The best electric bikes (e-bikes) help you go further, faster and for longer, provide a smooth ride and make hills easier to climb.
They range in price from £500 to more than £5,000. In May 2022, we tested the most popular cheaper models (£2,200 or less) from top brands and retailers, including Giant, Halfords, Trek to find out which is the best if you're on a budget.
We found big differences between how smoothly each bike accelerates, which can get up steep hills and how comfortable they were to ride.
If your budget can stretch a bit further, we've also tested e-bike motors commonly found on pricier bikes to help you narrow down your search.
Prices and availability last checked: 5 July 2022.
Key features: Speed sensor, three assistance levels, single speed, V-brakes, kick stand, quick release seat clamp
Rider heights: 5ft 3in to 6ft 1in
Motor: Not stated, front-hub
Battery sizes: 115Wh
Key features: Cadence sensor, four assistance levels, eight gears, clicker gear shifter, cable disc brakes, quick release seat clamp
Rider heights: 5ft 6in to 6ft 1in (mens), 4ft 11in to 5ft 7 (womens)
Motor: Suntour eco, rear-hub
Battery sizes: 317Wh
Key features: Cadence sensor, three assistance levels, six gears, twist gear shifter, v-brakes, kick stand, built-in front and rear lights
Rider heights: 5ft 2in to 6ft 2in
Motor: Elops KM790, rear hub
Battery sizes: 313Wh
Key features: Giant pedalplus 3-sensor system, five assistance levels, eight gears, clicker gear shifter, V-brakes, kick stand, built-in front and rear lights
Weight: Not stated - Giant says "weight can vary based on size, finish, hardware and accessories"
Rider heights: Under 5ft 3in (XS model) to 6ft 4in
Motor: Giant SyncDrive Move, front-hub
Display: Giant RideControl ONE
Battery sizes: 300Wh
Key features: Speed sensor, three assistance levels, eight gears, clicker gear shifter, V-brakes, kick stand
Rider heights: 5ft 1in to 6ft 1in
Motor: Bafang, rear-hub
Display: Not stated
Battery sizes: 317Wh
Key features: cadence sensor, three assistance levels, single speed, cable disc brakes
Rider heights: 5ft 7in to 6ft 2in
Motor: Vision GM 110, rear-hub
Battery sizes: 252Wh
Key features: Cadence sensor, three assistance levels, eight gears, clicker gear shifter, mechanical disc brakes, quick release seat clamp
Rider heights: 4ft 9in to 6ft 6in (mens), 4ft 9in to 6ft (womens)
Motor: Vision, rear-hub
Display: Not stated
Battery sizes: 380Wh
Key features: Torque sensor, four assistance levels, eight gears, twist gear shifter, hydraulic disc brakes, kick stand, built-in front light
Weight: 22.3kg (for medium frame, 300Wh battery)
Rider heights: 4ft 10in to 6ft 1in
Motor: Bosch active line, mid-hub
Display: Bosch purion
Battery sizes: 300Wh, 400Wh, 500Wh
Key features: Cadence sensor, four assistance levels plus boost button, four gears, automatic gear shifter, hydraulic disc brakes, kick stand, built-in front and rear lights
Rider heights: 5ft 8in to 6ft 8in
Motor: VanMoof, front-hub
Display: VanMoof, built into top tube, can also use smartphone with app
Battery sizes: 380Wh, non-removable
We've also tested the most common motors found on pricier bikes to see which have the best acceleration, get you up hills with ease and performed quietly.
We can't tell you how comfortable a bike equipped with this motor will be to ride, but these results will give you an indication as to which ones are great and which to avoid.
|Motor||Acceleration||Assistance on flat||Assistance up hills||Quietness of motor|
|Bosch Active Line Plus|
|Bosch Performance Line|
|Bosch Performance Line CX|
|Giant SyncDrive Core|
|Giant SyncDrive Pro|
|Mahle Ebikemotion X35+|
Each bike was ridden up Brooklands Test Hill, which has fixed and accurate gradients of 12.5% to 25%. Bikes were put in their highest assistance level and lowest gear to make sure the motor was putting in the work, not the tester.
Each bike was tested to see how well it could climb each gradient with a run up and if they could perform a hill start on each gradient.
The best electric bikes could get up and hill start on all slopes, while the worst could only just make it up the shallowest gradient.
Each electric bike was ridden by the same tester, weighing 70kg, and timed to see how quickly it can travel 30 metres from a standing start.
We repeated this multiple times to get an accurate and reliable measure of each bike's acceleration.
Five testers also rode each bike and evaluated how smooth each electric bike's acceleration was.
We measured the stopping distance of each electric bike after our 70kg tester got each bike up to 15.5mph. We repeated this multiple times to get an accurate and reliable measure of how quickly each e-bike could brake.
As well as testing up hills, a panel of five testers of various heights (within each bike's specified range) and genders tested each electric bike and evaluated the motor on the following:
Acceleration The best e-bikes don't just accelerate fast, they do it smoothly, cranking up the power delivered so it doesn't feel like you're being launched, and keeping the rider feeling comfortable and in control.
Smoothness of power delivery The worst e-bikes felt like they launched you off at a set speed no matter how hard you pedal or your speed. The best delivered the power smoothly, feeling like you're riding a normal bike easily rather than a motorbike.
Smoothness of cut out All e-bikes in the UK stop delivering assistance once you reach 15.5mph. The best electric bikes taper off the amount of power they deliver, so when you reach this speed you don't feel the motor cut out.
Yo-yoing Related to smoothness of cut out. If you cycle around 15.5mph the motor will frequently start and stop providing power as you go below and above 15.5mph. If this assistance is too strong, the e-bike feels almost like it is rocking back and forth (like a yo-yo).
