15 Best Electric Bikes (2024): Affordable, Cargo, Folding, Commuter, and More | WIRED

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15 Best Electric Bikes (2024): Affordable, Cargo, Folding, Commuter, and More | WIRED

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For years, electric bicycles were bulky, inconvenient, expensive machines with limited battery life. Slowly, that has changed. Ebikes are now lighter, more attractive, and more powerful than ever. You don't need to be physically fit to ride one. They get you outside, reduce traffic congestion, and shrink your carbon footprint. I ride one daily to take my kids to school. They're just fun.

Over the past few years, my fellow Gear writers and I have tried almost every kind of electric bike, from the best heavy-duty cargo bikes to high-end mountain bikes. We're always testing new ones, so if you don't see what you want, check back later (or drop me a note!). Once you buy an ebike, check out our Best Bike Accessories, Best Bike Locks, and the Best Ebikes for Elderly Riders. Not into pedaling? Read our Best Escooters guide for other transport options.

Updated September 2023: We added the Electra Loft Go!, Lectric Trike, and the Aventon Aventure.2. We also added information about a Lectric recall, kids on ebikes, and PeopleForBikes' new education course.

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Whenever I talk to anyone about a possible ebike purchase, the biggest deterrent is usually the price. It doesn't help that prices for bikes have shot up in recent years. Multiple factors have complicated the global supply chain, and exemptions to a 25 percent tariff on all ebike imports have expired. We've done our best to include lower-priced options, but we think of them as vehicles, not toys. When you're carrying kids to school or flying down a hill at 25 mph with only a helmet for protection, you want a ride you can trust.

Reasonable auto financing options are the only reason a $2,000 electric bike can feel prohibitively expensive while a $6,000 beater gas-powered car has easy monthly payments. Many states now offer incentive programs that offer rebates or tax credits for ebike purchases. Some bike manufacturers and retailers offer financing through companies like Affirm or PayPal. Your bank might cover ebikes under its vehicle loan program, and some utility companies even offer cash incentives to purchase ebikes. I also recommend looking at eBay locally, Craigslist, or local Facebook groups. You probably have more options than you think.

The prices on direct-to-consumer bikes are very appealing, but if you wouldn't send your kid down a hill on a skateboard with wobbly wheels, I wouldn't recommend doing the same yourself. If this is your first bike, I strongly suggest going with an established manufacturer that has a large support network of affiliated retailers and shops, so you can test a few and not have to assemble or fix it yourself. I also suggest looking for an all-in-one package—lights and a bell are non-negotiable purchases if you want to ride at night or in the rain.

Almost every major bike manufacturer now makes an entry-level commuter electric bicycle. Right now, the most reasonably priced one is the Trek FX+ 2 (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It comes in two versions: a step-over and a step-through. (I'm currently riding the step-through.) At 40 pounds, it's pretty light! It rides a lot like the light, versatile hybrid I rode all through college. It has Trek's proprietary 250-watt hub motor, a 250-watt-hour battery, standard 9-speed Shimano shifters, fast road bike wheels, and hydraulic disc brakes, as well as a few fun extra built-ins, like integrated lights, a bell, a rear rack, fenders, and a kickstand. All in all, it's a shockingly affordable package for everything you need to start your 6-mile city commute.

★ Alternatives: We have tried almost all the entry-level cruisers. Specialized makes one that's pricier but with a nicer low-maintenance internal gear hub and belt drive, and we like Cannondale's version as well. Momentum is owned by Giant, and the Voya E+ 3 ($2,000) is equally light and absolutely stunning in person. But its smart shift system may be a little confusing to those new to electric biking, and the base price doesn't include all the commuter extras.

I have been waiting for a major bike manufacturer to release an affordable, reliable daily driver that can be a car substitute. Specialized's Globe Haul ST is the company's first light cargo ebike and it's a winner. It fits a wide variety of heights. The powerful 700-watt motor relies on an IPX7-rated battery that has a remarkable range of well over the stated 60 miles. The display is intuitive and the pedaling feels natural. The compact 20-inch multi-terrain wheels are maneuverable and feel stable on roads, dirt, and gravel.

The proprietary accessories pull in partners like Fjallraven and are attractive and versatile. I just have two small qualms: There's no suspension, which can make a difference if you're carrying a lot of things and people; and there's no belt drive. However, Specialized uses quality components and has a large network of affiliated shops to get routine maintenance. This is the bike that everyone in my family—me, my husband, and my two kids—asks to ride whenever we leave the house.

★ Alternative: If you'd prefer a bike with bigger wheels and slightly more power, reviews editor Parker Hall recently tried the Aventon Aventure.2 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) and loved it. It's a direct-to-consumer bike, but Hall says it's well-made and easy to assemble. He rode it all summer with a pair of panniers, but Aventon also comes with a wide array of proprietary accessories.

