Whether as a means to get around without taking public transport or for exercise instead of using the car for short trips, electric bikes are surging in popularity at the moment. They may be more expensive than a standard bike, but there are lots of good reasons to buy one, and you can often get them cheaper through your employer.
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.
Electric bike reviews 2020
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VanMoof S3 - Best Overall
So long as you don't need your bike to fold or have suspension, the VanMoof S3 is hard to beat.
The automatic gears, torque-y motor and good range make the S3 a great electric bike.
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 surprisingly large bike.
Read our full VanMoof S3 review
Specialized Turbo Vado SL (2021)
Although expensive - especially if you opt for the 5.0 rather than 4.0 - the Turbo Vado SL is every inch the premium ebike. It looks great, is much lighter than a lot of cheaper rivals and can be ridden like a normal bike without motor assistance.
It isn't the most powerful, but as long as you don't live in the mountains, it shouldn't be an issue, and the ride quality is excellent.
Range is great considering the relatively small-capacity battery: the only real issue is price, with the entry level SL 4.0 starting at £2600/$3350.
Read our full Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 review
Gocycle GX - Best Folding Electric Bike
The GX is a fantastic, well-designed electric 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 more comfortable ride than you might expect.
Although it has an app, you don’t need it and can ride without it.
Ultimately, the main problem is the high price. If you can't stretch to it, then look at the Furo X Max.
Read our full Gocycle GX review
FuroSystems Furo X Max
Whether FuroSystems set out to make a better bike than the electrified Brompton or a cheaper option than the GoCycle, it doesn't really matter.
It's a brilliant folding electric bike, and is also among the lightest at only 15kg. We found it an absolute joy to ride.
It has nine gears, allowing you to carry on riding when the 378Wh battery runs out, and 20in all-terrain tyres are a nice touch too. The removable battery is a boon as well.
Read our full FuroSystems Furo X Max review
Gtech Sport - Best-Value Single-speed Electric Bike
The Gtech Sport is a single-speed city bike that's ideal for commuting as well as simply cycling for leisure. At 16kg with the battery it's one of the lighter electric bikes.
It keeps things simple, so you won't find anything on the handlebars except for brakes. There's no suspension and no disc brakes, but also no gears. This isn't really a problem as it handles hills fine with the rear motor.
Plus, this is one of the cheapest electric bikes with a carbon belt rather than a chain. This means no maintenance and 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, but it's a little awkward reaching the button to change modes while on the move.
It's available in two frame styles - this 20in version and a ladies' one, called the eBike City.
We'd like to see the kick stand and mudguards included at this price, but overall it's good value.
Read our full Gtech Sport review
The MiRider One is a well-priced folding bike which is well built and great to ride.
It’s covered by a two-year UK warranty and the price includes mudguards and a front light.
At this price it undercuts certain folding rivals, including the GoCycle and FuroSystems, yet doesn't skimp on components.
Range isn't the greatest but you could always carry a spare battery (they weigh 1.2kg). The only other niggle is that it's single speed, and is therefore harder than those rivals to ride when the battery has run out.
Read our full MiRider One review
The Cowboy is a very good-value electric bike. Like the VanMoof, It's a smart, connected bike which uses an app. It shows 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. Note that the Cowboy 3 is the latest version with a few upgraded components and - unfortunately - a higher price.
Fiido's D11 is a compact and lightweight foldable electric bike that has enough power in the motor to make light work of hills.
It looks good, if slightly odd with no chainstays, and has the battery in the seat tube, which means it's easy to remove and charge.
Unlike the MiRider, it has gears which makes it easier to ride up hills without assistance from the motor.
Read our full Fiido D11 review
The Volt Connect is a great 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, though, at just over 21kg, though, and there's no choice of frame size. However, you can test ride one to check if you’re happy before buying.
Read our full Volt Connect (2020) 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 cadence 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.
We don't much like the cheap-looking control panel which has no display, but aside from that and a slightly noisy motor, it's great value compared to many electric mountain bikes.
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 great, and the gearing is suited to cruising at 20mph on road.
The 23kg weight does count against it a bit, as does the fact that it comes in just one frame size. But it's well priced for the spec.
Note that you can pick 26- or 27.5in wheels (there's no price difference) and a 400- or 520Wh battery (the latter adds £200).
Read our full Volt Alpine 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, both on and off road.
Battery life is pretty good, but the 25kg weight and those wide tyres mean 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
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.