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On the hunt for an affordable e-bike? Our testers extensively researched the best reasonably priced models on the market today and bought the top seven to test and compare side-by-side. Our diverse selection includes the full spectrum of e-bike styles. We put these bikes to the test for several weeks, comparing them side-by-side and making sure to evaluate every aspect of their performance. We measured up every bike against the same metrics of ride quality, distance range, power output, user interface, and ease of assembly to help you find the best model for your needs and budget.
Editor's Note: This review was updated on February 2, 2022, to share more detail on our extensive electric bike testing and rating process. We also added updated info to each individual gear review as well.
The Ancheer Blue Spark proved 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 most extended distance ranges of all the tested models, 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.
The Ancheer AN-EB001 is an affordable mountain-style e-bike with consistently solid performance across all of our testing metrics. It rolls on 26-inch wheels and has comfortable and steady handling enhanced by its girthier, slightly knobby tires that help dampen the ride. It has a good range of seat adjustments, with an adjustable stem, and it was a very comfortable ride overall. 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 seat height adjustment range inadequate, and those with long legs may need to customize this bike with a longer seat post. Beyond that, we were generally impressed by the overall performance of this affordable electric bike.
It doesn't fold as small or easily as the competition
Limited height range
The Ancheer Folding is a quality folding e-bike with impressive value. While it can't quite compete with more traditional non-folding models in terms of 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 pretty 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 and 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.
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 an extensive range of seat and handlebar adjustments to fit a wide range of user heights. It's a comfortable bike with a relaxed, upright seated position and a laid-back ride quality. The Macwheel has five pedal assist output settings and 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 faster, more powerful competition's power output or top speeds. However, this lower power output 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.
The Nakto City 26-inch Cargo impressed our testers with its distance range, comfort, and wealth of valuable 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.
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 easy to bring along on the train, throw in the trunk of a car, or stash in an office closet. The Swagcycle comes fully assembled, and folding and unfolding 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, its ride quality suffers a bit. This bike feels a bit twitchy and unstable compared to traditional cycles, 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 most straightforward 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.
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. We did our distance range testing 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.
Our testing of budget e-bikes is divided across five rating metrics:
Ride tests (25% of overall score weighting)
Range tests (25% weighting)
Power tests (25% weighting)
Interface tests (15% weighting)
Assembly tests (10% weighting)
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 focused 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 and how they compare to the competition.
Analysis and Test Results
All of the models in this review are Class 2electric bicycles that provide pedal assistance and have a throttle to propel you forward when not pedaling. We put each bike through the exact same tests to bring you apples-to-apples comparisons.
The electric bikes in this review all qualify as relatively affordable, yet they still represent a broad 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 a bike's ride quality is one of its most important attributes, and we give it a 25% weighting in the overall score. Each model we tested was different and had varying handling characteristics, comfort levels, and features that helped define how they rode. Wheel size and geometry are integral in how a bike feels while turning and how stable it feels at speed. Fit adjustments for the seat and handlebar are essential 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 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 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 comfortable.
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 its distance range. Many factors play into a bike's range, including battery storage capacity, rider weight, terrain, and rider input. We weigh this metric at 25% of each bike's overall score. To make our range test as consistent as possible, we used the same rider on the same test course for each one. We rode 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. The Ancheer Blue Spark was not far behind 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 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.
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 as one of the three most essential elements, we give power test results a 25% weighting in the overall score. In the case of all the Class 2 models in this test, they have both throttle and pedal assist. A bike's power output depends primarily on its motor's size, 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 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 it could hold speed better than most on the uphill. Additionally, it had a noticeably higher average speed than any other bike during our range testing. The 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. Although its acceleration felt marginally faster and more robust, it also had a top throttle speed of 20 mph. The 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 models we tested with 250W motors couldn't quite match the power output of the bikes mentioned above, and their acceleration and top speeds were slightly slower. 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 we twisted the throttle.
The controls and display are the primary ways that riders interact with an electric bike, and we weighted this metric at 15% of the overall score of each cycle. Their quality and user-friendliness vary dramatically among the models we tested. All serve their intended purpose, but 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 and digital displays that provide a wealth of information at a glance. Battery charging was nearly identical amongst all of the models tested, with relatively standard charging ports, cables, and times for each. All but one model had removable batteries, a design we appreciate for easier charging and security purposes.
The Ancheer Blue Spark 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 various stats, including current speed, remaining battery, and pedal-assist setting. Unfortunately, this bike did not have 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. 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. However, since it is a one-time task, we only give a 10% weight to the difficulty of assembly. Most bikes come mostly assembled and require only a few relatively easy steps to finish the job. Those unfamiliar with bikes may be best off taking their bike to a shop with skilled mechanics, but all of the tested models can be assembled by the consumer at home using the included tools and instructions. However, sometimes it is nice to keep some extra tools handy in case you need to do any adjusting or maintenance later on.
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 out of the box and ready to roll.
All of the other models were relatively average in their ease of assembly. Each bike arrived approximately 80% assembled, and most required about 45 minutes to perform the standard steps to finish the job. Installing the handlebar, seat post, pedals, and the 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.
Electric bikes are becoming increasingly popular for good reason. Whether for a commute, around town, or on the trail, e-bikes are a great way to save some gas money, get around quickly and efficiently, and have some fun to boot. We love them as a way to make trips to the grocery store not only more eco-conscious but also an easy and fast affair. They make riding to work on a hot summer day a less sweaty event and are just plain old fun to cruise around on. We know that there is a wide range of options of electric bikes, and not all of them are easily affordable. So we hope that with this review, you'll be able to find one that suits your needs without breaking the bank or sacrificing quality.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.