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The college environment is a unique experience that asks you to always be on your toes, ready for action, and prepared for a challenge! Commuting is a challenge you shouldn’t have to worry about, and an electric bike could be the answer to your prayers. But which bike to buy? The best, of course. But with so many models out there, it’s not always easy knowing what to choose.
What are the 5 best electric bikes for college students? Based on top ratings, affordability for the standard college student’s budget, and overall value, here are our top five picks:
- Rad Power Bike’s Rad Runner Electric Utility Bike
- The Jetson Folding Throttle Electric Bike with Twist
- The Bolt Electric Bike
- Emojo Lynx 36V/48V Electric Folding Fat Bike
- The ECOTRIC 20” New Fat Tire Folding Electric Bike 500W
The purchase price of an electric bike might sound steep, but you will save a fortune in the long-run by choosing a more environmentally and cost-effective means of transportation that does not require the gas, insurance, and other expenses that a car does.
Bookmark this guide and become an immediate expert on this revolution of commuting that will spare you from showing up a sweaty mess to class each day. We will cover the tips you should keep in mind while shopping, the best bikes on the market ranging from higher-end to economical, e-bike laws you need to be aware of, the cost to maintain you e-bike, and so much more!
Things to Consider When Shopping
When you first start riding these blazing stallions that race up to 60 MPH, you’ll feel like you’ve cheated some kind of fitness code.
Just because you’re not pedaling your head off and dripping in perspiration, does not mean you’re not getting a workout. You still pedal and put in effort to ride your electrical bike, you simply don’t have to work as hard so you can go further, ride longer, and enjoy yourself even more!
When shopping for the right electrical bike fit for your lifestyle and city, consider the following factors to simplify your decision-making process:
- What is your budget? There are some options that will be around $500-800, but those are clearly not the highest quality. As a college student, I recommend that you aim to spend less than $1,500 to stay within your means and test that you actually enjoy the e-bike before investing in a real honcho.
Riders who are truly passionate will invest up to $10,000 for a quality electrical bike. You can do that someday when you’re rich after receiving your degree. For now, aim for the most budget-friendly ride you can find.
Keep in mind that whatever your budget is, save a bit on the tail-end for maintenance and necessary repairs that may pop up in the first year or two.
- What is your commute like? If you’re traveling 15+ miles a day on a traditional bike, you need to get with the program and invest in an electric bike. You’ll be able to get to where you need (like class) on time without coming in drenched in sweat.
If you’re only remaining on campus and don’t have a huge commute, this will help make your upfront investment even lower by you requiring a less sophisticated bike.
- Do you want a normal electric bike or a folding electrical bike? These will obviously be easier to store and carry around. This adds a dimension to it’s portability, which is worth considering due to the heavier design of an electric bike.
- Are you a speed demon? We will cover electrical bike laws in a later section, but e-bikes are designed to have a top speed of 20 mph. That doesn’t mean you can’t get it to go faster. A rider can typically add another 6 to 8 mph through active pedaling. That’s on a level stretch of highway. Downhill it gets faster. It’s not common to get ticketed because you’re riding fast, but unsafe driving can not only get you hurt, or hurt others, but a cop will be more likely to give you a citation.
Keeping these factors in mind will help you know instinctually which electrical bike is the one of your dreams. It should suit your needs, not break the bank, and make you feel like the coolest rider on campus!
Reasons to Purchase an Electrical Bike
With most of these models costing between $800-8,000, it’s understandable that as a budget-conscious college student, you may not find an electrical bike feasible.
We will recommend affordable options that will hopefully ease the pain of pulling out your wallet. Just to offer a bit of extra peace of mind, here are some great reasons as to why you shouldn’t feel guilty for investing in the e-bike trend:
- You’re not alone! People are loving electric bikes, and they’re not a one-hit-wonder sort of tune. This trend is here to stay with the market becoming a $77 million industry. E-bike sales actually surpassing the sale of standard bikes in The Netherlands, according to Forbes, and, though that hasn’t happened in the U.S. yet, e-bikes market-share is increasing.
