The best electric bike has never been more essential than today, now that the world is slowly coming out of lockdown and people start commuting to work again. These electric-assisted bicycles can help you climb hills easily in the morning, on the the way to work, when you're only half awake. Even the best e-bikes aren't self-driving vehicles so make sure you pay attention to traffic when you're ruining them.
Public transport is a potential health hazard, but an increasing number of people still need to get to work when lockdown eases. In fact, for many people, both newcomers to biking and veteran cyclists who are starting to lose their zip, the best electric bike could be the best bike full stop. Leave the best road bikes to the Lycra-clad clan.
Sales of electric bikes have soared and in the near future, e-bikes are only going to get more popular as people try to reduce their carbon footprints, save money, and get a little fitter. Yes, you do get a workout on an electric bike; the battery doesn't do all the work for you by any means, it just assists your pedalling rather than replacing it.
If you have flirted with the idea of e-cycling and want to give it a go, now is the time, especially with the cycle to Work scheme making these bikes much more affordable.
Attitudes to electric bikes have changed in recent years. For a long time they were seen by cyclists as 'cheating' and by non-cyclists as being just like a bike, but uglier and far more expensive. This new breed of best-in-class electric bikes feel more natural, look more normal, weigh far less and people are coming around to the idea that a ride with the convenience of a bike but without all the sweat and effort is a Very Good Thing.
The lack of effort involved means you can end up a bit chilly in the winter months if you don't wrap up warm, but with summer here that's less of a worry. Electric bikes are only set to get ever more popular, as taxation and rules on cars get stricter and public transport gets more expensive.
At the more rugged end of the best electric bikes market, there are also models that are great for effortlessly taking on hills, trails and general rough stuff – and it so happens we now have a list of the best electric mountain bikes too. Those looking for a lightweight alternative should consider an electric scooter, although bikes should offer greater longevity (and stability).
What is the best electric bike?
This depends what you are after of course but we have some very highly recommended bikes in each category.
Best electric bike VanMoof Electrified S3. This model rides like a dream and has a raft of theft-prevention measures: GPS tracking, an immobiliser, alarm… And if it does get stolen, VanMoof promises to go and retrieve it.
Best cheap e-bike The sub-£1000 Gtech eBike City has all that many users will need.
Best folding electric bike for Brompton lovers Brompton Electric. This feels uncannily like a normal Brompton, looks identical and folds in exactly the same brilliant way.
Best electric bike for hills and off-road Specialized Turbo Levo SL. The lightest electric mountain bike on the market with supercar performance and price tag.
How to choose the best electric bike for you
Cycling is a great pastime for a number of reasons: it's free (after the initial bicycle purchase), it's good for your health and in many cases, it can be faster than cars and public transport.
Cycling with an electric bike for a commuter is all these things, plus leaves you less sweaty – what's not to love?
Different electric bike brands take different approaches to electric bike manufacture. Some choose to place an electric motor in the rear wheel hub, with a torque sensor in the cranks that tells the on-board batteries to send power to the wheels.
Others – notably Bosch and Yamaha – opt for a more high-powered approach, with the entire motor and sensor unit situated around the bike's cranks, meaning more visually appealing and aerodynamically advanced frame styles can be fashioned.
An increasing number of new, premium e-bikes place the motor in the front wheel hub, which seems to give a much more natural riding experience, if you're used to non-powered bikes.
Speaking of which, if you're used to non-electric cycles, be aware that e-bikes are heavy and capped at 25kph or 15.5mph. In many cases, that means the bike starts to feel like its actively fighting against you, if you try to push the speed higher than that by pedalling. That's especially true with heavier bikes, for obvious reasons, and can take a while to get used to.
However, if you're being realistic, 15mph is a very decent average speed when commuting in town or taking on hills. This is despite what all cyclists will tell you is their average speed – you're not fooling anyone, guys!
Again, some of the newer, more expensive e-bikes are starting to solve the 'fighting back' problem by applying power in a smoother curve, using algorithms that respond more accurately to the speed at which you pedal, and also by weighing less than a cow.
