An electric bicycle is not the same as a moped. Electric bikes have a battery on board but you still need to pedal at least some of the time. They’re limited in how fast the power can make them go, too, so once you’ve hit 15mph then the motor cuts out and it’s all down to you.
Most electric bikes are pedal-assist, while a few have throttles.
All here are pedal-assist apart from the GoCycle, Infineum, Volt Kensington and Volt Metro which have a throttle as well as pedal-assist. Mostly these are for commutes and road use but some have the thick, knobbly tyres familiar to mountain bike riders and are suitable for off-roading.
Batteries are usually, though not always, lithium ion and take three to four hours to recharge. Tech companies such as Bosch and Panasonic make excellent batteries for bikes.
Remember, when you’re using an electric bike, you’re carrying extra weight – often about 7kg or more compared to a regular bike. Electric bikes cost more than regular bikes, too. Bikes were tested on various terrains and any big variations from stated range noted – though the more effort you put in, the further they’ll go. If the battery does go flat, it’s not like an electric car: you can still pedal, though you are carrying the extra weight of the battery, obviously.
Brompton Electric: From £2,595, Brompton
The latest electric bike is a game-changer. The London-based fold-up bike company Brompton's own electric folder looks like a regular Brompton with the same fold and the same riding experience. The battery on the Brompton is integrated into a compact bag which clips onto the front of the bike so the motor drives the front wheel, unusually. It has the advantages of other Bromptons (it folds small and is less easily stolen as you can take it indoors with you) and is a neat, fast, comfortable ride that's intuitive to handle and feels great. It recharges in three hours. This is so new that it’s only available for a test ride so far, at Brompton’s slick London Brompton Junction store. It's open for reservations now.
GTech eBike Sports: £995.99, GTech
Electric can look a bit, well, weird. Those big battery packs can be unsightly and eye-catching. Not the GTech. The carbon fibre belt drive that replaces the traditional bike chain will keep your trousers oil-free and an advanced computer constantly analyses what you're doing to it knows when you need a boost, like on a hill, for instance. The battery, itself a classily designed element, has a clear display to show you how much charge is left. Compared to some of the bikes here, the eBike Sports is reasonably light, thanks to the aluminium frame. It's also available with a step-through frame and a comfort saddle for the same price. It's called the eBike City.
Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie: £4,250, Evans Cycles
Californian bike company Specialized has been making mountain bikes for decades, though it’s new to the electric bike industry. An electric mountain bike is designed to make off-roading more fun (most electric bikes cope best on roads), as well as street cycling. This bike builds the battery and motor into the frame which looks great. This is a solid bike at 23.3kg but still bouncy enough to feel fun. This bike is pricey not just because it’s very well built but because it has very sophisticated battery management. Use the Mission Control app to ensure you have battery to spare by telling it the distance you are going and how much battery you want left at the end. It’ll then adjust the level of electrical help it gives you through the journey accordingly.
Ridgeback Electron Plus: £2,199.99, Tredz
Ridgeback is one of the most reliable brands around and its Electron Plus bike is pretty cool. It has a solid, stiff step-through frame and is a comfortable ride. The battery sits discreetly under the luggage rack and the Electron Plus has a greater range than most e-bikes. Its power means you can rely on it to get you up hills as well as speed you along (if 15mph counts as speed) on the flat. Lights and mudguards come as standard.
Pinnacle Lithium Ion 2018: £2,000, Evans Cycles
The battery on this bike takes you further than some – up to 60 miles on a single charge – many only take you half that distance. Pinnacle is an Evans Cycles brand, offering decent build and good value. It’s available in subtle black or punchy blue, with colour-matched mudguards supplied. As for the ride, it’s reasonably nimble. Not everyone will like the look of the hefty battery slung between the cyclist’s legs – though it means the weight is centred as you ride. Recharge time is around four hours.
Volt Kensington: £1,459, Volt
This bike from stylish, UK-based e-cycle brand Volt is a real looker and comes in pastel blue or white colours. The range is about 60 miles from a single charge of the Panasonic battery. It is easy to ride, with five different levels of power, with a throttle for travel without pedalling. It has mudguards, lights and luggage rack as standard. As with all the bikes here, recharging the battery takes three hours or more.
Gocycle GS: £2,499, Cycle Republic
The stunningly designed Gocycle is an advanced electric bike that’s beautifully detailed, even down to the powerful daytime light across the handlebars. It’s also very light (just over 16kg) thanks to a magnesium frame. The wheels detach to make it stowable in a small space. A throttle button lets you apply power easily. It has a range of about 50 miles. Recharge time is longer than some here at about seven hours. A smartphone app offers extra information about speed, battery life, calories burnt and more. The gears are contained inside the bike to keep trousers free from oil. It’s a tremendous, smooth, enjoyable ride.
Infineum Extreme: £1,493.99, E-Bikes Direct
Infineum bikes use a stackable battery system so you can add extra batteries for greater range (an extra 25-33 miles per cell, each weighing 1.8kg). Each sits above the back wheel in the luggage rack and are not as noticeable as some bike batteries, so it looks much more like a conventional bike. A throttle lets you travel without pedalling. There’s a backlit display on the handlebars which shows speed and battery strength. This bike is a decent ride, though pricier models here offer greater comfort and extra features.
Volt Metro: From £1,299, Electric Bike Store
The Metro is not especially light for a fold-up compared to some electric folders (18.5kg plus 3.2kg battery) but this gives it greater stability when you’re riding. It has 20-inch wheels, like the other folders here. Folding bikes can’t match full-size models for stiffness and stability but 20-inch wheels are more stable and faster than the smaller 16-inch wheels on some rivals. It has a range of 40 miles though you can opt for a bigger battery offering 60 miles range. It comes with luggage rack, lights and mudguards. It has a throttle but also works as pedal-assist. Choose from white or black versions.
Coboc ONE Brooklyn: £3,999, Fully Charged
Proof that an electric bike can still look super-stylish, the Brooklyn (like other bikes from German brand Coboc) hides the battery inside the frame. It comes in a pleasing milk-chocolate colour with a matte finish. It’s the lightest on test, and it’s a fast recharge, about two hours. Beyond that, the ride is sensational thanks to a great frame shape and a belt drive which is powerful as well as being low-maintenance, quiet and clean. A software app on iPhone and Android works with the Bluetooth connectivity in the bike to allow you to customise the ride and display data like distance, battery charge and more.
The Verdict: Best electric bikes
The bikes here are very different from one another. First decide whether you want foldable or sporty, expensive or super-expensive. The GoCycle GS is a lovely ride. The most stylish lookers are the Volt Kensington and Coboc One Brooklyn, while the Brompton is a great fold-up option.
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