IN A TIME of multiple global crises—like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and the threat of nuclear war—it’s hard not to feel helpless. If you’re a grown-up who can’t quite think of what to do to make anything better, I have a simple suggestion: Hop on a bike. And whether they rented one from a e bike share or bought their own, millions of Americans agree.
For years, electric bicycles were bulky, inconvenient, expensive machines with limited battery life. Slowly, that has changed. Ebikes are now lighter, more attractive, and more powerful than ever. You don’t need to be physically fit to ride one. They get you outside, reduce traffic congestion, and shrink your carbon footprint. And they’re fun!
Over the past few years, my fellow Gear writers and I have tried almost every kind of electric bike, from the best heavy-duty cargo bikes to high-end mountain bikes. We’re always testing new ones, so if you don’t see what you want, check back later (or drop me a note!). And once you buy an ebike, check out our favorite biking accessories, bike locks, and gear for a “bikepacking” adventure.
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It Costs What Now?
How to Finance Your Bike
Whenever I talk to anyone about a possible ebike purchase, the biggest deterrent—by far—is the price. It doesn’t help that prices for bikes have shot up in recent years. Multiple factors, including the pandemic, have complicated the global supply chain, and exemptions to a 25 percent tariff on all ebike imports have expired.
We’ve done our best to include lower-priced options, but we think of them as vehicles, not toys. When you’re carrying kids to school or flying down a hill at 25 mph with only a helmet for protection, you want a ride you can trust.
Reasonable auto financing options are the only reason a $2,000 electric bike can feel prohibitively expensive while a $6,000 beater gas-powered car has easy monthly payments. Many bike manufacturers and retailers do offer financing through companies like Affirm or PayPal. Your bank might cover ebikes under its vehicle loan program, and some utility companies even offer cash incentives to purchase ebikes. The Build Better Act also includes tax credits of up to 30 percent against the cost of an ebike. You may have more options than you think.
Best for Most People
Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ
If you’re hunting for a commuter bike, with all the bells and whistles, that you don’t have to assemble yourself, the Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is a great pick. Cannondale is a big manufacturer, so its bikes are backed by a large support network of affiliated retailers and shops.
This model comes with built-in lights, a rack, and fenders. It also has a reliable Bosch 250-watt mid-drive motor, a lighter aluminum frame, and built-in seat suspension for a comfy ride. It might be a little underpowered compared to some of our other picks. But it’s also remarkably quiet, and our tester had no problem taking it up hills or along rough roads.
★ Alternative: Every bike manufacturer has a step-through intro cruiser. Some alternatives include the Turbo Como SL ($4,800), which beats the Adventure Neo series on looks alone, but the price is preposterous. Electra is owned by Trek, and its bikes have what it calls Flat Foot design. You can comfortably put your feet flat down on the ground while stopped, without having to make your seat uncomfortably low.
Best Utility Bike
Rad Power Bikes RadRunner
I’ve tried several newer models from Rad Power Bikes this year, but it’s just incredibly difficult to find a bike that offers better value for the price than the RadRunner. This is still the bike that most people I know buy. It’s also the bike that I see the most often around my hometown of Portland, Oregon, thanks to a seemingly magic blend of affordability and usefulness.
Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes ships direct to consumers. The bikes have custom hub-motor drivetrains, a 120-pound-capacity rack, and big, stable Kenda tires. At 750 watts, their motors are also more powerful than many of our other picks. It works as both a comfy beach cruiser and a commuter bike for kids.
★ Alternative: Two new bikes have recently entered this category of what I would call affordable small haulers. Venerable wagon brand Radio Flyer recently launched the Flyer M880 ($1799). A pricier alternative is the Quick Haul ($2999) from WIRED favorite manufacturer Tern, which is priced to qualify for the Build Back Better’s tax credit. They’re both in our queue to test.
Best Affordable Ebike
Propella 7-Speed (V3.4)
Unless you’re already an ebike enthusiast, you probably want one that’s not too expensive, and that means as close to $1,000 as possible. This is a tough proposition if you want a reliable motor and a frame that won’t buckle at 15 mph.
Propella’s 7-speed (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the best cheap bike we’ve found. Reviewer Parker Hall notes that it has trustworthy components like a Samsung battery and Shimano disc brakes, plus nifty accessories like a cool suspension seat. It ships directly to you, which is handy if you’d like to avoid a bike shop. Propella updates its bikes every few months. Since it is a direct-to-consumer bike, we’re just warning you that your local shop might have issues repairing it.
★ Alternative: We’ve ridden a few more affordable bikes, like the Batch below. I’ve also test-ridden and like Rad Power’s Rad City Plus ($1,999), and I’m currently riding the Aventon Soltera ($1,199), which hides the battery in the frame and is a pretty great-looking bike for the price. However, I like the Propella’s removable battery, and the company’s 7-speed is more reliably in stock than Aventon’s.