- It will lower your carbon footprint. With millennials and younger generations being more concerned with health and environmental issues than their generational predecessors, this should mean something to you. Not only are you sparing the atmosphere of your car’s fuel emissions, but also getting more fresh air into your body as well.
- The Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives released a study proving that people are actually getting more exercise now, due to their electrical bikes. Many feel this is because people aren’t having to work as hard or exert as much energy to enjoy a bike ride.
It feels less like a chore or workout and more like an excuse to get outside and fly through the streets. With people getting more exercise in an easier-fashion, it’s no wonder cyclists are making the conversion.
- Related to the last point, riders are also going further and more prone to extending their trip to further distances.
- A recent study found that people feel safer on electrical bikes than traditional bikes. I would imagine you don’t feel that painstaking pressure of the car behind you waiting for you to pedal yourself into a heart attack. With an electrical bike, you can keep pace in your bike lane and not hold up traffic (or die trying to keep up!)
It’s impossible not to ride one of these without a big cheesy grin on your face as you feel the enjoyment of a race car or go-kart where pedaling is not required.
You can see there are plenty of reasons to make the switch, especially if your calves are so sick of your traditional bike and 10-mile daily commute. Do yourself a favor and invest in your wellbeing!
The Best Electrical Bikes for College Students
Without further ado, here are the best electrical bikes for college students on a budget, as selected based on value for money, reviews from verified users, and practical application:
#1 Rad Power Bike’s Rad Runner Electric Utility Bike
This one tops many lists, regardless of being suited for college students, this bike is the definition of value.
Costing around $1,199, this is the epitome of getting the highest quality at a comparatively affordable rate to the competition. The reason that Rad Power Bikes can price their bicycles so affordably is because they cut out the middleman and distribute directly to their consumers.
Their expert team will happily assist you in the over 300 customization options for accessories which can be purchased. The Proprietary Passenger Package offers an adjustable seat that can add a passenger seat and customize the entire set-up for you.
The battery, as they put it, is not something you can “cheap out on.” Their Samsung 35E cells are lithium-ion celled batteries, which allow it to be more lightweight and energy-packed than almost any other electrical bike on the market.
Some of the key features are:
- 25-45+ Miles per Charge
- 5-6 Hours For a full Charge
- 672 Wh is the Total Battery Capacity
One reviewer of the product on their main page added a quick review of, “We’ve been able to hold off on getting a second family car, and it has surprisingly handled all the hills I’ve thrown at it. I would highly recommend the Radrunner if you’re considering getting an e-bike.”
Be sure to purchase it on their main page here as the same bike is listed for nearly triple the price on popular shopping websites.
#2 The Jetson Metro Electric Folding Bike with Twist Throttle
This affordable model is foldable and runs for a great price (see on Amazon). This is quite a steal for an electrical bike, and they even have a payment plan, which will help you with budgeting.
There are three levels to the pedal assistance, so you have option on how much energy you’d like to exert. You will see this on the battery monitor in terms of watts: 150, 200, or 250. Going faster or using more pedal assistance will kill the battery charge faster than pedaling independently.
In a review left on this specific bike model by Wired.com by Adrienne So, she says,
“I loved the plush, comfortable seat and big, ergonomic grips. You can check your speed, your odometer, and your battery level on a small LCD, which is mounted on the handlebars. You can also turn on the integrated front light once it gets dark outside.”
The reviewer does admit the 38-pounds are a bit heavier than one may estimate once it’s folded up. So bear this in mind if you have long distances where you would actually have to carry the folded e-bike. Electric bikes will be considerably heavier than a traditional bike.
Some of the key features are:
- Dimensions when unfolded: 52.8 x 21.6 x 43.3 inches
- Maximum speed: 15.5 mph
- Charging duration: Up to 4 hours
If you are a college student on a budget, this will be a wonderful option for you. If you are serious about owning an e-bike and want quality over anything else, I recommend you save up slightly more for a longer-lasting electrical bike that will give you more bang for your buck. Check it out on Amazon.
#3 The Bolt Electric Bike
This will take the cake for affordability on our list of recommendations. Like the last option, I do recommend you look elsewhere if you’re seeking high-durability or plan to ride it through rigorous slopes.
However, if you simply need a minimalistic electrical bike to get from point A to B and arrive to class on time, I think this bike may be your man.
