Electric-assist bikes are the biggest talking point in bicycling and transportation right now. The e-bike landscape is evolving at a rapid pace—from how we buy them, to the technology and features, to the legislation and infrastructure of roads and trails where they are ridden. E-bikes have an important role in transportation and recreation by decreasing our reliance on cars and making bike riding accessible to more people.
We tested a variety of models across a range of riding categories and prices and included bikes from consumer-direct brands as well as those sold through bicycle shops. These award winners impressed us with their performance, ease of use, and price. We’re confident one of these e-bikes will fit your needs. One final thought. With pandemic-fueled supply-chain delays and shortages in bicycle parts making buying new bikes difficult in some parts of the country, our biggest e-bike buying advice for 2021 is this: If you see something you like, buy it NOW before it’s sold out.
E-BIKE TERMS YOU NEED TO KNOW
CLASS ➝ Every e-bike falls into one of three classes. A class-1 e-bike tops out at 20 mph and has only pedal assist. Add a throttle, and a class-1 e-bike becomes a class-2. A class-3 e-bike’s pedal assist tops out at 28 mph. If a class-3 e-bike has a throttle, the throttle assist can’t exceed 20 mph.
TORQUE ➝ Measured in newton-meters (or Nm), torque is a rotational measurement of force—and the number to pay attention to when you want an idea of an e-bike motor’s output. More torque means more power off the line and more boost to your pedaling. The heavier the bike, the more torque it needs. Lighter road bikes typically have 30 to 40Nm of torque, trail and cargo models have at least 80Nm, and most commuter bikes fall somewhere in between.
WATT HOURS ➝ The size of an e-bike’s battery is measured in watt hours (or Wh), which represent the amount of energy stored in the battery and how many watts it can deliver each hour. The higher the number, the bigger the range, but the faster you go, the less range you get. So figure, if a 504Wh battery paired with a 500-watt motor gives you one hour of ride time at the highest assist, riding at about half that power will double your range.
Rad Power RadMission 1 Electric Metro Bike
Weight: 49.4 LB (Mid-step) / Class: 2 / Maximum Torque: 50Nm / Battery Size: 504Wh
Price: $999 Shop This Model
The most affordable e-bike in Rad Power’s collection right now—and one of the most affordable e-bikes currently on the market—is the RadMission 1, a city bike with commuter potential. For $999 you get a stripped-down single-speed that moves along at 20 mph with a throttle to help you get up to speed or to the top of punchy hills. The 27.5 x 1.95-inch-wide Kenda Kontact tires are slightly narrower than the 2-inch or wider tires we typically see on commuter e-bikes, but they were wide enough to feel speedy and provide comfort on pavement and bumpy bike paths.
Aside from integrated lights and a bell, the RadMission remains fairly simple, which helps keep the price down and also provides an uncluttered aesthetic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make yours more utilitarian: Rad Power sells a slew of accessories, including front and rear racks, fenders, bags, a kickstand—and the RadMission has plenty of mounts to attach them all. Adding to the RadMission’s visually clean, simplistic approach is a Rad Power–branded hub motor drive unit that delivers 50Nm of torque, and a 504Wh battery. The battery is removable and backup batteries are available from Rad Power if you want to have a spare at work or at home.
We tested both the high-step and mid-step (or step-through) models. The former is best for riders between 5-foot-7 and 6-foot-4; the latter is better for riders 5-foot-2 to 6-foot-2. At 5-foot-4, I found the step-through version to be easier to get on and off and to put a foot down at stop signs or when traffic got sketchy.
At first, the single-speed setup feels a bit harder to use than bikes with more gears, especially when getting the bike going from a dead stop—think starting out in the big ring in your hardest gear of a multispeed bike (you’ll appreciate the throttle in these situations). Once up to speed, though, the RadMission is a blast to ride. It zips along smoothly, and the motor has just the right amount of torque to get you moving without feeling uncontrolled. While we generally prefer to see hydraulic disc brakes on e-bikes, the Tektro mechanical disc brakes, paired with 180mm rotors, offer strong stopping power.
