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The 2021 Electric Bikes Buyer's Guide

Learn About the best electric bikes, the technology that makes them humm, and find the one that is the best fit for you.

Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide

Electric bikes, also called electric-assist bicycles or simply ebikes, are human-powered bicycles with integrated electric motors that provide cyclists with additional power and speed.

The latest generation of electric bikes feature lightweight, removable, rechargeable batteries – making them easy, practical and fun to use in a variety of settings. This style of bicycle is wildly popular in Europe and is one of the fastest growing segments of bicycles in the US because they make cycling more approachable.

Our Favorite Electric Bikes

2020 Trek Verve+ 3 electric city bike in black

Trek Verve+ 3 (2021) - $2999.99

The Verve+ 3 is the latest model in the Trek's most popular line of electric city bikes. It's got all the features that commuters and recreational riders love and adds a helpful boost too speed up your every day riding. The controls are designed to be incredibly user-friendly and intuitive so you can hop on and go from the minute you walk out of the store. With the Verve+ 3 you'll enjoy an upright position and a comfortable seat that will keep a smile on your face throughout rides to work and around town. With this model, the battery has been integrated into the frame for a cleaner look and better balance, and no tools are required to remove it for charging. Assisted speeds of 20mph will help you get to your destination quickly and with ease.

  

Want a step-thru model that's easier to get on and off?

2020 Trek Rail 5 electric mountain bike in green

Trek Rail 5 (2021) - $5499.99

The Trek Rail is a long-travel electric mountain bike that will make you totally forget has a motor. There's 160mm of travel up front and 150mm in the back so you can tackle anything in your path. This finely-tuned ride that handles just like your non-electric high performance mountain bike, and you'll be crushing climbs and riding farther and longer on your favorite trails. The Bosch Performance Line CX 250w motor kicks into gear when you need it and not when you don't when you select the smart eMTB mode. 

Looking for more upgrades?

2020 Trek Rail 9.7 electric mountain bike in purple

Trek Rail 9.7 (2021) - $6499.99 - $6999.99

The Trek Rail 9 series goes a step above the 5 and 7 models with several killer upgrades including OCVL Mountain Carbon for the main frame and stays. The 2021 Rail 9.7 has the same 160mm/150mm of front and rear suspension but with an upgraded fork and shock. You'll also get a 12-speed NX EAGLE rear derailleur and Shimano MT520 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes. The 250w Bosch Performance Line CX motor provides assistance up to 20mph and comes with several levels of boost, including the smart eMTB mode that matches the assistance to the terrain.

Want even more upgrades?

2020 Trek Verve+ 2 electric commuter bike in blue

Trek Verve+ 2 (2021) – $2649.99

This bike gets great reviews. People love the comfort and capability that the Verve+ provides, and it's helping more people spend time on two wheels all over the country. It's got all the great features a commuter/hybrid bike should have like a rear rack to store gear, fenders to keep your feet dry and clean, integrated lighting for on-road visibility, and an upright position for maximum comfort. The 250w Bosch Active Line motor provides assistance up to 20mph and the 400Wh battery is easy to remove for quick, convenient charging. There are different levels of assistance so you can get a lot of help or a little depending on the conditions. The Verve+ 2 s a great e-bike at a great price.

Shop The 2021 Trek Verve+ 2

2020 Trek Verve+ 2 Lowstep electric commuter bike in red

Trek Verve+ 2 Lowstep (2021) – $2649.99

The 2021 Trek Verve+ Lowstep is identical to the step-over model except for the frame, which has been designed for easy mounting and dismounting. So many potential cyclists stop riding due to barriers like physical mobility and strength. The Verve+ Lowstep address both of those issues by making the whole experience easier, from getting on to getting up a hill. Whether you don't want to tear your work pants by throwing them over the saddle or you need a little boost around town, this thoughtfully designed e-bike is a great choice.

