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Recently the global e-bike market was forecasted to explode from $25 billion in 2020 to around $48 billion by 2028, doubling the value it was predicted to reach before the pandemic. People are looking to add more outdoor exercise to their lifestyle habits while also hopefully decreasing automobiles from their daily commute. Beyond the the clear health benefits, a recent study revealed the expense of owning an electric bike (e.g., charging, tune-ups, tires, etc.) to be just over $300 per year. Annual car maintenance costs more than eight times that amount.
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But the range of e-bike options is simply overwhelming, with a spectrum of different utilities, classes, price points and options to consider. Over the past couple years we’ve road-tested dozens to find the best in each category. Below are our eight favorite models. But first, a quick primer:
There are four classes for e-bikes in the US, and rules change per state. These four classes are generally accepted:
Class 1: Pedal Assist only: limited to 20 mph / All bike paths and bike lanes
Class 2: Throttle (with Pedal Assist): limited to 20 mph / Bike paths and lanes dependent upon state
Class 3: Throttle and Pedal Assist up to 28 mph (faster Throttle not allowed in CA) / Legal on fewer bike paths than Class 2
Class 4: Unlimited mph (Throttle) / No bike lanes or paths, essentially electric mopeds with pedals
To Throttle or Not to Throttle
One of the most fundamental questions you’ll need to answer is whether you want your e-bike to be pedal assist only (class 1) or feature throttle-on-demand (class 2-4). Keep in mind that every throttle-on-demand bike has pedal assist, but not vice versa. We enjoy both for their unique advantages, but prefer pedal assist only when we want to force ourselves to actually exercise, as it removes the temptation to simply thumb the throttle down the street.
Of course, sometimes after a long ride, if it’s late, or if you live in a hilly neighborhood, the ability to simply engage a throttle is an alluring one. If you have prizefighter-level of discipline, a throttle bike is a no brainer, but be warned: You will most likely use it more than you’d like. Also, you should for those that plan to take their e-bikes off the beaten path, most bike trails (especially off-road) only allow Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes.
Cadence and Torque Sensors
A cadence sensor reads pedaling rpm: As the rider’s pedaling rotation (cadence) increases the electric motor’s assistance decreases. A torque sensor reads the actual power being pushed into the pedals, and based on that will deliver more or less power assist (the more strain, the more electric assist). For instance, if you’re really struggling up a hill, a torque sensor not only shifts gears according to your cadence, it will also provide more power assist than if you’re just casually pedaling with the same cadence on a flat road. Long story short, having both is better; together they more intelligently decide when and how much power assist to offer.
Gears and Brakes
Gears maximize human efficiency. Almost all pedal assist-only e-bikes will have gears. An e-bike with throttle and gears allows for more power control and therefore you’re more likely to pedal; a single-gear throttle bike is essentially a light moped with pedals. As for brakes, the cheapest are calipers, which are mechanical and require the longest stopping distance. Cable-activated mechanical disc brakes are better, with hydraulic disks being the most powerful and easiest to modulate. Mechanical discs are easier and cheaper to work on than hydraulic disks since they have no oil or fluid in the cables (all hydraulics are in the cable; consider them power-assisted cables). Mechanical discs are normally adequate for an e-dike; however, the heavier the bike the more important the braking power. If you plan to hit serious speeds or climb hills, you’ll want to spring for hydraulic disks.
The Best Overall E-Bike: The Ride Radiant Carbon
The Ride’s Radiant Carbon is what happens when a cycle design legend is allowed to build the best e-bike he can, cost be damned. Holder of 14 patents and winner of the Popular Science Grandmaster Recreational Equipment Award, Tony Ellsworth created a bike with a fully carbon fiber asymmetrical frame for supreme lightness (under 50 pounds), while cutting no corners on performance. Add a signature single chainstay, seatstay and fork arm that allow the existing tubes to be larger in diameter while also lending the bike a head-turning appeal. The larger tubes hold a larger battery (630Wh/36Volt) without jeopardizing the frame’s integrity or adding too much weight, permitting the Radiant Carbon to achieve over 130 miles on a single charge—triple the range of most e-bikes.
