A battery-powered motor lets you enjoy most of the benefits of biking, without all the sweat.

The concurrent crises of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change have prompted many of us to rethink how we live our daily lives. For millions of Americans, that included hopping on an ebike, whether we rented one from a bike-share or bought our own. 

For years, electric bicycles were bulky, inconvenient, expensive machines whose usefulness (and battery life) was limited. Slowly, that has changed. Ebikes are now lighter, more attractive, and more powerful than ever. You dont need to be physically fit to ride one. It gets you outside, reduces fossil fuels, reduces congestion, and its fun

Over the past few years, my fellow Gear writers and I have tried almost every kind of electric bike, from the best heavy-duty cargo bikes to high-end mountain bikes. Were always testing new bicycles, so if you dont see one you like now, check back later (or drop me a note!). Once you get one, check out our favorite biking accessories, bike locks, and gear for a bikepacking adventure.

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Updated August 2021: Weve reorganized our guide for clarity, added new models like the LeMond Prolog, added a list of honorable mentions, and removed older models.

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    It Costs What Now? 

    How to Finance Your Bike

    If youre shopping for a bike, you may have noticed increased pricing this year. Multiple factors, including the pandemic, have complicated the global supply chain, and exemptions on a 25 percent tariff on all ebike imports have recently expired. Weve done our best to include lower-priced options. 

    We know ebikes are expensive, but we think of them as vehicles, not toys—you want a ride you can trust when youre carrying your kids to school or flying down a hill at 25 mph with only a helmet for protection. 

    Reasonable financing options are the only reason why a $2,000 electric bike can feel prohibitively expensive yet a $6,000 beater gas-powered car has easy monthly payments. Many bike manufacturers and retailers do offer financing through companies like Affirm or Paypal. Your bank might cover ebikes under its vehicle loan program, and some utility companies even offer cash incentives to purchase ebikes. We might not have federal ebike tax credits (yet), but you may have more options than you think. 

  • Photograph: Cannondale

    Best for Most People

    Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ

    If youre hunting for a bike for commuting, with all the bells and whistles that you dont have to assemble yourself, the Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ (8/10, Wired Recommends) is a great pick. Cannondale is a big manufacturer, so its bikes come with a large support network of affiliated retailers and shops.

    This model comes with built-in lights, a rack, and fenders. It also has a reliable Bosch 250-watt mid-drive motor, a lighter aluminum frame, and built-in seat suspension for a comfy ride. It might be a little underpowered in comparison to cruisers. But its also remarkably quiet, and our tester found no problem taking it up hills or along rough roads. 

    ★ Alternative: Every bike manufacturer has a step-through intro cruiser this year. Some alternatives include the Turbo Como SL ($4,800), which beats the Adventure Neo series on looks alone, but the price is preposterous. Electra is owned by Trek, and its bikes have what it calls Flat Foot design. You can comfortably put your feet flat down on the ground while stopped, without having to make your seat uncomfortably low.

  • Photograph: Rad Power Bikes

    Best Utility Bike

    Rad Power Bikes RadRunner

    Its been years since I first reviewed it, but this is still the bike that most people that I know buy. Its also the bike that I see the most often around my hometown of Portland, Oregon. It has a seemingly magic blend of affordability and usefulness. Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes ships direct to consumers. The bikes have custom hub-motor drivetrains, a 120-pound-capacity rack, and big, stable Kenda tires. It works as both a comfy beach cruiser or a commuter bike for kids. 

    ★ Alternative:  Rad Power Bikes recently updated its flagship RadRover 6 Plus ($1,999), which has a custom-geared motor, fat tires, and a semi-integrated battery that pops in and out more easily than any other battery Ive tried. I rode it but havent had the chance to do long-term testing; it looks like a promising upgrade.

  • Photograph: Propella 

    Best Affordable Ebike

    Propella 7-Speed (V3.4)

    Unless youre already an ebike enthusiast, you probably want one thats not too expensive, and that means as close to $1,000 as possible. Thats a hard proposition if you want a reliable motor and a frame that wont buckle at 15 mph.

    Propellas 7-speed (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the best cheap bike weve found. Reviewer Parker Hall notes that it has trustworthy components like a Samsung battery and Shimano disc brakes, plus nifty accessories like a cool suspension seat. It ships directly to you, which is handy if youd like to avoid a bike shop. Propella updates its bikes every few months. Since it is a direct-to-consumer bike, were just warning you that your local shop might have issues repairing it.

  • Photograph: LeMond

    The Hot New Bike

    LeMond Bikes Prolog

    This year, the bike that has generated the most interest has been Greg LeMonds all-carbon-fiber electric bike series. The Prolog is its daily commuter. With its insanely light frame, stunning matte paint job, and fancy-schmancy custom-designed fenders, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a luxury bike. 

    But never fear: This is a working bike. It has reliable components made by well-known manufacturers—a one-button Mahle drive system, a Shimano gravel-specific gearing system, Panaracer gravel tires—that make it durable, versatile, and easy to repair. And you can move screamingly-fast when your electric bike is lighter than an acoustic bike. Just a heads-up: The LeMond website can be wonky, so you might want to call them directly. 

