Within the last couple of years alone, electric bike sales have skyrocketed and dozens of manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon with new electric bike designs. With so many different options to choose from, how do you choose the right e-bike to suit your needs?
Choosing the best electric bike is anything but easy, especially if you are on a budget. Sure, if you have about ten thousand dollars in your e-bike fund you can hardly go wrong, any bike in that price range is great, but for those that don’t like the idea of paying $5000+ for a motorized bicycle, we have made a selection of best e-bikes you can get this season, based on multiple factors. We have tried to include bikes that have the optimum mix of power, range, bike weight, practicality and price, regarding different needs of different riders.
- 1. Ride1Up 500 Series – The Most Popular
- 2. Macwheel Cruiser 550 – Top Budget Option
- 3. NCM Prague – Best E Mountain Bike
- 4. Ride1Up 700 Series – Top Class 3 E-Bike
- 5. Addmotor MOTAN M-140 – Top Folding Bike
- 6. Elby Bike 9-Speed – The Best Design
- Things You Need to Know Before Buying an E-Bike
- New E-Bike vs. Conversion Kit
Take a look at our reviews of the best and the most popular electric bikes at the moment, as we break down different types of bikes, what they’re good for, which brands to pay attention to and what to look for to get the best value.
1. Ride1Up 500 Series – The Most Popular
Ride1Up 500 series City is a high quality, classy and stylish electric city bike with great features at a really great price. It is designed for the everyday long-distance rider and it features very nice frame geometry that promotes a comfortable upright riding position. Swept-back cafe style handlebars also provide better comfort over longer distances. You can choose between two throttle options – a twist or a thumb throttle, and there are also 3 levels of pedal-assist, or 9 levels if you get an optional LCD screen.
Other features include an integrated LED headlight, removable battery with two keys, and heavy duty kickstand. Also we have to commend the amazing customer service, as the guys that are behind this brand are very passionate about what they do, and really motivated to change the way we get around our communities, by providing high-quality bikes at an unbeatable price. For more information take a look at our in-depth review of Ride1Up electric bikes.
- Bafang 48V 500W Motor
- Top speed 26 MPH with Pedal Assist (PAS), 20 MPH Throttle
- 48V/10.4AH Lithium battery
- 6061 Aluminum Frame
- Tekro Aries Mechanical 160mm Disc Brakes
- 7-speed Shimano transmission system
- 28in x 1.75 Kenda Tires
2. Macwheel Cruiser 550 – Top Budget Option
Macwheel e-bikes are relatively new on the market. The company have recently launched three new electric bikes: Ranger 500 (the city bike), Cruiser 550 (the trekking bike), and Wrangler 600 (the affordable off-road MTB.) In this review focus is on the Cruiser 550, as it is probably the most well-rounded budget hybrid e-bike of the three.
This bike features 250W hub motor nested in the rear wheel, powered by a 36V, 10Ah battery conveniently integrated in the aluminum frame. This setup will get you to the top speed of up to 15mph and allow you to travel around 40 miles under PAS mode and 25 miles throttle-only mode. This is a simple design made of high-quality parts: Shimano gear setup, disc brakes, Kenda Tyre wheels, KMC chains and a front suspension. Additional features include a headlight, horn and a rear rack. There is enough space for a child seat, and it’s hauling capacity is 265 lbs, so you can take your little one on a ride.
One thing that is absolutely horrible about this bike is the instruction manual; it is very poorly written and pretty much useless. There is a way to get around it by paying extra for the in-store professional assembly and fit, and there is also a somewhat useful YouTube video on how to assembly the bike yourself.
- 250W High-Torque Motor
- 36V, 360Wh Li-Ion Battery
- Electric Assist Mode + Pure Electric Mode
- KMC Rust-Proof Chain
- Tektro Hydraulic Disc Brakes
- 7-Speed Shimano Gears
- Adjustable Handlebars and Seat
- Anti-Puncture Kenda Tires
3. NCM Prague – Best E Mountain Bike
NCM bikes is an electric bikes manufacturer based in Germany with a product range covering the segments of E-MTBs, city bikes, trekking bikes, folding bikes and cruisers. If you need an ebike that can provide a full-on mountain bike experience, but you are also on a limited budget, this bike is an excellent choice for recreational mountain bikers and cyclists on a budget. You will hardly find this level of quality and craftsmanship at a better price.
