#1 Ride1Up 700 Series$1,555.00100/100?
17 reasons to buy
- The 700 Series comes fitted with integrated front and rear lights.
- The 700 Series comes fitted with hardened alloy fenders, front and rear.
4 reasons not to buy
- Under hill-climbing tests, the 700 Series underwhelmed some reviewers.
- Reviewers describe assembly of the 700 Series as “involved and time-consuming”.
#2 Ride1Up REVV 1$1,855.00100/100?
15 reasons to buy
- Ride1Up claims a maximum range of up to 60 miles.
- A tester says the REVV 1 FS feels “solid and planted”.
9 reasons not to buy
- The REVV 1’s seat can not be adjusted.
- The REVV 1 FS weighs 93 lb. The HT weighs 83 lb.
#3 Aventon Aventure$1,349.10100/100?
17 reasons to buy
- Riders find comfort in the plush Velo saddle.
- Testers report that the Aventure is stable at speed.
8 reasons not to buy
- Reviewers sought a second taillight, on the bike’s right-hand seatstay.
- Some testers are annoyed that they cannot use the throttle without pedaling.
#4 Lectric XPedition$1,399.00100/100?
12 reasons to buy
- One expert says the cadence sensor is very responsive.
- Experts appreciate the stable ride, even with a loaded rack.
9 reasons not to buy
- Riders report that the XPedition’s motor is noisy.
- The XPedition’s taillight doesn’t activate when braking.
#5 Ride1Up Rift$1,855.00100/100?
15 reasons to buy
- Testers say the Rift is comfortable to ride.
- Testers say the Rift climbs steep hills easily.
10 reasons not to buy
- One buyer received no pedals or charger and a damaged bolt.
- One reviewer cites cargo limits placed by the lack of front-end mounts.
#6 Specialized Turbo Vado SL EQ$2,995.00100/100?
19 reasons to buy
- A rear rack, with a 33.07 lb capacity, is included.
- Testers find this e-bike comfortable to ride without power.
4 reasons not to buy
- Reviewers describe all Turbo Vado SL EQ builds as relatively expensive.
- Three testers describe the Specialized Bridge Sport saddle as “unforgiving” and “narrow”.
#7 Aventon Pace 500.2$1,169.1099/100?
20 reasons to buy
- At 52lb, the The Pace 500.2 is relatively light.
- The Pace 500.2 has a total weight capacity of 300lb.
4 reasons not to buy
- Neither a rack nor fenders are provided with the bike.
- Motor assistance could engage jarringly, due to the bike’s cadence sensor.
#8 Aventon Abound$1,799.0099/100?
19 reasons to buy
- Footboards and wheelguards protect the legs of child passengers.
- Reviewers say the 50mm Suntour suspension fork alleviates judder.
7 reasons not to buy
- Testers say the Abound’s cabling is unruly and could become snagged.
- One expert notes the Abound has an “uncomfortably wide” pedal position.
#9 Rad Power RadTrike$1,899.0099/100?
15 reasons to buy
- Testers say it fits through household doorways.
- With a low standover height, its easy to mount and dismount.
8 reasons not to buy
- The RadTrike’s top speed is 14 mph.
- At 82 lb with a steel frame, the RadTrike is heavy.
#10 Electric Bike Company Model S$2,299.0098/100?
15 reasons to buy
- The Model S can carry a maximum payload of 380lb.
- The single-speed drivetrain is simple and durable.
10 reasons not to buy
- The Model S has no bottle bosses.
- The Model S frame is one-size-fits-all.
#11 Electric Bike Company Model E$1,399.0097/100?
17 reasons to buy
- Integrated lighting is included, with dual lights at the rear.
- A steel fork dampens jounce-induced vibration over rickety roads.
9 reasons not to buy
- This bike doesn't have a rack, fenders, or bottle cage mounts.
- Customizing the Model E to your taste and needs can be pricey.
#12 Ride1Up Roadster v2$1,055.0097/100?
16 reasons to buy
- At 33 lb, reviewers praise the Roadster’s light weight.
- The Roadster’s single-speed drivetrain is simple and low-maintenance.
6 reasons not to buy
- Ride1Up confirms the Roadster’s battery is not designed for “frequent removal”.
- Reviewers say the Roadster’s LCD display can be difficult to read in direct sunlight.
#13 Specialized Turbo Como IGH$2,499.9997/100?
21 reasons to buy
- Specialized’s 4 amp fast-charger charges the Como IGH in 4 hours.
- Reviewers say the Como IGH’s color display is intuitive and easy to use.
4 reasons not to buy
- A couple of testers felt that removing the Como IGH’s battery is fiddly.
- Specialized’s proprietary bar/stem combo is not easy to replace or upgrade.
#14 Electric Bike Company Model C$2,299.0097/100?
12 reasons to buy
- The Model C supports riders up to 300lb and has a 350lb total capacity.
- Testers describe the ride feel as solid, with stable handling at high speeds.
8 reasons not to buy
- Users need a code from EBC to unlock the 28mph top speed.
- Testers say the kickstand can block the pedals when deployed.
