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In this installment of the 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series, Bill is talking about the economic and environmental advantages of electric bike transportation. Fuel Cost I think the most obvious thing is gas prices. They fluctuate a lot but even in today’s economy, a dollar is going to get you about a half a gallon of gas. That’s going to translate into about 10 miles of travel or maybe 20 if you have a really efficient car. So $1 equals 20 miles with a car. On a standard, kind of the benchmark 10 amp powered battery found on electric bikes, you can get 13 full charges on that battery for a $1. You can travel anywhere from 250 to 500 miles for that single $1. So clearly you are saving money if you are commuting on an electric bike. Pollution-Free Cleaner air is another reason to ride an electric bike. You are clearly just not polluting. You drive along; and this is especially important in urban areas that are densely populated with trucks and cars and all those things. One less car out on the road polluting the air is really great. Noise Pollution-Free Electric bikes are also really quiet. Now you might be thinking “oh gosh my car is pretty quiet”. The motor, yes; but the thing that’s nosiest about cars is actually their tires. Think about how far away you could hear the roar of the highway; that’s not the engines that you hear, it’s the tires rolling down the road. So you can really quiet down things if more people were to be riding electric bikes. Free Parking I love the fact that parking is free. You just roll up, lock to a bike rack, lock to a parking meter or whatever. You don’t have to circle the block looking for a parking garage; swipe your credit card, be shocked at the end how much it cost you to park; so really the parking is not only more convenient, but it is essentially free. There are some economic advantages, there are some environmental advantages and electric bikes are just a great way to go. What other advantages do you get with your electric bike?
In this installment of the 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series, Bill is talking about the different motor types on electric bikes.  Three different types: there are DC motors, there are brushless DC motors and there are sensorless, brushless DC motors.

DC Motors

DC motors are very common. They are in your blender, your power drill and other household items. They are widely understood; this is one of the advantages of them. They are reliable but maintenance does tend to be required, there is a component called the brush that wears out and eventually the motor needs service. One thing that is a problem with DC motors is that they are not terribly efficient which matters when you are relying on a battery to get you as far as possible; it doesn’t matter so much with a household appliance.

Brushless DC Motors

Brushless DC motors are more sophisticated, they use sensors. Those sensors are basically picking up information, sending it to a control unit (a small on-board computer) that then sends information back, in the form of current to the motor, to tell the motor rotate. As the motor moves through its rotation, there is an interchange of information and power delivery. It requires a complex control unit. Wiring can be vulnerable especially on units mounted on a front hub system, so do be aware of that.

Sensorless Brushless Motors

Lastly, there is sensorless, brushless motors. They are a little more advanced and not very common. The advantages are that they are light, compact and are a simple motor with reliable wiring. The down side, starting can be awkward. They tend to be very jerky from the beginning until the motor spins up to speed so acceleration from a dead stop is not great. They are not very common. Most electric bikes have the sensor brushless motors. What other motor questions do you have?
In this installment of the 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series, Bill is talking about how to care for an electric bike battery. We are focusing primarily on Lithium Chemistry batteries. To start, when you first get your bike, charge your battery for 12 full hours. What this does is make sure the current is flowing through all the cells and you’re really conditioning the battery right out of the box. After that the next best thing you can do is use it regularly. Ride your bike a lot, use your battery often, that’s the best thing that you can do to maximize battery life! You want to avoid temperature extremes both in usage and in charging. During charging, basically from freezing to about 110oF is the acceptable range. During usage, it’s a little bit broader; you can go -4oF up to about 140oF, but you want to avoid extremes outside of that range. You don’t want to leave your battery on the charger for multiple days. A day or two is fine but when you leave it on for days at a time, the battery will dip below and naturally discharge a little bit. When this happens the charger will automatically kick on  and then will be doing a cycle that’s right at the top of its limit and that’s not ideal, so unplug it once its charged up. There are going to be times when you will need to store your battery, especially in the winter climate. Never store it for extended periods with an empty or very low charge. Optimum is between 40 and 70% of full charge so you can use the gauge on your bicycle’s display to let you know when you are about in that range. You don’t want it to be fully charge when storing either. And lastly, you want to charge it about once every 3 months. That helps keep all the electrons flowing through the system and does the best to maximize the life of your battery. In short following these few simply steps, you can really get the most out of your battery, which undoubtedly is the single most expensive component of your electric bicycle. 
In this installment of our 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series, Bill explains how range and amp hours relate and what important factors you need to to determine which battery is best for you. First, amp hours is just the rating of a battery that relates to how far you can go on a single charge. The benchmark standard of battery in the electric bike industry is a 10 amp hour battery. With a battery like that you can go roughly 20 -40 miles on a single charge. You might say to yourself, “20-40 miles, that’s a really broad range but why is that such a broad spectrum.” There are many factors that play in how far you can go on a single charge:
  • a hilly area
  • a windy area
  • if you like to go fast, you’d actually have more wind resistance and that draws more current
  • lighter weight which definitely is a big factor because somebody who weighs 150lbs is going to draw less energy than somebody who weighs 250lbs so that’s a factor.
  • Tire inflation
  • Long Rides, if you like to do long distance rides, you definitely want to be considering extended range battery
In summary, if you are in a hilly area, if it’s really windy, if you are a heavier person, if you like to go really fast, you probably are thinking about an extended range battery. If those things don’t apply to you, a 10 amp hour battery that is the benchmark standard in our industry, would be appropriate for you.
In this 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series installment, Bill talks about bike wheel sizes, tires and what is the best choice for you. First, you should know that tire sizing is a hotly debated subject even in the cycling community, so you might see several groups giving information on this; if you do some research on the internet. Don’t worry we can simplify it for you! Basically these numbers are in reference to the outside diameter of the tire. There is the tire and then there is the rim. These numbers are in reference to the outside diameter of the tire itself. That can vary depending on the thickness of the tire you put on; it could be slightly larger. So the actual measurement of a particular bike may vary from the spec on the particular rim.

