The best electric bikes for commuting help you get to and from work faster and with less effort. That means that you'll arrive less hot and also gives you a boost away from traffic lights and other stops on your ride.
You'll become fitter and your commute may well take less time than by car or public transport as you'll probably find quicker routes that you can only take by bike. It's likely to be cheaper too, once the up-front cost of the electric bike has been discounted.
Depending on how far you're planning to ride, your needs will differ. Our pick of the best electric bikes for commuting below covers everything from a folder for a short hop to and from the station to drop bar bikes for a long distance commute that maybe includes some off-road riding.
Cyclingnews has a huge amount of advice on electric bikes if you want to know more.
Our guide to the best electric bikes gives you a more comprehensive range of options, while our pick of the best folding electric bikes offers options that make a compact package for storage or to carry on public transport.
If you've got a budget in mind we have guides to the best electric bikes under £1,000/$1,000 and the best electric bikes under $2,000/£2,000. You can even convert a non-electric bike to an e-bike with the best electric bike conversion kits.
Alternatively scroll down for our pick of the best electric bikes for commuting, or head to the bottom for a guide on how to choose and an explainer of the laws on electric bikes worldwide.
Best electric bikes for commuting
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Orbea Gain M30 Flat Bar
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Orbea Gain has such subtle integration of the battery and motor that, at first glance, you’d be hard-pushed to know it was an e-bike. It has an attractive, lightweight, aluminium frame and carbon fork with an 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain which should see you over any terrain. Well-disguised within that frame is a 248 Wh battery which should be plenty to get you to work and back.
If, however, you’d like more range, you can simply attach the external water-bottle-style battery and that’ll boost the battery capacity up to 456 Wh. Pedalling assistance is provided by a rear hub motor, which works in a concept Orbea are calling Enough Power and Enough Energy. The idea is that the bike intuitively offers enough power to keep you pedalling smoothly and efficiently to enhance your rider, rather than overwhelming you with big surges in power.
The bike comes with an app that allows you to change the bike’s functionality, including how power is applied as well as ride tracking your rides. The mode button on the top tube has coloured LEDs that show you how much battery is remaining, and which power mode you are in. There's now an additional bar-mounted controller/computer which gives you more info and which sits on an out-front mount with a built-in LED light.
As a full size e-bike, the Gain isn't going to be easy to take on public transport though, unlike a small wheeled folder like the Brompton Electric.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you’ve ever been on the market for a commuter bike you will have almost certainly cast your eyes upon a Brompton. The British company has sustained a great reputation built on ingenuity and build quality for so long that you know you’ll be riding a high-quality machine.
If you need a bike that packs up into a small space, on a train or in the office, for example, a Brompton is likely the best electric commuter bike for you. The C Line Electric bike comes with front and rear lights fitted, as well as mudguards, and the 6-speed gears give you loads of range. Helped by the motor, you'll get to work easily however hilly your city is.
The company has fitted a 250 W motor to the bike, with a large-enough 300 Wh battery. The battery sits in a pack that conveniently unclips from the front of the bike and can be carried over your shoulder to your office or home to be charged. A full charge should be achieved within four hours. The quoted range for the battery is up to 70 km if you have it on its most energy-efficient setting. There is an LED indicator on the top of the bag which shows you how much of the battery you have remaining, which power mode you are in, and what setting your lights are on.
The bag-plus-bike set-up does make carrying the bike that bit more difficult though, although it does make charging a lot easier than an integrated battery like that on the VanMoof and the Orbea Gain and lowers the weight of the bike when you need to carry it.
There's a P Line Brompton Electric available as well as the classic C Line Electric. Lighter components and fewer gears drop the weight quoted by Brompton from the C Line's 17.4kg to 15.6kg.
You can read more in our full review of the Brompton C-Line Electric bike.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The first thing that strikes you with the VanMoof S3 is just how modern it looks. The bike has very clean lines, classic geometry and most of the cables are hidden. The company sells five bikes, with either a standard crossbar or a more step-through frame design, including the VanMoof V which is rated to 31mph (although this model needs to be registered and insured to ride in the UK and Europe).
