The quiet, sometimes clunky but always fast e-bike is taking over the urban landscape. If you live in a city, there’s no doubt that your life has been impacted by the slow rise of these vehicles. Perhaps you’ve never seen one or even heard the term “e-bike” before, but it’s more than likely that you’ve received takeout ever-so-promptly thanks to an e-bike.
Simply put, e-bikes are bicycles that come equipped with a battery powered motor. These bikes are purpose-built for faster, more efficient riding – not thrown together with cheap online kits. Some are throttle-controlled, but increasingly more common is a pedal-assist setup, meaning that you still have to work your legs, but the motor will help you get going and maintain speed with little to no effort — which means you can ride to the office in a button-up and arrive sans pit stains.
Thanks to a handful of brands dedicated to producing e-bikes and the expansion into the category by some big cycling companies, zippy, battery-powered commuter bikes are growing in both quality and availability. Cities are grappling with the laws surrounding these bicycles — some categorize them as scooters, some as bikes — which is, if anything, a sure sign that e-bikes are catching on. The future is here, and to the chagrin of Marty McFly, it didn’t arrive on a hoverboard; it came on two wheels.
Specialized Turbo Vado
Specialized designed the Turbo Vado to be a bike first. That means the mechanical system is fully integrated, with internally routed cables and a concealed motor. It’s sleek and uncluttered, and for the most part looks like a normal bicycle. The 40-cell battery and belt-driven motor, which together power the Turbo Vado to speeds up to 28 mph, is fully incorporated into the downtube of the E5 aluminum frame. Components include an 11-speed Shimano cassette and front and rear Tektro Zurich custom hydraulic disc brakes. There are also built-in extras, made possible by the electronic system, like a removable handlebar-mounted display and a brake-responsive tail light integrated into the rear rack.
Trek Super Commuter+ 8S
Trek’s latest e-bike is a commuter’s dream. Its geometry is clean, even with a 500Wh Bosch PowerPack battery mounted to the downtube. A set of fenders (the rear is pannier-ready) and a backlit Purion display that includes a speedometer, battery life indicator and service indicator are hallmarks of the bike’s function-centric design. The Super Commuter comes with an 11-speed Shimano cassette and tops out at 28 mph.
Raleigh Redux iE
After realizing its success with the standard Redux line in 2016, Raleigh revamped the design with the added benefit of E-power. The Redux iE features a diamond-shaped AL-6061 aluminum frame that houses an integrated battery and a 250W Brose Centerdrive motor, making this another low-key e-bike with capabilities beyond its appearance. The bike comes set up with a multi-functional LCD display and can hit 28 mph without breaking a sweat. A 10-speed Shimano drivetrain allows for riders to power easily through hilly rides that can range, according to the iE’s range stats, anywhere from 35 to 80 miles.
Coboc SEVEN Vesterboro
The SEVEN Vesterboro won gold at Eurobike back in 2015, and rightly so — it’s simple, elegant and kitted with impressive componentry. The SEVEN Vesterboro, named for a district in Copenhagen, includes a carbon track fork, Shimano disc brakes and a single-speed drivetrain, all mounted on a 7020 aluminum frame. Charging the battery takes around two hours, but the Vesterboro’s range is nearly 50 miles, which is perfect for longer jaunts beyond the daily commute.
Riese & Müller Load
The bicycle is just one of the many things that Europe does with technical panache, so it’s no surprise that a German-based firm has mastered the e-bike. The Load is one of the few electric cargo bikes with a full-suspension setup — shock absorbers of both the front and rear wheels. That means an easier, more comfortable ride, and more importantly, a safer one for whatever you’re hauling. The incredibly rigid trellis frame won’t buckle even with serious loads, so groceries, heavy equipment (read: kegs) and small children are all fair game. Additionally, Riese & Müller’s latest battery delivers twice as much juice as the last, and powers the bike up to 28 mph.
Foldable bikes have long been favored by urban cyclists. The Vektron gives those folks an extra boost in a mash-up that’s produced the ultimate street-, sidewalk- and train-ready e-bike. By integrating a 400Wh Bosch PowerPack battery and Active Drive Unit, the Vektron can charge in less than four hours and hit speeds up to 20 mph — impressive when coupled with an easy-to-use yet sturdy joint system that allows the bike to fold on itself for public transport and storage.
Riide Electric Bike
At 40 pounds, Riide is definitely on the lighter side of the scale when it comes to e-bikes. Despite its featherweight figure, it’s not lacking in hardware: a 350W direct drive brushless motor and integrated battery power this bike up to 25 miles after only a two to three-hour charge. It also comes standard with Avid BB7 disc brakes and pothole-proof Schwalbe Energizer Plus tires. Best of all, it’s another e-bike that doesn’t necessarily look like an e-bike, which is good for keeping a low profile on the bike rack.