E-bikes aren’t just for delivery guys anymore. Now they’re sleek and cool, in every shape and size, and priced from as low as a few hundred bucks to as much as a used car. Some get buzz way before they even hit the market — Ford’s got an entire line of concept bikes, and Audi is pushing the limits too. The search begins with a little breakdown on the good names in the e-bike market.
The Wave eBike grabs the No. 1 slot for its super low $600 price and for its potential. It has a 750-watt motor, runs at a max speed of 28 mph (if you disconnect the wire to the inhibitor), and offers a removable 48-volt battery that charges up in three to five hours, which leaves the rider with a 52-mile range or 26 miles on full electric. Built in front LED lights along with front and rear fenders round out the kit, and it has a rear red LED included as a stretch goal since it did so well with funding on its Indiegogo campaign.The campaign is still open though, so hop over there if you want to ride the Wave. It’ll be $1,000 after the campaign ends, which is still pretty cheap.
The makers point out in on their campaign page that the Wave is designed to run longest at moderate speeds — 20 mph — rather than blasting along at 28.
The Wave comes in a bunch of colors: red, yellow, blue, silver, black, and white. There are quite a few upgrades on offer, such as an LCD thumb-command screen where you can control your pedal assist mode like a form of cruise control. It also acts as a display for your distance traveled, speed, and total time of your last trip. A touch of a button will tell you your all time stats. It’s essentially a custom bike computer — with all the adjustable settings you’d expect from one — for $40. Other upgrades include chrome paint, six-speed gearing, a front disc brake, and a mega battery. It might not have all the bells and whistles of some of the more expensive bikes on this list, but for most people affordability is a factor in any buying decision.
Related: Hands on Bosch E-Bike Systems
Stromer has three e-bikes on offer so far: the ST1 Limited Edition, the ST1, and the ST2, which is the star of the show. It comes with a 500-watt SYNO drive Motor, 48-volt lithium-ion battery, built in LCD in the top tube, and GPS for independent location tracking. It’s also not cheap at $7,000.
Omni is the cloud-based Stromer service, which communicates with your cell via Bluetooth and allows you to check the bike system status, fine-tune the performance, lock or unlock the bike, check your service records, and even get the location if your bike is stolen. It also connects to the Stromer portal on the Web, which acts as a stat and data reader for your Stromer dealer.
No matter the apparent quality of a product, recalls make any consumer nervous, and Strommer just issued one for its rigid ST1 carbon forks. On the bright side, Stromer is handling it well by offering to replace the forks with the latest model. It’s worth noting that suspension forks aren’t affected.
Haibike is not only a big name in e-bikes, it’s a recognizable name in bikes in general. It’s been ridden by pro athletes to Olympic triumph. Xduro is the name of its e-bike line, which covers bikes for nearly every purpose. Haibike makes downhills, offroads, fat bikes, tourers (though they may not be available in the U.S.), and an urban commuter, and it’s one of the only companies that does e-road bikes. Yep, that’s right; they offer two different e-bikes: the Xduro Race and the Superrace, both with road racing geometry to their frames. The Race even comes with drop bars. As for trails, there are other e-bikes that can survive the mountains, but their “ENduro” line can master them.
Marketed to the younger crowd and the real hardcores, Haibike made bikes for 14 years before it blew up in the e-bike world in 2010. It has full suspension models — meaning a shock in both the front and rear — as well as hardtails. This introduces a series of physics issues — for example, moving the pivot point behind the motor would lead to a longer wheel base and therefore less maneuverability. Haibike solved the rear suspension versus motor placement problem in a clever way. It built a hollow space into the frame to accept the motor and its unique Sprocket Equalizing System (SES), which is a small pulley wheel with a chain guard positioned above and slightly to the rear of the motor. This prevents chain slippage, a common problem in full suspension bikes where compression of the rear suspension changes the distance between the gears and chain ring.
Haibike’s materials are top of the line, either 6061 Aluminum or carbon. The bikes use direct post-mount interfaces for their disc brakes (found on every model), and Bosch motors and lithium ion batteries (usually a 36-volt 400 Wh). Their derailleurs range from SRAM Carbon 11 speeds as on the XDuro NDuro Pro to Shimano Deore on the NDro RX and XDuro Urban. These are top of the line e-rides.
