Staff Picks: The Best E-bikes of 2020

Pedal with less effort on our six favorite electric bikes.

11 reviews with an average rating of 4.25 out of 5 stars
riding an e-bike through town

Electric bikes can simplify life’s daily routines and open up more possibilities for sweat-free pedaling. That’s efficiency we can all get behind, and thankfully there’s a rig for every rider: Use them to haul kids or groceries, commute faster and easier, extend your riding in the mountains or simply rediscover the joy of life on two wheels.

These six e-bikes are our favorites at REI because they’re reliable, intuitive to use and packed with quality components. Plus, they’re really, really fun.

 

Electra Townie Go! 7D

Best E-bike for Cruising

Electra Townie Go! 7D

  • Motor power (watts): 250
  • Battery capacity (watt hours): 309
  • Weight: 48 lbs.
  • Price: $1,500

“Jump on it and go,” one REI bike technician says of this cruiser. The Electra Townie Go! 7D wins praise from our staff for its trifecta of comfort, ease of use and affordability. A 20mph max assisted speed and 50-mile range lend it to—as its name suggests—riding around town, while a relaxed geometry allows for a comfortable upright posture and easier handling. Best of all: There’s no learning curve with this e-bike. “This is an excellent bike for people who aren’t hard-core cyclists to begin with,” our tech says.

The Electra Townie Go! 7D ticks all the boxes for those wanting a smooth ride without the fuss. It lacks the bells and whistles of the more premier Townie 8i (it doesn’t have integrated LED lights or full fenders, for instance), and at this lower price point, you get a rear-wheel hub-drive motor (rather than a mid-drive motor found on more expensive rides). Still, our testers find that the motor placement gives the rider the sensation of being pushed along, which is kind of the point, after all. Buy here.

Other versions: Step Through

 

Cannondale Canvas Neo 1

Best E-bike for Commuting

Cannondale Canvas Neo 1

  • Motor power (watts): 250
  • Battery capacity (watt hours): 500
  • Weight*: 44 lbs.
  • Price: $4,200

The Cannondale Canvas Neo 1 is built for serious commuting—whether you prefer slacks or spandex. With the latest powerful Bosch motor to pedal-assist up to 28 mph, it’s ideal for folks eyeing longer rides. “This is a high-speed, performance commuter bike made for dashing on roads and keeping up in traffic,” says an REI cinematographer. It’s the only class 3 e-bike on our list, which means it’s designed to range on roads.

The sleek design includes a premium aluminum frame and carbon-fiber fork that shave weight without sacrificing performance or handling. You’re also getting the latest Bosch motor technology and a hefty 500Wh battery, which is more robust than you’ll get in e-bikes designed for more casual riding. (Its stated range is 40 miles.) The Canvas NEO 1 is commuting-ready with full fenders, a rear pannier rack and rear and front lights. It’s also pre-mounted for a second battery, in case you want to get out of Dodge.

Techies will appreciate the built-in sensors that track distance, speed, calories burned and other data. An added bonus: “The wider, 2.3-inch tires roll smoothly and provide better traction and absorb vibrations on rougher roads,” another staffer says. Buy here.

Other versions: Step Through

 

GHOST Hybride SLAMR S1.9+

Best E-bike for Mountain Biking

GHOST Hybride SLAMR S1.9+

  • Motor power (watts): 504
  • Battery capacity (watt hours): 504
  • Weight*: 50 lbs.
  • Price: $4,299.95

Looking for a pedal assist to cover more singletrack? The GHOST SLAMR S1.9+ hits the sweet spot for riders wanting a high-performing e-MTB at a competitive price. The $4,300 price tag puts this rig on par with other premier mountain bikes, but you also get the powerful Shimano Steps 8000 motor. If allowed on your local trail network, there may be no better way to boost uphill.

The SLAMR S1.9+ has a mullet wheelset, meaning a bigger wheel in front and smaller wheel in back. “It has the control of the 29-inch tire and the nimbleness of the 27.5-inch, which makes the bike more playful,” says one staffer. The oversize plush tires grip dirt and gravel well, while 140mm of travel in the front fork and rear suspension ensure that bumps are smoothed out. Buy here.

Other versions: None

 

Yuba Spicy Curry

Best E-bike for Carrying Kids

Yuba Spicy Curry

  • Motor power (watts): 250
  • Battery capacity (watt hours): 500  
  • Weight: 60 lbs.
  • Price: $4,750

The Yuba Spicy Curry is as close to a minivan as you can get on two wheels. “It’s a beast carrying kids and cargo up hills and all around town,” says one staffer, who adds that it’s surprisingly nimble when loaded down. Credit the Spicy Curry’s smart design for the easy handling, despite the size: It has a longer wheelbase that spreads the weight across more area, and the smaller, 20-inch rear wheel lowers the center of gravity (which also makes it easier to load kids or cargo).

Like a minivan, the Spicy Curry serves up loads of space. The extended rear rack can hold two child bike seats easily and offers enough real estate for custom loads. Our staffers have tried everything from panniers to extra handlebars and other accessories for hauling kiddos.

Bonus: This ride can accept dual batteries, so you can double the range between charges when you’re ready. Buy here.