#15 Ride1Up LMT’D$1,655.0097/100?
18 reasons to buy
- The Ride1Up LMT’D is sold with a kickstand.
- Some testers believe the LMT’D is suited to off-road pursuits.
4 reasons not to buy
- An expert sees the LMT’D’s finish and appearance as lackluster.
- The Ride1Up LMT’D is sold without a rear light, fenders or a rack.
#16 Ride1Up Prodigy$2,355.009719 reviews
#17 Aventon Pace 500.3$1,599.009610 reviews
#18 Specialized Globe Haul ST$2,800.00964 reviews
#19 Aventon Sinch$1,399.009617 reviews
#20 Ride1Up Turris$1,155.00965 reviews
#21 Velotric Nomad 1$1,487.079612 reviews
#22 Heybike Cityrun$1,299.009694 reviews
#23 QuietKat Ranger$2,897.169540 reviews
#24 Electric Bike Company Model R$2,399.0095151 reviews
#25 Himiway Cruiser$1,239.0095218 reviews
#26 Rad Power RadRunner 3 Plus$2,299.009516 reviews
#27 Electric Bike Company Model A$1,399.00955 reviews
#28 Cannondale Adventure Neo$2,249.999446 reviews
#29 Velowave Prado S$1,099.0094132 reviews
#30 Velowave Ranger$1,234.0594165 reviews
#31 Gazelle Arroyo C8 HMB Elite$2,774.57946 reviews
#32 Rad Power RadRover 6 Plus$1,399.009313 reviews
#33 Rad Power RadRover 6 Plus Step-Thru$1,799.009313 reviews
#34 Denago Fat Tire$1,799.00933 reviews
#35 Urtopia Carbon 1$2,199.009339 reviews
#36 Aventon Aventure.2$1,799.009324 reviews
#37 Flyer M880$1,799.009312 reviews
#38 Charge XC$1,999.00923 reviews
#39 Magicycle Deer$2,001.33925 reviews
#40 Addmotor M-560 P7$1,699.009217 reviews
#41 Addmotor E-53 CityPro$1,299.00913 reviews
#42 Cannondale Treadwell Neo$1,499.999134 reviews
#43 Denago Commute Model 1$1,799.00914 reviews
#44 Flyer L885$1,999.00913 reviews
#45 Lectric XPremium$1,599.00915 reviews
#46 Rambo The Pursuit$2,299.999143 reviews
#47 Aventon Level.2 Step-Through$1,699.00911 reviews
#48 Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser$1,555.009123 reviews
#49 Rad Power RadRunner Plus$1,799.009133 reviews
#50 Velotric Discover 1$1,301.07919 reviews
#51 Gazelle Medeo T9$2,298.959037 reviews
#52 Aventon Level.2$1,699.009015 reviews
#53 Aventon Pace 500$1,199.009072 reviews
#54 Aventon Sinch Step-Through$1,499.00907 reviews
#55 Rambo The Rooster$1,699.999018 reviews
#56 Aventon Sinch.2$1,499.00901 reviews
#57 Denago Folding 1$1,499.00903 reviews
#58 Magnum Metro$1,899.00905 reviews
#59 Electra Townie Go! 5i EQ$2,950.009025 reviews
#60 Addmotor E-43 CityPro$1,299.00893 reviews
The BikeRide Guide to Choosing the Best Electric Bike Under $3000
Electric bikes use an electric motor, along with pedals and some of the gearing of a traditional bicycle. This helps riders to travel longer distances and up more hills, than would otherwise be possible with their own energy.
Electric bikes are great for anyone looking to travel further than they could on an unpowered bike. This makes ‘e-bikes’ suitable for commuters, senior cyclists, delivery workers and riders with compromised ability.
The uses for an e-bike are as varied as the uses for regular bicycles.
With ‘pedal assist’, an e-bike’s motor kicks in when you begin pedaling. The motor will supplement your own efforts. Many bikes are purely ‘pedal assist’ bikes. In the United States, these are categorized as ‘Class 1’ and ‘Class 3’ e-bikes. They do not provide a means of engaging the motor without physical input. ‘Class 2’ e-bikes offer pedal assist in addition to a pedal-free means of engaging the motor.
On the best Class 1 and Class 3 electric bikes, pedal assist engagement is intuitive. It should allow you to maintain a desired level of input and fitness, according to the level of assistance that you choose.
Most e-bikes have 3 to 5 levels of pedal assist available. They’ll also give you the option of disabling the motor. With no pedal assist, your e-bike acts like a regular (but heavy) push-bike.
In many countries, pedal-assist e-bikes are the only e-bikes that can be ridden without a license or registration.
Class 2 e-bikes offer a throttle-only option; activated by a trigger, button or grip-twist handle. Using a throttle, you can activate the motor without pedaling. This is useful when taking off from a dead stop at traffic lights.
Working the throttle without pedal assistance will drain an e-bike’s battery fairly quickly.
Commuters and Urban / City E-Bikes
The most popular types of e-bike are commuter and urban bikes. Many riders are looking for an e-bike that can get them to work over long distances without working up a sweat.
