Best Urban E-Bikes
Characteristics of Urban E-Bikes
In U.S. metro hubs from NYC to Portland to San Fran, more people are commuting on two-wheels than ever before, catching up with the way two-thirds of the world gets to work. Driving this culture change are the cities themselves – many are investing in bike share programs, bike lanes, and more pedestrian-friendly streets as part of major initiatives to increase transportation options, enhance road safety and improve the environment. City and urban e-bikes are a part of the larger commuter bike category, but they have certain characteristics that make them, in our opinion, best suited for short-range commutes in densely populated urban environments. They’re usually a little lighter, a little nimbler, and sometimes have a little less power and range than pure commuter bikes, though they may look extremely similar at first glance.
A growing need for urban commute-friendly vehicles
Americans are living longer, urban areas are getting denser, and traffic in major U.S cities is among the worst in the world as a result many city planners have taken note and are making it easier to bike. Interest group peopleforbikes.com says in the past two decades infrastructural and cultural changes have made biking much, much better in parts of some U.S. cities. It ranks Portland, Ore., Washington, DC, and San Diego as the “best bike cities.”
Already the vast majority of Americans live in urban areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which forecasts that the number will continue to rise as municipalities plan for future growth, the one-car-per-person model won’t be sustainable. This is creating a vast market for commuter-friendly vehicles that don’t require fossil fuel, sweat power, or quads of steel. E-bikes fit the bill.
In Europe and China, e-bikes have already exploded in popularity, and global sales are forecast to reach approximately 40 million units, according to Statista.com. In 2017, the U.S. market grew by 25% from the previous year. The Economist reports that in the Netherlands, the most bike-friendly region in the world, nearly one in three new bike purchases last year were electric, with 40% of e-bike riders choosing this mode of transport to replace car rides.
Obviously, any bike can be a city or urban bike. You could happily ride a full suspension eMTB around the streets of New York City, but is that really the best use of that bike? Our goal is to help consumers determine the best use for each e-bike reviewed. In the case of the bikes listed below, we feel that they’re most at home in a dense urban environment.
There is an absurd number of e-bikes on the market today, and they come in all shapes, sizes, variations, and intended uses. Because of that, we’re not going to kid you or ourselves by claiming this list is perfect. What this list is, is a hard-debated and long-considered inventory of, in our opinion, some of the best characteristics of the city and urban e-bikes on the market today. Many of these bikes we know intimately: We’ve pedaled them hundreds of miles up hills, through traffic and we’ve even put them through a gamut of tests to fully understand how well they perform.
Urban e-bikes have the following specific characteristics that make them ideal for travel in densely populated city centers and urban areas with a little more room to move around. The urban e-bike can be broken down into two categories, city and urban. Under those two categories, the following are the major characteristics to watch out for:
We evaluated city and urban bikes based on a few key criteria, mainly:
Range: How long will the battery last? And how long could you actually ride the bike before it becomes uncomfortable? City and Urban bikes typically need to cover shorter distances but they should be able to last for a solid day of riding.
Weight: Could you carry the bike up a flight of stairs or lift it onto a bus? This is a tough bar to clear for most e-bikes, but we feel the cutoff for city and urban bikes are around 50 lbs.
Maneuverability: Can the bike fit into tight spaces between cars and is it quick enough to dodge pedestrians? Also, does it fold up?
Other: We also weigh a host of other variables, ranging from the type of rack(s) it’s outfitted with to the bike’s styling and body positioning.
Remember that many of these criteria are subjective. That’s the cool thing about bikes — especially e-bikes — you can do anything on any bike if you try hard enough.
Before we get into some urban electric bikes available now let’s take a closer look at the specific characteristics that make up an urban electric bike.
It is an obvious fact, the weight of the e-bike will impact the ability to maneuver, increase speed, come to a quick stop, and be easily transported either by vehicle or hand. Stairs and elevators are a limiting factor in the acceptance of an e-bike’s use if it is too heavy to move around or carry up a flight of stairs. As mentioned above the bike should be no more than 50 pounds, lighter is better.
The distance you can commute with your e-bike is important because it will determine the type of use you have in mind. Will you be using it for delivery services, commuting to work, riding for pure enjoyment, or as your main source of travel each day? The range will affect your ability to use the e-bike in your chosen category. It is recommended the battery should provide at the very least 15 miles of range.
