There are so many great reasons to start riding one of the best electric bikes. Like a traditional pedal bike, they are great for your health and make for getting to know your community. They are also great if you feel like riding a traditional bike has always been out of reach for you because of health and fitness. An electric bike offers similar health benefits as a standard pedal bike with fewer physical barriers to entry.
Even if you are a healthy adult in the prime of your life there are reasons to think about an electric bike. The world would be a better place if less people drove but it’s a hard sell when you’ve got hills and cargo to deal with. The right electric bike is practically an SUV that flattens hills.
If you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket there’s never been a better time to drive less and ride more with the right electric bike. There are electric gravel bikes, electric folding bikes, electric road bikes, electric mountain bikes, and electric cargo bikes everywhere. Things get a little less plentiful as you start to shrink your budget. Sure, it saves money over time to ride an electric bike and drive less but you still have to make the purchase. You could think about converting a bike you already own but we’ve put together a list of electric bikes under $2000. Jump down to read what to look for when shopping or keep reading to see our recommendations.
Most low-cost electric bikes fall into a range of a few styles. The Aventon Level is for the commuter. That really means it’s a do it all kind of city bike. Being a class III bike, it will feel comfortable mixing with traffic if you ride at rush hour and there’s a throttle when you need it. Aventon understands the market and makes it easy to jump in. The included fenders are quality alloy pieces and the frame has a lifetime guarantee. There’s even a dealer network if you want to see how the bike feels before having one sent your direction.
Rad Power bikes is a go-to name in the marketplace. If you are looking for a low price and high quality, they are tough to beat. The Rad Power Bikes RadWagon 4 is the bike that makes it possible to haul two kids and a load of groceries all while staying within budget. Total payload capacity comes in at 350lbs and the rear rack can take 120lbs. Other cargo centric features include a sturdy double-sided kickstand and a low standover height. The long slender rear rack does lend itself to passengers over cargo but pick up a few accessories and you can carry as much as a car.
Trek is one of the largest bike brands in the world. It is well known, has a large dealer network, and is easy to deal with. If you like the idea of sticking with a trusted brand name like Trek then it makes sense to take a look at the electric bikes it produces. Electra is the brand name that covers the most stylish cruiser electric bikes Trek has available. The Townie Go! 7D is a low-cost class I bike that might be mistaken for a standard pedal bike. It looks great and makes it easy to enjoy a day on the boardwalk.
Over the last few years, REI has been making some of the best bikes in their categories under the Co-op brand name. The bikes have a reputation for being better than their price and the CTY e2.1 follows the pattern. It’s a Class-I bike without a throttle and powered by the Shimano Steps e5000 system. The battery is removable for charging and shifting through the nine gears happens with more Shimano pieces. It’s not specifically a cargo bike but the double-sided kickstand and sturdy welded rear rack can handle roughly 250lbs of payload.
Different people have different needs. If you live somewhere that the regulations allow for a Class-III bike then it might be worth considering. When you’ve got to mix with vehicle traffic the max 28mph might feel safer. If that all sounds like it’s speaking to your needs and you want the style of a beach cruiser then Sixthreezero has a bike for you. The Sixthreezero EVRYjourney 500W is a 7-speed bike with twist grip shifting and mechanical disc brakes. The battery is removable for charging and if you don’t want to pedal at all you can use full-electric power up to 20mph.
There are a lot of cyclists who think back fondly on the old Schwinn they had as a kid. Schwinn is still here and still making affordable bikes. It’s even added electric bikes into the mix. The Schwinn Amalgam is a mix between a city bike and an all-road bike. There’s a 250w rear hub motor and a downtube integrated battery. The electric system comes on an aluminium frame with 27.5-inch wheels and a suspension fork. It’s not an outright mountain bike but the oversized tires and suspension can take you beyond the smooth pavement. Rough roads, paved or not, aren’t going to bother the Amalgam.
