The Best, Zippiest, Cheap E-Bikes

January 10, 2020

It used to be you’d have to shell out a pretty penny to grab a piece of the e-bike fun. And while high-priced models still and always will exist you can own a Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo mountain bike for a mere 12 grand there are now some very affordable options that weren’t available a year ago.

If you’re in it more for the fun than you are for high performance, you likely won’t notice where that extra money is being saved. For example, every bike on this list uses a hub-drive motor versus a mid-drive type, is designed with less integration (think battery and lights), mixes in some lower-quality parts, and has a top speed of 20 mph (save for the Aventon Pace 500 and BikTrix Stunner LT Step-thru, which boost up to 28 mph).

The trade-off: Every bike on this list save the $1,799, which we included for its relatively high value is sub-$1,500. Here’s what you’ll typically get with an e-bike in this price range.

ANCHEER 350W Electric Bike 26/27.5'' Adults Electric Bicycle/Electric Mountain Bike
ANCHEER 350W Electric Bike 26/27.5” Adults Electric Bicycle/Electric Mountain Bike

Hub Motor

Every e-bike here uses a hub motor rather than a mid-drive motor. Hub motors (the original industry standard and the lower-cost of the two) can be located on either the front or, more commonly, the rear wheel.

Hub motors typically don’t offer the same natural maneuverability as today’s increasingly more common mid-drive motors because their weight is concentrated in the front or rear of the bike.

In contrast, a mid-drive motor’s weight is low and centered over the bottom bracket, resulting in better control and a more balanced ride feel, much like a traditional bike. A hub motor’s top speed typically maxes out at 20 mph. Some bikes on this list don’t go over 15 mph.

You’ll also notice that e-bikes with hub motors feel zippier straightaway while those with mid-drive motors are slow to warm. That’s because a hub motor works using a speed sensor, meaning it’s directly related to the rider’s cadence. It senses how fast you’re pedaling no matter what gear you’re in if you want to go faster, pedal faster, not harder.

This is more convenient for city and commuter-type e-bikes because the motor does a lot of the work for you, allowing you to be a bit more relaxed.

A mid-drive motor uses a torque sensor, which gives you a more authentic ride feel but gives back only what you put in. In other words, if you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder.

This type of motor is more ideal for road and mountain bikes because you still get the assist without sacrificing control, balance, and that natural ride feel.

Upsides to using a hub motor with a speed sensor: It’s cheaper, easier to maintain, and less complex. Downside: Because the motor doubles as your wheel’s hub, changing a flat is no easy task.

Cheaper Components

Usually, the cheaper the bike the cheaper the parts. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be riding around on a rattling tin can.

It just means that the bike’s designers took into consideration where they could include lower-level parts without sacrificing safety while putting the money where it counts most hydraulic disc brakes, decent tires, a reliable e-system.

So while you may still get a Shimano groupset, you likely won’t get the top-tier version. And though the electrical components on some of these bikes might not be plastered with a familiar name, like Bosch or Shimano, that doesn’t mean they’re not capable.

Aventon, for example, uses a custom e-system (rather than a complete one) that was pieced together specifically for the Pace 500 because the designers didn’t want to limit the bike’s design specifications.

Battery Range and Integration

Let’s face it, at this price you likely won’t get a bike that hides its battery with any sort of elegance. Except for a few of the folding e-models on this list that tuck one inside the frame, most are stuck to the top of the down tube or behind the seatpost.

Don’t expect to ride across the state on these, either. The highest range in this list is 50 miles (Aventon Pace 500); the lowest is the SwagCycle EB-5, at 15 enough to get from the train to the office and back to the train. Check the bike’s battery range before you buy to make sure it fits your daily needs.

Types of Bikes

Bikes you won’t find on this list: high-end road models, mid- and long-tail e-cargo bikes, and burly mountain bikes. At this price range, you’ll see mostly city/urban models, casual cruisers, and folding bikes.

The latter group is meant for short commutes, zipping around town, and overall fun. For these reasons alone, lower-cost components, a battery with a shorter range, a cheaper hub motor, and a less-than-integrated design are really all you need to get in on the e-bike fun.

How We Chose

Every e-bike here has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience with these bikes to determine the best options.

Some models have been tested by our staff and those that haven’t have been carefully chosen based on their value, quality of parts (most of which we’ve tested separately), user reviews, and how the overall package meets the needs of the intended buyer.

Ecotric Fat Bike

A sub-$1,000 fat bike with a 500W hub motor.

That’s right. A fat e-bike for less than $1,000. The 500-watt rear hub motor operates as pedal-assist or via a throttle on the handlebar. Using the throttle, the battery will give you a claimed 25 miles of riding before it needs another charge.

