Would you like to find an environmentally friendly alternative to your car, or avoid the effort required with a standard bicycle? If so, you should read our test of electric bikes! Our best in test is the Crescent Elda, which is a really good electric bike for anyone who cycles often.
We test all of our products ourselves and as they are intended to be used in reality. This means that we use the electric bikes in everyday situations, such as commuting to and from work, going to the shops, for leisure cycling and so on. They're also tested in everything from an urban environment to rougher terrain.
Some of the parameters we take into account during our testing are:
Build quality What materials has the manufacturer chosen? How suitable are these for how the bike will be used?
Performance What kind of motor and battery capacity does the electric bike have? How long does the battery last? What range does the electric bike have in different circumstances?
Safety How well do the brakes work, and what brake system does it have? How well balanced is the electric bike?
Functions What functions does the cycle computer have? Does the electric bike have any other functions?
Ergonomics How comfortable it is to sit on? Is the saddle padded? What material are the handlebars made from? What settings are available?
All of these parameters are considered and compared to the price of the electric bike. The final score reflects whether or not the bike represents good value for money.
We have tested a selection of the market's most popular electric bikes. Compare prices of all the listed electric bikes on Pricerunner here
Useful bicycle for all occasions
Type: Hybrid/commuter Motor: Central motor Power: 250W Battery: 36V 11.6Ah Range: 50 km (measured), 50-70 km (stated value) Electric assistance: Torque controlled, five levels Charging time: 6 h Gear system: Shimano Deore Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano 200 Frame: Aluminium Tyre size: 51/55/59 cm Weight: 22.5 kg Shock absorbers: Front: Yes Rear: No Guarantee: 10 years Frame guarantee
The Crescent Elder is our best in test because it’s a really useful bike for both commuting and longer excursions. Despite its weight, it’s really easy to manoeuvre even on trickier paths and tight bends. The front shock absorber also makes the entire journey significantly more pleasant. The only problem with the Elder from a bicycle perspective is that the gears are hugely noisy – you can pretty much use them instead of your bell if you want to warn people you're approaching.
Even with the electric motor switched off, the bicycle is still very easy to pedal, and we have no problems using it as a “normal” bicycle when the battery has run out or simply because we feel like it. Of course it doesn’t go at racer speed, because it’s quite a heavy bike, but nor does it feel like a lead weight, which other electric bike sometimes do when the electric assist isn’t on.
With the electric motor running, you get a really smooth, comfortable trip regardless of how much support you choose from the motor. This is due to the pedal sensors, which detect how hard you're pedalling and adapt the electric motor accordingly. This means it feels more like a normal bike trip than one where you're pedalling to keep the motor going. At the same time there’s no problem getting the bicycle to go at faster speeds manually without it feeling like the bike is slowing you down. The electric motor is controlled through a simple bicycle computer that also shows your speed and distance. The speedometer adds a couple of kilometres per hour compared to our measuring equipment, but it works OK. The same can’t be said of the menu system, which consists of incomprehensible abbreviations for the simplest of settings. Even zeroing the distance requires a consultation of the manual, because the characters on the screen are a total mystery.
The battery is located on the front part of the frame, which leaves plenty of space, for example to attach a child seat on the saddle post. Lamps are built in from the start, and the luggage rack included also has quick fastenings for cycle bags with AVS attachments. Overall, the Crescent Elder is a very versatile electric bike and comfortable enough both to commute with every day and to ride on longer weekend excursions. However, despite all its great details, it's the riding experience, both with and without the battery, that means we choose the Crescent Elder as our best in test.
High quality hybrid model suitable for frequent bike journeys
Type: Hybrid step-through bike Motor: E-Going Power: 250 W Battery: E-Going Capacity: 11 Ah Range: 50-120 km Electric assistance: Torque controlled Charging time: Approx. 5.5 hours (quick charger approx. 3.5 hours) Gear system: Shimano Deore 10-speed Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes Shimano 365 Frame: Aluminium Tyre size: 28 inch Weight: 22.5 kg Shock absorbers: Front: SunTour NEX-MLO, Rear: No Guarantee: Three years (must be registered on Crescent's website and serviced according to the service manual)
The Crescent Elda is a comfortable and robust hybrid model with high quality levels throughout and a good range.
