ASK THE EXPERTS: Affordable Electric Bikes

Rad Power Bikes’ RadWagon is one of many electric cargo bikes now on the market.

I’d like to ditch my car and use a bike for most of my local errands. However, the area I live in is hilly and I’d be ferrying my 6-year-old (and groceries) in a trailer, so I need some assistance while I build up my endurance. I don’t have a big budget ($1,500 max). Is there a reliable, durable electric bike that will be able to provide enough assist for me to tackle the hills with a tot in tow? What are your recommendations?

Sage Anders • Lopez Island, Washington

There’s a lot to choose from in the electric bike market, but most of them are a little more expensive. The Blix Aveny, for example, is a top-rated, classic step-through styled bike with motor rated at 350 watts, with a twist-on-demand throttle. It sells for $1,899. Rad Power Bikes has a line of 750 W bikes in the $1,700 range.

We’d recommend at least a 500-watt motor for the load you’re pulling, and you need to consider whether you would prefer a standard throttle control, or a “pedal assist” or “ped-elec” system, which increases the power from the motor proportionally to the force of your pedaling. With the throttle, you simply apply more power as you want it, whereas the pedal assist automatically adjusts the amount of power for you, which, of course, you can adjust by exerting more of your muscles on the pedals. The pedal-assist is by far the most common type today, and some bikes work both ways.

If you’re handy with tools, you might also consider adapting your own bike, which is less expensive than buying a ready-made electric bike. You can use nearly any bike, installation is relatively simple and requires basic bicycle tools. See our “Electrify Your Ride” article,

The advantage of adapting your own bike is that you can get a more powerful system for less money, and tailor it to your specific needs. Oh, and building it can be fun!

Your local bike shop may be able to help you. Many stock e-bikes, and often they’re major brands. A few will do conversions and custom-builds for you as well. I highly recommend taking a few test rides to see what you like.

Finally, still close to the price range you mention, are some of the “cargo” electric bikes like Rad Power Bikes’ RadWagon, a 750-watt workhorse ($1,799). Good luck, and happy riding!

Ted Dillard • EV expert

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