Even with cheaper or heavier bikes, once you accept that you are really meant to pedal gently and let the motor do the work, non-speed freaks will get into it. Hint: If you want to make it noticeable easier on the legs, you can improve rolling resistance – and therefore average speed – by keeping the tyres pumped up hard. Fully inflated tyres are also less likely to puncture because they ping away most road debris.
E-bikes are great for commuting and for places that aren't pancake flat. They'll pull you away from the lights quickly, iron out hills and stop you getting sweaty, so you can bin the Lycra and ride in jeans, a suit, or a winter coat.
However, don't think that riding an electric bike means you won't get any workout at all. Particularly if you want to push on past 15.5mph, they're much better for you than taking the bus.
The best electric bikes you can buy
With the VanMoof S3, this Dutch hipster brand has taken the S2, which was excellent and made it better. Oh, and it's knocked over £1,000/$1,000/€1,000 off its price. How could we not make it best electric bike?
The S3 is a very sturdily built thing that rides extremely well. You can get up to 20mph on the flat with minimal effort, and it irons out hills a treat. Hydraulic disk brakes bring it to a dead stop.
Aside from crashes, the biggest worry about riding a bike in our crime-ridden cities is the ever-present threat of theft. To fight back against that, VanMoof S3 includes an integral magnetic lock – very hard to remove – an integral alarm and a GPS tracker that can be used to locate it if anyone is foolhardy enough to steal the bike. Even more remarkable, VanMoof will then send someone to find your bike, and politely ask the nice man to give it back.
The four, auto-shifting gears of the S3 are a big improvement over the S2. That only had two, and they shifted in a way that was often hugely irritating. The only issue I have with this bike is that nobody needs a four-gear hub to shift up and down on its own, and it's one more thing to potentially go wrong.
Thankfully, VanMoof bikes are extremely well made, and so I am just going to hope that doesn't become an issue long-term. For urban commuting, 21st century style, it's impossible to beat the VanMoof S3. Unless your commute demands a folding bike, in which case read on…
• Read our full VanMoof S3 review here
This Gtech City Bike is way cheaper and simpler than most of the bikes here, and despite being years old now, it's still the best cheap e-bike you can buy, and ideal for beginners or those on a budget. There are definitely more powerful electric bikes out there than this, and a few cheaper ones, but Gtech, best known for its vacuum cleaners and hedge trimmers, has pulled off a surprise winner with this.
For just shy of a grand, you get an e-bike that actually looks like a bike, has a 30-mile maximum range, and is shorn of anything that could be described as complexity.
You turn it on by pressing the green button on the battery once for low power and twice for high, although to be honest, there is not a lot of difference between them. After that, you just pedal. There are no gears, no chain to muck up your trousers (a motorbike-style carbon fibre belt is used instead) and not that much difference in feeling compared to riding a normal bike.
The twist is that a computer monitors how hard you're having to work to pedal, and applies the electric motor as required. So you mainly feel its helping hand as you pull away from lights, coming out of corners, and of course, going up slopes.
As with all these bikes, the assisted speed is capped at 15mph, but unlike some of them, the Gtech eBike City or its identical (spec-wise) sibling the eBike Sport (this just has a standard frame rather than a step-through one) is light and agile enough for you to be able pedal harder without feeling like the weight is fighting you back down to 15mph. You can even, at a push, use it without the motor on flatter roads.
We wouldn't try to take this up a mountain section of the Tour de France, but for urban hills and more gentle rural inclines, it really does take the work out of it.
For the money, and especially considering it comes from a hedge trimmer brand, the eBike is a great little set of wheels. There have been sacrifices made in the comfort of the saddle and the grips, and the brakes could have a bit more bite to them, but these seem like acceptable compromises to us.
In some ways, its real USP at launch was that it just looks like a bike. Thankfully, other brands are now following Gtech's lead in this area.
• Read our full Gtech eBike City review here
So it's been knocked off the top spot for now, but the E-Brompton is seriously impressive. If your daily commute includes public transport followed by cycling, it offers total ease of 'parking', can be more easily stowed in a luggage rack than the GX, and still allows you to arrive in a pristine and unsweaty state, thanks to the electric assistance.
