Skip to main content

Motorized Bicycles for Getting Fit and Going Places

I have been researching and writing about consumer electronics for over 13 years.

What should you look for in a motorized bike?

What should you look for in a motorized bike?

Are Motorized Bicycles Right For You?

If you're searching for a form of transportation that's economical, environmentally friendly, fun, and practical, then motorized bicycles might be something you should consider.

Motorized bicycles could be gas-powered or electric. However, in most instances, these bicycles are battery-operated, electric models. They are quieter, more economical, and certainly a more eco-conscious choice.

Whether you are fit but want a little power to help you with longer commutes, or you want to be able to pedal your way to the store without using a car or starting a major fitness program, these bikes provide fun and practical solutions. Let's learn more about them!

Motorized bikes can help you get up big hills!

Motorized bikes can help you get up big hills!

The Advantages of Motorized Bicycles

Most motorized bicycles are electric, so with this in mind, these bicycles are great for a number of reasons:

  • They save energy.
    An electric motorized bicycle consumes no gasoline or other fuel. Most use advanced lithium batteries that provide the longest possible charge after a few hours of being plugged into a traditional household outlet.
  • They are emission/pollution-free.
    Electric bikes generate no fumes, toxic emissions, and so forth. They are easy on the environment. This is especially true if the power to your home is wind or solar-generated. These bicycles generally charge from any regular outlet in your home or office.
  • They are quiet.
    The motors on these bicycles are generally much quieter than a gasoline-powered engine.
  • They allow you to get to your destination quickly and easily.
    If you have a long commute, you'll arrive without exhausting yourself. You can handle hills and other challenging terrains without extra effort. Even casual riders can maintain 15 to 20 miles per hour easily.
  • They allow you to increase your activity level.
    Riders can choose to pedal, pedal with motor assistance, or rely totally on the motor. In all cases, they allow you to get out and get moving at whatever level is appropriate for your fitness level.
  • They are economical.
    Operating costs are minimal. It costs pennies a day (approximately 10 cents) to keep your electric motorized bicycle charged. Many batteries have to be replaced only every few years when properly charged. See more about the costs of replacing spent batteries below.
How do you choose a motorized bike?

How do you choose a motorized bike?

Choosing a Motorized Bike

There are a number of things to consider when buying an electric motorized bicycle.

  1. Certainly, just as with traditional bikes, you want to determine which style and size are right for you. Some people prefer the step-through frames as they can be easier to mount without the higher, horizontal bar to clear. Just like regular bikes, some of these motorized models are designed like a cruiser and are perfect for riding on roads and city streets. Others are designed for more rugged, trail use.
  2. Tires need to be considered as well. While puncture-resistant tires are good and a wide tire can add stability, they can make pedaling on roadways a bit harder due to increased resistance.
  3. Full suspension, shock absorption, and so forth are particularly important in rugged terrain, but a wide, cushioned seat can be really useful even on city streets.
  4. Variable speed control and the ability to switch from motorized operation to power assist, and even pedal-only give riders more flexibility. Being able to pedal with the motor on allows you to save on battery power and increase range. It also allows you to get more activity.
  5. The motor, battery-type, and size also matter. Lithium-ion batteries tend to provide a better life, more range, and are the lightest weight. On the other hand, they are a bit more costly to replace. A Li-Ion battery can cost up to five hundred dollars. Proper charging will help to assure it lasts for 3 to 5 years. An SLA battery will cost approximately $100 and last 1-3 years.
  6. The battery should be easily removed to allow you to take it indoors to be stored, even if your bike will remain outside. A lockable battery can also prevent theft.
  7. Most manufacturers will also list the expected top speed and the maximum range for each bike. Know your commuting distance, but keep in mind that a number of variables will affect range estimates:
    - tire inflation
    - rider weight
    - wind resistance
    - terrain
    - speed
    - motor size and battery
    - how much you pedal to assist the motor.
  8. Other convenience features matter too. A cargo mount can be very useful, but of course, if you will need to carry things, additional cargo-carrying options are available as well. A headlight is important for added safety.
Motorized bikes are not usually considered motor vehicles

Motorized bikes are not usually considered motor vehicles

Riding Laws and Safety Tips

In the US, electric motorized bicycles are not considered motor vehicles in most instances due to their limited speed and range. They are considered traditional bicycles. They are intended for use on roadways and are generally not acceptable on dedicated pedestrian pathways.

State and local laws govern the use of electric bicycles in the US. You can find some of the state-specific guidelines in this Wikipedia article. Bicycle safety laws apply, and of course, vary by state.

Maintaining an electric bicycle is paramount in assuring safety. Properly inflated tires, secure spokes, a well-charged battery, and so forth are important to check daily or before every use.

Your Options

1. The quick and easy option for getting a motorized bike is to purchase one of the many models available. A few of the possibilities are highlighted in the video below. Bikes range from several hundred to a few thousand dollars.

2. The second option is to get an engine kit, 2-stroke or 4-stroke, and build your own. This, of course, takes some time and some DIY skills. A quick online search for "engine kits for bicycles" will reveal plenty of options.

© 2010 Christine Mulberry