The Best E-Bikes for Beginners, According to Experts (Updated 2022)


Electric bikes are enjoying a mainstream moment. As anxiety over Covid-19 drives many commuters away from public transportation, demand for bicycles, including electric models, is exploding. In March, US retail sales of e-bikes surged 85% compared to the same time last year, according to market research from N.P.D. Group.

Like regular cycling, e-bike commuting supports activity, sustainability, and, in the age of pandemic, social distancing. The technological advantage of e-bikes is the addition of a battery-powered motor, which allows riders to go faster and farther without breaking a sweat.

While it is possible to find a reliable e-bike for as little as a $1,000, if you want something that is feature-rich, equipped with top-end components, and doesn’t look like a dirt bike on a diet, your search will probably start around $2,000 and, from there, can stretch all the way into the five-figure range.

That upfront financial commitment can make shopping for your first e-bike intimidating. To help first-time buyers, we asked seven experts to pick the best e-bikes on the market for beginners.

For the sake of comparability, we limited our list to Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes, which are pedal-assisted (or “pedelec”) and provide motor support up to 20 mph and 28 mph, respectively. Unlike Class 2 models, these machines are not throttle-controlled, meaning they need to be pedaled to engage e-assist. For more on the three-tier system of electric bikes, we recommend this article.


VanMoof S3 ($1,998)

If you’re searching for an e-bike that feels more like smartphone on wheels than a beater with a motor stuck to the hub, many in the cycling community are quick to suggest the VanMoof S3. The e-bike is known for its many bells and whistles—concealed wires and mechanicals, state-of-the-art antitheft system, app-controlled customizations—but according to Doug Gordon of the War on Cars podcast, these premium features don’t come at the expense of the overall rider experience: “With the e-assist at the fourth and highest setting—paired with the automatic shifting—I can crest the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn with ease,” he says. Gordon also appreciates how hard the bike is to steal. “A smartphone app allows me to lock and unlock the rear wheel, perfect for when I don’t have time to use my regular lock,” he says. “And if anyone does mess with it, the bike lets out a nasty-sounding digital roar and beeping alarm.”

Like all Class 1 e-bikes, the S3’s motor amplifies how hard you are pedaling to help you reach speeds of up to 20 mph. Unlike similar models, though, the S3 has a Turbo Boost button on the right handlebar, which, when pushed, draws 500w of peak power from the front hub motor to give you an extra dose of oomph. (The motor allows for 250-350w of continuous power when pedaling, depending on your local regulations.)

The one drawback of the S3, Gordon says, is that its battery (which can reach a range of up to 90 miles) can’t be removed: “My building’s bike storage area doesn’t have any electrical outlets so I had to haul the bike into my apartment to recharge it.” Still, for the price and what you’re getting, which is a good-looking, tech-forward city bike, the S3’s is a solid value.

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Gazelle Easyflow ($2,999)

A few experts we spoke with recommend cruiser e-bikes for beginners because they prioritize comfort and stability by placing the rider in a relaxed, upright position. Gordon is fond of the Gazelle Easyflow, which features a low seat, swept-back handlebars, and step-thru frame that makes it easy to mount and get going. Despite the laidback form factor, Gordon says the Class 1 pedelec is a “secret workhorse,” owing to a powerful Shimano Steps mid-motor, 80-mile-range battery, removable battery, and three e-assist settings. “I sit my 10-year-old daughter on the rear rack to ride her home from school and—if I didn’t love her so much—it would be easy to forget she was there,” he says.


Raleigh Detour IE ($1,999)

Because they prioritize rider comfort, cruiser e-bikes can also be great solution for people with disabilities to enhance their mobility. “As a cyclist with chronic pelvic pain, I knew that if I wanted to maintain riding long distances in my hilly neighborhood, I would need the extra assist,” says Massachusetts bike advocate Joelle Galatan. Her go-to pick for accessibility is the Class 1 Raleigh Detour IE, which is a similar system to the Easyflow at a more entry-level price. Both bicycles feature a low-step frame, a rear rack for holding items, solid hydraulic disc brakes, a Shimano Steps mid-motor, and a removable battery. While the Detour IE is a bit bulkier and its battery offers less range on a full charge, Galatan underscores the advantage of its wide tires, “which make it comfortable on both paved and unpaved roads.”

Note: While the 2018 version of the Detour IE that Galatan owns is no longer available in some markets, she points to the Special IE as a comparable option.


Specialized Vado SL (from $3,350)

One of the few areas where standard bicycles generally outclass e-bikes is portability. While a regular pedal bike might clock in at around 30 to 35 pounds, an electrified version of the same model could run 10 to 20 pounds more. That extra weight makes a noticeable difference for new riders, especially if you live in a city and need to lug your ride up five flights of stairs at the end of each day.

Brett Thurber, co-owner of Bay Area e-bike retailer The New Wheel, recommends the 32-pound, aluminum Vado SL from Specialized for its shoulderability. “It is one of lightest electric bikes on the market,” he says, “But unlike other lightweight e-bikes, it doesn’t compromise on performance, thanks to an exclusive mid-drive motor,” which provides pedal assist up to 28 mph. Other marquee features of the lighter-than-air Vado SL include hydraulic disc brakes, a 12-gear system with three levels of e-assist, and an 80-miles battery range.

RadRover 6 Step-Thru (from $1,599)

If you are looking for an excellent value, Micromobility Industries co-founder James Gross recommends the RadRover 6 Step-Thru, an ebike known for its zippy 750-watt hub-driven motor, high performing hydraulic disc brakes, hill-crushing 7-speed drivetrain, and more. Like the Gazelle Easy Flow, its user-friendly design step-thru frame is easy to mount. Although the bike has a suspension fork, the fat tires are so comfortable on difficult terrain, they almost render the suspension unnecessary.

Lastly, and critically for a DTC brand such as Rad Power, the RadRover 6 Step-Thru is a breeze to put together with assembly taking as little as 30 minutes.


Tern HSD (from $3,199)

If you are in the market for a cargo bike, going electric is almost certainly worth the extra cost. Pedaling a week’s worth of groceries uphill is a slightly less punishing exercise when you have a motor nudging you along.

The foldable HSD cargo bike by Tern, which is capable of hauling an impressive 374 pounds of stuff with a near-silent Bosch Active Line Plus motor that amplifies your pedaling up to 20 mph, was a top pick for Arleigh Greenwald of Denver’s Bike Shop Girl and Loren Copsey of Washington, D.C.’s The Daily Rider. Both say the HSD’s superpower is that it can handle so many different kinds of lifestyles. Parents enjoy that its rear rack can be outfitted with a child seat; apartment-dwellers like that it can be folded or stood upright on a pair of back legs to save space; and large families appreciate that its compact frame can be resized to accommodate riders of various heights.  

While the HSD is appropriate for most everyday uses, if you want to haul bigger loads or more kids, Copsey recommends the slightly larger GSD model. “If the GSD is the full-sized SUV, the HSD is the compact utility vehicle that makes sense in an urban environment,” he says.

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