The best electric bikes of 2021

Electric bikes test and compared

By John R. Quain 

The best electric bikes for riders of all types and budgets

Electric bikes have increased in popularity because, like the best electric scooters, they’re a good alternate means of transportation than taking mass transit, a rideshare, or a car. 

Because electric bikes use motors to assist you as you pedal, it’s a lot easier to travel longer distances, transport heavier items, and get up steep hills. There are electric bikes for just about every person, from mountain bikes to commuters to large cargo bikes. And they’re all fun to ride.

What are the best electric bikes?

Because electric bikes are made for many different purposes, it’s hard to say that there’s any one best ebike for everyone. However, the Charge Bikes City is the best electric bike for most people. Especially for those who live in more urban environments. Starting at $1,699, it’s not overly expensive for an e-bike. It comes in both a low-step and a high-step model as well as two sizes, so it can comfortably accommodate riders from 5-foot 1-inch to 6 feet 3 inches. 

We also like that the Charge Bikes City has front and rear fenders as well as a built-in bike rack. Its battery is removable, making it easier to charge. The bike’s handlebars and pedals can fold flat, making the bike easier to store if you have limited space. We also liked its head- and taillights. Also, its 250-Watt motor was powerful enough to get us anywhere we wanted to go.

Those living in the suburbs may find the Gazelle Medeo T9 Classic to be the best electric bike for their needs. The Medeo T9 Classic has traditional Dutch styling combined with a mid-drive Bosch moto., It makes for a very pleasant ride. At $1,999, it’s reasonably priced. Its heavier 50-pound weight and lack of folding components makes it better suited to be stored in a garage rather than an apartment.

If you’re shopping for an electric bike now, here are the best we’ve tested so far. Keep in mind that due to high demand, many of the best electric bikes are either on backorder or are sold out.

1. Charge Bikes City

(Image credit: Charge Bikes)

Best electric bike for commuters

Price: $1,499 | Battery: 418Wh | Max estimated range: 50 miles | Motor: Bafang rear hub motor | Gearing: Shimano 7-speed

Excellent handling

Complete set of features

Plain styling

If you plan on commuting to work, Charge Bikes City may well be the best ebike for you. It comes with features like full-fenders to keep the mud off and a rear rack for a pack or bag. Also it does everything well for a very reasonable price. The Charge City has a five level power assist, as well as a full-power throttle button, should the need or hill arise. It comes with all the necessary bells and whistles a commuter is going to want, including the bell (actually a superior and very loud electronic horn). 

The handle bars fold flat, for easy storage in an apartment or cubicle. The City’s electric support is so smooth you’ll think you’re doing all the work yourself. We were able to do three days plus of typical city commuting before having to re-charge. At night, the bike’s lights sufficiently lit up the road. The throttle helped us zip around potential trouble when we felt out of gas. Founded by folks from biking icon Cannondale, Charge’s sui generis feature is that even newbies can assemble the bike right out of the box in 10 minutes or less. All you basically have to do is put the front wheel on.


2. Gazelle Medeo T9 Classic

Best suburban ebike

Price: $1,999 | Battery: 400Wh | Motor: Bosch mid-drive | Gearing: Shimano 9 speed


Beautiful design

Cushy ride

Heavy

A classic bicycle feel and comfortable ride are the hallmarks of Dutch bike maker Gazelle’s Medeo T9. Its low-step design means it’s easy to hop on. Touches like a front-fork suspension and supple seat from Selle Royal give it an easy-going feel. Gazelle’s sturdy aluminum frame and solid components, like a mid-drive Bosch motor, which drives power through the chain, imply reliability but also make for a slightly heavier bike at almost 50 pounds. It makes the Medeo T9 less than ideal for apartment dwellers. However it’s within the weight class of many ebikes, which often tip the scales at about 45 pounds.

Nevertheless, Gazelle’s bikes handle well and the electric components won’t surprise riders with sudden lurches or acceleration. Furthermore, the hydraulic disc brakes help make it responsive and well-balanced. We also like the bike’s retro aesthetic that recalls a gilded age of bike riding. It is perfect for suburbanites, beach bums, and even the AARP set.


3. VanMoof S3

A stylish and high-tech electric bike

Price: $1,999 | Battery: 504Wh | Motor: Front drive | Gearing: 4 speed

Sleek, minimalist design

Good power

App lets you customize gearing

A bit heavy

Battery can’t be removed easily

With sleek, clean lines, the VanMoof S3 is sure to turn heads. This electric bike is more than just looks. It has an electronic shifter that automatically changes your gears and a boost which provides you an uphill assist. Once you connect the bike to your phone via Bluetooth, you get a bunch of other features, too: You can change when the bike shifts gears, change the sound of its electronic horn, and more. Best of all, you can lock the bike using your phone, and get an alert if someone tries to make off with it.

