E-bikes or electric bikes have exploded in popularity over recent years. The option of assisted pedalling opens cycling up to a whole new audience, and we are seeing everything from slick commuters and long-travel enduro e-MTBs to haul-everything assisted cargo bikes – and now electric 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 electric road 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.
Best electric road bikes
Ribble Endurance SL e
Best electric road bike for the budget conscious
Drive system: Mahle Ebikemotion X35 M1 | Battery: Panasonic 36V/250Wh | RRP: £2,799 / $2,889 / AU$4,866
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 Mahle Ebikemotion system, the Endurance SL e doesn't get a control unit, instead opting for a button on the top tube that cycles through the three levels of assistance. Hidden inside the downtube is a Panasonic 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.
As Ribble is consumer direct, the pricing is competitive with the Tiagra build starting at £2,799, and the 105 build starting at £3,299 — every component can be upgraded through the brand's 'BikeBuilder' program.
Bianchi Aria E-Road
Best electric bike for speed chasers
Drive system: Ebikemotion | Battery: Panasonic 250Wh | RRP: £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 a 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 aero road bikes, 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.
Best electric road bike for those who want to avoid the e-bike aesthetic
Drive system: Ebikemotion | Battery: Ebikemotion 250Wh | RRP: £5,200 / $7,999 / AU$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.
Trek Domane+ LT
Best electric road bike for long days in the saddle
Drive system: Fazua Evation 250w | Battery: Fazua 250Wh | RRP: £4,900 / $6,999 / AU$NA
With the IsoSpeed decoupler in the seat tube and room in the frame for 38c tyres, Trek's Domane+ LT is probably the best electric road bike for comfort.
It comes with a 250w motor and 250Wh battery, so in terms of power and range, it's on a par with many of the 'secret e-bikes' featured here, however, instead of having a battery permanently hidden inside the down tube, the Domane+ uses a removable battery. Batteries do degrade over time, so the option to replace it will be positive when it comes to long-term ownership or resale value.
The Domane+ LT features all the niceties of the pedal-powered Domane, including fender mounts, Blendr accessories, and endurance geometry. The carbon frame is fitted with a Shimano Ultegra 2x11 groupset, with a 50/34 chainset and 11-34 cassette.
Best for those who may want to ditch the battery every once in a while
Drive system: Fazua Evation System 400w | Battery: Fazua 250Wh | RRP: £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 SL Expert
Best for those looking for a high-performance e-road bike
Drive system: Specialized SL 1.1 240w | Battery: Specialized 320Wh | RRP: £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 SL, designed to be a high-performance e-road bike that's powered by the brand's own SL 1.1 drive system, it also uses the brand's Futureshock 2.0 at the front. Instead of an aftermarket solution from Bosch, Fazua or Shimano, Specialized designed its own, which is claimed to weigh just 1.96kg.
The 320Wh battery itself weighs 1.8kg, 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 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 keep up with friends on the climb while still getting a workout.
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.
Giant Road E+ 1 Pro
The best electric road bike for maximum power assistance
Drive system: Yamaha SyncDrive Pro | Battery: Yamaha EnergyPak 375Wh | RRP: £3,799 / $4,500 / AU$ 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 battery and SyncDrive Pro 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 170rpm.
Giant's electric road bike features a 375Wh battery, which when paired with the SyncDrive Pro motor, can expect up to 115km of assistance. There are 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 Giant's bikes, the Road E+ 1 Pro comes out of the box tubeless-ready, complete with rim strips, valves and sealant.
Cannondale Synapse Neo 2
Best electric road bike for those looking for maximum mileage between charges
Drive system: Bosch Active Line Plus 250w | Battery: Bosch PowerTube 500Wh | RRP: £3,250 / $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).
The 500Wh removable battery is bigger than anything else here, and Cannondale claims it will take you 92km on turbo mode and 160km on Eco mode in a single charge. The bike comes with 32mm slick tyres, and there are mounting points for mudguards and a rear rack.
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 a Tiagra 10-speed 11-34 cassette 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.
Electric road bikes explained
Some of the best electric road bikes are designed to hide the motor and battery in order to look like any normal road bike, while others are unashamed by their electricity and sport beefy down tubes that leave passers-by in no doubt.
Many of the stealthiest looking electric road bikes have resulted to fixing the battery into the down tube. This is great for aesthetics - bikes such as the Ribble SL e are almost impossible to tell apart from their mechanical stablemates - but if the battery fails (admittedly a rare occurrence), you'll need a new frame.
Electric road bikes with fat down tubes can often get more battery power into the bike, and Cannondale's Synapse Neo 2 does this well, with twice as much battery as most on this list.
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. The power they offer is an important factor, and most hover between 250w and 500w.
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 has put together a handy Range Assistant, which can provide a good idea of 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.
Most e-bikes use one of three e-bike systems, however, depending on 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, it's hard to say if that may change.
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.