Are you afraid of electric bikes, or bikes in general? Then the Electra Loft Go! (7/10, WIRED Review) is a great place to start. Electra went with a Hyena ebike system, which is from a Taiwanese manufacturer that's becoming known for super lightweight motors and batteries. This Electra cruiser is almost 20 pounds lighter than the last Electra I tried, which makes it that much less likely it will crush me (a small woman) when I'm making a tight turn.

As a class 1 ebike, it can only assist up to 20 mph, but with curved leatherette handlebars and a comfy upright seating position, you won't want to go that much faster anyway. The 25-mile range isn't great, but this isn't a commuter bike. Instead, it's a light, simple, beautiful beach bike (it doesn't even have a screen display!) that's made for cruising around with your hair down and a canvas farmer's market bag tucked under your arm.

Unless you're already an ebike enthusiast, you probably want one that's not too expensive, and that means as close to $1,000 as possible. This is a tough proposition if you want a reliable motor and a frame that won't buckle at 15 mph. Propella's 7-speed (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the best cheap bike we've tested. WIRED reviewer Parker Hall says it has trustworthy components like a Samsung battery and Shimano disc brakes, plus nifty accessories like a cool suspension seat. It ships directly to you, which is handy if you'd like to avoid a bike shop. Propella updates its bikes every few months. Since it is a direct-to-consumer bike, your local shop may have issues repairing it.

★ Alternatives: If you would like a few more gears, Propella also has 9S Pro ($1,299). I've also tested and like the Aventon Soltera ($999), which hides the battery in the frame and has a nice backlit display.

If you're an avid cyclist, you probably already know the n + 1 rule, where n = the number of bikes you already own and 1 is the number of bikes you should own (in other words: Buy another bike). If you or a loved one wants to break this addictive bike-buying cycle with one bike to rule them all, Specialized's Turbo Tero X (8/10, WIRED Recommends) might just be the bike for you. Specialized revamped its iconic mountain bike to be an electric ride that can go anywhere and do anything, with a long, stable frame; big mullet-style wheels; customized full suspension; straight handlebars; and a bevy of necessary commuter accessories, like a bike bell, lights, fenders, and a rack.

On paper, the 250-watt motor and 730-watt-hour battery are not as powerful or long-lasting as you might expect. But Specialized's Mission Control app and 12-gear shifters let you precisely customize just how much assistance you need, factoring in things like how much battery you want to conserve and your target heart rate. The display even shows you that the battery is optimized when you pedal at a fit cyclist's 80-100 revolutions per minute (rpm), as opposed to a recreational 60 rpm. At almost 58 pounds, though, this bike is not lightweight. The $4,500 price packs a punch as well.

I have not recently reviewed any bike that is comparable to Greg LeMond's all-carbon-fiber electric bike series. The Prolog (8/10, WIRED Recommends) has an insanely light frame, a stunning matte paint job, and fancy-schmancy custom-designed fenders. It also has reliable components made by well-known manufacturers—a one-button Mahle drive system, a Shimano gravel-specific gearing system, and Panaracer gravel tires—that make it durable, versatile, and easy to repair.

However, I can't in good conscience ignore reports of exceptionally bad customer service from the company, which includes sending defective bikes, not returning calls or emails, and not issuing refunds. You may have better luck getting your hands on Specialized's Turbo Vado SL (9/10, WIRED Recommends), which cuts down on weight with a tiny proprietary motor and a battery hidden within the bike's frame.

On a tandem bike, the person who sits in the front and steers is called the pilot, while the person in the back who only pedals is called the stoker. That's where Xtracycle's longtail ebike gets its name; not because the person sitting in the back has to do any work (it's an ebike!) but because the Stoker can accommodate two adults comfortably. The adult pilot can also carry a couple of wriggly kids, a week's worth of groceries, overnight camping gear, or bags of soil from the garden center. The rear footrests and expandable cargo nets that encase the back wheel come standard, then you can further trick out the bike with options like a padded rear set, handrails, panniers, or a front rack. That versatility makes it one of the better options for people who like to use their family ebike for way more than just school drop-offs.

Even fully weighed down to the 400-pound limit with two adults and their backpacks, the Stoker feels safe and stable, thanks to the 24-inch wheels that provide a low center of gravity and the powerful Shimano EP8 mid-drive motor that delivers tons of torque and up to 400 percent pedal assistance. The 630-Wh battery goes about 45 miles on a charge (or 60 miles if you ride conservatively), which is a week or two's worth of rides for most people. Just know that you'll need to be taller than 5'6" to comfortably pilot a Stoker. Shorter humans should check out the Xtracycle Swoop ($4,999), which has the same motor and battery, and many of the same configuration options, but uses a step-through frame and smaller wheels. —Michael Calore

