The best electric bikes 2017: which one should you buy?

E-bikes from under £1000 to under £5000 for commuting and mountain munching. We've got the right electric bike for every type of ride

TODO alt text

Tear up that Travelcard, it's time to try a new way of commuting: electric bike. And when it comes to the best electric bike, there's only one choice for us at the moment - the Gtech eBike. And, if we're being specific, the Gtech eBike Sports. For under £1,000, you get a stunning e-bike that actually looks like a bike.

The Gtech eBike Sports also boasts a 30-mile maximum range, is simple to operate and charge and adjusts speed well. That's why it's our choice for the best electric bike.

How to choose the best electric bike for you

Cycling is a great move 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 brands take different approaches to electric bike manufacture. Some choose to place an electric motor in the front or 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 more advanced designs, 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.

If you're used to non-electric cycles, be aware that e-bikes are heavy and capped at 15mph. 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.

This can take a while to get used to. 

Realistically, 15mph is a very decent average speed when commuting in town or taking on hills, however. This is despite what all cyclists will tell you is their average speed – you're not fooling anyone, guys! 

Joking aside, a lot of cyclists will find riding an e-bike odd, and not necessarily a lot of fun. You can usually push them to 20mph by pedalling hard, but really they're nearly all built for acceleration (to 15mph) and not speed. Also for comfort/stability and not excitement.

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. 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, I dunno, an inflatable sumo wrestler costume. Whatever you like. 

These are the best electrically assisted bicycles on the planet right now, and there are options for casual commuters, road riders, hill climbers and mud-track scramblers.

We've started with what we consider to be the most generally useful mix of power, range, practicality and price, but there are models further down from off-road bikes to fold-up ones, and plenty of price options, from cheap to not-quite-so cheap.

The best electric bikes you can buy

These are the best electric bikes to buy, in order of preference, but also noting what we think each one is 'best for'. Allez! Please note that you can only pre-order the Brompton at this point, with launch not until 2018.

1. Gtech eBike Sports

Best affordable ebike for urban use

Specifications
Weight: 16kg
Range: 30 miles
Charging time: 3 hours
Gears: none
Power: 200W
Reasons to buy
+Computer monitored to adjust speed when pedalling+Good value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Not much difference between low and high power-Slightly uncomfortable saddle and grips
Today's best deals

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 win, here.

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 Sport 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 is that it just looks like a bike. We wish more e-bicycle brands would follow that lead.

2. Volt Pulse

Best hybrid electric bike

Specifications
Weight: 22.7kg
Range: 60 or 80 miles depending on model
Charging time: 3-4 hours
Gears: 8-Speed
Power: 250W
Reasons to buy
+Great fun to ride+Gears and suspension+'Turbo' button
Reasons to avoid
-Quite heavy
Today's best deals

Pricier than the Gtech but offering an awful lot of ebike for your money, the Volt Pulse is a very neatly designed hybrid bike.

Unlike the Gtech it has disk brakes, 8-speed Shimano Alivio gearing and front suspension that can be easily locked off when not required.

The 250W motor is powerful enough to handle hills and to make the bike feel surprisingly nimble for something that weighs 22.7kg.

Possibly my favourite thing about it is the hybrid drive system which combines the same sort of pedal-assistance as the Gtech but also has a very hard-to-resist thumb throttle to push you up to the capped 15.5mph top speed with zero effort. 

You can then either cruise at that speed or employ leg power to go faster. 

Everything about this bike feels well thought through. For commuters in hillier areas and those who just require extra assistance, it's a great choice. 

3. Haibike Xduro Cross 4.0

Best electric bike for trail riding

Specifications
Weight: 21.9kg
Range: 30-140 miles
Charging time: 4.5 hours
Gears: 11-Speed
Power: 500W
Reasons to buy
+Great off-road abilities+Comfortable commuter too+Top notch build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive
Today's best deals

Despite its serious looking frame and livery, this German-made hybrid machine can happily serve up a comfortable everyday commute once it's finished pounding the trails.

At the heart of the Xduro Cross 4.0 is a new 250W Bosch Performance CX crank drive motor, which develops an impressive 75Nm of torque and can deliver a peak output of 500W when the path less travelled beckons.

Suntour NCX-E45 Lockout front forks mean bumps and imperfections in the road are smoothed out, and rougher terrain can happily be tackled should the mood take you.

At 21.9 kg, it's not exactly the lightest machine to wrangle but it does have a 'Walk Mode', which offers a small amount of assistance when pushing the bike and the Bosch Lithium Ion 36 Volt battery pack is one of the best - it delivers between 30-140 miles of powerful pedal assistance, depending on the terrain.

Clearly, this kind of quality doesn't come cheap but a professional finishing kit, which includes Shimano SLX 11-speed gears, Magura MT4 disc brakes and broader 27.5" rims, means you get a decent amount of bang for the buck.

