How to Choose a Family-Friendly E-Bike: 7 Key Features

Adopting an e-bike as one of your family’s primary modes of transportation, if not the primary one, can offer tremendous benefits: you can pack more fitness activities into your already busy life, save on the costs related to car ownership, and increase your and your family’s exposure to nature and the elements, which is known to improve wellbeing.

Using an e-bike will also set a good example for your kids and others in the community about what it looks like to be an environmentally conscious family. So if you’re looking to make the switch, here are some features you should consider.

1. Storage Capacity

As a family vehicle, you’ll use your e-bike to shuttle kids to and from school, pick up groceries, or haul gear to sports practice. As such, you’ll want to avoid e-bikes built for speed and consider something with more storage and carrying capacity. Most e-bikes that families should consider fall into the category of cargo e-bikes.

Cargo e-bikes come in various configurations. Some of them, such as the Yuba Supercargo CL, include dedicated storage space in the front of the bike, while some, such as the Rad Power Bikes RadWagon 4, include a dedicated cargo space in the rear. In both bike styles, you can easily purchase add-ons such as bags, baskets, and even passenger seats with safety belts that make it possible to transport your kids, groceries, or both safely.

2. Motor Type and Strength

E-bikes generally come with one of two types of motors: mid-drive or hub. A mid-drive motor is integrated into the lower-middle section of the bike frame, generally in between the pedals. A hub motor is integrated into one of the wheel hubs. In the case of cargo e-bikes, hub motors are almost always found in the rear wheel hub.

Side view of cargo e-bike mid-drive motor

Bikes with both motor types will come with adjustable levels of pedal assist, and some may offer twist-grip throttle for instantly added power.

E-bikes with hub motors are best suited for flat roads and across long distances; however, they are not as efficient as mid-drive motors. On the other hand, mid-drive bikes are generally more expensive, but they are also more powerful. The motor’s central position increases torque and makes the bike more balanced and easier to ride. For this reason, if your regular cycling routes include hills, you might choose an e-cargo bike for your family with a mid-drive motor.

When comparing the power of different e-bike motors, you’ll be comparing the watts of each motor. Wattage (or the number of watts) refers to how much power a motor requires to run. E-cargo bikes generally range from 250 watts to 750 watts.

3. Battery Capacity

E-bikes vary in the distance they can travel, and the size and capacity of the onboard battery determine this distance. While bigger is usually better, several factors can influence the longevity of your battery between charges, including the weight you’re carrying and the speed you’re traveling.

When comparing the battery on different bikes, you’ll be comparing something called watt-hours (referred to as Wh). Watt-hours refers to the number of hours a battery can produce one watt of electricity. Standard e-cargo bike batteries can be anywhere between 500 and 700Wh.

4. Range

The range of your bike is a function of motor power and battery capacity. Generally, the more powerful the motor and the smaller the battery, the less range you’ll get out of your bike. However, you can affect the range of your bike in several ways. For example, by reducing the level of pedal assist from the motor and using more muscle power, you can dramatically increase the range of your e-bike.

For this reason, before you buy a bike, you’ll need to ensure the motor and battery pairing is strong enough to get you and your little ones where you need to go.

5. Add-Ons

Cargo e-bikes are, in many cases, designed to replace a vehicle. This means they come equipped with many features that make them even more road-worthy than regular bikes.

Tern Cargo E-Bike with Kids in the Back

Features that can be found on cargo e-bikes include back-lit LCD controller screens, speedometers, odometers, trip odometers, wattmeters, headlights, taillights with brake light indicators, and more.

If you are exploring new neighborhoods on your family’s new e-bike, you’ll probably want to invest in a smartwatch with GPS or transform your phone into a GPS device to help you navigate where you’re going.

6. Serviceability

Unless you manage to build your own e-bike and are comfortable replacing parts on your own, at some point, you’ll need to take it in to have maintenance performed. This is where big-name bike manufacturers offer huge benefits over small boutique firms.

For example, it’s much easier to find a replacement part for well-established brands and brands that your local bike shop sells. For the same reason, you should probably consider purchasing a bike from a local retailer rather than online, even if the online sale is tempting.

Urban Arrow Ebike Rear View Shot

It is much easier for a professional to bleed your hydraulic brakes, replace your hub motor if it fails while under warranty, and generally ensure that your bike is safe to ride. After all, you’re probably going to be carrying some valuable cargo!

7. Value for Money

Electric bikes range widely in price from $400 to over $8,000, and several non-cargo bikes can be purchased for under $1,000. However, e-cargo bikes run on the expensive end of the spectrum thanks to their heavy-duty steel frames, powerful motors, and electronic components.

Don’t forget that add-ons such as child seats, racks, and cargo bags can add hundreds of additional dollars to any bike’s price tag.

Tern Cargo E-Bike Side View

If the cost of a new cargo e-bike seems beyond your budget, many companies offer financing that allows you to pay in monthly installments.

Like non-electric bikes—or anything in life—you get what you pay for when buying a cargo e-bike. And you should expect to pay more for the features that matter most to you, whether that is the most power, the longest range, or other features that match your family’s needs the best.

Choosing a Family-Friendly E-Bike

Cargo e-bikes come in a wide range of styles and configurations, which makes them a difficult item to shop for, especially online. For this reason, the easiest way to choose one might be to visit your local e-bike shop and throw your leg around a few frames.

If you’re still worried about the cost, buying an e-bike for your family might be an amazing investment when you consider all the benefits: increased mental and physical fitness, an appreciation of the outdoors, and knowing that you’re doing something positive for the environment.

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