E-bikes or pedelec electric bikes have exploded in popularity over the past couple of years, and we are seeing everything from slick commuters and long-travel enduro e-MTBs to haul-everything assisted cargo bikes — and now e-road bikes.
These skinny-tyre pedal-assisted rides are the newest addition to one of the fastest-growing segments of bicycles. They range from bulbous looking frames with bolted-on motors and batteries to integrated units that are nearly indistinguishable from their non-assisted counterparts.
Many are quick to dismiss e-bikes as cheating but that notion usually disappears when people swing a leg over an e-bike for the first time. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you still have to pedal to make any of these bikes go.
Most e-bikes use one of three e-bike systems, however, depending where you live, the level of assistance as well as whether you need a license and insurance will vary.
The UK adopted a lot of the EU's regulations regarding e-bikes but with Brexit still up in the air, it's hard to say if that may change over the coming months.
All of the bikes featured here fall under 'The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EPAC) Amendment Regulations' mandates; electric assistance can only provide 250-watts of aid and must cut out at 25kph. It also stipulates the rider must be in motion for the motor to kick in and be at least 14-years-old.
Electric bikes (and riders) that meet these standards have the same legal standing as regular bicycles and are allowed on roads and bike paths.
In Europe, a new class of speed-pedelecs or s-pedelecs are gaining popularity that are capable of providing assistance up to 45kph. You still need to pedal for the motor to kick in, however, under UK law these are considered two-wheel mopeds and require insurance, a legally certified helmet and qualifying driver's license.
In the US, rules for e-bikes vary from state to state; 30 states classify e-bikes as ordinary bicycles, while the remaining 20 label e-bikes as mopeds, scooters or something else altogether.
Federal law defines an electric bicycle as 'a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, 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 20mph.'
It's worth noting this statute defines the maximum assisted speed of the bike when being only powered by the motor, not when it's being pedalled. To make things more confusing, state regulations can supersede the federal statute.
The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association has proposed a three-class system which divides electric bikes up based on their maximum assisted speed:
Class 1: the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedalling and cuts out a 20mph
Class 2: the motor can contribute regardless of pedalling but is governed to 20mph
Class 3: the motor provides assistance when the rider is pedalling but cuts out at 28mph and must be equipped with a speedometer.
For all three classes, the motor can only put out a max of 750 watts, and the class needs to be clearly labelled. This system also defines where the bikes can be ridden; class 1 and 2 are permitted anywhere bikes are allowed, while class 3 can be ridden on roads and bike lanes but not multi-use paths, and may be subject to minimum user age and helmet requirements.
So far, 22 states have legislation creating a class system and our friends over at People for Bikes have put together a full state by state run down.
In Australia, e-bikes are split into throttle operated and pedal assist. Both systems must be limited to 25kph, and the throttle-operated motors can only output 200 watts while pedal assist is legal up to 250 watts. Anything that exceeds these figures is considered a motorbike and must be licensed and insured.
E-road bikes explained
1. Drive system
Most e-bikes will use motors from Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, with the latest crop using Ebikemotion and Fazua integrated units.
These systems place the motor either at the bottom bracket or the rear hub and vary in weight. In fact, some of the integrated systems are surprisingly light.
When e-bikes started to gain popularity, the batteries were bulbous, and almost appeared to be haphazardly bolted on wherever there was space. Now we are seeing brands working to integrate them into the frame seamlessly.
Unfortunately, the smaller the battery, the smaller the capacity — which is measured in watt-hours (Wh). While some brands are quick to make claims about how far certain watt-hour batteries will take their bikes, these figures can vary greatly depending on the level of boost, the terrain and even the weight of the rider. Bosch have put together a handy Range Assistant, which can provide a good idea how much mileage you can expect to achieve, depending on your riding habits.
While some bikes have removable batteries which allow you to keep a spare, others with hidden battery packs look much cleaner.
Best e-road bikes you can buy today
Giant Road E+ 1 Pro
Best for those looking for a powerful e-road bike
Drive system: Yamaha SyncDrive | Battery: Yamaha EnergyPak 500Wh | Price: £3,499 / $4,650 / AU$ N/A
While some e-road bikes skimp on the battery and motor power to offer a more integrated look and lighter weight, the Giant Road E+1 Pro goes the complete opposite direction. With a huge 500Wh battery and SyncDrive motor from Yamaha attached to the ALUXX SL frameset, Giant has upgraded the system with its own firmware to track better at higher cadence — the brand says the crank-based motor can keep up with cadence has high as 120rpm.