The F1-trained engineers at William Advanced Engineering assisted with the electrical parts and the result is a 250W motor that provides pedal assistance via the front hub – which is still a very unusual approach. It draws power from a 300Wh battery pack that sits in a bag and goes on the front where the Brompton luggage rack would normally sit. You can also opt for a larger bag that holds both the battery and your spare suit or laptop or whatever.
The Brompton is fun to ride in urban settings, although admittedly not as much so as the GX. Its powerful enough to breeze up hills with minimal effort, but feels nimble on the flat. As with any Brompton, you probably won't win a half-mile sprint on it, but thanks to the pedal assistance, you most certainly will get off to a flying start.
The reason it stands above other electric bikes is that Brompton has worked out how to apply power assistance to your pedalling so it feels natural. It also doesn't feel so much like it's trying to fight you once you reach the maximum, 15.5mph assisted speed.
A neat smartphone app shows current charge levels and lets you tailor assistance settings, while cadence and torque sensors mean power delivery is smooth and only kicks in when truly required. Brompton also plans to offer diagnostics and warnings that a service or battery replacement may be necessary via the app.
Brompton offers fewer options than it does with its standard steeds, but while it comes in any colour you like, so long as that's black or white, there is also a choice of two or six gears, that 20-litre bonus luggage option, and you can shell out extra for a fast charging system that delivers an 80 per cent battery top up in just 90 minutes.
The Electric Brompton folds up exactly the same as the non-powered Brompton. It's so simple, and unlike certain folding bikes we could mention, what you're left with is a genuinely small thing, rather than something that's about the size of a bike with the front wheel taken off. However, the extra weight of the electric drivetrain means you can't just lug it about with the ease of a standard Brompton.
It's not bad at all as you wheel it about on the flat – it has small, suitcase-style additional wheels that come into play once folded up. However, if your commute involves, for instance, having to cross over a bridge to get to a railway platform, you will not enjoy that experience.
That aside, the only problems with the electric Brompton are the same as with a standard one – it's pricey, and you do look a bit of a tit riding one. But you'll get over it.
There's no denying this is a handsome eBike and it's refreshing to see something so sleek and speedy-looking in a world that is often dominated by bulky downtubes and massive saddles.
The Orbea Gain range has been designed to act as your daily whip, but also double-up as the weekend sportive machine, with its racy aluminium frame, carbon fork and powerful disc brakes making a solid case for racking up the miles during your downtime.
As such, there is no chunky digital display (leaving plenty of space to mount a traditional bike computer), just an integrated systems interface that's easy to use and doesn't spoil the overall lines of the bike.
The Gocycle GX is a folding electric bike test is even more fun to ride than the Brompton and feels more sturdy. The flip side of that is that it doesn't fold up anywhere near a neatly as the Brompton although it does at least fold enough, and sufficiently quickly, to legally take it on public transport. Although people may tut at you.
With three gears, variable assistance – you can change when and to what extent it kicks in via Gocycle's handy app, which also lets your phone serve as a basic bike computer – and small-ish but chunky, sporty wheels, the GX is just a blast to ride. Gocycle's power delivery algorithms and torque sensors have been tweaked by former F1 engineers, so the ride is one of the smoothest around. It's nippy, manouevrable and fun, and it also feels a little more like a 'proper bike' than the Brompton despite the similarly small wheels.
Lighting is taken care of via a super bright front LED lightbar and rear lamp that draw power from the main battery system, so you don't have to rummage around for AAA batteries or remember to plug them into a USB cable to charge.
Hand over the Ampler Curt to a friend and we will bet good money that they have no idea it is electrically assisted. The clever 48V LG Lithium-ion battery pack is neatly stashed into the down tube, while a powerful motor is stealthily tucked into the rear hub.
Even the charging and power system is tactfully approached for maximum ninja points, with a laptop-style magnetic disc clipping on to a slot at the very bottom of the seat tube. Handlebar switches and displays are tossed into the trash for a clutter-free one-button operation.
Simplicity is the overarching theme here, with sharp lines, integrated mudguards, a matte black paint job and neat rear LEDs that are craftily embedded into the seat post just a number of clean design highlights. The version we tested even boasted a carbon belt drive, as opposed to the maintenance hell that is an oily chain.
