Commuter, city, cargo, cruiser, road, and mountain—electric bikes for every type of rider (and budget).
Aug 28, 2020.
It’s official. Electric bikes are here to stay, and their popularity is through the roof. Liberated from some of the normal constraints of standard bike design like weight and gearing, e-bike design has exploded; if you can imagine it, someone has built it. From cargo bikes to city and commuter bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, folding bikes, and even beach cruisers, there is something for everyone. The beauty of e-bikes is that they make the joy of cycling accessible to so many people in so many ways. See at-a-glance reviews below of five of our top-rated e-bikes, or scroll deeper for full reviews of these and other high-ranking options, plus more buying info.
The Three Classes of E-Bikes
After you decide which style of e-bike you want, consider which class you prefer. In the U.S., there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes sold are class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you’re pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec,” can also have up to only a 750w motor (aka 1 horsepower), but it can assist you up to 28 mph. Both are allowed in most states and cities without the need for a license. Class 2 models have a throttle that can propel a bike up to and maintain 20 mph without having to continuously pedal. Aventon’s Pace 500 is technically a Class 3 e-bike in that it reaches speeds up to 28 mph, but it also has a throttle that tops out at 20 mph (the maximum legal speed for a throttle).
A Wide Variety of Motors and Batteries
E-bikes mostly use motors and battery options from a few major suppliers: Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose. A few other brands exist but are less reliable or powerful. Some, like the Yamaha system, have more torque, and others, like Bosch’s Active Line, are nearly silent. But, generally, all four make good options. Look for motor output (in torque), which will give you an idea of total power. Just like car engines, more torque equals more power off the line and more boost to your pedaling. But watt hours (Wh) is perhaps a more important figure to use—it takes into account battery output and life to give a more accurate reflection of power (higher Wh equals bigger range).
For many bikes, battery range is more important than total power (because they’re all pretty powerful). You want a bike that delivers a range long enough for your rides at the power levels you want. Most e-bikes will have three to five levels of assist that kick in anywhere from 25 percent of your pedal power to 200 percent. Consider how fast the battery takes to recharge, especially if you’ll be using your bike for long commutes. And remember, if you won’t settle for anything less than turbo, you’ll get the least amount of range (but the most amount of fun!) your battery offers.
Other Features to Consider
As electric bike options continue to expand, brands are integrating the batteries more seamlessly, which makes the bike look sleeker (and more like a real bike). Most batteries lock to the bike and come with a key that lets you unlock and remove it, which serves at least four good purposes: You can remove the battery and charge it off the bike, a locked battery deters (and hopefully prevents) a thief from stealing it, and an e-bike with the battery removed is safer for hauling on a bike rack and lighter for carrying up steps.
Because e-bikes are capable of greater speeds for longer periods of time than standard bikes, you want extra control. Wider tires provide better traction and the freedom to leave the pavement with little penalty, and a suspension fork will help tame some of the rougher roads you might explore. Good disc brakes are a must, too, for slowing a heavy bike at high speed. This is not a place to skimp.
Some e-bikes come with an integrated lighting system that turns on when you power up the bike. While this is an awesome feature to have, it’s not a deal breaker if your bike isn’t equipped this way. With so many great bike lights available, it’s just as easy to attach your own. Same with rear racks: Some e-bikes come with one, some don’t. You decide how important that feature is to you.
Why It May Be Harder to Find a Bike Right Now
Ever since words like “shelter in place,” “stay at home,” and “social distancing” invaded and took root in our daily lexicon, we’ve had to find alternative forms of entertainment that don’t involve large crowds, indoor activities, or risky situations (such as travel). More people have caught on to the idea that outdoor escapes like hiking, running, and bike riding are safe, sanity-saving ways to get out and do something—away from others. This surge in outdoor activity has led to a surge in bike sales and, thus, a depletion of stock. That’s a good thing, because it means more people have discovered bikes. But it’s also frustrating if your goal today is to place an online order for a shiny new bike only to find out that you may have to wait weeks or even months to get it. If you see something on this list that catches your eye, and you hit the out-of-stock roadblock, patience (waiting until inventory is fulfilled again), perseverance (it may be available somewhere else online or even somewhere locally), or just being proactive (pre-order is available for many out-of-stock models) might be the way to go. We’ll keep our eye on inventory and update Buy links as often as we can.
