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The best electric bikes: Top e-bikes for commuting

What is the best electric bike? ZDNet recommends the RadCity Step-Thru 3. Due to their low environmental impact and other advantages, electric bikes are rising in popularity, so we've come up with the top picks.
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Written by Bridget Reed, Contributing Editor on
Reviewed by Allison Murray

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have risen in popularity over the past few years. Many see electric bikes as an environmentally friendly trend providing an alternative to vehicle transportation and fuel costs. 

Electric bikes are rising in popularity for numerous reasons, and one of them is highly relatable for many of us: Electric bikes get people out of their cars and physically active. Using an electric bike can also help lead a healthier lifestyle. But, contrary to popular opinion, electric bikes don't do all the work, though they do feature pedal assist. 

As popularity rises, the market will continue to expand. Electric bike market statistics suggest that by 2023 electric bike sales may reach upwards of 40 million units worldwide, generating billions of dollars in revenue. 
 
So, are you ready to jump on board the electric bike trend? If so, ZDNet has got a list of some of the best electric bikes available in 2022 to satisfy almost everyone — from the curious beginner to the trail-riding veteran. 

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Make: Rad Power Bikes | Total weight: 65.2 lbs | Wheel size: 26 inches | Motor: Direct Drive Hub 750 W | Battery: Lithium-ion; 48V, 14Ah | Capacity: 275 lbs | Top speed: 20 mph | Charge time: 6 hours | Miles per charge: Up to 45-plus miles per charge | Price: $1,599 at Rad Power Bikes

The Step-Thru 3 is the our pick for the best electric bike since it's made with comfort in mind. Its low-profile design and upright frame put less distance between you and the handlebars, making it a comfortable cruiser. It offers a half-twist throttle and a 1 x 7-speed drivetrain for more torque during uphill climbs. The Step-Thru 3 puncture-resistant tires are reinforced with Kenda K-Shield tire liners. A rear rack makes it easy to carry your cargo -- platforms, baskets, and even some child seats can be attached.  

Added features:

  • The display features a backlit LCD monitor complete with a speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, wattmeter, and charge indicator.
  • Bright LED front headlights provide high visibility, while rear lights offer solid or flashing modes for breaking.
  • A five-level pedal-assist offers a high-resolution cadence sensor to help the motor respond quickly to changes in pedal movement. You can override it at any time for full throttle.

Pros

  • Speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, wattmeter, and charge indicator
  • Lights in the front and back
  • Five-level pedal-assist

Cons

  • Relatively heavy 
  • Some complaints about speedometer
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Make: Electric Bike Company | Total weight: 58.2 lbs | Wheel size: 26 inches | Motor: Rear-mounted geared hub - 1000 W (peak output) | Battery: Lithium-ion; 48V, up to 20Ah | Capacity: 300 lbs | Top speed: 28 mph | Charge time: 3 to 4 hours | Miles per charge: Up to 80 miles per charge | Price: $1,799 at Electric Bike Company

The Model Y comes in 10 different color schemes, but customers can also choose to customize, accessorize, and create their own unique designs. This step-through cruiser electric bike offers three drive modes with pedal assist. The 48V battery allows 1000 watts of power, delivered to the motor when needed -- mostly during challenging hill climbs or sudden acceleration. 

Added features:

  • The Model Y features an aluminum, hydro-formed frame, giving it a thick, sturdy build for added durability. 
  • It has a top-of-the-line hydraulic braking system with sensor controls and motor disconnect to allow for one-finger-stopping when necessary. 
  • Front and rear LED lights to provide high visibility.
  • Above the double-walled aluminum rims and puncture-resistance and Kevlar-reinforced tires sits a hand-stitched 300 x 300 x 100mm leather seat fit with high-density foam that's built for comfort. 

Pros

  • Completely customizable 
  • Up to 80 miles per charge 
  • Comfortable seat

Cons

  • Be aware of its wide turn radius 
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Make: Lectric | Total weight: 63 lbs | Wheel size: 20 inches | Motor: Brushless geared rear hub – 800 W (peak output) | Battery: Lithium-ion; 48V, 10.4Ah or 9.6Ah | Capacity: 330 lbs| Top speed: 28 mph | Charge time: 4 to 6 hours | Miles per charge: Up to 45+ miles per charge | Price: $999 at Lectric

The Lectric XP Step-Thru comes in black or white. This bike's most distinct advantage is its ability to completely fold up, going from 66 x 18 x 47 inches to 37 x 18 x 27 inches in its folded dimensions. It's a space saver. The 4" x 20" puncture-resistant fat tires make it great for hitting the trail, while the Class 3 capability of the motor provides extra power for inclines. 

Added features:

  • Its seven-speed gearing and five pedal-assist levels make it perfect for riding in most outdoor environments.
  • A deluxe seat and adjustable handlebars for a longer more comfortable ride.
  • Front and rear LED lights are integrated into the XP's control system, giving you a safer riding experience -- ensuring high visibility.
  • The XP comes standard with an LCD mounted display that shows all the important readouts: Battery level, current speed, pedal assist level, odometer, and more.