You’ll want all the features that you would seek in a pedal-powered commuter, plus a moderately powered motor and battery capacity (unless you are commuting exceptionally long distances).
Tough U-locks and a removable battery are essential if you are locking up your e-bike in a public area.
Some e-bikes are custom-built to suit the needs of older riders. But seniors’ e-bikes can be found among many types of e-bike. What they usually have in common is relaxed upright geometry and low-step or step-through frames.
Comfort E-Bikes are intended for cruising, weekend rides and relaxed commutes. They have laid-back geometry, wide saddles, comfy grips and a holiday attitude.
Fat Tire E-Bikes
Hauling heavy tires through snow, mud or sand can get tiring and limit rides to shorter distances.
The extra boost from a pedal-assist system can allow riders to carry more and ride further. A powerful motor and high capacity battery are important here.
But electric fat bikes are not just a niche choice.
Many first-time e-bike buyers head straight for a bad-ass, do-anything, monster-truck look and floaty ride style.
This can only be provided by a big bike with balloon tires. There are many models to choose from, in all price ranges.
Hybrid E-Bikes are versatile. The same bike can be used for commuting and light off-road duties. They have flat handlebars and an upright ride position.
Electric Mountain Bikes – ‘E-MTBs’
Electric mountain bikes (e-MTBs) are available in both hardtail (front-suspension) and full-suspension varieties. They are ideal for avoiding exhaustion on all-day rides, by hauling riders to the top of downhill runs.
For more details, please refer to our guide to choosing and buying an electric mountain bike.
Folding e-bikes are also popular as commuters. They suit a multi-modal work commute that also involves using a train, bus, car or ferry.
For some riders, they can be used in conjunction with travel, to suit being transported by car or stored in a mobile home or boat. A folder may suit you if you live in an apartment.
A good folding bike is small, light and often used for shorter distances. This means that you can get away with a less powerful motor and a battery of moderate capacity. These factors help to lower the overall weight of an electric folding bike.
For some, a retro-styled e-bike is the way to go. If this is the direction you’re heading, then performance and speed probably aren’t your top priorities.
On your old-school roller, you can get away with a moderately-powered motor expressing average torque.
Even so, some of these frames are large and heavy. So you’ll need at least enough battery and ‘oomph’ to reach optimum cruising speeds.
Electric cargo bikes offer an exciting alternative to the family car. Some families have even sold their second or only vehicle after purchasing a versatile cargo e-bike. High quality specimens can be configured to carry two children, in conjunction with a load of groceries.
For anyone employed in the delivery business, electric bikes provide a cheap means of transporting cargo, especially in urban areas. Running costs are low. Also, an electric bike can easily wend its way through heavy traffic and won’t need a parking spot when it reaches its destination.
Electric cargo bikes are usually quite heavy. In conjunction with the big loads that they’re expected to lug, the drain on batteries can be considerable. Look for a high capacity battery or a dual-battery system. You’ll also need a reasonably powerful motor and a system that expresses considerable torque.
Electric Road Bikes
Electric road bikes allow riders to ride for longer at faster speeds. They assist less-able or older riders to maintain pace with their riding group.
Most electric road cyclists prefer to pedal actively throughout a ride. For this reason, most road e-bikes are Class 1 electric bikes, being configured to rely on active pedal-assist.
Most of these bikes are lightweight and are equipped with streamlined motors and batteries that are smaller than those found on other electric bikes.
Because e-Road bikes are so lightweight, the decrease in motor size and battery capacity does not necessarily translate to less power or battery range.
|Most electric road bikes are Class 1 e-bikes|
Rehab and Limited Ability
For whatever reason, you may have a limited ability to cycle. This could be due to age, injury or a physical disability. E-bikes can be a great way to supplement or rebuild strength.
Depending on your intended use, you’ll have different requirements concerning motor wattage, battery capacity, torque, build and configuration.
A recent sector of e-biking has appeared with the emergence of e-Gravel bikes. You’ll be looking for all the usual gravel bike bike features available in your price range, plus a few specific to the electric bike world.
Gravel is more of a performance sector. High-speeds, long distances and efficiency are priorities. As such, you might look to light-weight builds with high-capacity batteries.
Before you can make sense of the e-bike options available to you, it’s helpful to get a basic understanding of e-bike terminology.
Sometimes, approaching the world of e-bikes can be daunting. Even if you are a clued-up cyclist and bike aficionado, the additional knowledge needed to make a discerning e-bike purchase can be bewildering. But it needn’t be. You don’t have to be an electrical or electronics engineer, but it’s handy to have a few terms under your belt.
Watt Hours (Wh)
On your e-bike, ‘Watt hours’ is a measure of available energy. This is probably the most important measurement to look for in your e-bike specs. It will be abbreviated as ‘Wh’ and is the most reliable measurement of your bike’s battery capacity.
In gas-guzzling terminology, think of it as the size of your fuel tank. In simple terms, the higher the number of Watt hours, the more range that is available to you. The amount of energy that your battery has available is known as its ‘capacity’.
