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Cruiser? Cargo? Commuter? How to choose the right e-bike for you

Aventon Abound ebike with kids riding in cargo rack.

While it’s true that most types of e-bikes are viable for riding on paved trails or commuting around urban environments, certain styles are also specialized for things like portability, off-roading, or carrying considerable cargo. As I learned when I became an “e-bike guy, this means that you’ll want to consider what you plan to do with your e-bike beyond the basics.

Do you intend to take it on mountain trails? Do you have limited space and need something compact? What about looks?

These are all questions you’ll want to ask before taking the plunge, and depending on your answers, we’ll help you find the right ride. While there are a variety of sub-styles you can discover within each category, we’ll give you the lowdown on the basics of every major type of e-bike so that you can get a head start on what to expect.


The Aventon Soltera.2 right profile against a concrete brick wall.

Commuter e-bikes provide a riding experience that caters to basic uses like urban navigation, or taking to a paved trail on a sunny day. You can find some that sport a very standard e–bike design, or you can opt for models with flatter handlebars for a more upright riding posture. This can improve visibility and awareness in busy city environments and lessen fatigue.

Though they aren’t very visually distinct compared to other categories, commuter e-bikes focus on the important things for commuters and nail them. Due to their lightweight frames and strong motors, you can count on most commuter e-bikes to be able to get you up inclines relatively quickly. Plus, the majority of them will have batteries that provide fantastic range for longer trips.


  • Velotric T1: A sleek and lightweight option with solid range (read our review).
  • Himiway A7 Pro: A premium e-bike featuring a small cargo bay and a wide variety of colorways.
  • NIU BQI-C3 Pro: A great commuter e-bike thanks to two long-range batteries and high power (read our review).
  • Aventon Soltera.2: An affordable e-bike that doesn’t sacrifice on quality (read our review).


Lectric XPedition
Billy Givens / Lectric

Cargo e-bikes are great for commuting when you need to carry more than just a rider. The most recognizable feature of any cargo e-bike is its longer and sturdier back rack. These offer a lot of options for carrying heavy or bulky items, or with the appropriate add-ons, even other passengers (so long as they don’t exceed the max load capacity). But cargo e-bikes are also known for having tons of space for other optional accessories like front racks and handlebar bags.

Most cargo e-bikes sit a little lower than other styles of e-bikes, and they have smaller tires that help lower their center of gravity when loaded down. They also commonly come with long ranges and powerful motors, granting you the ability to go far and ascend hills pretty well, despite carrying a load.


  • Aventon Abound: A top-tier cargo e-bike with best-in-class accessory choices.
  • Lectric XPedition: A newbie-friendly option with tool-less assembly and excellent accessory options.
  • Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 3 Plus: A versatile and comfortable daily rider with excellent utility (read our review).


Rad Power Bikes Radster
Digital Trends

Off-road e-bikes — sometimes also referred to as “adventure bikes” — are versatile e-bikes that usually have wide tires and improved suspension to handle rough terrain. If you’re looking for something to take on wooded paths, these will usually be your best option. But their all-terrain features also make them surprisingly good commuter e-bikes in certain scenarios — particularly if you live in a rural town with a lot of dirt or gravel roads, or if you find yourself on poorly maintained streets.

While many off-road e-bikes simply look like powered mountain e-bikes, some resemble mopeds or dirt e-bikes with long, wide saddles. These tend to be comfortable, but the design doesn’t make them as efficient for pedaling. As such, whether you’re riding in urban environments or exploring off-road, these will always be at their best when prioritizing the use of the throttle.


  • Rad Power Bikes Radster Trail: A beefy, versatile adventure e-bike with killer handling.
  • Lectric XPeak: An affordable, fast, and ergonomic choice for adventurers (read our review).
  • Ride1Up Revv1: A visually attractive moped-style option for those who prefer a throttle to pedaling (read our review).


The Priority E-Coast is a pleasant to ride in parks as well streets.
Bruce Brown/Digital Trends / Priority Bicycles

Cruiser e-bikes are the most casual of all styles, and are designed almost exclusively for riding on flat surfaces (preferably pavement). They tend to feature wide tires, and and high, broad handlebars. In many cases, they also have larger seats with padding and a comfort-forward design. These make great e-bikes for laid-back cruises around a neighborhood with friends or for casual errands.

Most cruisers won’t be well-suited for riding through woods or along gravel, and not all of them have space for cargo — though you can sometimes find some with small rear racks. Also, you may discover that certain models have smaller batteries, as they’re not necessarily meant to be used intensively for prolonged periods of time.


  • Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser: A sleek and speedy cruiser designed with functionality in mind.
  • Electric Bike Company Model S: A highly customizable choice with lots of fun accessories.
  • Priority Cycle E-Coast: A gorgeous cruiser that promises low maintenance costs (read our review).


Velotric F1
Billy Givens / Velotric

Folding e-bikes are far and away the way to go for anyone who needs to store their e-bike in a small space like an apartment or often travels with it. While other e-bikes require a car rack for transport, folding e-bikes can be easily tossed in a trunk and then unfolded and ready to ride within a couple minutes. Being able to take an e-bike with you essentially anywhere you go can also motivate you to use it more often.

It’s worth noting, however, that folding e-bikes can often sacrifice ergonomics to reach their tiny proportions. Due to their smaller wheel size and frame, they also frequently produce bumpier rides, and some models provide less impressive battery capacity than most standard e-bikes. For many folks, though, this may be well worth the trade-off for their enhanced portability.


  • Velotric Fold 1: A clean and straightforward folding e-bike that punches well above its price point.
  • Aventon Sinch.2: A fun and well-rounded folder that doesn’t sacrifice on visual appeal.
  • Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5: A powerful and easy-to-use option for any type of rider.
  • Lectric XP 3.0: A fantastic foldable choice that comes fully assembled at an incredible price point (read our review).

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Billy Givens
Billy Givens is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience writing gaming, film, and tech content. His work can be…
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