With e-bikes offering better value than ever and companies now fiercely competing for who can come up with the best value offering in the value stakes, it can be pretty confusing trying to narrow down just how much you should spend and what features you should expect – even if you are on a pretty tight budget.
Here we try and demystify the topic by breaking budget e-bikes down into two broad price categories, low budget and lower mid-range to see just what you might expect to see in each category, whilst picking out the best value bikes out what we consider to be the very best value e-bikes out there.
Low Budget eBikes – US$1000 / £1000
Undoubtedly the hardest category to actually pick a bike in as there will be a lot of poorer quality e-bikes below these price points. EBR tends not to recommend many e-bikes below these price points and they have to stand out from the crowd. There are even e-bikes out there for just a few hundred $ but these may well be even more compromised in design or manufacturing quality than the slightly higher priced ones which themselves can be very poor. Amazon and Ebay are full of such cheaper e-bikes.
Typical purchaser complaints you might find include parts that last only a few months (including more expensive consumables like the lithium-ion battery), motors that feel underpowered compared to what they were expecting, having to deal directly with an company in Asia and waiting several weeks for replacement parts. Communication may be by email only and you may not be sure exactly who you are dealing with and where they are or what your warranty terms are (if any).
All this isn’t to say there aren’t satisfied buyers out there who have purchased such e-bikes; they may even get a few years use from their Ebay purchase but no doubt the majority of these e-bikes end up broken and at the back of the garage or at the refuse tip much more quickly than higher priced e-bikes. In other words it can be a haphazard affair.
The good news is that there are more reputable companies that produce some e-bike models that just creep into this category so it’s worth detailing the models that make the cut. These are models from companies that do care about the quality and specification of the e-bike, have a physical presence in the country where you live and offer clear and transparent guarantee terms.
For this money you are not generally going to get a mid-drive (these generally outperform hub motors in terms of hills climbing and efficiency), or a higher spec with the likes of hydraulic disk brakes and higher end transmission systems like multi-hub gears – but that’s not to say you won’t get an e-bike that will give many thousands of miles of dependable service if looked after.
EBR hasn’t reviewed any Swagtron models and doesn’t have any personal experience of them. However, looking at other customer feedback they appear to be one of the better ultra-low price point brands out there and they do appear to have a central point of contact in the US, though they actually sell via online only.
Some reviews suggest that by cutting features they can afford to use basic but reasonably durable components, for example they produce a lot of single speed models with functional brakes – not always the case on ultra low priced models!
Many online reviews seem to fall into two camps; those who have bought Swagtrons and been delighted with them and those who seem to have run into difficulties when trying to get things put right. So, despite our tentative recommendation, the above caveats about compromises in design and service at the lower price points Swagtron offer e-bikes at still stand.
Lectric Xp / Xp Step-Thru US$1000
If you can afford to make the step up from just a few hundred dollars to nearer US$1000 and you choose carefully you can get really outstanding value for money as shown by the Lectric range. They have kept costs low partly by offering just two models in two colours and even then the only real difference between the two models is the option of a step-thru frame.
In terms of most bang for your buck this e-bike has to be a contender for the best there is at US$999 (currently discounted to US$899) when you look at the spec list; 4″ wide fat tires, really powerful rear hub motor (throttle assist to 20mph and pedelec to 28mph), 500Wh frame-integrated battery, 7 derailleur gears, carry rack, lights, mudguards, kickstand……and it folds!
You can see out full review here and check out the video below:
BikTrix Swift Lite US$999
Another e-bike that looks absolutely outstanding value, this time from Canadian company BixTrix. For US$999 you get a choice of step-thru or diamond frame, 350W rear hub motor, 374Wh battery and all the commuting features for all year round e-biking including lights, rear rack, mechanical disk brakes, mudguards and even 30mm travel ‘unifork’ suspension. It’s a got a throttle and the BikeTrix website implies all their bikes are configurable to class 1,2 or 3.
At US$995 and 14.5kg with a belt drive, RideUp1’s Roadster V2 looks exceptional value if you seek a lightweight single speed urban style runaround. What’s more it’s advertised as a class 3 e-bike with assist up to 24mph. The relatively small battery is the main downside at 252Wh and the dual pivot caliper rim brakes might mean your wheel rims might need replacing after a few thousand miles of use, depending on how much of a tough ride they have had.
Ride1Up have even managed to squeeze in a display at this price point which shows current speed, battery life, and distance.
Decathlon Riverside 500E £999 / €1200
Decathlon are a French chainstore that offer all manner of outdoor goods and have expanded to cover the UK, Belgium and Germany too. They do a great range of lower priced e-bikes including several under £1000 but for us the Riverside 500E is probably the pick of the bunch as it has a couple of features you don’t normally find on sub £1000 e-bikes -a torque sensor and hydraulic disc brakes. Torque sensing ensures smoother and more efficient power delivery than more basic systems and usually makes for a smoother ride and more range form your battery whilst hydraulic disk brakes give smooth and controlled braking performance.