Watt hours can be calculated if you have access to the voltage and amp hour figures for a bike’s battery. It’s a simple calculation.
- 24V x 20Ah __= 480Wh
- 36V x 10Ah __= 360Wh
- 36V x 11Ah __= 396Wh (≈ ‘400wh’)
- 48V x 17.5Ah = 840Wh
So what does it mean, this term ‘Watt hours’ ? A ‘Watt’ is a unit of power. ‘Watt hours’ is a measurement of power used over a period of time and represents a measure of ‘energy’.
In terms of what you need to know, regarding your e-bike purchase:
A 250Wh battery can deliver:
- 250 watts for 1 hour
- 500 watts for 30 minutes
- 125 watts for 2 hours
How does this translate to your ride? If you are really working the throttle at its limit, your battery will last half the time that it would if you were running the battery at half of its capacity. Simply put, if you lay off the juice and contribute some pedal power, your battery lasts longer.
A bigger battery will take you further, but can add considerable weight.
“But how far?”, I hear you ask.
This varies according to a number of factors, including:
- Bike weight
- Rider weight
- Rider input (pedal power)
- Wind speed (and direction) – this can dramatically affect energy consumption
One expert puts it like this:
“On a lightweight electric bike, on typical fairly flat roads, not much wind or none at all, while barely pedaling… not working up a sweat, on pumped tires, typical 200lb or less rider, expect burn rates of 17 watt hours per mile on average… It can be much more or much less depending on countless factors but this is a realistic number to start with.”10
Therefore, as this same expert goes on to say, “A 36V 10Ah battery pack with 360Wh of capacity would… in theory provide 22 miles (36km) of range, from a full 100% charge.”
These calculations are much more straightforward if you pay attention to the kilometer figures in the calculations (and convert them to miles). From this info, you can easily work out what battery would be suitable for you. Is your commute longer or shorter than 22 miles, return? If so, and you were using the battery mentioned above, you wouldn’t have to charge at your destination.
In reference to an e-bike’s battery and on manufacturer’s specifications, ‘Amp hours’ should always be listed.
For the buyer of a new bike, Amp hours is useful in calculating Watt hours.
This is done by using the aforementioned formula:
Voltage x Amp Hours = Watt Hours
Amp hours will almost always be within the range of 8Ah to 28Ah.
Voltage relates to the entire system on an e-bike. Voltage pushes the flow of energy and generally relates to speed. The higher the voltage, the faster your e-bike can go. A 36V system won’t necessarily use a battery that’s exactly 36V, but it will be close.
Usually, new e-bike systems sit between 24V and 48V. There are also 52V options.
To simplify, torque describes the amount of power available to you at lower revolutions (RPMs). In straightforward on-road terms, the benefits are two-fold. A motor with higher torque will give you more power from a dead stop. It will also help you climb hills at a faster speed, for a longer period of time.
Torque is measured in ‘Newton Meters’ and you’ll see it listed in e-bike specs, using the abbreviation ‘Nm’. Lighter bikes require less torque, so 40 to 50Nm should be plenty, while e-mountain and cargo bikes need more torque to overcome heavier loads and troublesome terrain. Expect figures up to and beyond 75Nm.
|This mid-drive motor claims up to 160Nm of torque|
We’ve discussed how technical factors relate to range, but what should you expect when you’re shopping around? If you are consulting a seller about your needs, they should be able to give you advice based on a few factors. It’s a good idea to either consult an expert (who can give you trusted advice), or use the information available (to assess the specifications listed for new e-bikes).
The reason for this, is that some vendors and manufacturers may overstate range expectations.
Using either of these methods, an expert or yourself should assess your needs based on:
- Your genre and style of riding (commuting, mountain bike, gravel, cargo etc)
- The amount of pedaling you’ll contribute vs. the amount of pedal-assist that you’ll require
- Your own weight
The average range of an e-bike, using moderate levels of assist, is around 20 to 35 miles. Do you need more than this in a day? For most riders’ commuting needs, this is ample.
For bigger cargo needs, you may need more power and a bigger battery. Previously, we mentioned how range is affected by a number of factors including; wind, elevation, pedal effort and the combined weight of you and your cargo.
Your range is also influenced by how you use the motor. A lot of stop-starting and throttling will tear through juice in a rapid fashion.
The resistance of muddy, slippery or snowy surfaces will require more effort from your battery to overcome.
One of the factors that is mostly outside of the rider’s control, is the outside temperature. Both extremes of weather can lead to deficits in battery capacity. First in the short-term, then eventually degrading the capacity on a long-term basis.
Now that you get the basics, let’s look at the important components that make up an e-bike.
The battery-pack you see on e-bikes looks like a singular unit. It usually takes the appearance of a long, black box.
Within this ‘battery pack’, a number of smaller battery units are connected together in succession (as a pack).
Once you’ve got the basic technical factors sorted, you can understand your battery needs. The experts advise to seek out a battery that offers slightly longer range than what you’ll usually need. This will cover you when you inevitably get lost on a lonely, unlit highway, far from home.
