Best Budget Electric Bike of 2021
$499.99 at Amazon
$619.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Affordable, folding, decent distance range, 3 pedal assist modes||Lightweight, folding, compact for storage and transport, integrated battery, no assembly required|
|Cons||Funky handling, doesn't fold as easily/small as competition, limited rider height range||Only one pedal assist mode, limited rider height range, shorter distance range, less steady handling|
|Bottom Line||This convenient Class 2 folding model has a respectable all-around performance and is an excellent value||A basic but impressively convenient folding Class 2 electric bike that collapses small for transport or storage|
|Rating Categories||Ancheer Folding 16-...||Swagcycle EB5 Plus...|
|Specs||Ancheer Folding 16-...||Swagcycle EB5 Plus...|
|Battery Size (Wh)||288||270|
|E-Bike Class||Class 2||Class 2|
|Motor Power (torque)||250W||250W|
|Number of pedal assist settings||3||1|
|Top speed throttle (tested)||17.5 mph||15.5 mph|
|Top speed pedal-assist (tested)||18 mph||13 mph|
|Distance Range (throttle-only test)||15.42 miles||12.12 miles|
|Frame material||High strength carbon steel||Aluminum and Steel|
|Maximum rider weight (lbs)||220||264|
|Measured Weight (w/o pedals, Medium)||46 lbs 15 oz||36 lbs 10 oz|
|Drivetrain||Single speed||Single speed ProWheel|
|Additional features||Bell, fenders, headlight, tools, folding pedals||Bell, folding pedals|
|Warranty||One Year Limited||One Year Limited|
Best Overall Electric Bike
Ancheer 27.5-inch Blue Spark Electric Bike
The Ancheer Blue Spark proved to be a tester favorite and bested the competition with its power. 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 one of the longest distance ranges of all the models we tested, traveling just 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. It has a traditional hardtail mountain bike style with fast-rolling, 27.5-inch wheels that 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 Bang for the Buck
Ancheer AN-EB001 26-inch Electric Mountain Bike
The Ancheer AN-EB001 is an affordable mountain-style e-bike that boasted consistently solid performance across all of our testing metrics. It rolls on 26-inch wheels and has comfortable and steady handling that is enhanced by its girthier, slightly knobby tires that help to dampen the ride. It has a good range of seat adjustment, with an adjustable stem, and it was overall a very comfortable ride. 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 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. We aren't sure how much thought went into the ergonomics of the control buttons, which we found somewhat challenging to access with the thumb while riding. Our taller testers also found the range of seat height adjustment inadequate, and those with long legs may need to customize this bike with a longer seatpost. Beyond that, we were generally impressed by the overall performance of this affordable electric bike.
Read review: Ancheer AN-EB001
Best Bang for the 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, and we appreciate the front and rear fenders to help keep you dry.
While it offers 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 gives 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
Macwheel 26-inch Electric Bike
The Macwheel 26-inch Electric Bike is an affordable Class 2 e-bike with a throwback cruiser style that impressed us with its distance range. In fact, it bested every other bike we tested during our range testing by going just over 21 miles without even pedaling while using the throttle only. The larger, 360Wh battery capacity helped the Macwheel go the distance, but it also seems to use that power quite efficiently. It has a retro look with a low, step-thru frame that makes it easy to mount and dismount, and a large range of seat and handlebar adjustments to fit a wide range of user heights. It's a comfortable bike with a casual, upright seated position and a laid-back ride quality. The Macwheel has 5 pedal assist output settings as well as a throttle, and it has no problem reaching its top speed of 15.5 mph. It also comes equipped with user-friendly features like fenders, a rear cargo rack, and a headlight.
With a 250W rear hub motor, the Macwheel can't match the power output or top speeds of the faster, more powerful competition. This lower power output, however, is one of the main reasons it can travel such a long distance on a single charge. While the controls have decent ergonomics, the simple LED display shows only the most basic information and can be challenging to see in bright light conditions. Beyond that, we feel this good-looking affordable electric model is a solid option for the rider who prioritizes distance over speed.
