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The best electric bikes of 2021

best electric bikes
(Image credit: Charge Bikes)

The hottest new way to get around town is on one of the best electric bikes. These battery-powered bicycles can give you an extra boost when you need it, making it easier to travel up hills and longer distances. Especially in nicer weather, they're a great alternative to taking a car. 

There are electric bikes for just about every person, from mountain bikes to commuters to large cargo bikes. And while many are still quite expensive, they're coming down in price. What's more, 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 ebike. 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, and 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, and found 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 motor, which makes for a very pleasant ride. At $1,999, it’s reasonably priced, though 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.

best electric bikes: Charge Bikes City

(Image credit: Charge Bikes)

1. Charge Bikes City

Best electric bike for commuters

Specifications
Price: $1,499
Battery: 418Wh
Max estimated range: 50 miles
Motor: Bafang rear hub motor
Gearing: Shimano 7-speed
Reasons to buy
+Excellent handling+Complete set of features
Reasons to avoid
-Plain styling

If you plan on commuting to work, Charge Bikes City may well be the best ebike for you. Not only does it come with features like full-fenders to keep the mud off and a rear rack for a pack or bag, but 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, and 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 and 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. It's one of the many reasons why it was also named the best electric bike in the Tom's Guide 2021 Awards for health and fitness.

Read our full Charge Bikes City review

best electric bikes: Gazelle Medeo T9 Classic

(Image credit: Gazelle)

2. Gazelle Medeo T9 Classic

Best suburban ebike

Specifications
Price: $1,999
Battery: 400Wh
Motor: Bosch mid-drive
Gearing: Shimano 9 speed
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful design+Cushy ride
Reasons to avoid
-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, and 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, but 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, making it perfect for suburbanites, beach bums, and even the AARP set.

best electric bikes: VanMoof S3

(Image credit: VanMoof)

3. VanMoof S3

A stylish and high-tech electric bike

Specifications
Price: $1,999
Battery: 504Wh
Motor: Front drive
Gearing: 4 speed
Reasons to buy
+Sleek, minimalist design+Good power+App lets you customize gearing
Reasons to avoid
-A bit heavy-Battery can’t be removed easily

With sleek, clean lines, the VanMoof S3 is sure to turn heads, but 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. An update in April 2021 now lets you use Apple's FindMy app to locate the VanMoof S3 and X3 in case it's ever lost or stolen.

Read our full VanMoof S3 review.

best electric bikes: Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB

(Image credit: Gazelle)

4. Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB

A refined — but pricey — ride

Specifications
Battery: 500 Wh
Max estimated range: 43 miles
Max assisted speed: 20 mph
Motor: Bosch Performance Line 3.0 65 Nm mid-drive motor
Gearing: Enviolo 380 stepless gear system
Wheel diameter: 28 inches
Weight: 54.6 lbs. (with battery)
Reasons to buy
+Excellent ride+Frictionless electric power+Top combination of accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

The Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB is one of the smoothest-riding electric bikes we've tested. Thanks to a Gates belt drive and seamless Enviolo shifter that allows you to change gears in the middle of a hill, everything about this bike is effortless. Its low-step frame is topped with a Selle Loire Gel seat with an internal compression post to soften the ride. The aluminum frame also has an internal front fork suspension system and removable battery to keep the whole design as svelte as possible. 

The Gazelle has full mud guards, a metal belt guard (to keep your pants clean), kickstand, lights front and back, a rear rack with a built-in stretch bracket, and even an Axa Defender lock that immobilizes the rear wheel when you snap it shut and remove the key. But, all of this will cost you: The Gazelle Ultimate is a steep $3,999.

Read our full Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review.

best electric bikes: Biktrix Stunner X

(Image credit: John Quain/Tom's Guide)

5. Biktrix Stunner X

A great electric bike for on- and offroad fun

Specifications
Battery: 840 Wh (as tested)
Max estimated range: 40 miles
Max assisted speed: 20 mph
Motor: Bafang 750w mid drive motor
Gearing: Shimano Alivio 9-speed
Wheel diameter: 26 inches
Weight: 65.8 pounds (with large battery)
Reasons to buy
+Super solid ride in the rough+Good hill-climbing power+Smooth mid-drive motor
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward controller

The all-weather Biktrix Stunner X is equally at home in the mud and snow as it is on pothole-dotted city streets, keeping the rider comfortable and in control no matter the terrain or conditions. It's got enough of a kick to get you up a gravel hill, and enough padding so that your ride doesn't turn into a torture test.

Its Bafang 750W mid-drive motor is surprisingly powerful, and can be used in pedal-assist as well as throttle mode, for when you want to give your legs a break. While not as nimble as purpose-built electric mountain bikes, it performed admirably on mud-slicked roads. Our only real critique is that the Bafang controller was a bit difficult to master.

