At long last, the world of transportation is going electric in a big way. Thanks to companies like Tesla, Nissan and Chevrolet, electric cars have started to eliminate harmful emissions while delivering roughly the same power and range as traditional autos. Electric bikes are on a different journey; the addition of an electric motor gives the humble bicycle the horsepower to get from one place to another faster and with less effort, without leaving a carbon footprint behind. The best ebikes give riders the option to let the motor do all the driving or use pedal assist to augment your muscle power.
Many electric bikes fill the same niches as traditional bikes. There are bikes designed for commuting, mountain biking and off-road adventuring. There electric beach cruisers, cargo bikes, premium models with a comfortable, luxury feel as well as relatively inexpensive, sub-$1,000 bikes. Some electric bikes look like sci-fi gadgets with large batteries mounted to the frame, while others hide the battery and electronics internally so the bike blends seamlessly into the crowd. Which kind of bike do you want? There is no single best electric bike, so we rounded up the top models to suit every kind of rider and riding situation.
Best Ebike Overall
A From-The-Future Ebike With A Built-In Security System
Best Value Electric Bike
The 700 Series That’s Equipped Like A Much More Expensive Bike
Best Folding Electric Bike
Folds So Small It Almost Fits In A Suitcase
Best Budget Electric Bike
Affordable, Folding, Class 3 And Easily Upgradeable
Best Cargo Electric Bike
Ready For Anything, Including A Pair Of Baby Seats
Best City Commuter Bike
An All-Around Thoughtful Design For City Dwellers
Best Hybrid Commuter-Off-Road Bike
One Of The Most Luxe Rides You Can Buy
Best Electric Mountain Bike
Pricey, But Equipped With Smarts For Regulating Your Battery
Best Lightweight Electric Bike
A Single-Speed Class 1 Featherweight Bike
What To Consider When Buying An Electric Bike
What Are The Advantages Of An Ebike?
A typical electric bike has an electric motor on a traditional bicycle frame to give it more propulsion than what your legs can provide simply pedaling. That means it takes less effort for you to get from here to there. That’s especially important on hilly terrain because an ebike can make scaling a steep hill no harder than riding on level ground.
Most bikes rely on a feature called Pedal Assist, often abbreviated as PAS. When you pedal, the motor adds extra energy, letting you go faster and farther than on an ordinary bike. Some models also include a throttle, which lets you accelerate without pedaling at all, at least for short distances. Bottom line: electric bikes require less effort and often can get you where you’re going faster.
Can An Electric Bike Go Uphill?
Absolutely—any good ebike will be able to propel you uphill with less effort and more quickly than if you pedaled all on your own. Most electric bikes provide multiple power levels; you might ride at a 1 or 2 on level ground, but to comfortably pedal up a steep hill you might increase that to a 4 or 5. This electric power setting is different than the bike’s mechanical gearing, and experienced riders will use both gearing and electric power levels to exert minimal effort while making the most of the battery.
Do You Still Get Exercise On An Electric Bike?
In general, yes, though it depends. If you’re using your ebike in its pedal assist mode, it is augmenting your leg power with additional electric propulsion. And in that situation, you’re in control of how much exercise you get. With the bike at its lowest power setting, you’ll have to do the most work. Increasing the power level means you will need to add less and less pedaling power to reach the same speed.
If your ebike has a throttle, you can stop pedaling entirely and just depress the throttle to let the bike to all the work. You won’t get any exercise this way, and it’ll run the bike’s battery down relatively quickly.
It’s also worth noting that if the battery dies during your ride or if you turn off the electric system manually, the ebike becomes a traditional bike, which you have to pedal to move with no electric assist. Want exercise? Turn off the bike and pedal it yourself.
Can You Ride An Electric Bike If The Battery Has Died?
Yes, that’s one of the great advantages of an ebike—you can ride it whether you’re using electric power or not. You can use pedal assist to add power to your pedaling, stop pedaling and go on throttle alone (if you have a Class 2 or Class 3 bike) or just pedal like an old-fashioned bike.
How Fast Does An Electric Bike Go Without Pedaling?
This depends on the bike and the “class” that it falls into. Most bikes are limited to a top speed of 20mph on level ground. Here’s how it breaks down:
- If you have a Class 1 ebike, the electric motor has a top speed of 20mph, but only works when you’re actually pedaling—it’s not allowed to include a throttle to move the bike without pedaling.
- Class 2 models contain a throttle that can propel the bike at up to 20mph even when you’re not pedaling—and can go up to the same maximum speed with pedal assist.
- Class 3 bikes are a little confusing. They all have a top speed of 28 mph, but not all Class 3 bikes have a throttle. Depending upon the state they’re sold in, some Class 3 throttles top out at 20 mph even if the bike can reach 28 mph when using pedal assist.