Shop The 2021 Trek Verve+ 2 Lowstep

Trek Allant+ 8 (2021) – $3999.99

Trek no longer makes the Super Commuter model. Starting in 2020, they have chosen the Allant+ as their flagship electric commuter bike. It's got all the features of a great city e-bike with plenty of power for fast, efficient commuting. The 500Wh battery sits fully enclosed in the sleek downtube for a clean look, and the Bosch Performance Line CX 250w motor assists up to 20 mph. Turn your phone into an on-board computer with the Smartphone Hub and the COBI.Bike app that allows you to play music, take calls, and get turn by turn navigation.

Shop The 2021 Trek Allant+ 8

What to see the step-thru Allant+ 8 model?

Shop The 2021 Trek Allant+ 8 Stagger

2020 Trek Allant+ 8 electric city bike in gunmetal grey

Trek Allant+ 8S Stagger (2021) – $4299.99

The Allant+ 8S Stagger is a faster, step-thru version of Trek's new electric commuter bike. Stagger indicates the angled top tube that makes getting on and off much easier, especially when you're dressed for work. The 'S' indicates that this model benefits from a Bosch Performance Speed motor, providing pedal-assisted speeds up to 28mph. The Allant+ 8S can be purchased as a step-over model as well.

Shop The 2021 Trek Allant+ 8S Stagger

Want to see the step-over Allant+ 8S model?

Shop The 2021 Trek Allant+ 8S

2020 Trek Allant+ 8S Stagger electric city bike in gunmetal
2020 Trek Allant+ 9S electric city bike in black and red

Trek Allant+ 9.9S (2021) – $5999.99

The Trek Allant+ 9S is meant to be the e-bike that changes your life. Maybe it helps you get more exercise in on the weekends. Maybe you start driving a lot less. Maybe you get ride of your car altogether! With assisted speeds of up to 28mph and tons of great tech, the Allant+ 9S is stacked with features that make it one of the best city/commuter e-bikes on the planet. You'll get all the great commuting features that come with the previous models, but the 9.9S gets even better. You'll enjoy the added benefits of a more powerful battery, a carbon fork, and an OCLV carbon frame designed specifically for the stresses created by extra power of e-bikes.

Shop The 2021 Trek Allant+ 9.9S

Want to see the step-thru Allant+ 9S model?

Shop The 2021 Trek Allant+ 9.9S Stagger

Trek Domane+ LT (2021) - $5499.99 - $5999.99

The Trek Domane+ LT looks and rides more like a regular road bike, except you get the added boost of the Fazua Evation integrated drive system. Regardless of the motor and 250Wh battery, the Domane+ LT is a seriously capable road bike. Some key features are the light and stiff 500 Series OCLV Carbon frame, front and rear IsoSpeed, and Shimano Ultegra drivetrain. You can ride as fast as you want, but the motor stops providing extra assist at 20mph, and if you really want to go all natural you can easily remove the battery and motor. It's the perfect road bike for those who want a bit of help with the climbs from time to time but still want the authentic road bike experience.

2020 Trek Domane+ LT electric road bike in black and red
2020 Trek Domane+ HP electric road bike in black

Trek Domane+ HP (2021) - $6999.99 - $7499.99

The Trek Domane+ HP is an electric road bike unlike any other. The frame and fork are stiff where it counts with extremely lightweight OCLV carbon, rear IsoSpeed allows for next-level compliance where you need it. The HP model can provide assisted speeds up to 28mph and on a single battery charge riders can expect a range of up to 80 miles. Plus, this model is compatible with Range Boost, an additional battery that will double the distance you can cover. The Shimano GRX 1-11 drivetrain gives you all the range you need to get up and down the hills.

2020 Electra Townie Go! 8i Step-Thru electric cruiser bike

Electra Townie Go! 8i Step-Thru (2021) – $2,599.99

Electra was founded by Benno Bänziger in 1993 in Vista, California. Since then, Electra has been building some of the most sought after cruiser style bike in the country, and they've burst onto the e-bike scene with a bang. The Bosch Performance System – with four power modes from Eco to Turbo – is a primary technical strength of the 2021 Townie Go! 8i Step-Thru. This model also excels in its comfort: you can maintain a smooth ride in an upright posture thanks to the bike's wide tires and lower center of gravity provided by Flat Foot Technology. Take it to the beach or to around town, it's a great way to get around.