The Difference Between 26” wheels and 700c wheels

Twenty-six inch wheels are used most commonly on mountain bikes and they tend to be fatter. They have a little more cushion to them naturally, there is more air volume to disperse as you go over bumps. On the other hand, 700c tires tend to be more narrower. And in recent years there has been a new tire - “29-er tires” come out; they are larger in diameter than mountain bikes. Here's their secret; they are 700c rims that are laced with the spokes to a mountain bike hub, so the 29-er is a 700c with a big fat tire on it.

The Best Choice for You

When you are looking for an electric bike, you might be asking yourself, “Okay, so what tire size should I be looking for?” Generally, a 700c tire is going to be a narrower tire, it’s going to provide less cushioning, lower rolling resistance so to be more efficient. The ride, because there is less cushioning, will be a little bit harsher. A 26” tire tends to be wider, it’s fatter; like I said before there is more air volume so when you do hit an obstruction, the air in the tire actually absorbs some of that and makes for a little more comfortable ride. They are more suited for a mix terrain, so if you are going to be on-road and off-road, a 26” rim is probably what you are looking for. Twenty-nine inch rims are pretty rare in the electric bike world. If you were looking at one of those you probably looking for a more serious off road electric bike. That's all for this installment on tires! See you next time!
In our next installment of our 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series where we help demystify electric bikes we're talking about what the right bike style is for you. When considering what the right bike style is for you, there are three things to decide:
  • What is your preferred riding style?
  • What is your preferred riding position?
  • What is your preferred frame type?
When you think of your riding style, do you prefer to ride in traditional sense; where the seat is up a little bit higher and you are getting the most powerful pedal stroke. If not, do you want the seat a little bit lower so that you can reach the ground without dismounting the bike and be able to put your feet right on the ground. Consider which riding position feels more natural to you. What is the right position for you? Do you prefer something more upright in a beach cruiser style?  Do you prefer something sporty where you lean over riding a little more aggressively and putting more power into the pedals and being a little more aerodynamic. Which of these riding positions sound most comfortable to you? And finally, what frame style is going to work best for you? There is the traditional frame style with the horizontal top two that connects the seat to the handlebars. Is that something that you like? Maybe you like the aesthetics or maybe it's something that you find very comfortable to swing your leg up and over the bike to get on. Would you need a step through model bike with a frame design that’s cut and swept a little bit lower so you can easily step through the bike without swinging your leg up and over. This frame just makes it easier to get on and off great for people that have flexibility issues. With those three things in mind, take a bike that you currently have access to and measure the distance from the top of the seat to the ground and also the top of the seat to the top of the pedal in its lowest riding position, you then have some measurements that you can communicate to the sales team and see what bikes they have in their line that might fit you. Do you have any other suggestions for finding your perfect bicycle fit?
In this week's 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series where we help to demystify electric bikes, we are talking about why more local shops don’t carry electric bikes. There are a couple reasons and it's mostly about the different types of shops that exist out there. First of all, you might have the hot really high-end boutique type shop. You know the shop that are targeting racers and triathletes. Everything is carbon fiber, most bikes start at the $3000 price point on up, everybody's walking around the store in spandex and for these people, including the management of the store, cycling is about the sport of it and so the electric bike doesn't really fit in with their mindset. Another type of shop targets the commuter, the everyday riders. The problem here is that most of their products are either $300, $400, $500 price range and with electric bikes in the $2000 price range, it’s one of those things that it's just out of the price point of their typical customer. So they're not carried for that reason. Finally there's the big-box stores. There are a few Best Buy's that experimented with electric bikes, but the reality is that they're just not equipped to handle the service related things involved with electric bikes. They also don't have the detailed knowledge base required to sell these products and, frankly, it hasn't worked out very well for them. There are a number of reasons that shops don't carry electric bikes, but they are certainly available. You can get good service for them, just make sure that you're asking the right questions of your service provider. You should know that this is changing and there are some savvy bike store owners that are realizing that this is an emerging market and it's a good niche to target. You may start to see more and more electric bikes in your local bike shop, but for now it's good to keep in mind that the majority of sales do take place online market catalog-based system and are sold directly to the consumer. I hope I've helped you understand why electric bikes are not often carried in your local bike shop!