    ★ Alternative: Theres a whole bike shop in Portland, Oregon, thats devoted solely to selling my other favorite bike, the Turbo Vado SL (9/10, WIRED Recommends). Since its made by one of the bigger manufacturers, this might be a more convenient and readily available choice.

  • Photograph: Rad Power Bikes 

    Best Cargo Bike

    Rad Power Bikes RadWagon 4

    The latest version of the RadWagon underwent a tip-to-tail redesign that makes it much lower to the ground and easier to maneuver, with smaller, fatter tires that are designed in-house by Rad Power Bikes (they are, frankly, awesome) and Vee Tire Co. Its affordable and one of the few bikes I tested with a throttle, which comes in handy when you have to haul bike, baby, and gear across a street quickly.

    The RadWagon 4 is the only bike that has arced on me. A dangerous electrical current jumped the gap between the wires when I tried to plug in the battery. The display was cracked, which Rad cited as the probable cause. Id recommend storing the bike in an outdoor shed if possible, and also having one of Rads service partners take a look at it if you choose to assemble it yourself.

  • Photograph: Tern

    Best Luxe Cargo Bike

    Tern GSD S00 LX

    Terns GSD series makes me wonder why I put my children on any other bike. This is the bike that I spent my own money on and that I ride every day. The top-of-the-line Bosch Cargo Line motor surges forward effortlessly, controlled by an Enviolo shifter that lets me change gears even at a standstill. It can fit riders as short as 4 9, and the rack is low to the ground. It has a weatherproof belt drive, a cushy suspension seat post, an integrated Abus wheel lock, and a locking kickstand, which comes in handy when your 6-year-old throws her weight forward to knock the bike off the stand so she can try to ride off without you. 

    Terns accessories are also the best Ive tried. This year, it debuted the Clubhouse+, a passenger system that fits its Storm Shield canopy. It works much more like a convenient, durable, windproof tent than the flimsy, plastic-tarp-like rain covers Ive tried before. No more children complaining about rain prickling their faces! Unfortunately, its heinously expensive. Tern does sell GSD models without as many features or upgrades for slightly less.

  • Photograph: Urban Arrow 

    Best Cargo Bike for Families

    Urban Arrow Family Electric Cargo Bike

    The R & M Load used to be my top pick for a bakfiets, a Dutch-style front-box cargo bicycle. However, the Urban Arrow Family (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is cheaper—and not by a little—and offers many of the same features that attracted me to the Load, like comfort and maneuverability. It doesnt have suspension, though, so its best for smoother streets.

    I love the Enviolo continuously variable shifters, which allow you to downshift while the bike is at a standstill. Rather than wobbling and terrifying my children as I frantically downshift while pedaling, I can use walk assistance to push the bike to a convenient spot, downshift while standing still, and then pedal upward at the torque and power level of my choice. With this system, Ive beaten people uphill who werent riding cargo bikes. The Bosch Performance motor is currently out of stock, but the version with the more powerful Bosch Cargo Line motor is available.

  • Photograph: Batch Bicycles

    Best Commuter Bike

    Batch E-Bike

    This is the Honda Civic of ebikes (8/10, WIRED Recommends). Rather than spend money on fancy extras like a suspension seat post or integrated light-up display, Batch spent it where it counts—on a high-end Bosch drivetrain, Shimano components, and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. Its not a particularly exciting ride, and it might be boring to look at. Youll also have to buy your own lights. But its reliable, not too spendy, and will take you there and back for as long as you need it.

    Several of us on the Gear team have been on the hunt for the cheapest, most reliable daily commuter ebike. Weve tried many strong contenders, and this came out on top.

  • Photograph: Montague

    The Best Folding Bike

    Montague M-E1

    Reviews editor Julian Chokkattu called the M-E1 “pretty darn close to perfection” in his review (9/10, WIRED Recommends). Folding bikes are a convenient device for apartment dwellers, but theyre usually tiny. Chokkattu is 6 4 and looks like a happy clown when he valiantly pedals around on most of them. 

    The M-E1 is full-size and virtually indistinguishable from a non-folding bike. It has solid components from reliable manufacturers, like a Shimano mid-drive motor, a comfortable seat, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and all the bells and whistles—integrated lights, fenders, a removable battery, and an easy-to-read display. Most importantly, Chokkattu can ride it around without dying from embarrassment—always a plus.

  • Photograph: Lectric

    A More Affordable Folding Ebike

    Lectric Ebikes Lectric XP 2.0

    WIRED Editor Julian Chokkattu likes the original Lectric XP (7/10, WIRED Recommends). For a folding bike, its not super convenient for apartment dwellers. It weighs 63 pounds and is heavy to carry up and down stairs. He also finds the folding system a little awkward, and you have to leave the key in the battery for it to work. But the 500-watt rear hub motor offers plenty of assistance, and the fat tires are a smooth ride. It also comes with a lot of accessories, like a rear rack, fenders, an integrated display, and integrated front and rear lights. 

