If you have never ridden an electric bike, you are missing out on some of the best fun available on two wheels! While resembling a regular bicycle, an electric bike turns into a moped-like ride with the flick of your wrist, making your legs suddenly feel like the Bionic Woman’s as you pedal up a hill or speed along a trail. Here are 10 things to know before renting an electric bike.
1. Electric Bikes Include A Few Extra Components
While an electric bike looks a lot like a traditional bicycle, it includes a few extra components -- most notably a motor and a six- to eight-pound battery pack that typically snaps into the down tube or beneath the carrier above the back tire. You’ll also find a throttle incorporated into one of the handlebars and an LCD console. Like a car’s dashboard, this small digital panel allows you to track your speed, monitor your bike’s battery level, and more.
2. An Electric Bike Is Easy To Ride
As someone who had never piloted a motorized two-wheeler (and who hadn’t ridden a traditional bike in quite a while), I have to admit I was a little nervous about hopping onto an electric bike. But I found the classic expression about riding a bike to be true, The experience is a lot like riding a traditional bike, but when you want to kick things up a notch, simply pull the throttle and the electric bike’s motor will kick in, giving you a boost.
The most important thing to know about operating an electric bike is to always ensure that the bike’s pedal assist is powered down to zero as soon as you dismount. If you forget to do this, and your bike is resting on its kickstand with pedal assist still engaged while you wander down to a creek or enjoy a picnic, your rented e-bike might take off without you.
3. An Electric Bike Is Heavier Than A Standard Bike
The motor and battery pack that convert a standard bike into an electric bicycle add a bit of weight to your ride. While a road bike typically weighs around 20 pounds, and a mountain bike is a bit heavier, an electric bike typically weighs between 50 and 70 pounds, making it at least twice as heavy. I didn’t find this weight difference noticeable while riding my rented electric bike, but I definitely felt the extra heft when I walked the bike and lifted it over a curb.
4. An E-Bike’s Battery Pack Won’t Last Forever
When you rent an electric bike, the bike shop should send you on your way with a fully charged battery. But how long the battery pack keeps its charge depends on several factors. How often are you pedaling the bike yourself versus relying on the motor? Is your route relatively flat, or does it include many thrilling hills? Generally speaking, a fully charged bicycle battery will last anywhere from 10 to 60 miles, but how you ride (and where you ride) will determine where your battery life falls within that range.
When I rented a Pedego Electric Bike to explore Livermore’s beautiful wine country, I pedaled up and down rolling hills for miles and miles as part of a day-long rental and only used about 25 percent of the bike battery’s juice.
Pro Tip: Your electric bike’s LCD panel will keep you posted on how much battery life remains on your rented ride. And, the full-service bike shops I’ve rented from include running a new bike, battery, or tire out to renters if there’s an issue.
5. You Can Still Get Plenty of Exercise On An Electric Bike
Despite the luxurious boost of a 250- to 500-watt motor to help you scoot up a hill, you can still get plenty of exercise when renting an electric bike. Not only can you choose to save the electric bike’s battery until you need it (which means the two-wheeler is fully powered by you), but even when you do kick it into turbo mode, you’ll likely find yourself pedaling (albeit with a bionic boost). Plus, if your trail ride outlasts the electric bike’s battery, the return trip will feel a lot more like a basic bike ride.
6. You’ll Want To Dress Appropriately
Just like riding a traditional bike, you’ll want to be sure you dress appropriately. And because their business (and insurance coverage) depends on it, bike rental shops often insist that you wear closed-toe shoes and don a bicycle helmet. So when you rent an electric bike, it’s best to leave your sandals or flip flops at home and prepare for a possibly less-than-stellar hair day.
7. Add-Ons Are Often An Option
Most electric bike rentals typically include a bicycle helmet, especially where the local or state laws require cyclists to wear them. But your electric bike rental may include other items, either in the hourly or daily rental fee or at an additional charge. If your trip includes stops to explore by foot, be sure to ask about a bicycle lock. If you plan on riding to a picnic spot or doing any shopping, ask for a bike with a basket or pannier bag. And if you’re exploring by bike with one or more friends, ask the bike shop if they have wirelessly connected bike helmets so you can chat about the sights along the way while riding single file when necessary.
8. Electric Bikes Are A Little More Expensive To Rent
When renting an electric bike, expect to pay slightly more than when you rent a standard bicycle. Not only is the base model a bit more expensive -- $900 to $5,000 for an e-bike vs $400 to $1,000 for a traditional road or mountain bike -- but the ongoing maintenance of the motor and battery pack is more expensive with an electric bike. Naturally, rental prices will vary by location, but expect to pay roughly $10 to $20 per hour to rent an electric bike. Most bike shops will offer discounts for longer rentals, so be sure to ask about four-hour, all-day, 24-hour, and multi-day rates.
9. Be Smart About Bike Safety
In a country with more bicycles than people, the Netherlands takes bike safety very seriously. From Amsterdam to Maastricht, the Dutch hold automobile drivers highly accountable for giving bicyclists and pedestrians the right of way. Having lived there for nearly four years, enjoying the lush countryside and bustling cities from dedicated bike paths, it’s a big adjustment riding in the United States where bike paths are often tiny strips along busy roads and cyclists often compete for space with distracted drivers in speeding cars. So before you jump on your rented ride, be sure to brush up on these biking rules.
Pro Tip: When exploring a new area by bike, consider taking an electric bike tour. Often available through bike rental shops, these adventures are led by a local with expert knowledge of the bicycles and trails.
10. You’re Likely to Experience Love at First Ride
When I returned my first electric bike rental to the shop after an exhilarating day on two wheels, the Pedego Electric Bike slogan -- “Love at first ride” -- hit me hard. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the amazing time I’d had on my rented electric bike! Thankfully there are a growing number of electric bike rental options available from coast to coast, making it easier for people to enjoy their own backyards and travelers to enjoy new destinations on two wheels. And, if the electric bike bug bites you hard and you want to purchase one, consider our picks for the best affordable e-bikes of 2021.