Vanmoof is a brand that’s seemingly everywhere. Its designs are some of the most eye-catching out there and it is a darling of those who love tech. Nothing about the Vanmoof S3 looks like what you’d expect from an electric bike. There is a display but it’s hidden in the top tube until it comes to life. There’s also a heavy emphasis on anti-theft features. Kick the button on the rear dropout and it engages a lock. If anyone touches the bike it makes noise and if it gets stolen the built-in GSM phone connection allows it to report where it is. There’s even available insurance that covers theft for three years.
Things to consider when purchasing an electric bike
1. Classes of electric bikes
There are three classes of electric bikes in the US and each class operates a little bit differently. Along with different operating features comes different restrictions. Class 1, 2, and 3 do not represent good, better, and best. Some people may prefer one or the other but fundamentally they are different, not better. Find the one that fits your needs.
Class 1 electric bikes are pedal-assisted only. There is no throttle and they work by magnifying your input. Once you hit 20mph the electric motor will shut off. You can continue to pedal, and in the right circumstances you may continue to accelerate, but you won’t have a motor to help you. Class 1 bikes get the same treatment as any other bike so go ahead and take them on bike paths and trails without worry.
Class 2 electric bikes operate like class 1 bikes but they also have a throttle. The throttle on a class 2 electric bike can operate with or without pedalling but most of the time you get both. Just like a class 1 bike when you reach 20mph the electric motor will stop helping but you can keep pedalling if you want. The throttle is useful when mixing with cars in traffic and for getting started from a stop. If you find yourself quickly needing to pass a stopped bus, for example, a bit of throttle can get you out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.
The final class of electric bike is class 3. Class 3 bikes are subject to different rules in different locations. The biggest thing that defines them is pedal assist up to 28mph. They must also have a speedometer but most electric bikes do anyway. In some locations class 3 bikes don’t have throttles and in others they do but it only works up to 20mph. There are also different rules about where you can take class 3 bikes. Often, they are not allowed on trails that prohibit motorized vehicles.
In Europe things are a little bit different. The easiest way to think about it is that you want something with a max speed of 25km/h and a motor of 250watts or less. You can also only have help from the motor while pedalling. Anything over those specs and it’s no longer considered a bike in the way most people think of a bike. The upgraded status comes with a host of extra regulations and requirements.
Whatever class of bike sounds good to you remember that the class does not dictate the feeling of the ride. You may have to pedal but nothing says you have to pedal hard. Bike manufacturers handle the power delivery in different ways and each electric bike has its own take on it.
2. Look past the specs
There is a lot of info out there about how to understand the specs presented on electric bikes. Be careful with that info. If you spend your time shopping based on the biggest numbers you are going to miss out on the nuances involved. Not only that but there are different ways to express the numbers. It can be hard to compare numbers that should be easy.
Instead of focusing only on the numbers try to understand the power delivery. Two bikes with similar numbers for their electric systems can deliver a very different riding experience. Some bikes amplify your pedalling. Everything seems a bit easier and it can be hard to even tell you are getting help. On other bikes, pedalling is almost a formality. As soon as you start pedaling the motor yanks the bike to speed based on the level of assist you’ve chosen. Keep gently spinning the cranks and the bike keeps you moving along.
3. What should you look for?
If you look past the specs, what should you be looking for? There are a few things that tend to define the user experience and this is where you should pay attention.
What kind of pedal assist sensor is the bike using? A torque-based sensor makes for a much more natural feeling bike. A cadence-based sensor makes the ride less demanding. Some systems also use a speed sensor that matches assistance to how fast the bike is moving. Decide what sounds best to you and look for a match.
What is the quoted range? Every manufacturer quotes the best-case scenario for range. That means it’s unlikely you will hit that number every ride but it at least gives you a sense of what to expect. Is the distance you are planning to cover possible? Do you need to charge every day or can you make it to work and back a few times before it’s time to charge? Looking at the range instead of the size of the battery simplifies things. There’s an interplay between the battery size and motor size but looking at the range takes that out of the equation.
Make sure you also look for quality-of-life features. If the battery isn’t removable, it means you need to get the actual bike near a power source. Is that an issue for you? Are there lights built-in? What about fenders and is the payload capacity big enough for you? Are there smart features or anti-theft features? These kinds of features make a bike enjoyable to own, or not, in a way that motor specs won’t capture.