choosing does not mean choosing alone. Finding an electric bike dealer is one of the key steps in asking the right questions and getting the right advice. Any professional who sells electric bicycles is used to and knows the market. They are used to dealing with a wide variety of customers and are able to guide their thinking. It becomes a precious help to the decision.

Quel vélo électrique ou VAE choisir ?-2

The price of an electrically assisted bicycle must be considered

The price is often one of the most considered arguments. Rightly so, the use of an EAB must be weighed against its characteristics, those of the user, but also against the price. Finding the best value for money for an electric bike therefore comes down to combining the criteria seen above (on the bike as well as on the user), then finding the best bike to meet them. But each electric bike has a different level of quality (depending on the range and model) and therefore a price that correlates to it.

Choosing the most expensive electric bike will not necessarily make it compatible with the cyclist's needs and, conversely, choosing the cheapest EAB will have little chance of satisfying the same cyclist. In addition, the quality of the bike (materials used for the frame, quality of the brakes, battery life, power of the motor, size of the wheels and quality of the tires, etc.) logically acts on the associated selling price.

Buying a new electric bike

Once the user's profile has been determined and the context of use has been determined, it is interesting to identify several models likely to meet the need. Then, it is important to remain open to events that are sometimes held near the future owner's place of residence (fairs, open houses, discovery days, etc.). The manufacturers can thus offer prices during such occasions. You should not hesitate to try to negotiate with the seller if possible (for a test model put on sale, if you buy several bikes, etc.).

The price of a VAE can vary from several hundreds to thousands of euros. It is normal to look closely at such an investment and to carefully weigh the advantages that such a vehicle will bring to its owner. Let's remember that a new EAB allows you to benefit from a manufacturer's warranty, which is not insignificant on such equipment. Some manufacturers even guarantee their bikes against theft (provided certain clauses are respected).

Buying a used electric bicycle

Choosing an electric bike on the second-hand market is always a risk. Indeed, unlike a new electric bike, certain levels of wear and tear remain by nature invisible even to the most vigilant buyers: the state of the motor and batteries, problems related to connectivity (stability of the connection on smart bikes), etc.

Of course, the price is often interesting, but if the battery is worn out (depending on the number of charging cycles), it will not necessarily prevent it from working or delivering a correct power. On the other hand, the autonomy decreases in parallel with the wear of the battery. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that an EAB battery can be used for about 3 to 5 years if it is used a lot (many charge cycles) or about 7 to 9 years if it is used little.

Some sellers recondition used electric bikes. They change the batteries after having tested them (thanks to their equipment), change the tires and can even repaint the bike, etc. This is a solution that allows you to take advantage of a used electric bike in good condition and cheaper than new. Be careful, however, to find out about the warranty levels for such bikes.

Testing before buying is essential

Trying out an electric bike before buying it is a reflex that should not be neglected under any circumstances. The test ride obviously helps to confirm the feelings of the future owner. The impression of comfort, ease of use, etc., must be obvious.

In addition, ideally, a test on the totality of the autonomy must be carried out. This allows to validate the battery's performance and to confirm the user on the mileage capacity of the bike. Obviously, when buying a second-hand bike, this is often complicated. On the other hand, on the new market, some manufacturers allow you to try the bike over several days or even offer a rental to ensure you make the right choice.

It is important to remember that choosing an ECV "blindly" based on characteristics that are sometimes "invisible" is not the best way to make a coherent purchase. The new market remains an option to be preferred in order to secure the owner and the future use of the bike.

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