E-Bike vs. Regular Bike: What Are The Differences?

At a glance, many regular bikes and e-bikes appear practically identical to one another. Frames, wheels, tires, pedals, saddles, stems, handlebars, and even brakes can all look pretty much the same. 

But the unique parts — the ones that make the e-bike riding experience so much fun — do look different from what you’d find on a typical bike. Learning to recognize these parts can help you tell e-bikes and regular bikes apart when you’re out and about. And you can better understand your e-bike’s electric system by learning about them, too.

Those parts are:

E-Bike Display

Electric Bike Battery

E-Bike Motor

Electric Bike Controller

Let’s see what each of these parts looks like and what role they play in your e-bike’s functions. 

E-Bike Display

Although they’re generally small in size, display screens are one of the most noticeable differences between a regular bike and an e-bike. 

But not all e-bikes come with displays! Some are designed to work with apps on your phone instead — with varying success. 

All Magnum Bikes feature premium backlit LCD display screens.

Some of the main functions of a display include:

  • Engaging and adjusting the levels of your pedal assist system (PAS)
  • Tracking distance, speed, wattage, and battery life
  • Turning your front and rear lights on and off
  • Changing unit settings (imperial vs. metric)

For more about Magnum Displays, check out our Display Support Page.

Power on the display and take a ride on the Magnum Scout.

Electric Bike Battery

Batteries on an e-bike may be either integrated (permanently built into the frame) or external (removable). 

Once you learn to recognize the look of an external battery, it can be an easy way to differentiate a regular bike from an e-bike at a glance. 

But “external” placement doesn’t always mean the battery is visually obvious, juts out from the frame, or detracts from the design. Instead, it just refers to the fact that the rider can remove their battery from the e-bike frame for charging, transit, or storage. 

Conversely, integrated batteries can’t be removed from the frame for transit or storage. And when it’s time to charge your battery, you can’t remove it; you basically need to plug in the whole bike.

At this time, all Magnum Bikes feature external batteries for optimal convenience in transportation and charging.

Learn more about e-bike batteries in these posts:


The external battery on the 
Magnum Cosmo X blends seamlessly into the frame.

E-Bike Motor

Rear-hub motors and front motors are pretty inconspicuous and tend to blend in with derailleurs on many e-bikes. 

But mid-drive motors usually feature a distinctive large casing that adds some visual heft to the crankset (the area where the pedals connect to the bike chain). That makes this motor design the most visually obvious. Whether that’s desirable or not just depends on your opinion!

Beyond the looks, some riders feel the central, low-to-the-ground placement of the mid-drive motor better contributes to their center of gravity while riding. Mid-drive motors also tend to be lighter in weight overall.

However, hub motors are less expensive to produce; those savings are passed on to the consumer in retail pricing. What’s more, when it comes to maintenance and repairs, hub motors are also cheaper to maintain and simpler to access (particularly for DIY maintenance). 

And while all mid-drive motors are primed to work with your e-bike’s gear system, which can help you take advantage of extended range on your rides, some rear-hub motors also offer geared integration with your chain.

As of this article’s publishing, all Magnum Bikes feature rear hub motors — some direct-drive (meaning they turn the wheel itself, bypassing the gears) and some geared (meaning they turn your chain/crankset and work with your bike’s gears).

Check out our post How Do E-Bike Motors Work? for a breakdown of our full line-up.

We’d want the help of a powerful e-bike motor right about here... Wouldn’t you? Featured: Magnum Summit 27.5”

Electric Bike Controller

Physically, the controller is a very small piece of the e-bike. Depending on the design of your e-bike, you can’t even really see it when the bike is fully assembled. You may have to look at your e-bike manual to locate it!

But without a controller, you might as well be riding a regular bike. The battery, motor, and display screen can’t do much without it!

That’s because the controller is like the brain of your e-bike.

Signals sent from your PAS or throttle need to reach your battery and then your motor in order to deliver the boost you asked for. But the battery and motor on their own aren’t smart enough to decide how much energy to give based on your inputs. 

The controller has to interpret the signals from your PAS or throttle to decide how much energy you’ve asked for. Then it passes that decision along to the battery, which powers the motor appropriately to get you going faster.

So the next time you spot an e-bike, you’ll know that its exhilarating speed isn’t possible without its small but mighty controller!

You can’t actually see it, but the controller is responsible for giving this rider the right amount of power! Featured: Magnum Metro X

Is It Better To Buy An E-Bike Or Regular Bike?

An e-bike’s display, battery, motor, and controller all work together to form this essential difference:

A regular bike can only power ahead with as much energy as you put into it. It can only go as far as you can. With a regular bike, it’s just you and the road.

But an e-bike can jump in when you’ve been riding for hours, when you’re hesitating at the bottom of a giant hill, and when you want to push through for a just few more miles. It can be the reason you get outside more, keep up on rides with friends and family, and hit your goals.

The choice between a regular bike and an e-bike is completely up to you. In our opinion, anything that gets you moving outside is a great choice!

But an e-bike can help you ride farther — especially when the going gets tough. 

And we’d pick that option any day.