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Best types of electric bikes compared

Cyclist magazine
15 Jun 2021

Think all electric bikes are the same? Think again - we look at the best options out there, especially for those wanted to cycle to work

E-bikes are the future of cycling. The technical developments made in recent years mean that electric motors are becoming lighter, more efficient and less expensive.

Making them more available to the average punter, it's not that the e-bike will replace the normal bike - just that it will offer another solution to commuters, older riders and those less confident on the open roads.

There has never been a wider selection of models to choose from if you're thinking of going electric. Yet how to tell them apart and decide which is the right type of e-bike for you can be a bit of a minefield.

We've hand-picked a range of bikes that offer the best electric benefits combined with traditional qualities you should always look for in a bike, like value for money, comfort, performance and versatility.

Covering everything from drop handlebar road bikes to gnarly full-suspension mountain bikes via touring and hybrid models, they prove that if you want it, the future is definitely electric.  

For an alternative view on the best electric bikes, visit our sister site Driving Electric

Here are seven key styles of electric bikes to look out for

The hybrid electric bike: BMC Alpenchallenge Amp AL Cross

As well suited to the daily commute as it is to off-road larks at the weekend

Buy now from ElectricRider for £2,800

Frame: Hydroformed aluminium, rigid alloy fork Display: Shimano STEPS Gearing: Shimano Deore 10-speed, 48t x 11-46t Motor: Shimano STEPS Drive E-6100 Brakes: Shimano MT400 hydraulic Wheels: Formula with 42c Resolute tyres Weight: 18.7kg

About the bike: As part of BMC’s versatile commuter range, the Alpenchallenge is equally well suited to the daily commute in town or long weekend rides on country trails, with electric assist to keep you going for up to 150km.

A lightweight hydroformed alloy frame features many neat practical touches including internal cabling to keep the bike looking slick and keep its gears shifting smoothly. At the same time, the unusual vertical integration of the Shimano battery and motor unit is among the slickest looking we’ve seen. 

Display: Shimano’s Steps E6010 display provides standard bike computer functions such as speed and distance, as well as indicating the remaining battery life/range and which operating mode you are currently using.

Motor and battery: Electric-assist comes from Shimano’s Steps bottom bracket-mounted motor, which claims to be one of the lightest on the market at 3.2kg.

The down tube-mounted battery is a relatively svelte 2,660g and its sizable 504Wh capacity promises a maximum range of 96km.

As well as the low weight, the low down and central placement of the drive parts (some e-bikes place the battery on a rack, adding more weight to the rear end) ensures minimal effect on handling.

A full recharge takes four and a half hours and as with all the bikes we’ve featured, a charging port means no need to remove the battery from the bike.

Frame: Constructed of hydroformed multi-butted aluminium, the frame tubing is shaped for improved comfort in areas such as the seatstays, and uses different thicknesses of metal for optimum strength to weight ratio.

The bike’s rigid fork might lack the smoothness and comfort provided by a suspension model. However, it’s far lighter and removes an item that can require significant and expensive servicing in its own right.

Components: The 10-speed shifters and mechs are from Shimano’s sturdy Deore MTB groupset. 

A single 38-tooth chainring and incredibly wide-ranging 11-48t cassette combine with the electric assist to make this a bike equally suitable for rolling effortlessly over the hills or zipping along on flatter terrain.

The MT400 hydraulic disc brakes are reliable stoppers, paired with 160mm rotors front and rear. Own-brand wheels produced by Formula are fitted with knobbly WTB resolute tyres, which promise to be fairly quick on the tarmac and are also very capable on loose surfaces.

Buy now from ElectricRider for £2,800

The folding electric bike: Brompton M2L Electric 

The classic London-built folding bike now with added electrical assist. 

Buy now from Pure Electric for £2,725

Frame: Steel Display: Battery shows charge level Gearing: 2-speed Motor: Williams-made front hub Brakes: Calliper Wheels: 16-inch with Schwalbe Marathon tyres Weight: 16.6 kg

About the bike: A commuter's most trusted accomplice, no bike folds faster or more neatly than a Brompton. Making it easy to hop on a train with, store at home or drag inside with you, it’s changed the way people commute.

Based around a simple steel frame, and built to last decades of use, the company had been slow to embrace the move to electrification.

Or more correctly, they took their time doing it. Having teamed up with F1 firm Williams to make the hub motor, the rest of the parts are retrofitted to the bike, making sure the Brompton continues to work as you’d expect, just with extra power. 

Display: The custom Samsung lithium-ion power pack that drives the Brompton sits in the space normally allotted to the bike’s front pannier.

With five LEDs showing you the charge remaining, there’s a shoulder strap for easy carrying, plus some extra storage built-in. What it doesn’t provide is any clever Bluetooth or smart app connectivity.  

