Assortment of bikes

A helpful guide to e-bikes

E-bikes are game changers. They give you all the benefits of cycling, but with a bit of boost to tackle pesky things like hills on leisurely weekend rides or sweat-free trips around town.

Plus, owning an e-bike has the planet-friendly side effect of increasing the likelihood that you’ll reach for your helmet over your car keys. In a North American study of 1,800 new e-bike owners, 55% said they rode daily or weekly prior to owning an e-bike, but once they got an e-bike that number jumped to 91%1.

What are e-bikes used for?

New technology has allowed e-bikes to become lighter, faster and more efficient than ever before – here are some popular reasons you might choose an e-bike:

For commuting

You get to enjoy riding to and from work, without worrying about arriving a sweaty mess, even if your route is full of climbs. Commuting via e-bike gives you a lower carbon footprint, and gives you a dose of fresh air and exercise every day. One survey found that 28% of North American e-bike buyers bought them as an alternative to a car and not as a bike upgrade2.

For carrying kids or cargo

Cargo e-bikes make getting heavy loads from A-to-B totally doable. With their extra cargo space, these e-bikes are great to take care of your weekly grocery shop, transport kids around town, or load up for the ultimate family day in the park.

“We bought our e-bike mainly to transport our toddler who was at daycare a 20-minute drive away… worse in rush hour,” says MEC staffer Brock. “We were tied to driving, since whoever dropped him off had to pick him up. Now, with an e-bike, we have way more freedom. Our son sits on the back and loves seeing trains and ships, all the things he couldn’t see in a car.”

Tern’s GSD cargo bike holds two kids or 180kg for zipping across town, no car required. Note: MEC is carrying the Mango colour of the Tern GSD.

For mountain biking

E-mountain bikes make the ride up easier and faster, keeping your legs fresh and maximizing your time on the trail. They’re also handy to help you get to the trails faster (and maybe even without loading your bike in a car). Plus, if you plan to go riding after a long commute, an e-mountain bike can give tired legs the help they need to get some laps in.

For accessibility or balancing out a group

E-bikes are an excellent way to get multiple generations or different fitness levels out on a ride together. Cyclists who may be working on their fitness can enjoy the freedom of cycling with a little electronic boost. E-bikes also allow riders to extend their pedaling years; with the right e-bike, the kids will be trying to catch up to grandma, and not the other way around.

For riders recovering from injury

E-bikes are a helpful tool to get back on two wheels after an injury. With the electronic drive unit’s smooth torque delivery, riders can maintain an even cadence, which puts less pressure on joints. And with an e-assist, riders can keep their heart rate lower. Always make sure to talk to your doctor to find out what’s right for you in terms of recovery and exercise.

For fun

Yep, it’s that plain and simple. With a few pedal strokes, e-bikes take you from a standstill to the rolling freedom that make you feel like a kid again. Almost everyone who hops on an e-bike for the first time gets a grin on their face when they feel what they’re all about.

The Cannondale Quick Neo SL’s sleek design wraps a MAHLE drive unit and battery in the rear hub and frame.

What are the different types of e-bikes at MEC?

MEC carries three types of e-bikes. All our models of e-bikes are pedal-assist, which means the electronic drive unit only kicks in when you’re actually pedaling (no pedaling = no electric assistance).

Urban, hybrid e-bikes: Perfect if you bike mostly on roads. If you plan to bike commute, ride around town with steep hills, or want to do urban adventures without getting sweaty, these e-bikes are for you.

Cargo e-bike: A two-wheeled pack horse ready to take over car duty and carry heavy loads wherever you’re heading: park, school, groceries, home improvement store, you name it.

E-mountain bike: Most mountain bikers will agree: the best part of riding is going down. E-mountain bikes can get up you up the mountain so you have enough steam to go down, over and over again.

Common questions when buying an e-bike

Check out answers to a few of the top questions we hear about e-bikes:

How far can I go on an e-bike?

Range is one of the biggest questions around e-bikes. It’s important to be aware that a lot of factors can affect your e-bike’s potential range and how long your battery will last. Hills, turning on power assist, headwinds, rough roads, and how much weight you’re carrying all impact your e-bike’s potential range. That said, a good rule of thumb uses watt hours (Wh) of your e-bike’s battery: every 20Wh will provide about 1.5km of range on even terrain at around 30kph with gentle pedaling. Some e-bike drive manufacturers have tools to estimate how far you’ll be able to go with their e-bike (like the Bosch range assistant).

There is one thing that you can do that will greatly increase any e-bike’s range… pedal! The more effort you put into the ride, the less work your e-bike must do and the farther you can go.

5 levels of pedal assist in the Cannondale Canvas Neo helps you power up any hill and around every traffic jam.

What kind of regulations are there around e-bikes?

Each province looks at e-bikes a little differently, though you will see some commonalities, such as:

  • Power limited to a maximum of 500W.
  • Power assisted max speed of which means the e-assist helps only up to 32km/h. Any faster and it’s all you.
  • Working pedals, which means the drive unit only applies torque when you are pedaling.

At MEC we only carry e-bikes that meet the features mentioned above. Be sure to know your local rules and regulations, as some provinces are stricter than others; for instance, e-bike riders in PEI require a driver’s license. Also, if you are looking at an e-mountain bike, research what your local trails allow. Most trails allow e-mountain bikes with the features outlined above, but it’s important to understand what’s permitted on trail networks before you go.

How do I charge an e-bike?

Charging an e-bike is about as easy as charging a phone. If your e-bike has an integrated battery, simply insert the included plug into your bike’s port after you’re done your ride. If your e-bike has a removable battery, pop the battery off and bring it in with you after your ride, then simply plug it into the included charger.

How heavy is an e-bike?

E-bikes can weigh a fair bit more than regular bikes. We include the weight of each e-bike as part of the tech specs on mec.ca. If your cycling life involves lifting a bike on and off a rack or carrying it up the stairs at the office or in your apartment building, it’s a good idea to think about weight and how you’ll get it from your house to the road.

Bike bonuses

Buy a new bike, get free adjustments and minor maintenance for a year at any MEC bike shop. When you buy a regularly priced Cannondale bike over $2000, you get even more post-purchase perks: free bike service in-store for two full years. See details and conditions

Alex Moss
Alex Moss

Lexically inclined gear geek, EDC nerd (that’s everyday carry) and pancake enthusiast. Often found scouring the web for all there is to know about the newest and coolest.