 Shop The 2021 Electra Townie Go! 8i Step-Thru
2020 Electra Townie Path Go 10D electric cruiser bike

Electra Townie Path Go! 10D (2021) – $3699.99

California-based Electra, a Trek subsidiary, has a track-record that goes back 25 years to 1993. That history is worth noting, according to Digital Trends, because the bike-maker helped to make cruisers cool again. The Townie Path Go! maintains a sleek, stylish look by completely housing the Bosch PowerTube 500 battery inside the frame. The 250w Bosch Performance line motor generates plenty of power to help you get up and over the hills. You'll enjoy the rear rack and integrated lighting for commuting and general riding. Plus, with Flat Foot Technology, an upright position, and a padded seat, this bike is one of the most comfortable e-bikes out there.

Shop The 2021 Electra Townie Path Go!

2020 Electra Vale Go electric city bike in green

Electra Vale Go! 9D EQ (2021) – $3299.99

The stylish Electra Vale 9D EQ commuter bike is powered by a Bosch Active Line Plus motor and an internally-housed battery. It has a 9 speed Shimano drivetrain and can reach assisted speeds up to 20mph. The beefy 27.5 x 2.4 inch puncture-resistant tires will give you loads of traction and comfort, plus you'll get a suspension seatpost and hydraulic brakes. This versatile e-bike will take you around town in a flash and can handle weekend explorations just as well. 

Shop The Electra Vale Go! 9D EQ

Electra Cafe Moto Go electric cruiser bike in black

Electra Cafe Moto Go (2021) - $4488 $2999

The 2021 Electra Cafe Moto Go is both a slick looking cruiser and a speed demon electric bike wrapped up into one. Thanks to the Bosch Performance CX motor, this Class 3 e-bike can reach assisted speeds up to 28mph which is fast enough for any commute or joy ride you can think up. It uses an Enviolo Trekking 380% Continuously Variable Internal hub in place of a traditional cassette drivetrain and the Gates Carbon Belt is basically bomb-proof. You've got hydraulic brakes for plenty of stopping power and great features like a leather Brooks saddle, grips, and tool bag. All said, this e-bike scores high on style and performance.

Taking off on your electric bike

Whether you are older, have limited mobility, are concerned with sustainability, or simply need a reliable commuting vehicle, an electric bike can meet your needs. You have many high-quality options under $6000 from which to choose. By considering your needs and budget, you can select the right model and enjoy rapid travel without all the sweat.

Shop all electric bikes

Electric Bike FAQs

Why choose an electric bike?

People who decide to buy electric bikes do so for a variety of reasons. If any of the below descriptions applies to you, you may find that this type of cycling is particularly compelling:

  • Eco-conscious cyclist – You may not know anything about electric bikes but want to get around as sustainably as possible. You would love to use your bike more and your car less for your daily tasks, but sometimes it just seems easier to hop in the car rather than ride your bike from errand to errand. If you could ride a little faster and haul groceries more easily, you’d definitely prefer to ditch your car in favor of doing more on two wheels.
  • Daily commuter – You may use your bike to ride to work, day in and day out. You love the time that you spend on your bike but want to arrive at work a little faster and a little less sweaty. You would like a little extra help carrying life’s necessities to and from your workplace.
  • Older cyclist – You may be advanced in years but want to keep riding. You love being active and exploring the outdoors, but you're not as young and fit as you used to be. You want the youthful joy of riding your bike, but your body just isn’t up for conquering tough hills anymore. You’re looking for something comfortable, dependable and fun.
  • Physically limited cyclist – You may have a medical condition that reduces mobility or makes exertion difficult. You long for the joy of cycling but struggle with a traditional bike's function and physical demands. You’re looking for a bike to exercise and explore the outdoors, but you know that a traditional bike doesn’t always work with your limitations or disability.

