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8 best electric bikes 2023: Tried and tested e-bikes for commuting and pleasure

Show up at your destination sweat-free and smiling with one of these top-rated electric bikes

Steve Hogarty
Tuesday 03 October 2023 15:13 BST
<p>Foldable or solid-frame, there are plenty of e-bike options</p>

Foldable or solid-frame, there are plenty of e-bike options

Whether you’re commuting or touring the countryside, the best electric bikes can help you travel farther, ride for longer, and show up at your destination feeling fresh.

Electric bikes don’t remove all the effort of cycling. They’re designed to gently assist you as you pedal, and usually let you choose between increasing levels of assistance, from battery-saving eco modes up to sporty and full-blown turbo modes. The motor can only assist you up to a legal limit of 15.5mph, after which you’ll need to put some effort in to go any faster.

They make ideal commuter bikes, especially for riders who face a hill climb between their home and their destination, or even just a car park ramp. Most e-bikes can make steep inclines feel like riding on flat terrain, so they’re excellent for riders who feel less able to get out and about on a traditional bike.

Packing a motor and a battery means e-bikes are heavier than regular bikes but, as long as you don’t run out of juice, they feel just as nimble and easy to handle. Choosing the best electric bike for you depends on a few important factors: whether you need it to fold, where you want to charge it, and the distances you expect to travel.

How we tested

We tested these e-bikes on our usual commute across London, along busy city roads, flat stretches of pristine cycle lane and up hills. We also took them out on a few less well-maintained roads, to test comfort, and chose a variety of styles to suit different riders’ needs.

The spike in popularity of e-bikes means availability can be limited but, with manufacturers racing to restock and meet demand, it’s worth checking back with local retailers regularly.

The best electric bikes for 2023 are:

  • Best electric bike overall – Cowboy cruiser ST: £2,190, Cowboy.com
  • Best affordable electric bike – Estarli e20.7 Original Pro: £1,510, Estarli.co.uk
  • Best electric bike for hills – Gazelle ultimate C380: £3,999, Gazellebikes.com
  • Best electric bike for commuting – Gocycle G4: £2,799, Gocycle.com
  • Best electric bike for luggage racks – Volt London: £2,299, Voltbikes.co.uk
  • Best electric bike for the city – Raleigh motus cross bar: £2,149, E-bikesdirect.co.uk
  • Best folding electric bike – Brompton electric P line: £3,695, Brompton.com
  • Best hybrid electric bike – Specialized turbo vado SL4.0: £2,500, Specialized.com

Cowboy cruiser ST

Cowboy 4 ST.jpg
  • Best: Electric bike overall
  • Weight: 19.3kg
  • Frame: Step-through optional
  • Range: 43 miles
  • Charging time: 3.5 hours
  • Motor power: 250W

This is the best electric bike we’ve tested. The latest in the Belgian bike brand’s range distils the riding experience back down to basics, and uses intelligent assistance levels to strip away any unnecessary frills. There are no gears to fuss over, no external cabling to get tangled up in, the integrated lights are powered by the removable battery, the frame strikes a minimalist silhouette, and a clean carbon belt replaces the usual greasy chain.

The onboard motor on the cruiser continuously delivers the right amount of power exactly when you need it, boosting you away from a standing start before levelling off gently as you reach the bike’s 15.5mph assisted speed limit. On hills, where you might think the lack of gears would mean a sweaty upward slog, the motor seamlessly feeds more power into the wheels until it feels like the incline simply isn’t there.

Read our full review of the Cowboy cruiser ST

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Estarli e20.7 Original Pro

estarli e20.7 original pro.jpg
  • Best: Affordable electric bike
  • Weight: 18kg
  • Frame: High strength 6061 aluminium.
  • Range: 31 miles
  • Charging time: 3-5 hours
  • Motor power: 250W

It’s difficult to find a good electric bike under £3,000, let alone a solid deliverer under £1,500, but British startup brand Estarli’s folding flagship e-bike had us comfortably riding alongside the likes of Brompton and Cowboy, for a fraction of the price.

The Estarli e20.7 Original Pro is a dependable, small-wheeled folding bike, suitable for both urban and country riding. With thick Schwalbe tyres and enough heft to keep us stable, balanced and upright, it had us cruising easily on roads and gravel paths, and features a really fun, almost BMX-like design with striking colours. The removable battery is also fitted into the seat, so pesky bike thieves lose their incentive to steal.

