Have you been curious about electric bicycles (or e-bikes) cruising around your community? If you’re wondering how they work or why you would even want one, you’re in good company – we’ve heard the same questions from our members. We decided to check in with the Grand Forks Scheels store to learn more about this newly trending technology.
John Vojacek, Scheels service shop manager and e-bike expert, says his store has carried battery-powered bikes for more than six years. However, they’ve become more mainstream in the past year or so as people begin experiencing the wide range of benefits for every age and activity level. Vojacek loves hearing stories from customers whose lives have been enhanced by a little electric pedal assistance.
“One gentleman who winters in Arizona, he would sit on his porch and every morning he’d watch a bike group go by – just a simple coffee ride,” he recounted. “He said there was no way he could keep up, but now with an e-bike, he can ride with that group down to the corner to get coffee. It’s exciting, on our side, to know that we can help folks fit in or keep up.”
E-bikes have three levels of classification. Class 1 e-bikes give electric pedal assist only, with the motor simply amplifying the rider’s pedal power up to 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes have the same 20-mph cutoff, but they are also allowed to have a throttle, allowing the motor to fully propel the rider forward. Class 3 are higher-performing e-bikes, with a drive system that will assist pedaling up to 28 mph.
Scheels usually stocks Class 1 and Class 3 models, with prices ranging from around $1,500 for the Electra Townie Go up to $3,150 for the popular Verve 3 Trek. There are models on the market that are more expensive (some up to $7,000 or more), and there are also some that are less. However, Vojacek urges potential buyers to seek out a store with an e-bike-trained service staff (like Scheels) or a knowledgeable independent bike shop to ensure you are purchasing a safe and durable bike with a UL-listed battery.
“E-bikes in Europe are huge, and have become one of the main ways people get around. That technology is now making its way over here, and they already have all of the kinks worked out. They’re super reliable and super easy to use,” he said.
E-bike batteries can typically be charged from depleted to full power in three hours, giving 30-80 miles in assisted range, depending on performance setting. Some daily commuters (who arrive to work sweat-free) will plug in their bike or battery pack at their desk and have a full charge for the ride home. The effective range of the battery does decrease slightly in colder temperatures, but the batteries are water resistant for off-roading experiences that take a rider through puddles or rain.
“If you’ve never ridden one before, come in and take one for a test ride. We always see guests with a ‘perma-grin’ when they get back, because they’re so much fun to ride,” Vojacek said, adding that they are a great way to work toward health goals. “It makes it enjoyable to get out and ride. If you enjoy the activity, you’re going to do it a lot more than if it’s a chore.”
Our Scheels expert doesn’t yet have an e-bike at home – but he’ll soon be one of the many taking a seat. “I have two young boys that are into racing BMX right now. When they get into high school, there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep up with them on a bike, so an e-bike is going to be my jam,” he said with a chuckle.