How fast can an electric bike go?

People will often buy automobiles because they assume that an electric bikes are too slow. While you cannot move as fast on a highway, you can make pace at a similar rate to cars when you ride throughout a city – and that is because of all the stop lights, stop signs, and heavy traffic that might obstruct cars’ ability to move along at a consistent speed.

After all, in the United States, traffic keeps getting worse, and that makes life more and more difficult for drivers. The US currently has worse traffic congestion that any other developed country, according to a report from transportation analytics firm INRIX; throughout the country, the average driver lost 41 hours per year to peak-hour (6 am to 9 am, and 3 pm to 6 pm) traffic congestion. During those same peak periods, drivers in the Bay Area lost 79 hours to traffic jams – with the average congestion speed at 10.5 miles per hour. An electric bike beats that average car speed, typically going about 15 mph. Plus, because you are on two wheels, you can cut through paths and natural areas that cars can't. These advantages are appealing to any commuter but particularly those who are eco-conscious or have physical restrictions.

If your looking for an ebike with a bit more offroad capability check out our Haibike guide.

How far can an electric bike go?

The ebike also may not be able to get you as far as an automobile can, but its range is nonetheless impressive. Typically a single tank of gas will allow a car to cover 280-300 miles. Meanwhile, electric bikes can go as far as 100 miles if you have the right model and the extent to which you rely on the motor over pedaling. Plus, you do not incur nearly as much in maintenance costs if you choose an ebike (foregoing the expenses of oil changes, car tires, and general wear-and-tear).

Where to buy an electric bicycle?

If you're wondering, "Where can I buy an electric bicycle?" We've got you covered. You can buy one of our electric bikes online or at any of our five brick and mortar Bay Area bike shops.


How do ebikes work?

In addition to the standard components of a traditional bicycle, an electric bike has a powerful motor that makes it easier to climb hills, deal with wind, and otherwise cover ground without undue strain. The ebike or electic bike may not match the pace of a motorcycle; however, the motor is an add-on to the physical efforts of the rider, so (since it does not need to provide all the power) the motor is not as loud.

The motor and battery are the primary elements that electric bikes have over traditional models. These parts typically weigh 20-40 pounds, which means the bike is a little more cumbersome to lift. That amount of extra weight is a small matter for the ride though, and the load the bike can handle is greatly improved by the motor. It is possible to recharge the battery as you go if you pedal more rapidly than the motor turns the pedals – but you will not want to rely on recharging en route. Once you get back home or to another destination, you can plug the bike into an outlet to charge it, typically achieving a complete recharge in a couple hours.

Do you need a license to drive an electric bike?

In some areas, you need a license for an ebike, but in other areas, you do not. In twenty states, you do need a license, generally since there are not yet ebike laws, meaning that they are treated in the same manner as automobiles. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the state of California and nine other states – Washington, Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Arizona – define ebikes and use a three-tiered classification system to categorize them. In the ten states with the ebike classification system, all but Illinois exempt ebike riders from the need for a license, registration, and insurance.

A class 3 ebike is the most strictly regulated because it assists up to a higher maximum speed. This class has a speedometer and assists the rider up to 28 miles per hour, while class 1 and 2 models both stop assisting the rider at 20 mph. A helmet is only legally mandatory for class 3 ebikes in California, as is also true in Tennessee. Also in California, you cannot drive a class 3 ebike unless you are at least 16 years old, which is true in Utah as well.


How to get started with electric cycling

Some people are already convinced that they want to buy an electric bike and simply want to know how to make the selection. After all, an ebike is an investment that you want to last.