Many first-timers aim for a huge battery, in an effort to cover the longest possible ride. The problem here is that large batteries add considerable weight. This extra weight slows you down and requires more power to overcome, creating a Catch 22 situation. In any event, ‘slightly more than what’s needed’ is a good yardstick.
Some bikes come pre-configured to accept a dual-battery setup. This means that you can keep weight down and use a single battery on less-demanding trips, while having the option to slot in a second battery on epic quests and trips to the lumber yard. A second battery means double the range, but double the weight.
Many bikes come with a lockable battery. You will be provided with a key that allows you to lock your battery pack to your bike’s frame.
Almost all modern battery packs are removable. This allows you to charge the battery wherever a convenient outlet is located.
Just as importantly, it allows you to remove the pack to prevent theft. But if you’re just spending two minutes to dash into the bodega for a loaf of bread, it could be more convenient to lock the pack and leave it where it is.
Most batteries are expected to last for 300 to 1000 charge ‘cycles’ or for around 3 to 5 years. After this period, your battery will not last as long as it did when box-fresh. It’s natural for battery life to reduce over time.
Most major brands give their batteries a 2-year warranty.
|Temperature extremes can be detrimental to battery capacity|
Experts advise e-bikers to seek a battery that has a two year warranty, at minimum. Other factors that affect battery life include:
- Use with heavy cargo loads
- Exposure to extremes of temperature
- Frequency of charging
(a battery should be charged at least every three months)
It’s a good idea to make every effort to prolong your battery’s life, as they can cost from a few hundred to as much as $1500 to replace.
Chargers & Charging
Manufacturers will often state how long it takes to fully charge the battery on an e-bike model. This information can be invaluable. If you’re someone who has a long commute, you might need to charge-up for a few hours at your destination. Or, you might not have this opportunity.
Charging times vary according to the capacity of your battery and the amperage of your charger. 2-amp and 3-amp chargers are common stock options that are often sold with new e-bikes.
If your e-bike comes with a 4-amp charger, you’re in luck. This is considered to be a ‘fast charger’.
It’s possible to charge a battery at either a fast or slow rate, though persistent ultra-fast-charging will lessen the life of your battery.
This device is the brain of your e-bike. It’s connected to your bike’s battery, motor and throttle. It controls the movement of power from the battery to the motor, by pulsing on and off very quickly. This function is known as ‘Pulse Width Modulation’ (PWM).
It prevents excess stress and overheating of your battery, as well as ensuring that your motor doesn’t overheat. What this means, is that you can’t instantly slam the throttle from a dead stop to full bore.
The controller sets a limit of how many Amps are allowed to flow to the motor. This is known as the controller’s ‘maximum amp rating’.
The ‘maximum amp rating’ can radically affect how much power is available to you.
Many sellers will advertise their e-bike models according to the motor’s wattage. Mostly, you’ll see 250, 350, 500 and 750-watt e-bikes. At first, this may come across as a straightforward way to determine the power of your desired e-bike. However, wattage means very little on its own. It’s important to take into account your battery’s voltage and the maximum current (in amps), that your e-bike’s controller can handle.
An e-bike with a 36-volt battery and a 15-amp controller is capable of putting out 540 watts at peak power. 36 x 15 = 540. This is the case, even if it’s advertised as having a ‘250 watt’ motor. So you might be getting more power than you originally expected.
The intricacies of e-bike power ratings can become very detailed. You can find resources online to satisfy your deepest level of curiosity. For now, let’s go into the other characteristics of e-bike motors.
There are two main types of e-bike motor, each being positioned differently on your new e-bike. They both have benefits and drawbacks.
Hub motors are situated within the hub of an e-bike’s rear or front wheel. On new e-bikes, rear hub-driven motors are common. They are the most affordable option available. Front-driven hub motors are becoming less popular and are usually found on electric conversions of standard bicycles.
There are two main types of hub motor:
- Direct Drive
Geared hub motors use internal nylon gears to reduce the motor’s output to optimal speed and efficiency. This makes them more complicated but lighter than direct drive systems.
They offer more torque and are a bit noisier than direct drive systems, which are simpler, more reliable and more powerful. But they’re heavier and larger than geared options, resulting in more demand on your battery.
|A geared hub motor|
- Hub motors are usually the cheaper option
- As a reliable, self-contained system, it requires minimal maintenance
- If your chain breaks, you can ride home solely on the power of the electric hub
- If your hub motor fails, you can pedal home using your bike’s drivetrain
- Hub motors put less stress on the bike’s other gearing components
Things to Consider
- Hub-driven systems can overheat on long, steep climbs
- They’re heavier than mid-drive options
- Tire changes can be complicated, involving disconnecting motor wires
- Direct-drive motors don’t have any internal gears
- Geared hub motors have a single gear ratio
- Having a heavy hub motor on the rear or front wheel can imbalance an e-bike
- Spokes are more likely to break, due to the weight of the hub in the wheel
- The width of a hub motor may limit cassette gears to seven speeds
- Tire widths are limited by the rim that’s attached to the hub motor
- Hub motor cadence sensors may result in lurchy or awkward motor timing
Rear wheel hub motors may place too much weight at the rear of your e-bike.