NCM Prague has everything you need for commuting and mountain biking, and more. The powerful Das-Kit 350W motor can be laced on to a durable 26”, 27.5”, or 29” double wall rim. Just like most of European bikes, this one is limited to max speed of 20mph if you use only the throttle. DeHawk 36V 13Ah Lithium-Ion battery packs will get you to an average distance range of 20-40+ miles per charge – which depends on whether you’re pedaling or using turbo mode all the time. The battery is removable, and it also features a 5V USB charging port.
The drivetrain is a state-of-the-art Shimano setup including Shimano Altus RD 7 speed Rear derailleur, triple front derailleur and 3×7 Rapid Fire shifters. NCM paid extra attention to make the riding experience exciting, but also comfortable and safe. The Suntour XCT suspension fork offers 100mm of travel making the ride smooth, while a set Tektro mechanical brakes allows you to stop quickly and safely. The frame is a standard bike aluminum frame, sturdy and lightweight.
- Das-Kit 350W Motor
- 36V 13Ah DeHawk battery
- TEKTRO Disc Brakes
- 6061 Aluminum Frame
- 21 speed Shimano Drivetrain
- Schwalbe Smart Sam Tires (26″/27.5″/29″ x 2.25)
- Suntour XCT Front Suspension Fork
- Das-Kit LB6 high contrast LCD display
4. Ride1Up 700 Series – Top Class 3 E-Bike
Ride1Up 700 has quickly become the most popular electric road bike in its price range. One of the reasons for that is the high-end feel that this bike offers, thanks to its sleek and modern design and high-quality components that makes it stand out from the other ones in this category like the Rad Power Bikes.
The 500W motor with the peak power output of 1000W allows for a quicker acceleration and higher top speed. This bike has the removable 672Wh Samsung battery that’s got enough juice for about 30-60 miles depending on the way you ride. The tires on the Ride1Up 700 Series are Schwalbe Super Moto 27.5 x 2.4″ touring tires, that are perfect for the pavement.
The 700 series is more expensive than the 500, but there is a good value to it. This bike comes with all the fixings: both front and rear light, the fenders, and a custom rear rack. Of course, we should not forget the high capacity battery that is not a common feature on entry-level bikes.
- 500 W Shengyi Motor
- 48V 14Ah Samsung 35E Battery Pack
- Two Frame Sizes: 16” and 19”
- Shimano Acera Rapid-Fire 1×7 Speed Shifter
- Schwalbe SUPER MOTO 27.5 x 2.4” Tires
- Full Color LCD Display
- GTMRK 330 front fork adjustable hydraulic suspension
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
5. Addmotor MOTAN M-140 – Top Folding Bike
The Motan M-140 P7 is a fast and quiet electric fat tire bike that you can fold in a matter of minutes and put it in the trunk of your car. Featuring a 750W high-speed motor, and 5 levels of pedal assist, you will be able to comfortably travel uphill, across sand, or just cruise along with a straight, flat road. A long-lasting 48V 16Ah lithium battery pack, can last up to 55-65 miles if you use the level 1 of pedal assist.
This electric folding bike features adjustable seat post and handle bar reach with quick-release mechanism, so it designed to fit riders 5’2″-6’3″. Motan M-140 can haul max weight of 280 lbs, making it an ideal option even for larger riders. It is a step-through design, meaning that it is an excellent option for those with impaired leg mobility. It also comes with a lot of additional fixings that make it road-ready, a headlight, rear rack, fenders, LCD display.
- 750W High-speed Brushless Bafang Motor
- 48V, 16Ah Panasonic Battery
- Light-sensitive 5” LCD Display with USB Port
- 5 Levels of PAS
- Variable Speed Control – 1/2 Twist Throttle
- 55-65 Miles Range on the Level One Assist
- Shimano Pro Freewheel 7 Speeds with SL-TX50-7R Gears
- AddShox Front Fork 80-95mm of travel
- Tektro MD-M300 180mm/160mm Disc Brakes
- Kenda 20” X 4.0” Fat Tires
6. Elby Bike 9-Speed – The Best Design
Elby is the odd one out in our list: it has no suspension, it is heavy, expensive… However, from the first time you see this ride, you won’t be able to take your eyes off it. There is nothing like the Elby Bike, and we doubt that it ever will be. What is so special about this e-bike?
