Electric bikes take the hard work out of cycling, so it's no wonder they are becoming hugely popular.
You might consider that a lot of money, but it’s cheap compared to top-end electric bikes which cost several thousand pounds.
Riding an e-bike is great fun, not least because you can accelerate away from a stop quickly and beat your friends to the top of hills. And they take the misery out of hills.
What are electric bikes?
Exactly what they sound like: a bicycle with an electric motor that drives either one of the wheels. On more expensive bikes (typically over £1500) the motor can be built into the frame and drive the cranks directly.
The motor is there to assist you when you’re pedalling, and it really helps to get up hills and it makes it easy to cycle in a headwind.
Once you’ve ridden an electric bike it can be hard to go back to a purely pedal-powered one.
To power the motor, and electric bike needs a battery and currently these are still quite large and heavy. And you need a bigger battery if you want bigger range, so electric bikes which claim to last up to 80 miles or more will have the biggest batteries.
There’s a knock-on effect: more weight. Every e-bike we’ve tested weighs more than the equivalent standard bike as the motor, battery and associated wiring and electronics weigh somewhere in the region of 5-8kg.
If that doesn’t sound significant, you’ll soon realise just how heavy these bikes are when you try to carry one up a flight of steps or lift one into a car.
How do electric bikes work?
They typically have a screen or a control panel on the handlebars which offers several assistance levels. If you want to get some exercise at the same time as making hills a bit easier, you can choose a low level.
At the top assistance level, you might hardly have to pedal 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.
Which electric bike should I buy?
As well as deciding on a budget, you need to choose what type of bike you want. E-bikes come in all shapes and sizes. From fold-up models, through commuter and touring versions to full-on road and mountain bikes, there’s something to suit everyone.
Some designs are nicer than others. The best e-bikes are hard to tell apart from regular bikes, which also makes them less of a target for thieves.
Many bike shops will let you try before you buy (certain Halfords branches offer a 48-hour trial, while all stores will let you ride for 30 minutes), so when you have a shortlist, it’s worth trying them all to see which you prefer.
Check out these electric bike deals to save hundreds.
Any other considerations?
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 250 watts or less, and must not operate the motor over 15.5mph. Also, you have to be 14 or older to ride one.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
The Xiaomi QiCycle is very well-designed electric bike. It takes the hard work out of long-distance and uphill cycling, and it's easy to monitor your speed, distance and other stats, even over time.
We'd like to see the addition of a kickstand and some mud guards, but in other respects our only real complaint is the Chinese trip computer (clearly not a problem if you speak Chinese).
Read our full Xiaomi QiCycle review.
This inexpensive fold-up model has a nice LCD screen, a horn, mudguards and a kickstand.
It does flex a little when riding, but overall, it's decent value as long as you don't need to ride too far.
Read our full OneBot T4 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.