As our thoroughfares become increasingly crowded with automotive traffic, more cities are making biking around town safer and more accessible to citizens. Needless to say, these massive city planning efforts are showing plenty of return on investment. From 2000 to 2010, the number of bicycle commuters increased by 40 percent across the United States, and these numbers were as high as 77 percent in some cities, according to Forbes.
The biking industry has boomed in recent years as manufacturers look to capitalize with increasingly nuanced styles. That said, the electric bike movement has taken the biking industry by storm, as individuals look to add little pedal-assistance to their daily commutes and casual weekend outings. An ebike is certainly quite the initial economic investment, however, when considered alongside the annual costs of fueling, insuring, and maintaining an automobile, an ebike literally pays for itself over time. Here are five of our favorite ebikes on the market.
Specialized Turbo Vado
Why should you buy this? The Turbo Vado is one of the most capable ebikes we’ve tested.
Who it’s for? Anyone looking for more than a casual commuter.
How much will it cost? $4,600
Why we chose the Specialized Turbo Vado:
We had the opportunity to take the Specialized Turbo Vado for a spin in Palo Alto earlier this year and the model is still our pick for top ebike on the market. Utilizing a 350-watt motor and 604-watt-hour lithium-ion battery, the Turbo Vado is capable of traveling up to 80 miles on a single charge, which should be more than enough for your daily commute and then some.
A couple of pedals activates the motor to Turbo (the highest pedal-assist mode) and subsequently shuts off once the bike reaches speeds in excess of 28 miles per hour. The Turbo Vado has a built-in LED readout on the handlebar so you can better gauge your speed while you’re out and about.
We ran the Vado through the gauntlet — including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto — and the bike easily handled even the most daunting of ascents at about 20 mph. It’s important to note that the Vado is custom-tuned for city riding. That said, if you’re looking for an ebike for more difficult terrain, there are other options on this list to fit the bill. Read more about the Specialized Turbo Vado here.
The best fattie electric bike
Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie
Why should you buy this? This is the best power-assisted fat boy we’ve seen.
Who it’s for? Year-round mountain bike enthusiasts.
How much will it cost? $4,500
Why we chose the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie:
The fat boy style bike isn’t for everyone, however, there certainly exists an avid fan base for the bulky build. While slimmer tires are more nimble and efficient for urban commuting, fat tires offer better traction and also allow you to chew up terrain year-round. With these parameters in mind, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie is a solid power-assisted model for fat boy fans.
The Turbo Levo line of ebikes each includes a beast of a motor with up to 530 watts of power. And unlike some pedal-assistance models, the Turbo Levo system intuitively reacts to your pedaling rather than simply adding a jolt of power here and there. A backend algorithm senses your torque, speed, and cadence and then amplifies this sequence. This gives the Levo power-assistance a more natural feel than other more rudimentary designs.
The system easily connects to your smartphone via the Mission Control app where you can tweak motor dynamics such as acceleration response and turbo preferences. This app also monitors and records the metrics of your ride for added post-ride feedback.
The Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie is unapologetically one of the heftier ebikes on the market and those seeking a sleeker, more agile bike for commuting around town will need to look elsewhere. However, fat boy enthusiasts will certainly enjoy this big-boned beast.
The best commuter electric bike
Stromer ST2 S
Why should you buy this? Loaded with bells and whistles, the Stromer ST2 S is one of the most advanced ebikes on the market.
Who it’s for? Inner city commuters.
How much will it cost? $10,000
Why we chose the Stromer ST2 S:
The Stromer St2 S is one of the more expensive ebikes on the market and for good reason — the unit is loaded with features you won’t find anywhere else. The 983 watt-hour battery (one of the largest on the market) is capable of fueling the 500-watt motor for more than 100 miles on a single charge. Of course, this maximum capacity varies depending on your weight and power settings.
This ebike features a slew of settings to meet the needs of your commute. While in pedal-assist mode, the ST2 S has a top speed of 28mph, which is more than adequate for most inner city thoroughfares. There are multiple stock presets but you can also create custom settings in the paired Stromer app for further versatility.
This model also uses a basic throttle, allowing you to simply sit back and relax while the ST2 S chauffeurs you along at a modest (albeit enjoyable) 12 mph. The Walk mode power-assistance makes towing the 65 pound unit around town significantly less taxing.
The ST2 S has a slew of safety and security features to boot. A powerful Supernova 1,600-lumen headlight functions more like a floodlight than a traditional bike light, though if this vivid beam isn’t enough to light up the night, there are also a series of running LED lights along the bike to increase visibility. Once you “park” the bike in the app, the ST2 S alerts you if the bike moves more than 50 feet. If someone is brazen enough to attempt to snag your Stromer, the bike sends you text alerts, allowing you to track the bike in the app via GPS.
There certainly are cheaper electric grocery-getters on the market, but those looking for one of the most advanced commuter ebikes will be more than pleased with the Stromer ST2 S. Read more about the Stromer ST2 S here.
The best electric road bike
Giant Road E+
Why should you buy this? The Road E+ is an elegant touring option.
Who it’s for? Road bike enthusiasts.
How much will it cost? $4,000
Why we chose the Giant Road E+:
While the idea of a pedal-assisted road bike may seem counterintuitive, during lengthier training sessions, a little added power can help prevent overall muscle fatigue and injury. Similarly, individuals looking to enjoy longer scenic routes will appreciate the general boost.
With a top speed of 28 mph, the Road E+ uses three power modes to give you ultimate control over your ride and assistance level. A four-point sensory system monitors the pedaling force allowing the motor to amplify your movements seamlessly.
One of our favorite features with the Road E+ is the ergonomic Ride Control EVO command station. Unlike other control centers, this display is mounted onto the handlebars front-and-center keeping the controls quite literally at your fingertips. At higher speeds, balance is key, and this module enables control over the system and the fork at all times.
The frame itself incorporates a series of mounts allowing you to easily trick-out the Road E+ with a rack, fenders, or panniers to more aptly meet your touring requirements. Again, most touring purists will certainly scoff at the mere notion of pedal-assistance, however, individuals looking for more of a guided tour and less of a tour de force will swoon over the Road E+.
The best budget option electric bike
Espin Sport Black
Why should you buy this? The Espin Sport is a solid economic ebike option.
Who it’s for? Those looking to test the ebike waters without breaking the bank.
How much will it cost? $1,880
Why we chose the Espin Sport Black:
Purchasing an ebike can be a rather hefty initial investment, and there are dozens of worthy makes and models to choose from. That said, some individuals may desire a solid pedal-assistance model without a bevy of extra frills and the Espin Sport is our top budget-specific pick.
Overall, the Epsin has a no-nonsense blue-collar build we absolutely love. It utilizes a 20-inch diamond frame that looks and feels like a traditional road bike. A sturdy, rear-mounted luggage rack stows up to 55 pounds of cargo, which should be more than plenty for a trip to the store, commute to the office, or a short day trip.
The Espin is powered by a 350-watt motor that’s rated for trips up to 50 miles (depending on the terrain and assist level). Once depleted, the battery fully charges in roughly five hours. Thankfully, Espin allows for removal of the battery, allowing you to quickly recharge it at home or in the office between trips. A backlit LCD control hub displays your basic metrics and battery life while in transit and LED headlights add a touch of light when needed.
The Espin Sport isn’t going to tow you around for a 60-mile round-trip endeavor but those seeking their first ebike will get plenty of bang for their buck with this model. Read more about the Espin Sport here.