Kalkhoff is another storied name in biking with a history going back to one man in 1919 and lasting through its acquisition by Derby Cycle Werke. Its e-Performance line is made up of bikes designed with an eye for speed. The E-Active bikes with their longer range and carrying capabilities are aimed for tourers. E-Urban is for commuters, and includes folding options. E-Comfort is just as it sounds; cruisers with specialized saddles and wider tires, some with front suspensions. Their E-Activity Impulse city cruisers offer a good range of options. Their built-in LCDs come in different variations, from basic to Bluetooth-enabled USB charging ports. The company is very proud to be German made; check their website for dealer locations stateside.
Electric bikes are Pedego’s specialty. Its cruisers are worth pointing out, made from 6061 aluminum, with 500-watt brushless hub motors, 48-volt batteries with Samsung cells, and a three-year warranty, and integrated front and rear lights. The 10Ah runs $3,000 direct from Pedego and the 15Ah is $3,300. Its Interceptor will go up to 127 miles on pedal assist in ideal conditions (no big hills, not a lot of stop-and-go).
Shimano and SRAM major parts join little details that make all the difference; the tires for instance, are Kevlar belted and the tubes are self-sealing to help prevent flats. Disc brakes keep travel reliable even in wet or muddy conditions. The LCD display has a USB output charging port. Add all these together and you get a convenient, reliable ride.
As an unfortunate aside, the company posted a recall in response to reports that batteries from a specific supplier were shorting out, so keep that in mind while shopping.
Developed by BH Bicycle Company out of Spain (1909) — another company that takes e-biking seriously, Easy Motion has a wide selection of full-suspension mountain bikes and a road bike with a 10-speed Shimano 105 component group. Evo, Nitro, Neo, and Bosch are Easy Motion’s e-bike lines. Evo and Bosch both offer hybrids, urban bikes, and mountain bikes, while Nitro handles bike made for speed.
Other bike companies in this list offer folding bikes, but the Neo Volt Folder from Easy Motion is one of the best at $1,800. Batteries are Samsung lithium-ion, except the Bosch line which uses Bosch, obviously. Removable LCD screens to display e-bike stats add variety to these offerings. The road bike, for instance, has a range of up to 60 miles, while the Neo Volt can go up to 50. The folder is still 50 pounds like the majority of other e-bikes, so while it will take up less space, it won’t be easier to lift.
The IZIP is made by Currie tech, which is also a distributor for Haibike, eZip, and eFlow. Its $2,900 E3 Dash sits at the top of a lot of best-of lists, thanks to its 500-watt gearless motor, 48-volt lithium-ion battery, Suntour Suspension fork with 63mm of travel and 6061 aluminum frame. The LCD lets you control the hybrid assist to get the most out of the battery, and displays speed, distance, and time. It can hit 28 mph in high-power pedal assist mode while pedaling like you mean it.
Prodeco is one of the newer companies, comparatively, but the owners Robert Provost and Daniel Del Aguila came by it honestly — they were selling imported electric bikes and increasingly found themselves replacing the crappy parts with upgrades. Having tired of this process, they figured someone ought to get it right the first time, so they started their own e-bike company.
Their standout is the E3 Phantom line, the high end of which offers rear direct drive, geared 36-volt, 600-watt motors, and Truvativ cranks. The distance per charge maxes out at around 30 miles, but RockShox forks and disc brakes ensure a comfy ride. They’re a U.S.-made, lower-cost option than the extreme high-end bikes from Haibike or Kalkhoff.
Soon to be released by Fuji, the Denny by Sizemore won the Oregon Manifest Bike Design Contest in 2014. It’s just downright clever. The titanium handlebars give haptic feedback for directions sourced through your cellphone. Those same bars detach from the bike to become a bike lock. The fenders are little more than bars with brushes that gently clean the tire, reducing weight. The front rack is also integrated (it doesn’t pitch with the front wheel), and features sidelighting. Turning lights and an integrated brake light that turns on when you brake are other features that are in keeping with Sizemore’s mission of making a bike to compete with cars. It screams “cutting edge,” and more than that, it’s downright logical. The battery sits beneath the front storage tray and easily accessible — instead of tucked inside a large downtube. When active, automatic e-assist starts on its own in response to hills, and an automatic gearbox keeps the ride effortless. If you want all the cool features of a concept-bike that’s finally reached market, the Denny is perfect.