While most folding bikes feature smaller 16in wheels, the thicker 20in tires on the e20.7 Original Pro made rides easier to steer and handle, a real bonus for those more nervous cyclists out there. With simple to switch gears and controls that make it easy to dial in the right level of electric power, the e20.7 is a nippy little bike to ride. It accelerates smoothly, and even when the 250W motor stops assisting above the 15.5mph speed limit, it transitions back into manual gently. It wasn’t a jerky halt, so we never felt it tap out.

While the fold is a little tricky to get to grips with initially, we were a pro after three or four attempts. It even has mud guards, lights and a pannier rack. The rack housed the company’s waterproof, thermally-insulated trunk bag (£59.95, Estarli.co.uk) like a dream, with a several internal pockets and a holder for our water bottle.

The only real downside is the limited range and low torque. It has a range of 31 miles, which is significantly less than the other models on this list, and 40Nm torque, so you won’t get as much assist on very steep hills. The low range meant it needed more frequent charges, too. Look past that, and you’ve got a really good workhorse of a bike that doesn’t cost the earth.

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Gazelle ultimate C380

gazelle ultimate c380
  • Best: Electric bike for hills
  • Weight: 25.6kg
  • Style: Aluminium, step-through
  • Range: 40 miles in sport mode
  • Charging time: 5 to 9 hours
  • Motor torque: 75Nm

Commonly spotted between the legs of Dutch commuters, Gazelle is one of the oldest and most trusted bike brands in the Netherlands with more than 130 years of experience under its saddle.

The ultimate C380 is one of the best electric bikes Gazelle produces. A blend of the company’s touring bikes and city bikes, it’s a premium-tier ride with exceptional build quality, a top-shelf motor and convenient trimmings such as an integrated removable battery and front and rear lights. The upright and relaxed riding position suits leisure cycling and daily city commutes alike.

A performance line mid-drive Bosch motor delivers the power, but it’s the continuous Enviolo gear shifter that makes the ultimate such a pleasure to ride. Rather than shifting up and down a series of numbered gears in search of the right one, you just smoothly twist the shifter around until you’re in a comfortable spot. You can even whizz down to a lower gear while stopped at the lights, something you can’t do with a traditional derailleur without jamming your chain in front of a line of waiting cars.

Speaking of chains, the ultimate ditches the traditional chain in favour of a neat and tidy belt drive. As well being quiet and low-maintenance, it means you don’t have to worry about grease stains on your white trainers.

High-spec hydraulic disc brakes, front fork suspension and a convenient step-through frame round off a superb electric bike, designed for the best and worst a city can throw at it.

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Gocycle G4

Gocycle G4
  • Best: Electric bike for commuting
  • Weight: 17.6kg
  • Style: Hydroformed alloy, carbon fibre mid-frame
  • Range: 40 miles
  • Charging time: 3 hours
  • Motor power: 250W

The distinctive shape, cable-free design and futuristic profile of the Gocycle G4, designed by a former McLaren engineer, makes it one of the most recognisable bikes on the road today. It’s also incredibly fun to ride, powered by a fully integrated battery and motor that combine to deliver a surprising degree of oomph from an unassuming-looking chassis. Hill climbs feel magically effortless, and the petite, 20in wheels are more stable than they appear.

Convenient features such as hydraulic disc brakes, all-terrain magnesium wheels and a chain-case enclosed within a hydroformed frame make the Gocycle one of the best folding electric bikes for commuters living in small flats. All of the oily components are safely out of the way when the bike is folded, and the entire thing can be easily wheeled around train stations and into lifts, using the saddle as a handle.

The latest G4 improves performance at low-speeds, delivering more torque earlier on, to help you push off quicker. The new motor is basically inaudible, while the MotoGP tyre treads and traction control keep you stable during even the most torrential commutes.

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Volt London

Volt London electric bike
  • Best: Electric bike for luggage racks
  • Weight: 22.1kg
  • Style: Lightweight aluminium
  • Range: 30 to 60 miles
  • Charging time: Three to four hours
  • Motor power: 250W
  • Why we love it
    • Great range
    • Single-speed is like driving an automatic
    • Puncture-resistant tyres
  • Take note
    • No step-through option

The Volt London is an exceptional electric bike designed with the urban commuter firmly in mind. The classic frame places the rider in a more upright position – think Mary Poppins rather than Chris Hoy – which gives a commanding view of the road and everyone on it, but the lack of other frame sizes or a step-through version could make the Volt London cumbersome for some riders.

