Consumer Reports: Electric bikes sales boom, but do your homework

Many people are looking for alternative ways of getting around, so sales of bicycles have skyrocketed, including E-bikes.

E-bikes are like traditional 2-wheeled bikes, upgraded with a battery and a motor. So you can pedal a lot, or a little.

Back in 2013, Edward Busk traded his daily car commute, for an electric bicycle.

E-bikes became so important to Busk, he left his job in finance to open an electric bike shop.

"You get all the fun of riding a bike like fresh air and everything else, without any of the irritation like hills and headwinds. It really just allows you to enjoy your cycle ride. Enjoy the view. Enjoy the silence," he said.

Electric bikes are becoming the new 'green' way to get around. In fact, sales of e-bikes grew by 85% since last year. But if you're thinking about an e-bike for your commute or just around your neighborhood streets, Consumer Reports said there are some things you should know.

"They're legal to own and to sell but they're not legal to ride on public streets everywhere, so you need to do your homework," said Bernie Deitrick, Consumer Reports engineer.

Testers looked at several performance factors, including acceleration, handling and braking. Bicycles with dual-disc brakes perform better in all kinds of weather, and another key consideration is battery range.

In Consumer Reports' tests, with the battery at maximum capacity, on a hilly course, the bikes went between 15 and 30 miles before running out of juice. But you'll get more range if you pedal more and use the battery less.

Busk sees the battery as the heart of any electric bike.

"It is completely variable," he said. "So, if you put it on the very low level, it's like having a little breeze behind you, if you put it on the high level, you feel like you're Lance Armstrong."

"Most can be ridden like a normal bike, but some single speed models, if the battery runs out, they're very hard to ride. So try them out without the battery," said Deitrick.

Of course, whether you're riding an E-bike or an old-fashioned one, always wear a helmet.

New Jersey e-bikes

People for Bikes
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