The Bolt Electric often comes on sale. You can look at its price HERE on Amazon. It comes with a lightweight frame, carrying handlebar on the side (and it does fold up), lightweight design at only 34 pounds, and adorable appearance.
It’s aesthetic is that of an Italian Vespa, and you’ll feel very chic riding your affordable moped-like bike around campus. Some might argue that it’s not a true bike, but we’re talking inexpensive, electric, point a to point b. While the purists argue, you can drive across campus to hit the books.
Some of the key features are:
- Dimensions when folded: 40″ x 4.5″ x 28″
- Maximum speed: 15.5 mph
- Charging duration: Up to 5 hours
- 1-year warranty included with purchase
With a perfect 5-star rating out of 50 purchasers, the owners of the Bolt are thrilled to have found it and happy to rave about the savings, practicality, and quality. One reviewer says, “I love my scooter! I use it to get me to and from work every day. I get about 10 miles out of a full charge going full speed.”
It is recommended that you purchase rear view mirrors if you’re driving in traffic as it doesn’t come equipped with that accessory. View on Amazon.
#4 Emojo Lynx 36V/48V Electric Folding Fat Bike
This bike may be more expensive than most on this list. Check it out on Amazon.
This is one of the highest quality rides you can get at a considerably reasonable price in the e-bike market. The 500-watt motor allows you to fly through campus and never struggle to make it to class on time again. It truly is a beast of a bike.
With 7-gear options for speed, you can decide how fitness-hungry or lazy you feel on any given day and receive pedal assistance accordingly.
One reviewer contributing to their 5-star success says,
“The bike is high quality and is easy to get out of my semi. I’d recommend to anyone who has little storage room but still wants a quality bike not to hesitate to order a E-MOJO LYNX!”
Some of the key features are:
- Dimensions when folded: 39 L x 18 W x 26 H
- Battery charge duration: 4 – 6 hours
- Weight of bike: 55 lbs. (with battery)
- Warranty included and returns accepted
As the name suggests, the tires are fatter, which allows for plenty of suspension while still being compact enough for a dorm room. It’ll also allow you to ride on dirt, gravel, pavement, and more with its big tires.
#5 The ECOTRIC 20” New Fat Tire Folding Electric Bike 500W
The ECOTRIC is one of the highest-rated e-bikes under $1,000. You can see the actual price here on Amazon.
The manufacturer will throw in free shipping, so you can have this foldable gem delivered to your door and be riding it within the week! It’s folding ability will allow you to store it easily in your dorms.
This mountain-bike design claims to not be a full-fledged mountain bike so you shouldn’t be too rough with it on steep slopes; however the fat wheels do allow you to move the same way you would on a mountain bike.
With hybrid cycling, you have the option to pedal as much as you like with 7 levels of pedal-assistance. It is a bit heavier than some on this list, weighing 57.3 pounds. You may want to consider this if you need to carry it for any long distances, although you can simply roll it by walking along-side it.
Some of the key features are:
- Charging duration: 6-8 hours
- Maximum speed: 20 MPH
- They offer in-store assembly to help you construct the bike
- 1-year warranty and great customer service according to reviews
One reviewer on the linked page excitedly brings up the long-lasting battery on this investment, “I purchased the bike over a year ago and have been commuting about 20 miles a day several times a week with the bike. I probably have logged over 8 thousand miles so far. The battery is still going strong (I can ride over 40 miles with peddle assistance per charge easily).”
With nearly a perfect 5-star rating out of 80+ reviews, the verdict seems to be unanimous that the ECOTRIC is a wonderful value.
Electrical Bike Laws You Need to Be Aware Of
If you’re going to own an e-bike, you need to be an informed student of the laws you’ll be required to abide by for rider safety.
The laws have steadily increased for electric bikes due to the increase in their popularity. As more people are riding these, our government’s legislatures have had a difficult time passing laws for these machines.
The difficulty in regulation is due to the fact that at first, no one knew whether these should be classified under bike law, motorcycle law, or vehicle laws. Since it’s really none of the three, it may take a bit more time for regulation to balance out on an even keel.