Other versions: None

 

Tern HSD P9

Best E-bike for Running Errands**

Tern HSD P9

  • Motor power (watts): 250
  • Battery capacity (watt hours): 400
  • Weight: 56.5 lbs.
  • Price: $3,199

Don’t underestimate the compact size of the Tern HSD P9. “It’s got small packaging, but large cargo capability,” says one staffer. Thanks to a beefy, extra-long rear cargo rack and small, fat wheels, it can handle a lot of groceries, one child bike seat and other cargo (up to 374 pounds total). That all adds up to a utilitarian bike that could become an urban dweller’s go-to for daily errands and zippy jaunts about town.

“It’s an easy bike to ride,” declares another tester. The front fork has 70mm of travel, which is enough to dull bumps and vibrations on rougher pavement. Its smaller wheels, shorter frame and low stepover height add to the HSD’s overall riding ease—and make it easier to store. (It also has folding handlebars.) Nice touch: The HSD can be shared among family members since the seat adjusts to accommodate riders from 4’11” to 6’5”. Buy here.

Other versions: None

 

Tern Vektron S10 Gen 2

Best Folding E-bike

Tern Vektron S10 Gen 2

  • Motor power (watts): 250
  • Battery capacity (watt hours): 400
  • Weight: 48 lbs. 9.6 oz.
  • Price: $3,699

Feel like Inspector Gadget when you unfold this small tangle of metal into a full-fledged e-bike. The Tern Vektron S10, which packs down to the size of a large suitcase, is ideal for anyone who is storage strained. Fit it in your small apartment, on the subway or even under your desk with ease. It takes just a few minutes to unfold using a series of levers (no tools needed): Position the pedals, lower the saddle, adjust and lower the stem, fold the bike half and secure (like this). Then to get it riding ready, just reverse the process.

“But you’re not sacrificing the e-bike capability for the foldability,” says one REI staffer. The next-generation Vektron S10 has an upgraded Bosch motor, and the battery has been moved lower for improved handling and a reclined position. The rear rack has also been extended for more carrying capacity. Like the HSD, the Vektron S10 seatpost resizes easily to fit riders from 4’10” to 6’5”, so a single bike can be shared by the whole family. Buy here

Other versions: None

 

Shop All E-bikes 

 

Buying Advice

Consider these three factors when choosing the right electric bike for you.

 

Class of Bike

How much battery-powered assistance will you need when pedaling? Most e-bikes fall into three classes, based on their power and, therefore, where you’re able to ride them. For most riders, a class 1 e-bike is just fine: These pedal-assisted bikes are the most universally accepted on city streets and bike paths. The motor kicks in only when you pedal and stops helping you out when you hit 20 mph. All of the e-bikes on this list are class 1, except for the Cannondale.

A class 3 e-bike, like the Cannondale Canvas Neo 1, may be best for commuters and errand runners who want more power and speed. These speedier bikes pedal-assist up to 28 mph, helping you keep up with traffic on city streets. (This tends to preclude them from bike and multi-use paths.) For a state-by-state guide to e-bike regulations, check out People for Bikes’ state-by-state guide to e-bike regulations around the country.

REI doesn’t carry class 2 e-bikes, which have throttles.

 

Motor Placement

Where the manufacturer sticks the motor on the e-bike will affect its feel and usability. When the motor is located on the bottom bracket where the crank arms attach to the bike frame (called a “mid-drive motor”), the ride tends to feel more natural; your weight is centered low for good balance. All of our e-bike picks have mid-drive motors except for the Electra Townie Go! 7D, which has a hub-drive motor.

Hub-drive motors, meanwhile, sit inside the hub of the rear wheel (or the front wheel). Rear-wheel hub-drive motors send pedal power straight to the rear wheel, giving you a feeling of being pushed along. Front-wheel hub-drive motors handle somewhat like front-wheel-drive cars; they also allow a standard bike drivetrain to be used on the rear of the bike.

 

Motor Power, Battery Capacity, Riding Range

Choosing an e-bike means balancing performance versus riding range. A more powerful motor delivers more speed and more torque for climbing hills and hauling cargo, but it also drains the battery faster, reducing the distance you can go. Pay attention to motor power (stated in watts) and battery capacity (stated in watt hours—or the number of hours a battery can sustain one watt of power before dying).

Most casual riders will be fine with a 250W motor and a battery in the range of 300 to 400Wh. A 500W motor paired with a 500Wh battery (such as the GHOST Hybride SLAMR S1.9+), for example, uses more power than a 250W motor paired with a 400Wh battery (a common class 1 bike setup, like the Tern HSD P9).

 

How To Choose an E-bike 

 

Methodology

We asked our REI Co-op editorial staff and crew of member-testers what their favorite e-bikes are at REI. They reported back with their top picks for commuting, mountain biking, running errands and more. These six e-bikes are their can’t-go-wrong faves.

 

*The weight for this bike is for the median-size frame or the average of the two median sizes.

**This bike is unavailable for shipping, but you can buy it at your local REI.

 

Article by Phuong Le. Phuong Le is a writer for REI, an immigrant, a mom. She has more than 20 years of experience as a journalist for major daily news organizations. She spent the last decade covering the environment and breaking news for The Associated Press in Seattle. You can find her on the slopes, along rivers, in the woods. REI member since 1996.


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