For many people, cycling is the purist form of transport there is, with fresh air (well, kind of) and exercise being just two of the reasons to leave the car at home. but not everyone wants to turn up to work looking like (Sir) Chris Hoy after he's completed a few laps of the velodrome – especially if there are no shower facilities at the office.
And it isn't just working life that 'conventional' cycling isn't always suited to. With the UK being a hilly, not to mention windy, country, having to pedal all the time can make days and weekends out quite arduous.
That's where electric bicycles come in. Offering batterypowered assistance, they give just about anyone the ability to get on a bike and get where they need to go, with minimal fuss. And they're safe, too, with a top speed of just 15.5mph.
What's more, electric bikes have come a long way from the ugly, 'battery-strapped-to- scaffolding' look of old, and now offer a stylish aesthetic – not to mention quick charging.
Here, T3 has picked three of the best electric bicycles on the market right now. Read on and get ready for the ride of your life…
Test 01: Design
Bikes all look the same, right? Well, if these three are anything to go by, they couldn't look more different. Heading up the pack with its unique, somewhat divisive, looks is the ETT Trayser - never will you go anywhere on two wheels and garner so much attention. Riding it, you feel like a celebrity – though nobody's interested in you. The look of the bike isn't merely a ploy to grab stares; the design is modular, enabling you to upgrade the heart of the bike - the battery - as you go. So in a year's time, when there's a battery that's lighter and has more range, you can simply take out your old one and swap it in, so you get future style and future proofing. And that's not all - you'll also be able to 3D print your own customised bits for the Trayser, such as the mini mudflap you can see in the pictures, enabling you to create your own, personal version of the bike.
The Gocycle G3 is similarily unusual to look at, but purpose lies at its roots - with its mini-bike proportions and ability to fold down, a la the Brompton, you can take it with you just about anywhere. The battery is neatly integrated into the frame, for clean looks, and the quick-release, single-sided mag wheels are slick as hell. But the Gocycle's party piece is its Knight Rider-style dash, which uses simple LEDs to show you things like how much charge is left and which gear you're in.
More conventional in its appearance, but no less impressive, is the Haibike xDuro, which is packed with the latest Bosch tech. People will know you're riding electric with its downtube-mounted battery, which can be easily removed, enabling you to charge it at home without lugging your bike inside. The overriding matte-black theme looks menacing, while the frame has some neat touches, like having the cables hidden inside for smoothness (and weather-proofing), and powerful integrated lights - easily activated by the handlebar-mounted thumb controls.
Test 01 Winner : Gocycle G3
The mini-bike style might not be for everyone, but there's clearly been a huge amount of effort put into the G3's design - it's a peach.
Test 02: Power
All three bikes stand out for their looks, but when it comes to electric power assistance, they're equally unique. For starters, the Gocycle G3 hides its battery - the smallest and lightest of the bunch - within its frame, yet still easily delivers a handy 50 miles of range in mixed riding conditions. It also features - again hidden within a shroud for neatness and zero-maintenance weather protection - a Shimano Nexus three-speed chain-driven gear system. This gives it a nice range of power, making easy work of biggergradients and keeping cadence under control on long straights. The G3's trump card is its app, which enables you to connect to the bike and tailor the power delivery to your liking, with various preset riding modes. There's also a custom option, which lets you create a power map to suit your exact needs. For instance, you can increase power at lower RPMs, sacrificing battery life, or keep it in reserve for hills when you need extra power, which increases range.
The Haibike utilises trick Bosch electric gubbins, and though the 500Wh battery sits in the middle capacity-wise, the German manufacturer's expertise in this area shows: with the motor nestled in the crank, just beneath the battery, there's less energy wastage as you pedal along. In Touring mode (power level 2 of 4), you get plenty of assistance, but the battery life is good for a rangey 100 miles. The conventional-style wide-ranging rear cassette gives you plenty of gears to play with, so you can tackle any scenario - from short town rides to longer tow-path touring.
With a colossal 840Wh battery inside its trick frame, the Trayser has plentiful capacity, but it's also the most zealous bike here, with a yield of just 60 miles thanks to 42 volts that rip through the amp hours. It's probably for the best, given that the belt-driven single speed is only usable around town anyway; up hills, the gearing is too low for the power assistance to kick in fully. On the flip side, it absolutely flies down straights without feeling undergeared.
Test 02 Winner: Haibike xDuro Urban RC
The G3 has the smarts, but the xDuro edges it with huge range and the ability to ride fast in any situation.
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Test 03: Ride
Let's cut to the chase: each of these bikes has a different purpose - and rider - in mind. While the Trayser is certainly powerful, the downside to its big battery is heft. At 27kg (almost 9kg more than the Haibike), you won't be slinging it over your shoulder. The weight, combined with the gearing, can be felt up hills, so it's definitely more of an inner-city bike. Hopefully, your home town has smooth roads because, despite those fat, cushy tyres, the ride is harsh and its low bars give your palm nerves a workout with the saddle raised. Usefully, ETT offers riser bars to add comfort. Though the Trayser rocks hydraulic disc brakes, they feel a little underpowered, especially with that extra weight to haul to a stop.
At 18.2kg, the Haibike feels featherweight in comparison. It also rides pretty much like a normal bike - comfortable (apart from the Brooks saddle - thankfully, this can be changed) with an ergonomic on-bike position, superb hydraulic brakes and loads of grip, no matter what the surface. The only real downside is that the frame doesn't come with mudguards – but that's an easy fix at a later date. With the optional Bosch Nyon computer, you get niceties like a huge 4.3-inch colour screen, which gives you loads of information while you ride, including turn-by-turn directions – though, annoyingly, it doesn't highlight cycle routes - one for a future update.
Clearly designed for commuters and leisure pursuers, the G3 is arguably more versatile than the Haibike. The folding frame is a boon, though it's too time-consuming and fiddly to do it every day. That aside, it's stunning to ride - light and comfortable, with strong brakes, though those small wheels struggle with big bumps. The dash is intuitive and easy to use, while the motorbike-style twistand- go throttle gives you pedal-free power (on private land). If you get the optional Commuter pack, you gain easy-fit mudguards (as well as the aforementioned front and rear lights), which complete this useful package.
Test 03 Winner: Haibike xDuro Urban RC
It's comfortable, practical (aside from the lack of mud guards) and feels fantastic to ride in any situation.
1st: Haibike xDuro Urban RC
T3 Rates: The haibike offers a perfect blend of power and battery life, with optimum gearing to suit. it also looks great and is fantastic to ride – even more so with the optional nyon computer. garage-dreamers will love the removeable battery.
T3 Slates: A lack of mudguards is annoying; the standard saddle isn't very comfy; it's a little pricey.
T3 Says: Once you've ridden the haibike, you'll never want a normal bike again.
2nd: Gocycle G3
T3 Rates:Great to ride; packable; good range; app smarts make it easy to use.
T3 Slates: Folding isn't brompton-quick; it's the priciest bike here.
T3 Says: A stunning, well-built portable electric bike.
3rd: ETT Trayser
T3 Rates:Wacky, space-age design; powerful; future proof battery system.
T3 Slates:Heavy, with a harsh ride; hills are a struggle.
T3 Says:Fundamentally flawed, but its bold, unique features deserve attention.