The first cargo bike from this leader in competitively priced, direct-to-consumer ebikes is a study in flexibility. Carting the kiddo to school? Add a back seat ($63) and a handrail ($122) to the long rear platform. Blissfully child-free? Install front and rear racks ($70, $159) to haul groceries and garden supplies. The easy-riding step-through frame fits pilots up to 6'3" tall. The Abound’s pedal assistance system uses a rear hub motor with a torque sensor, a design that adds a smooth and even boost based on how hard you’re cranking. In the lowest of the four assistance levels—the power-sipping yet capable Eco mode—you can eke out 50 miles on a charge. Your mileage drops if you load the bike up to its 440-pound capacity, liberally thumb the bar-mounted throttle, or blast around town in Turbo mode at the max speed of 20 mph. Even then, you’ll still get nearly 20 miles out of the 720-watt-hour battery. —Michael Calore

★ Alternative: I have also ridden and like the Lectric XPedition ($1,399). It's the easiest cargo bike to assemble out of the box that I've experienced; fits a wide variety of riders; and comes with a huge array of proprietary accessories. The only bad part? It's so popular that it constantly goes in and out of stock.

The R & M Load used to be my top pick for a bakfiets, a Dutch-style front-box cargo bicycle. However, the Urban Arrow Family (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is cheaper—not by a little—and offers many of the same features that attracted me to the Load, like comfort and maneuverability. It doesn't have suspension, though, so it's best for smoother streets.

I love the Enviolo continuously variable shifters, which allow you to downshift while the bike is at a standstill. Rather than wobbling and terrifying my children as I frantically downshift while pedaling, I can use walk assistance to push the bike to a convenient spot, downshift while standing still, and then pedal upward at the torque and power level of my choice. With this system, I've beaten people uphill who weren't riding cargo bikes. The Bosch Performance motor is currently out of stock, but be sure to check if the version with the more powerful Bosch Cargo Line motor is available.

★ Alternative: I feel obligated to point out here that the bike I use to tote around my own family (and cargo all over Portland) is the Tern GSD S00 (8/10, WIRED Recommends). The Bosch Cargo Line motor is powerful enough to speedily transport me and two kids to school and back every day, along with all of our backpacks, groceries, and gear, and it's small enough that it takes up only a reasonable amount of space in our garage. I first rode one with my daughter when she was 3, and we can still ride it now that she's 7.

The next big trend in electric bikes is micro-mobility, which refers to tiny personal vehicles. Tiny bikes are more affordable, easier to transport, and easier to store. And just like mini anything, really, they're completely irresistible.

So far, my favorite micro bike is the JackRabbit (7/10, WIRED Recommends). It weighs an astonishingly light 23 pounds, is simple to assemble out of the box, and can fold down to save even more space. It doesn't have pedals, so you won't hit yourself in the chin with your knees; instead, you toggle a thumb throttle to accelerate. My only caveat is that the tiny battery and motor aren't very powerful. I'm only 115 pounds, and slamming on the throttle only gets me to about 10 mph. Also, the range is around 10 miles, which isn't much compared to our other picks.

WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu called the M-E1 “pretty darn close to perfection” in his review (9/10, WIRED Recommends). Folding bikes are great for apartment dwellers, but they're usually tiny. Julian is 6'4" and looks like a happy clown when he valiantly pedals around on most of them.

The M-E1 is full-size and virtually indistinguishable from a non-folding bike. It has solid components from reliable manufacturers, like a Shimano mid-drive motor, a comfortable seat, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and all the bells and whistles—integrated lights, fenders, a removable battery, and an easy-to-read display. Most importantly, Julian says, he can ride it around without dying from embarrassment—always a plus.

WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu sees more Lectric bikes around New York City than he can count. That makes sense, since Lectric has some of the most affordable direct-to-consumer folding ebikes around. The latest update, the Lectric XP 3.0 (7/10, WIRED Recommends), offers more of the same—nice suspension, a solid range, thick fat tires, and a whole suite of solid commuter accessories. It also now has hydraulic brakes, which is a remarkable spec at this price point.

However, it's still very heavy and awkward to fold. Chokkattu also says the charging port is difficult to access when the bike is folded up. More importantly, he's had some quality issues with Lectric bikes (this one had a leaky front tire). However, the price is right. If you live in an apartment where you don't need to carry your bike upstairs, this might be the right pick for you.

15 Best Electric Bikes (2024): Affordable, Cargo, Folding, Commuter, and More | WIRED

Electric Bike Note: Lectric recently issued a voluntary recall for Lectric XP 3.0 on units sold between November 1, 2022, and May 6, 2023. Affected models are the XP 3.0, the XP 3.0 Long-Range, the XP Step-Thru 3.0, and the XP Step-Thru 3.0 Long-Range. The front and rear mechanical disc brake calipers can fail, which can hurt the rider. If you own one of these models, stop riding immediately and click here to file a claim.