With five levels of assistance available, the motor can output up to 80Nm of torque and the assistance levels can be customised through Giant's Ride control app.
The rest of the bike is specced with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, complete with hydraulic disc brakes and 160mm rotors to bring the heft to a halt. As with all of its bikes, the Road E+1 Pro comes out of the box tubeless-ready, complete with rim strips, valves and sealant.
Best for roadies looking for e-bike assist without the e-bike aesthetic
Drive system: Ebikemotion | Battery: Ebikemotion 250Wh | Price: £5,200 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Using the C64 as the backbone, Colnago has adapted its carbon racer into a pedal-assist roadie. Claimed to tip the scales at 12kg including the battery, Colnago says the rear hub-based motor only adds 3.7kg and it's capable of delivering 250 watts of assistance.
With the battery housed in the downtube, the E64 doesn't get a built-in head unit; instead, there is a button on the top tube that controls the electronics. The battery is stored in the downtube and is not removable, but Colnago says there is an auxiliary battery on the horizon which can be stored in one of the bottle cages to add range.
Although the E64 appears to be a carbon-lugged frame, it's a visual illusion with these details being added in the paint shop. The bike comes with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, Deda finishing kit and Mavic Aksium Elite EVO UST wheels.
Best for those travelling on rougher terrain
Drive system: Bosch Performance | Battery: Bosch PowerTube 500Wh | Price: £5,250 / $7,000 / AU$NA
With the IsoSpeed decoupler in the seat tube and room in the frame for 35c tyres, Trek's Domane + is one of the more comfortable and capable e-road bikes out there.
Using one of Bosh's new Performance line motors, the US version will offer assistance up to 45 kph (28 mph) and is claimed to travel 70 miles on a single charge. The motor on the British version is limited to 25kph (15 mph) and Trek says a single battery will take you 100km — for the time being, the Domane + isn't available in Australia. With a Removable Integrated Battery (RIB), the 500Wh unit is hidden in the downtube and can be removed with no tools.
The carbon Domane + frame is fitted with a SRAM Rival 1x11 drivetrain, with an 11-36 cassette and SRAM Force flat-mount brake calipers. Trek has also fully integrated front and rear daytime running lights which are powered by the Bosch battery.
Ribble Endurance SL e
Best for those with a limited budget
Drive system: Ebikemotion | Battery: Ebikemotion 250Wh | Price: £2,999 / $NA / AU$NA
Claimed to weigh 11kg, the Ribble Endurance SL e is one of the lightest e-road bikes currently available and, visually, the frame is almost identical to its non-assisted sibling, including the aggressive geometry.
Using the Ebikemotion system, the Endurance SL e doesn't get a control unit, instead opting for a button on the toptube that cycles through the three levels of assistance. Hidden inside the downtube is a 250Wh battery, which is connected to a rear hub-based motor said to provide 40Nm of torque. There is an accompanying app, too, which will provide additional information such as remaining battery life.
Because the battery is integrated into the frame, not to mention the red tape that comes with shipping batteries, this particular bike is only available in the UK. As Ribble is consumer direct, the pricing is competitive with the 105 build starting at £2,999 — every component can be upgraded through the brand's 'BikeBuilder' program.
Bianchi Aria E-Road
Best for those looking for an aggressive e-road bike
Drive system: Ebikemotion | Battery: Panasonic 250Wh | Price: £4,500 / $6,500 / AU$ 8,499
Also using the Ebikemotion drive system the Bianchi Aria E-Road is almost indistinguishable from its non-assisted celeste-painted stablemate. With an internal 250Wh battery and rear-hub-driven motor capable of delivering 40Nm of torque, the drive system is controlled by a button integrated into the toptube.
Based on one of Bianchi's more race-focussed frames, the Aria features aggressive geometry as well as the same aero tubing as the standard version.