The Riverside 500E also features a very respectably sized 418Wh battery, front and rear lights, 8 speed derailleur gears and is compatible with a rear pannier rack too.
The Calibre Kinetic from UK outdoors retailer Go Outdoors is a no-nonsense EU spec pedelec (15.5mph assist limit) that will get you started if you want to venture off-road and don’t need the stellar performance of a decent quality mid-drive which will be capable of tackling rather more extreme off road conditions. It features a Promovec geared rear hub motor, 317 Wh battery crank motion sensor, 24 derailleur gears (3 x 8) and weighs a respectable 21.2kg.
The natural competitors at this price point are the Carrera Vengeance-E from Halfords and Decathlon’s lower priced Rockrider hub motor range. Whilst the Vengeance-E, which I’ve also tried, shades it in a head-to-head in the area of much smoother, more immediate power delivery, the Kinetic wins on outright hill-climbing power, gear range (465% vs 280%), Clarks hydraulic disc brakes over Textro mechanical ones, weight (21.2kg vs 22.6kg) and in the price/value-for-money stakes. Decathlon’s women-specific hub motor e-MTB looks great value at £850, boasting a rear hub motor that is rated as moderately powerful on paper at 42Nm of torque – though I’ve not tried any Decathlon models, the spec sheet certainly looks encouraging.
Not too heavy at 18kg but with a small 115Wh battery and only a single gear, steel frame and moderately powerful motor. But at £599 with pannier rack and mudguards and with a two year battery guarantee from the reputable Halfords it could make for a good run about for shorter trips if your surroundings are without too many very steep hills.
Whoosh Rambletta £869 / £899
Whoosh are an independent long-established, knowledgeable UK firm with a good customer service reputation and their Rambletta folding model has a number of interesting features. There is a decent sized 432Wh frame-integrated battery, 8 derailleur gears, front and rear integrated lighting, pannier rack and kickstand. For an extra £30 you get front ‘mono’ suspension fork or rigid fork and suspension seat post. There is a throttle control too (though as a UK spec the pedals have to be in motion for it to provide its full power). The only downside is the rather short 1 year guarantee.
If you want an e-road bike at this price point you are going to have to make some compromises and at 19.5kg the UK’s Halfords’ own brand Carrera Crossroad E is somewhat heavy in a category where the lightest (and most expensive) models are now less than 11kg. Still, it has a nice EU 15.5mph assist rear hub motor, torque activated on pedalling and nice to pedal over the cut out limit too and it has cable operated disk brakes too.
Lower Mid-Range eBikes – US$1000-US$2500 / £1000-£2000
Here you are just starting to get a choice of lower end mid-drive machines whilst the hub motor machines should really be offering you something extra in this price range like larger battery capacities or e-cargo and e-fat bike features. Higher quality hydraulic brake systems and better quality gearing systems start to become more common as you head up the price scale. One main area where bikes in this price bracket might economise is with shorter guarantee periods,
There is a huge mass of e-bikes in this price bracket so here we are identifying those e-bikes we are aware of as standout value and also those genres of e-bike that are the most affordable in their class:
Rad Power Bikes US$1099-US$1699 / €1099-€1599
Rad Power say they are the biggest e-bike manufacturers of e-bikes in the US and they cover a variety of styles, from e-fat bikes to commuters to e-cargo bikes all majoring on value for money.
We’ll concentrate on their two lowest priced models here.
Also available in Europe and the UK here.
At US$1199 the RadRunner is a great budget e-cargo bike and does a heck of a lot for the price. With its rear rack is rated to carry a mighty 54kg (including a seating area for a small passenger), powerful rear hub motor and the large 672 Wh battery it packs a huge amount into a small and well-priced e-bike, the only real downside being its 30 kg weight means maybe not as far as you might have figured – bear this in mind too if are needing to carry it at all). There’s also built in lighting including a brake light and a kickstand but you need to pay extra for mudguards or any of the intriguing sound range of carrying accessories like huge bespoke pannier bags or insulated delivery bags. Also available in Europe and the UK here.
Propella From US$999-1299
Lightweight e-bikes usually mean piling on the US$ but the single speed model from Propella comes in at around 35lbs (sub 16kg), has an 18.5mph top speed and a 250Wh battery. Even the seven speed version is light at 37lbs (sub 17kg). Act quick though as even preorders are disappearing fast.
Blix Bikes From US$1499
Earlier in 2020 Santa Cruz-based Blix shifted its business model to an entirely direct-to-consumer model to help keep prices low and it has to be said their whole range offers good value for money and here we highlight our star buys.
For US$1599 you get one of the best value e-cargo bikes out there, the Packa, that boasts myriad carrying options and comes with the option of a dual battery system giving an asonishing max of 1171Wh (though you pay extra for the extra battery)- still, it’s generally something only really seen otherwise on much higher priced e-bikes (most notably bikes that feature the Bosch dual battery system). There’s a huge range of carrying accessories and multiple mounting points for carrying all manner of things on the Packa and it has a stated loading capacity of 400lbs / 181kg.
