E-bikes—bicycles that you can pedal but that also have electric motors to deliver a boost any time you want—used to be heavy and ungainly, but thanks to updated technology, they now are sleek and surprisingly light. You can rely on the electric power for up to 100 miles per charge, and you can go 20 miles per hour (mph) or faster with electric assist. You probably have at least one neighbor with an e-bike—US sales doubled last year.
These bikes are not for exercise slackers, either—most models provide electric assist only when you are pedaling, and research shows that they encourage exercise. They charge in about four or five hours from any standard household outlet. The price, though, is closer to that of mopeds than most regular bicycles. To get a reliable ride, you’ll want to spend $2,800 to $3,000…and if your goal is high speed or carrying a lot of cargo, expect to spend $4,000 or more.
Before buying any electric bike, consider whether you’ll primarily use it as a general-purpose recreational ride…or to commute, go on long tours, carry cargo or children or even to go off-roading. Also, think about whether you would like a model that gives you power without pedaling. Here are five excellent e-bikes for different needs…
Best affordable, dependable electric bike: Cannondale Quick NEO. This is the Honda Accord of electric bikes—reliable and not too expensive. Maximum electric-assist speed/range: 20 mph/50 miles. $2,799.99.* Cannondale.com
Best for speed: Specialized Turbo Vado 6.0. The Porsche of e-bikes, the Turbo Vado 6.0 can attain speeds up to 28 mph with electric assist. Electric-assist range: 25 miles in “turbo” (high speed) mode, 50 miles in “eco” (battery-saving) mode. $4,800. Specialized.com
Best for carrying cargo or kids: Tern GSD. You can carry multiple shopping bags and/or up to two young children in child seats—totaling 400 pounds, rider included. Unlike other cargo-carrying e-bikes, the Tern GSD’s center of gravity is low, making it easier to pilot when loaded. Maximum electric-assist speed/range: 20 mph/150 miles. $3,999. TernBicycles.com
Best for comfort: Riese & Müller Swing. Riese & Müller includes suspension on both wheels of most models for an impressively smooth ride, but its Swing model adds suspension under the seat as well. Maximum electric-assist speed/range: 20 mph/100 miles. $4,209. R-M.De/en-us
Best if you don’t always want to pedal: Elby S1 9-Speed. With this e-bike, you can get an assist while you’re pedaling and can stop pedaling and let the motor do all the work or use the active-regeneration mode to charge the battery while you ride. Maximum electric-assist speed/range: 20 mph/90 miles. $2,999.99. ElbyBike.com
*Prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail prices. Maximum electric-assist ranges are estimates.