Weighing in at around 12kg, the Aria E-Road relies on an 11-speed Ultegra drivetrain, and Vision TriMax wheels with 28c Vittoria Rubino tyres. The rest of the finishing kit sees Bianchi's venerable Reparto Corse (race shop) branding.
Cannondale Synapse Neo 2
Best for those headed out for an all-day epic
Drive system: Bosch Active Line Plus Motor | Battery: Bosch PowerTube 500Wh | Price: £3,499 / $4,725 / AU$ 6,999
The Synapse Neo features a Bosch Active Line Plus Motor, which offers 250w of assistance and up to 50Nm of torque (in turbo mode). Powered by a 500Wh removable battery, Cannondale claims it will take you 92km on turbo mode and 229km on Eco mode in a single charge. The bike comes with 32mm slicks, however, there is also a SE version complete with 47mm tyres mated to 650b wheels.
Using an FSA crank specially designed to work with the Bosch motors, the gearing is 2x with a 50/34-tooth chainring at the front and an Ultegra/105 11-speed mix at the rear.
At 18kg it may seem a touch on the heavy side but it's surprisingly nimble given the majority of the weight is at the bottom bracket. Geometry-wise, the Synapse Neo is quite similar to the brand's Topstone Alloy Gravel bike.
Focus Paralane2 9.7
Best for those looking to tackle a wide range of terrain
Drive system: Fazua | Battery: Fazua 250 Wh | Price: £5,499 / $TBC / AU$8,999
Focus's Paralane 2 utilises an internal bottom bracket-based Fazua drive system which can provide up to 400w of power and 60Nm of torque — depending on where you live, this will be toned down to meet local restrictions. The Fazua drive unit is designed not to add any friction to the system, so if you remove the 250Wh battery and replace the cover, you'll save yourself 3.3kg and be left with a sub 10kg road bike.
The removable battery also means you can keep spares and it makes charging easier, too. Unlike the other integrated e-bike systems, there is a bar-mounted controller that allows you to interact with the motor.
Beyond the Fazua motor and battery, it's almost a standard Parlane, including the RAT quarter-turn thru-axles clearance for 35mm tyres. However, there is Boost hub spacing front (110x12) and rear (148x12) and while this creates a stiffer wheel, it severely limits your aftermarket wheel choices (for now).
Best for those who may want to ditch the battery every once in a while
Drive system: Fazua | Battery: 250Wh | Price: £5,999 / $TBC / AU$11,999
On the surface, the Nytro looks like any other Pinarello frame, complete with a wavy fork and aero tubing but hidden in the downtube are a Fazua drive unit and battery. The Nytro is claimed to have up to 400w of power and 60Nm of torque, and the battery can be dropped out of the downtube to make it just a normal road bike, weighing in at around 9kg without the battery.
The frame uses the brand's F10 frameset as a starting point and adds a bit of length to the wheelbase and height to the head tube. Rest assured, Pinarello hasn't forgotten to give the Nytro its trademark asymmetric tube treatment.
Built with a SRAM Force 11-speed drivetrain, the bike gets hydraulic disc brakes and rolls on Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels. It also comes with a Pinarello-sized price tag.
Specialized Turbo Creo Expert
Best for those looking for a high-performance e-road bike
Drive system: Specialized SL 1.1 | Battery: Specialized 480Wh | Price: £7,499 / $9,000 / AU$12,000
Launched during the 2019 Tour de France is the latest addition to Specialized's line-up of Turbo bikes, the Creo, designed to be a high-performance e-road bike that's powered by the brand's own SL 1.1 drive system and Futureshock 2.0 at the front. Specialized wasn't satisfied with how much the Bosch or Shimano e-bike systems weighed so designed its own, which is claimed to weigh 1.96kg. The 480Wh battery weighs 1.8kg itself, and Specialized is also offering 60Wh extender packs which fit in a bottle cage — the extender packs are included with the S-Works and Founders edition, but not the Expert build.
With the brand's Mission Control app, you can run diagnostics and customise the assistance levels. Specialized says you can customise them on the fly, which means in theory, you could tailor the wattage to help you hit interval targets on a climb.
The Turbo Creo features a full carbon frame and is only available as 1x setup, with the Expert edition using a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed Di2/XT Di2 mix drivetrain with Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes and Roval carbon wheels.