The best e-bikes to ride in 2020

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Public transit systems everywhere are operating at a limited capacity. Taking a rideshare car feels like a roll of the dice. Walking? I guess that’s an option. But even though we’re all trying to stay at home as much as possible, sometimes you just need to get around a city. 

For short-to-medium-distance travel, having a powered personal transport makes a lot of sense. It’s an easy way to drop goods off with vulnerable family and friends. You can cover longer distances faster than walking, and it’s easier to maintain social distance while riding. Or maybe you just want to reduce your carbon footprint by skipping a car ride. 

The rideables field is big enough that we’ve now split our recommendations into two categories. The best electric scooters and skateboards are here, while this list sticks with e-bikes, or electric bicycles. Some of these devices were tested before the coronavirus pandemic, others more recently. Most of them were tested on a commute through sections of midtown Manhattan, around Central Park or down the West Side Highway bike path

Remember, if you plan on getting into rideablesbe safe about it. Leave enough space between yourself and both cars and riders on plain old human-powered bikes and scooters. You’re also able to go a lot faster, so ride and pass with caution. Make sure to charge your battery and check on your tires. And, most important, always wear a helmet when you ride. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Great for a commuter with limited storage space. The Swagtron EB5 Pro is a folding pedal-assist bicycle with an electric motor that also has its own throttle (so you don’t really have to pedal at all). With a full battery, it can travel up to 15 miles at a speed of 15 mph. This folding electric bicycle is a single speed, and you can even turn all the powered features off and use it like a regular bike. It weighs a solid 37 pounds and the seat supports riders up to 264 pounds, but when the seat is folded down, this ride is surprisingly small.

See our Swagtron EB5 Pro gallery.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If it can be put on a bicycle, Rad Power Bikes probably offers it. With a slew of accessories, you can outfit one of their nine different bike models for cargo, kids, cargo with kids, or just riding through the mud. 

We got our hands on the RadRunner 1 with a rear bench and foot pegs. This particular configuration is great for a parent to get out and run errands with their little ones on board. The 48-volt, 14-amp-hour battery powers a 750-watt motor that can pedal-assist or throttle the RadRunner up to 20mph. With four levels of assistance, riders can increase or decrease to help conserve battery, if necessary, or make it up a steep incline. 

The step-through frame makes it easy to mount and dismount, even with a passenger or packages on the rear of the bike. The RadRunner is rated to support up to 300 pounds. I can assure you it does that as my passengers and I pushed past the weight limit without any problems.

Read our RadRunner 1 hands-on.

Mark Licea

Even though it’s been replaced by newer models, I decided to leave the Super Commuter on this list because it’s available at a decent discount (down to $3,600 from $5,200). 

I originally tested this bike in the 2019 TD 5 Boro Bike Tour. First, I wanted to see how it performed as a normal bike. It’s heavy at 54 pounds, and I had to see how it would fare against some of the sleeker bicycles. The 11 speeds made it easy to maintain a comfortable pace. When I came across a few inclines, the pedal assist (Bosch Performance Speed, 350-watt motor, integrated into the frame) worked perfectly. 

Eco was my preferred assist mode. It gives the least assistance of the four settings (Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo), so it has the best battery life for long distances. Note that this bicycle does not have a throttle; it is strictly pedal assist.

See our gallery of the Trek Super Commuter Plus 8S.

Sarah Tew

The Trek Allant Plus 9.9S hits a lot of premium notes. The design is sleek, with a Removable Integrated Battery (or RIB, as Trek calls it) built right into the frame. There’s also an optional secondary 500-watt-hour battery that mounts just above the integrated one for extra range. 

The built-in display shows riding mode, speed and more, while the Bosch app for iOS and Android keeps track of where you’ve gone and how long it took to get there. The frame is made from lightweight carbon fiber, but still hits 51 pounds. 

In my hands-on testing, the Allant handles as if it were gliding over the pavement, and having the option to use the 75 Newton-meters of torque from the Bosch Performance Speed pedal-assist motor — taking you up to 28 mph — just adds to the experience.

See our gallery of the Trek Allant Plus 9.9S.

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