The central motor gives the bike a low centre of gravity and good stability, but also a high torque. The torque sensor detects how hard you're pedalling and adjusts the motor power to provide a natural feeling as you pedal.
Central motors are more powerful than front and back wheel motors and deliver a high torque.
Even without electric assist, the bike is easy to cycle with low rolling resistance and a relatively low weight.
The sitting position is slightly forward leaning, just like in all hybrid bikes, so perhaps it isn't suitable for everyone, but if you're used to cycling this position will probably feel comfortable. The front forks, with shock absorbers, provide good levels of comfort even on a poor surface.
The control unit and display are relatively simple to use and understand, but it's a shame the display doesn't show the current time and how far you've cycled.
The Elda is equipped with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. They need very little maintenance and are a guarantee of secure braking power even when the bike has been loaded with bags or is towing a trailer.
The externally mounted rear gear is also one of the better Shimano models. This is positive, but it's important to be aware that externally mounted gears require more maintenance and lead to increased wear on the driveline, above all when combined with the powerful central motor. This means the chain can become skewed and must be changed more often. However, the advantage is that you get a lower weight bike with quick acceleration.
But despite falling in the medium price class, the Elda isn't very well equipped in terms of accessories. So you need to be prepared to spend extra on things like lights, a luggage carrier and a basket.
In addition, although of good quality the saddle is quite hard. If you want to upgrade your comfort levels, we recommend a softer saddle, or perhaps even better either a saddle post with shock absorbers or a gel cover for the saddle.
In general, though, you quite a lot of high quality bike for your money. The Elda's stable frame design and the choice of high quality components make it an excellent choice for anyone who cycles every day, such as the cycling commuter.
High levels of comfort and top quality components in a well-designed construction
Type: Hybrid/commuter Motor: Central Brose motor Power: 250 W Battery: 504 Wh 48V Capacity: 12 Ah Range: Up to 75 km Electric assistance: Torque controlled Charging time: 3-5 hours Gear system: Shimano XT/SLX 11-speed Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes Shimano BR-MT500 160 mm rear and 180 mm front Frame: Aluminium Tyre size: 28 inch Weight: 21 kg Shock absorbers: Front: SR Suntour NCX E25 Rear: No Guarantee: 2 years
Specialized's Vado 4.0 NB is a role model of an electric bike in terms of its careful design and build quality. It uses exclusively high-quality brand components which are attractively integrated into the bike design and perform faultlessly. For example, the motor and battery are fully integrated into the frame, which gives the bike a stylish and harmonious appearance.
The motor is powerful, silent and responsive, largely thanks to the internal belt drive. The gear system has 11 speeds, which are fully sufficient for helping you to adapt rapidly to the challenges of an urban environment. The charging time is short, so if you stay in the town where you can easily find charging points between bike journeys, you won't have any problems.
The centre motor and the battery integration into the lower frame tube give the bike a low centre of gravity, making it stable. This type of motor is more powerful than front and back wheel motors and delivers a high torque. A torque sensor detects how hard you're pedalling and adjusts the motor power accordingly, giving a natural feeling as you pedal.
The Vado 4.0 NB has a user-friendly display with all the functions you need. For example, you can use it to control the bike lights. The externally mounted rear gear is one of the better Shimano models. However, you should be aware that the combination of a powerful motor and externally mounted gears lead to increased wear on the driveline. Externally mounted gears also require a little more maintenance than other gear constructions. But the advantages include fast acceleration and low weight.
The Vado 4.0 NB has substantial hydraulic disc brakes, which give plenty of braking power and very little maintenance work regardless of weather conditions or load. The saddle is also good, but rather hard if you're going to be cycling far.