4. Gazelle Cityzen C8 HMB

E-cycle like the Dutch do! (No, we don't mean 'whilst stoned')

Specifications
Weight: 22kg
Range: 30-60 miles
Charging time: 4.5 hours
Gears: 8-Speed
Power: 250W
Reasons to buy
+Very well built+Integrated lights
Reasons to avoid
-Not exactly nimble
Today's best deals

This Dutch-made steed is a city bike that's built, in some respects, like a trail bike. The Bosch motor system drives the crank rather than the rear wheel, as on the Haibike Xduro above, there are 8 Shimano gears, the disk brakes are very effective, and the whole thing feels quite tank-like, in a good way.

With its heft and no-nonsense approach, this is the epitome of an e-bike where you should just pedal and let the motor help you along; attempting to go faster than 20mph is just too tiring and it never feels 'fast' as such, anyway.

From the simple assistance-level control (from 'Eco' to the slightly optimistically-named 'Turbo') to the comfortable grips and saddle, to the sensible luggage rack, there's little about the Cityzen that could be described as sexy. With its weight, and no suspension, when you go over potholes and bumps, you feel it. 

However, it is also an absolutely textbook city cruiser that's stable, reliable, and feels like it's made to last a very long time. Just whack it in the mid-range 'Cruise' setting, and the city is yours, even if there are hills along the way.

5. Cube Reaction HPA Pro 400

A more powerful hybrid ebike

Specifications
Weight: 20.9kg
Range: N/A
Charging time: N/A
Power : 250W
Gears: 10 Speed
Reasons to buy
+Powerful, long-lasting motor+9 Shimano gears
Reasons to avoid
-It is bloody heavy-Fairly pricey
Today's best deals

From Germany, like a lot of the best electric bikes, the entirely off-puttingly-named Cube leads the pack when it comes to commute-friendly 'mountain e-bikes'.

I've put that in quotes because I am not sure I'd necessarily take this up and down a muddy hill or a hill stage of the TdF. It's a hardtail rather than having suspension, too. 

However, for general riding outside of largely flat cities like London and Amsterdam, or simply for very lazy and/or more 'mature' people, the Cube is a brilliant choice.

It is about double the price of Gtech's bike, but then you get disk brakes, 9-speed Shimano gears and a much more powerful Bosch hub. 

Given that it weighs well over 20 kilos, that's just as well. You wouldn't want to have to pedal this up a hill with a flat battery – or carry it up a staircase come to that, so make sure you've got street-level storage.

It feels about as agile as a 20-kilo bike can feel, however, thanks to the power plant, which is 'the most powerful E-drive currently available' at 75Nm, while the 400Wh battery should be good for 50 miles or so with assistance on full blast. An eco mode is also available.

If you require an even more serious steed than the Volt Pulse, this is your best bet. True aficionados, and Germans, will particularly appreciate that the motor powers the crank rather than the wheel. This supposedly ensures a longer life and less maintenance.

6. Ridgeback Electron Plus

Best e-bike for serious hills

Specifications
Weight: 24.4kg
Range: up to 78 miles
Charging time: 4 hours
Power : 250W
Gears: 8 Speed
Reasons to buy
+Hub gears+Lots of power+Conquers any hill
Reasons to avoid
-Ridiculously heavy-Another step up price-wise
Today's best deals

Employing Shimano's STEPS e-bike tech, this is a further step up from Gtech's City runabout and Cube's hybrid.

Again it's heavier (a ludicrous 26kg), higher-specced (this boasts hub gears and built-in lights, powered by the main battery) and more sophisticated. You can even opt for Shimano's Di2 electric gearing. Shelling out for that in an e-bike context would be kind of ridiculous, but hey, it's your money.

The built in bike computer shows key ride data, including you how much further the battery can take you, and which of the three power settings you are using. 

The STEPS motor system runs from an enormous, rear-mounted battery that gives a colossal, 160-mile range in low power and about 40 on the maximum setting.

With that and the mechanical gears, you have a bike that can deal with just about any hill, and will whirr effortlessly along on the flat.

The one issue with the Shimano system is that its heft, with the fact that the e-power is capped at 15mph, means it is something of a chore to get it going any faster than that. But then, this isn't meant for the flat; it's a mountain muncher.

If you live in the countryside, or a hilly town like Brighton, and you don't fancy having calves like massive hams, the Electron Plus could be your dream ride.

7. Coboc One Soho

Best electric bike for style

Specifications
Weight: 13.7kg
Range: 50 miles
Charging time: 2 hours
Power : up to 500W
Gears: Single Speed
Reasons to buy
+Extremely stylish+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Who said e-bikes couldn't be cool? Coboc's Soho blends all of the stylish elements of achingly hip fixed-gear bicycles with cutting edge battery and electric motor technology.

In this case, the lightweight power source is neatly embedded into the frame, while torque sensors are mounted in the bottom bracket for instantaneous and progressive assistance.

You can expect a range of around 50 miles on a single charge, which takes around two hours. More importantly, the brushed aluminium frame is finished with a lightweight carbon fibre fork, as well as retro-inspired bars and saddle from Brooks.

If you like the idea of e-bikes but hate the look, this is your solution. You big hipster, you.

