EV Bikes

23 things we want manufacturers to stop doing about e-bikes

These points relate to our objections to certain elements of e-bike user interfaces. The main theme in this section is again usability.

Non-adjustable speed/assist levels

Non-adjustable speed and assistance levels on e-bikesNon-adjustable speed and assistance levels on e-bikes

Some e-bikes with Bluetooth technology can be paired with mobile apps, allowing users to quickly and easily adjust PAS speeds and class settings.

Although it has become increasingly common for e-bike brands to offer more extensive customization options beyond class settings and gradations of PAS settings, in our experience it is still roughly a 50/50 ratio. Many e-bikes we tested were limited in the settings they shipped with, and some that did allow for customization only offered a limited range of options.

We recognize that due to the different laws and regulations governing the use of e-bikes, brands can appeal to the widest possible range of potential customers by offering e-bikes in Class 1 or 2. With this in mind, we are very happy when we like bikes the Ride1UP LMT’D V2 offer extensive customization options so users can adapt the bike to their preferences and local laws.

We encourage more brands to give users the ability to switch between class settings, select the number of pedal assist settings, adjust the speed or power limits of each setting, and otherwise customize the bike’s behavior.

Bar based battery indicator

Retrospec Chatham Rev+ DisplayRetrospec Chatham Rev+ Display

Are those 5 or 15 bars? How much charge is that? We prefer percentage metrics to increase reliability and eliminate guesswork.

All e-bikes communicate their current battery status in different ways. Some use three, five or more bars to represent charge status. Others use a single shrink rod that discharges as the battery drains. Still others use a series of lights or a single ring of light that changes color.

We find that the most useful battery indicators show the charge level as a percentage. While bar or light-based displays can be inconsistent, occasionally causing battery drain while our range testers are miles from home base, percentage displays are typically consistent and reliable.

It’s a trend that’s slow to change, which is why we feel the need to push it forward. Bar-based display is still the predominant method on most e-bikes, but for accuracy and concern for the user experience, we encourage all e-bike manufacturers who have not already done so to switch to battery percentage Indicators!

Cryptic menus

Velotric Discover 2 promotionVelotric Discover 2 promotion

E-bikes like the Velotric Discover 2 offer clear, easy-to-understand menus with extensive customization options.

Regarding any of the points discussed above, we urge manufacturers to select (or program) their displays to be easy to read and easy to understand.

As bikes become increasingly customizable, it’s important that users can quickly browse the settings menu options without having to decipher abbreviations and symbols. Luckily, all e-bikes seem to have the ability to reset default settings if something goes wrong, but we’ve lost count of how many times we’ve accidentally changed a setting while browsing the bike’s menu.

I would even recommend linking as many adjustable settings as possible to a mobile app (if the bike offers Bluetooth connectivity), but even without this step, communication is key. Users can better understand whether a setting is prohibited if they know what it is!

The Defense: E-Bike Brakes and Rider Safety

Our concerns in this section relate specifically to security features. E-bikes can be fast, so it’s important that they also prioritize the safety of their rider.

Commuters without brake lights and indicators

Trek Allant +8S rear lightTrek Allant +8S rear light

We believe brands can do better than this pea-sized taillight. Big, bright brake lights (with indicators) are the solution!

We believe that e-bikes riding in city traffic are safest when they can travel at Class 3 speeds; The fewer vehicles overtaking a driver, the lower the chance of a collision. Bike lanes are helpful for separating drivers and cyclists, but at least in the United States, well-developed cycling infrastructure is still a rarity. Therefore, riders of e-bikes of any class must rely on the basics of safety: helmets, lights and hand signals.

Commuters are one of our favorites (we have a whole list of them). Our pick of the best commuter e-bikes on the market), but we are often confused when they do not include brake lights. Since there is already an on-board battery – and in most cases some kind of taillight – this seems to be a given. Drivers are far more likely to understand glowing/flashing red lights than the palm-back hand signal to brake.

Like bikes the Aventon Level.2 are pioneering communication on the road by incorporating highly visible brake lights and even turn signals into their seatstays. We’ve seen more and more brands follow suit, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Brake lights (and turn signals), especially when used in conjunction with hand signals, only help keep drivers safer!

Mechanical brakes on heavy/loaded e-bikes

Engwe M20 front brakeEngwe M20 front brake

While there are effective mechanical braking systems, they simply don’t belong on large e-bikes that are designed to carry a lot of weight.

In 2023, Lectric shook up the industry (apparently a common practice) by equipping them Flagship e-bike, the XP 3.0 with hydraulic disc brakes. This type of braking system is widely considered to be more effective than any mechanical variant, but it is also more expensive. Lectric’s move was unprecedented in e-bikes priced at just $1,000, but also raised the bar for other brands to follow suit.

To be clear, hydraulic disc brakes are not always necessary lighter city and urban e-bikes or utility bikes with a lower center of gravity. There are even a few mechanical brake systems that regularly perform just as well as hydraulic ones in our standardized brake tests.

However, for heavier bikes with 26-inch wheels and those designed to carry a lot of weight, we recommend bike brands invest in effective hydraulic disc brake systems with appropriately sized brake discs. Of course, the consumer can make upgrades after purchase, but we believe that a lower purchase price should not take precedence over safe and effective braking performance.

Inadequate brakes on heavy/performance e-bikes

iGo Torngat promotioniGo Torngat promotion

Huge e-bikes with incredibly powerful motors require appropriate braking power.

Building on the previous point, even simple hydraulic braking systems may not be ideal when it comes to heavy, inertia-bound e-bikes or those intended for technical off-road environments. Most e-bikes we test come with entry-level 2-piston hydraulic disc brake systems paired with 180mm, 1.8mm thick rotors. These are generally effective on ordinary e-bikes for regular use, but their performance may be inadequate elsewhere.

The bottom performers in our brake test included large and heavy e-bikes, with an average weight of 34.6 pounds. These motorcycles had a less than ideal average stopping distance of 25 feet 9 inches, showing that increased braking power was required.

Based on this data, we encourage manufacturers to adopt the standard practice of fitting better brakes on (fully assembled) e-bikes weighing over 35-36kg. Heavy e-bikes intended for off-road use are more difficult to stop, so they require the increased performance of an improved braking system, again paired with appropriately sized brake discs. We encourage brands to consider 4-piston hydraulic brakes, 203mm diameter rotors, or 2.3mm thick rotors (or just all of the above?) and adjust from there.

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