E-bikes are fun, they’re useful, and they help riders cover more ground more quickly than any other kind of bike. These days, there are e-bikes for every activity, from commuting and fitness to hauling cargo, from road and gravel riding to mountain biking.
They could someday be more affordable, too, with the introduction of e-bike acts introduced into the House and Senate. The proposal, currently making it way through Congress, would offer consumers a refundable
30 15 percent tax credit on e-bike purchases up to $1,500. The credit would be allowed once every three years for individuals or twice for a joint-return couple buying two.
We’re crossing our fingers but not holding our breath. In the meantime, this guide breaks down our favorite e-bikes in a bunch of categories. But first, a quick note about "class." The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) classifies e-bikes based on the top speed at which the e-bike motor assists you, and how. This classification determines if you can ride your e-bike on bike paths and in bike lanes, though e-bike laws vary by state.
Class 1 e-bikes are pedal-assist only, with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes, which carry the most restrictions, are throttle-assisted with a maximum speed of 20 mph. Class 3 e-bikes are pedal-assist with a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph. They can be pedaled faster than that speed, but the extra velocity has to come from the rider's legs and/or gravity, not the bike motor.
And now, without further ado, here are some of the best e-bikes you can swing a leg over.
Best Overall E-Bike
If you’re in the market for a premium e-bike that can handle just about anything the road can throw at you — with plenty of speed, safety, battery life and minimal maintenance — the Current is our top rec. The mid-drive motor, Gates Carbon belt drive and Shimano e-bike-specific internally geared rear hub deliver one of the smoothest power transfers we’ve ever experienced. The gear range is massive and continuous and combines with five levels of pedal assistance to let you move with the exact level of energy input and velocity you desire. We also love the integrated, automatic front and rear lights, responsive hydraulic disc brakes and USB port for charging your devices. Don’t be afraid to splash through puddles and hop curbs, either. The lively torque, upright geometry and fat 650B WTB tires are basically begging you.
Watt hours: 500
Weight: 53 lbs
Range: 30-60 miles
Best Upgrade/Best Road E-Bike
Weighing just a few pounds more than a non-electric chromoly steel-framed road bike, this streamlined skinny tire e-bike runs on an internal 320Wh battery that can combine with an optional range-extending 160Wh battery to supply a whopping 120-mile range. A small, adjustable shock absorber built into the head tube dampens vibration and saves you from pernicious potholes. The battery is powerful and charges fast, in around 2.5 hours. Grab a leisurely lunch mid ride, and you can hit the road again with a full tank. Assist modes can be tuned to your preferences using Specialized’s Mission Control app. The app not only records your ride but connects to the bike’s built-in power meter and other sensors. Bonus: the light frame plus 28 mph of pedal assistance will have you positively flying when you pin it.
Watt hours: 320 plus optional 160
Weight: 26.8 lbs
Range: 80 miles
Best Value E-Bike
This bike stands out for a few reasons, but the biggest one has gotta be that impossibly low price tag: $1,099. So you’d be forgiven for having your doubts, but rather than half-deliver on bells and whistles offered by pricier e-bikes (including many other Rad models), the RadMission 1 focuses on doing a few things really well. The result is a smart single-speed with a 500-watt geared hub motor providing four levels of pedal-assist and throttle-driven power that pretty capably tackles rough terrain and even hills. You also get integrated lights, disc brakes and beefy, puncture-proof tires. Plus, if that snooty e-biker next to you starts prattling on about his USB port or integrated battery, just wave a couple grand in his face. That’s how much cheaper the RadMission is than many of the bikes on this list.
Watt hours: 504
Weight: 48 lbs
Range: 25–45 miles
Best Commuter E-Bike
This Class 1 flat bar road bike/hybrid bike boasts exceptional stability, responsive brakes and a spot-on power management system with four levels of assist for a natural-feeling ride. Yamaha’s own bottom-bracket integrated drive unit gives the bike a low center of gravity and great handling. The Suntour NCX suspension fork helps smooth out uneven roads, and the rear rack, complete with a built-in LED taillight, can handle up to 55 pounds of cargo. The integrated computer provides data like speed, distance, battery capacity, range, cadence, time of day and how long you’ve been riding. Fenders and an LED headlight round out the impressive features.
Watt hours: 490
Weight: 49.4 lbs
Range: 30–80 miles
Best Cargo E-Bike
Having put this heavy-duty hauler through its paces in New York City, we can report that its cargo capabilities are second to none. We used it to help with a weekend food drive, employing its expansively geared hub, Bosch cargo motor, three speeds of pedal assistance, belt drive and integrated suspension to safely deliver loads of groceries all over Brooklyn. Then we packed its saddlebags full of beer for a social distanced party in the park, where its ample, frame-based rear rack served as a de facto bar. We could have taken it much farther, too, by throwing a battery in the extra port and nearly doubling the max range to an insane 128 miles. A few other traits we love: built-in lights, disc brakes, the lock stand, the vast array of accessories and the ability to fold the handlebar down and stash the bike vertically in a corner.
