E-bikes have been growing in popularity over the past couple of years, but they’re definitely having a moment in the pandemic era. Like sewing machines, bakeware, and Nintendo Switch consoles, e-bikes have become a hot purchase for people learning to adapt to a more socially distant lifestyle.
There are generally two categories of e-bikes on the market: pedal-assist and throttle e-bikes. Pedal-assist e-bikes are equipped with sensors that can detect how hard you’re pedaling and match your effort with some electric power. Throttle e-bikes, on the other hand, are similar to a motorcycle or a moped in that you can activate the motor by pressing a button or twisting the handlebar—you don’t necessarily need to pedal at all.
Several models include both features, although users should be aware that full-throttle mode tends to strain the motor more than pedal-assist mode. There are some legal distinctions between different types of e-bikes, too, which can have ramifications on where you’re allowed to ride. In the United States, 22 states define three separate classes of e-bikes:
- Class 1: A bike with a pedal-assisted motor that works up to 20 mph.
- Class 2: A bike with a throttle that works up to 20 mph. (These bikes may also have pedal-assist mode.)
- Class 3: A pedal-assist bike with no throttle that works up to 28 mph.
We’ve rounded up a few highly rated e-bike models for whatever purpose best suits your life—whether you’re looking for a more eco-friendly commute or even just a fun way to get some light exercise while exploring your neighborhood.
1. Electra Townie Go! 7D; $1500
The Electra Townie Go! 7D got REI’s pick as the best electric bicycle for casual riders in 2020. At $1500, it’s on the affordable end of the spectrum and is built for comfort and ease of use. This pedal-assist e-bike is powered by a rear-wheel hub-drive motor, which experts note tends to make for easier maintenance and the sensation of being pushed along from behind. However, bicycle aficionados should be aware that the hub-drive motors may make the bike a little heavier, and they're not as great on hills. For casual cruisers and commuters, though, this e-bike is a well-built, budget-friendly choice.
Buy it: REI
2. NAKTO Cargo Electric Bicycle; $650
With more than 150 five-star reviews, this affordable model is a best-seller on Amazon. One reviewer called it the “best value for the money for an entry-level e-bike.” The NAKTO Cargo Electric Bicycle can travel up to 25 miles on a full charge, and while you don’t necessarily need to pedal at all, there is a pedal-assist mode if you want something that falls in between cruising and working. Experienced e-bikers agree that it’s a steal for the price, particularly if you’re looking for a comfortable vehicle for light city riding.
Buy it: Amazon
3. RadRunner 1; $1199
The RadRunner 1 markets itself as an e-bike that’s meant to be customized. The basic frame provides space to add a center storage console, a passenger bench seat, an insulated delivery bag, or a child seat, just to name a few. According to the company, you can create a total of 330 unique accessory combinations to suit your individual needs. This e-bike lets you select from four different levels of pedal assistance, and it also includes a half twist throttle for some extra power whenever you need it. One five-star review calls it “the most versatile bike ever.” Though it's backordered now, the bikes are expecting to ship out again in September.
Buy it: Rad Power Bikes
4. Allant+ 9.9S; $6000
The Allant+ doesn’t come cheap—it’s basically designed to replace your car. But if you’ve already converted to the e-bike lifestyle and you’re searching for a sturdy frame with powerful parts, the Allant+ may be the right fit for you. The bike can sustain speeds of up to 28 mph, and it’s compatible with Range Boost, an optional feature that lets you double your distance and the time between charges. Connect your smartphone to the COBI.Bike app for the full experience. When you attach your phone to the bike’s smartphone dock, you can use the included handlebar controllers to take calls, listen to music, and follow turn-by-turn directions.
Buy it: Trek Bikes
5. Cannondale Canvas Neo 1 Electric Bike; $4200
This is another model backed by REI, earning high marks from the company as the "best e-bike for commuting." It's a Class 3 e-bike with a motor that can get up to 28 mph with a range of 40 miles before it would need a charge. It weighs in at 44 pounds, which is on the low end of the average for e-bikes. But it's by no means flimsy—one reviewer thought the Canvas had more than enough power to spare, dubbing it "the Mustang of e-bikes."
Buy it: REI
Must-Have e-bike Accessories
For a significant investment like an e-bike, you may want to consider adding on accessories that will improve functionality and elevate your experience, and depending on which e-bike you purchase, you may be best served by looking at accessories designed by the same company. But if sticking to a consistent brand isn’t a concern for you, Amazon offers several options.
For safety, you’ll want to start by making sure you have a sturdy bicycle helmet ($80). You may also want to consider purchasing a set of rotating handlebar mirrors ($23) so you can watch out for pedestrians and cars. And if your e-bike doesn’t come with a headlight of its own, you can purchase one on Amazon for just $17.
When it comes to comfort, a cargo bag ($22) and fenders ($17) might be worth the extra money—you’ll be able to carry more and avoid getting splashed when you ride through mud or water. You’ll also want to invest in a bike lock ($39), at the very least. If you’re looking for a little extra security, consider an anti-theft alarm ($49) with GPS tracking. E-bikes are pricey, and a simple $50 alarm may save you from losing out on a $1000 investment.