Best Budget Electric Bike of 2020
Best Overall Electric Bike
Macwheel Ranger 500
The Ranger 500 impressed our testers and handily took top honors as the best overall electric bike we tested. Its ride quality was second to none with smooth-rolling 700c wheels, excellent predictable handling, and unwavering stability at speed. This "cruiser style" bike also has an easy step-through design and a comfortable, relaxed riding position. Its user interface was the best we tested, with ergonomic control buttons and an easy to read, customizable digital display. Thanks to its 360Wh battery, it also proved to have an excellent distance range. Add to that several user-friendly features like fenders, head and taillights, and a rear rack, and its easy to see why this was our most highly regarded model.
While we feel the Ranger 500 is a good value, it was the most expensive model in this test. It also has a 250W rear hub motor, and it couldn't quite match the power or top speeds fastest bikes we tested. Despite that, we feel this bike's ride quality, distance range, user interface, and wealth of features make it the best in the test.
Read review: Macwheel Ranger 500
Best Bang for the Buck
Ancheer AN-EB001 26-inch Electric Mountain Bike
The Ancheer AN-EB001 is a mountain-style e-bike that is very reasonably priced with consistently good performance across all of our rating metrics. It rolls on 26-inch wheels and has comfortable and steady handling that is enhanced by its girthier and slightly knobby tires that help to dampen the ride. We found it to be quite comfortable with a decent range of seat height adjustment and an adjustable stem. Its 250W rear hub motor is capable of propelling it up to 17 mph with the throttle, and the three pedal-assist modes provide a nice range of support to magnify your pedaling input. The 288Wh battery is on the smaller side, but we still found it to have a respectable distance range. The suspension fork and knobby tires also increase its versatility and help to make this bike suitable for light-duty off-road use.
While perfectly functional, the controls and display of the AN-EB001 were far from the best we tested. The ergonomics of the control buttons are poor and more difficult to reach with the thumb while riding. Our taller testers also found the range of seat height adjustment to be inadequate, and those with long legs may need to purchase a longer seatpost to get this bike to work for them. Beyond that, we were generally impressed by the overall performance of this affordable electric bike.
Read review: Ancheer AN-EB001
Best Bang for Buck Folding
Ancheer Folding 16-inch Electric Bike
The Ancheer Folding is a quality folding e-bike and an impressive value. While it can't quite compete with more traditional non-folding models in terms of its ride quality, it performed surprisingly well across all of our other rating metrics and tests. It arrives mostly assembled with minimal setup required, and it can easily be folded to reduce its size for storage or transport. The 250W rear hub motor provided relatively quick acceleration to its top throttle speed of 17.5 mph, along with three pedal assist modes with a good range of pedaling support. Considering the bike's small wheels, folding design, and 288Wh battery, we were quite impressed with its distance range of just over 15 miles in full-electric/throttle mode. The battery also has a handle for easy removal, plus the bike comes with front and rear fenders to help keep you dry.
While it does offer folding convenience, the Ancheer Folding does require tools to remove the handlebar to get it to its most compact size. The folding design, along with its 16-inch wheels, also give it a less stable ride quality than the larger wheeled competition. Additionally, the controls and display leave a bit to be desired despite their functionality. Beyond those concerns, we still feel that this bike is an impressive value.
Read review: Ancheer Folding 16-inch
Best for Distance Range
Ancheer 27.5-inch Blue Spark Electric Bike
The Ancheer Blue Spark proved to be a tester favorite and bested the competition with its impressive distance range. This mountain-style model was one of the most powerful bikes we tested with a 350W rear hub motor and a top throttle speed of 20mph. Its larger 374Wh battery also translated directly to the longest distance range of all the models we tested, traveling over 20 miles in our range test with the throttle only. Testers also loved the ergonomic handlebar-mounted controls and the excellent, easy to read digital display that provides information like current speed, remaining battery life, pedal-assist mode, and more at-a-glance. It has a traditional mountain bike style with 27.5-inch wheels that roll fast and provide steady handling and plenty of stability at speed, along with a suspension fork and wider tires that enhance its versatility and comfort.
