The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Best E-Bikes

By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday August 3, 2020

In order to compare the e-bikes in this review, we put each model through the same rigorous testing process. Prior to testing, we identified the most critical performance attributes of electric bikes to create our rating metrics. For each metric, we determined the best way to test and analyze the performance of each model to compare the bikes to one another. During testing, we took detailed notes, and when testing completed, we rated each model with the cumulative scores deciding our award winners.

Our ride quality assessment is a combination of handling  comfort  and features.
Our ride quality assessment is a combination of handling, comfort, and features.

Ride


To assess the ride quality of the electric bikes in this review, we rode each for an extended period while range testing in addition to performing several handling specific tests. During our range test, we had the opportunity to ride each bike non-stop for over 1.5 hours back and forth on a stretch of road with a variety of road conditions. This range test course was gently rolling with smooth and rough sections of pavement that gave us a feel for how each bike performed up gradual hills, at speed, and over choppy surfaces. The extended length of the range test also allowed us to analyze the comfort of each bike's geometry and touchpoints like the seat and grips.

Each bike was also run through a series of handling tests in a more controlled environment. In an empty parking lot, we set up cones and rode each bike in figure eights around them to test low-speed handling and performance in tight turns. We brought each bike up to its top pedal-assisted speed and made large sweeping turns, then tested braking performance by measuring the distance required to bring the bike from that speed to a complete stop. We also brought each bike up to speed on the same steep downhill section of road to test straight-line high-speed stability.

In addition to our handling tests, we also analyzed the performance of each bike's components, including the wheels, tires, and drivetrain. Additional features like lights, racks, and fenders were also considered based on their impact on the user experience.

We tested each bike's range while riding back and forth on the same stretch of road. We kept track of the test using a GPS cycling computer and analyzed results on the Strava application.
We tested each bike's range while riding back and forth on the same stretch of road. We kept track of the test using a GPS cycling computer and analyzed results on the Strava application.

Range


The range of an electric bike refers to the distance it can travel on a single battery charge. Different size batteries, motor power, rider weight, rider pedaling input, and terrain all play a role in how far a bike will travel before depleting its battery. Due to these factors and variables, it can be a challenge to accurately test and compare the range of electric bicycles. In an effort to create a level playing field and reduce external variables as much as possible, we performed our range testing on the same exact course with the same rider in the same weather conditions. For all of the class 2 and class 3 models (with throttle and pedal assist modes), we performed this test using the throttle only to remove the variable of rider input and give us the absolute low end of each bike's range potential. The class 2 and 3 e-bikes could be ridden much further when using their pedal assist modes with a rider who is pedaling. Since our test selection also featured a couple of class 1 bikes (no throttle, pedal-assist only), we chose to test these on their highest output setting with minimal rider input to leave the majority of the work up to the bike's motor. While it is nearly impossible to get a direct apples to apples comparison of the range of different classes of electric bikes, we did our best to find the low end of each bike's range.

While range testing, we used the same Garmin Edge 520 Plus GPS enabled cycling computer to track and log each test ride for consistency. This computer kept track of our distance, elevation gain, time, average speed, and maximum speed. This information was then uploaded to Strava for mapping and a more detailed analysis.

E-bikes are all about power. We performed a variety of tests on each model to analyze acceleration  top-speed  and quality of the output.
E-bikes are all about power. We performed a variety of tests on each model to analyze acceleration, top-speed, and quality of the output.

Power


Electric power is the main thing that differentiates an e-bike from its non-electric counterparts. The power that a bike has varies based mostly on the size and wattage of the motor. It stands to reason that a 750W motor will be more powerful than a 350W motor, for example. That said, we were also interested in the quality and consistency of the power output. To test the power output of the models in this test, we performed several tests using the pedal assist and the throttle when applicable.

Specific to the throttle, we tested each bike's top speed on flat ground by observing the current speed on our cycling computer. We tested acceleration by timing how long it took to go from a complete stop to the bike's full speed on flat ground. During our range test, we also kept track of the speed each bike was able to carry over a short rise in the road to see how well it maintained speed while going up a gradual hill.

Specific to pedal assist, we first examined the number of pedal assist modes each bike had and the support provided in each setting. Top speed was determined by putting each bike in its highest support mode while pedaling hard and noting the speed at which the motor stopped delivering assistance. The quality of the pedal assistance was also analyzed by shifting through all of the modes and pedaling in various gears (high vs. low) to see how the assistance was delivered. Some systems have advanced torque sensors that provide assistance based on how hard the rider pedals, while others give the same amount of support regardless of rider input.

Riding all of the e-bikes in this review during our range and handling tests gave us the opportunity to use and scrutinize all of the different styles of display and controls.
Riding all of the e-bikes in this review during our range and handling tests gave us the opportunity to use and scrutinize all of the different styles of display and controls.

Interface


The interface of an electric bike refers to all of the ways the user interacts with it. This includes the controls, display, and battery charging. Each bike has a unique set of controls to shift through the various pedal assist modes, and their layout, ergonomics, and user-friendliness vary significantly. During our range testing, handling tests, and general use around town, we examined the quality of the controls of each model by using them frequently. Likewise, the display is an important feature that shows the rider important information pertinent to their current ride. Like the controls, the displays vary wildly from large LCD screens to small LED lights. Some advanced displays offer a wealth of information like elapsed time, current speed, pedal-assist setting, remaining battery life, and more at a glance. Other displays are only capable of showing you the basics like current pedal assist setting and battery charge. The differences are quite obvious, and we tend to prefer easy to read LCD screens that are well placed and easy to see at a glance while riding.

Battery charging is generally relatively standard across the different models we tested. Each bike comes with its own charging cord that generally has a plug that is specific to the charging port on the battery. Batteries can be charged while on the bike, and in most cases, the battery can also be removed for charging and security purposes. While testing, we had the opportunity to charge each battery several times, and we paid close attention to the location of the charging port, the charging port cover, and the overall user-friendliness of the charging process. We also noted how easy it was to remove the battery, whether for charging or theft prevention.

Every bike we tested showed up looking something like this. To determine the ease of assembly  we finished the job ourselves.
Every bike we tested showed up looking something like this. To determine the ease of assembly, we finished the job ourselves.

Assembly


If you buy a bike from a brick and mortar retailer, it will generally be assembled by a qualified bike mechanic. When buying a bike online, it will typically be shipped directly to the consumer with most, but not all of the assembly completed. Consumer-direct brands typically ship their bikes around 85% assembled with just a few simple steps remaining to make them ready to ride. Often, the consumer can also opt to pay for assembly at a local shop or by a mobile bike mechanic.

Each electric bike we tested was shipped directly to us from the manufacturer or third party seller. Upon receiving each bike, we removed it from its packaging and assembled it ourselves in the GearLab garage like an everyday consumer. Each bike was assembled using only the included instructions and tools. During the assembly process, we kept track of the steps needed to get each bike from its packaging to ready-to-ride, as well as how long it took to complete. We also made sure to thoroughly examine the printed instructions and reference any online resources for clarity and usefulness in the assembly process.

We tested these bikes so you don't have to. We hope our testing process and detailed review helps you make a more informed purchase decision.
We tested these bikes so you don't have to. We hope our testing process and detailed review helps you make a more informed purchase decision.

Conclusion


We know there can be a lot to consider when choosing a new electric bike. We've done our best to separate the wheat from the chaff and provide you with honest comparative assessments based on our thorough side-by-side testing.