How We Tested
Our team of experienced testers incorporate electric bikes of all types into our routines almost daily. We’ve spent many hours and miles using e-bikes for their intended purpose. We’ve commuted to and from work on them, used them to stock up on groceries and beer, tested their passenger-hauling capability, ridden them on questionable terrain to see how they handle, and run their batteries down to officially see how long they last on one charge. We evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, handling, value, reliability, fun, aesthetics, and overall e-factor to come up with this list of bikes that will best serve the needs of anyone looking to add a little pedal assist to their ride.
―Best Compact E-Cargo Bike―
Benno eJoy 9D
- Integrated lights and lock
- Oversize rear rack included
- Powered by Bosch Active Line mid-drive motor
- A bit pricey
The aluminum, step-through eJoy is the happy medium between traditional-looking townies that don’t transport much more than the rider, and often-cumbersome cargo models that are challenging to store. With 26-inch wheels, full fenders, a Shimano Alivio nine-speed drivetrain and disc brakes, a wheelbase similar to the average townie, and a big, comfy seat, it has the appearance of a practical everyday cruiser. But its oversize rear rack, silent Bosch Active Line motor, heavy-duty head tube with front-tray mounts (the tray is an add-on), integrated Supernova E3 lights, and roll-over-anything balloon tires hurtle it into hmm-this-could-actually-replace-my-car status. It’s one of the quietest, sturdiest, most convenient, most stylish, and easiest-to-operate e-bikes available. Best way to buy it: Order it today; it’s in stock and ready to ship.
―Subtle, All-Around Reliable E-Cargo Bike―
Benno eScout 9D
Another fan favorite from Benno, the 20mph eScout was one of the first e-bikes our staff grabbed from our test fleet (before the pandemic kicked us all out of the office) to pick up lunch, run errands, or just escape for a quick midday cruise. Ironically, it’s also one of the more modest-looking bikes of the bunch, save for its shiny red front tray (a $220 add-on). The rest of the bike is black, charcoal, and shades of charcoal black (though it’s also available in Alaska Blue)—from the fenders and kickstand to the integrated lights and lock, even the included rear rack. But there’s something about the eScout that makes it jump out in a sea of busy orange and teal and often impractical features. Maybe it’s the visibly sturdy build Benno bikes are known for, the bold and clean welds, the uncomplicated frame design, that freakin’ cool handle under the seat. On the road, the bike rides silent and smooth, takes turns like a luxury car, and never sacrifices comfort. Climbs are escalator steady, battery range is reliably predictable, and rattles are nonexistent. It’s a stealthy ride that wants for nothing. It’s a Benno. Best way to buy it: Order it today; it’s in stock and available to ship.
―Best Family E-Cargo Bike–
Benno Boost E 10D Speed
This latest version of the original Boost, which made its debut in 2016 and impressed us with its immense utility and bold design, improves on that model without changing ride quality. It goes faster, too—the Bosch Performance Speed Cargo motor gets you up to 28 mph in turbo mode. You can haul up to 130 pounds on the rear rack and 45 on the front, and the Boost is compatible with a ton of useful accessories, including a variety of front trays, Yepp baby seats (for two), and different rail systems for your little ones to hold onto. A Bosch PowerPack 500Wh battery sits cleanly on the frame and will provide up to about 75 miles of riding—a range you can double with a second battery. The whole package rolls on 2.6-inch tires wrapped around 24-inch wheels. Best way to buy it: Limited stock available now; don’t wait.
Content retrieved from: https://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/a22132137/best-electric-bikes/.