Being able to move quickly or come to a complete stop in short order are major requirements for city travel. Maneuvering around parked cars, pedestrians,
moving vehicles, and along narrow pathways is a daily routine that requires 24 to 28-inch wheels. A high handlebar and comfortable seat are a must. They will keep your back straight and your head up so you are aware of your surroundings as you move about.
Potholes, debris, and rough roads can lead to damage or quickly become expensive to maintain the e-bike. It is suggested the bike is made out of industrial-grade aluminum to keep the weight down but the tensile strength up; it will keep cracks in the frame from appearing and degrading the overall safety of the bike itself. There are three types of frames available, low-step, diamond and step through.
Tire choice makes a big impact on how your electric bicycle handles and rides. Speed, range, suspension, and maneuverability are all highly affected by different types of bicycle tires. Choosing the right tire is even more important on an electric bicycle because e-bikes spend a lot more time riding at higher speeds than a standard bicycle. When choosing the right tire for your electric bicycle, the first thing you’ll want to consider is the type of terrain you’ll be riding on, specifically if it’s on-road or off-road.
Most people ride their e-bikes on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete. This type of riding requires a smoother tread meant for those hard, flat surfaces. Commuter-style tires are best for this type of riding. Commuter tires have flat, smooth tread patterns with just enough all-weather tread to allow for safe riding in wet conditions. As opposed to commuter tires, super skinny road tires can often be entirely slick and aren’t great for wet conditions due to their higher potential for slipping. Instead, look for a nice commuter tire with a balance between slick tread and grooves for water dispersion.
You will want a durable motor that has enough ‘juice’ to get you up to speed quickly and keep you there for extended periods of time. A 250-watt motor and a 500 Wh battery are ideal for keeping up with traffic but maintaining the range. The torque measured in newton-meters is what gives you that initial start to get up to and maintain your speed whether it is on flat ground or up hills. Most urban e-bikes are between 40 Nm and 80 Nm. The higher the newton meter the more torque you will have. Last but not least you will want to have 4 gears to use with your motor. It will provide for a smoother ride and more robust capabilities.
5 Urban Electric Bikes:
Nakto Santa Monica FAT TIRE
The Santa Monica Fat Tire E-bike is the iconic electric fat tire bike created to be the smoothest, long-lasting all terrains bike that you can trust. Cruise through town at your own pace with head up and eyes on the road thanks to its ergonomic bends and gentle upward sweep. Both pedal-assist system and full twist throttle give you additional boost and more range with ease.
GreenBike GB2 Beach Cruiser
Imagine sailing across the sandy expanse of a beach with the crashing waves in the background. Don’t let your concerns over peddling in sand throw a roadblock in your fun. This electric beach cruiser lets you ride 60 miles at an impressive 20 mph. There is no reason to break a sweat when you cruise the beach! Instead, enjoy the ride of a lifetime.
E-Wheels EW-Step Thru
Getting around town has never been easier, or more fun, than with the EW-Step Thru electric bike. It’s perfect for ditching the car and getting a healthy commute to work without working up a sweat, trips to the store, or just taking a casual ride with friends. The velo plush seat and relaxed riding position make it a super comfortable ride and the included rear rack makes it easy to attach panniers or baskets for carrying your load without stressing your back.
3-wheel trike with an electric or pedal option. 100% electric power, combine pedaling and electric power at the same time. This electric trike can reach speeds up to 15 mph and travel up to 20 miles on a single charge. It has a low step-thru steel frame for easy seating, a front storage basket, and a large rear storage basket that is perfect for groceries, running errands, or for taking along your favorite pet. Features also include a LED front electric light, electric horn, electric battery indicator, forward/reverse switch, and oversized seat with backrest.
Skatebolt City Electric Bike
This is a stylish urban e-bike for everyone. With the Okawa triple sensing power system, 350W central motor, 13Ah imported lithium-ion battery pack with a range of 80 – 100 km, and the Shimano Altus 9-speed gear shift this is the go-anywhere e-bike one and all. A comfortable ride is just moments away with this bike. Smooth riding through city streets is provided by 120mm long-stroke front forks and front and rear disc brakes.