Commuting 2.0: The best e-bikes of 2019
Electric cars and motorcycles may still be too expensive to switch to, but any trip through a major city's bike lanes will show you that e-bikes have very much arrived. Expensive next to basic pushbikes, maybe, but electric bicycles are well and truly affordable for a broad range of riders, and they've opened up emissions-free, toll-free, parking fee-free cycle commuting to large groups of people that might never have committed to riding a bike otherwise.
What's more, research is beginning to show that e-bikes are every bit as good for your health as regular ones, as counter-intuitive as that might seem. The main reason for that is that a bit of electric assistance tends to encourage people to get on their bikes more, and ride further. Heck, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool motorcycle tragic, but I commute as often on my little Bafang Ultra e-bike as I do on my GSX-R or Speed Triple these days, and I feel the benefits every time I choose it.
So, if you're already electrified and on two wheels, then good for you! If you haven't succumbed to temptation yet, then perhaps this list of some of the year's most interesting e-bikes might whet your appetite. And if you're still one of those doofuses complaining to anyone who'll listen that e-bikes are cheating, kindly scroll to the comments and tell us exactly who's being cheated out of what.
Here are the e-bikes that impressed us in 2019.
The Beasts: 2,000 watts and upwards
This chunky little monster runs a 4-kW hub drive, ruling out any chance of legality in most areas. Built with hoops as fat as a trail bike, that's essentially how Delfast sees it. It'll do 45 mph (72 km/h), and cover as much as 110 mi (177 km) on a charge. Front and rear suspension, plus a hydraulic dropper seat, give it proper off-road chops, but it's a heavy fella, so don't plan to be whipping the Delfast Offroad over jumps.
The Skoda Klement is just a concept at the moment, largely because it's a road-focused machine with literally no category to fit into. With its 4-kW hub motor, it'll take off like an absolute rocket, even though it's speed limited to 28 mph (45 km/h). It's arguable whether this thing is even an e-bike at all, because it's got no pedals. Instead, you tilt the footrests forward and backward to apply power and brakes. Your phone becomes the bike's screen, and the rigid frame is made all the more eye-catching thanks to single-sided front and rear swingarms. It's a weird bike, for sure, and possibly a glimpse at a kind of road-going electric moped we may see in the future.
Luna X-1 Enduro
Luna Cycles is a great place to shop for high performance on a budget. The first to bring the Sur-Ron Light Bee into the United States last year, Luna has backed it up with a practical and fun-looking range of machines, including this Chinese kit machine, the company's first enduro machine. A beefed-up, torque-sensing 2-kW Bafang mid-drive, RockShox suspension at either end and a dropper seat post give it serious off-road capability, but it's the price that'll impress the most: US$3,650 with the Luna X-1's set of specs is a helluva deal.
Scout Pro Hardtail
Seems Scout has been hotting up Bafang mid-drives as well, because what looks like a 1,000-W Bafang Ultra makes a full 3 kW in the Scout Pro Hardtail. I'd love to know how long the rest of the drivetrain lasts with 240 Nm of torque running through it!
The unaffordable but tasty
The Trefecta RDR
An absolute kitchen sink job, the Dutch Trefecta RDR offers switchable ABS braking, outstanding suspension, a CarPlay-enabled phone cradle, and a 920-W powertrain with a carbon belt and an Enviolo infinitely variable automatic transmission. It's a tank. It's also kind of funny to look at, and costs nearly ten grand.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL Founders Edition
Yes, that's an e-bike – not that you could really tell by looking at it, or indeed by lifting it up. Thanks to carbon everything, the Specialized S-Works Turbo Creo SL weighs just 26.2 lb (11.9 kg). Heavy for a competition roadbike, sure, but featherweight for an e-bike. Specalized built its own motor for this thing, ensuring there's no drag once the 240-W motor cuts out. It might look a million dollars, but it's yours for a mere $16,500.
Nua's "unlimited range" Electrica
Sure, the unlimited range thing is a bit gimmicky – it only "charges itself" if you let it sip power on your downhills – but the Electrica's nifty lightweight design, which puts the entirety of the electric system, including battery, sensors and motor, in the rear hub, is a cool idea. But it uses a bunch of titanium in the frame, fork and seatpost for lightweighting, so it comes out around $4,500.
Tern HSD S+
With fully adjustable ergos, an Enviolo infinitely variable auto transmission, enough modular carrying capacity to challenge a cargo bike, and a semi-folding system for tight storage and transport, the Tern HSD S+ is designed to be so uber-practical that it could replace your car. Mind you, for $4,999, you might as well just replace your car.
There were so many gadget-based bikes this year that we'll pop them in a quick list and you can click through if you wish to learn more.
- The Spinciti Amsterdam connects to your phone to deliver correct fitness data for fitness tracking apps.
- The X One (pictured at the top of the page) unlocks itself with facial recognition, has head motion-activated indicators, and lets you pedal backwards for regen braking. It also looks very cool.
- The Karmic Oslo (pictured above) has a fully enclosed chain drive, disc wheels and it frankly looks like it's from the future.
- The Alter Bike doesn't charge at the wall – it uses hydrogen gas and a fuel cell for power.
- The Calamus One has indicators, a touchscreen with Google Maps navigation, and a blind spot warning system that vibrates your handlebars.
- The Xmera varies its level of pedal assist to keep your heart rate in the desired range.
- The Stark Drive Torque has fingerprint locking and wireless phone charging.
- Royal Dutch Gazelle and TU Delft have been working on a steering-assisted e-bike to help old folks get around without falling over.
- The odd-looking iweech e-bike learns where you generally ride it, and analyzes distance, topography and other factors to set an assist level that'll get you to your destination without running out of battery.
- The Gocycle GXi is a neat little fast-folding bike with a predictive shifting system that drops gears for you as you slow down, so you don't get stuck trying to take off in top gear
The surprisingly affordable
Rad Power Bikes has absolutely dominated the e-bike market in the United States with a philosophy of making the most affordable, practical, simple machines possible. The single-speed RadRunner costs just $1,299 with a 750-W hub motor, a chunky back rack and a 672-Wh battery – and it can be specced up from there with a big range of thoughtfully-designed modular add-ons.
With its sneaky 400-W mid-drive motor and carbon belt drive, the Luna Fixed offers a super-stealthy package that most folks won't pick from a regular bike, unless they sneak a peek at the left hand side. And Luna launched this single-speed commuter at just $1,750.
The iMiro Sivrac X-Framed folding bike
The iMiro Sivrac is the fastest-folding bike we've ever seen. Pull one knob, and it folds up in about a second for storage and transport. It's got integrated LED lighting, a removable battery, a companion phone app and some rudimentary front suspension, and it's ready to commute from $1,299.
There's nothing fancy about the Juiced Crosscurrent, but it's a super-solid commuter with a 750-W torque- and cadence-sensing hub drive, with a 52-volt, 676 Wh battery that'll get you up to 100 miles (160 km) of range if you run it economically, or 34 miles (55 km) if you forget to pedal and use the throttle everywhere. At $1,799, it's a terrific introduction to zero-emissions commuting.