As well as automatic gearing, VanMoof's anti-theft package means that if your bike gets stolen, they will personally track it down and if they can’t find it, they’ll replace it with a new one.
A feature that is still quite rare on bikes at the moment is the automatic gearbox. The Sturmey Archer gearbox will react to your accelerations and speed and make sure you’re always in the best gear. Should you wish, you can alter the timing of the gear changes with the VanMoof app. The 250 W motor is powered by a 504 Wh battery, with a range of between 60 to 150 km depending on the mode you have the bike in and the terrain you’re riding over.
There's lots of integration, like the LED array built into the top tube, built-in lights, lock and alarm and location tracking from the VanMoof app, although the built-in battery and high weight mean that charging is not as easy as with a separate battery like that on the Brompton Electric.
Ribble Hybrid Al e, Fully Loaded Edition
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Reasons to avoid
Ribble is at the forefront of value-for-money, high-specification, well-integrated e-road bikes. Many of the hallmarks of this capability are evident in this hybrid bike, which should handle both your commute and leisure rides with ease.
The basis of the bike is a strikingly good-looking lightweight aluminium frame within which there is a battery so well hidden that you barely notice it’s there. A subtle button and LED light on the top tube allow you to see how much battery is left and let you choose how much assistance you want. If you want even more control of the settings, you can change the settings in Ribble’s app.
The bike is impressively kitted out too, with a Mavic wheelset, a rear pannier rack, a bell, front and rear lights and full-length mudguards. As with all bikes where you can’t remove the battery, including the Orbea and the VanMoof, you will have to take this bike within touching distance of mains power to charge it up.
Tern GSD S10
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Reasons to avoid
While Tern claims the GSD isn’t intended to be a car killer, it may well be just that. The company is best known for its folding bikes, and while the GSD isn’t a fully foldable bike, the seat post and handlebars do collapse to make storage of this bike a little more compact. The reason it can’t fold down much smaller is this is not your average folding bike. This is a heavy-duty cargo bike, capable of carrying up to 200 kg, be that luggage, or should you attach the right seat, two passengers on the back.
The bike employs a dual battery system, which is 400Wh and 500Wh in size. Should you have both of them attached you’ll have a whopping 900Wh of capacity. This will be enough to assist your cycling for between 110 and 250 km depending on which of the 4 modes you have it in. The 10-speed Shimano hub gears and impressive 85Nm of torque mean you’ll be able to get up any hill, even when fully laden. It comes complete with wide, grippy tyres, a rear luggage mount, a kickstand, front and rear lights, and mudguards.
It's a heavy duty cargo carrying option, but not as practical as a folder like the Brompton C Line Electric or a bike with less luggage capacity like the Ribble if you have less need of carrying capacity.
Trek Domane+ LT
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Reasons to avoid
Built for comfortable as well as speedy commutes, the Trek Domane+ LT electric bike gets Trek's IsoSpeed seatpost decoupler built in to increase the isolation of your rear end from road vibrations. There's front IsoSpeed too to add comfort at the handlebars. Wide 32mm tyres help add comfort and grip as well and you can either fit mudguards or even wider rubber for rougher routes into the office.
The Fazua motor's phone app lets you fine-tune the motor's output levels to match your power needs, so you can upscale the power delivery if you need more support for faster getaways or tone it down if you want to preserve battery life.
The Fazua drivetrain is removable from the bike, so you can ride without assistance, save weight and use the space that held the motor for storage, while Trek's endurance geometry makes the Domane+ LT a comfortable ride for the long haul commute.
The Domane+ LT is still available for now, but the new (and even more expensive) Domane+ SLR that replaces it is lighter and (for US riders) faster.
Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0
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Reasons to avoid
You might initially mistake this bike for a mountain bike, rather than one cut out for commuting. In reality, the 2.3-inch tyres and 80 mm travel suspension fork are perfect not for the trails but smoothing out bumps and road buzz on your commute. If you live in slightly more remote areas, the bike should also deal with gravel or hard-pack dirt trails with ease.
The bike comes with a large 710 Wh battery which powers a trusty Specialized motor and a SRAM NX groupset with a wide enough range to get you over any terrain. To keep you safe, it also comes with hydraulic disc brakes which will provide dependable braking in any weather conditions. It comes with front and rear mudguards, and a rear pannier rack to carry any work stuff from A to B without having to wear a backpack. It's available as a step-through as well as the version with a top tube shown above.
You get extra comfort, range and a more powerful motor, but the Turbo Vado isn't as sprightly as the Orbea Gain or the Cannondale Synapse.
Cannondale Synapse Neo EQ
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you want to speed up your e-bike commute, a drop bar racer will give you a more aerodynamic ride position that should be faster than a flat bar hybrid like the Ribble, the Specialized or the Orbea. The Cannondale Synapse Neo comes with a powerful Bosch motor that's mid-mounted for stability and a high capacity battery for plenty of range. The EQ version also gets mudguards, a rear rack (not shown in the image above) and lights so it's all-weather ready and easy to load up.
There's a 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain with plenty of gear range, that along with the motor should make a breeze of hills on your ride into town. The hydraulic disc brakes mean assured stopping and the 35mm wide Schwalbe tyres should provide comfort over broken roads or even if your commute takes in a towpath or gravel track. There's plenty of range from the large 500Wh battery too.
Hummingbird Electric 2.0
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Hummingbird has engineered its folding electric bike to be as light as possible. A carbon fibre main frame paired to a cantilevered truss rear section and lightweight components bring the overall weight down to a claimed 10.3kg.
The Hummingbird bike doesn't fold down quite as small as a Brompton Electric, it's only singlespeed so might not work for hillier cities and the range is quite limited at around 50km, but Hummingbird has upped the torque from the 250 watt motor so there's more pulling power to help get you moving. All that engineering means that the Hummingbird bike is expensive though.
Best electric bike for commuting: everything you need to know
There's a lot to think about when selecting an electric bike for your commute, so we've provided a breakdown of the key points here. There's more information in our guide to the best electric bikes as well.
Why is an electric bike good for commuting?
An electric bike can make your commute a lot more comfortable. It can make stops and starts a lot easier, provide assistance on uphills and increase your overall average speed, while lowering the effort you need to put in, so you should arrive less hot and tired than on a non-electric bike. You may feel more comfortable riding a longer distance too.
It's also likely to be a lot more comfortable than a ride on public transport and you can choose your own time to travel, while you're less prone to delays due to congestion than in a motor vehicle.
Many towns and cities now have dedicated cycling routes, so you may not need to compete with motorised traffic and might be able to skip queues and even get a jump at traffic lights due to cyclist priority signalling. There are also often quietway routes for cyclists that bypass main roads and take you away from traffic and may route you around bottlenecks.
On the flip side, most electric bikes are quite heavy, so moving them around at the beginning and end of a ride will be harder work than with a non-powered bike. If your commute involves public transport it will be harder to get your electric bike on and off than with a non-powered bike and you may not be able to take a non-folding bike at peak times. The best folding electric bikes will help here.
You also need to make sure that you can keep your electric bike charged up so you don't run out of juice halfway home in the rain (although electric bikes are designed so that you can pedal them without assistance). That means having a handy power outlet close by where you park your bike, either at home or at work, or an e-bike with a removeable battery. You might need a second charger at work too.
What material should my frame be made of?
The three most common frame materials you’ll come across when looking for a bike are aluminium, steel and carbon, although titanium might make an occasional appearance.
Carbon is most often used in the best road bikes because of its low weight and high stiffness. However, it can be quite fragile, and innocuous bumps could cause very expensive damage, so if you’re locking your bike up in communal locations, we recommend you stay away.
