Right now, everyone is buying bikes like never before. Whether as a means to get around without taking public transport or to get some exercise instead of using the car for short trips, they're in demand. And it's a similar story for electric bikes. They may be more expensive than a standard bike, but there are lots of good reasons to buy one.
Electric bikes are legal in most countries and - contrary to popular belief - still help you to get fit.
Is an e-bike worth the money?
For most people the answer is an emphatic yes. Electric bikes make it easy to cover longer distances than you can on an ordinary bike, and you can easily cycle 10 or 20 miles even if you're unfit.
Electric bikes are for anyone who wants to cycle, no matter your age or fitness level.
Every electric bike we've seen offers a variety of assistance modes - including pedal power only - so you can choose how much effort to put in.
They're also brilliant fun to ride: they make hills seem like flat roads and take the pain out of cycling into a headwind.
Where is a good place to buy an electric bike?
In some cases, you can only buy direct from the manufacturer. Just consider how you'd return the bike if there was a problem: it's why it can be inconvenient to buy a cheaper model from China. You might save initially, but if something goes wrong, it can take a long time and be expensive to return it.
Prices have come down recently, and the cheapest models don't cost any more than many non-electric bikes. Now is a great time to buy an electric bike.
You do get what you pay for, so if you can afford more than around £500 / $600, it's wise to spend more if you can afford it.
You might consider that a lot of money, but those entry-level models are cheap compared to top-end electric bikes which can cost several thousand pounds. An electric bike typically costs £300 / $350 - £1000 / $1200 more than a regular bike.
And once you’ve ridden an electric bike it can be hard to go back to an ordinary one.
You can check out these electric bike deals to save hundreds.
Electric bike reviews 2020
It doesn't have any suspension, but the automatic gears, torquey motor and good range make the S3 great to ride.
The price is much more affordable than the S2 was, yet no corners have been cut: you get a built-in alarm and tracking system, LED lights and mudguards as standard - plus a three-year warranty.
If you're under 170cm (5ft7), buy the X3 instead as the S3 is a suprisingly large bike.
Read our full VanMoof S3 review
It’s expensive, but it’s also a fantastic, well-designed bike. It looks good, rides great and folds up small. It has three gears, sturdy build and a powerful motor, plus tyres which give a surprisingly comfortable ride.
Although it has an app, you don’t need it and can ride without it.
Read our full Gocycle GX review
The Volt Connect is a superb e-bike. It feels reassuringly sturdy and has great range. The motor is powerful enough for riding up steep hills with ease.
It’s pretty heavy at just over 21kg, though, and comes in just one frame size. Thanks to the fact you can test ride, you can check if you’re happy before buying.
Read our full Volt Connect (2020) review
Although the price is relatively high, the Cowboy offers good value. It's a smart, connected bike which uses and app to show your speed, battery level and let you control the amount of assistance from the motor, plus switch the lights on and off or even get tech support.
You get great quality components, a built-in GPS tracker, and a sensible range of 70km. If your commute is relatively short, you might only have to charge it once per week.
There's only one frame size and style, so it's not exactly ideal for women, but that's really the only disadvantage.
Read our full Cowboy 2019 electric bike review
The Volt Alpine is very well built, great to ride on- and off-road and has decent range even with the smaller battery. The motor is powerful enough for riding at 20mph, too.
It’s pretty heavy at 23kg, though, and comes in just one frame size. Thanks to the fact you can test ride, you can check if you’re happy before buying.
Read our full Volt Alpine review
The Gtech Sport is a single-speed city bike that's ideal for commuting as well as simply cycling for leisure. At 16kg it's surprisingly light for an electric bike.
It keeps things simple, so you won't find anything on the handlebars except for brakes and grips. There's no suspension and no disc brakes, but also no gears to worry about. Plus, this is one of the cheapest electric bikes we've seen with a belt rather than a chain. This means no maintenance no oily mess.
The water bottle-style battery includes a display which tells you the remaining capacity and if you're in Eco or Max modes. In the former you'll get up to 30 miles of assistance from the motor.
It's available in two frame styles - this 20in version and a ladies' one.
We'd like to see the kick stand and mudguards included at this price, but overall it's good value.
Carrera Vengeance E
Built to a budget, the Vengeance E nevertheless offers a good overall specification, with a Suntour HESC system that uses a torque sensor rather than inferior position sensors.