Cornering at low speeds Each tester tried staying within a six-metre turning circle while pedalling at low speeds. The best electric bikes could still be easily controlled at low speeds, whereas some motors kicked in so strong it was hard to remain within the tight turning circle.
Each of the five testers adjusted the seat and handles of each e-bike to their preferred position, and evaluated the ride quality of each model for:
Display and motor controls The best displays were clear and easy to read while cycling, and the controls to adjust the assistance level were easy to reach and press
Brakes While brakes can be adjusted, some brakes out of the box were less noisy and grating than others, and some felt weaker than others, needing more compression before the brakes engaged.
Changing gears The best electric bikes had gear shifters that were easy to locate and use while cycling. Some were counter-intuitive to use and required a lot of force.
Comfort Each electric bike was rode on a variety of surfaces, from smooth tarmac to bumpy woodland paths. The best only vibrated little, whereas some made you feel every bump and made the bike rattle disconcertingly.
The five-strong test panel evaluated each electric bike for:
Adjusting the seat and handles Bikes with quick-release clamps were much easier to adjust.
Ease of lifting and carrying We found step-through frames and e-bikes with unbalanced weight distribution, were more tricky to get a comfortable grip on and carry.
Ease of removing/reinserting the battery Some batteries easily slipped in and out of their holder, while others felt like you were solving a puzzle box to get the battery back in.
A panel of five testers assessed each e-bike's build quality. The bikes with cheaper plastic handles, exposed electrical wiring and scruffier welding on the frame scored lower.
The best e-bikes sealed or built the electrical wiring into the frame and used comfortable materials for the handles and saddle.
The motors were set up on a rolling road and put through an array of tough tests designed to simulate real-life use.
Each motor was tested on a flat road, a shallow hill (1.5% gradient) and a steeper hill (6% gradient).
Each motor was also evaluated for acceleration and motor noise.
They all get the basic job done All the e-bikes we tested took the effort out of cycling to some degree, even though we found big differences between the best and the worst. If you're just looking for something to use to occasionally get from A to B, you don't need to break the bank to do so.
You get a better electric bike the more you pay, at least when it comes to the lower-priced e-bikes While the cheapest e-bikes still make some hills easier to climb, moving from the £1,000 or less price point up to £1,000 to £2,000 will typically get you a smoother motor. The displays are more informative, showing extra information such as your speed and distance travelled. Cheaper e-bike displays typically only showed battery level and selected assistance level.
Price doesn't affect comfort Our testers didn't find any correlation between the price of the bike and how comfortable it was to ride, but they did find the pricier models, in general, handled cycling at low speeds better.
The motor isn't a replacement for having gears While the motor helps, we found that electric bikes with only one gear didn't perform as well on our hill tests. If your daily commute or favourite cycling route has some big hills, make sure you get an e-bike with gears.
Torque sensors make a huge difference An electric bike with a torque sensor is able to respond to how hard you're pushing on the pedals. Our tests found e-bikes with a torque sensor started supplying power from the motor much quicker on hill starts, which made them easier to do.
How do e-bikes differ from other motorised vehicles? You have to be pedalling on an electric bike for the motor to kick in. Electric bikes are also restricted by law to go no faster than 15.5mph, but this means you don't need a licence or to tax and insure an e-bike as you would with a scooter.
Do you still get exercise using an electric bike? Yes. You get your heart rate up, breathe deeper and burn calories whenever you cycle, whether it's an e-bike or not.
How heavy are electric bikes? They tend to be around 10kg heavier than their equivalent non-electric bike. The typical weight for a hybrid electric bike is around 22kg to 25kg. Folding electric bikes tend to be a bit lighter, around 16kg to 18kg, on average.
How much do they cost? Electric bikes start from around £500 to more than £5,000 for top end electric mountain bikes. Most fall in the £1,500 to £3,000 range. E-bikes with mid-hub motors, lighter material frames (such as carbon-fibre) and a larger battery tend to be more expensive.
Display The control display usually sits on the handlebars and allows you to adjust the assistance level as you go. Some displays only show battery level, while others give more information such as your speed and the distance travelled.
Assistance levels Different e-bikes have slightly different setups, but most will offer an equivalent of low, medium and high-assistance modes. These usually equate to the motor matching your input, giving one and a half times your input, or doubling it.
Sensor An electric bike can come with one, or a combination of, sensor types in order to determine how much power the motor should deliver to the bike and when. Speed sensors measure how fast the bike is going, typically based on the speed of the wheel, and delivers power accordingly. Cadence measure how fast you're pedalling and delivers more power the slower you are. A torque sensor measures how hard you're pushing on the pedals and delivers more assistance if needed. A bike with a torque sensor can engage the motor faster than a cadence or speed sensor, making it great for hill starts.
Frame size Getting an oversized or undersized frame can ruin your enjoyment of a bike if you have to reach too far for the handlebars, or you simply can’t find a comfortable riding position. We recommend you test-ride a bike before you buy or, at the very least, check the manufacturers' guidelines to find the right frame size for you.
Brakes You'll want a decent set of brakes on an electric bike, given its increased weight. V-brakes are a common type of brake and are easy to replace. Cable (or cantilever) brakes only have a cable running between them, so are less likely to get clogged with mud and are a good option for off-road cyclists. Disc brakes are increasingly popular, with their main advantage being an increased stopping power in wet conditions.
Gears If you only intend to ride on flat terrain, you can get away with an electric bike with a single gear (these tend to be lighter and cheaper), but if you live in a hilly area you'll need one with several gears to make the hills easier to climb.