All in all, the RadMission is a low-frills, cool-looking, and relatively light (for the price) e-bike that will get you where you need to go in style. It’s a super-practical bike for around-town or commuting use.—Amy Wolff
Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ
Weight: 57 lb (L) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 40Nm / Battery Size: 400Wh
Price: $3,000 Shop This Model
The Adventure Neo 3 e-commuter falls somewhere between a traditional townie and a larger cargo model. The EQ in the bike’s name stands for “equipped,” and this bike comes with lights, fenders, and a rear rack designed to haul panniers or a lighter load strapped to the top. These utility-focused features, combined with 27.5-inch wheels, 2.2-inch tires, a 63mm-travel Suntour fork, and a suspension seatpost make the Neo a city-capable bike with plenty of cushion to smooth out beat-up paved and dirt roads.
The mid-drive Bosch Active Line motor is nearly silent, and the PowerTube battery is neatly integrated into the alloy step-through frame. The simple handlebar display lets you know your speed and remaining battery life, in addition to various other metrics. The button layout is intuitive, and setting your desired level of assistance is as straightforward as shifting gears on a conventional bike. Cruising on the Neo is a relaxing experience. Even in Turbo mode, which on some bikes can be a bit jerky at low speeds, I found the power delivery to be smooth. And the 11-36, 9-speed cassette provided an ample gear range for a wide variety of terrain, from steep, double-digit grades to flat bike-path miles. Thanks to the upright riding position and suspension (as minimal as it is), I felt like I was hovering over the road, and I appreciated the powerful Shimano brakes in heavy city traffic (production bikes will have Tektro hydraulic brakes). But more than anything, I loved the Neo for its ability to help me cut down on my daily, around-town driving habit, which feels like a win for everyone.—D.C.
Weight: 61.1 LB / Class: 3 / Maximum Torque: 60Nm / Battery Size: 672Wh
Price: $1,700 Shop This Model
Los Angeles based Aventon is a young brand, first starting out in the fixed-gear riding and track racing scene a few years ago, and recently switching its focus to manufacturing and selling only electric bikes. Selling both direct-to-consumer and through bicycle shops, Aventon e-bikes have quickly grown a following with commuters and e-bike enthusiasts across the country.
As a class-3 e-bike, the Level comes out of the box with a max pedal-assisted speed of 28mph. Additionally, the bike also has a throttle control which allows you to cruise up to 20mph without the need for pedaling. This feature comes in handy for getting the Level up to speed after stopping at an intersection, or for an unexpected hill if you find yourself in too large a gear. Providing the Level’s muscle is a rear hub motor, which Aventon claims puts out 500 Watts of sustained, and 750 Watts at peak power. Feeding the motor is a 672 Watt-hour lithium-ion rechargeable battery, housed cleanly inside the bike’s downtube. There are five power control settings from which to choose, that dictate the amount of power assist served up by the motor.
Aventon hit a homerun with the Level. It has some great performance, is spec’d smartly, comes out of the box almost 100% ready for commuting use, and is priced well. Unless you need to regularly carry your bike up flights of stairs (or don’t have a safe place to store the bike with the battery off for charging), I would most certainly recommend the Level to any commuter or recreationally oriented rider looking for great value, performance, and function in an e-bike. The Aventon Level checks off almost every one of the necessary boxes in what I look for in a purpose-built commuter bike. This bike forces Aventon’s competition to get on their level.
Marin Sausalito E2
Weight: 46.1 LB (XL) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 60Nm / Battery Size: 418Wh
Price: $2,889 Shop This Model
Some might call the Sausalito a hybrid, others may say it is a commuter, but Marin’s label of “multi-surface exploring” proves to be quite apt for the E2. We thoroughly enjoyed riding this bike in a variety of environments, from city streets and suburban neighborhoods to paved and crushed-gravel rail trails.
The Shimano STEPS E6100 motor provides a smooth 60Nm of torque, never feeling overly jarring when taking off from a full stop or under quick accelerations. It has a natural and intuitive ride. This makes the Sausalito equally adept for a leisurely cruise around the neighborhood and zipping across town to run an errand. The 418Wh battery is affixed to the down tube and can be removed easily for charging. Bonus: Because the E2 uses a Shimano battery, if you would like to have a spare on-hand, or need a replacement in the far-off future, finding one should be easy through Shimano’s large dealer network.
