E-bikes are the fastest growing bicycle segment worldwide providing sustainable, environmentally friendly and simple transport solutions for a wide range of people. The technology is getting better as electronic systems become smaller, lighter and more affordable, a trend that will only continue into the future as the technology gets more sophisticated.
Electronic bikes are found in many different cycling disciplines but commuting is where they make the most sense. They are perfect for short commutes around urban and city areas, they enable people to make short trips without sweating or expending large amounts of energy, they ease congestion on the road and are extremely practical in terms of carrying cargo and safety. We've had a look through some of the best E-bikes for 2017 under $4,000, and come up with five great options (in no particular order).
Before we jump into what to expect at this price range and what features to look out for, it's important to know the laws regarding E-bikes. These vary from state to state but typically the maximum allowed powered speed of assisted bikes is restricted to 20 mph, meaning that once you hit 20 mph the drive unit will cut out and you're on your own. Riders also have to pedal for the bike to be considered a power assisted bike. If riders don't need to pedal to access the power assistance, and it is deemed that the motor is the primary source of power, it is categorized as a motor vehicle and standard road rules apply. Check your local state rules for further information.
As speed is limited to 20mph, power (referred to as wattage) of the electronic unit is less significant than things like battery life and 'range', which will tell you how far you can travel with a full battery in different modes. A boost or turbo mode can be handy in traffic to get away quickly from lights or stoppages, often this is represented in the amount of torque available, the greater the torque, the faster you can get up to speed. The number and type of modes are also essential and your priorities will change depending on your chosen type of travel, short commutes will require different features than if you plan on touring adventures or longer trips for example. The weight of the unit is another consideration and there is an obvious trade over between battery life, range and weight.
There are a variety of different options for brands to choose as its electronic solution so we'll aim to outline each units power (wattage), torque, battery size, weight and range, and any other relevant factors like sensors, display units, and controls, so you can compare.
As far as the bikes themselves, the frame and fork are likely to be aluminium, and made to be robust and durable to cater for the extra weight from the electronic system plus any additional luggage you intend on carrying. The options we have listed below are either step through or conventionally shaped frames complete with fenders, racks (or mounts for racks) and even kick-stands. Integrated lighting is another common feature of E-bikes within this price range.
Disc brakes are almost universal for E-bikes to better cope with the extra forces of having a motor, and to provide consistent, reliable performance in all weather conditions. You can expect between 8 - 10 gears to play with, some options with a standard cassette, others with an internal hub system but all with a significantly wide range to cover the majority of profile and terrain you'll experience when commuting. And you can expect the tires to be large (over 35mm wide) and durable to reduce the chance of getting a flat, provide a comfortable ride with plenty of traction, and adequately carry the additional weight of the bike.
As a result of all of these specific E-bike features, they are often over 50 lbs with such things as water bottles, luggage, and tools bags not included.
Giant Quick E+ - MSRP $3,000
The Quick E+ comes fully loaded with everything you could ask from an E-bike commuter. The bike uses Giant's own SyncDrive Sport system which is powered by Yamaha, producing 80Nm of torque and 250W. The unit relies on information from speed, torque, motor and pedal rotation sensors to know when to deliver a boost and by how much. The entire system is controlled by a handlebar-mounted command center that allows riders to adjust power on/off, select various riding mode and change the light settings, even though the front and rear lights have sensors that auto adjusts brightness based on light conditions. And Giant says the lithium-Ion battery has a maximum range of 150 miles.
Shimano provides hydraulic disc brakes and the drivetrain, and offering plenty in the way of comfort and traction are the mountain bike style Schwalbe Big Ben tires measuring 27.5x2.1.
Gazelle CityZen C8 - MSRP $2,999
The CityZen is the first of three step-through bikes with a low standover height that many commuters will appreciate. Gazelle utilizes the Bosch 'Active Line' E-bike system, which, is targeted at commuting and gentler riding with the lowest power and torque of the three Bosch systems. The Active Line provides 250w, 48Nm of torque, and a range of over 90 miles in ideal conditions on 'Eco' mode (the most economical of five different modes) thanks to the 5lb frame mount, rechargeable, 400Wh lithium ion battery. Bosch does provide a more powerful 500Wh that can last for as long as 55 miles in ideal conditions if you require more range. Bosch even has this handy E-bike range assistant so you can calculate the bikes range based on your journey specifications.
The bike is ready to go off the shelf with full fenders, aluminium rear carrier, front and rear lights, hydraulic disc brakes, eight gears and large tires.
Focus Adventura - MSRP $3,799
Like the Gazelle, the Adventura is also equipped with Bosch's Active Line E-bike system with the same performance elements; 250w of power, 48Nm of torque, a range of over 85 miles in ideal conditions on 'Eco' mode, and a 5 lb 400Wh lithium ion battery.
The system is perfect for this category, more suited to commuting and gentler riding which, the Adventura's specification list backs up. The bike comes equipped with everything a commuter could ask for; full fenders, rear carry rack, kickstand, lights (front and rear), huge 40mm tires and hydraulic disc brakes.
Kalkhoff Agattu I8 HS - MSRP $3,599
The Agattu has a rather simple, classic look up front but a chunky rear end as a result of housing the battery behind the seattube. It certainly sets the Kalkhoff apart from other models we've listed here that typically have the battery located on the rear rack or downtube. The step-through frame with a low stand-over height only adds to the unique look of this bike. Regardless of what you think of the aesthetics, from a practical point of view, it ticks all the boxes with full fenders, kickstand, lights, large backlight LCD display, cargo rack, and huge 40c Schwalbe Marathon tires.
Unusually, you won't see disc brakes on this bike due to the 'Back pedal' function, which, like an old school BMX bike, provides braking force when you back pedal. The power comes from the 'Impulse 2.0' unit that provides 250m, 70nm of torque, and over 125 miles of range in 'Eco' mode in good conditions making it one of the best batteries on the market.
Trek Conduit + - MSRP $2,999
The Conduit + is powered by the Shimano 'STEPS' mid-motor system, one of the industry leaders in E-bike technology. The unit is one of the lightest on the market at 7 lb, provides 250w and 50nm of torque, has three different power modes and will cover up to 95 miles using its rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack which weighs 5 lb
There are plenty of great features for commuters here including full coverage fenders, cleverly integrated front and rear light powered by the STEPS battery, and a streamlined cargo rack that will easily accommodate panniers and a U-lock. Shimano hydraulic disc brakes provide the stopping power, Shimano also provides the drivetrain components and Bontrager H2 Hard-Case 35c tyres so prevent any punctures.