Best for Road Racers
LeMond Bikes Prolog
The bike that generates the most interest from bike fans is definitely Greg LeMond’s all-carbon-fiber electric bike series. The Prolog is its daily commuter. With its insanely light frame, stunning matte paint job, and fancy-schmancy custom-designed fenders, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a luxury bike.
But never fear: It’s a working bike. It has reliable components made by well-known manufacturers—a one-button Mahle drive system, a Shimano gravel-specific gearing system, Panaracer gravel tires—that make it durable, versatile, and easy to repair. And you can move screamingly fast when your electric bike is lighter than an acoustic bike. Just a heads-up: The LeMond website can be wonky, so you might want to call them directly.
★ Alternative: There’s a whole bike shop in Portland, Oregon, that’s devoted solely to selling my other favorite bike, the Turbo Vado SL (9/10, WIRED Recommends). Since it’s made by one of the bigger manufacturers, this might be a more convenient and readily available choice.
Best Cargo Bike
There’s a popular misconception that the only reason you need a cargo bike is if you have kids. As far as I knew, even child-free people need to buy groceries, haul two-by-fours, or bring surfboards to the beach. For years, I recommended one version or another of Tern’s HSD series or GSD series, if you want a comfortable, reliable, and maneuverable cargo bike. But I recently tested the Cero One (8/10, WIRED Recommends), and the customizable cargo system is a big bonus for anyone who wants to kit out their ride without shelling out for expensive proprietary accessories.
Cero’s bike has a distinctive design, with a smaller front wheel for greater maneuverability paired with a rugged, larger back wheel. It’s just as compact and light as the Tern HSD and with components that are just as high-end, including a 250-watt Shimano Steps motor, a Gates carbon belt drive, and big Schwalbe tires. The ordering process is also easy—you can trick out your bike during the checkout process so you’re ready to go when it gets to your door.
★ Alternative: However, my full disclosure here is that the bike I personally own is the Tern GSD S00 (8/10, WIRED Recommends). The motor is more powerful than the Cero’s, and I need a longtail, or an extended rear rack, to fit two kids.
Best Cargo Bike for Families
Urban Arrow Family Electric Cargo Bike
The R & M Load used to be my top pick for a bakfiets, a Dutch-style front-box cargo bicycle. However, the Urban Arrow Family (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is cheaper—and not by a little—and offers many of the same features that attracted me to the Load, like comfort and maneuverability. It doesn’t have suspension, though, so it’s best for smoother streets.
I love the Enviolo continuously variable shifters, which allow you to downshift while the bike is at a standstill. Rather than wobbling and terrifying my children as I frantically downshift while pedaling, I can use walk assistance to push the bike to a convenient spot, downshift while standing still, and then pedal upward at the torque and power level of my choice. With this system, I’ve beaten people uphill who weren’t riding cargo bikes. The Bosch Performance motor is currently out of stock, but the version with the more powerful Bosch Cargo Line motor is available.
★ Alternative: Yes, I know about Xtracycle and Bullitt bicycles. I can’t test them because I’m too short. I’m currently working on persuading my taller colleagues to do some of my work for me.
Best Commuter Bike
This is the Honda Civic of ebikes (8/10, WIRED Recommends). Rather than spending money on fancy extras like a suspension seat post or integrated light-up display, Batch spent it where it counts—on a high-end Bosch drivetrain, Shimano components, and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. It’s not a particularly exciting ride, and it might be boring to look at. You’ll also have to buy your own lights. But it’s reliable, not too spendy, and will take you there and back for as long as you need it.
Several of us on the Gear team have been on the hunt for the cheapest, most reliable daily commuter ebike. We’ve tried many strong contenders, and this came out on top.
Best Micro Bike
The next big trend in electric bikes is micromobility, which refers to tiny personal vehicles. Tiny bikes are more affordable, easier to transport, and easier to store. And just like mini … anything, really … they’re completely irresistible.
I’m testing several micro bikes right now, but the one I’d recommend at the moment is the Jackrabbit (7/10, WIRED Recommends). The bike weighs an astonishingly light 23 pounds, is simple to assemble out of the box, and can fold down to save even more space. It doesn’t have pedals, so you won’t hit yourself in the chin with your knees; instead, you toggle a thumb throttle to accelerate. My only caveat is that the tiny battery and motor aren’t very powerful. I’m 120 pounds, and slamming on the throttle only gets me to about 10 mph. Also, the range is around 10 miles, which isn’t very much compared to our other picks.
★ Alternative: If you would like the convenience of a mini bike but without having it be so obviously, er, comical, I recently tested the Propella Mini ($999). Propella subbed in 20-inch wheels on a slightly smaller frame, so it feels more or less like a regular bike but fits more easily into the back of your car.
The Best Folding Bike
Reviews editor Julian Chokkattu called the M-E1 “pretty darn close to perfection” in his review (9/10, WIRED Recommends). Folding bikes are a convenient device for apartment dwellers, but they’re usually tiny. Chokkattu is 6’4″ and looks like a happy clown when he valiantly pedals around on most of them.
