Accelerator, Theft and Insurance: Three of Your Questions About Buying Electric Bikes Answers

(Photos: Jonathan Maus / BikePortland)

The e-bike era is upon us, and as I wrote for BikePortland before, I’m one of those jumping on board the e-bike boom.


  • Should I buy an electric bicycle with an accelerator?
  • How can I avoid having my bike stolen?
  • Can I take out insurance for my electric bicycle?

I wrote about some of the questions I had, many of which related to the logistics of buying an electric bike: Which one should I buy? What should I look for in my perfect e-bike? How can I be sure that my precious and expensive new bike is not stolen?

It turns out that many others had similar questions (the comment thread here is full of them), and I was also delighted to hear from experts who kindly offered their input to help answer them.

Before I share some of the questions and offer a few answers, I want to point out how lucky we are in Portland to have so many great e-bike specific stores that are full of smart staff who would love to help you out. Some of our favorites are Cynergy E-Bikes, The eBike Store, Vvolt (local manufacturer / brand) and Splendid Cycles.

That being said, here are some basic questions that many people who answered my article wanted more information on before they went all out on an electric bike:

Should I buy an electric bicycle with an accelerator?

Not all e-bikes are created equal when it comes to how the “e” part works. Some bikes, like the ones from Nike Biketown that you can rent on the streets of Portland, have relatively low pedal assistance, which means your pedaling provides motive power that gives your ride a boost. (This is also known as a “class 1” electric bicycle.)

You can usually change your assistance level settings to suit your needs, but you don’t use a separate lever to trigger the motor. Therefore, riding one will be quite similar to a regular bicycle. A bike with just pedal assist would be great for someone who is happy enough to ride their non-electric bike but knows that the extra power boost would help them use their bike more often. These bikes also retain power for longer because you are helping the motor as you pedal.

Other electric bikes offer both a throttle and pedaling assistance at the choice of cyclists. With a throttle, riders can push a lever for a quick boost in power which is stronger than what you would get if you were just pedaling, but for someone who wants the flexibility to choose between power assist. smoother pedal and stronger throttle mode for, for example, climbing steep hills effortlessly or starting easily while standing still, this bike could be the right one for you.

Bikes with and without a throttle are both considered bikes according to the Oregon Electric Bicycle Rights Guide, as long as the motor cannot propel the bike more than 20 miles per hour.

How can I avoid having my bike stolen?

Womp womp.

This is something that worries me personally, and it gave me a bit of time to consider whether or not I should buy an electric bike.

The Portland Police Office’s Bike Theft Task Force isn’t what it used to be, and bike theft is still a big deal here. One thing you should always do is keep your bike’s photos and serial number handy in case you ever need to report a theft. Without these at hand, it will be much more difficult to locate your bike.

But it would be better not to have your bike stolen in the first place, so let’s talk about prevention. All the same rules apply to analog bikes, but are tightened up considering the higher cost of most e-bikes.

First of all, and perhaps the most important, is to be careful where you leave your bike.

You should park your bike in a well-lit area and where people will notice someone wearing a bolt cutter to your U-lock. Eva Frazier, co-owner of the Portland Clever Cycles bike store, tells me that neither should people rest on their laurels when it comes to “secure” bicycle storage areas. BikePortland has written about examples of thefts taking place at these “secure” facilities – so if you park your bike in a room with a bunch of other nice bikes, in your apartment or at work, you need to stay alert.

“I would like us to have better security on the side of the bicycle manufacturer. “
– Eva Frazier, Smart Cycles

You must have a U-lock. They are unfortunately much more expensive than cable locks, but also much more difficult to cut. Josh Ross of BikePortland recently recommended the Hiplock D1000, which is still only available for pre-order. This lock should cost $ 345, but if you have an electric bike that costs thousands of dollars, it might be worth it for peace of mind. (There are also cheaper bikes available which are always highly recommended.) It should also be borne in mind that many e-bikes have non-standard frame shapes and / or larger frame tube diameters, which can result in makes them more difficult to lock with standard U-locks.

Frazier says there are new methods of deterrence every day, like alarms and insurance (which I will cover later). But she thinks bike makers should be doing more when it comes to theft.

Don’t let the fear of having your e-bike stolen force you to refuel.

“Theft is one of the biggest problems for people,” says Frazier. “I would like us to have better security on the side of the bicycle manufacturer. “

Some manufacturers are working to improve safety – VanMoof, for example, includes a tracking device in its e-bikes. This is a luxury addition, so you might think about attaching another hidden tracking device to the bike, although that isn’t a perfect long-term solution.

And when it comes to all the fears that e-bikes have, it’s important to think about the alternative. If you have the choice between getting around by electric bike or by car, doesn’t driving offer the same risks? On a very useful Twitter feed who has compiled numerous expert advice, economist Sarah Dougherty highlighted the cost / benefit analysis of traveling by electric bike versus a car.

“As I don’t usually leave it any longer than in a store, [I] use a regular lock and think about how much money I’m saving by not driving. I think I save at least $ 2 for every 10 miles I don’t drive. Already at 1.5 km, the risk of theft is possible lost money. Driving is certain money lost, ”writes Dougherty.

This is a great point! Don’t let the fear of having your e-bike stolen force you to refuel.

Can I take out insurance for my electric bicycle?

We’ve already covered bike insurance at BikePortland, but it’s important to talk more about it, especially when it comes to e-bikes specifically. This is another layer that could give homeowners some peace of mind against theft, as well as injury or damage. Unlike auto insurance, cyclists are not obligatory have insurance, but it’s still a good idea.

Renters ‘or homeowners’ insurance often covers bicycles, but because e-bikes have motors, it may be more difficult to get your bike covered by your regular home insurance, even if e-bikes in Class 1, 2, and 3 are legally classified as bicycles under the federal regime. law. A BikePortland reader said they were cited for motorcycle insurance when trying to insure their e-bike, which shouldn’t be the case for any e-bike that has a top speed of 28 miles per hour or less – insurers may simply not be familiar with this relatively new area.

Insurance specific to electric bikes would offer you some financial protection in the event of injury and collision with other drivers or vehicles. I have found a few different options at places like Markel Insurance and Velosurance.

This is something that you will want to ask an expert when purchasing your bike. When I asked Velosurance for a quote for a $ 2,500 electric bike, they told me I would pay around $ 15 per month. Compared to the $ 100 I spent monthly on auto insurance, this will be a very welcome trade-in.

Hope this has been helpful to you! Stay tuned for more stories as I continue my e-bike shopping journey.

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