Beginner’s Guide to Different Types of Electric Bikes

Understanding the different types of electric bikes is crucial in making the right choice when shopping for one. The right type can go a long way toward making your commute easier, comfortable, and more fun!

Even if you have a particular type of e-bike in mind, read through the nine e-bike types we have listed below because you may find something that’s better suited for YOUR needs.

Let’s take a look at what the current market offers.

1. Folding Electric Bikes

Folding electric bikes have been established as one of the top choices for e-bikers.  No other type of e-bike is as useful as foldable ones are. They are the best option for commuters who rely on multiple modes of transportation for commuting, for people with storage space issues, travelers, and for those who’d like to have a portable e-bike for various reasons.

Folding e-bikes have carved out their permanent spot in the electric bike world, and you will hear about them from us more and more.

Foldable e-bikes are best for small storage

The most portable e-bikes. No rack needed

Most of them are pretty affordable & good quality

Folding e-bikes are not as light as they seem. Although there are some ultra-light ones in the market, most of them are 80Ibs or heavier! So, make sure you prepare to do some lifting when you’re putting yours in the trunk

Lectric XP and SWAGTRON EB7 are two examples of folding e-bikes in today’s market.

2. Fat Tire Electric Bikes

Fat tire electric bikes are a contemporary sub-trend inspired by both fat bikes and electric components. The wide tires allow for use on multiple terrains like mountains and beaches. The larger tires also absorb shock better to provide a smoother ride. Fat tire electric bikes also tend to be more durable than other e-bikes.

Of course, those fat tires will add to the bike’s overall weight; thus, it’s safe to say that they are not the most portable e-bikes and are pretty heavy.

Fat tires are best for tackling hills and rough terrain

Fat tires will give you a smoother, more comfortable ride

Fat tires will add to the weight of your e-bike

Good quality fat tires can be expensive to replace

Fat tire e-bikes are not specific to a brand; many companies use fat tires on their bikes, but RadRover Step Through 1 is what a typical full-size e-bike looks like.

3. Beach Cruiser Electric Bikes

Beach cruiser e-bikes are built for cycling enthusiasts who enjoy easy and smooth riding.  They’re referred to as beach cruisers, but these e-bikes are the most classic-looking bicycles ridden anywhere smooth and are very multi-purposed. 

You will see these bikes all over European streets, by the parks, school campuses, outdoor shopping areas, etc. Just don’t expect higher speed from these bikes and ride them gently.

Beach cruiser e-bikes are mostly affordable

Beach cruisers are more durable and comfort-oriented

You can use beach cruisers for multiple purposes & not just touring a beach

Don’t expect much power & speed from beach cruisers

As functional as they are, they look pretty classic & boring

Here’s an example of a beach cruiser from Blix Bikes.

4. 3-Wheel Electric Bikes

3-Wheel e-bikes also referred to as electric tricycles or trikes, have specific purposes.  Similar to electric cargo bikes, 3-wheel e-bikes are generally designed to accommodate additional load.  They’re also used by riders who need more stability for various reasons.

Two types of unique 3-wheel e-bikes are Tadpole and Delta.

A woman riding a Tadpole bike

Tadpole trikes are a type of tricycle that has two front wheels to steer. Some people find that tadpole trikes offer the perfect mix of comfort and performance.

Riders love them for long distances, as they’re not as tiring on your body compared to other kinds of bikes!

Delta trikes are two-wheeled bikes that have one wheel in front and two in the back. Exactly the opposite of tadpoles.

Delta trikes are usually the best choice when maneuverability and versatility are a priority over all-out speed. They are also better for individuals with limited mobility since they are very easy to get on and off.

Electric trikes provide a high level of comfort

Trikes can be used for passenger or load transport

Electric trikes are great for low impact & long-distance riding

Trikes can be a bit pricey. Decent quality trikes are $2K & up

May need extended warranty because not all shops can help with repairing trikes

Trikes are typically slower in speed

5. Mini Electric Bikes

Mini-electric bikes are small and ideal for mix-mode commuters. They can be either foldable or solid framed, but they’re really lightweight and a great alternative to scooters for daily short commutes.

Some mini e-bike users claim that the smaller wheels and frame make them feel safer, as they feel more in control. Mini e-bikes can be good training bikes for starters and will definitely be easier on the pocket.