The sitting position is slightly forward leaning, as is normal on hybrid bikes. The front forks, with shock absorbers, are very stable – as is the bike as a whole – and provide high comfort even on bumpy surfaces.
Without electrical assistance, the bike feels tough to pedal at low speeds. This may be because the wide tyres are providing more resistance. In any case, if you cycle fast under your own power, it doesn’t feel sluggish.
Specialized's Vado 4.0 NB has very few shortcomings, but the price tag reflects this. This makes it most suitable for cyclists who don't want to compromise on quality, comfort or aesthetics and who are prepared to pay to get what they want. If you're looking for a powerful premium class hybrid for everyday commuting that works equally well on all types of surface, this is an electric bike that you'll have fun with for many years.
Comfortable, easy to ride standard bicycle for medium-long journeys
Type: Hybrid/commuter Motor: Rear wheel motor, Bafang, 49 Nm Power: 250 W Battery: 13.8 Ah with BMS and cells from LG Range: 51-61 km (measured), 90-160 km (manufacturer) Electric assistance: Movement sensor with 5 fixed power modes Charging time: Approx. 6 h Gear system: Shimano Deore 9-speed Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro 180 mm front and rear Frame: Aluminium Weight: 21 kg Shock absorbers: Front: No, Rear: No Guarantee: 2 years Certifications: EN 15194
The Lifebike C-Mute Speed is a sturdy hybrid model electric bike with a robust frame construction and consistently high quality materials and components. The battery integration into the lower frame tube gives the bike a low centre of gravity, making it stable.
The rear wheel motor feels powerful and delivers good acceleration by means of high torque.
The pedal assist has a movement sensor with five fixed power modes, but despite this the bike has a natural cycle feel and the drive system is responsive. As the motor is on the rear wheel, the C-Mute Speed is quite quiet compared to an electric bike equipped with a front wheel motor.
The control unit and display are straightforward and nicely integrated into the handlebars/stem. It would have been nice to see more values, such as maximum and average speed and a clock.
The cycle has a relatively low equipment level. Commuters will probably want to add mudguards, a bicycle lock, luggage carrier and rear light. However, it does include a really powerful front lamp (400 lm) and a good chain guard.
The Lifebike C-Mute Speed has reasonable quality externally mounted rear Shimano gears. This is useful as the motor is located on the back wheel, so the gears don’t increase wear on the drive line – quite the opposite, in fact.
However, you do have to remember that an externally mounted gear system requires regular maintenance if it’s to keep working satisfactorily. The C-Mute Speed has substantial hydraulic disc brakes that require little maintenance and promise secure braking power regardless of the weather conditions – even when the bike is loaded with luggage or pulling a trailer.
Just as with other hybrid model electric bikes, the sitting position is slightly forward leaning. Many people prefer this, above all over longer distances.
This electric bike is only available in one size, and is most suitable for people of 170 cm and taller. The handlebar grips aren’t very nice, but they're also simple and easy to replace. Otherwise, the electric bike is comfortable on a good surface. On a poor surface, it becomes jerky and not particularly pleasant to ride.
Without electric assist, the C-Mute Speed feels rather tough to pedal. So it would have been useful if there were easier gears to use for uphill slopes when the battery had run out. Above 25 km/h the electric bike allows the rider to pedal to achieve a higher speed, which doesn’t feel at all tough, provided you aren’t going uphill.
Unfortunately the range is significantly lower than what Lifebike state. But it’s still sufficient for most bicycle commuters. We therefore recommend the Lifebike C-Mute Speed for anyone looking for an attractive city cruiser or a sturdy commuter bike. It provides a lot of electric bike for your money, but you have to be prepared to lay out more on accessories.
Are you thinking of buying an electric bike? There are several advantages with choosing an electric bike, including giving you positive health effects and contributing to a better environment. You also avoid congestion and traffic jams when you travel to and from work. And it’s a good time to buy one.