Most bikes you look at for commuting are likely to be made from aluminium, and for good reason. It’s fairly cheap, very durable and not subject to corrosion.
You may find some electric bikes are made of steel. While it is tough and can take some bumps and bruises, it is relatively heavy and can be subject to corrosion.
What should I look for in an electric bike motor?
Most e-bike motors are power-limited to 250 watts, but they can provide varying amounts of torque, measured in Newton-metres (Nm). If your commute is flattish and you're fairly fit, a motor with around 40Nm to 50Nm torque is likely to be fine, but if you're riding somewhere more arduous or expect to be carrying a lot, then a motor with more torque will be better. Some go up to 80Nm or more, which is what an electric mountain bike puts out.
A mid-mounted motor is likely to keep your e-bike most stable, as it's low down and central on the bike. But a rear hub motor isn't likely to have a significant impact on handling and, as your weight is over the rear wheel, grip isn't likely to be an issue.
Front hub motors are more tricky, as there's less weight on the wheel and so less grip and the extra weight can affect the bike's handling if it's not been carefully designed.
How much battery capacity do I need?
As with all technologies, it’s easy to look back at some original e-bikes and notice how bulky they looked. Batteries were bolted onto frames wherever there was space and were often very low capacity. Fortunately, we’re beginning to see much bigger capacity batteries and sleeker integration of both batteries and motors.
Typically, the smaller the physical size of the battery, the lower its capacity, and the fewer miles you’ll get out of it. For most people, this shouldn’t be an issue, with even small batteries having enough juice to get you to work where you can charge up again or serving duty for multiple days of commuting.
Battery size is most often expressed in watt-hours (Wh), and the amount of assistance you’ll get from it depends on how much you ask of it. For example, a 300 watt-hour battery can provide 300 watts of assistance for one hour, or 100 W of assistance for 3 hours.
A battery can weigh several kilograms and make up a significant proportion of an electric bike's weight. That's okay in a non-folding bike, although it can make moving the bike to a storage area at the end of a ride harder. It's more of an issue with a folding bike designed for portability, so a bike like the Brompton C Line Electric will often have a lower capacity battery to make it easier to carry.
How do I charge my electric bike?
Some bikes have removable battery packs making them simple to unclip and charge, even if your bike is left outside or in a communal bike store. Others, typically those with more integration, require you to charge the battery while it is attached to your bike, meaning you’ll have to hook it up to the mains in your house, garage, or at the office, so it’s worth checking to see how easy this might be for you.
You're either going to have to carry your charger with you or buy a second one if you need to charge the e-bike at both ends of your commute. Some electric bikes like the Orbea can be fitted out with a range extender battery if you do need more range, but in reality most commutes are likely to be short enough for range not to be an issue even with the lowest battery capacity, unless you expect to go multiple days without recharging.
How many gears do I need?
As usual, the stock answer is "that depends". If you live somewhere flat, a singlespeed electric bike may be enough for you. The extra power provided by the motor means that starting off will be a lot easier and faster than with a non-powered commuter bike.
At the other extreme, if your commute is hilly, you may need a full range of gearing, as found on the best commuter bikes which don't include a motor. Again, the motor is a huge help here. Crank it up to maximum power output and it may pull you up steep inclines; lower the assistance level once you've reached the top to conserve battery life and range.
What additional features should I look for?
For commuting duties, it's preferable to get the load you're carrying off your back: you'll be more comfortable and your centre of gravity will be lower. It may be easier to look around without a pack too, although the best cycling backpacks will be designed to address these issues.
If you're planning to commute with your electric bike in all weathers, then look for mudguards or at least the option to fit mudguards to your bike. Likewise, winter commuting is likely to mean at least one journey in the dark. In-built lights are handy and they'll often be run off the electric bike's battery meaning that there's less to remember to keep charged up.