Here is how to move forward with theebike selection and purchase:

  • Think about what you are looking for in an electric bike – your main concerns. Perhaps you are most interested in hill climbing capability, or maybe your chief priority is comfort or ability to be used for a century ride (provided there is adequate pedaling). You may also want a heavier, more powerful model, or one that is foldable and lightweight.
  • As you think about the shop you use to purchase, look at the commitment the store seems to have toward its customers, and assess quality. Also look over some customer reviews.
  • Consider what your budget is for an ebike. Of course, you are likelier to be able to get the power and features you want if you spend more – but that only makes sense if the value is clear. Generally, electric models help to reduce your expenses in many categories, including healthcare, parking, maintenance costs, insurance, and fuel. Factor in your degree of experience. You may be a skilled rider interested in an upgrade, or new to cycling and considering electric as your initial model. You may be someone who will need the bike to maintain power for all-day riding, or you may just want to use it for hour-long trips. In other words, is this ebike your commuting transportation, or is it for long, environmentally friendly adventures? Thinking about what you expect in the bike will help you determine whether you need a higher-end model or could be satisfied with something that is more inexpensive.

How long does a charge last?

Equipped with a refined, long-lasting lithium battery – after one charging cycle, you’ll be able to bike just about anywhere. Depending on your type of riding (hills vs. flats), your build, and how much pedaling you do – you can expect to go 20-40 miles on just one charge.

Where can I charge my bike?

The battery can be conveniently charged anywhere there’s a standard outlet – at your house, at work, or at the coffee shop. The battery detaches from the bike and charges quickly using the cable provided with your bike.

How heavy is an electric bike?

Each electric bike varies by size and style, but are all easy-to-ride, and more fun than you can imagine. You can expect an electric bike to weigh between 50-70 lbs. But don’t worry about the weight – the motor will help you zip along with ease while riding and the sturdy kickstand will make parking easy.

What if I’m tall (or short)? Is there an electric bike in my size?

Electric bikes come in many sizes and frame styles to fit everyone. From extra-small to extra-large, and women’s, step-through and traditional frames. Accessibility is a primary goal for electric bikes.


Are electric bikes safe to ride?

Yes. Electric bikes share the same frame and fit as a regular bike, there’s just an added battery and compact motor. Electric bikes look, feel, and ride like a traditional bike– with an added boost there to help when you need it. We of course recommend that you wear a helmet when riding, obey all traffic laws and use caution to remain safe.

Aren’t electric bikes expensive?

Electric bikes, given their motors and advanced, long-lasting batteries – tend to be more expensive than traditional bicycles. However, their value makes any electric bike a well-spent investment. Electric bikes will keep you active, allow you to enjoy the sport of biking, and most importantly enjoy the outdoors. Come in and take a test ride. We are confident that you will have so much fun that the extra expense will be justified.

Are electric bikes expensive to maintain?

The only thing different about an electric bike, in terms of moving parts, is just the added battery and motor. Every other moving part (including brakes and shifters) is identical to that of a traditional pedal bicycle. This means that tune-ups and adjustments are easy, and usually won’t cost much more to maintain than a regular bicycle.

Can I take a test ride before I make a buying decision?

Of course! Give us a call today and see which bikes we currently have in-store. We can nearly always accommodate, and would love to have you try before you buy – we know you’ll enjoy your test ride.

Do I need to wear a helmet when I ride an electric bike?

Helmet laws for riding electric bikes vary from state-to-state, with some requiring helmets and others not. However, we always recommend riding with a helmet no matter which style of bike– traditional or electric– it keeps you safe and gives you peace of mind to enjoy every moment of your bike ride!

Transcription

Ian Hey everyone, Ian and Pancho here from Summit Bicycles and we are going to kind of walk you through E bikes in general the different class systems, what you get between different price points, drive systems. All that stuff. How are you doing you Pancho?

Pancho Good, how are you?

Ian Alright, so there are three classes of electric assist bikes. Let's start with class one.

Pancho Class one is a 20 mile an hour limit, pedal assist.

Ian Okay, got it. So you could obviously go faster.

Pancho Faster than 21 or than 20. But the motor stops assisting you at 20 miles an hour.

Ian Okay. And it's there's no throttle, it's only pedal assist?

Pancho Correct. No throttle.

Ian So it's all the same traffic laws, at least in California as a normal bicycle.

Pancho That's right.

Ian Okay. Here's where it makes tonnes of sense. Class two is?