Watt hours: 500
Weight: 74.03 lbs
Range: 32–65 miles
In a crowded marketplace, you don’t win a prestigious Red Dot design award without coming up with something pretty special. And that’s just what Denmark-based VanMoof has done with its S3 (and X3) e-bikes. A battery seamlessly integrated into the top tube is the coolest innovation here, but there are other winning features too, including built-in lights, seamless electronic gear shifting and some of the best theft protection we’ve ever seen. The pedal assistance is a bit less robust than some others (a 250-watt motor supplies up to a 15-mile-per-hour boost) but the ride is so smooth — and aesthetically pleasing — you won't sweat it. Editor's note: VanMoof now offers a rent-to-own style program for $83/month.
Watt hours: 504
Weight: 46.3 lbs
Range: 37–93 miles
Best E-Bike for Small Spaces
This affordable urban e-bike scores a lot of points for its user-friendly nature. Five levels of assistance are available via pedal and throttle, controlled and monitored by a built-in handlebar display. Also built-in: full-length fenders, integrated lights, a rear rack and tire air pressure sensors that change color to let you know when they need air. But we're burying the lead. What makes this bike really stand out is some clever design — flip a lever to rotate the handlebar stem 90 degrees, then fold up the pedals and you can easily stash this rig where no bike has been stashed before.
Watt hours: 250
Weight: 45 lbs
Range: 50 miles
Most Accessible Undercover E-Bike
Some e-bikes have such cleverly hidden batteries and motors, you'd never guess they were e-bikes, but these streamlined rides are often quite pricey or only available oversees. Not so the new Espin Aero, though: this sneaky e-bike goes for well under $1,500. With a 350-watt geared hub motor and a battery integrated into the downtube, the Aero looks pretty much like any other unassuming single speed — until the 20 mph of pedal assistance kick in. The Aero also features Zoom mechanical disc brakes with an integrated motor cutoff to ensure you get home safe and sound.
Watt hours: 244.8
Weight: 44 lbs
Range: 30 miles
Best BMX-Style E-Bike
When we heard a Harley-Davidson spinoff was making e-bikes, we may have raised an eyebrow or two. But we got to test-ride this urban ripper last fall, and wow is it a blast. A sturdy aluminum frame with internally routed cables, seamless Gates Carbon belt drive (not unlike Priority's Current), four power-assist levels and beefy 2.8-inch Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires let you zip straightaways, shred potholes and hop curbs with equal aplomb. There's also built-in lighting (headlamp, LED tail light and brake lights) and responsive disc brakes that make it easy to stop for tacos.
Watt hours: 529
Weight: 48.4 lbs
Range: 35–105 miles
Best Gravel E-Bike
Our favorite feature here just might be the Double Decker handlebar, which gives you four different hand positions: shock-absorbing tops for cruising, hoods for climbing, drops for racing and the ultra-stable base bar for gnarly descents. That's huge when you're riding long distances over various surfaces, as is Bosch’s new Performance Line CX Gen4 drive system, which can support up to 340 percent of the rider’s own power. The lightweight, geometrically optimized carbon frame and flexible leaf spring seatpost do their part to ensure that no matter what the trail throws your way, you'll keep trucking along. Editor's note: inventory is limited right now, we are crossing our fingers for a re-stock.
Watt hours: 500
Weight: 36.8 lbs
Range: 80 miles
Best E-Mountain Bike for Trail Rides
Rocking a mullet design — 29-inch wheel up front and 27.5-er in back — Marin’s first foray into eMTBs is a lovable joyride. We dig its style so much that it also cracked our best e-mountain bikes list as the best mullet e-bike, and it's one of the more affordable options too. While a bit sluggish on flats, it's rowdy on descents. Great dampers and high-performance components make it a fully capable whip that’s functional on a wide variety of trails. Only knock? The handlebars are a bit cluttered, especially for smaller riders.
Watt hours: 250
Weight: 54 lbs
Best E-Mountain Bike for Park Laps
With the same geometry and suspension as the non-assist version, the alloy-frame Powerplay feels like any other mountain bike — albeit a heavier one. The custom and compact Dyname 3.0 motor has tons of torque for acceleration even on the steepest climbs. Rocky Mountain integrated a generous lithium-ion battery into the frame and skipped the LCD display, instead using lights to tell riders what mode they’re in and how much battery remains. Pair the bike with the companion app for more control and information. Short chainstays, 150mm of rear travel and 160mm up front make this a great bike for getting in big mountain laps when the lifts are closed.
Watt hours: 672
Weight and range: N/A