If you choose to pedal, there are three assistance levels and each is visible on the LCD display. You can also read battery life, distance, and it gives you the option to enable a speed limit.

The bike comes with a Shimano 7-speed drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes plus four-inch-wide tires that are great for riding in the sand, snow, or mud. If the bike gets muddy but needs a charge indoors, the battery can be easily removed and charged while off the bike.

Rad Power Bikes RadCity

This commuter-focused e-bike is both powerful and pragmatic

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The RadCity is a bike that’s been optimized to help you conquer the urban landscape.

A big 48V battery gives you an estimated range of between 25 and 45 miles of e-assist from the 750-watt motor, which packs enough acceleration to get you out of dicey situations in traffic.

There’s also a wattmeter to help you manage your power consumption on the LCD display. A welded-on rear rack holds up to 60 pounds of cargo and puncture-resistant Kenda K-Rad tires keep you rolling over precarious debris. Commuting essentials include lights (the tail light also functions as a brake light), fenders, and a rear-mount kickstand.

Sondors Fold X

This folding e-bike isn’t bound to the pavement

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Of the folding e-bikes we’ve seen, the Sondors Fold X’s design is among the cleanest, with its lithium ion battery tucked neatly into the front half of an aluminum frame. There’s a 500-watt hub motor within the 20-inch rear wheel, so the Fold X should have plenty of torque to tackle your on- and off-road adventures.

Wide 2.4-inch tires help you float over uneven terrain and there’s a thumb throttle to get you up to speed. When you fancy pedaling, find the right gear from the 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain, and then choose from five e-assist modes on the LCD screen.

BikTrix Stunner LT Step-thru

Choose between 20-, 24-, and 26-inch wheels on this step-thru cruiser

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The Canadian e-bike company BikTrix gives buyers a lot of choices with its Stunner LT Step-thru cruiser e-bike. You start by choosing between three wheel sizes (frames are appropriately sized to match, and there’s a recommended sizing chart for each wheel size).

You can also upgrade the standard 12 amp-hour battery to 17Ah or 21Ah, and optional extras include a rear rack, fenders, and a suspension seat post. The powerful 750-watt rear hub motor takes the bike up to its 28-mph top speed.

Pedal through the 7-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain on e-assist or use the throttle to get going. Tektro hydraulic brakes give the 65-pound bike adequate stopping power, and the bike also comes with fat Kenda tires, a comfort saddle, and integrated lights.

Gravity X-Rod 8-Speed E

All the fun of a beach cruiser, but viable as a daily commuter


Imagine all the fun you had on your cruiser bike as a kid, and then slap a motor on that bike: That’s what online retailer Bikes Direct has done with the Gravity X-Rod 8-Speed E and it’s a lovely combination.

We’ve been pedaling one of these bikes for nearby errands and the wide saddle and riser handlebar make for a comfortable, upright riding position.

The LED display is easy to read and the 250-watt Bafang rear hub motor is powerful enough to on the highest e-assist setting keep you at a steady 20mph in a headwind without much effort from your legs.

The 27.5×2.4-inch WTB Riddler Comp tires smooth out bumps in the road and the Shimano hydraulic discs are a high-value inclusion at this price. And despite the fact that it’s a beach cruiser, the 8-speed Shimano Altus drivetrain makes it capable on hilly terrain, too.

Aventon Pace 500

A stylish and casual commuter that goes a whopping 28 mph and has a throttle.


The Class 3 Aventon Pace 500 urban e-bike has five levels of pedal assist and tops out at 28 mph. But the Pace has something not found on a lot of modern e-bikes.

In addition to pedal power, it also has a throttle in the case of the Pace, a small thumb paddle on the left side of the handlebar next to the control unit that holds at a steady 20 mph, no pedaling required.

The bike itself has an aluminum frame, a swept-back handlebar, ergo grips, a sturdy kickstand, hydraulic disc brakes, 8-speed Shimano Altus shifting and gearing, 27.5×2.2-inch Kenda e-bike-rated tires, a saddle the size of Texas, and good ol’ classic city/commuter-bike geometry.

It doesn’t come equipped with fenders or a rear rack, but you can add them. Power comes in the form of a 500-watt rear-hub motor, a semi-integrated battery on the down tube (with a range of up to 50 miles), and a backlit display unit mounted on the stem.

Tuesday August Live! LS

A beach cruiser that can tackle climbs as well as it can the boardwalk.
Price: $1,400

As long as you can do without some of the perks that pricier models offer like a detailed display unit, integrated lights, and a torque-sensor motor the August Live!