While we loved the crisp digital display on the Blue Spark, we were somewhat dismayed that it didn't come with instructions. It would have been nice to change its units from kilometers to miles. Also, while it has a suspension fork and knobbier tires, we would hesitate to recommend the Blue Spark for any serious off-road use beyond smooth dirt roads and paths. Otherwise, we found little not to like about this powerful model.
Read review: Ancheer Blue Spark
Best for Carrying Cargo
Nakto 26-inch 250W Cargo
The Nakto City 26-inch Cargo impressed our testers with its distance range, comfort, and wealth of useful features. This step-through cruiser style bike is easy to mount and dismount and has a comfortable, upright seated body position. The 250W rear hub motor easily gets this bike up to its top throttle and pedal-assisted speed of 20mph on flat terrain. The 360Wh battery is easily removable for charging and helped this bike be one of the top performers in our distance range testing. Its ride quality was generally calm and collected with smooth, predictable handling and good stability at speed. We also loved that it came with user-friendly features like fenders, a headlight, an electric horn, a covered basket, and a rear cargo rack. We feel the cargo carrying capabilities make this bike a fantastic option for trips to the market, post office, or to and from the office.
While we loved the wealth of features, it made assembling the Nakto a little more involved and time-consuming than most. It wasn't difficult by any means, but it took an hour to complete the process. We were also a little underwhelmed by this bike's pedal-assist system. Not only were the display and controls quite basic, but it only has one pedal assist level. It works, it's just a little less sophisticated than some of the other bikes we tested. That said, we still feel this is a quality, comfortable e-bike with a great range and cargo capacity.
Read review: Nakto 26-inch 250W Cargo
Best for Portability
Swagcycle EB5 Plus Folding
Convenience is the name of the game with the Swagcycle EB5. This lightweight folding e-bike collapses down impressively small for storage and transport, and it weighs a mere 36 lbs and 10 oz, making it by far the most portable model we tested. This bike is ideal for taking with you on the train, throwing in the trunk of a car, or stashing in a closet at the office. The Swagcycle comes fully assembled, and folding and unfolding it couldn't be easier thanks to their intuitive and user-friendly design. For such a small bike, its 250W rear hub motor packs a surprising punch, and this bike accelerates quickly and has a top throttle speed of 15.5 mph. While it was far from the best, we were also relatively impressed by its distance range considering its diminutive stature and 270Wh battery capacity.
Due to the nature of its folding design, 14-inch wheels, and compact geometry, the Swagcycle EB5 suffers a bit in terms of its ride quality. This bike feels a bit twitchy and unstable when compared to more traditional bikes, with handling akin to a large electric scooter. It has a single-speed drivetrain, and this bike does not pedal well should the battery die while out on a ride. This bike also has the simplest display and controls of all the models tested, along with only one pedal assist mode. That said, if it's portable convenience you seek, the Swagcycle EB5 has you covered.
Read review: Swagcycle EB5
Best City Bike
Ecotric Vortex Electric City Bike
The Ecotric Vortex is a zippy and powerful electric bike that we feel is well suited for city use and commuting. This was one of the fastest bikes we tested with a 350W motor, quick acceleration, a 20 mph top throttle speed, and the highest average speed during our range testing. It has a 360Wh battery that gives it a respectable distance range, and it traveled nearly 17 miles on our test course in full-electric/throttle mode. It comes equipped with smooth, fast-rolling city tires and has a sporty, almost racy feel with good handling and stability at speed. Testers found it to be relatively comfortable, with a nice seat, ergonomic grips, an adjustable stem, and front/rear fenders.