The single-speed system and torque-sensitive motor are the ideal combo for city cycling – where the constant stopping and starting makes frequent gear changes tiresome – while the simpler construction means there’s physically less stuff that can go wrong. That’s reassuring if you don’t know your derailleur from your pannier.

Another helpful feature for city riders is the porteur rack above the front wheel, which you can use to carry all of your important city documents. There’s also an option to add a pannier rack on the back, for heavier items. The battery neatly integrates with the frame, and can be removed for charging indoors or at your desk.

For your money, you’re getting a superb British-made electric bike with a two-year warranty and local on-site support, should you need any repairs or help.

Read the full Volt London e-bike review

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Brompton electric P line

Brompton electric M2L
  • Best: Folding electric bike
  • Weight: 15.6kg
  • Style: Folding steel frame
  • Range: 45 miles
  • Charging time: 2 hours
  • Motor power: 250W

The most recognisable folding bike on the road, the Brompton is a design classic. The electric version does its very best to avoid ruining the original’s silhouette, by mounting the battery below the handlebars, while introducing an intelligent motor with well-tuned power delivery to the front wheel hub.

All of that extra weight packed into the nose of this tiny bike makes handling a little flighty to begin with but, as with any new bike, you’ll soon get a feel for how it rides. Once you do, the Brompton Electric is a joy. It’s not shy about power on inclines, rocketing you up steep hills with next to no effort, and it’s buttery smooth at cruising speeds along flat cycle paths.

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Raleigh motus crossbar

Raleigh motus cross bar
  • Best: Electric bike for the city
  • Weight: 24.5kg
  • Style: Alloy frame
  • Range: 76 miles
  • Charging time: 2.5 hours
  • Motor power: Unspecified

The Raleigh motus is powered by a 300W Bosch system, which sits in the centre of the frame to deliver torque to the bike’s mid-drive motor. These systems are known for their intelligent, light-touch power delivery. The instant you push off you’ll notice how the motor’s assistance gradually introduces itself as you pedal faster. There’s none of the brute jerkiness of less sophisticated electric bikes – which can sometimes feel like you’re taking off on a rocket – making for a smooth, fun and comfortable ride.

When pootling around the city, this bike’s upright riding position gives you a clear view of the road and makes navigating traffic at slow speeds easier. Pulling away from junctions feels sharp and zippy, giving you the room on the road you need to ensure you’re riding where you can be seen. This is a well-equipped and practical bike built for everyday commuting.

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Specialized turbo vado SL4.0

Specialized turbo vado SL4.0
  • Best: Hybrid electric bike
  • Weight: 15kg
  • Style: Aluminium alloy frame
  • Range: 80 miles
  • Charging time: 2.5 hours
  • Motor power: 250W

This super-lightweight electric hybrid bike combines an aluminium alloy frame with Specialized’s proprietary welding techniques to create a bicycle that – when you first pick it up – will have you wondering whether it’s electric at all. The battery is built into its downtube, and offers three levels of assistance to a mid-drive motor, inconspicuously positioned between the pedals. The only display is on the bike’s crossbar – a discreet battery and assistance indicator doubles as a power switch.

The turbo vado SL is an utter delight to ride. It feels natural in any of its assistance modes, and is light enough to ride with minimal help from the motor. This makes it an excellent bike for those who want to get the occasional workout in, but less so for casual commuters who want the bike to consistently do all the hard work. In the highest assistance mode, the relatively small motor leaves it feeling underpowered compared with heavier bikes.

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The verdict: Electric bikes

For commuters looking to arrive at their destination feeling fresh, we recommend the Cowboy cruiser ST. It’s a beautifully designed electric bike built with modern commuters in mind, with helpful features and intelligent, no-fuss power delivery.

For those who need something smaller, the foldable Gocycle G4 is an exceptionally fun ride in a smart-looking package. And if you want something more affordable, the Estarli e20.7 Original Pro is a well-priced folding electric bike that handles all terrains really well.

Keep up your exercise routine whatever the weather, with the best turbo trainers for cycling at home

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