Other features we love include the stubby 45mm stem and 740mm-wide handlebar that provided a fun feel and upright riding position while also giving a nod to Marin’s roots as a mountain bike brand. Similarly, the 650b x 47 WTB Horizon tires, Shimano Deore wide-range 11-speed drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors added to the mountain bike aesthetic, while proving to be super practical in everyday use.
In our time with the Sausalito, the only significant shortcoming we found was with the Suntour NVX-E suspension fork, as it would harshly top out on even a medium-sized bump. Also, we would have preferred a quick-release seat clamp to make sharing the bike with friends easier or just for the days when you want to lower the seat and cruise around town.
Marin offers the Sausalito E2 in traditional double-diamond and step-through frame variants—both with identical component and color options. We would recommend the step-through model for just about everyone, as it makes getting on and off the bike easier, especially if you plan to add a rear rack, which makes swinging a leg over a little more difficult.—Tara Seplavy
Weight: 28 LB (M) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 40Nm / Battery Size: 250Wh
Price: $5,300 (w/Shimano GRX Di2) Shop This Model
For the third iteration of a brand bearing his name, three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond surprised a lot of people. Instead of producing a new road-racing bike, his company made a very light class-1 e-commuter called the Prolog.
“Very light” isn’t hyperbole: The model I tested weighs just 28 pounds with fenders, 38mm tires, integrated front and rear lights, and a Spurcycle Compact bell (an amazing and not inexpensive accessory). The Prolog’s low weight is due, in part, to the smaller battery and Mahle X35 motor, as well as the generous use of carbon fiber—the frame and fork, fenders, seatpost, and one-piece bar/stem system are all made of it. Lighter bikes are easier to live with. This LeMond is two-and-a-half times lighter than the other city e-bike I have in my possession: a 70-pound Stromer ST3. That makes the Prolog so much more convenient to carry up steps, hang on a hook to save space, or just maneuver tight spaces when it’s time to lock it up.
The lightness also gives the Prolog ride characteristics and movements akin to an unpowered bike, so it feels sporty when negotiating turns and accelerating away from stops.
But a smaller, lighter motor also means a less-powerful one, and the X35 has less than half the torque of a Specialized Turbo Vado (90Nm). There’s a big difference between 20 and 28 mph when you’re competing with cars in a downtown core, and I like having lots of torque to help me accelerate into the spaces between cars in flowing traffic. Outside of those moments—like trying to get from a bike lane on the right across several lanes and into a left-turn lane—the Prolog has more than enough speed and power to make getting places and up over hills faster and less sweaty.
I like the X35 because it’s quiet and easy to operate with the press of a button. It lights up to tell you it’s powered, reports battery level with a solid green, yellow, or red light, and lets you cycle through three modes, with the color of the blinking light indicating the selected assist level. This button also turns on the bike’s head and taillights (if it has them) and initiates Bluetooth pairing.
The Prolog is a polished, sleekly integrated city e-bike. The frame and fork offer the rider good comfort and damped smoothness on degraded pavement and dirt paths. Overall, the handling offers no surprises. It’s quick enough, mostly oriented toward smooth steering and stability. While it may not be the LeMond most people expected—a non-e-road bike is in the works—it is an excellent class-1 commuter for riders who put a premium on low weight, a smooth ride, and attractive lines—and who aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere.—M.P.
Trek E-Caliber 9.9 XTR
Weight: 35.4 LB (L) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 55Nm / Battery Size: 250Wh
Price: $12,000 Shop This Model
Trek believes there is a group of riders who want an e-mountain bike but don’t like the feel, handling, or weight of the many bikes which are designed for aggressive trail and enduro riders. So it built the E-Caliber, a lightweight, short-travel bike with aggressive geometry that brings the e-mountain category to cross-country-style riding. Essentially, Trek integrated a Fazua Evation motor into its full-suspension XC racer, the Supercaliber. Trek claims the E-Caliber is the world’s lightest full-suspension e-mountain bike (34.8 pounds for the 9.9 XX1 AXS build, not the 9.9 XTR model we tested).