While we feel it has a solid distance range, it was outdone in this metric by competitors with similar battery storage capacities. We also found the display and controls the be relatively basic, although completely serviceable, compared to our top-rated models. Our taller testers also noted that the bike felt a little small, and those near the top end of the recommended height range, 6'0", may desire more adjustment than this bike provides. Beyond that, we feel this affordable model is a great option for anyone looking for a quick and powerful city bike or commuter.
Read review: Ecotric Vortex Electric City Bike
Why You Should Trust Us
Our electric bike test was led by Jeremy Benson. Benson is the Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor for OutdoorGearLab and has years of experience testing mountain, gravel, and electric bikes. He is an obsessive cyclist and racer competing in endurance gravel and mountain bike events in the professional class. While he loves to ride using only his own power, he doesn't discriminate and can often be found riding e-MTBs on the trails and electric bikes around town. His years of experience testing and riding bikes for fun and training have given him the ability to sense the nuanced and often subtle differences between the products he tests while out on the road or trail. Benson is also the author of two guidebooks, Mountain Bike Tahoe, and Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes California, published by Mountaineers Books in 2017.
After researching the best, most popular, and most highly regarded affordable electric bikes on the market, we purchased seven for our side by side test. We ran each model through the same rigorous testing process while focusing on several key performance attributes. Our distance range testing was done on the same course with the same rider using the throttle only to see how far each model could travel on a full charge. We also tested our other key performance metrics of ride quality, power output, user interface, and ease of assembly.
Related: How We Tested Best Budget E-Bikes
Analysis and Test Results
In order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the electric bikes we tested, we performed several quantifiable tests that inform us to make direct comparisons between the different models. Instead of arbitrary testing, we chose to focus in on several specific performance attributes, such as ride quality, distance range, power output, user-interface, and ease of assembly. Our head to head testing reveals the individual performance of each model, as well as how they compare to the competition.
The electric bikes in this review all qualify as being relatively affordable, yet they still represent a wide range in price. We don't rate the products we test based on price, but we always appreciate a good value. Our testing revealed a pretty clear correlation between price and performance, and the top-rated models also happen to be the most expensive. That said, even the more affordable models like the Ancheer AN-EB001 and the Ancheer Folding performed reasonably well and cost significantly less.
We feel that the ride quality of a bike is one of its most important attributes. All of the models we tested are different and have varying handling characteristics, comfort levels, and features that help to define the way they ride. Wheel size and geometry play an integral role in how a bike feels while turning and how stable it feels at speed. Fit adjustments for the seat and handlebar are important elements that affect comfort across a range of user heights. Additional features like racks, lights, and fenders also play in to the overall quality of the user experience.
The Macwheel Ranger 500 had the best ride quality of all the models we tested. It has a cruiser bike style with an easy step-through frame and comfortable, casual, seated riding position. It rolls on smooth and fast 700c wheels (the same size as a road bike), and it has steady, predictable handling in all situations and excellent stability at speed. Not only did it have the best ride feel and performance, but it comes well equipped for commuting or running errands with features like a rear rack, head and taillights, and fenders front and rear.
The Nakto Cargo also impressed us with its ride quality, comfort, and wealth of features. It handled smoothly and predictably, with a cruiser bike style and a comfortable upright body position. It also came fully equipped with useful features like fenders, a headlight, a horn and bell, a covered front basket, and rear cargo rack which enhanced its user-friendliness. We felt the Ancheer Blue Spark also had an agreeable ride quality. It can't match the features of the Macwheel or the Nakto, but its handling was nearly as good. It comes with 27.5-inch wheels and tires that roll fast and provide smooth and responsive handling, and a calm feel when brought up to speed. We found it to be comfortable, although its adjustments were somewhat limited.
Both the Ancheer AN-EB001 and the Ecotric Vortex have slightly smaller 26-inch wheels and good ride qualities, though they can't match the high bar set by the models mentioned above. Both bikes deliver reasonably comfortable handling and adequate stability at speed, though they don't feel as composed as the bikes with slightly larger wheels.
The two folding models we tested, the Ancheer Folding and the Swagcycle EB5, have ride qualities that are a product of their convenient folding designs, small wheels, and cramped geometries. Both bikes are notably twitchy in their handling and less stable at speed when compared to the non-folding models with larger wheels. Of the two, the Ancheer feels marginally better with its slightly larger 16-inch wheels. That said, considering their folding designs, both bikes handled better than expected.
How far an electric bike can travel on a single charge is referred to as its distance range. Many factors play into a bike's range, including battery storage capacity, rider weight, terrain, and rider input. To make our range test as consistent as possible, we had the same rider, on the same test course, ride all of these bikes from a full charge until the battery died while recording all of the ride info with a GPS enabled cycling computer. We also removed the rider input/pedaling variable by performing this test using the throttle only. This test gave us an accurate assessment of the low end of each bike's range. Our test course was not perfectly flat either, with approximately 100 vertical feet of elevation gain/loss per 2 miles. It is safe to assume that every bike we tested could be ridden much further on perfectly flat terrain, and especially while pedaling and using pedal-assist as opposed to just the throttle.
Three bikes rode away from the pack in our distance range testing, and not surprisingly, they all had larger battery storage capacities. The top performer in this test was the Ancheer Blue Spark with a 374Wh battery. We rode the Blue Spark 20.25 miles with 1,171 feet of elevation gain/loss. It did so in 1 hour and 24 minutes, and with an average speed of 14.5 mph. The Macwheel Ranger 500 and the Nakto have similar size 360Wh battery, and were hot on the heels of the Blue Spark in our range test. They both fell about a half-mile short, but we were still quite impressed with their 19.55 and 19.6 miles, respectively. These three bikes were head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
The Ecotric Vortex had the next longest range at 16.42 miles and 958 feet of elevation gain/loss. While it was short of the high bar set by our top-rated models despite its 360Wh battery, it did hold the highest average speed during the test at 17.3 mph. It may not travel quite as far, but it does go faster. We were quite surprised to find that the Ancheer Folding had the next best range. This folding model rolls on 16-inch wheels and has a 288Wh battery, yet it still was able to travel 15.42 miles and 896 vertical feet. The Ancheer AN-EB001 has the same 288Wh battery, and it wasn't terribly far behind with its 14.84 miles and 860 feet of elevation.
We weren't too surprised to find that the Swagcycle EB5 had the shortest distance range of all the models we tested. It has the smallest battery, 270Wh, as well as tiny 14-inch wheels. It still managed to travel 12.12 miles with 630 feet of elevation gain/loss, which we feel is respectable given its lighter weight, small wheels, and folding design.
The point of electric bikes is that they have power, and in the case of all the Class 2 models in this test, they have both a throttle and pedal assist. A bike's power output is dependent primarily on the size of its motor, and all of the models we tested have either a 250W or a 350W rear hub motor. We performed a variety of tests using the throttle and pedal assistance aimed at determining each bike's top speed, acceleration, and ability to hold speed up moderately pitched uphills. All of the models we tested have a power shut-off brake system that kills all of the power whenever the brakes are applied.
The Ecotric Vortex scored the highest in this metric and just narrowly edged out the next closest competitor. The Vortex has a more powerful 350W motor and a top throttle speed of 20 mph. It has good acceleration, and we found that it was able to hold speed better than most while going uphill. Additionally, it had a noticeably higher average speed than any other bike during our range testing. Its three pedal assist modes provide a good range of support, and it was easy to get this bike up to 20 mph while pedaling in the high output setting.
The Ancheer Blue Spark was the other model we tested with a 350W motor, and it was nearly equal with the Vortex's power output. It also had a top throttle speed of 20 mph, although its acceleration felt marginally faster and more robust. Its five pedal assist modes provided an even greater support range, and it was no problem getting up to 20 mph and keeping it there while pedaling. That said, its average speed during our range test using the throttle was a bit slower at 14.5 mph.
Not surprisingly, the four models we tested with 250W motors couldn't quite match the above-mentioned bikes' power output. Their acceleration was just a bit slower, although the Nakto Cargo had no problem hitting 20 mph using the throttle or pedal-assist. We were less than impressed, however, with its single pedal assist mode. The Ancheer AN-EB001, the Ancheer Folding, and the Macwheel Ranger 500 were all capable of hitting 17-17.5 mph top speeds with the throttle only. The Swagcycle EB5 has just one pedal assist mode with a top speed of 15.5 mph, although its motor felt surprisingly torquey and robust when the throttle was twisted.
The controls and display are the primary ways that riders interact with an electric bike, and their quality and user-friendliness varies dramatically among the models we tested. All of them work and serve their intended purpose, but some are incredibly basic, while others are much more advanced and ergonomic. The top-rated models have ergonomic control buttons that are easy to reach while riding as well as digital displays that provide a wealth of information at a glance. Battery charging was nearly identical amongst all of the models tested, with removable batteries on all but one and relatively standard charging ports, cables, and times for each.
The Macwheel Ranger 500 had the best user interface of all the models in this test. A single handlebar-mounted unit located by the left grip is home to the bike's control buttons and a large digital display screen. The buttons are ergonomically friendly and easy to reach with the thumb, while the easy to read screen shows a variety of information including current speed, remaining battery life, and pedal-assist setting. This advanced control unit is also customizable and comes with detailed instructions.
The Ancheer Blue Spark also featured excellent controls and a digital display. The control buttons sit close to the left grip in an easy to reach location, while the screen is attached in the middle of the handlebar for easy viewing. The display shows a variety of information, including current speed, remaining battery, and pedal-assist setting. Unfortunately, this bike did not come with instructions for its display/controls, nor could we find them on online, which left us stuck with info displayed in kilometers instead of miles.
None of the other models could compete with the excellent user interfaces of the above-mentioned bikes, although all of them have functional systems. The Ecotric Vortex, Ancheer AN-EB001, and Ancheer Folding all have simple handlebar-mounted controls with LED lights used to display remaining battery life and pedal-assist setting. While they are a far cry from the fancier systems, they all work well enough. We weren't very impressed with the display and controls on the Nakto which was comprised of an LED battery charge indicator and a pedal-assist on/off button. The Swagtron EB5 has the simplest of all user interfaces that consists of a power button and battery life indicator lights.
All of the bikes we tested get shipped in a box, and most require some assembly to make them rideable. Most bikes come mostly assembled and require only a few relatively easy steps to finish the job. Those who are unfamiliar with bikes may be best off taking their bike to a shop with skilled mechanics, but all of the models we tested can be assembled by the consumer at home using the included tools and instructions.
The Swagcycle EB5 was by far the easiest to assemble. It arrived completely assembled, and unboxing it and removing its protective packing materials took only a handful of minutes to complete. Of course, it needed to be unfolded and locked into its open and rideable position, but that was the extent of it. The Ancheer Folding was the runner up in this metric. It came more assembled than most with both wheels attached. It took only 30 minutes to get this bike from the box to ready to roll.
All of the other models were relatively average in their ease of assembly. Each bike arrived approximately 80% assembled, and it required about 45 minutes to perform the standard steps to finish the job. Installing the handlebar, seatpost, pedals, and front wheel was just about all it took to get each of these bikes ride ready. A couple of models did have a few extra steps like attaching fenders, lights, or displays, but the differences in time and effort were mostly too minor to be notable with one exception. The Nakto Cargo took the longest to assemble at a full hour. It wasn't difficult, but the extra steps of installing the front fender and basket added a bit of time to the process.
There are loads of electric bikes on the market, and they are becoming increasingly popular. Whether for transportation, commuting, or riding for fun, they can be a great way to save some money and/or get outside. We know there's plenty to consider when searching for an affordable electric bike and that choosing the right one can be a challenge. We've done our best to identify the important factors and performance attributes to consider, and we hope the information provided here helps you make a more informed purchase decision.
— Jeremy Benson