Prices have fallen to acceptable levels, and a scheme is available to allow UK companies to help employees buy electric bikes. You can find details here: http://ukelectricbike.co.uk/new-site/cycle.php
Electric bikes give you a little extra boost up to 25 km/h. Above this speed you have to pedal yourself. So in other words you can pedal a lot and reach a very high speed. Or alternatively just pedal a little and without much effort reach 25 km/h. You can also turn off the electrical assistance and use the electric bike as a normal bike.
Electric bikes usually cost between £600-£3000. What separates the models is primarily design and the motor, as the voltage and output of the latter varies with the price. Things like battery capacity, power consumption when charging, charging time, maintenance requirements, number of gears and other functions also differ.
A good rule of thumb is to start with what you'd look for in a normal bicycle. If you usually use a bicycle with lots of gears and are used to it, your electric bike should be the same. Because you'll be pedalling a lot even if it does have an electric motor.
You also need to look at the range of the bike. If it's 30 km to your office and you don't want to have to pedal too much, you shouldn't choose a bicycle with a range of 40 km if there's no way you can charge it at work. There are models that can manage a full 145 km on a single charge.
Unfortunately there are also models that are categorised in the shops as electric bikes, but which are actually classified as mopeds – and completely different rules apply to these. So make sure the "electric bike" you're looking at isn't really a moped. The electric bikes that are categorised as bicycles have a motor of a maximum of 250 watts. This is usually clearly stated in the specification.
There is no British law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory, but the Highway Code recommends that all cyclists wear one. Below, we list all the properties and factors that affect how an electric bike performs on the roads, in terms of performance, ergonomics and function. When buying an electric bike, regardless of whether you buy it via a reseller on the internet or via a physical bicycle shop, it's useful to be clear what type of requirements you have. Start with how often and how long you'll be using it for, and the type of terrain. Our guide below will then help you choose which type of electric bike will best suit you.
The cycle computer is the electric bike's control unit – its brain – and is the device that keeps track of everything. This includes speed, battery status, output and other important values.
The cycle computer is often equipped with a screen so that you can see these values yourself, for example in the form of how far you've cycled and how much longer you can use electric power before you need to recharge the battery. You can also change settings, such as how much help you want from the motor when you're cycling.
Naturally, the motor is an essential part of the electric bike. According to an EU directive, the maximum output this can have for the bicycle to be classified as an electric bike is 250 watts. If the electric bike has a higher watt figure than this, it can still be classified as an electric bike, but it will fall under the EU rules for mopeds. This means that other laws apply, together with requirements you must comply with if the bicycle is used in traffic.
There are a number of different types of motor system, and some of the main manufacturers are Shimano, Bosch and Bafang. They’re each good at different things, and cycle manufacturers normally choose the type of motor that best suits the electric bike's target group. For example, Bosch make centrally positioned motors that are powerful and suitable for tough terrain, while E-motion make front-wheel positioned motors that are better suited for an urban environment.
The positioning of the motor on an electric bike is important in terms of how you intend to use it. Front-wheel drive electric bikes are better for simple terrain such as an urban environment. The advantage is that this position works with all gear types, you can have coaster brakes, and that the system is relatively cheap and simple. The disadvantage is that it requires more powerful brakes because you get up more kinetic energy in the wheels, that the cables have to be undone if you need to repair a puncture and that you have worse grip on the road.
If you're going to be cycling up and down hills a lot and you want more power, a rear or mid mounted motor is better. The mid mounted type has the advantage that you get good weight distribution, a good grip on both front and back wheels and that you avoid extra kinetic energy in the wheels. Nor do you need to undo any cables if you need to change the tyres. The disadvantages are that the bicycle needs a special frame and that you can't have coaster brakes with some gear systems.
Finally, we have the rear mounted motor, which is also good for hills and more difficult terrain. The advantages here are that you get a good grip on the road, it's a cheaper solution because it's a simple system and it's easy to mount on an existing bike. The disadvantages are that you need more powerful brakes as you get extra kinetic energy in the wheels and it's not possible to combine this solution with coaster brakes. Another disadvantage is that if the electric bike also has a battery package installed on the luggage rack, the electric bike becomes slightly unbalanced, because all of the weight is at the back.