It’s a class 2 e-bike with a pure throttle mode which can be particularly helpful when starting off from a standstill with a heavy load. Other useful features include integrated lights, rear footrests/running boards, a tool-less adjustable stem and a well-placed and strong centre kickstand.
Blix’s beach cruiser style model the Sol, at US$1499 combines sporty performance, style and functionality for comfortable, easy riding. A powerful, 500W geared rear hub motor and sizeable 672Wh battery combine with the ultra-easy rideability of the low step-thru frame, swept back handlebars and wide profile tyres to make this a great value ‘beginners’ e-bike. Like the Packa there is also a fully-featured LCD display with USB charging for small devices.
It can even be pressed into service to carry significant loads as extras including front and rear rack options and the latter will even take a child seat. It is also a class 2 20mph e-bike with throttle option.
Californian company Aventon have a good range of budget-priced e-bikes. Their class 3, 28mph model the Pace 500 at US$1399 caught our eye as not all the competitors in this price bracket offer class 3 e-bikes.
UK readers, note Aventon are now available in the UK via Brick Lane Bikes with an EU spec version of this bike, though at £1499 it is less good value.
SONDORS sell bikes direct to consumers and their hub motor models are available at two price points, US$1199 and US$1699. Powerful motors, big batteries and fat tires mark out their entire range. The US$1199 Fold X stands out as it has 20″ x 4″ fat tires, a 350W rear hub motor, a huge 672Wh battery and folds in two for carriage and storage.
If you don’t need the fold then the Sondors X model gives even more motor power (500W) and battery capacity (872Wh) for the same price. Both this and the Fold X are Class 2, 20mph assist models.
The Sondors LX is an awesome looking fat tire step thru model which is still in production but we couldn’t resist releasing the pre-production spec (shipping is scheduled for June 2020). For US$2000 it features an unrivalled spec; 750W mid-drive, air suspension front forks, 26″x4.9″ fat tires, a truly enormous 1008Wh battery, hydraulic disk brakes and integrated lighting.
Pedego – From US$1695
Pedego have over 120 locally-owned stores throughout the US and also offer a five year prorated battery warranty so it’s not hard to see where the added value comes from that nudges them up the scale from less pricey e-bikes in this category. And crucially you can have a test ride and have the reassurance of local support if you can get to one of their retailers.
Their recently introduced and most economical model is a US$1695, 20″-wheeled Class 2 (20mph with throttle) e-fat bike, the Element with a beefy looking rear hub motor and a 408Wh. battery. More extras would have been nice at this price but Pedego are known for the quality of their build and the power of the motors so the money is really going into the heart of the system.
BikTrix Juggernaut Classic and Stunner Cruiser Range
Canadian firm BikTrix offer one of the best priced mid-drive models around, the Juggernaut Classic. What’s more it’s packed with features often only found on higher priced mid-drives, such as integrated lighting, rack, fenders, front suspension and 8 speed derailleur transmission. The ‘basic’ spec also has a 696Wh battery with a 2amp charger but bigger battery options and faster chargers are available as upgrades. It uses the Bafang 750W BBS02 mid-drive that is pedelec and throttle operated.
Their Stunner cruiser range is also worth a look if you want a reasonably-priced mid-drive. It starts at US$2199 with the Stunner X which is is described as an ‘all terrain cruiser’. It uses the same Bafang 750W BBS02 mid-drive as the Juggernaut Classic and comes as standard with a 700Wh battery.
IZIP Vibe 2.0 US$2150
The IZIP Vibe 2.0 is a class 1 pedelec meaning no throttle but pedal assist up to 20mph. The big plus is that this is a ‘Bosch Bike’ so you get market leading, high performance quality with a 2 year, well defined rock solid battery guarantee and the super quiet and super efficient performance of the Bosch’s Active Line mid-drive. Other plus points include a strong integrated rack and a full chainguard.
Decathlon Rockridee EST520 £1499.99
eMTBs are becoming incredibly popular but one complaint is the relatively high price for a quality mid-drive true e-mtb spec. Enter Decathlon’s Rockrider E-ST 520 with a Brose T mid drive with 70Nm of torque and other high end features like a rear thru-axle and hydraulic disc brakes. The battery size is reasonable too at 420Wh.
German based Cube are known for unbeatable quality for the money – they use only Bosch mid-drive motors and many own brand accessories along with extremely lean manufacture to keep prices as low as possible on really good quality e-bikes.
Our pick of the 2021 sub £2000 e-bikes is the Cube Reaction Hybrid Performance 400 All Road at £1999. It is fully equipped for on and off road performance, the only downside being the smallest Bosch battery at 400Wh. Note it features the powerful Bosch Performance mid drive offering 65Nm torque which gets rave reviews – many higher priced Bosch-powered mid-drive bikes will feature the lesser power of the Active Line series.
JORVIK ELite Jet E £1999
Even many ‘budget’ e-trikes tend to come in over the US$2500 / £2000 mark but this Jorvik model is an exception. It features a folding frame and 522Wh battery too.
Stay tuned for more e-bike news and reviews and thanks for reading!