Despite its innovation, the Radiant Carbon is incredibly easy to use—it’s so automated the tech works without effort. Utilizing both torque and cadence sensors the Ride’s dual computers continuously calculate your needs, seamlessly shifting gears and adjusting power on the go. When needed, you can adjust riding modes (Eco, Normal, High) via on-board buttons or within the app, but the Radiant Carbon is truly a “set it and forget it” bike. It also comes with top-shelf components such as Magura hydraulic brakes, carbon-Kevlar belt (more durable than a chain), mid-mounted Shimano motor and Enviolo Stepless internal transmission (an expensive but superior solution to standard external gears). With burly tires and carbon frame, the Radiant Carbon is designed to be more forgiving over rough terrain, absorbing bumps better than any other suspension-less bike. Meaning you can even tackle some light off-roading, making The Ride the eBike with the broadest use-case on this list.
Range: 97 (Normal) / 60 (High) / 139 (Eco) miles
App: Yes (two)
Security Features: None
The Best Throttle E-Bike: Vintage Electric Roadster
Vintage Electric’s Roadster is so next-level in materials, power, build and mass, it’s almost unfair to label it an e-bike. It borders on an electric motorcycle. However, the San Francisco manufacturer was smart enough to bolt on some pedals so, presto: e-bike. The first thing you’ll notice about the Roadster is its frame. The overall design is inspired by fin de siècle motorcycles—think early manufacturers like Harley-Davidson, Laurin & Klement and perhaps most fittingly, Curtiss. Sitting in the center of the frame is by far the most powerful battery in the market, coursing with 72 volts and 1,200 watt-hours. That’s double the voltage and quintuple the watt-hours of many capable e-bikes. The Roadster recharges quicker than any e-bike in the market, loading fully in three hours and automatically shutting off when full to save both your wallet and battery life. To hold such a substantial battery requires an expertly welded steel frame, laced out with beautiful leather saddle and wrapped grips, chrome handlebars, forged aluminum bits and a vintage-style round motorcycle headlamp. Expensive gold Ohlin front forks add world-class suspension, and hydraulic disc brakes offer the only built-in regenerative braking we’ve yet seen. Unsurprisingly all this tank-like construction adds up to the tune of 86 pounds, making the Roadster easily the heaviest e-bike on this list.
What separates the Roadster from the rest of the pack is speed. Yes it’s “limited” to only 20 mph, as every e-bike is on this list. But Vintage Electric included a CNC-machined aluminum Race mode key on the left side of the battery box that you can easily remove, annulling the limiter and unleashing the eBike’s full 40-mph Race mode. Kevlar-lined Schwalbe Fat Frank tires and the bike’s mass add solidity to the ride, and the insane torque from the 3,500w direct drive hub motor makes mountains disappear (it can take on 20 percent grade hills at full speed, much needed in its San Francisco birthplace). The Roadster is the Bentley GT of the category: burly, opulently refined, substantial and fast as all hell. If you’re looking for a single-speed throttle e-bike with apex performance, build and style, you won’t beat the latest Vintage Electric. Just remember to wear a helmet.
Range: 30-75 miles per charge
Security Features: None
The Best Design: RSD x SUPER73-RX Malibu
SUPER73 has one of the most robust modder scenes in the entire e-bike landscape, with a booming community of tuners and celebrities (Bieber, Snoop, A$AP Rocky, etc.) customizing their rides with aftermarket goodies and homemade creations. But if you want a SUPER73 that shines straight out of the box, you can’t beat their collaboration with Roland Sands Design. The famed motorcycle customizer went all-in on his RX and SUPER73 is selling a limited run. The biggest tweak is Roland moving the 960 watt-hours battery to the downtube to make space for the old school 70’s moto-style saddle—which not only adds more seating room but also improves handling by lowering the basic RX’s center of gravity.
Like all SUPER73 options, the RSD x SUPER73-RX Malibu is a single-gear throttle bike, meaning it’s basically a light electric moped with pedals, bringing 28-plus mph when in Unlimited Mode. Sure, you’ll pedal a bit around the hood, but when you really want to cook, you’ll find yourself just laying on the throttle and letting the electric motor do the heavy lifting. That’s all the more impressive considering its relatively hefty 84 pound curb weight. The RSD improves from the base RX suspension by adding a Fox Racing Float 3 Evol shock to the rear, while retaining the RX’s stock adjustable inverted front air fork and fat (20” x 4.5” front, 20” x 5” rear) Grzly tires. This allows the SUPER73 to straight up swallow treacherous pot holes and obstacles that would spill most bikes. And the RX’s Hydraulic Magura brakes scrub speed quickly and smoothly. Add a custom ’70s paint job and the SUPER73 Roland Sands Design RX looks as good as it rides.