First, there is the design: this bike looks more like a lowrider step-through beach cruiser than a standard bike. Everything is beautifully integrated, from the famous BionX direct drive motor to the 48V, 555Wh battery located in the middle of the frame, and almost all cables and wiring are enclosed protected from the weather and getting snagged. Elby is a one-size-fits-most, easy to get on, easy to ride electric bike. The Seat post and handlebar stem are super adjustable, accommodating riders from 5’ to 6’5”. Wide saddle, ergonomic grips, swept-back handlebars, and step-through frame design, it’s all about comfort.
Regarding the performance, Elby is not behind other best electric bikes. It’s top speed is right on the limit of 20mph, and the maximum range is up to 80 miles on a single charge depending on terrain and assist level/throttle usage. You don’t have to worry about stopping, as Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, with regenerative braking included, stop you on a dime.
Elby is a bit heavier than most of electric bikes, weighting 57 pounds, but the weight is centered in the middle, and pretty low as well, so it feels stable and comfortable. The Elby also has an app, which conveniently shows you all the information you need to know, like directions, weather, or bike stats, on your smartphone. It does not have a rear cargo rack, but it does come with a pannier rack.
CHECK LATEST PRICE
|Name||Ride1Up 500 Series||Macwheel Cruiser 550||NCM Prague e-MTB||Ride1Up 700 Series||MOTAN M-140 P7||Elby Bike|
|Type||City Bike||Hybrid||Mountain Bike||Commuter||Folding||Commuter|
|Speed||26 mph||15.5 mph||20 mph||27 mph||20 mph||20 mph|
|Max Range||50+ miles||50 miles||40+ miles||55 miles||55-65 miles||80 miles|
|Battery||48V/10.4 Ah||36V/10 Ah||36V/13 Ah||48V/14 Ah||48V/16 Ah||48V/11.6 Ah|
|Max Load||275 lbs||265 lbs||275 lbs||275 lbs||280 lbs||280 lbs|
|MORE DETAILS||MORE DETAILS||MORE DETAILS||MORE DETAILS||MORE DETAILS||MORE DETAILS|
Things You Need to Know Before Buying an E-Bike
Before you start shopping around for a new e-bike, the first thing you should ask yourself is, “how am I going to use my electric bike?” How far are you going to travel? What type of terrain will you be traveling on? How much assistance do you need? Are you okay with pedaling – or do you want the bike to do all the work? Is this bike for daily commuting or casual riding? How fast do you need to go? Do you need an electric folding bike that fits in the trunk of your car?
After you’ve determined how you’ll be using your e-bike, you need to understand the different options available and the pros and cons of each setup. Here is an overview of some of thing you’ll need to take into consideration when shopping for the best electric bike:
Pedal-Assist and Throttle Control
E-bikes have two main methods of operation: pedal-assist and/or throttle-control. As the name implies, pedal-assist “assists” your pedaling and requires some input. With this method, a torque sensor picks up movement or stress to determine the power requirements of the rider. Everything is automated so there’s nothing to think about, just jump on and start riding. Some bikes have multiple settings, while others have just one setting with the addition of a throttle control. Depending on the setting, pedal-assistance can help a little – or a lot. At lower settings, pedal-assist is barely noticeable but helps extend your range. At higher settings, the power is quite obvious and feels like a strong wind at your back with the motor doing most of the work while you pedal along.
A throttle-control, on the other hand, doesn’t require pedaling at all. Just like a motorcycle, twist and hold the throttle back to control power and speed. You can assist by pedaling along, but it’s not required.
Some e-bikes operate in pedal-assist only, others have a throttle, and some have both. Generally, pedal-assist only bikes will provide multiple power settings to choose from to help customize your ride, while bikes with both throttle and pedal-assist will have limited pedal-assist options. With these bikes, the throttle provides full control (when needed) while pedal assist is just a secondary option, great on straightaways or open road.
Different Motor Types
Front vs. Rear Mounted Hub Motor
There are two different configurations for electric bike motors: front or rear-mounted
Front-Mounted Motor can be found on pre-built bikes or on custom conversions. Mounted to the front wheel, this is the easiest configuration to setup if you’re converting a standard bicycle since there’s no derailleur or chain to worry about. And since most e-bike conversions include batteries mounted to the rear rack, using a front motor helps equalize the weight of the bike and makes it easier to handle. But there’s a small risk the motor could cause the front forks to brake. That’s why it’s vital you only use a front motor on a steel fork. For pre-built bikes, this shouldn’t be an issue since the motors are usually lower-powered on steel forks.