The range of up to 40 miles is fine at this price, and unlike Chinese imports, you can take the Vengeance E to your local Halfords to get it repaired should anything break.
Read our full Carrera Vengeance E review
Most folding bikes are designed for commuting, but not the Fiido M1. If the tyres and suspension don't give the game away, it's for off-road riding.
Unlike cheap Chinese folding bikes we've tested, the M1 is sturdily built and feels sure-footed at speed.
Battery life is pretty good, but the 25kg weight means you're not going to enjoy riding it under pure pedal power - especially if you have to cycle up any hills.
However, our main concern is that there's limited warranty support should any components fail: Fiido doesn't have a repair centre in Europe yet.
Read our full Fiido M1 review
Built to a surprisingly low price, the Assist is the cheapest electric bike you can buy in a UK shop, especially when it's discounted in Halfords' regular sales. However, if you are tempted be warned that the Assist is best suited to shorter, lighter riders and that the black Deluxe version is a much better buy than this white 'Hybrid' model.
Read our full Assist Hybrid review
F-wheel DYU D1
The F-wheel DYU Electric Bike is a lot of fun to use, and more so once you become comfortable with its tiny design. We'd prefer to be able to see how fast we're going without resorting to the mobile app, and to be able to adjust the seat's height.
But the DYU is relatively cheap, so you might be able to forgive these. Just bear in mind that, without pedals, it isn't legal to use on the road in the UK.
Read our full F-Wheel DYU review.
Stigo S+ Electric Scooter Bike
The Stigo S+could be the ultimate option for city-dwellers, though it is a little on the pricey side. It offers the speed and range that you need to get around the city without needing to top up the battery, and when you do need to take the tube or head home, the bike folds up. It can be pulled around like a suitcase, too!
But while it's fast and a lot of fun, the fixed-pedal design means that, technically, it's an electric scooter and to be used on UK roads, you'll have to register it, tax it and buy insurance. It's an additional cost on top of an already high-end bike, making it harder to recommend than other electric bikes in our roundup.
Read our full Stigo S+ review.
Electric bike buying guide
When choosing a bike you should first decide what type you want. All types are available including road, hybrid (touring / commuting), mountain, folding, shopper / step-through.
here are the key things to look for:
- Frame size
- Sensor type - torque or cadence
- Claimed range
- Warranty terms
Some of those are fairly self-explanatory, but it's worth briefly covering them all.
Don't expect there will always be a choice of frame size. Some of the bikes reviewed here come in one size, and it may be too big - or small - for you.
For weight, bear in mind that that e-bikes can be heavy, and therefore harder to ride with no assistance from the motor than a normal bike. Weight can also be an issue if you have to carry your bike up flights of stairs. But there are lightweight options at around 15-16kg - the heaviest e-bikes can weight upwards of 25kg.
You should also consider warranty and longevity. An e-bike may be cheap, but if a component fails you don’t want to have to pay to send the whole thing overseas for repair. Worse still, if you can’t get replacement parts at all, your bike may cease to work at all.
Some come with a thumb throttle so you can increase the assistance instantly, but under UK law this is not allowed. Bike which meet current regulations come with no throttle at all and the motor just senses when you're pedalling.
Special brake levers are installed on some e-bikes. These detect when you apply the brakes and cut power to the motor.
There are laws in the UK covering electric bikes, and you can read more about which electric bikes are legal to use on the road.
Bikes that conform must have a motor outputting 250 watts or less (peak power can be higher) and must not operate the motor over 15.5mph. Also, you have to be 14 or older to ride one.
Similarly, it’s worth getting a branded battery (Panasonic, Samsung, Sony etc) or at least checking if you can buy replacement batteries. Lithium-ion packs can be recharged between 800 and 1000 times, which could mean a three-year lifespan if you commute to and from work. And batteries will lose their capacity over time, meaning the bike’s assisted range will decrease as the battery ages.
A removable battery means you can take it indoors to charge: handy if you don’t have a mains socket in your shed or wherever you keep your bike.
Finally, ask your employer if you can buy an e-bike on the Bike2Work or Cyclescheme . This can knock off a big chunk of the cost. For example, it could take a £1,500 model down to £1,000. And that’s cheaper than even a Zone 1-2 annual Travelcard in London.