Motor and battery: With the narrow hub having been years in development, its narrow body produces 250 watts. Coupled to the battery, this gives a range of between 30km to 70km depending on the terrain and your level of effort.

Charge time from flat is around four hours, although the additional fast charger can cut this down to approximately two and a half hours. Popping instantly off the bike, it’s easy to remove the battery for charging or detach it when locking up the bike.

Weighing 2.9kg it’s at the lighter end of the spectrum, something echoed in its moderate rather than rangey 300Wh capacity. 

Frame: This is all classic Brompton, with just a few reinforcements to deal with the extra oomph of the drive system.

Made of steel and sporting a pivoting rear triangle and two hinges, 10 seconds is all it takes to squash the bike down into a cube measuring 56cm high, 58cm wide, and 27cm long. 

Components: Each Brompton can be custom-built by mixing together different handlebar types with 1, 2, 3 or 6-speed gearing, plus different accessories and colour schemes. We particularly like this M2L which comes with standard upright bars, 2-speed gearing and mudguards.

Designed for day-in-day-out use, most of the components on the bike are specific to Brompton, all models of which sport diminutive 16-inch wheels. 

Read our full review here

Buy now from Pure Electric for £2,725

The electric cargo bike: Tern HSD P9

A space-saving cargo bike that’ll replace a car and can be configured for almost any task 

Buy now from Tredz for £3,400

Frame: Aluminium with folding handlebar Display: Bosch Purion, 4-mode selectable Gearing: Shimano Alivio 9-speed Motor: Bosch Active Line Plus Brakes: Shimano hydraulic disc Wheels: 20-inch with Schwalbe Big Apple tyres Weight: 25.7kg

About the bike: A radical cargo bike with all the carry capacity but with reduced sweat and a tiny footprint. The 20-inch wheeled Tern HSD P9 Electric Cargo Bike features a foldable handlebar stem, an easy to drop saddle and a custom platform rack; features which combine to allow it to be stored upright so as to take up a minimum of space.

Despite this, it’s configurable to carry multiple passengers, plus a huge amount of cargo. The centrepiece in a range that features child seats, front racks, and various panniers from brands like Thule, Yepp and Bobike, it aims to be a viable alternative to a car in multiple situations. 

Display: Using Bosch’s Active Line Plus drive system, this comes with the brand’s Purion display, a minimalist unit that focuses on covering the basics. With two buttons, it shows charge status, speed, riding mode, range, trip distance, total distance in an easy to read format, while also allowing diagnostic services via its micro-USB port.

Motor and battery: The third generation of Bosch’s Active Line Plus drive system provides four levels of assistance, along with a walking mode. Using a central mid-style motor, this is powered by a removable 400Wh battery that’s enclosed towards the back of the frame.

Allowing for easy switching, or removable for charging, the standard pack provides a claimed range of up to 110 km. With the charge remaining displayed on the head unit, separate LED indicators on the battery also show charge when removed from the bike. 

Frame: The normal problem with cargo bikes is the huge amount of space they require to store. Yet, with its ability to instantly pack down to 163 x 40 x 86cm, the Tern is not only compact but can also stand upright.

Allowing it to fit into most households, its 25.7kg weight is also easily manoeuvrable. Made of aluminium, the frame comes in a single size, but clever adjustability makes it able to accommodate riders ranging in height from 150 to 195cm. 

Components: Rolling on small 20-inch wheels, these are wrapped in sizeable Schwalbe Big Apple tyres. Further improving comfort and multi-terrain ability is a custom Suntour suspension fork.

Avoiding the twanginess that can sometimes plague bikes carrying large loads, front and rear bolt-thru axles help stiffen the bike’s chassis. Given the weight it can carry, it’s nice to find quality Shimano hydraulic disc brakes fitted to slow everything down when needed. At the same time, its simple 9-speed Alivio gearing is unlikely to let you down either. 

Buy now from Tredz for £3,400 

The compact electric bike: GoCycle G4i

Lightweight and practical, the GoCycle G4i is as futuristic as it looks

Buy now from Velorution for £3,999

Frame: 6061 T6 aluminium front frame, caron fibre mid-frame Display: Integrated dashboard display Gearing: Gocycle electronic predictive shifting, Shimano Nexus 3 Motor: Gocycle proprietary motor gear drive, 250w continuous Transmissions: Patented Cleandrive Shimano Nexus 3-speed Brakes: Hydraulic disc Wheels:  Magnesium alloy Weight: 16.6kg

About the bike: The Gocycle has been parading its highly distinctive looks on city streets since 2009, and this latest generation G4i further refines an already stylish and innovative design.

Although not as small as some folders, the GoCycle can be stowed to accompany you on public transport or stashed at home or at the office. Made of a mix of carbon fibre, aluminium and magnesium, its low weight makes it easy to carry when not riding.