The M-E1 is full-size and virtually indistinguishable from a non-folding bike. It has solid components from reliable manufacturers, like a Shimano mid-drive motor, a comfortable seat, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and all the bells and whistles—integrated lights, fenders, a removable battery, and an easy-to-read display. Most importantly, Chokkattu can ride it around without dying from embarrassment—always a plus.
A More Affordable Folding Ebike
Lectric Ebikes Lectric XP 2.0
Our intrepid Julian Chokkattu also likes the original Lectric XP (7/10, WIRED Recommends). For a folding bike, it’s not super convenient for apartment dwellers. It weighs 63 pounds and is heavy to carry up and down stairs. He also finds the folding system a little awkward, and you have to leave the key in the battery for it to work. But the 500-watt rear hub motor offers plenty of assistance, and the fat tires are a smooth ride. It also comes with a lot of accessories, like a rear rack, fenders, an integrated display, and integrated front and rear lights.
The newer Lectric XP 2.0 doesn’t change the motor or battery but improves ride comfort. That includes a front-wheel suspension, mounting points for racks, wider handlebars, and IP65 water resistance. At $999, that’s not a bad deal at all.
Best Electric Mountain Bike
Specialized Men’s Turbo Levo Comp
I’ve been looking for another great electric mountain bike for years now, and I have to tell you: There’s just nothing that’s comparable to this Specialized. While many towns have restrictions on whether ebikes are even allowed on single-track (thin) trails, reviewer Stephanie Pearson had a blast on Specialized’s first pedal-assisted mountain bike (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It has a stiff, asymmetric frame that’s longer in the front to make pounding the downhills feel smooth and safe, as well as a 500-watt motor with Smart Control, which means you don’t have to adjust assistance when riding. It feels just as fun as a non-electric bike.
The Bike Everyone Asks About
VanMoof S3 and X3
The bike that most people ask me about is the VanMoof. I’m not a fan, but not because of the ride. The problem is just that every piece is locked down, proprietary, and hard to fix on your own. And although VanMoof recently expanded its presence in the US, its shops are still found in only a few cities. Still, my colleague Matt Jancer really likes them. Both the S3 and X3 come at a very good price point for everything that’s included (lights, rack, built-in alarms, the whole shebang), and I have to admit, they’re incredibly stylish. The floating rack and sleek button are both pretty cool. The two are different in size, with the S3 accommodating taller riders. Just pray you never have to repack it and ship it to New York for repairs.
★ Alternative: The Priority Current ($3,299) has a lot of low-maintenance features that we love, like a Gates carbon belt drive, integrated lights, and either an Enviolo hub or Shimano shifters. Unlike the VanMoof bike, these features are easy for most mechanics to repair. I’ve found Priority to be a reliable direct-to-consumer company, and I own one of their gravel bikes.
Other Ebikes We Like To Bike
We tried a lot of bikes over the past year. Here are the ones that didn’t get their own spot above but deserve a mention:
- Wing Freedom X for $1,498: My colleague Matt Jancer says the Wing Freedom X (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is a light, powerful, and very affordable commuter bike.
- The Gocycle G4I+ for $4,999: Gocycle’s high-end, fast-folding luxury bikes are designed by a former McLaren engineer. This year’s quieter, lighter iteration has better torque, a new carbon-fiber front fork, and an even more painful price.
- The Bunch Original Electric Cargo Bike for $3,999: I didn’t care for the Bunch, but my family did. It’s a standard, if slightly expensive, box bike like you might see in Europe. It’ll work well if you live in a flat area and don’t have to go very fast.
- Brompton Electric Folding Bike for $3,800: The Brompton is the most compact folding bike on the market, with a clever, detachable, front-mounted battery system that makes it perfect for flying. The drivetrain is designed by a Formula One racing team, but it’s not as powerful or as comfortable to ride as our other picks.
Electric Bikes We Dislike
Pass on the Left
We love to try new bikes. Unfortunately, the bikes don’t always like us.
- The Civilized Cycle for $6,500: This bike can carry a full-grown person on the back and is a good option for people who want Vespa-like style without having to get a scooter license. However, it doesn’t fit anyone shorter than 5’10”. Ooohkay.
- The Harley Serial 1 for $5,599: Our review is forthcoming, but Matt Jancer says the transmission felt wonky, the headlights and display weren’t well integrated, and it didn’t justify the price tag.
- The Retrospec Jax Rev for $1,500: We wanted to love this sleek, stylish folding bike, but we couldn’t help worrying about its durability.
- The Izip Vibe 2.0 for $2,300: This is a general point, but the Izip is just one of several D2C models that have arrived at my house damaged in transit. It’s extremely annoying to ship back an item this big, and with low and variable stock, it’s hard to replace. If you want an affordable D2C, I would suggest a Rad Power Bike or another manufacturer that has an established support network.