Despite what your grandfather might think, electric bikes are not a passing fad like pogs (look them up) or 3D TV (yes, that was also briefly a thing). Ebikes are the present and future of biking; they make riding easier without fully eliminating the exercise you get from pedaling. Electric bikes can augment your traditional pedal power, reducing the effort you need to apply to get from here to there. An ebike lets you scale steep hills with ease, and never leaves you in a lurch—even if you run the battery completely empty, it’s still a bike that you can pedal home the old-fashioned way. And some of the best electric bikes also include a throttle you can use to power the bike without pedaling at all, turning your bike into a completely electric vehicle for as long as you mash down on the lever.
Ready to step into the world of electric bikes? As an avid ebiker—I’ve spent time on countless ebikes and compared them side-by-side while riding all over Southern California—I am here to warn you to get ready for a little sticker shock. The least expensive ebikes start just under $1,000, which is a lot more than a traditional bike. Even so, many bikes in that price range are a study in the art of compromise. Stepping up to $2,000 buys you a lot more bike, something almost any rider can be satisfied with. Of course, if you want a truly premium experience, you can spend $4,000, $6,000 or more.
Ebikes tend to fill the same niches as traditional bikes, with models designed for roles like city commuting and mountain biking. But aside from that, you’ll see a lot of different bike designs. Some bikes feature batteries conspicuously mounted to the frame, while others hide the battery and electronics in the downtube so the bike mostly blends into the crowd. There are bikes with motors mounted mid-body and some with hub motors in the rear wheel. There are bikes with throttles and some that only offer pedal assist. Some even fold up for portability. Because there is no single best ebike—only the best bike for you—here’s a roundup of the best models to suit every kind of rider.
Best Ebike Overall
This From-The-Future Ebike Has A Built-In Security System
Best Value Electric Bike
The 700 Series Is 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-Offroad Bike
One Of The Most Luxe Rides You Can Buy
Fastest Electric Bike
This 200-Mile Range Is Longer Than Most Electric Cars
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 are the advantages of an electric bike?
An electric bike adds an electric motor to a traditional bicycle frame to assist your pedaling, so it delivers more propulsion than what your legs can provide. That means it takes less effort for you to get from Point A to Point B—and that’s especially important for hilly terrain, because an ebike can make a steep hill no harder than level ground. Some ebikes even include a throttle so you don’t need to pedal 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.
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 ebikes contain a throttle that can propel the bike at up to 20mph even when you’re not pedaling—and can go up to 20mph 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.