The Best Electric Bikes of 2022: Staff Picks

Pedal with less effort, more fun on our favorite electric bikes.

Michael Frank | Updated November 10, 2021

37 reviews with an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars
riding an e-bike through town

Editor’s note: Inventory can be unpredictable, so some of the items in this list might be temporarily out of stock when you read this guide. We’ll do our best to update it accordingly.

 

Electric bikes can simplify life’s daily routines and open 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. There’s an e-bike for every rider and type of ride, whether you’re cruising, commuting, carrying kids or hitting flowy singletrack.

 

Staff Picks

For quick recommendations, check out our roundup below, or scroll down for in-depth reviews.

The slick build of the new Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ line is as eye-popping as it is functional for all your urban explorations. All internal cable routing? Check. A removable battery housed within the downtube for a more aesthetic, seamless design? Sure thing! Step-through geometry (there’s no top tube) to make it easy to get on and off? Yes!  

Features on the Adventure Neo 3 make it a breeze to pedal around town, including a 400Wh battery that Cannondale says can get up to 65 miles in a single charge. And if your route includes a gravel path or two, not to worry: The suspension fork (which can be locked out) helps take the bite out of rougher roads and wide (27.5 x 2.2 in.) tires help increase stability.

Other user-friendly details: Front and rear lighting to increase visibility when you need it, and front and rear fenders to stave off spray if your day turns soggy. We also appreciate the rear rack design since it’s built into the frame of the rear fender for a more secure attachment. Lastly, this bike is driven by the Bosch Active Line drivetrain, which is one of the smoothest and quietest systems, and the controller, mounted on the handlebar, is simple to use. Also simple: Cannondale equips the Adventure Neo with a complete chainguard, and there’s one on the cranks, too, so you don’t need to worry about messing fancy duds if you’re out cruising on date night—or hoping to! Buy here.

The key value of the Co-op Cycles CTY e2.1 starts with the Shimano e5000 mid-motor that offers smooth power delivery, and when you near the limit of pedal assist, at 20 mph, power fades off rather than dies all at once. The e2.1 comes loaded with quality components and great features at a competitive price, like a double kickstand that stabilizes the bike for loading. The fully integrated rear rack can handle up to 59 pounds, so it’s robust enough for a kid carrier. Built-in front and rear lights also help with visibility; a bonus: the lighting system runs off the bike’s rechargeable battery.

The sloping top tube (size S has a step-through frame) makes it easy to get on and off, and the front suspension fork with 75 mm of travel helps dampen road ruts and potholes. One staffer praised the stable frame that boosts riding confidence on terrain ranging from gravel paths to slick streets. The upright, mountain-bike-inspired geometry helps here, as do wide, ergonomic handlebar grips and an adjustable stem that lets you sit more upright. And because it comes in three sizes, the e2.1 fits riders ranging from 5’0” to 6’3”.

Flat-resistant Schwalbe Big Ben tires are reasonably rugged, even for gravel paths, and they help “translate to a stable ride that doesn’t feel slow or sluggish,” says Nolan Jankowski, an REI certified bike tech in the San Diego store. The multi-mode power assist mated to a broad 11-34 gearset offers all the boost you’ll need and is also designed for pedaling well beyond the 20 mph assist range without being spun out. And Shimano Altus hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of all-weather stopping power. Buy here

Factors to consider when you think about a commuter bike include whether it has the gearing, power output and range to get you there and back. That’s no sweat with the Cannondale Neo X3 Remixte, since it claims 104 miles of range per charge. Also important: it’s the only bike in this lineup to offer Class 3 pedal assist up to 28 mph, so you can get to work (and home again) a bit faster. Its Bosch Performance Line pedal-assist motor is one of the best-feeling systems on the market, phasing into and out of support mode beautifully and imperceptibly, so you feel like you’re pedaling—just as if you were very strong! Also note the excellent gearing range, with a large, 46-tooth front chainring mated to an 11-36 cogset in back; that will allow enough spread for steep hill climbing.

Every detail has been well-tended by Cannondale. For instance, since the battery is integrated into the down tube, you’ve got room in the front triangle for water bottles. (Also, that battery is keyed, so you can remove it and take it with you, for added peace of mind.) One REI staffer praised the clean look of the Neo X 3 Remixte, noting how all the cables are internally routed (which helps protects them from the weather and UV rays), and the fact that you get a fork with 100 mm of travel. Mountain-bike-inspired geometry makes for a more comfortable ride, too, with both a sloping top tube that makes it a breeze to climb aboard and a more upright cockpit for better visibility. Note too: Cannondale sells this bike in three sizes with a low step frame, so both short and very tall riders can fit on a Neo X3 Remixte.

Sharp extras include integrated and wired-in front and rear lights and a rack fused to the rear fender. The latter prevents concerns about rattles and shakes from bolts that can loosen on aftermarket racks. Buy here.

With its low center of gravity, wide tires that aid stability and an overbuilt frame designed to carry up to 440 pounds, the Tern GSD S10 Folding Electric Bike is a pedaling pack mule. The GSD S10 fits up to two child bike seats without needing specialty hardware and can take a variety of panniers and rack systems (neither is included) to handle groceries and other loads. But all that load doesn’t mean you sacrifice the ride, either. “The smaller 20” wheels keep the weight of the bike close to the ground and easy to handle—no small feat for a bike with a long, folding stem unit,” says Jankowski, the San Diego bike tech. The lower height and telescoping seatpost also make the Tern GSD S10 more versatile, so riders of varying heights (from 4’11 to 6’5”) could share one bike for errands and carrying kids.  