Display: A simple LED display on the handlebars shows battery level, driving mode, speed and gear position.

There’s also a dedicated smartphone app that allows you to choose from one of four preset riding modes or set up your own custom mode to fine-tune the level of motor assistance.

The app also monitors the bike’s battery level and includes further bike computer functions such as trip odometer.

Motor and battery: The Gocycle’s hub-drive motor is housed in the front wheel.

A pedal torque sensor monitors rider input to adjust the power assist level, which varies depending on the selected driving mode.

The integrated 375Wh battery promises a range of up to 50 miles. A full charge takes 3.5 hours thanks to the new fast charger.

Frame: Gocycle’s creator, Richard Thorpe, came from a background in designing lightweight parts for McLaren racing cars and his expertise shows in a very streamlined frame.

The battery is concealed inside the single main beam, while the chain is hidden inside the single chainstay – which means no external greasy parts.

With the fork also being a single-leg design, removing wheels for storage is quick and easy. A low centre of gravity aims to make the bike agile and responsive to ride.

Although the Gocycle comes in only one size, handlebars are adjustable for height and reach. Along with the ‘Vgonomic’ adjustable seatpost, this should ensure a comfortable fit.

Components: A Shimano Nexus 3-speed rear hub keeps all the workings internal for low maintenance, and predictive electronic shifting ensures you are never in the wrong gear – for example when pulling away from traffic lights.

Three gears may not sound a lot but are plenty for getting around town – and the electric assist should help you make short work of any hills.

Hydraulic disc brakes give excellent stopping power in all conditions, while daylight running lights with a wide-angle beam are built into the handlebars to increase rider visibility. 

Buy now from Velorution for £3,999

The racer electric bike: Giant Road-E+

Giant's Road-E+ both looks and performs the part of a proper road bike, but with added power

Buy now from Tredz for £3,799

Frame: SL-Grade aluminium frame, carbon fork Display: Giant RideControl Plus Gearing: Shimano 105 2x11-speed Motor: Giant SyncDrive Pro Brakes: Shimano 105 hydraulic disc Wheels: Giant PR-2, Maxxis Re-Fuse 32c tyres 

About the bike: If you don’t want to look out of place on the Sunday club ride but also don’t want to get dropped on the hills, the Giant Road-E+ could be just the bike for you.

It’s perhaps hardly surprising that one of the world’s biggest bike brands led the way in bringing e-bike technology to those who prefer tarmac to trails, and the Road-E was one of first on the market that looked like a traditional drop-handlebar racer.

This latest version promises a lively and exhilarating ride to match its looks, too, helping you extend your road adventures.

Display: The handlebar-mounted display has the familiar look of a traditional bike computer, albeit with the difference that the data on display includes driving mode (Power, Normal or Eco) and battery level, as well as the more usual functions such as speed, distance and cadence.

A switch unit next to the display allows you to adjust the power level as you ride.

Motor and battery: Mounted in the bottom bracket, the SyncDrive Pro motor produces an impressive 80Nm of torque, controlled by Giant’s own PedalPlus 4-sensor technology to provide an instant response when you need it – whether that’s pulling away from traffic lights at low speed, or giving your legs that bit of extra assistance when the gradient turns upwards.

The EnergyPak 375Wh lithium battery is neatly integrated into the down tube for a slick appearance to match its impressive output.

It should keep you going for mile after mile – just don’t get carried away using Power mode to burn your way up alpine cols!

Frame: Although the aluminium frame looks superficially similar to some of Giant’s conventional road bike models, it’s been designed from scratch to cope with the extra power and weight of e-bikes.

This means longer, beefier chainstays, for example, and a taller head tube for more stable handling.

As with Giant’s other alloy bikes, hydroforming is used to optimise tube profiles for strength-to-weight and comfort. Mounts for mudguards and a rack add to the bike’s versatility and practicality.

Components: Most of the parts will be familiar to road cyclists. Shimano’s excellent Ultegra shifters and hydraulic disc brakes are a welcome sight, while front and rear mechs and cassette come from the same range.

The chainset is a custom Giant model designed to integrate with the motor assist.

Wheels are Giant’s own brand disc-specific models and they come shod with hard-wearing and grippy Maxxis tyres in a fat 32mm size, which should ensure a comfortable ride. Both are also ready to go tubeless. 

Buy now from Tredz for £3,799

The e-MTB electric bike: Scott Genius eRIDE 910 

Full suspension and a powerful motor make the Scott Genius eRide a true go-anywhere bike

Buy now from Pure Electric for £5,549

Frame: Genius eRide Alloy, FOX 36 Rhythm Air fork Display: Bosch Motor: Bosch Performance CX Gearing: Sram NX Eagle, 12-speed 11-50t Brakes: Shimano BRT520 Wheels: Syncros X-30s Tubeless-ready rims, Schwalbe tyres Weight: 23.3kg

About the bike: You’ll know Scott from its high-end road bikes, as used by the likes of top Brit pros Adam and Simon Yates, but it's also a big name in MTB and e-bikes, too.