Granted, the fact it is called Curt makes us cringe slightly but it rides just as well as it looks. Yes, users can delve into a bespoke smartphone app and fiddle around with the electric motor settings until the cows come home, but assistance from the motor is so well judged, most will be happy with it straight out of the box.
A 10 speed variant also feels unnecessary, as our time with the bike proved that the single speed ratio and clever torque-sensing electrical assistance is good enough to make mincemeat out of most hills. The more torque you put through the pedals, the more Curt steps in to help.
The sweat-free cruising comes courtesy of the bike's staggeringly lightweight construction, the scales only just tipping the 13kg mark. This is partly thanks to a full carbon fibre fork, but also some cutting-edge battery tech and that neat rear hub motor.
Suddenly, the thought of lugging an e-bike on and off public transport or dragging it upstairs to a first floor flat doesn't seem so daunting.
Ignore its unfortunate name and the Ampler Curt is a great tool for dispatching of inner city journeys without soiling your shirt. The only fault we found was with the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, which were perfectly powerful but the levers felt comically short for the widened handlebars. Nitpicking at its finest.
By their nature, ebikes are a lot heavier than their non-motorised brethren and this is something to consider if you have a flight of stairs to climb, be it at home or on public transport. Well here comes a truly well-specced folding model that weighs 'only' 15kg – okay that is still a little nit hefty – replete with exterior-mounted 36v Tesla-spec battery, 500w BAFANG rear hub motor, disc brakes fore and aft, mudguards, rear luggage rack, side-stand and LED lighting system with integrated indicators. Given the plethora of extras, we’re frankly gobsmacked its London-based designers managed to keep the weight so low.
The Furo X is also equipped with an aerospace-grade carbon fibre frame, 20-inch wheels for faster travel and a 9-speed Shimano derailleur for a wide variety of inclines. But it’s that 500w powerhouse motor that you’ll come to love the most. As is the case with all ebikes in the UK, the motor’s assistance is restricted to 15.5mph but because the bike’s lighter than most of its competitors, it doesn’t feel like you’re riding through treacle when the motor disengages or the battery runs flat.
The handlebar-mounted computer display, meanwhile, provides five pedal-assist power levels which can be changed on the hoof by tapping up and down on the rubber keys. In a nutshell, the higher the power assist, the longer the motor will run until it cuts out at the prerequisite 15.5mph. It has to be said that the motor itself kicks in pretty spritely as soon as the sensor detects optimum pressure on the pedals, so be mindful when starting off or doing a U-turn and perhaps have your fingers covering the brakes lest you lose control.
Given it's fitted with 20-inch wheels, the Furo X doesn’t fold into as tidy a package as the Brompton (few do) but the process is really simple and when folded it’s easily compact enough to take on a train without causing a fuss. The triangular seat post is especially worth a mention because it makes it really easy to raise and lower the saddle without having to straighten it.
Well that’s the main tech out of the way, so what’s it like to ride? In two words, bloody fantastic. It handles superbly well at any speed and will zip up hill and down dale for up to 35 miles on a single charge. Its handlebar assembly can also be adjusted to suit a wide variety of rider heights.
If you hanker after a folding ebike with bigger wheels than the Brompton but can’t stretch the budget to GoCycle’s top-dog GX then absolutely put this superbly designed entry on the shopping list. You won’t be disappointed.
What's the Centros like? Big and heavy, but with enough power to overcome that, baically. You do tend to find that the weightier e-bikes give more of a feeling of speed, even though you're only doing 20mph or so at the absolute most (only up to 15mph with electrical assistance so you'll need leg muscles or a downward incline to get to that outlandish velocity).
I found that by sticking it on 'Turbo' or 'Sport' mode (the upper 2 of the 4 electrical assistance levels) and leaving it in a middle gear, the Centros felt zippy when in full flight, but able to pull away from the lights with no problems. Less lazy riders than me might want to actually use the 10 gears, and will find that in the top gear, it's easy to push past the mandated 15.5mph electrical limit.
The front suspension and pleasantly comfy saddle also smooth out London's potholed hellscape very successfully. Raleigh also makes great play of the fact that the battery is 'hidden' in the frame's down tube but to be perfectly honest, it is 'hidden' in the same way as an elephant is 'hidden' if you throw a blanket over it.