The first thing you need to consider when it comes to batteries is whether the battery is even included in the electric bike you're looking at. Because sometimes very exclusive batteries are sold separately. To make a fair price comparison between different models, you should make sure the price also includes a battery.
The batteries are normally lithium-ion type. This is the type used in the majority of machines and tools today, and the advantage of these is that they hold their charge well when not in use. They're also easy to use and charge. However, you should remember that this type of battery should never be allowed to go completely flat, because this can mean it stops working. They also don't tolerate cold very well, and this will impair performance. So you should keep them indoors when it's below freezing outside.
When you buy an electric bike, it's important to choose one with sufficient battery capacity. Batteries have different capacities. However, these aren’t easy to compare because they’re sometimes stated in Ah, sometimes in Wh and sometimes in range. Ah stands for ampere hours and indicates the battery capacity to deliver current over time. Wh stands for watt hours and indicates the capacity to store energy. The range is simply how far you can cycle with the electric bike before you’ll need to recharge it. Normally most bikes state the range, for example 120 km.
But sometimes it only shows ampere hours, and you'll have to ask what the range is for such electric bikes.
In addition to battery capacity, the battery position is also important, and this is above all linked to the motor position. If the motor is at the front and the battery is on the luggage rack, you often have good balance in the electric bike. The disadvantage of a battery on the luggage rack is that it's hard to find room for a child seat. Some electric bikes have the battery on the frame to create a lower centre of gravity, and this can also have advantages depending on the rest of the design.
The charging time is important because you generally want the battery to recharge again as quickly as possible so you don't have to wait for it. Many manufacturers today have systems where you can quickly charge up to a certain point – for example up to 80% capacity – and then the last few per cent are slower. This means you can do a quick charge to get yourself home.
Many electric bikes are equipped with rotation sensors. This means the additional power provided by the electric bike is determined by the speed at which you pedal. In other words, the rotation sensor makes sure you get a boost from the motor. This is activated when you start pedalling, and then provides a uniform speed for as long as you continue.
However, it can't tell how much effort you're making. In other words, it doesn't give you more power if you're pedalling harder up a hill. Instead you have to change down a gear so the electric bike doesn't reduce the assistance.
If you don't want to have to do this, you need an electric bike equipped with a power sensor. If you have to expend more effort while pedalling, this will activate more assistance. If you live in a hilly area, it may be sensible to think about whether this is something you need from your electric bike. The disadvantage is that this function can negatively affect the range.
Just like on a normal bicycle, the number of gears is an important factor if you're going to be able to cope with a range of environments, from winding forest paths to tough hills. Even if you get a power boost from the motor, it's nice to be able to change down a gear to go uphill, and change up when you want to cycle fast on a long, flat straight.
If you're going to cycle every day, we recommend at least 7 gears. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the number you're used to. If you have 10 gears on your ordinary bicycle and you're happy with this, you should try to get an electric bike that has the same number.
The gear system can either be external or internal. The former is most common on sports bikes, as it provides lower rolling resistance and smaller jumps between the gears. This makes it good for cycling in rougher terrain. The latter system is more common among urban cycles as it's largely maintenance free and you don't have to put up with a clattering chain. However, there are bigger jumps between the gears, a higher rolling resistance and higher weight.
Of course there are also disadvantages with the external system; primarily that it requires more maintenance and must be regularly adjusted, but also that you can only change gear while you're moving.
There are a number of different types of brake system on electric bikes. These are usually separated into foot (coaster) and hand brakes. Far from all electric bikes are equipped with coaster brakes as this depends on the overall design. Coaster brakes only work as hub brakes. The advantage of having coaster brakes is that they have very low service requirements. The disadvantage compared to hand brakes is that there are some pedal positions where it's more difficult to brake, and the coaster brake mechanism also weighs more.