Rear-Mounted Motor, installed on the rear wheel, are more common on pre-built bikes because they’re easily installed at the factory. For a conversion, rear hub motor is a little harder to install than a front motor because of the chain, gearing and derailleur. Plus, you may be limited to a 6 or 7-speed freewheel. However, rear wheel drive will provide more torque and is less noticeable than a front hub.
Mid-mounted system means that the electric motor is not built into the wheel but is usually mounted near (often under) the bottom bracket shell. Mid-drive systems have the most natural weight distribution of all e-bikes and tend to feel more like a normal bike, since they drive the pedals, just like your legs, and those who frequently climb long, steep hills tend to prefer mid-drive systems for their ability to handle long climbs. As they can leverage lowest gears for climbs, mid drive systems can also leverage the high gears to reach higher speeds on flat areas than a hub system.
The mid-drive motor drives the crank, instead of the wheel itself, which multiplies its power and allows it to better take advantage of the bike’s existing gear system. If the rider shifts appropriately, the motor can turn closer to its ideal rotations per minute which makes a huge difference while climbing hills, so this is a perfect option for those who love mountain biking. Most well knows mid-drive setups are those featuring Bosch motor.
Are all electric motors the same?
While all electric motors operate in roughly the same way, there are few distinctive types. These days, most electric bike models include brushless hub motors built directly into the front or rear wheel. Within the hub motor system category, you’ll have a few additional choices available:
Geared Motors – Most pre-built e-bikes use brushless geared hub motors. These have internal planetary gears that help transfer power from the motor to the wheel. Because of the internal gearing, they provide excellent torque but are limited in top speed. On the plus side, the improved torque means better take-off power and hill climbing ability. Plus, less wattage is required to get the motor turning and they’re typically small and lightweight, which plays an important role on how much a bike weighs.
On pre-built e-bikes, they range from 200w-500w and go up to 20mph. But some aftermarket kits can be as powerful as 1000w, with increased top speeds and huge amounts of torque (ideal for extremely hilly terrain). Besides lower top speeds, these tend to be expensive and it’s possible the gears will eventually wear out and need to be replaced (this is highly unlikely, they las quite a long time). Good examples are the Ancheer bikes.
Gearless (Direct-Drive) Motors – Some conversion kits (and bikes) use a gearless, direct-drive motor. On this type of motor, the axle that passes through the center of the motor is actually the axle of the motor itself, with the copper windings fixed to the axle. The magnets are mounted to the outer shell of the motor. When electricity is applied to the stator a magnetic field is induced that causes the magnets to move. This in turn makes the whole shell of the motor turn and propels the e-bike forward.
Even though corrosion will eventually have an impact, this type of motor should last for years since there’s no gearing and no contact between moving parts. They’re also capable of higher top speeds. But since there’s no gears, they have less torque and it requires more power to get the motor up to speed. Most direct-drive are 350w-500w and reach speeds of 18-25 mph. But more powerful ones can reach speeds of 35+ mph.
A few lower-cost setups use an externally mounted, chain-driven motor. Although these setups are low-cost and provide a good amount of torque, they’re not nearly as quiet, efficient or ‘stealthy’ as the hub motors being used on most models. They are negligible though.
Battery technology continues to improve every day. Currently, there are 3 main types of batteries used in electric bikes:
- Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) – Lithium Ion batteries are the highest quality batteries available in today’s market. The Li-Ion batteries used in bikes are same as batteries used in electric scooters. Although they cost the most money (upfront), they have the longest life and the lowest weight. Because they last 3-4 times longer than cheaper battery types, the higher cost will be negated over time.
- Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) – NiMH is a mid-range battery chemistry that isn’t quite as common. NiMH batteries are light-weight and have an extended life span over cheaper SLA batteries. But for the most part, pre-built e-bikes due not include NiMH and it’s only available for people considering and e-bike conversion.
- Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) – Sealed lead acid batteries have been around for decades. Although they’re the cheapest form of battery technology, they have the shortest life and are extremely heavy when compared to other battery types.
E-bikes are typically offered in 24V, 36V and 48V configurations. Higher voltage generally means higher top speed – but that may not always be the case. Since the efficiency of a motor and drive system can have an effect on power and speed, a 24V setup could have the same top speed as a 36V setup. Generally you can expect 15-18 mph on a 24v setup, 16-20 mph on a 36V setup and 24-28 mph on a 48V setup. Although it far exceeds Federal laws, some conversion kits can even be run at 72V for speeds of 35+ mph! However, this puts significant stress on bicycle components. Consider that even the fastest athletes only travel 17-18 mph on a conventional road bike, so 20 mph feels very fast to most riders. Anything over this speed can be unsafe and exceeds law regulations.