We loved riding the VanMoof S3! It’s no speed demon, but it’s a great bike for cruising around. And you’ll look great doing it, too. 


4. Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0

Best electric bike for performance

Price: $4,500 | Battery: 320Wh | Motor: Specialized mid-drive | Gearing: Shimano 10-gear

Light weight

Top-flight handling

Pricey

A number of ebikes have been marred by clunky designs and backbreaking weight. Specialized decided to blow those preconceptions out of the water with Turbo Vado. Its svelte design conceals the battery within the downtube, so no one needs know you’re getting an electric boost. It hides a rather effective shock absorber within the front forks, making for a smoother ride on less than pristine pavement. 

The Turbo Vado weighs about 34 pounds. Just a few pounds heavier than a regular steel bike. About 10 pounds less than a typical e-bike. That makes it easier to haul up a flight of stairs or heave onto a car bike rack. On the electric side, it includes a Smart Control program that figures out the amount of force you’re using and then adds just the right amount of additional torque to get you over humps with ease. It’s surprisingly seamless and perfect for set-it-and-forget-it commutation or weekend rides in the park. It’s the best e-bike for those who don’t want others to know they’re riding an e-bike.


5. Riese & Müller Load 60

Best electric cargo bike

Price: $8,099 | Battery: Two 500Wh batteries | Motor: Bosch Cargo mid-drive | Gearing: Shimano, 11-speed

Hauls a lot of assets

Good handling

Expensive

Riese & Muller bikes evince some of the best mechanical engineering available in a bike. It pays off in this full-suspension and incredibly maneuverable cargo bike. It can haul up to 220-pounds worth of groceries or gear. The R&M Load 60 is also priced accordingly, starting at more than $8,000. It includes professional-grade components, including two 500Wh batteries for up to 12 hours of power-assisted range and a heavy-duty Bosch Cargo motor that helps out until you hit 28 mph. 

Over hill and dale, we found the bike’s low center of gravity meant it never felt twitchy, even at high speeds. The battery and Bosch mid-motor design delivered enough power. R&M is also one of the more robust brands of e-bikes available and the Load 60 can safely handle two toddlers (up to 6 years old) up front, but you’ll need the double child seat accessory for that. It costs an additional $294. It’s the best e-bike for those who have to haul a lot of stuff.


6. Giant Trance E + 1 Pro

Best electric mountain bike

Price: $5,600 | Battery: 500Wh | Motor: Yamaha mid-drive | Gearing: Shimano 12-speed

Relatively competitive price

Full suspension for rough terrain

Heavy

Small display lights

Even mountain bikers can use a boost now and then. The Giant Trance E +1 Pro is a full-featured mountaineer that’s on the heavy side at over 50 pounds but does remarkably well getting tossed around on rocky routes. There’s no big display to tell you about power modes—just LEDs to indicate power levels. On the other hand, you should be keeping your head up looking for the next hillock so you don’t do a face plant anyway. 

This best electric bike for mountain bikers includes Giant’s popular Maestro suspension package, which handles the extra weight with aplomb. The big Shimano hydraulic disc brakes have plenty of stopping power to keep it all under control. The bike is also available in four sizes, so it should fit most riders. If you’re looking for help climbing rugged trails, this is your bike. Just don’t expect to easily pop it into the air very often.


7. Gocycle GX

Best folding electric bike

Price: $3,299 | Battery: 300Wh | Motor: Front wheel motor | Gearing: 3 speeds

Futuristic sleek design

Easy to collapse and unfold

No lights

The Gocycle GX looks like something a supercar designer would build, which isn’t surprising given that it was conceived by former McLaren sports car engineer Richard Thorpe. Not only is this bike’s unique wheels-on-one-side and tapered body eye-catching, it is also able to fold up in a couple of minutes into a size small enough to get by security and into the office elevator. Indeed, for apartment dwellers, the Gocycle can be stashed in a closet. 

However, the frame is aluminum, so the bike still tips the scales at about 43 pounds. In other words, you don’t want to have to carry it too far folded up. We found its motor was zippy enough to get us up hills with ease and around in traffic without fear, but the lack of a display and having to use a smartphone for the app while it is flimsily strapped to the handle bars seemed like a cheap solution for a bike costing more than three grand.

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