The GSD is loaded with many cool features that encourage riders to use it in their day-to-day outings. For example, the integrated front wheel lock adds to security. Front and rear fenders keep you and your cargo or kiddos free from road spray if it’s raining. Also, the dual-battery port allows you to double your range if you add a second battery. Comfort and utility were also top of mind for Tern, too, so the GSD S10 was built with an integrated rear brake light that’s always illuminated, as well as a 150-lumen front light that helps you see and be seen. Buy here.

With 150 mm of rear travel and 140 mm of front fork travel, the Cannondale Moterra Neo 5 hits that sweet spot between being a mountain machine and having short enough travel (and a shorter wheelbase) for neighborhood singletrack. Thru-axles for both front and rear wheels add an increased level of handling stiffness, as does 148 mm rear hub spacing. It matters: As you flex a mountain bike in a corner, that energy translates from the frame, through the axles and to the wheels. Every part of that system must be stiff, or you’ll waste energy moving the bike around beneath you. Having the entire chassis working as a unit will lead to a more immediate reaction from your inputs.

“This bike is a beast!” writes one REI customer reviewer, adding: “The combination of full suspension and electric assist make it a very fun ride." Cannondale specs the Moterra Neo 5 with a dropper post, the better to tackle steep descents and park riding from a position of control. Large 180 mm Shimano front and rear brake rotors also provide more fade resistance during long descents.

We’ve also found Shimano’s E7000 drive unit to offer seamless power delivery. And that’s important when you’re mountain biking, where ratcheting pedal input is pretty common; you might want wattage to help you churn through a section of rocky terrain, then want that assist to pause the moment you get beyond it, so you don’t get shoved into the next bit of technical trail. Luckily, the E7000 is well calibrated to dive in when you pedal and back off the instant you cease pedaling.

One note on sizing: the larger (29 in.) wheels and longer suspension travel might make it more of a challenge for shorter riders.  

“This bike is a compelling choice for someone trying to minimize (or eliminate) a car from their life,” says one REI staffer. With the Yuba Kombi E5, you’re getting a comfort-focused ride, the ability to carry up to 440 pounds of cargo and the option to customize with lots of add-on accessories to fit your specific hauling needs. The chromoly steel frame, rather than an aluminum one, also lends itself to a smoother ride. And all that cargo is powered by Shimano’s lightest e-bike drive unit: the STEPS E5000 mid-drive motor and 418 Wh battery.

Another selling point: the bike has a low frame. That’s important the more weight you add, since you need to be able to counterbalance as the heft shifts during pedaling. These support panniers stuffed with groceries or whatever else you’re carrying, as well as give tykes a comfy place to rest their feet, since the E5 can also be outfitted with two child seats

Because it sits so low, the Kombi E5 is able to fit riders as short as 5’ and as tall as 6’5”. Aiding handling, too, are wide (24 x 2.5 in.) tires that help soak up road ruts and soften the ouch from potholes.  Large (180 mm) brake rotors provide powerful stopping. And swept back rather than straight handlebars give you a little more leverage, a plus for cornering when the bike’s laden with cargo.

The E5 also comes standard with a chain protector, front fender, rear wheel skirt and lights, keeping you and your cargo unsullied. The center-style dual kickstand makes it easier to load up your rig without fear of the bike tipping over. Buy here.

Shop All E-bikes 

 

Buying Advice for Electric Bikes

Person riding a yellow electric bike on a dirt path

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 Tesoro Neo X 3 Remixte.

A Class 3 e-bike, like the Neo X 3 Remixte, may be best for commuters and errand runners who want more power and speed. These faster bikes provide pedal assist up to 28 mph, helping you keep up with traffic on city streets. This, however, tends to preclude them from many bike and multiuse paths, so check regulations in your area. 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.com doesn’t carry Class 2 e-bikes, which have throttles, so there are none in our lineup.

 

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 staff favorites have mid-drive motors.

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, as with the Tern GSD S10 Folding Electric Bike, but it also drains the battery faster, reducing the distance you can go. Pay attention to motor torque (stated in Newton meters) and battery capacity (stated in watt hours—or the number of hours a battery can sustain one watt of power before dying).

Also, note where the battery is in the frame. You want it as low as possible. Think of this like the head of a hammer. It’s easier to carry with that metal hunk held directly down. Raise the head and it’s far harder to walk with. With e-bikes, the same is true. Put the battery up high, like in the rear rack, and it’s a lot of weight you’re fighting to counterbalance. But bikes like the Cannondale Adventure NEO 3 EQ and Monterra Neo 5  both have theirs in the down tube, well below the rider’s own mass, so it’s far easier to control and won’t feel as tippy.

 

How To Choose an E-bike 

 

Our Process

We asked our staff, bike technicians and retail specialists to weigh in on their favorite e-bikes available at the co-op. 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.

 

Article by Michael Frank. Michael Frank has been mountain biking since before disc brakes were a thing. He’s a regular contributor to sites like CycleVolta, writes about travel for Virtuoso Life, and has been an editor at Adventure Journal, Bicycling, and a contributor to Outside and Men’s Journal. He’s also an adjunct professor of journalism at SUNY New Paltz, and lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. 

 

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