Pancho Throttle only.

Ian Okay. And that is not treated like a bicycle.

Pancho It's treated more like a scooter or a moped

Ian Got it, so completely different traffic laws in terms of bike lane use and all that stuff.

Pancho And we don't sell them also

Ian Correct. Most bike shops don't, just the pedal assist ones. All right, and then we have class three.

Pancho Correct.

Ian What is class three?

Pancho Class three is the same as a class one bike except the limit is 28 miles an hour as opposed to 20 miles.

Ian Alright, so no throttle?

Pancho No.

Ian Only pedal assist.

Pancho Correct.

Ian But the cap is 28 miles per hour.

Pancho That's right.

Ian And so same traffic rules.

Pancho Yep, same as class one. Everything's the same as class one, except mileage.

Ian So that's actually super important when you're shopping for an E bike because the difference between how a class one or class three bike would ride is dramatically different. Right?

Pancho Yeah. And the rules as to where they're allowed to slightly vary, because so class one all the non bikes of class one whereas the low commuter back to the class three, or you'll have commuter bikes that are class three, and the class one mountain bikes whether, hard tail or full suspension, the ones that are allowed on some trails.

Ian Okay, so once you know whether you want a class one or class three, e bike and the right bike for your application, there's tonnes of differences, we're looking at price ranges from $1200 to $10,000.

Pancho Correct.

Ian I can make sense of like the bike parts being nicer, the derailleurs, the chain, the frame material, all that stuff, but what else changes specifically to the electric assist aspects?

Pancho Well, the difference is going to be on higher end systems like like a Bosch or Shimano system that they torque sensors will be more sensitive, it will be more of them. So it'll feel much more natural and when pedalling.

Ian Got it. Okay. So versus like,less expensive, simpler system with...

Pancho It may not be mid drive, it'll be like a hub drive motor, it wont be as sensitive, and it'll feel a little bit more jerky than your higher end bike

Ian Just because it's like a sissy new across.

Pancho Yeah, so the moment you paddle or put pressure down a pedal to the moment that the rear hub picks up power be in the chain, that cassette, there's a little bit of lag there, which is what you're experiencing when you pedal the bike.

Ian Understood, okay. Whereas like these mid drive systems where everything's integrated,

Pancho Right, as soon as you put the power down in the pedal, it senses that and then makes your transition more seamless.

Ian Yeah, I have noticed that on like the Bosch or the step system. Although by average speed goes up by like, sometimes a factor of three. Feels like I'm just riding a bike does it? I don't, Yeah, necessarily.

Pancho It's much more natural feeling. And the balance is also a lot better having all the weight in the middle and lower as opposed to having a gIant battery up here towards the back. Everything like in the demonic plus and the verb plus is in the middle and centred and low. So the behaviour of the bike is a lot more natural.

Ian That makes sense. And let's let's let's go right into the so we kind of have three different mounting systems in regards to the battery right here for the this Townie Go, which is like a cruiser commute around town E bike. It's on the rear rack on the verb plus two here, we it's into the down tube, which is a mid drive system. But when we get to the money, talk to us about that battery and how that's it.

Pancho Yeah, so the battery is actually inside the frame. There's a little compartment here that opens up to access the battery, but it's a fully integrated battery system. So you don't see it at all. It's not like you can access it from here on the verb plus or back here on the Townie Go. It's inside the frame. So there's a lock for that that opens up when you pull the battery out from there.

Ian Good. It's a much cleaner looking aesthetic.

Pancho Yeah, well, it looks way better.

Ian Yeah. Okay, anything else that we should cover in regards to e-bikes?

Pancho No, that's most of it. I say the biggest thing for customers is to come and ride them and see which one fits your needs and budget the best and ask as many questions as you have.

Ian Yeah, I mean, there's almost a bikes in every category of bike now. Mountain, road, commute, obviously. Cool that about does it for us guys. Go ahead and come by the store, shoot us an email, give us a call and we'll get you set up on an awesome new e-bike. We'll see you soon.