    The newer Lectric XP 2.0 doesnt change the motor or battery but improves ride comfort. That includes a front-wheel suspension, mounting points for racks, wider handlebars, and IP65 water resistance. At $999, thats not a bad deal at all.

  • Photograph: Specialized

    Best Electric Mountain Bike

    Specialized Mens Turbo Levo Comp

    While many towns have restrictions on whether electric bikes are even allowed on single-track (thin) trails, reviewer Stephanie Pearson had a blast on Specializeds first pedal-assisted mountain bike (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It has a stiff, asymmetric frame thats longer in the front, to make pounding the downhills feel smooth and safe, as well as a 500-watt motor with Smart Control, which means you dont have to adjust assistance when riding. It feels just as fun as a non-electric bike.

  • Photograph: VanMoof

    The Bike Everyone Asks About

    VanMoof S3 and X3

    The bike that most people ask me about is the VanMoof. I dont really like them, but not because of the ride: Every piece is locked down, proprietary, and hard to fix on your own. Although it recently expanded its presence in the US, VanMoof shops are still found in only a few cities. But my colleague Matt Jancer really likes them. Both the S3 and X3 come at a very good price point for everything thats included (lights, rack, built-in alarms, the whole shebang), and theyre incredibly stylish. The floating rack and sleek button are both pretty cool. The two are different in size, with the S3 accommodating taller riders. Just pray you never have to repack it and ship it to New York for repairs.

    ★ Alternative Bike: The Priority Current ($3,299), has a lot of low-maintenance features that we love, like a Gates Carbon belt drive, integrated lights, and either an Enviolo hub or Shimano shifters. Unlike the VanMoof bike, these features are easy for most mechanics to repair. Im riding it now, and I like it but not quite enough to recommend it above some of our other picks.

  • Photograph: Brompton Electric 

    Honorable Mentions

    Other Ebikes We Like To Bike

    We tried a lot of bikes over the past year. Here are the ones that didnt get their own spot above but deserve a mention:

  • Photograph: Civilized Cycles

    Electric Bikes We Dislike

    Pass on the Left

    We love to try new bikes. Unfortunately, the bikes dont always like us. 

    • The Civilized Cycle for $6,500: This bike can carry a full-grown person on the back and is a good option for people who want Vespa-like style without having to get a scooter license. However, it doesnt fit anyone shorter than 5 10. Ooohkay.
    • The Harley Serial 1 for $5,599: Our review is forthcoming, but Jancer said that the transmission felt wonky, the headlights and display werent well-integrated, and it just didnt justify the price tag.
    • The Izip Vibe 2.0 for $2,300: This is a general point, but the Izip is just one of several D2C models that have arrived at my house damaged in transit. Its extremely annoying to ship back an item this big, and with low and variable stock, its hard to replace. If you want an affordable D2C, I would suggest a Rad Power Bike or another manufacturer that has an established support network.
  • Photograph: Getty Images

    Advice to Keep in Mind

    Understanding Electric Bike Specs

    Just like any bike, electric bikes come with a ton of technical specs that you may or may not care about. One that I do care about is the drive.

    What kind of drive does your bike have? 

    • Hub Motor Drives are on more affordable ebikes, where the motor is in the hub of the bikes wheel.
    • Mid-drive motors, like Bosch and Shimano systems, are in the center of the bike and transfer the power to the wheel via the chain. Mid-drive motors feel more natural as you pedal but may require more maintenance.

    If you live in an area thats wet or hilly, its worth shelling out for a 500-watt or 750-watt motor and a few extras, like hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes, which will help prevent you and your cargo from skidding into traffic. If you have a longer commute, you may also want to look for a dual-battery system, as the range on most ebike batteries is 30 to 50 miles.

    Where can it be repaired?

    Direct-to-consumer brands are becoming more popular, but many local bike shops wont work on them. I prefer bikes with bigger dealer networks that have more widely available parts and better customer support, and honestly they tend to ride a little better.

  • Photograph: Patarapol Tularak/Getty Images

    Ebike Classifications and Rules

    Check Your Local Laws

    Before you buy your electric bike, make sure you can actually use it! Many cities and states have laws regulating when and where you can ride an ebike. Check out our guide on the three classes of ebikes. At least 22 states now use this three-class system, and they may restrict when and where different classes of ebikes are used depending on whether they have a throttle or can assist above 20 mph. Cities may also have laws about whether mountain ebikes are allowed on single-track trails.

    If your state classifies ebikes under the same laws governing motorcycles and mopeds, you may need a license to ride one. And no matter what, always wear a helmet.

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Adrienne So is a senior associate reviews editor for WIRED and reviews consumer technology. She graduated from the University of Virginia with bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, and she worked as a freelance writer for Cool Hunting, Paste, Slate, and other publications. She is currently based in Portland, Oregon.

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