Front hub driven systems have decreased in popularity. With minimal weight on the front-end of most bikes, riders can easily spin-out under torque, on wet and slippery surfaces. This has led to a number of wipe-outs.
Mid-drive motors are situated between the cranks of your e-bike. These motors require a specific kind of frame, that accommodates a motor in place of a regular bike’s bottom bracket. What’s the skinny?
- A central location leads to even weight distribution on your e-bike
- They are typically lighter and smaller than a hub motor of comparable power
- Direct pedaling input leads to more range, especially across climbs
- Tire changes are unaffected by mid-drive motors
- A torque sensor accurately meters out assistance according to pedal power
- Riders generally report a smoother ride quality
- Tackles steeper hills for longer than a hub motor of similar power
- More open to different set-ups that use standardized bike components
Things to Consider
- They’re usually the more expensive option
- These motors depend on more rider input, through pedal-power
- Mid-drives wear harder on chains and cassettes
- They are more complex and require more maintenance than hub motors
- Most brands don’t offer repair options outside of warranties
|A mid-drive motor on an electric mountain bike|
Choosing a Motor
Hub-Driven Motors offer maximum assistance for less pedal effort. This suits senior riders or those with a disability, as well as anyone seeking physical rehabilitation for an injury.
But they’re also great for anyone who’s a less-experienced or less-frequent cyclist. If you’re a new rider or returning to cycling, a hub-driven e-bike may be for you.
Mid-Drive Motors suit riders who want a boost, but who still want to stay fit. They are the preferred option for experienced cyclists. Riders who know how to change gears will be able to attain an efficient ride and extend the life of a mid-drive e-bike.
- Direct-drive hub motors have less torque than geared hub motors
- Geared hub motors are the choice for more torque, from a hub-driven option
- Mid-drive motors in low gear, can climb steeper hills for longer than a similarly powered hub motor
There’s nothing unique about e-bike brakes. But with consistently high speeds and extra weight (compared to a regular push-bike), you’ll be seeking ample stopping power.
Almost all e-bikes use disc brakes. Mechanical disc brakes are reliable and easily adjusted. Hydraulic disc brakes are more powerful but may require professional adjustment and repair.
Some cheaper e-bikes come fitted with rim brakes, usually as V-brakes. You may also find drum brakes on a rear wheel, sometimes used in combination with a front wheel rim brake. Be wary of the increased stopping distance and foresight that these brakes will require.
|A hydraulic disc brake and rear hub motor|
Electric bikes are heavier than their pedal-powered counterparts. That’s just a fact. Maybe one day, this won’t be true. But for now, it’s unavoidable. A motor, battery and cabling all add up to decent heft.
Eventually, most e-bikers run into the unexpected situation where they run out of battery. It’s important to consider how heavy an e-bike is to pedal unpowered. Some e-bikes are relatively easy to propel on flat ground, without juice. Others can be a real slog.
There is another situation where the weight of your bike can have heavy implications.
If you live in an apartment or walk-up, carrying some e-bikes can be almost impossible. Others aren’t too much of a problem.
Here’s a rough idea of e-bike weight ranges:
Commuter, City and Hybrid Bikes commonly sit somewhere between 33lb and 55lb, but can get as heavy as 100lb. ‘Moped-style’ e-bikes can reach 120lb.
Full-Suspension e-Mountain-Bikes: Lighter, more expensive models can be as svelte as 37lb, which aids maneuverability on technical trails and jumps. Full-suspension fat bikes can weigh up to 100lb.
Retro-style e-Bikes may have large, sweeping frames. They suit a casual riding style that isn’t radically affected by extra bulk. They often weigh between 55lb and 65lb.
E-Road Bikes are the lightest of all, with an overall weight as low as 19lb. Most sit somewhere between 28lb and 31lb. These trim figures are reflected in the high prices of these bikes.
Electric cargo bikes present the heaviest options, weighing in above 70lb. But these rigs may be capable of carrying as much as 440lb in extra baggage.
$1000 to $1500
Motors at this price range are mostly hub-driven. Frames are usually mid-range aluminum. Disc brakes are standard but are almost always mechanical. Hydraulic disc brakes are just within reach. Some accessories, such as lights and fenders, may be included.
Componentry may be similar to that found on a $350 to $500 pedal-powered bike. Most e-bikes in this range are commuters and city bikes.
$1500 to $2000
In this arena, quality increases. Mid-drive motors become affordable, while many bikes still use hub-driven motors.
Entry-level mid-drive systems enter the fray around $1300 but can be found for as little as $1100. They may be of the ‘bolt-on’ variety and might not use a torque sensor, meaning pedal-assist is less sensitive than on more costly options (where your cranks are driven through the motor).
Frames may be of a lighter, higher-quality aluminum construction. Handy extras include racks, fenders and lights that are integrated into the bike’s electrical system.