LS is a solid, stable, comfortable, and really freakin’ cute (have you see those polka-dot fenders?) e-bike. Its 8-speed twist shifter, chopper-style handlebar, Touch Down Geometry (for a more laid-back ride), and three levels of assist keep this bike within the realm of “cruiser.”

But with a 250-watt Bafang rear-hub motor, a top pedal-assisted speed of 20 mph, and reliable disc brakes, the August is no joke. It’ll get you to the top of relatively steep climbs without forcing you out of the saddle, and it feels super stable on the way back down.

It has a battery range of 20 miles, but that’s enough to take it where it’s happiest: tootling along at the beach, around town, and through the park.

Blix Vika Travel

A compact, folding e-bike that comes with a handy carrying case.
Price: $1,500

At 38 pounds, the Vika is among the smaller and lighter folding e-bikes out there and much like its fellow 16-inch-wheeled colleague, the Brompton, the aluminum alloy bike is powered by a 250-watt front-hub motor.

Included with the motor and electric system are four levels of pedal assist and a throttle for burning rubber in the bike lane (well, up to 17mph), all of which can be controlled by an LCD display that shows your speed, range, trip meter, and odometer.

The battery has a range of up to 30 miles. As for the non-electric components of the bike, 7-speed Shimano Acera gearing gives you everything you need to keep pedaling with the e-assist turned off, with Tektro V brakes for stopping.

Ultimately, it’s a pretty great bargain for a fast folding bike that packs down smaller than most e-folding bikes. Plus, the entire bike also comes with a canvas carry bag so you can easily tote it around when not in use.

e-Joe GADIS Step-Thru Cruiser

Bonus features include front suspension and a rear rack.
Price: $1,500

A powerful 500-watt rear-hub motor and five levels of pedal assist, plus a throttle, provide assistance up to 20 mph, and the down tube-mounted battery lasts up to 45 miles and has a claimed charge time of 4 to 6 hours.

The frame’s low standover means even riders with a little less confidence will feel comfortable mounting and dismounting the bike, and putting their feet down when stopped in traffic.

The bike includes fenders and rear rack which ups the bike’s total load capacity to 350 pounds and a suspension fork to take some of the harshness out of crumbling city streets. Disc brakes, 7-speed Shimano gearing, 26-inch wheels, and 1.95-inch tires dress the frame. And a display unit shows speed, distance, assist level, and battery life.

Ride 1Up 500 Series City

A practical ride with a ton of add-ons.
Price: $1,100 (without optional LCD display)

The 500 Series City is a real contender for replacing your car. The battery has a claimed charge of 60 miles and the 500-watt motor has a top pedal-assisted speed of 25 mph, making it ideal for zipping around town and commuting.

A throttle on the handlebar will propel you at 20mph if you prefer not to risk getting sweaty. To help your visibility at night, an integrated headlight runs off the main battery and can be operated most easily via the optional LCD display.

The display will also show your speed and which if the 9 pedal assist levels you are in. The curved handlebar and upright riding position should be comfortable for most riders and there’s a Suntour suspension fork to help take some of the sting out of bumpy roads.

VeloMini Plus

Folds down to a 2×3-foot package, but fits riders taller than 6 feet.
Price: $1,300

If your commute includes multiple modes of public transport, or you live in a tiny Manhattan apartment, you’ll appreciate the VeloMini’s folded size of 2×3 feet and the fact that its one-size-only option includes riders over 6 feet tall. And at 29 pounds, it’s not a total burden to lug up and down steps.

A front-hub motor provides a max speed of 14 mph via a throttle and three pedal-assist levels, and the battery will last a claimed 18 miles.

Those aren’t huge numbers, but they’re enough to satisfy someone with a short commute or whose errands can all be run close to home.

The display is a push-button style pad rather than an LCD screen, but it still offers a clear indication of battery life and assist level. And the integrated lights are a bonus if your workday runs long.

Propella Single-Speed

Looks like a traditional road bike, and disguises its battery as a water bottle.
Price: $1,100

The stylish Propella Single-Speed will look good in any hip city setting anodized blue rims, attractive black frame, matching saddle and grips.

And that giant water bottle on the down tube? That’s actually a removable and lockable battery with a 35-mile range (which recharges in a claimed 2.5 hours).

With a top speed of 18 mph from a 250-watt Bafang rear-hub motor, and five levels of pedal assist, this 35-pound (claimed) aluminum road-style e-bike is a breeze to zip around on and wouldn’t be a bear to ride if the battery ran out of juice, especially with those aero rims. But it’s a singlespeed, so it’s most efficient in flat areas with subtle hills.