Since e-bikes or electric bikes have started to gain popularity across almost every riding platform, they have been more contentious than the great Laurel or Yanny controversy of 2018 or whether that dress was blue or gold.
Taking a gander at the comment section on just about any story or social media post about an e-bike, you are guaranteed to find a comment about how they are motorcycles or how riding an e-bike is cheating. Both of these assertions are, of course, incorrect, and we would contend that most of the people writing these have never actually ridden an e-bike.
The best electric bikes make cycling more accessible to people at large and allow families or groups of riders with varying fitness levels to ride together and experience the comradery that comes with heading out with others. Plus, they are just plain fun to ride. From a pure transportation perspective, e-bikes mean you can commute without sweating through your work clothes, or haul a load of groceries or kids from point A to point B without having to push 1,000 watts to get over that super steep hill in your neighbourhood.
Ultimately, electric bikes get more people out riding bikes, which is a good thing any way you slice it. Read on for our favourite e-bikes in every category.
Specialized’s Turbo Creo SL looks almost identical to a standard road bike, and thanks to the nifty SL1.1 drive system it isn’t all that much heavier. Specialized worked with Brose to design its own motor, which is claimed to weigh just 1.96kg and produce 240watts of assistance. Integrated into the downtube is a 320Wh battery, which is said to weigh 1.8kg, and Specialized makes a 60Wh range extender which fits into a bottle cage should you be headed out for an epic adventure.
Specialized has integrated its e-bike system with the Mission Control App, which allows you to run diagnostics and customize how much pedal assist is on offer.
The Turbo Creo SL Expert is the brand’s second-tier model and sees a Fact11 carbon frame and the Future Shock 2.0 with tunable dampening. The frame uses thru-axles front and rear and sees Shimano Deore XT Di2/Ultegra Di2 drivetrain with an 11-42- cassette.
For 2021 Trek’s Domane LT platform takes almost everything we love about the Trek’s endurance road bike and gives you a bit of extra oomph to get you up and climb. The frame is made from 500 Series OCLV carbon, features the brand’s IsoSpeed decoupler, clearance for up to 38c tires, and sees a nearly identical geometry to the non assisted version.
Using a Fauza drive system, the motor can output 250w and is powered by a 250w removable battery stored in the downtube, which means you don’t have to charge your entire bike, but also that it can be replaced as the battery degrades over time.
The Domane + LT sees almost all the bells and whistles the non-pedal-assist version offers including the dual IsoSpeed decouplers although it doesn’t get the downtube storage as that is where the battery is stored.
The Bianchi Aria e-Road takes advantage of the Ebikemotion drive system and is onr of the most stealthy electric bikes on the market. The power button on the top tube gives the game away; the 250Wh battery is hidden inside the downtube, and the rear hub-based motor provides up to 40nm of torque at full bore.
The carbon frame sees all the aero tubing the standard bike does and features a reasonably aggressive geometry, especially compared to the Domane and Creo above. Claimed to weigh 12kg, the bike sees an 11-speed Ultegra drivetrain, Vision TriMax Wheels finished in 28c Vittoria rubber, and Bianchi Reparto Corse (race shop) finishing kit.
Best electric gravel bikes
Cannondale’s Topstone Neo is a spiritual descendant on steroids of the veritable Slate. Based on the chassis of the carbon Topstone, the 30mm KingPin pivot based rear suspension is matched with the Lefty Oliver single stanchion fork, offering 30mm of air-spring suspension. The Lefty is a bit of an engineering marvel, and is one of the stiffest forks on the market, and sees hydraulic damping and lockout. Suspension on a gravel bike always induces audible eye-rolls from drop bar purists, but the fact of the matter adds considerable improvements to both comfort and grip.
In the middle of the triangles is Bosch’s Performance Line Speed motor and removable 500Wh battery. With up to 250-watts of assistance and 85nm of torque on tap, the Bosch drive unit will help you crawl up that impossibly steep fire road, while a bar-mounted Purion display keeps all the vitals at your fingertips.
Our favourite thing about Ribbe is the way they sell their bikes because the Bikebuilder platform allows you to customize every component from drivetrain to wheels, tyres and touchpoints. The CGR AL e is the brand’s alloy eGravel platform. The alloy frame will take both 700x35c or 650bx2in wheels and tyres with mudguards, and sees rack and fender mounts galore.
Taking advantage of the eBikemotion system, the motor is a rear hub-based, and the 250Wh battery is integrated into the downtube. This system is lightweight and doesn’t change the frame’s silhouette, but most of all is friction-free when the motor is not in use. The Ribble CGR AL E is also one of the most affordable eGravel bikes, with an SRAM Apex version going for $2,724 — there is a less expensive Shimano Tiagra build, but the rear derailleur is not clutched, which is a non-starter for us.