Although British flagship motorcycle company Triumph is most synonymous with the classic Bonneville, it actually started out as a bicycle manufacturer, producing pedal-powered two-wheelers from 1889 to 1932. Fast forward a bunch of decades and the company’s classic logo is back on a bicycle, albeit one fitted with a battery and electric motor.
The new Triumph Trekker is quite ordinary looking (but in an attractive way) and the logo’s very understated too, taking up a tiny amount of space on the down tube. If it was down to this writer, the logo would have been be emblazoned across the entire down tube in 150pt lettering.
The Trekker is available in three sizes (small, medium and large) and weighs in at a substantial 24kgs (nearly 53lbs) for the medium. That’s fairly normal for a commuting e-bike with 27.5-inch wheels, but perhaps not so normal for one that retails at £2,950. Put another way, if you’re thinking of lugging it up a flight of stairs at the station, you’d better be built like a brick outhouse.
One area where this bike truly excels is in the quality of the build, which is exemplary throughout. The beautifully finished alloy frame has a contemporary road bike-style geometry that encourages a racy posture for speedier riding. The bike also comes equipped with Rockshox Paragon Silver front shocks which provide 65mm of travel for gnarly city roads – when the tarmac smooths out, simply lockout the damper for a firmer, faster ride.
The Trekker is almost entirely kitted out with Shimano components, from the big removable 504Wh battery (which forms part of the down tube) to the Deore disc brakes and 10-speed Deore derailleur system. The battery itself is said to be good for a range of up to 150km (93 miles) and that’s truly excellent.
The bottom bracket-housed Shimano Steps E6100 250w motor produces around 60Nm of torque which on a lightweight bike would equate to riding off on an actual Bonneville. However, on this bike the motor seems reluctant to help as much as you’d like it to, unless you put some extra effort into your pedalling. Put another way, the comparatively lightweight Furo X folder reviewed above has a marginally less powerful motor (50Nm) but its acceleration and overall input is immense.
And that begs the question – do you opt to spend £2,950 on a 24kg e-bike that requires some extra legwork (no bad thing), or do you spend £200 less on a svelte carbon Cervelo R3 Ultegra 8000 standard road bike that weights just 7.48kgs (16.5lbs) and isn’t that much harder to pedal?
No question, Triumph’s first e-bike is exceptionally well made and it feels reassuringly solid on the road. It’s also well equipped with lights fore and aft, an integrated Abus rear wheel lock and a rack for your business gear.
While not the spriteliest bike on the road, it will at least take you from A to B in style and most likely with a big smile on the face. You’re riding a Triumph, after all.
The eMTB used to be a dirty word among diehard downhill and trail-hungry mountain bike fans, but technology has moved on at such a rate that they are now pretty much in a league of their own.
I tested the top spec version of this Specialized number. It is essentially the Porsche of the electric mountain bike world, with choice components and the latest battery and motor tech combining to create a mud-plugging weapon that doesn't sap the legs when it comes time to crawl back to the top of the hill.
Let's face it, the most fun part of any mountain bike ride is blazing down a winding section and this eMTB allows for more of the fun stuff. According to the guys who built it, the lightweight SL 1.1 motor doubles the rider's effort with as much as 240 watts of silent and powerful assistance, while the motor’s responsive torque curve delivers power perfectly in-tune with a normal riding cadence and leaves no resistance when you’re riding without power assistance.
Max speed tops out at 20mph, so be careful around the law when rinsing this one around the city streets. Although leave it unlocked and it won't last longer than 30 seconds anyway.
• If you want the limited edition S-Works version of this bike, the best prices on it will appear here, when/if it's available…
Don't view this monster as merely a set of wheels to get you from A to B, because it is capable of carrying you, your family and the kitchen sink to even the furthest of destinations.
The chunky FatBike-esque tyres, bulletproof frame and excellent components team up to create a bike that's built to last, but this giant is also gentle. Seven speeds and five different power levels means it's easy too cruise along at speeds of around 15mph.
It is a heavy lump and those lugging in and out of parking spaces will likely get a bit bored of the overall heft, but this is a bike designed to conquer all trails. It just so happens to double-up as an excellent, load-lugging commuter, too.
Also consider: Haibike Sduro Trekking