Cycling purists—be they of mountain, gravel, road, or race persuasions—generally agree upon one thing: no motors. Recently, however, that mindset has begun to shift. In the past few years, electronic bikes, known as e-bikes, have become more and more popular on dirt trails and paved lanes across the Centennial State, thanks to their ease of use and because they’re relatively painless to maintain. There’s, of course, another reason why e-bikes are gaining in popularity locally: The Mile High City is making owning one a lot less expensive.

In an effort to promote sustainability and improve traffic congestion downtown, Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) launched its e-bike rebate program in April. The three-year, tax-backed rebate program had been budgeted for $3 million in its first year, and is one of several climate action rebates being offered by the city, including home energy upgrade rebates.

The rebate was even more popular than expected, however, and the city paused the program three weeks later, after handing out more than 3,000 vouchers for Denverites to use at participating bike shops around town. CASR has since restructured the application process to be more equitable and to avoid hitting capacity limits again too quickly. The city is rolling out the program again starting July 11 on a first-come, first-served monthly basis, with 2,000 new rebate vouchers—typically for $400, but income-qualifying residents can get $1,200—available this month, half of which will be reserved for income-qualifying residents.

“The city’s rebate program definitely has driven business up,” says Sam Bagnall, general manager of RiNo’s Bike Source, which exclusively sells electric bikes. “We got a ton of people with the first wave of the vouchers, and we already have people knocking down the doors asking questions about the one that comes into play this week.”

Because questions do seem to abound, we’ve put together this how-to guide for e-bike-curious Denverites, who want to get in on the trend—and the discounts.

2022 Rebate Voucher Release Dates

  • Monday, July 11
  • Monday, August 1
  • Tuesday, September 6
  • Monday, October 3
  • Monday, November 7
  • Monday, December 5

What are the different types of e-bikes, and what qualifies for the rebate?

To qualify for the city’s e-bike rebate voucher, a bike’s battery must be 750 watts or less. The bike can’t be gas-powered, and you can’t use the rebate toward full-suspension electric mountain bikes.

Beyond that, Denverites can use the rebate for any of the three main classifications of e-bikes: Class I, II, and III. Each variation has a battery and motor.

  • Class I: e-bikes with pedal-assist motors that have a top speed of 20 miles per hour
  • Class II: e-bikes with throttle-assist motors that can go up to 20 mph; the throttle is typically a twist throttle, like on a motorcycle, or it can be a button located on the handle bar
  • Class III: e-bikes that can go up to 28 miles per hour using either a pedal-assist motor, a throttle, or both.

The main difference between the classes, says Zach Gordon, a sales associate at eBike USA, an electric bike shop in Cherry Creek, comes down to how much help you want when you ride. “Some of our bikes feel like you’re getting pushed,” Gorden says, “while some of them feel like you just have stronger legs.”

Class I and Class II e-bikes are street legal and can be ridden anywhere around Denver, whereas Class III rides have more restrictions due to their faster top speeds. For example, Class III e-bikes are not allowed on bike paths in the city, where the speed limit is 15 miles per hour. Fair warning: A ticket for speeding on a bike path starts at $100.

Depending on battery size, e-bikes take roughly four to six hours to charge. A commuter style e-bike, which has a more comfortable seat position, has a 40- to 60-mile range before it needs to be recharged. Road e-bikes are able to go even farther on a single charge. Rebates can also be applied toward e-cargo bikes, a larger style built to carry extra passengers or extra stuff, like, say, groceries.

So, what’s the damage to my wallet?

Pricing can vary greatly, but on average, the entry point for a standard e-bike is roughly $1,500. The prices for e-cargo bikes and more premium rides increase from there, with some higher-end two-wheelers costing $3,000 or more.

The city’s program offers instant rebates of $400 to any Denver resident lucky enough to snag a voucher; income-qualified residents who nab one will receive a $1,200 rebate. An additional $500 is available for qualifying residents if they buy a more expensive e-cargo bike.

What should I do if I’m interested in getting an e-bike?

First, it’s helpful to think about what you’re interested in using an e-bike for. Are you going to use it to run errands and pick up groceries? Will you be commuting to work? Are you interested in trail riding? “Narrowing down what style of riding you’re going to do is important,” Bagnall says. “That’s going to be super helpful for shops to help you narrow down models.”

The next step, naturally, is to head to a local e-bike shop and take a test ride. In fact, the city is encouraging any Denverites interested in an e-bike rebate to test ride at local shops before applying for one of the limited vouchers. Because while any additional research you can do on your own helps, Bagnall and Gordon both note that what looks great on paper might not feel right in the saddle. “Once you come in and ride a bike, that’s the best way to know if it’s a good fit,” Gordon says. “Everybody is going to ride a little differently, it’s kind of a person-by-person basis.”

Where can I buy an e-bike with a rebate voucher?

The city has compiled a list of participating shops (see below) across the metro area where residents can use the rebates toward an e-bike purchase. Local shops have experienced occasional delays receiving certain types of e-bikes due to supply chain issues, Gordon says. But on the whole, most shops are stocked with bikes and are ready to sell them. “For all of our bikes, if you test ride them, you can ride them out that same day. They’re all ready to go,” he says. “In our showroom, what you see is what you get.”

How do I know if I qualify for the rebate?

Any Denver resident 16 years or older can apply for the rebate program; rebates are limited to one e-bike per person. All you need is proof of a Denver address—i.e., bank statements, bills, mortgage or lease contracts, insurance policy documents, etc.—dated within the past year to attach to your application.

To qualify for a low-income rebate, applicants must be making less than 60 percent of Colorado’s median income or less than 80 percent of Denver’s area median income, which is currently anything below $62,600 for a one-person household, or $71,550 for a two-person household. Or residents can provide proof of current enrollment in government assistance such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid, or Colorado’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

For more information on accepted documents and other application requirements, visit the city’s e-bike rebate website.

How do I apply for the rebate?

The city’s online portal for applications opens at 8 a.m. the morning of each monthly release date, starting July 11. Interested Denverites are encouraged to sign up for the city’s newsletter for reminders and updates about monthly rebate releases.

Applicants will be notified if they qualify to receive a rebate, and the voucher—which will be sent via email—expires after two months.

What e-bike etiquette and other tips do I need to know about?

Great bikes come with great responsibility. Before investing in an e-bike, Bagnall says that it’s important to have the basics of general bike care down. Brush up on your knowledge of fixing flats and make sure you have proper lubrication for your chain. But one of the perks of e-bikes is that they’re mostly like caring for regular bikes.

Be sure you’re familiar with local bike laws and e-bike specific laws as well. “Look out for signs with speed limits,” Gordon says. “Make sure you’re not going too fast past other bikers. Remember that some e-bikes are allowed on certain trails and some e-bikes aren’t.”

Bagnall agrees and stresses not to ride negligently or get carried away with speed simply because you can. Beyond that, he says, just have fun and enjoy the ride.

(Read More: What to Know Before You Hit the Trail on an E-Bike)

Fiona Murphy
Fiona Murphy
Fiona writes and produces multimedia stories for 5280.com, as well as oversees social media strategy for 5280’s and 5280 Home’s accounts.
Madi Skahill
Madi Skahill
Madi assists with digital strategy as well as writes and edits stories for 5280.com. She also oversees social media strategy for 5280’s and 5280 Home’s accounts.