With room for 50mm tires, the eclectic hover bar, and a Bosch Performance Line CX motor, the Canyon Grail: On eGravel bike is anything but vanilla. Based around the ever successful Grail, the geometry has been tweaked ever so slightly for a more upright riding position. While Canyon’s other drop bar eBikes utilised the sleeker-looking Fauza system, the brand says it opted for the Bosch motors for the additional torque on offer, which is what you need to get up and over those steep techy features.
With the new geometry, the wheelbase is a tad longer to increase stability and make room for mudguards and the balloon-like 50mm tires. The Grail: On CF7 sits in the middle of the pricing spectrum and comes equipped with a Shimano GRX drivetrain, an FSA carbon crankset with a 44t chainring at the front and 11-42 cassette out the back
Best electric commuter bikes
With an upright riding position, robust alloy frame, and built-in racks, fenders and even lights, the Scott Sub Active eRide is fully equipped straight off the showroom floor. The drive system is from Bosch’s Active line, which offers 250-watts of assistance and sees a 400Wh battery integrated into the frame.
The mid-drive drive unit system makes the bike a 1x system, but that simplifies shifting, and coming with the 9-speed 11-34 cassette can mountain goat up any city climb. Rolling on 700c wheels, the 50c Schwalbe Energizer Plus tires and 60mm SR Suntour fork will take the sting out of curbs and potholes. When you need to drop the anchors, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and 160mm rotors will stop on a dime.
Available in standard, drop top tube and step through versions, the Cube Kathmandu Hybrid Pro is a commuter bike built for riders of all shapes and sizes. Using Bosch’s fourth-generation GX drive unit and Cube’s Modular Battery system, the Kathmandu hides the battery behind an easy-access cover on the down tube, which not only protects it from the elements but also leaves space should you want to slot in a bigger cell.
Instead of the typical bolt-on racks you find on most commuter bikes; Cube has opted to make the Integrated Carrier 2.0 over the rear wheel a permanent fixture of the bike. This provides a more stable platform for whatever you may be carrying, and makes for a clean, integrated look. At the front, the bike sees a tapered head tube and 100mm SR Suntour fork. The cables are routed internally, and shifting duties are looked after by a Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain.
Whether you live in a small apartment, utilizing multiple forms of transport on your commute, or your destination doesn’t have secure bike storage, a folding bike might just be your best option. Brompton has long been the gold standard in folding bikes, and its electric version takes the origami bike you know and love, and adds pedal assist. The bike still gets the M-type handlebar, Sturmey Archer wide range gear hub, and even the rear damper to improve ride comfort.
Using a 250-watt front hub-based motors and a handlebar-mounted 300Wh removable battery pack, that Brompton says has enough juice for between 30km and 70km, and takes four hours to recharge. What’s most surprising is Brompton says the bike only weighs 11.6kg, which is on par with some non-pedal assist folders
Best hybrid e-bikes
With a somewhat industrial look, the Vitus Mach E borrows the geometry, and most of the design features from its non assisted cousin, including the kinked top tube and dropped chainstays. With flat bars and upright geometry, the bike sees a carbon fork, rack, fender mounts galore, and rolls of 700c wheels finished with 38c rubber to balancing efficiency and comfort.
The Mach E sees a Shimano STEPS pedal assist unit, and a downtube mounted 504Wh battery pack that Shimano says will provide up to 100km of range — depending on riding conditions, of course. Vitus has opted for a 9-speed Shimano Alivio drivetrain with an 11-34T Sunrace cassette at the back, and the Shimano Steps crank and 44T chainring.
The Cannondale Quick is the brand’s all-rounder urban platform; it’s designed to be lightweight, agile and versatile, whether you’re going to and from work, running errands, or just trying to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. The Quick Neo SL 2 takes the standard Quick, and gives it a bit of extra oomph with an Ebikemotion X35 drive system that offers 250-watts of assistance, and virtually no drag when the motor is off.
Cannondale has tuned it’s SAVE micro-suspension into the frame to dampen bumps, and the cockpit is equipped with the brand’s Intellemount stem, which holds any SP Connect compatible phone case. The bike sees a 1×9 speed drivetrain with a 38t chainring at the front paired with a 9-speed 11-36t cassette at the back and features Shimano hydraulic disc brakes to keep your speed in check. If your ride keeps you out past dark, the reflective logos light the frame up like a Christmas tree under artificial light — though you should have a set of lights too.
At first glance, Ghost’s Hybride Square Cross eBike may cut the form of an eMTB; the angles are a bit too steep for a day out on the trails, the geometry is perfect for tackling the urban jungle. Using a Bosch Performance CX motor and a 500Wh downtube mounted battery, the Ghost sees a Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain and four-pot hydraulic disc brakes.