From £3,199 | Find out more direct from Coboc

8. Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie

Another cracking off-road electric bike

Specifications
Weight: 23.3kg
Range: not quoted
Charging time: not quoted
Power : up to 530W
Gears: 11 speed
Reasons to buy
+Mission Control App for perfect ride planning
Reasons to avoid
-Not one for commuting
Today's best deals

Turbo Levo offers serious off-road lunatics the chance to get their kicks with less pedal effort thanks to this awesome electrically assisted machine.

The full suspension Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie (great name, huh?) packs a powerful electric motor that was pinched from the automotive world, which sucks juice from a battery that has been seamlessly blended into the frame.

The entire drive system is neatly incorporated into the bike's design for optimal weight distribution and the ultimate in sexy design, while users control torque and power output, which peaks at a surprisingly punchy 530W, via a cool Mission Control App that can also be programmed to a time or distance parameter to ensure there's enough power to get you home.

Once the power output is set, the rider simply pedals and marvels at the amount of power that the battery pack and motors offer up. Once at the top of a gnarly downhill route, the motor can be turned off and the rider left to enjoy the berms, jumps and obstacles that make mountain biking so appealing (and downright scary).

The huge beaded tyres are hardly ideal for everyday commuting but the electric motor will instantly override any rolling resistance that should rear its ugly head. You could also consider some of the more commuter-friendly Turbo models.

This thing is also kitted out with a full SRAM groupset, RockShox Yari RC front shocks, Custom Fox Float suspension at the rear and enormously punchy SRAM disc brakes at the front and rear. Fundamentally, it's a mighty off-road machine with pro-spec kit that introduces a new style of trail riding, allowing adrenaline junkies to ride further, climb harder and descend faster than ever before.

9. Gtech eScent

Basically the other Gtech but with gears, suspension and a much bigger price

Specifications
Weight: 19kg
Range: 20 miles
Charging time: 3 hours
Power : up to 500W
Gears: 10 speed
Reasons to buy
+Suspension and gears+Cheaper than similar rivals+Generally a fun ride
Reasons to avoid
-Only a 30-mile range
Today's best deals

Rather as it did with the City at #1, Gtech has undercut its more established bicycle rivals with this beefed-up, 'mountain bike' successor.

At £1,899 it's not as competitively priced as its gearless sibling, but if you consider that it weighs less (19kg) than the Pulse and Cube, it's not a terrible deal.

Like the Cube the eScent has Shimano Deore gears and disk brakes. 

It lacks the power and range (you'll get about 20-30 miles) of that bike but particularly for cyclists making the switch to E-biking, it's more fun to ride.

That's due to the lighter weight and the way it assists your pedalling automatically, based on resistance put up by hills etc. 

10. Giant Road E+1

The speedster

Specifications
Weight: 18kg
Range: 50 miles
Charging time: 4.5 hours
Power : up to 500W
Gears: 22 speed
Reasons to buy
+Ultra-reliable battery
Reasons to avoid
-Very loud brakes on descents
Today's best deals

Billed as a 'lively hybrid powered bike', the Road E+1 is really the closest thing to an electrically assisted performance road bike as it's possible to get.

Granted, the UCI would likely have several heart attacks if you turned up to a professional event on this but that's not to say it doesn't have its merits.

As a rapid commuter machine, it's faultless, with an ultra-reliable 500Wh Lithium Ion battery powering a SyncDrive Yamaha X94 central motor, which produces 80Nm of torque, and the sort of finishing kit that's reserved for top end road racers.

A Shimano 105 groupset, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and FSA extras all come as standard, so if you feel like you need a bit of assistance on your daily commute or a handy shove next weekend ride, this could be just the ticket.

11. Brompton Electric

Coming 2018, pre-order now: best fold-up electric bike

Specifications
Weight: 16.6 or 17.3kg
Range: 25-50 miles
Charging time: 3-5 hours (depending on charger)
Gears: 2- or 6-speed
Power: 200W
Reasons to buy
+Portable design+Three levels of assistance+Separate battery pack for easier carrying
Reasons to avoid
-Not the quickest-£200 just to reserve one

We got to have a go on the long awaited e-Brompton at Ride London and it is really impressive. For starters, because most e-bikes look a bit weird, the slightly 'eccentric' Brompton shape isn't as jarring. It's just another electric bike that looks kind of like a normal bike, but not really.

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 unusual –  drawing 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. 

Thanks to clever engineering, the Electric Brompton folds up identically to the non-powered variety, and although it is pretty heavy, the small wheels that come into play once folded down, and the way the weight is balanced means it is quite straightforward to trundle along.  

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.

Above all, the Brompton is a lot of fun to ride in urban settings. Its powerful enough to breeze up hills with near zero effort, but light enough (well, by e-bike standards at least) to feel quite nimble. 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.

In fact, the only problem with this bike is that you can't buy one yet. However, you can put down a £200 deposit to reserve one for delivery in 2018. Final prices will be from £2,595 to £2,755.