$2000 to $3000
In this price range, quality bikes are available with either of the two popular motor types:
- Mid-Drive Motors
- Hub Motors (Rear-Wheel)
$2000 to $3000: Mid-Drive Motor E-Bikes
In this price range, you can choose from a number of reliable mid-drive bikes. Some of the best electric bikes under $3000 are commuters and hybrids with finely-tuned 250 W motors from renown brands like Bosch, Shimano and Brose. They often express around 60Nm to 90Nm of torque.
Some ‘e-MTB lite’ bikes are also configured in a similar way, but with the addition of a suspension fork and knobby tires. These bikes are great for modest off-road paths and gravel. But keep in mind, you’ll have to look to a higher price bracket if you’re seeking a powerful and robust, high-torque electric mountain bike intended for aggressive trail riding.
From $2000 to $3000, you’ll also find chunky fatbikes with mid-range 750 W mid-drive motors from brands like Bafang and Shengyi. Despite being affordable, some of these motors put out 120 Nm of torque (or more). Which is a good thing, because these bikes are heavy.
Most higher-quality, mid-drive motor options in this price range are Class 1 or Class 3 e-bikes, operating under pedal-assist only. These e-bikes don’t have a throttle:
The 750 W fatbikes in this price-range are generally Class 2. They do have a throttle. Be aware of your local legal restrictions before purchasing one, as they are restricted in some areas of some states.
Brakes are almost exclusively hydraulic disc brakes, as they should be, being the most powerful and lowest-maintenance option.
Aluminum, in one word. It provides the balance between manageable weight and affordability that you need, when your bike is kit-out with the extra weight of electric components. Carbon fiber is not yet on the table.
If you’re looking at a good-quality commuter, hybrid or comfort bike, you can expect quite light weights. From 50 lb to 55 lb is average. A fatbike will be around 65 lb, give or take.
Batteries and System Voltage
The svelter mid-drive bikes in this range (high-quality, 250 W), usually run on 36 V systems. You can expect 36V 10.4Ah to 36V 14.0Ah batteries, on average.
Fatbikes rely on a beefier 48 V setup. 48V 10.4Ah to 48V 14.0Ah batteries are common.
A 30 to 50-mile range is average, with Fatbikes on the lower end of the scale.
$2000 to $3000: Hub-Motor E-Bikes
A range of e-bike types are available with hub motors in this price range, including:
- Electric ‘Mopeds’
- Electric Tricycles
- Lightweight Hybrid and Road E-Bikes (Entry-Level)
- ’Long-Distance’ E-Bikes
Nominal motor wattage can vary from 250 W to 1250 W! The heavier bikes (E-Trikes, Fatbikes, Long-Distance, E-Mopeds) are kit-out with the biggest of these, at 750 W to 1250 W.
Lightweight urban bikes intentionally use small hub motors around 250 W. These motors weigh less than entry-level mid-drive motors and are more discrete, on bikes with slim frames and narrow tires.
Many of these bikes are Class 2 e-bikes, with an independent throttle available, allowing acceleration without pedalling.
Lightweight road and hybrid e-bikes are usually Class 1, as owners are opting to provide their own pedal-power, in addition to motor assistance, when they buy this type of e-bike.
Some bikes in this price range exceed the maximum allowable U.S. e-bike speed of 28 mph, making them illegal to use on roads and bike paths. Technically, they are only permitted for use on private land.
You should be getting hydraulic disc brakes on a hub-motor e-bike in this price range. Surprisingly, some $2k-$3k E-Trikes and Fatbikes are still fitted with mechanical disc brakes, despite their significant weight.
Aluminum. Although, if you look hard enough, you can find a lightweight alloy hybrid bike equipped with a carbon fiber fork, in this price bracket.
Hub-motor hybrid and road e-bikes in this price bracket, can weigh less than 30 lb. But these are rare in this price range. Some mid-range bikes that ask a higher-than-usual price are of average weight for an everyday e-bike (mid-50lbs).
But most hub-motor e-bikes between $2-$3k are heavy. Long-distance bikes have big batteries and start around 65 lb. E-Fatbikes are around 65 lb to 80 lb. E-Trikes and electric mopeds are the heftiest, at around 90 lb to 120 lb. Apartment-dwellers, beware!
Batteries and System Voltage
Lightweight road and hybrid bikes can get away with minimal 36 V systems and batteries. 36V 6.9Ah is a popular battery size.
48 V systems are common on electric fatbikes, trikes and some ‘overpowered’ everyday-type e‑bikes. Batteries range from roughly 48 V 12 Ah to 48 V 36 Ah.
52 V setups are seen on electric ‘mopeds’, ‘long-distance’ e-bikes and fatbikes. 52 V 19.2 Ah to 48V 38.4 Ah is a common range for battery size.
Lightweight road and hybrid e-bikes are mellow on the juice. They boast a range of up to 60 mi, by using a combination of lightweight components and relying on pedal assist only. Overspecced everyday e-bikes offer similar ranges, but from much bigger batteries.
For electric fatbikes, manufacturers claim maximum ranges from around 50 mi to 60 mi.