One of the most popular mini e-bikes in the market is Jetson’s Bolt Pro.

Great value for the money

Excellent for short local commutes

Good starter e-bikes

Very portable

Not for rougher surfaces

Lower Speed

6. Off Road Electric Bikes

Off-road e-bikes are immensely strong, suitable for rough trails. It can be difficult to distinguish between an off-road bike and other larger-frame e-bikes, but the key differences are in their components. Off-road e-bikes usually have front and rear suspensions and knobby tires to tackle rough terrains like sand or dirt. Most are built to comfortably handle up to 300 Ibs of load.

The term “Off-Road” is also used for a subcategory of electric bikes usually custom-made with higher-performance motors. These are ultra-high-speed electric bikes that are often referred to as “off-road” e-bikes.  They were given the name “off-road” e-bikes because of the unusually high rates of speed, which can only be ridden in unregulated areas.

Durable frames & parts

Accommodate heavy riders

Heavy frames

Most brands are $2K+

7. Electric Cargo Bikes

The name gives it away; these e-bikes are designed to transport cargo.  Keep in mind that cargo does not necessarily mean boxes and packages.  You can always use your electric cargo bike to take your children and pets on a joy ride.  Though, primarily, these e-bikes will be used for transporting goods and supplies.

Here are the three types of cargo e-bikes you will mostly see:

  • Long-john e-bikes. Have a cargo box at the front. The front wheel is way out to cater to space. Some feature a back seat, which can accommodate an extra passenger.
  • Front-load trike. These e-bikes are tricycles with two wheels in front and up-front space for cargo.
  • Long-tail bike. These e-bikes have padding in the back suited for transporting an additional passenger.  Here’s a great example from Rad Power Bikes.

Local delivery services’ best friend

Mid-range pricing ($2K to $3K)

Best for family joy rides

Need safety upgrades for passenger transportation

Need extended warranty because not every bike mechanic can work on these

Unlike the other types of e-bikes, you cannot be short on space for these ones

8. Electric Commuter Bike

Commuter e-bikes are the most standard electric bicycle in today’s industry. They’re known as commuting bikes because they can be used for short-distance urban commutes and offer plenty of power to cover longer distances if you have one!

Man riding a commuter e-bike on pavement

Every component of a commuter e-bike has been designed with the riders’ needs and comfort in mind.  They usually have thicker tires for road bump absorption and have sturdy frames that can handle more weight for the commuter’s accessories.

The boundaries of what’s classified as a commuter e-bike are pretty loose. Commuter E-bikes can be any type, but they often have hybrid components because each part is assembled with the safety and comfort of an urban rider in mind.

Best for urban commuting

Reasonable price range

Easier to upgrade components

Can’t do much with this type of e-bike except for a regular street commute

9. Mountain Electric Bikes

Mountain e-bikes are the only e-bikes made for rugged terrains. Whether you ride a lot on unpaved roads or dirt or mountainous terrains, your best bet is a mountain bike.   

Mountain bikes are known for their ruggedness, and mountain e-bikes only add to that. Mountain bikers will be able to explore new trails with extra motor power in tow.

Mountain e-bikes can undoubtedly be used on any terrain you find yourself in, but know that if your destination has rugged grounds, you’ll be on the safest bike you can buy.

Frames designed to be stable for adventurous riding

Versatile to handle different road conditions

Variety of brands available

E-MTBs are not the bikes you want to save money on. The cheaper E-MTBs are worthless

Final Note

The e-bikes mentioned above are a quick overview of the general types.  Different e-bike brands and manufacturers will each offer their own version of every kind with some distinctions.

Ultimately, the three things that will determine the best e-bike for you are your intended use, the preferred frame style, and your budget. 

Your intended use: All e-bikes can be ridden everywhere and be used as bicycles.  But the right fit for your intended use will give the best return on investment.  The right type will save you from unnecessary expenditure, mechanical breakdowns, parts durability, and overall longevity.

Preferred frame style: Determining the perfect frame style is just as important, if not more so, than knowing your intended use. Different frame styles are perfect for different needs. The one that’s just right will make biking much more enjoyable and comfortable!

Your budget: Despite your intended use and needs, there is enough variation in the e-bike market to accommodate all types of budgets.  Determine your lowest and highest price points and study the current market values to avoid unnecessary markups.

Read our other posts for tips on how to find the best e-bike for your needs.