You can pick up a set of the best bike lights relatively inexpensively though. It's a good idea to use lights even during the daytime to up your visibility, particularly in town.
Take a look at our commuter bike accessories checklist for a longer list of things you might need for your commute.
How do I maintain my electric bike?
Bikes, like cars or any other mechanical device, need to be maintained. If you’re not an experienced mechanic, most things are simple enough to learn how to do yourself, but spend a little bit of money and a bike shop will have you good to go in no time. But, the fewer complicated parts, and the better you care for your bike, the less chance there is of things going wrong.
The gears on your bike, including the derailleurs, cables and shifters will require regular maintenance to keep them performing at their best. Some people are fortunate to live and work in flat areas and so they can get away with the simplicity and ease of a single-speed bike.
However, most of us live in areas with hills, and therefore gears are a necessity. Internally-geared hubs are a more robust, easier-to-maintain solution than derailleurs, but can be pricier. You'll sometimes find a carbon fibre belt drive on bikes for commuting, which cuts down on maintenance over a chain-driven solution.
Maintaining your brakes in working order is arguably the single most important thing when looking after your bike. Jumpy gears and a loud chain might ruin your enjoyment, but poorly functional brakes could have much more dire consequences.
Classical brake systems, using a cable to join your lever and your brakes, have stuck around for so long because they’re simple and they work, but you do need to keep them properly maintained, regularly checking the cables for wear.
Higher-end bikes are often equipped with hydraulic disc brakes; not only do these work more effectively in poor weather conditions, once set up they should require less maintenance too. Disc brakes are trickling down the bike hierarchy and you might find them on quite inexpensive electric bikes.
What are the e-bike regulations where I live?
What classifies as an e-bike and what regulations apply to riding it vary by where you're located.
At present, most e-bikes in the UK fall under EPAC (that’s the electrically assisted pedal cycle) amendment regulation mandate. This means bikes have to be moving before the motor can kick in, it can provide a maximum of 250 watts of aided power and has to stop aiding at 25 kph. You also have to be at least 14 years old to ride an e-bike.
So long as your bike meets these criteria (as all the ones in the article do), then you’ll have the same legal standing as regular bicycles and you’ll be allowed on roads and bike paths. If your bike assists you up to faster speeds it’ll be considered a two-wheel moped, and therefore you’ll require insurance, a certified helmet, and a valid driving licence.
In Australia e-bikes can assist you up to a maximum speed of 25 kph. The two legal systems in Australia are throttle-operated and pedal-assist. If you have a throttle-controlled bike it can provide up to 200 watts of power, whereas pedal-assist e-bikes can give you 250 watts of assistance. Anything above that is legally considered a motorbike and must therefore be licensed and insured.
Given the structure of the American legal system, the rules governing the use of e-bikes are predictably more complicated than those in the UK and Australia. Let’s begin.
Obviously, the laws governing the use of e-bikes vary from state to state, but these are often difficult to interpret. The all-encompassing, federal definition of an e-bike is “a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph”.
As if that isn’t complicated enough, often state laws may override federal legislation. Some 33 states have statutes that define an e-bike in some way, while the rest lack any specific definition, and often chuck them in with other classes of vehicles. At present, 13 states are adhering to a three-tiered system proposed by The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association. While the motors on all classes of bikes can produce a maximum of 750 watts, they are tiered depending on their maximum assisted speed:
- Class 1: the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedalling, and cuts out at 20 mph
- Class 2: the motor can contribute even if the rider is not pedalling, but cuts out at 20 mph
- Class 3: the motor provides assistance when the rider is pedalling but cuts out at 28 mph and must be equipped with a speedometer
While class 1 and 2 bikes are allowed anywhere bikes are allowed, class 3 bikes can only be ridden on roads and bike lanes, but not multi-use paths. In the states that regard e-bikes as vehicles, licensing and registration may be required to operate an e-bike.
Yes, this is a lot to get your head around, but thankfully the kind folk at People for Bikes have put together a state-by-state guide.
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