Buyers' Guide: The 10 Best E-Bikes For 2017 Road, Commuting & Touring
September 30th, 2016
September 30th, 2016
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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Popular in Europe, and ever-growing in the UK, e-bikes are creeping in as a norm for urban travel. Cheaper and quieter than a moped, and less effort than a standard bicycle, the e-bike is offering commuters and leisure riders a way to get around quickly and cheaply without working up a sweat or worrying about fitness. Here's 10 of our favourites on the market for 2017.
Cube Dehli & Elly
Cube say that one in four of the bikes that they sell are e-bikes. Almost all of their mountain bike models now have an e-bike version to choose from, making Cube one of the most accommodating e-bike providers, and, being such a market leader in the cycling world, they are also one of the most affordable too. They use critically acclaimed Bosch systems on all models, not just the top spec ones, and they keep the drive unit around the bottom bracket, which keeps the weight low down, the bikes more balanced, and keeps chain-slap to a minimum. The Dehli is their most popular tarmac dedicated ride, which is a hybrid; a comfort-oriented road bike with flat handlebars and front suspension. A new Editor is soon to be released with Gates' belt-drive, a direct and simple bike that will minimise maintenance and illuminate squeaky chains. In the meantime, the Travel (a hybrid, city e-bike) and Elly (a women's specific ride with disc brakes and front suspension, as pictured) are on offer. Expect the range to start from around £1,900 for a city slicker with Shimano Deore 10-speed.
Raleigh have kept their tyres firmly on the tarmac for their e-bikes, but they have quite an extensive range to suit many different commuting, touring and fitness needs. From the elegant, Dutch-style curves of the Motus, the Pioneer and the Array, to the simple design of the Strada. Their range starts at an incredible budget of £1,000 and extends to £2,000. The Strada is probably my favourite model for city commuting, with its clean lines and carbon forks, it looks rather stylish. The top spec model (pictured) comes with disc brakes and 8 speed Shimano Alfine Di2 electronic gear shifting, making it as practical as it is pleasing to the eye, and an utter bargain at £2,000. The Strada also comes in an alternative spec with front suspension for added comfort, especially if your commute includes rough rounds and dirt paths.
Scott E-Sub and E-Silence
Scott have one of the most extensive varieties of e-bikes in their line-up, and they manage to keep a "normal" Scott-like look to all of their rides. Rumour has it that they've bought out a leading e-bike only brand, so I expect their range will either expand or learn a few tricks over the next year or two. In the meantime, the E-sub comes in a classic "step-through" frame design or a more hybrid oriented appearance. Both come with front suspension and the range starts from £1,999. Both use Shimano STEPS batteries that are stored on the pannier racks over the rear wheel. This could make for awkward weight distribution, but if you're carrying panniers on the racks anyway, it shouldn't make much of a difference. The E-Silence is new for 2017 and is a "rigid" alternative, meaning the front fork is not suspended. The big selling point is the silent Brose System 508Wh, with the battery integrated into the downtube, and thus more balanced and pleasing on the eye, and also comes with integrated bike lights. I do like the clean lines and the modern appearance of this model, but the range will start from £2,799.
You may have heard that British folding bike company, Brompton, are designing an e-bike version of their much loved folding bikes. This won't be available until Summer 2017, and may only hit a few streets in Europe, but until then you can find conversion kits if you already have a standard Brompton. If you're not loyal to this brand, then there are a couple of options already out there; I would recommend looking at Volt's range (below) or seek out the Coyote Connect (pictured), which has a shockingly low price tag of £599 and can be picked up from your local Halfords.
If we're going to talk e-bikes, then we need to talk Haibike; a German brand that is arguably the market leader in e-bikes, if only because they are a global, award-winning designer who only sell bikes of the electronic variety. Surprisingly though, their bikes are mainly off-road rides, however; the Haibike Urban offers tarmac-based exploration with pannier racks, integrated lights and speeds of up to 28mph. The top spec comes with Plus sized road tyres for added grip and comfort, and the range starts at around £3,199. There are very few shops in the UK stocking these, but if you do your research you should find them, or at least be able to order one, in an e-bike specialist store.