45 mi to 55 mi ranges are claimed by sellers of E-Trikes.
Electric ‘mopeds’ and ‘long-distance’ e-bikes use very large capacity batteries – or dual batteries – to achieve maximum ranges of 75 mi to 190 mi!
Keep in mind that these ‘maximum range estimates’ are usually optimistic. They are based on riding at minimal pedal-assist levels, while using as little throttle as possible.
In the United States, electric bike laws vary massively from state to state. In many areas, electric bikes are classed into three categories. This affects where you can ride your chosen e-bike and how fast you can ride it.
Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes can not be operated by a throttle without applying pedal-power. Throttle-only operation is reserved exclusively for Class 2 bikes.
All classes are limited to a motor size of 750 Watts. E-bikes are not illegal and you needn’t fear that you’re flouting the law by buying and owning one. Local governments and authorities are also users of electric bikes.
Class 1 E-Bikes
Class 1 e-bikes are ‘Pedal Assist’ e-bikes. The electric drive of the bike must be activated through pedaling. The motor will then ‘kick in’ and provide an extra boost.
On Class 1 e-bikes in the United States, assistance from the motor will cut out at 20 mph. Any further acceleration past this speed, will be due to the rider’s own effort.
Most Class 1 e-bikes are sold without a throttle. They may be equipped with a throttle, but this can only operate while the rider is already pedaling. It will not work when there is no input from the rider.
Class 1 e-bikes are permitted to be used in the same areas as regular ‘push-bikes’; streets, bike lanes, bike paths and off-road trails.
Class 2 E-Bikes
On Class 2 electric bikes, the motor can be activated by a throttle, without any pedal assistance.
Many of the best Class 2 electric bikes also have a pedal-assist function.
Electric assistance is limited to 20 mph. Any further acceleration past this speed, will be due to the rider’s own effort. Like Class 1 e-bikes, Class 2 e-bikes are permitted to be ridden in the same areas as regular push-bikes (streets, bike lanes and multiple-use bike paths).
Class 3 E-Bikes
Class 3 e-bikes are ‘Pedal Assist’ e-bikes. The electric drive of the bike must be activated through pedaling. The motor will then ‘kick in’ and provide an extra boost.
The difference between Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes, is that Class 3 e-bikes can reach the higher top speed of 28 mph. Any further acceleration past this speed, will be due to the rider’s own effort.
Many Class 3 e-bikes are sold without a throttle. In some states, Class 3 e-bikes can not have a throttle fitted. In certain states, they may be equipped with a throttle, but it can only assist the rider to a speed of 20 mph and can only operate while the rider is already pedaling. It will not work when there is no input from the rider.
In most states, Class 3 e-bikes are permitted to travel on roads and on-road bicycle lanes. You can think of your Class 3 e-bike as an on-road vehicle that is designed to keep pace with motorized urban traffic.
While laws vary from state to to state, in many regions of the United States, Class 3 e-bikes are not permitted to be used in all the same areas as Class 1 e-bikes and regular ‘push-bikes’. Many states forbid Class 3 e-bikes from being ridden on multi-use and bike-only paths. In a number of states, they are not allowed to be used on off-road trails.
Additionally, a number of states will only allow riders over a certain age (usually 16), to ride a Class 3 e-bike. In certain states, wearing a helmet is compulsory for Class 3 e-bike riders.
It is strongly recommended that you check your local laws before deciding that a Class 3 e-bike is for you.
It’s best to check your local laws before purchasing an electric bike. This is especially true when you are ordering a bike online, as it may be tuned to match the laws of another state or country.
When you have access to e-bikes in this price range, you are looking at reliable options with quality name-brand components, that can be easily replaced or upgraded. There’s no need to compromise, when you can afford a smooth-riding mid-drive motor bike.
E-bikes are a great way to ride for longer distances and at higher speeds. They allow many cyclists to make that long-distance commute to work, while leaving their car in the garage.
In recent years, e-bikes have revealed themselves as one of the fastest-growing transport solutions in built-up metropolitan areas, worldwide. They also have their own dedicated professional racing events.
Whatever your reason for choosing to go electric; shop around, choose wisely and ride on!
- See our reviews and guide to Electric Bikes in all price ranges.
- Have questions about which bike to choose? Ask in our Forum.
- Want to win a bike instead of buying one? See our bike Giveaway.
- Find out more about BikeRide.
- Energuide.be, How Long Does the Battery of My Electric Bike Last?
- Micah Toll, Electric Bicycle Hub Motors vs. Mid-Drive Motors
- Jim Turner, What Is Torque in an Electric Bike?
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Monthly Update
- Micah Toll, The Myth of Ebike Wattage
- Electric Bike Review, What Are Electric Bike Classes and Why Do They Matter?
- Transportation Insight for Vibrant Communities, Electric Bicycle Laws by State
- NITC, Regulations of E-Bikes in North America
- People for Bikes, State by State E-Bike Guides
- Gaston Daigle, Electric Bike Batteries Explained
- Reece Stevenson, Electric Bike Batteries & Motors – Everything You Need to Know