Most states require that you do not go over 20-30 miles per hour in traffic, but do not take my word for it. This is merely an estimation or average, but your state may have an extremely lower or higher speed.
Please reference State Electrical Bike Laws to be certain you fully understand the regulations in your local area.
Another tricky aspect of the law is that they clarify in federal law that you are allowed to travel over this speed when in combining human power and motor power.
Basically, what they’re saying is – if you can physically pedal that fast and the officer cannot prove that you were relying on a motorized engine to propel you, you cannot be charged with going over these speed limits. I recommend you take it slow and carefully in highly-concentrated areas of traffic and pedestrians.
If you do see a police officer, be sure you are pedaling, so it doesn’t look like you’re zipping by while relying on your engine solely. This is where people are getting into trouble. Air on the side of caution by not going over 20-30 miles unless you are on private, wide-open property.
You can read more about Class 1, 2, and 3 electric bike laws here.
Costs to Maintain Your Electrical Bike
The main expense will be the initial investment in your bike and then a bit of battery maintenance down the line. You’re not having to pay for fuel or anything to charge your bike, and it is doubtful you will notice a difference in your electricity bill.
So what is the cost to maintain your e-bike? A quick evaluation of the expenses you may experience are:
- Cost of the bike – let’s say $1,000 to average between the bikes on this list.
- Yearly maintenance – if a tire comes lose or quick repairs should cost under $100 per year.
- Battery cost – your battery should last you more than 5 years, so this is not an investment you’ll be making often. You may even be ready to purchase a new e-bike by the time your battery is on the fritz, with some lasting up to 8 years! To replace your battery, it will cost between $500-$1,000. Your first battery will, of course, come with the bike.
So perhaps across 5-8 years of the battery and bike life, you’ll spend between $2,000-3,800 as a rough estimate. Divided by 5-8 years, that’s an extremely low annual figure.
You may pay a few more cents on your bill for the charging, but it will certainly be less than the expenses of owning a vehicle. Not to mention that you won’t require car insurance or road taxes.
Some Accessories You May Need
A few ornamental and functional investments to keep in mind while budgeting for your new e-bike are:
- Helmet (for safety!)
- LED Lights for riding at night
- Rearview mirror attachment for bike
- Two locks (chain & u-lock) for extra security so that your bike isn’t stolen. Read here for more tips for keeping your electric bike safe!
Why You Should Ditch Your Car
Not only are you going to help the environment and offer yourself an easy commute with some added fitness to your day – It’s also just the direction the world is heading in so you’ll have to jump on the bandwagon sooner or later.
With Bicycling.com writing pieces titled, “Uber’s Electric Bikes May Be More Popular Than Its Cars,” there’s certainly something to this transportation fad that is seeming like more than just a mere fad.
If you think it’s just Uber and Lyft, you’re wrong.
The major car brands like Ford and GM are diving into the e-bike game too. They know a solidified trend when they see it and don’t want to get left behind, each already releasing their own prototypes and test models to cities like San Francisco.
Edward Benjamin, Senior Manager of ECycleElectric, says this is because “they realize that cars in high-density urban areas, where more than half the human race lives, just aren’t working anymore.”
You can check out E-bike vs. Car By the Numbers for a look at the long-term savings.
If you are a die-hard classics lover and never want to convert to the electrical upgrades, I commend you on your commitment to ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.’
However, electric bikes seem to be sticking around and drawing a considerable amount of attention in the cycling world. You’ll be seeing them around campus more and more, so the bandwagon may take you over to the dark side – even if you’re not ready to adapt with the times.
Will You Be Purchasing an Electric Bike?
Are you ready to make the switch to an electric bike? Something tells me that one day soon, we’ll all be riding electric bikes, and traditional models may become a clunky design of the past.
There’s no wrong or right answer. It depends on what suits your style preferences, level of physical fitness, degree of energy you want to exert, and budget.
I hope this guide has been useful to you in learning more about electric bikes and all that is entailed in legally abiding with traffic laws as a responsible rider.
There are so many things to love about an e-bike, and it might make all of the difference in your college experience. Study hard, have fun riding your bike freely around campus, and don’t forget – two aspirins before bed with water!