What makes an ebike different from an acoustic bike is the motor, battery, and display. When deciding on which ebike to purchase, your first priority should be to find a bike that accommodates your primary style of biking. Popular bike styles are urban, hybrid, mountain, road, recumbent, folding, fat tire, etc. Second in consideration might be the motor, whether hub or mid drive and the brand of motor followed by the power and range of the battery. The display is far enough down the list that it will probably not be a significant factor in impacting the ebike you select, but it is good to understand the options and determine in advance if you will be satisfied with the display that comes with the ebike.
When the current generation of ebikes rolled onto the scene about ten years ago, they mostly had a basic display, or control system, with an on/off switch and some indicators. The ebike display is usually mounted on the left side of the handlebar within reach. You want to keep your eyes on the road as much as possible so the display should be located where you can easily see it while pedaling. It should be water resistant in case you encounter inclement weather. At a minimum you want to have the following capability with an ebike display:
A step up from a basic display is an LCD display that incorporates all of the basic functions plus additional ones typically found on a basic bike speedometer. Speedometers, also called bike computers, have evolved over the last 20 years from the mechanical dial activated by a magnet on the wheel to more sophisticated ones that have capabilities you also see on fitness trackers and smart watches. These might be able to collect and display the following data:
We are now starting to see innovations with displays as ebike designers take advantage of the battery, the miniaturization of electronics, and Bluetooth technology and they incorporate new functions not traditionally seen on a bike into an ebike display. These functions might be built into a display mounted inside the frame of the ebike itself or through a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone app. In some cases, there might not be a display on the ebike at all, but rather everything is controlled through an app that you download onto your smart phone. There are ebikes on the market today or in early stages of development with the following advanced features:
What if your perfect bike does not have all the display features you would like? In some cases, it is possible retrofit the display with another model or add a supplemental one with more functionality. Just check the compatibility of the devices you would like to use.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories