Electric Bicycle Reviews
The good old bicycle. It has certainly stood the test of time and in many modern cities represents a popular and clean commuting solution, with dedicated and safe bike lanes. This is very cool, but what’s not cool is showing up at work (or a job interview) sweaty and out of breath.
Thankfully, even the humble bicycle has been unable to avoid the revolution in electric transport; we now have electric bicycles at prices that aren’t quite as insane as they were when they first came onto the market. It doesn’t help that non-electric bicycles are pretty expensive in their own right so, whichever way you cut it, an electric bicycle is going to be a major purchase. If you get the right one, though, you’ll have many years of eco-friendly and inexpensive commuting on tap. The money you save in fuel and maintenance costs will quickly pay for your investment and, hey, you can even get a bit of exercise if the mood strikes you.
I’ve put together a couple of mini reviews of the most popular electric bicycles available today. I’ve put my top picks at the start of the list, but be sure to check out the rest of the list if none of these meet your needs. I’ve also put together an easy buyer’s guide if you feel like going fishing for the perfect bike yourself.
The Best One:The Rich Bit TP12 350W Lithium Mountain Bicycle
I don’t care who you are – if the TP12’s look doesn’t make the little kid inside of you squeal then you might want to see the doctor, because you are probably dead inside.
The TP12 comes in blue, orange, green and yellow. All of these colors look great. The big fat tires remind my of the Yamaha TW200 offroad motorcycle. The TP12 looks like it’s ready for anything and, according to the manufacturer, it is. Beach sand, snow, and everything in between are a playground for the TP12.
Weight is a big issue when it comes to electric bicycles, especially when you run out of juice and have to rely on pedal power alone. The TP12 is actually rather heavy, despite its aluminum frame. It weighs in at 57 pounds, which is porky, but given how heavy-duty this all-terrain bike is, I think it’s completely forgivable.
It’s equipped with a 350 brushless DC motor powered by a removable, sealed lithium battery pack. One of the great things about electric bicycles is that you can choose how much you rely on the motor and battery. On battery alone the TP12 can hit almost 22 miles per hour with a maximum range of almost 28 miles. If you give it a little light assistance you can extend that considerably. Which means you can still enjoy riding your bike, but avoid getting hot and sweaty while doing so. Leave the steep uphills to the battery and give some pedal to the flat straights. The TP12 has three modes – pure twist-throttle electric, pedal assist, or pedal power only. Recharging takes 1-4 hours to complete.
There are some nice extras like the LED headlight and kickstand but, at this price, excluding these would have been criminal. In general the components seem to be high-quality in nature, and users are happy with the build quality of the bicycle.
This is my top pick. I know it’s pricey – you could probably get a decent used motorcycle for the same price – but in the long run the TP12 will pay for itself.
The only real negative I can see is that suspension is limited to the front fork, but those extra fat tires should make up for it and cushion out the worst of the bumps. If you have the cash then this is the one to go for in my opinion.
Second Place Choice: The Addmotor 500W Electric Mountain Bike
The Addmotor is a bit of an odd looking thing. Sort of retro-future. I definitely prefer the TP12 reviewed above, but there is something decidedly “I Robot” about the Addmotor’s design. I especially like how the main electric unit almost entirely fills in the frame. Many electric bikes look as if the motor and battery were an afterthought, but the Addmotor (ironically, given the name) looks as if it was designed from the ground up to be electric.
The funky looks of the Addmotor are probably due to the “advanced biomechanics” the manufacturer says went into its design.
The 500W motor gives this bike a top speed of 22 miles per hour, which matches the speed on the less powerful TP12, but the range is greater – up to 28 miles on electric power alone. It’s on par with the TP12 and, of course, pedaling can increase that substantially.
The Addmotor has been designed with EU laws in mind and so doesn’t have a throttle, which is sort of weird since none of the other specifications comply with EU regulations. To find out more about the effect of EU electric bicycle laws, check out my short article.
This Addmotor 500W also doesn’t have the fat tires and sweet looks of the TP12. However it is quite a bit cheaper and much less flashy, which is why it gets my second place prize.
The Awesome Budget Option: Watseka XP Sport-Electric
This is the worst nightmare of the Cyclamatic, which I review below. This is a brushless 250W step-through e-bike for under $600. It has a top speed of 16 miles per hour and a one-size-fits-all adjustable frame. It has features like a headlight, taillight, cargo rack, ignition keys, and so on.
Overall, this is a well-rounded bike with an adequate (18 mile) range that’s well worth it for the price. It really beats or matches the Cyclamatic point for point, and I think this is one of the most appealing budget e-bikes I’ve seen.
The Wallet Destroyer’s Choice: The ProdecoTech Rebel X V5
Wow, ProdecoTech was toy-shy about pricing themselves out of the e-bike market. At just under $2500, the Rebel X V5 better have more than a desperate-to-sound-cool name.
Its design is pretty impressive if you’re a fan of Black OPS military vehicles, and most observers won’t notice that this is actually an e-bike. Which is exactly what you want when it comes to clueless cops who think you’re riding a motorcycle.
The hydraulic brakes are certainly impressive, but the 20 miles per hour top speed and 30-mile range are no better than similar bikes that cost over $500 less. This is in spite of a whopping 600W motor. I suspect the speed has been electronically limited, so hopefully that extra power translates into enough torque to tackle the really steep hills.
Look, I can see where the money has gone. The streamlined design, with its internal cable porting, is fantastic. It has those fat, offroad tires that should do well on a variety of terrains. One nice feature is the ability to charge USB devices from the battery; don’t worry, it won’t affect your range in any noticeable way.
I really want to like the Rebel X, but having to choose between this and the TP12 is a tough decision. Ultimately I don’t think the extra money ProdecoTech is asking justifies what improvements they’ve implemented.
The Cyclamatic GTE Step-Through Bicycle
The first thing I think when I see a step-through bike like this is “Hipster alert”, which is unfair, I know, but I can’t shake that impression. It’s a pity, because if you like vintage styling the Cyclamatic is actually a thing of beauty. The vintage styling is only skin-deep of course; the bike is made from modern materials using modern technology. The step-through design also makes it practical for people to mount and dismount while wearing the more restrictive clothing for work purposes.
There are a couple of big problems with this bike for me. The first is that it uses a brushed motor. That seriously impacts the lifespan of the motor, and when the brushes wear out you’ll have to fork out for a refurbishment or a new motor, whichever is cheaper. The 250W motor and 13 miles per hour top speed are also disappointing. Of course this bike is clearly intended for road use only so it’s been built with those restrictions in mind, but it’s nice to have extra power in reserve when you need it. A 20-mile electric range is adequate too, just not terribly exciting.
The list price on these bikes was originally about $2000, which is just way too high. Now, however, they are going for less than a grand, which is way more reasonable for what you get.
At the price the Cyclamatic is going for these days it may very well be a good short-range commuter, but that brushed motor may put a limit on how many miles you’ll get over the bike’s lifetime.
The Greenbike USA Folding Bike
Electric bikes are some of the best commuting electric vehicles you can buy, but they definitely lose out when it comes to being compact and portable. That’s the niche foldable bicycles are meant to fill. You can fold them up, put them in your trunk, and use them as a last mile solution.
The downside is that there are obvious compromises in terms of wheel size, suspension, and overall ride comfort. They’re perfect for last-mile transport since a mile is about as much as you’d like to ride.
The Greenbike breaks this mold a bit by having a comfy, spring-loaded seat and full suspension. There’s also a package rack, LCD display, and kickstand. Not bad for a foldable.
The battery is removable, although it’s not clear how easily this is done. Still, this means you can have a charged backup on hand if you need it. The Greenbike tops out at 20 miles per hour and the claimed range is 50 miles. This seems like a lot, to be honest, so I assume this is with pedal assistance; but this isn’t clear from the marketing material. At about $1200 this bike is a bit of a bargain, but if you don’t need the portability aspect of the Greenbike then you’d be better off buying a full-sized e-bike at a similar price.
The Schryerpower Custom Cruiser
The Custom Cruiser is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a factory made “pimp” bike. It really does look like the custom cars and motorcycles you’ll see rolling down the streets of Los Angeles. There’s no way you won’t attract attention on this thing.
Fat tires, front- and rear-disc brakes, and an LCD display round out this bike. At just under $2000 the Custom Cruiser is a bit pricey and the lack of suspension is something I find worrying, so it’s not high up on my list. But if the look of the thing appeals to you, you could do a lot worse for the money.
Wheels of Fortune
Buying an e-bike is a serious commitment for most people, but hopefully these highlighted bikes will give you a good idea of what sort of outlay you’re looking for and what counts as a good bike. Don’t forget to check my buyer’s guide in case you don’t find your next personal transport among these particular bikes.