Besides voltage, batteries are rated by amp hours (AH). Although voltage seems to get the most attention, the amp hour rating of the battery is just as important. It is the measure of a battery’s capacity and provides a good indication of the range you can expect from an electric bike. Although lots of factors come into play in determining range (ie: rider weight, terrain, input, efficiency, etc.), a good rule of thumb is range is equal to AH.
So under normal conditions, an average rider can expect 10 miles out of a 10AH battery (with no pedaling). With rider input, this number can be dramatically increased, so most 10AH batteries are rated “up to 20 miles” by the manufacturer which assumes pedaling. On pedal-assist bikes (which require pedaling), the range ratings are much higher because the rider is constantly assisting the motor and reducing the current draw.
Most electric bike batteries can be removed and charged separately form the bike, and they can be located either on the rear cargo rack, attached to the frame or integrated into it, like tube batteries.
Charging: Battery charge times will vary between manufacturers, models and battery types. Typically, the initial charge will take 6-12 hours. For routine charging, higher quality batteries (such as Li-Ion) will take less time – anywhere from 2-6 hours. Cheaper sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries will take 6-8 hours.
Electric bikes vary widely in price, anywhere from $999 to $2000+, so you’ll have to determine how important certain features are to the overall cost. (However, we made a list of electric bikes under $1.000 here.)The battery used to power an electric bike motor is a key factor in how expensive a particular bike is. In general, the more miles a battery can provide, the more expensive it will be, so it’s important to consider the type of riding you plan on doing.
If you know you’ll be using predominantly motor-generated power, then paying a bit more for a battery with a longer range is probably a good idea. Alongside with a good quality battery, motor is the most expensive part of an electric bike. Most standard electric bike motors come with a power rating of 250W, and the industry standard in the US is 500W. Maximum power of the motor you can legally use in the US is 750W. The non-electric components used on an electric bike are almost the same with those used on the conventional bicycles.
The quality of the components used will affect the maintenance costs of your electric bike down the road, and more quality components mean higher upfront cost. Lastly, there is the frame. Since the frame is basically the skeleton of your electric bike, it’s wise to select a good material that will be the optimum combination of weight and durability.
The bottom line: if you want a decent e-bike, that will last you a long time and won’t require much maintenance, you will need to spend over $2000. Anything less requires careful planning and probably some compromises. The best of the best electric bikes are closer to the $5000 range.
New E-Bike vs. Conversion Kit
There are two main categories when choosing an e-bike: a pre-built electric bike or a custom e-bike conversion. Ready-made electric bikes come in a wide variety of setups and styles and are designed specifically as electric drive bikes. With unique characteristics and design qualities, most meet the law requirements which limit power and speed.
There is also a variety of options to choose from equipped with different design and different motor and battery configurations to suit different riding styles and preferences: cruisers, commuters, electric mountain bikes, folding e-bike and more. Pre-built e-bikes are clean and sleek in design with all of the wiring and electrical components built directly into the bike. For most people, production e-bikes work great and there’s no need to tinker with your old road bike trying to electrify it.
Conversion kits, on the other hand, are sold and installed separately on traditional bikes. They are harder to setup and conceal, and require some basic mechanical ability and a little bit of ‘elbow grease’ to install. The advantage of conversion kits is that you can choose almost any standard bicycle, and you have the freedom to change or upgrade components as you go. A conversion kit will also allow you to achieve higher power and speed ratings that are not possible on most pre-built electric bike models.
Kits are great for tall or heavy riders because they can opt for a larger bike, with higher power and weight carrying capacity. People living in hilly terrain may require the additional torque to handle extremely large inclines. For people who prefer a specific bike model or just love to go faster, a conversion kit offers enormous flexibility.
Just like with standard bikes, there is a range of different types of e-bikes: electric folding bike, electric mountain bikes, electric road bikes, cargo bikes… When it comes to finding the best electric bicycle for you, testing is the best thing you can do before buying one. But as it is practically impossible to test every bike that catches your eye, the next best thing that you can do is to do the research, read reviews by people who bought the certain model and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hopefully you have found lots of information here to help you decide which type or bike configuration is right for you.
E-Bikes For Commuting