While e-bikes have had a rocky reception in the U.S. (think: the 60 Minutes exposé of hidden motors in the Pro Tour and fears of e-MTBs tearing up trails), there is no debate about their benefits to commuters. The current crop pedal more efficiently than your old Schwinn Cruiser, use hub-based motors and lithium-ion batteries to supplement leg power and make it safer to ride in traffic, and provide a low-impact alternative to cars.
Our favorite, the Elby 9-Speed (above; $3,700; 57 pounds), was designed by a pair of automotive-industry veterans, and its sleek aluminum, one-size-fits-most, step-through frame and full battery integration offer car-like convenience. There’s even a high-powered light system. The 500-watt rear-hub motor, paired with a battery that has an 80-mile range, delivers assistance in four levels—all of which are adjusted from the right-hand shifter or motorcycle-style throttle, in case you need a burst of speed or are just too tired to pedal home. The 2.2-inch balloon tires make for a confident ride, the rear mount holds a rack that carries up to
50 pounds, and the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are wired to recapture power and funnel it to the battery.
The Faraday Cortland S ($2,500; 40 pounds) delivers similar conveniences, including lights and an eight-speed Shimano drivetrain, in a lighter steel model. The Bafang 250-watt motor has less power than the Elby, and the range is smaller (20 miles), but it’s still a stylish choice.
Last but not least, the Raleigh Superbe iE ($1,700; 50 pounds) takes the classic diamond-frame city cruiser and slaps on a 350-watt Currie rear-hub motor, for a bike that’s both vintage and mod. The 48-volt lithium-ion battery provides up to 40 miles of pedal-assisted range.