The Fazua Evation motor is new for Trek, which has long used Bosch’s motors in its e-mountain bikes. Travis Ott, Trek’s mountain bike marketing manager, attributes the move to Black Pepper, Fazua’s innovative new e-bike-motor software designed to optimize power delivery specifically for mountain biking. A Fazua mobile app allows users to edit the default assist modes and even create their own custom modes. The motor and battery are one unit, which riders can remove if they’d like to ride the E-Caliber like a traditional XC bike. It’s a nice idea, but we doubt many riders are going to want to ride a 28-pound XC bike with racy handling and limited travel. The E-Caliber retains the Supercaliber’s IsoStrut single-pivot suspension design, which is lighter than more traditional rear-suspension layouts, but gives the bike just 60mm of rear-wheel travel. Up front, however, travel jumps from 100mm to 120mm, the head-tube angle slackens out to 67.5, and reach goes up 15mm over the Supercaliber, resulting in a more adventurous feel.
What impressed me the most was how much the Black Pepper software seemed to make the assist fade into the background during rides. Though you will be tempted to use Rocket mode—Fazua’s version of the more familiar Turbo—I’d argue that this is not the assist level you’ll want to be in most of the time. It’s ideal for getting to the top of a fire-road climb, but it felt a bit overwhelming on tight and twisty singletrack, which is where River mode shines. In River—think of this as a “flow mode” between Eco and Sport—the Fazua system attempts to match your effort. When you pedal hard, the software tells the motor to give you more assistance. When you need to finesse your way through a section, the system is smoother and more subtle compared to some e-mountain bikes with Bosch motors, which tended to cut in and out more abruptly. All of this makes for a unique riding experience that should appeal to folks looking to get in more trail miles instead of shuttle runs.—Dan Chabanov
3T Exploro RaceMax Boost Flatbar
Weight: 26.4 LB (M) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 40Nm / Battery Size: 250Wh
Price: $6,999 Shop This Model
If a 3T Exploro RaceMax Boost slipped by, you might not even notice it’s an e-bike. That’s because 3T packaged the Boost’s e-bike components into the same carbon frame as the unpowered Exploro RaceMax. Only the oversize rear hub and the glowing button on the top tube give this bike away.
Like the Cairn E-Adventure in this issue, this 3T is not an e-bike for the rider who wants to shoot up steep climbs at pro-racer speeds with minimal effort. This is a class-1 e-bike with a lower-powered (40Nm max torque) Mahle X35 hub motor. But lower power means a smaller and lighter motor and battery, which are some of the reasons why this bike weighs just 26.4 pounds (other reasons: Its frame, fork, seatpost, handlebar, and wheels are all carbon). In fact, it is, so far, one of the lightest e-bikes to be tested by Bicycling. Low weight makes it easier to live with—particularly if you reside in a walk-up or have to maneuver tight parking garages—and simply makes it feel more like a traditional bike.
Unlike the motors found on most class-3 e-bikes, the Mahle will not treat you with a cheat mode: You still need to breathe hard and get sweaty. But it is quiet and smooth, with enough assist to make climbs feel a little easier and long distances a bit shorter. The clean low-profile looks of this bike are a bonus, too, as is the ability to use any cranks you prefer, thanks to the hub motor.
My test bike came equipped with a flat bar (it is also offered with a drop bar for the same price), which gave the Boost more of an urban-assault vibe than a gravel-bike one. The handling is deft: quick and tossable, but predictable enough that getting a bit loose in corners is entertaining, not terrifying. The ride is much like that of its unpowered sibling’s: decidedly firm, not abusive, but communicative.
The 3T Exploro RaceMax Boost isn’t a cheater bike for group rides, and it’s not for loaded backcountry camping adventures. It’s the e-bike to get if you prize the looks, lightness, and feel of an unpowered bike, but want to arrive less sweaty or make the hard miles easier.—Matt Phillips
Bunch Bikes The Coupe
Weight: 132 LB (one size) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 80Nm / Battery Size: 720Wh
Price: $6,999 Shop This Model
This 132-pound, aluminum-framed cargo trike is powered by a mid-drive Bafang MAX M400 motor that uses multi-sensor pedal assist to calculate the amount of power needed based on the rider’s cadence, pedal torque, and wheel speed. An Enviolo AutomatiQ CVT rear hub handles gearing. With it, you can set your desired cadence using a handlebar-mounted remote, and the hub automatically adjusts to keep you at that selected cadence. This means you can focus on where you’re going and what you’re transporting instead of which gear you should be in.