Range: 40+ miles
Security Features: None
The Best Folding E-Bike: GoCycle G4
One afternoon former McLaren engineer Richard Thorpe stepped out of his London flat, saw the gridlock, winced and realized there has to be a better urban mobility solution than cars. So he set out to create GoCycle, delivering the G1 in 2009. Thirteen years and five generations later we have the G4, easily the best foldable bike we’ve ever experienced. Thanks to hypercar materials (carbon fiber fork and midframe; titanium, aluminum and magnesium throughout) it’s feather light (38 pounds), with greatly improved twin hinges that “fast-fold” the bike in literally 10 seconds, making this is the most carry-able and stow-able eBike on the market. It’s the type of design that makes engineers weak in the knees (we witnessed firsthand).
But don’t sleep on the actual bicycle: A more compact, flatter 500-watt motor in the front hub artificially powers the G4, while human energy motivates its “Clean Drive” single sided swing arm, fully enclosing the chain to protect work clothes from grease as you cycle to that critical meeting. It has both a throttle and 3-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear in the rear, so it excels with pedal assist while still offering delicious (and sloth-inducing) throttle. Add to that an internal 36V/300 Wh lithium ion battery (up to 40-mile range), hydraulic disk brakes, both torque and cadence sensors, USB port phone charger and easy-access PitstopWheels that allow flat tire fixing without removing the rim. The result is an ingeniously designed e-bike from wheel to wheel. But because it’s so specialized—folding, compact, city-centric—it has its inevitable drawbacks. The G4’s smaller wheels and frame ride more like a BMX bike than a traditional road bike, inconvenient for super long rides and a bit more squirrelly on big downhills. But if you live in a city or apartment where space is at a premium, GoCycle’s G4 is tops.
Range: 40 miles
Security Features: Anti-theft security screws, Bespoke Lock-Holster Kit and identify by location if stolen. However the best anti-theft for an e-bike is having it with you, which GoGycle makes easier than any other option.
The Best Tech: VanMoof S3
Some 36 percent of people in the Netherlands commute daily on two wheels, making the flat nation one of the richest bicycle cultures on Earth. So, it’s only fitting that Dutch brothers Taco and Ties Carlier would design one of the best e-bikes out there. Since launching in 2009, VanMoof has sold some 200,000 bikes to a devoted worldwide community by designing, manufacturing, selling and servicing everything in-house. Recently they boosted stores from 8 to 50 worldwide, raising over $180 million in less than two years to become the most funded e-bike company in the world—a growth built on the strength of models like their S3. The Red Dot-winning design is simple yet unique, and loaded with every consideration. A clean matte black straight-frame geometry incorporates integrated lights, a unique 166 LED dot matrix “screen” on the top tube displaying basic info, hydraulic disc brakes, 504W integrated LG battery, a powerful (44 ft lbs of torque) front hub motor and automatic electronic gear shifting (an industry first) that smoothly selects between four speeds to tackle almost any landscape.
Perhaps the best aspect of the S3 is its elegant solution to the throttle vs pedal assist debate. While it doesn’t feature a throttle, the S3 has a unique Turbo button that boosts power when really needed (those strenuous hills, for instance), but it won’t allow you to be lazy for extended periods—and it makes it legal to ride it anywhere. A perfect compromise in our opinion. The S3 rides swift, light (46 pounds) and comfortable, with a forward-leaning riding position aimed for speed. The bike really separates itself with its tech, however. It automatically dings to life when you approach it (though you can turn this feature off), and once you master the app, you can do everything from booking maintenance appointments to customizing all the bells and whistles. The real upside, though, is a multi-pronged suite of Fort Knox-level security features, ranging from a kick lock to rider recognition capability. It even has built-in GSM and Bluetooth tracking so you can hunt your e-bike down should anyone manage to steal it. The S3 is most definitely the optimal option here for early adopters who embrace VanMooth’s futurist—and ultra theft-protectionist—worldview.
Throttle: No (but features a Turbo Boost button)
Range: 37-93 miles
Security Features: Kick Lock, Touch Unlock, Rider Recognition, Integrated alarms, Manual disarm with personal code, Anti-theft nuts and bolts and GSM and Bluetooth theft tracking
The Best Utility: Flyer L885
The famous Radio Flyer that your granddaddy used to ride around in—yes, that 104-year old iconic red wagon—recently unveiled its first-ever product line for adults. Now re-branded Flyer, the line of e-bikes and scooters harkens to its nostalgic past, aiming to be the e-bike utility wagon of your garage. While its M880 is more standard, the longer rear L885 is designed from the ground-up for utility. The extended rear seat and chain stays make the L885 more stable and allows the Flyer to attach all sorts of accessories—everything from baskets to cargo carriers to a Thule Yepp Maxi child seat.