The eRide range aims to bring those two worlds together, adding electric assist technology to a highly capable off-road package.

Radically redesigned for 2020, the range now features the latest Bosch Performance Line motors for greater control and smoother power assist.

Display: The Bosch system includes a compact head unit mounted on the handlebars to display all the information you need, from gear selection, battery level and remaining range to standard bike computer functions like speed and distance.

A compact remote switching unit makes adjusting power assist level intuitive and easy to use while riding.

Motor and battery: The latest generation of the eRide has seen Bosch take over from Shimano as motor and battery supplier.

The German firm's bottom bracket-mounted motor offers high torque at low cadences than its predecessor – ideal for grinding up steep inclines – as well as kicking in smoothly when needed and cutting off quickly when the rider stops pedalling, providing greater control on technical sections.

The battery has also been increased to an impressive 625Wh capacity and is integrated neatly into the down tube. It's also possible to increase its capacity to a huge 1125Wh via the addition of an extra PowerTube unit.

Frame: This is a true go-anywhere bike, the sturdy custom-butted aluminium tubing is fitted with full suspension. The custom-tuned fork has three modes to suit different terrains, with up to an enormous 150mm travel for the roughest trails.

Able to be adjusted or locked-out with the flick of a switch, the frame is equally versatile and can accommodate either 29-inch or 27+ wheel sizes. 

Components: Sram's Eagle NX drivetrain promises reliable performance along with a huge 11-50t cassette. With the hydraulic brakes provided by Shimano, their twin-piston callipers are partnered with big 200mm rotors which should make stopping easy even on the sharpest descents.

Finishing kit is all provided by Scott’s own Syncros brand. The dropper seatpost is a feature that will be familiar to mountain bikers, allowing you to lower the saddle level at the flick of a handlebar-mounted switch.

Buy now from Pure Electric for £5,549

The Tourer electric bike: Sduro Trekking 5.0

Practical, versatile, and powerful. The Sduro Trekking 5.0 is set for the long haul

Buy now from Pure Electric for £2,699

Frame: Hydroformed 6061 Aluminium, SR Suntour NCX-EBLO fork Display: Yamaha Multifunction LCD Motor: Yamaha PW-System Gearing: Shimano Deore XT 2x10-speed Brakes: Shimano Deore XT hydraulic Wheels: Rodi Black Rock Disc rims, Schwalbe Tyrago tyres Weight: 23.2kg

About the bike: The Sduro Trekking is designed for going the distance, whether that’s a long weekend ride in the country or a multi-day fully loaded tour.

Mudguards and a rack fitted as standard, as well as integrated front and rear lights, show that this is a bike designed with practicality and versatility in mind, and the bike’s all-terrain capabilities make it equally suitable for smooth roads or more challenging country trails.

Display: Information on the system’s operation is provided via a neat, compact LCD display which can be mounted on the bars in different positions to best suit your needs, and is operated by a remote-control switch.

As well as allowing you to select your support level (High, Standard, Eco, Eco+), it also displays battery level, range, speed and distance travelled, as well as operating the integrated lights.

Motor and battery: The Sduro uses the powerful and reliable Yamaha PW Drive Unit, which promises both a compact size and low noise.

Producing up to a maximum of 80Nm torque, its Zero-Cadence system will kick in as soon as you start pedalling, providing power assistance from a standing start.

The Yamaha lithium-ion battery has a generous capacity of 500Wh, which should keep you going for hours on end.

Frame: The centrepiece of the 6061 alloy frame is a custom cast aluminium motor interface, where all the most important parts of the bike come together: engine mount down tube and battery.

As the solid heart of the bike, it provides the stability needed to keep you riding smoothly over rough ground.

At the front end, the Suntour suspension fork provides 63mm travel to further improve stability and comfort when riding over rougher ground.

Components: Shimano Deore XT is a reliable high-end MTB groupset and provides most of the parts of the Sduro’s transmission.

Gearing ratios are selected to cover a wide variety of terrain and gradients, with an 11-36 cassette and 48/36 chainset.

Hydraulic disc brakes use 180mm rotors, which are larger than you’d find on a typical road bike, providing greater torque to help bring the bike’s increased weight to a halt smoothly and safely.

The integrated AXA Blueline headlight provides 30 lux of illumination on the road ahead (plenty for seeing your way on unlit roads), while the matching rear light keeps you visible from behind.

The 42mm-wide Michelin Protek tyres will keep their footing over even the roughest trails.

Buy now from Pureelectric for £2,699

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