Add some extra pedal power to your cycle ride with a battery-powered two-wheeler
Don’t be fooled, an electric bicycle is not the same as a moped. Electric bikes have a battery on board but you still need to pedal at least some of the time. They’re limited in how fast the power can make them go, too, so once you’ve hit 15mph, the motor cuts out and it’s all down to you. Most electric bikes are pedal assist, while a few have throttles. All here are pedal assist apart from the Woosh Krieger, Gocycle, Infineum, Volt Kensington and Volt Metro which have a throttle as well as pedal assist.
Mostly these are for commutes and road use but some have the thick, knobbly tyres familiar to mountain bike riders and are suitable for off-roading. Batteries are usually, though not always, lithium ion and take three to four hours to recharge. Tech companies such as Bosch and Panasonic make excellent batteries for bikes.
Remember, when you’re using an electric bike, you’re carrying extra weight – often about 7kg or more compared to a regular bike. Electric bikes cost more than regular bikes, too. Bikes were tested on various terrains and any big variations from stated range noted – though the more effort you put in, the further they’ll go. If the battery does go flat, it’s not like an electric car: you can still pedal.
As with all electric vehicles, it’s the recharging that takes the time. Most here need around three-and-a-half hours, so it’s worth factoring that in.
- 1 1. Brompton Electric, Brompton
- 2 2. Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie, Evans Cycles
- 3 3. Coyote Connect Folding Electric Bike, Halfords
- 4 4. Pinnacle Lithium Ion 2017, Evans Cycles
- 5 5. Infineum Extreme, Halfords
- 6 6. DiamondBack Ranger, Tredz
- 7 7. Volt Kensington, Volt
- 8 8. Woosh Krieger, Woosh
- 9 9. Gocycle G3, Cycle Republic
- 10 10. Volt Metro: from £1,299, Electric Bike Store
- 11 The Verdict: Electric bikes
1. Brompton Electric, Brompton
The battery on the Brompton is integrated into a compact bag which clips onto the front of the bike. It has the advantages of other Bromptons (it folds small and is less easily stolen as you can take it indoors with you) and is a neat, fast, comfortable ride. There are four different riding modes, too, from no assistance at all (handy if you need to conserve battery), up to the high-level assistance needed if you’re tackling a steep incline. This is so new that it’s only available for a test ride so far, at Brompton’s slick London Brompton Junction store, though the company claims it will have a range of between 25 and 50 miles. Orders are being taken now and the first ones will be delivered in January.
2. Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6Fattie, Evans Cycles
Californian bike company Specialized has been making mountain bikes for decades, though it’s new to the electric bike industry. An electric mountain bike is designed to make off-roading more fun (most electric bikes cope best on roads), as well as street cycling. This bike builds the battery and motor into the frame which looks great. It’s a solid bike (23.3kg) but still bouncy enough to feel fun. This bike is pricey not just because it’s very well built but because it has very sophisticated battery management. Use the Mission Control app to ensure you have battery to spare by telling it the distance you are going and how much battery you want left at the end. It’ll then adjust the level of electrical help it gives you through the journey accordingly. It’ll run for between 25 and 55 miles on a charge. Available in all-black, or green and black.
3. Coyote Connect Folding Electric Bike, Halfords
This bike has the convenience of being foldable so you’ll be able to take it on the train if your commute involves one, and store it indoors for extra safety. The battery has a lower range than some (20 miles, though of course, if it runs flat, you can still pedal). The 20in wheels mean it doesn't feel as stable as a full-sized bike but it’s an enjoyable ride nonetheless. It weighs 18kg. Available in black or grey.
4. Pinnacle Lithium Ion 2017, Evans Cycles
The battery on this bike takes you further than some – up to 60 miles on a single charge – a few only take you half that distance. Pinnacle is an Evans Cycles brand, offering decent build and good value. It’s colourful, with matching mudguards supplied and reasonably nimble. Not everyone will like the look of the hefty battery slung between the cyclist’s legs – though it means the weight is centred as you ride.
5. Infineum Extreme, Halfords
Infineum bikes use a stackable battery system so you can add extra batteries for greater range (an extra 25-33 miles per cell, each weighing 1.8kg). Each sits above the back wheel in the luggage rack. A throttle lets you travel without pedalling. There’s a backlit display on the handlebars which shows speed and battery strength. This bike is a decent ride with 26in wheels, though pricier models here offer greater comfort and extra features.
6. DiamondBack Ranger, Tredz
This is another electric mountain bike and boasts an especially compact drive system (the gears, torque control and so on) to make it especially good on steep slopes. Going up, we mean, any bike can handle going downhill. The rear suspension makes for an enjoyable ride, not least because the shock absorbers make it fun in the bumpiest of situations. Its chunky tyres mean it is suitable for the trail as well as the tarmac. The battery has a range of 75 miles.
7. Volt Kensington, Volt
This bike from stylish, UK-based E-cycle brand Volt is a real looker and comes in pastel blue or white colours. The range is about 60 miles from a single charge of the Panasonic battery. It is easy to ride, with five different levels of power, with a throttle for travel without pedalling. It has mudguards, lights and a luggage rack as standard. As with all the bikes here, recharging the battery takes three hours or more.
8. Woosh Krieger, Woosh
The Krieger is a crank-drive electric bike with a throttle for powered cycling without pedalling but that also works as pedal assist. You twist the throttle to scoot along effortlessly, even on hills, with different levels of assistance available. It’s powerful enough for most hills and has a range of up to 70 miles, or 60 miles if you take it easy on the pedalling, and more if you stick to pedal assist. It’s not light (about 25kg fully loaded) but absolutely manageable to cycle without any assisted power.
9. Gocycle G3, Cycle Republic
The stunningly designed Gocycle is an advanced electric bike that’s beautifully detailed, even down to the powerful daytime light across the handlebars. It’s also very light (just over 16kg) thanks to a magnesium frame. The wheels detach to make it stowable in a small space. A throttle button lets you apply power easily. It has a range of about 50 miles. Recharge time is longer than some here at about five and a half hours. A smartphone app offers extra information about speed, battery life, calories burnt and more. The app also has a “kill” option so a Gocycle can be immobilised if stolen. If this is beyond your price range, the previous model, G2, is also on sale, which is cheaper. Both offer smooth, enjoyable rides.
10. Volt Metro: from £1,299, Electric Bike Store
The Metro is not especially light for a fold-up compared to some electric folders (18.5kg plus 3.1kg battery) but this gives it greater stability when you’re riding. It has 20in wheels, like the other folder here. Folding bikes can’t match full-size models for stiffness and stability but 20in wheels are stabler and faster than the smaller 16in wheels on some rivals. It has a range of 40 miles though you can opt for a bigger battery offering a 60 mile range. Like the Coyote Connect, it comes with luggage rack, lights and mudguards. It has a throttle but also works as pedal assist. Choose from white or black versions.
The Verdict: Electric bikes
The bikes here are very different from each other. First decide whether you want foldable or sporty, expensive or super-expensive. The Gocycle G3 is tremendous, and if it’s too pricey, the G2 is great, too. The most stylish looker is the Volt Kensington and if you can wait until next year to ride it, the Brompton is a great fold-up option.