The cargo box, which has a hauling capacity of 220 pounds, has a drop-down door to make loading and unloading groceries easy, and a forward-facing seat that fits two kids side by side. Child-friendly features include three-point seatbelts, front-wheel fenders that double as finger guards, and impact-resistant EPP material for the box, which is lighter than the plywood used on The Bunch Original. Plus, if you plan to use your Coupe for business purposes, Bunch can vinyl-wrap the door for you. We didn’t load our Coupe down with two kids, but we did take turns hauling our coworkers. Even with our 145-pound staff photographer in the box, the auto-shift system responded quickly, and the bike was easy to get going from a stop. However, I found it was best to slow down when riding with the box empty, especially when navigating downhill corners, where it’s easy to get carried away and get the bike up on two wheels or even tip it over. On slightly off-camber sections of road, I found that countering my weight helped keep the bike planted. Fortunately, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes on each of the three wheels make it easy to keep your speed in check. Then again, the Coupe wasn’t built for speed. Its default level of assist tops out at 15.5 mph, which feels suitably fast for such a large bike (you can, however, raise that limit to as much as 20 mph—or lower it, too).
It goes without saying that the Coupe does not have the best turning radius. A U-turn on a single-lane road is possible, but in tighter spaces, you’ll need to do a multi-point turn or get off the bike so you can pick up the rear and turn it manually. Even so, the 31.5-inch-wide cargo box is manageable—and fits through a standard doorway. When the bike is parked, the brakes can be locked to prevent the Coupe from rolling away, and a built-in ABUS frame lock secures the rear wheel to deter anyone from taking your bike.
The Coupe is not built for speed. It’s a large-capacity electric cargo bike designed to haul kids, move dogs, deliver pizzas, carry groceries, and transport anything else you can dream up—with a little help from e-power.—D.
Specialized Turbo Levo Pro
Weight: 49.7 lb. (S3) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 90Nm / Battery Size: 700Wh
Price: $13,000 Shop This Model
Specialized’s third-generation Levo Pro is the benchmark trail e-bike. While there are other great trail e-bikes, when you take into consideration the e-MTB experience as a whole—a bike’s battery range, features, system integration, ease of use, suspension, handling, and how well its motor performs—the Levo is more polished than anything else currently available.
A big reason for that is because Specialized takes ownership of a lot of the e-bike components other brands farm out: It develops its own motors, software, user interface, and motor controls. This results in integration and features that no other e-bike has, such as a compact and highly functional display in the top tube, and Micro Tune, which lets the rider select a fixed 10 to 100 percent assist in 10 percent increments, providing the rider with more control over the motor’s output, as well as range and battery consumption. In addition to this list of impressive features, the Levo also offers the best ride experience. The belt-driven motor, which gets a new, more durable belt than the previous generation, is, by my ear, the quietest and smoothest on the market—without vibrations or lash pulsing through the frame. With 90Nm of max torque, it is also one of the most powerful. That power is doled out with beautiful fluidity and an almost natural feel. This Levo also comes with a 700Wh battery—one of the biggest on a trail e-bike. Specialized claims up to 5.5 hours of ride time, a 43-mile range, and 8,200 feet of elevation gain in Eco mode.
Of course, you can’t take full advantage of a great motor if you don’t start with a great-riding bike. This latest Levo has a 29-inch wheel up front, but features a smaller, 27.5-inch rear wheel. This allowed Specialized to shrink the rear end—e-bike motors take up space and make a rear end longer—so the new Levo remains agile despite its generous travel (150mm rear and 160mm front) and nearly 50-pound weight. The geometry gives the bike a stable character, and enduro-duty suspension components—Fox 38 fork and Fox Float X2 shock—have the stiffness and consistency to keep this bike, and its rider, in control on long and rough downhills.
Other e-bikes are certainly lower priced—a Canyon Spectral:ON 9 with a similar build is $4,500 less—but when it comes to putting a smile on your face, and having the best e-ride possible, it doesn’t get much better than the new Turbo Levo.—M.P.
Marin Alpine Trail E2
Weight: 53.4 LB (M) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 85Nm / Battery Size: 630Wh
Price: $6,299 Shop This Model
The Marin Alpine Trail E2 is a dancing bear of a bike: big and heavy but all nimble and energetic on the trail.