Read review: Macwheel 26-inch Electric Bike
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 quickly 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. Its 250W rear hub motor packs a surprising punch for such a small bike, accelerating quickly with a top throttle speed of 15.5 mph. While it was far from the best, we were still 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 it 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 you're seeking portable convenience, the Swagcycle EB5 has you covered.
Read review: Swagcycle EB5
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, discussed below.
Related: How We Tested Best Budget E-Bikes
Analysis and Test Results
All of the models in this review are Class 2 electric bicycles that provide pedal assistance and have a throttle to propel you forward when not pedaling. We performed several quantifiable tests to make direct comparisons between the different models, determining each bike's strengths and weaknesses. Instead of arbitrary testing, we chose to focus 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. Though we don't rate the products we test based on price, we do 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. Each model we tested was different and had varying handling characteristics, comfort levels, and features that help to define the way they rode. 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 into the overall quality of the user experience.
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 a rear cargo rack which enhanced its user-friendliness. Likewise, the Macwheel 26-inch had a similar retro, cruiser style with a casual upright seated position, smooth handling, and user-friendly features like fenders, a cargo rack, and a headlight. 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. Though it offered somewhat limited adjustments, we still found it to be comfortable.
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. Both bikes, though, handled better than anticipated for a folding design.
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 contained around 100 vertical feet of elevation gain/loss per 2 miles. It is safe to assume that every bike we tested could be ridden much farther on perfectly flat terrain, especially while pedaling and using pedal-assist instead of just the throttle.
Three bikes rode away from the pack in our distance range testing, and—no surprise here—they all had larger battery storage capacities. The top performer in this test was the Machweel 26-inch with a 360 Wh battery. We were able to ride the Macwheel for 21.25 miles with just over 1,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and an average speed of 13.8 mph. Not far behind 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, with an average speed of 14.5 mph. The Nakto has similar battery storage and was hot on the heels of the top performers in our range test. It fell a little short, but we were still quite impressed with its 19.6 miles. These three bikes were head and shoulders above the rest of the test fleet.
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 larger battery, it did hold the highest average speed during the test at 17.3 mph. So, it may not travel quite as far, but it goes faster. To our surprise, 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 shocked to find that the Swagcycle EB5, with its small 14-inch wheels and 270Wh battery, had the shortest distance range in the review. Even still, it managed to travel 12.12 miles with 630 feet of elevation gain/loss — 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 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 various tests using the throttle and pedal assistance to determine 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 decent acceleration, and we found that on the uphill, it could hold speed better than most. 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 to 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 provide 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 five models we tested with 250W motors couldn't quite match the power output of the bikes mentioned above. Their acceleration was slightly 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 and the Ancheer Folding were both 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 vary dramatically among the models we tested. Though all serve their intended purpose, some shine as ergonomic and cutting-edge, while others are more elementary. 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 Ancheer Blue Spark also featured excellent controls and a digital display. The control buttons sit close to the left grip and are easy to reach, and the screen is affixed 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 online, which left us stuck with the info displayed in kilometers instead of miles.
None of the other models could compete with the excellent user interface of the Blue Spark, although all of them have functional systems. The Ecotric Vortex, Ancheer AN-EB001, Macwheel 26-inch, and Ancheer Folding all have simple handlebar-mounted controls with LED lights used to display remaining battery life and pedal-assist setting. Though 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 had the most basic user interface, consisting only 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 get up and running, as it arrived completely assembled, and unboxing it and removing its protective packing materials only took a few minutes. 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 already 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 few models did have some extra steps like attaching fenders, lights, or displays, but the differences in time and effort were too minor to be notable, with one exception. The Nakto Cargo took the longest to assemble — 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 assists you in making a more informed purchase decision.
— Jeremy Benson
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