Pros

  • Least expensive option 
  • Can fold up to take anywhere 
  • Great power for inclines 

Cons

  • Complaints about shipping delays 
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Make: Surface 604 | Total weight: 57.3 lbs | Wheel size: 27.5 inches | Motor: Rear-mounted geared hub - 750 W (peak output) | Battery: Lithium-ion; 48V, 14 Ah or a 20 Ah upgrade | Capacity: 285 lbs | Top speed: 30 mph | Charge time: 6 hours | Miles per charge: Up to 45 miles per charge | Price: $2,399 at Surface 604 Bikes

If you're serious about hitting the trails, then the Shred should be among your top contenders. While the hardtail suspension won't give the same performance as more expensive, full-suspension trail electric bikes, it's still a worthy contender. Plus, Surface 604 does offer suspension upgrades for the Shred. In addition, the Class 3 motor capability and 9-speed drivetrain will give you more than enough power to climb mountain trails. 

Added features:

  • There are two battery options: While the 48V 14Ah will give you plenty of range (45 miles), an upgrade to the 48V 20Ah could get you up to a 65-mile range on one charge.
  • The new 2021 Shred comes standard with an extra-large 3.5-inch color LCD display, showing you all the important information; it also features a micro USB jack.
  • Shred comes with a smooth torque sensor, an upgrade from cadence sensors, which helps distribute power during the pedal-assist when you need it.

Pros

  • Highest top speeds at 30 mph
  • Smooth torque sensor 

Cons

  • High cost
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Make: Magnum | Total weight: 80.5 lbs | Wheel size: 26 inches | Motor: Das-kit rear-mounted geared hub - 500 W (peak output) | Battery: Lithium (Li-NCM); 48V, 18Ah | Capacity: 350 lbs | Top speed: 25 mph with pedal assist; 20 mph throttle only | Charge time: 6 hours | Miles per charge: Up to 55 miles per charge | Price: $2,799 at Magnum Bikes

The Magnum Payload Cargo electric bike is perfect for gig workers and food couriers working in the city who want to save on fuel costs. This long-tail cargo e-bike features an extended rear rack and a front cargo basket to maximize your load -- up to 350 pounds of total capacity. 

Added features:

  • The motor is powered by a Das-kit rear hub drive, providing plenty of power, while the 8-speed gear shifts give you all the torque you need to climb or cruise.
  • Magnum Payload has three drive modes: Walk mode, trigger throttle on-demand for Class 2, and cadence sensor with pedal assist, making it Class 3. The Payload tops out at 25 mph.
  • A mounted, backlit LCD display gives you all the necessary performance data: Speed, battery levels, power output, odometer, trip time, and more.

Pros

  • Extended rear rack and front cargo basket 
  • 8-speed gear shifts

Cons

  • Most expensive option

What is the best electric bike?

Our pick for the best electric bike is the RadCity Step-Thru 3, but any of these other options are also great. Before purchasing, you must first figure out how and where you will be using your bike. 

  • Cruising around the neighborhood? 
  • Commuting to work in the city? 
  • Delivering food? 
  • Trail riding? 

Become familiar with the specifications: Motors, battery types, frames, and capacities. Again, do your homework --electric bikes can be quite the investment. Lastly, after you've figured that out, don't hesitate to visit a local bike shop to test a few out and get an expert opinion.

Electric Bike

Price

Miles per charge

Top speed

RadCity Step-Thru 3

$1,599

45+ miles

20 mph

Electric Bike Company Model Y

$1,799

80 miles

28 mph

Lectric XP Step-Thru

$999

45+ miles

28 mph

2021 Shred by Surface 604

$2,399

45 miles

30 mph

Magnum Payload Cargo

$2,799

55 miles

25 mph

Do I need a license to ride an electric bike?

This depends on the city, county, or state. From a federal standpoint, electric bikes are considered the same class as regular bikes. However, as electric bikes become faster and the motor becomes more powerful, that could change. The market is still fairly new; expect laws to change in time. 

How did we choose these electric bikes?

We know there are a lot of electric bikes to choose from, so we combed through the options by reading reviews and noting the top-rated electric bikes for different riding categories/needs. We considered price, range, and known and trusted brand names when making our final picks. 

Can I still pedal without any assistance on my electric bike?

Yes. Most electric bikes come with varying drive modes, from pedal assist to throttle on-demand. Manual pedaling is still possible without any assistance or resistance from the motor.

How big of a motor should I have?

That depends on the use. Electric bikes meant for simple cruising generally range from 200 to 500 watts. However, if you plan to use an electric bike for trail riding, uphill riding, or carrying cargo, then a bigger motor capable of providing extra torque is probably best. 

Are there other electric bikes to consider?

Here are a few other noteworthy options:

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