It has a coil-over shock, a Fox 38 fork, and a 63-degree head angle. But I can promise you—because it surprised the hell out of me—that the Alpine Trail E2 is more lively and agile, and more capable on flatter trails and climbs, than you’d expect from a bike with those specs. To be clear, this bike is built to fly downhill despite its relatively modest travel: 150mm (rear) and 160mm (front). It’s the stiff frame, slack geometry, superb Fox suspension, mixed wheel size, and relaxed geometry that make it so capable when the world’s coming at ya fast.
The smaller, 27.5-inch wheel in the rear helped Marin achieve the bike’s 435mm chainstay length—one of the shortest rear ends you’ll find on an e-mountain bike (the Specialized Levo in this issue has 442mm stays). That helps keep the bike snappy in corners and give it a bit more of a playful feel everywhere else.
The short rear end also helps the Marin on climbs, particularly singletrack with tighter turns. The front end wanders some, but the seat angle is fashionably steep at 78 degrees, which, on a longer-travel bike with supple coil-over rear suspension like this, helps keep the rider over, not behind, the pedals as the fork extends and the shock compresses on an uphill.
On flat trails, it does take a touch more work, compared to a shorter/steeper bike, to keep the Alpine Trail from pushing wide in the turns. But once you adapt to subtly shifting your body where it needs to be, this bike will dance amiably down the trail.
Pushing this brute around is Shimano’s excellent EP8 motor, which provides plenty of torque when called upon. Its power and feel are smooth, sensitive, and easy to control, so I was able to climb in challenging traction conditions—both early-season mud and mid-season dust and kitty litter—without drama. The motor has a sharp, bright, and informative color display, and assist modes are easy to customize with Shimano’s e-Tube app.
The Marin Alpine Trail E2 is a gravity bike—and a good one at that. But it’s versatile and entertaining enough that getting to the gravity-fueled goods is almost as enjoyable as the downhills themselves.—M.P.
Cairn E-Adventure 1.0 700c
Weight: 34.7 LB (M) / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 55Nm / Battery Size: 252Wh
Price: $4,152 Shop This Model
If you want a powerful and quick e-bike for keeping up with your buddies or getting to the top of a climb sweat-free, the Cairn E-Adventure isn’t it. This is a different sort of e-bike.
This drop-bar bike wows with its versatility. It has fender mounts, rack mounts, dynamo routing, and three-pack mounts on each fork leg for attaching extra water bottle cages, cargo cages, or Cairn’s Range Extension Pack that lets you carry an extra battery for longer rides. The E-Adventure is available with 650b or 700c wheels, and maximum tire widths are 55mm and 45mm, respectively. The bike puts you in an endurance riding position—not race low, and not touring high—and the long wheelbase and chainstays create a stable platform that’s ideal for all-day rides over mixed terrain. Pushing this “anything” bike—a better description of the Cairn than “gravel bike”—around is the unique Fazua Evation motor. Remove the battery from the frame—you need to remove the battery to charge it—and the motor comes with it. All that remains is the geared mechanism for putting the motor’s power into the cranks. Because this bottom bracket system has no noticeable drag, you can ride the bike without the motor—Fazua sells a cover that turns the empty space previously occupied by the motor and battery into a storage compartment—if you wish, though the Cairn still weighs 27.4 pounds with motor and battery removed.
Though mid-motors are usually known for their power, the Evation puts out a relatively tame 55Nm of torque (Bosch, Specialized, and Shimano mid-motors put out 85Nm or more) with low peak watts (250 in stock tune—other mid-motors generate 500 or more). The other striking difference is how the company tunes the assistance, which it describes as “gentle and natural.” You feel this when you ride the Fazua: While some other mid-drive bikes can feel like they’ll slingshot you over a mountain, the Cairn’s feel is more like the push from a great tailwind.
In the stock settings (which you can customize), the highest mode (Rocket) puts out just 250 watts max and the lowest mode (Breeze) gives you 100 watts. But because it’s a lower-powered system, and the Cairn is a class-1 e-bike, you’ll still get up to a claimed 90 miles in Breeze mode from the claimed range from the small 252Wh battery.