The e-bike’s utility is genuinely impressive. Its 400 pound payload capacity allows for a wide range of function—you can pedal your kid to the farmer’s market and still have plenty of space and payload to haul your organic loot home. We took it to Home Depot and brought plants and heavy bags of soil no problem. The 48V/720Wh battery, 500W brushless hub motor and five levels of power assist will handle the heavy lifting if need be. That capacity for utility also makes the L885 less convenient than normal e-bikes for everyday usage. We wouldn’t use this Flyer to commute on a daily basis; its longer wheelbase makes it heavy (73 pounds), and it has a wider turning radius than anything else on this list. But if you’ll be using your e-bike for work or kid-sitting, this is the model to invest in.
Range: 30–50+ miles
Security Features: Battery lock
The Best Gravel E-Bike: Alchemy eRonin GRX DI2
Gravel bikes are one of the fastest growing e-bike segments, allowing you to ride comfortably on asphalt while also granting you the option to hit the dirt. Enter the eRonin, Alchemy’s first electric gravel bike. The Colorado manufacturer is renowned for its hand-built quality, and the eRonin doesn’t disappoint, starting with the Evation integrated mid-mounted drive system (the lightest and most compact mid-mounted motor) and superb carbon fiber frame. The combo is absurdly light, making the eRonin by far the lightest e-bike (29 pounds) we’ve ever tested. It’s also built for long adventures, coming stock with three water-bottle and bento-box mounts so you can stay nourished as you explore nature’s bounty with up to 50 miles of range. It’s pedal assist-only, but at purchase you can decide if you want your Alchemy eRonin GRX DI2 to be Class 1 (20 mph top speed) or Class 3 (28 mph top speed), opening up quite a bit of speed for off-road usage.
Overall, the eRonin rides incredibly smooth. It’s light and quiet and makes quick work of fire roads and reasonable dirt trails thanks to its fatter rubber. Most road bikes can fit tires up to 30mm wide, and gravel bikes usually fit up to about 42mm, but the eRonin can handle tires up to 45mm wide helping transform what looks like a sleek road bike into a surprisingly capable off-road champ. Featuring both torque and cadence sensors, hydraulic disc brakes and three levels of power assist, the first American-made carbon fiber gravel e-bike shows why it was recently named the Best Electric Gravel Bike by Cycling News.
Range: 40–50 miles
Security Features: None
The Best Fat-Tire E-Bike: Aventon Aventure
There are fat-tire e-bikes and then there’s the Aventure. The most powerful and versatile e-bike in the Aventon portfolio is built for all levels of terrain, all but the most challenging off-road craziness. With a burly fame, pliant Zoom front suspension (up to 80mm of fork travel), cushy Velo saddle and plump 4-inch wide rubber (101.6 mm)—more than twice as plump as those on the Alchemy eRonin gravel bike on this list—the aptly named Aventure is built for adventure. Its step-through design is easy to ride, with a tall, high visibility riding position.
The bike’s frame is made of expensive hydroformed aluminum, but that doesn’t save it from tipping the scales at 73 pounds. That level of heft isn’t ideal for apartment dwellers, but it’s also this e-bike’s only knock. And the Aventure comes loaded with top components to overcome its weight issues: A 750W motor peaks with 1,130W, and its 8-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain offers plenty of options for the rider to modulate how much power they wan to invest in pedaling. Yes, there’s a throttle (class 2) limited to 20 mph, but Aventon allows you to easily modify the Aventure to unlock a 28 mph top speed with pedal assist (class 3), which you can pretty easily attain once you get cooking. Bengal Ares 3 Hydraulic Disc brakes with 180mm rotors absorb both the Aventure’s weight and speeds. Other nice touches include fenders, integrated front and rear lamps (the front being especially bright), and a crisp color display. One of the more substantial and sturdy e-bikes on this list, the handling is predictable and quite stable at speed. And if you want a little zip, the bike’s eight gears keep the Aventure from falling into a lazy throttle option.
Range: 53 miles
Security Features: Removable Battery
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