It's usually the case that if an electric bike has coaster brakes it will also have a hand brake. However, just because it has a hand brake doesn’t necessarily mean it has coaster brakes too.
Hand brakes are available in a number of different variants. V brakes are the most common. In practice, these consist of two brake pads pressed against the rim to brake the wheel. The system requires a certain amount of maintenance and adjustment, but it's also cheap, lightweight and easy to adjust. However, braking performance can be affected if the road is wet.
Another type of hand brake is the hydraulic disc brake. This gives extremely effective braking that doesn't wear the rims and is not affected by weather conditions. However, the system is more expensive than others and also requires bleeding a couple of times a year.
The hydraulic systems also include hydraulic caliper brakes that are more like V brakes than disc brakes. The advantage of these over V brakes is that they're more effective as a result of the hydraulic fluid, but at the same time they still have the same problem with impaired braking effect when the weather’s wet. They're also more expensive than V brakes.
Finally, there are drum brakes, which is a system where the brake pad is pressed against the inside of the wheel hub. This provides advantages in the form of low maintenance costs and not being affected by poor weather. The disadvantages are primarily the lower braking performance. They aren't very good if you're going to be cycling down very steep hills.
There are a couple of things you need to include on your check list when you're considering comfort and electric bikes.
Size – the electric bike should be right for your height.
You need to be comfortable on the bike for long periods. Is the saddle padded?
What's the balance like when you're cycling? One factor that affects this is the positioning of the motor and battery. If they're at the same end of the cycle, it can easily be unbalanced. You can normally check this at the resellers, but you can also read tests of electric bikes where the balance will be mentioned.
How much does the electric bike weigh? If you sometimes have to carry the bike, this is particularly important.
Do you have restricted storage space and need to be able to fold the bicycle? Folding electric bikes are available from a number of manufacturers.
Electric bikes have two primary certifications. These are European standard EN 15194:2011 and BATSO 01. If the electric bike is marked with these, it means it’s considered to maintain the correct speed and to fulfil the current safety provisions, including regarding fire and explosion risk from the battery.
Because of how much they cost, electric bikes are targeted by thieves, and should therefore be protected as well as you can. If you buy an expensive electric bike it can be a good idea to insure it. You can do this through your normal home insurance, as this will include bicycle insurance. You should also make sure that you get a good guarantee when you buy.
Some examples of accessories that can be useful when you buy an electric bike are an approved helmet, a decent lock (you should ideally avoid thin wire locks) and a bicycle pump.
Other examples are: a bicycle bag, bell, child seat, basket, lights and a spare inner tube or repair kit.
Bicycle manufacturer Crescent has long experience of the industry, and also offers a wide range of electric bikes. Crescent's electric bikes are available with all types of motor placement and with both suspension and stiff front forks.
Cycle manufacturer Batavus has been in existence for more than 100 years and manufactures both normal and electric bikes. Their electric bikes primarily fall within the budget and medium classes.
Ecoride is a relatively young company in the bicycle market, and they exclusively produce electric bikes. As the name implies, the company aims to achieve a better environment through more people choosing an electric bike instead of a car. They have a range of electric bike models in different series depending on your needs and desires. Everything from terrain models to city variants.
Monark was founded in 1908 by Swede Birger Svensson, and is still a well-known brand. In addition to normal bicycles, they also produce electric bikes. Their models usually have the motor at the front and the battery at the back.
Scott's electric bikes are included in the range of many resellers. The company is a Swiss sports equipment manufacturer, which also sells things like skis. They have a large range of electric bikes aimed at a broad target group – everything from MTB models for forest riding to electric bikes suitable for an urban environment. In terms of price, their bikes run from the medium price class to the upper premium range
Nishiki's roots are in Japan, but the company is now entirely Swedish and manufactures its bicycles by hand in Gothenburg. They place great importance on geometry and balance. In addition to normal bicycles, they also sell electric bikes. At the time of writing they produce two models, one of which is unisex.
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