The Cairn offers just enough assist to take the edge off—you’ll sweat and you’ll get a workout, but you’ll go farther or up a steeper climb with a lot less hurt. With its impressively steady handling manners, reasonably smooth ride, and a plethora of mounts, the Cairn is best for going places—particularly on roads and paths less traveled.—M.P.
Gazelle Ultimate T10+ HMB
Weight: 51.1 LB / Class: 3 / Maximum Torque: 85Nm / Battery Size: 500Wh
Price: $4,000 Shop This Model
This shiny-red, confident-looking commuter is as fast as it looks, with aggressive geometry that complements its 28mph max speed. The aluminum-framed Gazelle Ultimate is powered by a Bosch Performance Line Speed mid-drive motor (with 75Nm of torque) and has a 500Wh battery that lasts up to 55 miles on one charge (25 miles on turbo). A Shimano XT rear derailleur moves the bike through its 10 gears to provide you with all you need to zip uphill and fly on flats at a steady cadence. Relative to the wider tires we usually see on urban e-commuters, the Gazelle’s 1.75-inch Schwalbe Energizer Plus tires—which are smoother down the center and grippier on the sides—are fairly narrow. But the Suntour 80mm-travel suspension fork makes up for any lost bump-absorption a wider tire might provide (you might notice it, you might not). An adjustable stem lets you fine-tune the angle of the handlebar to suit your comfort, and the included rear rack has a bungee to strap down a small haul (think jacket, not 30-pack).
Riese & Müller Multicharger GX Touring HS
Weight: 54.7 LB / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 75Nm / Battery Size: 500Wh
Price: $6,900 Shop This Model
Riese and Müller build some of our favorite utilitarian e-bikes. There’s the Load above, and now the Multicharger, a mid-tail wünderbike. It can haul a lot—132 pounds on the back, 10 pounds in the front—and with the optional dual battery, it has a maximum range of about 100 miles, making it camping- and touring-friendly. It has a purposefully elegant frame and a suspension fork and suspension seat post, and it comes with a lock, a bright headlight, a brake light, a horn, Ergon grips, and the sturdiest kickstand known to mankind. The GX Touring HS model is the class-3 (assist cuts off at 28mph) version with knobby tires. Despite its top speed, the 70-pound bike is heavy enough that it doesn’t feel particularly zippy (especially with a load), though it does trundle up to speed eventually. But utility is this bike’s purpose, and that it offers. The bags are cavernous and have multiple ways to fit awkward loads. The footpegs and handlebar of the passenger kit are well-designed, though we’re a bit hesitant to recommend anyone fly along at nearly 30 with a small person clinging to the back. The weight and speed of the Multicharger make it feel more like a moped than a bicycle. Its handling is deliberate, and it can feel big and awkward if you’re used to a bicycle’s compact nimbleness. But it’s less massive, less sluggish, and much easier to maneuver than a longtail cargo bike, with most of the utility. If longtail cargo bikes are the minivans of the bike world, the Multicharger is a station wagon: almost as utilitarian, but way cooler.
Tern GSD S10
Weight: 59.7 LB / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 63Nm / Battery Size: 400Wh
Price: $5,100 Shop This Model
The latest version of the GSD (get stuff done) gets a stiffer frame, which increases the bike’s weight limit to 440 pounds (bike, rider, and cargo), and a slacker seat-tube angle that creates a more spacious cockpit for taller riders (a smart upgrade on a one-size-fits-all bike). Roadworthy additions on the LX and R14 models include a high-/low-beam headlight and, on all models, an always-on brake light that intensifies when you squeeze the Magura MT5 eStop levers. The $8,999 R14 comes with two 500Wh batteries and a Rohloff E-14 hub that lets you skip through three gears at once. But we were most impressed by the $5,099 base model, which delivers nearly the same performance without the luxury extras.