Have you seen those JML-style adverts on TV for the GTech AirRam vacuum? Well, you may have also seen their other TV advert for the GTech eBike. I can't vouch for GTech as a cycling brand, but they've obviously got here from a battery powered gadget pathway, and they make a very compelling offer. Tech's ride is a simple, modern-looking bike at just under £1,000 and they offer a 14 day trial with free delivery, free assembly and free returns. The Gtech eBike comes in a standard diamond-shaped frame with 20" wheels (as pictured) or with a dropped top tube and 17" wheels for easy step-through access. The own-brand battery has a built in computer that continually measures your pedaling, and adjusts the power to give you a boost when you need it (up to 15mph), rather than a constant uncontrollable stream. The belt-drive and internal gears are a nice low-maintenance touch, but you get rim brakes rather than disc brakes here.
Trek Dual Sport, Conduit+ & Lift+
Trek have five urban and fitness-oriented bikes with slight differences to target a particular purpose. If commuting is your game, then grab some extra power with the Conduit+; a lightweight aluminium ride with flat handlebars and disc brakes (pictured). It comes with Shimano Steps power, mudguards and lights (although not integrated) and starts the range at £2,150. This is brand new for 2017, but is making its way into big chain stores across the UK already. There is a female-specific alternative in the Lift+, which can come with or without a dropped top-tube and is available in retro bright blue and ostentatious orange. Unfortunately, this is currently only available in the US.
Whyte Clifton & Highgate
British-based brand, Whyte, have four e-bikes in their line up. Two that are full-on urban commuters, and two with front suspension for more all-terrain capabilities and comfort. All models come with disc brakes and Shimano Steps batteries centred to the down tube, much like a slightly over-sized water bottle, plus the Steps crankset is very subtle, so I quite like the fact that these bikes aren't obviously e-bikes on first sight. My pick of the bunch has to be the Clifton in a matte grey with subtle teal decals. This aluminium hybrid comes with flat handlebars and Shimano Deore groupset with hydraulic disc brakes for £2,150. The Highgate is the same spec and price with red decals.
Giant Ease-E+ & Road-E+
It may not be the biggest range on offer, but Giant have a seriously good spread of electronic models available, and are one of few companies doing a proper, drop handlebar, electronic road bike (pictured) in the Road E+. With two spec options, the Road E+ starts at £2,299 for an aluminium frame and fork combo, own-brand Giant RideControl battery and display units, Shimano Tiagra groupset and a Tiagra and TRP disc brake combination. The TRP brake callipers are mechanical, which presumably saves a few pennies, but if you're buying in store I would seriously consider getting the shop to upgrade you to hydraulic brakes, as they will control speed a lot better and may only cost you an extra £50. The Giant Ease-E+ is probably their most well-known model, with a drop top tube and battery on the rear pannier rack. New this year is the Quick-E+, which is a more traditional hybrid with a higher top tube, but this allows the battery to be centred on the down tube to offer a more balance ride.
Volt Pulse & Kensington
Volt may not be a brand often used in our Buyers' Guides, but this is because they are solely an e-bike manufacturer. They are very popular in UK bike stores, and not just the e-bike specialists. Despite having some of the most affordable bikes on offer to the UK, they also provide a 0% finance deal direct. In the urban commuting and leisure world, there is a bike for everyone with Volt, from hybrid men's and women's bikes, to folding and fat-tyred mountain bikes. What I really like about these guys is that, unlike everyone else in this Guide, Volt place their batteries around the seat tube, which offers a balanced weight distribution, without compromising space for water bottles or for luggage on the rear pannier racks. My pick has to be the Metro folding bike, just for how useful and versatile a folding bike can be. You don't need to travel by train to find use for a bike that packs down under your desk or in your cupboard at home. Pictured here is one of six colour ways, which comes with lights and pannier racks from £1,149. It'll do 50+ miles on its Panasonic lithium battery, and has a 2 year warranty.