Read our full Biktrix Stunner X electric bike review

best electric bikes: Specialized Turbo Vado SL

(Image credit: Specialized)

6. Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0

Best electric bike for performance

Specifications
Price: $4,500
Battery: 320Wh
Motor: Specialized mid-drive
Gearing: Shimano 10-gear
Reasons to buy
+Light weight+Top-flight handling
Reasons to avoid
-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, and 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 and about 10 pounds less than a typical ebike. 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 ebike for those who don’t want others to know they’re riding an ebike.

The best electric bikes: Riese & Müller Load 60

(Image credit: Riese & Müller)

7. Riese & Müller Load 60

Best electric cargo bike

Specifications
Price: $8,099
Battery: Two 500Wh batteries
Motor: Bosch Cargo mid-drive
Gearing: Shimano, 11-speed
Reasons to buy
+Hauls a lot of assets+Good handling
Reasons to avoid
-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 that 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, but 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 for us to pass a carbon-fiber bike rider on Harlem hill in New York's Central Park. R&M is also one of the more robust brands of ebikes 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 ebike for those who have to haul a lot of stuff.

The best electric bikes: Giant Trance E + 1

(Image credit: Giant Bicycles)

8. Giant Trance E + 1 Pro

Best electric mountain bike

Specifications
Price: $5,600
Battery: 500Wh
Motor: Yamaha mid-drive
Gearing: Shimano 12-speed
Reasons to buy
+Relatively competitive price+Full suspension for rough terrain
Reasons to avoid
-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; and 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.

The best electric bikes: Gocycle GX

(Image credit: Gocycle)

9. Gocycle GX

Best folding electric bike

Specifications
Price: $3,299
Battery: 300Wh
Motor: Front wheel motor
Gearing: 3 speeds
Reasons to buy
+Futuristic sleek design+Easy to collapse and unfold
Reasons to avoid
-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. In our Gocycle GX review, 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. 

GoCycle has introduced two new models, the GoCycle G4 ($3,999) and the GoCycle G4i ($4,999), which feature a new motor, carbon-fiber chassis, and a USB port for charging your phone on the go.

Read our full GoCycle GX review

What to look for when buying an electric bike

Pedal-assist or throttle?
Electric bikes tend to fall into two categories: Pedal-assist and throttle. The motor on a pedal-assist electric bike will only kick in if you're actively pedaling, whereas a throttle electric bike will zip you along even when you're not pedaling. Both types have their advantages: electric bikes with throttles let you kick back and enjoy the ride, but pedal-assist electric bikes will offer a longer ride on the same battery charge.

Some electric bikes offer both functions, and many let you set the level of pedal assistance if you want to get more of a workout, or want to conserve your bike's battery. 

Motor type
Less expensive electric bikes traditionally use a rear hub motor. Mid-drive motors located in the center pedal crank shaft tend to be more expensive but offer better overall balance and smoother shifting. 

Motors are also rated based on their power, measured in Watts. Typically, the least powerful motor will be 250 Watts, but unless you're a very large person or planning to go up really steep hills, the motor size shouldn’t be a major determining factor for your purchase. More important,  there is no industry standard for measuring Watts (is it continuous or peak and if peak, for how long?). So in general, a motor’s Watt rating isn’t a reliable indication of power.

Battery size
Consider where you live. If you're in San Francisco you're going to want more help than if you're cruising around Austin. Watt hours (Wh) is the most important figure for comparison—it takes into account battery output and battery life to give you a better sense of available power. Higher Wh translates into more range. 

Many electric bike makers will also include an estimated range (usually about 40 miles) that you can get off a single charge. You should take this figure with a large grain of salt, as that number is usually determined under ideal circumstances: A fairly lightweight person riding on flat terrain with no wind, and at the perfect ambient temperature for the battery. Range is also dependent on the level of power assist being used, whether full-throttle has been applied and for how long, and your average speed. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Removable or built-in battery?
Most bike batteries will handle rides of about 40 miles and need to be plugged in for at least a couple of hours to get to 80 percent of capacity. So if you have a more demanding commute, consider a model that lets you swap out the battery rather than a bike with an integrated battery. 

Electric bike rules and regulations

There has been a lot of confusion about ebikes (pedal assist versus throttle bikes) and where you can legally ride them. Some municipalities have banned ebikes from bicycle paths, for example. Many places classify ebikes depending on whether they can go full throttle and have a maximum speed of 20 or 28 mph. There are three official classifications:

Class 1: Ebikes that only assist while you pedal, with a top speed of 20 mph.

Class 2: Ebikes with a throttle that don't require you to pedal but have a top speed of 20 mph.

Class 3: Ebikes that only assist while you pedal, with a top speed of 28 mph.

So check your local regulations before you buy. And always wear a helmet.

How we test electric bikes

All the bicycles in this feature were road (and in some cases, off-road) tested by Tom’s Guide reviewers and staff. Day and night rides, where relevant, are also included and bikes are tested for stability, handling, and safety features (including lights, reflectors, and horns). With an increasing number of models available online only, we also take ease of assembly into account.

John R. Quain
John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.