Weight: 59.7 LB / Class: 3 / Maximum Torque: 44Nm / Battery Size: 814Wh
Price: $7,500 Shop This Model
This class-3 e-bike is stable at speed, steers smoothly and accurately, and is light on its toes. The hub motor has regenerative braking, which converts your kinetic energy to electrical energy and feeds it back into the battery. The ST3 uses the brand’s OMNI connect interface, a wireless touchscreen in the top tube that controls the bike’s functions. From your phone, you can track your bike’s location, get an overview of your ride data, activate Stromer’s anti-theft mode, and remotely lock and unlock your bike, among other things. OMNI also connects to mobile data networks, so Stromer can perform diagnostic tests, push out updates, and notify you if someone tries to move your bike (or track it if it does get stolen). And if you forget your PIN code, Stromer can unlock your bike for you. All Stromers can be customized on the brand’s website. This model’s base price is $7,499, but our tester upgraded to a battery with a longer range ($500) and a suspension fork ($1,099) instead of the stock rigid aluminum model, which he said added some welcome comfort and control. It’s traffic-ready, too: The rear light blinks brighter when you hit the brakes, its horn is loud enough to cut through pedestrians’ earphones, and the TRP brakes are appropriately powerful for stopping a 70-pound bike traveling at 30mph. Best way to buy it: Find a stock model at a local dealer or retailer, or configure it your way on Stromer’s site and have it shipped to a local dealer for pickup.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL
Weight: 27.5 LB / Class: 3 / Maximum Torque: 35Nm / Battery Size: 320Wh
Price: $13,500 Shop This Model
The Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL carbon e-road bike weighs around 27 pounds—half the weight of many e-bikes—and therefore feels more like a zippy, responsive road machine than anything else we’ve tested. For its owners, it also makes every ride a no-drop ride: Its magnesium-cased SL 1.1 mid-motor puts out up to 240 watts of assistance, which cuts out at 28mph, and the 320Wh internal battery offers up to 80 miles of range. That’s enough speed and range for spirited group rides with the fastest of the pack. A 160Wh Range Extender—included with S-Works models, a $399 upgrade for Expert models—fits into the seat tube bottle cage and adds up to 40 more miles of range. Best way to buy it: Sign up on Specialized’s site to be notified when it’s back in stock, or find it through a local dealer or retailer.
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9
Weight: 48 LB / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 85Nm / Battery Size: 630Wh
Price: $9,000 Shop This Model
The 2021 Spectral:ON gets a major upgrade with Shimano’s new EP8 motor, a bigger 630Wh battery, and 85Nm of torque. Shimano’s latest e-bike motor is one of the best: lighter than many, relatively quiet, powerful, and efficient, with excellent power profiles (Trail mode is particularly impressive). You get a Fox 36 Factory Grip2 fork and Fox Float DPX2 Factory shock, and a Shimano XTR 12-speed drivetrain. The Spectral:ON runs two different-size wheels—a smaller 27.5-inch in the rear and a 29er upfront—to grant the bike some of the shortest chainstays around (435mm). Coupled with a steepish 66.5-degree head angle, those figures make this one of the more agile 150mm e-bikes out there. There are three less-expensive Spectral:ON models in the line, all of which use the EP8 motor: the $6,999 Spectral:ON CF 8 and the $5,999 Spectral:ON CF 7, which also comes in a women’s version (also $5,999). Best way to buy it: Sign up on Canyon’s site to be notified when bikes are back in stock, which, depending on the model, is currently anytime between late September and late April 2022.
Argon 18 Subito E-Road
Weight: 28 LB / Class: 1 / Maximum Torque: 40Nm / Battery Size: 250Wh
Price: $4,800 Shop This Model
The Subito’s Mahle X-35+ motor is neatly and discreetly built into its 100mm-diameter rear hub. And its 250Wh battery is so small, it fits into a down tube of almost normal proportions. External controls consist of a subtle, lighted push button in the top tube. This means, from most angles, the Subito doesn’t look like an e-bike. And with a weight in the mid-20s, it doesn’t much feel like one either. The frame puts you in a slightly upright position (Argon 18’s 3D+ system provides every frame with a whopping 60mm of stack adjustment), and the all-road platform has clearance for tires up to 40mm (stock tires are 27mm). You get a regular double chainring with normal q-factor, SRAM Force drivetrain and brakes, and a smooth, cushy ride. With super-quiet operation, 40Nm of torque, and a 20mph-assist cutoff, the Subito provides a more subtle experience than you get with a high-torque, class-3 e-bike. The assist is noticeable and helpful for making climbs go quicker and for pushing through a strong headwind, but you don’t get cheat-mode levels of boost. And with little perceptible drag, you can ride naturally without engaging the motor.