If it seems like e-bikes blossomed in the last couple years from gimmicky toys for early adopters into actual functional mobility tools, you’re not alone. Consulting firm Deloitte predicted between 2020 and 2023 more than 130 million e-bikes would be sold globally, but sales have exceeded even those rosy numbers. The category exploded in our Year of the Pandemic 2020, no doubt aided by a shortage of pedal bikes across the country, increasingly leaning consumers towards plugging into motor-boosted versions. Even one of our favorite New Yorker writers, Jelani Cobb, got in on the e-bike action.
Of course, not all e-bikes are cut from the same cloth. Some are pedal-assist-only (Class 1 and 3), whiles others simply let your press a throttle and zip away in an explosion of electrons (Class 2). Additional differences in powertrains, frame geometry, design, tech and other peculiarities mean there’s a surfeit of options out there, and probably a perfect model for your specific needs. So we long-term tested some of the best sellers out there to determine where they excel. Below, five e-bikes that stood out above their peers.
The Road Racer: Yamaha Civante
As the oldest maker of pedal-assist e-bikes in the world—they launched the world’s first way back in 1993—Yamaha’s first Class 3 road bike is a big leap. What makes Yamaha’s position unique is they’re the only manufacturer who engineers both the frames and powertrains (which they sell to other brands), so they’re able to integrate their motors into the design in a clean sheet package and therefore have more control over the bike’s final geometry. Now actualized in a road bike for the first time, the Civante will allow even pros to ride longer, faster (up to 28 mph), conquer steeper hills and face stronger winds without fear—bolstering cyclists with courage to tackle ever more challenging courses.
The Civante’s hydroformed aluminum frame features a center-mounted PWSeries drive unit with four assist modes (Eco+, Eco, Standard, High), LED screen and headlamp, 10-speed drivetrain, hydraulic disk brakes, durable 500-watt Lithium-ion battery and ergonomic drop handlebars to provide multiple riding positions for optimal efficiency and control. Using frictionless sensors Yamaha’s Triple Sensor System measures pedal-torque, bike speed and crank arm cadence so the Civante delivers only the ideal amount of power needed (based on changing terrain and riding situations), and via Yamaha’s high-speed charger can refill electrons to 80 percent in just one hour.
The Gnarly Mountain Climber: Greyp 6.3 Rebel FS
The category of e-mtbs (electric mountain bikes) is blowing up, and it’s easy to see why: When off-roading, you’ll be able to conquer bigger, steeper and more remote hills if you’re electrically augmented. The advantages are clear. And since Croatia’s Greyp offers the most powerful battery in the space—its flagship 6.3 Rebel FS model combines a 36V/700Wh cell with a 460W motor to offer up to 60 miles of power-assisted range—it’s the best option out there. To make it totally trail-legal wherever e-mtbs are allowed, all G6 models are pedal-assist-only, as bikes with throttles are banned from many trails and National Parks. And you can trust its powertrain, as Greyp is the two-wheeled offshoot of Rimac Automobili, the EV startup that developed a hypercar with 1,888 hp and 250+ mph top speed. If they can build a $2 million EV, it’s a decent bet they can handle a bicycle.
With superb RockShox Pike forks, lightweight carbon-fiber frame and Formula Cura 4-pistons, the Greyp outperforms nearly everyone on the trails. But certainly nobody beats Greyp on the connectivity factor with its mobile app and robust suite of on-board data and tech. Built-in hardware includes front and rear hi-def cameras (both to film epic rides and provide remote theft deterrence), GPS, accelerometer, barometer, Bluetooth and even a heart rate-reading wrist strap to collect an avalanche of data. Its 4G eSIM card provides 24/7 internet connectivity for safety and OTA software updates, meaning you’ll never be totally off the grid no matter where the Greyp takes you. This thing was born to run (at speeds up to 28 mph).
Look out for newer G6 models coming in spring, with improved suspension (new 29-inch fork increases from 150-mm to 160-mm travel), “mullet” setup (front wheel will go to 29 inches from 27.5 inches to provides a more trail-focused geometry) and even more user-friendly connectivity.
The Chic Beach Cruiser: Vintage Electric Tracker Classic
Inspired by classic 1920’s motorcycles like Indian’s Daytona Racer, Vintage Electric’s aptly named Tracker Classic resembles the overall geometry of your average beach cruiser. Of course, anyone who’s owned a cruiser knows its limitations, meaning because of their laidback riding position they’re absolutely useless on even the most moderate of hills. That’s where the Tracker Classic’s 720-watt battery comes in: With a surprisingly powerful (750-watt) hub motor, the Tracker Classic can decimate a hill in no time . . .or zoom you home from the Boardwalk if you want to avoid the public bathroom. Since it has a throttle you don’t need to pedal should you get lazy, and a key-activated race mode unlocks a blazing 36 mph top speed. Solidly built and flush with luxe touches— leather grips, a swooping frame made of hydroformed aluminum and clothes-defending full-length fenders—the Tracker Classic is easily the most stylish option on this list.
The ’70s-Style Minibike: Super73 RX
Nothing quite blends out-the-box style with copious customization potential quite like Super73. After a wildly successful Kickstarter launch, the SoCal brand has quickly grown into one of the most recognizable e-bikes in the world—thanks largely to guys like Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X, Will Smith and others scooping up and heavily personalizing their bikes. Underscoring Super73’s extremely active customization scene—check out their fan IG page—renowned custom motorcycle builder Roland Sands even penned his own one-off, showing just how creative you can get.
Just hitting American shores, Super73’s flagship RX model’s aircraft grade aluminum alloy frame and café racer seat carry on the brand’s vintage ‘70s minibikes vibes. But don’t be fooled by its throwback looks: The premium RX carries plenty of modern gear, like air-assisted inverted coil spring forks, piggyback coil-over mono-shocks, LED headlamps and integrated brake lights. Its super thick BDGR tires (5 inches wide) are thickest, most aggressive all-terrain rubber in its class (and the first to blend motorcycle + bicycle construction). They are stopped by high-performance Tektro brakes with four-piston forged aluminum calipers.
Meanwhile, tech like a powerful 960 watt-hour battery (largest in its segment) provides 75-plus miles of range in pedal-assist mode, and up to 40 miles when throttling up to 20 mph. A secret “Unlimited” mode unleashes up to 2,000 watts to the throttle, allowing the RX to supersede 28 mph (only legally allowed on private property). The RX also allows for over-the-air (OTA) updates while the optional IoT module offers anti-theft security, geolocation tracking and crash detection.
The Daily Commuter: Juiced HyperScorpion
With an easy-to-mount moped-like frame, strong motor, comfortable riding position and cushy seat, the Juiced HyperScorpion is probably the most functional of all the options here. It’s also the one we enjoyed jumping on most for errands, commuting or just riding to a friend’s place due to its capability.
The HyperScorpion is also pedal-assist only, meaning you can’t just thumb a throttle and jet down a street like a motorcycle. This makes the HyperScorpion ideal for someone looking to commute but who also wants to force themselves to actually, you know, exercise. With some e-bikes, it’s just way too easy to hammer the throttle, kick back and let the electrons do all the heavy lifting. Being a man of abysmal discipline, and hoping to burn some calories while cycling, I prefer e-bikes that don’t give me that option (of course, you may have different needs).
The newest bike in Juiced’s stable, the HyperScrambler 2, offers even more capability thanks to twin 52v 19.2Ah batteries that provide up to 100+ miles of range, speeds of 30+ mph and can reach 80 percent charge in two hours with optional fast chargers.