Rolling on 650B wheels, which are packaged in 2.0in Continental Race King tires, is a 60mm RST Nova ML suspension fork with just enough squish to take the bike out of cobblestones and potholes on your commute.
Santa Cruz waited a long time to launch its first eMTB, and while many said the brand had sold out by doing so, we think it was well worth the wait. The aim was to recreate the ride characteristics of its uber-famous Bronson, with the added benefit of a Shimano STEPS E-8000 drive system and a 500Wh battery. Based around Santa Cruz’s Carbon CC frame, a GX Eagle drivetrain keeps the weight to about 21kg.
Rolling on 27.5in wheels and tyres, the Heckler sees a 65.5-degree head angle and 160mm Fox 36 Float Performance fork to keep the front end manageable when things get spicy. At the back, Santa Cruz has employed its VPP linkage that is tuned with less anti-squat than the brand’s non-pedal assist bikes in order keep the rear end active as you tractor your way up a techy climb. The VPP link combined with a 150mm RockShox Super Deluxe air-shock provides for oodles of mid-stroke and bottom-out support to get you out of trouble.
For a long time, Pivot has employed Dave Weigel’s DW link rear suspension platform that provides for a snappy and efficient pedalling platform while also allowing for extreme small bump sensitivity and short chainstays. So, it’s no surprise the brand has extended these linkages into its eMTB platform, the Shuttle.
With 160mm of travel at the front and 140mm of rear squish, the Shuttle sees the typical long and slack, modern geometry with a 65.2-degree head angle for confident descending and high-speed stability. When it’s time to pedal back up, a Shimano STEPS drive system complete with a 504Wh battery to keep you going, and going, and going. The battery on the Shuttle is removable, but you will need an Allen key to get the cover off, Pivot tells us it makes for a stiffer downtube.
Trek’s Rail is the successor to the Powerfly eMTB, and it’s shorter, lighter, and more powerful. Many of these upgrades are thanks to the new Gen 4 Bosch Performance Line CX drive units, which are more compact, allowing Trek to chop serious yardage out of the chainstays. The battery has also received an upgrade with a 625Wh group stored in the Trek’s Removable Integrated Battery (RIB) side access system.
Arguably the most significant advantage to the new Gen 4 motors is they allow for a standard crank and chainring, meaning there is considerably less friction to overcome when the motor is not engaged. With 150mm of travel at the back, the rear shock sees the brands RE:aktiv with thru shaft shock, which allows for improved small bump sensitivity without sacrificing mid-stroke support. To balance out the squish, Trek supplies a 160mm RockShox Lyrik fork.
Regardless of whether your electric bike has a Shimano, Bosch, Fauza, or any other drive system, it will be limited to comply with regional laws and restrictions. This will affect the maximum wattage, pedal-assist speed, and the need for licensing and insurance.
The US is one of the more difficult countries to navigate eBike regulations because the rules will vary depending on what state you live in, and even then, the laws are written in legal-ese that just about require a member of your local bar association to translate.
According to federal legislation enacted by congress in 2002, an eBike is defined as, “A two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.”
Unfortunately, state laws surrounding eBikes often supersede this legislation. Currently, 33 states have statutes that define an eBike in some manner while the rest lack a specific definition, and may lump them in with another vehicle class. To make things even more confusing, in states like Mississippi there is no mention of eBikes in the wording of the laws, but a general opinion issued by the Attorney General says an electric bicycle should be classified as a regular bike. Thirteen states have taken up the three-tiered system outlined by The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association which divides electric bikes up based on their maximum assisted speed:
Class 1: the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedalling and cuts out a 20mph
Class 2: the motor can contribute regardless of pedalling but is governed to 20mph
Class 3: the motor provides assistance when the rider is pedalling but cuts out at 28mph and must be equipped with a speedometer.
Regardless of class, the motor can only generate a maximum of 750-watts, and the class must be labelled clearly.
In the 17 states that lump eBikes in with other classes of vehicles, licensing and registration may be required to operate an eBike.
If your head is spinning trying to keep these rules straight, our friends over a People for Bikes have a handy state by state guide.
In the UK, eBikes are classed as regular non-pedal assist bikes provided the motor cuts out a 25kph, does not generate more than 250-watts of assistance, and does not kick in until the bike is already in motion. Riders must also be at least 14-years old. If your bike meets these criteria, you can legally ride it anywhere a bike can be ridden.
If your eBike doesn’t meet these standards, it will need to be registered and insured as a motor vehicle, and you will need a license and a helmet.
Australians love simplicity and that is why eBikes are split into throttle operated and non-throttle operated. Throttle operated eBikes must be limited to 200-watts and 25kph, while pedal assist can provide up to 250-watts of assistance but is limited to the same speed limit. In keeping with this simplicity, anything that doesn’t abide by the above is considered a motorbike by law, and must be licensed and insured.