Vanmoof's S3 e-bike

The Best E-Bike for Commutes in 2023

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Electric bicycles are quickly becoming one of the most popular modes of transport to commute to work, school, or run errands. And my wife and I understand why. We’ve been commuting by regular bike for more than a decade, and in 2019 I purchased our family’s first e-bike because some of the downsides of riding to work on a regular bicycle were getting to me. The biggest issue with my commute by regular bike was that I showed up to work sweaty and having to awkwardly change in the bathroom stall. So I bought a Rad City for my daily commute of 5 miles and have never looked back, quickly reaching 1,500 miles on it within a couple of years. My wife followed suit with a Rad Runner for running errands and day care drop-offs (since she works from home).

Over the past 4 years we’ve researched and test ridden all sorts of e-bikes. We’ve also scoured the internet and the Pacific Northwest bike community to get first hand accounts different e-bikes. The best e-bikes are the ones that are reliable, strong enough to handle hills, have decent range, and are enjoyable to ride. Here are the top e-bikes that we recommend to our friends and neighbors when it comes to tackling their daily commutes.

Our Pick

VanMoof S3

What we like about it

The VanMoof S3 gives you top e-bike quality at a mid-tier price. It’s classic straight-frame gives average sized riders a comfortable riding position, making it enjoyable for daily commutes. It boasts a big battery capacity and 37 to 93 mile range. Despite not having suspension, the S3’s thick tires and comfy saddle smoothen out the bumps of the road. We love how they’ve integrated the battery into the frame giving the bike a sleek design and making it look just like a regular (albeit good looking) bicycle to the average passerby.

Unlike many other mid and entry level e-bikes, VanMoof opted for hydraulic disc brakes, instead of more traditional cable breaks. Hydraulic breaking is much smoother and more responsive.

A nice bonus is their Theft Defense feature which offers onboard alarms and smart location tracking to deter bike thieves.

All in all the components of the S3 and motor are high quality making this a reliable e-bike and our favorite right now.

Where it falls short

Larger riders (250lb+) may find that it feels under-powered and slower on the hills. It lacks an easy way to attach a kid seat to the back, so if you are looking for a bike that can also be used to tote kids to school, this wouldn’t be the bike for you.

Also, the battery can’t be removed for charging, so you’ll need to make sure you have a wall outlet nearby.

What we’ve heard around town

  • “The range has been pretty impressive”
  • “So many great features integrated into this e-bike!”
  • “20 miles with plenty of hills and I still had 50% left on the battery”
  • “It’s as if Apple decided to make an e-bike”
  • “Well worth the investment”

Runner Up

Rad Power RadCity 5 Plus

Rad City 5 e-bike

What we like about it

The RadCity 4 from Rad Power has been my reliable commuter bike since 2019. I’ve been very happy with this bike and it’s stood up to commuting in all sorts of increment weather and city potholes. It delivers a powerful 750 watt motor with good range (45 miles per charge) at an affordable price. Rad Power made some great improvements for their new “5 Plus” model.

The RadCity comes with a sleeker profile than the 4, longer range, and upgraded components such as hydraulic disc brakes.

The bike is made of sturdy aluminum with plush Kenda tires that include a puncture-resistant liner, make it able to handle any pothole the city can throw at you. I’ve ridden 1,400 miles on my RadCity and never had a puncture.

The RadCity’s rain fenders provide excellent coverage, as expected, since the company is based in rainy Seattle.

I love that Rad Power has an extensive accessories collection. I’ve attached a front rack and the Thule kid seat to the back rack without any trouble. If you plan to commute with a kid in the backseat, I’d recommend getting a front cargo rack or front-wheel panniers because a backpack will come close to hitting your kiddo in the face and rear-wheel panniers interfere with the kid seat.

Overall RadCity is a versatile and reliable e-bike for commuting.

Where it falls short

At 65 pounds, it can be hard to ride without any peddle assist, or generally if you’re a smaller or petite person it may feel heavy, but it has good range so if you keep an eye on your charge you should be okay.

If you are on the shorter side the high-step frame can feel big. If this is the case then the step-thru frame is a good option.

What we’ve heard around town

  • “The essentials are built-in: lights, rear rack, bell”
  • “The cruiser style handlebars make them easier to reach with a comfortable riding position”
  • “Easy to maintain and won’t break the bank”
  • “Issues with the throttle, but their service department was friendly and responsive”

All of the Rest

Ride1UP 700

What we like about it

The 700 series from Ride1UP is a good balance of quality components and price. Many of the bikes components (aka parts) are from name brand trusted manufacturers. It’s impressive that Ride1UP is able to deliver these solid components at this price point. I especially like that they have hydraulic disc brakes and fork which make for a smooth ride. The wheels are 2.4” wide and have a good thickness which also contribute to the smooth ride.

The 700 series is a Class 3, like Juiced CrossCurrent S2, meaning it can go up to 28mph, compared to most other e-bikes that cap out at 20mph. The extra speed makes it fun to ride on open roads.

The bike weighs in at 62 pounds which is slightly lighter than some others on our list.

Where it falls short

A downside of its ability to go at a max speed of 28mph is that it eats up the battery levels relatively quickly. The range according to Ride1UP is 30 to 50 miles, but you may find it to be less than that when you are using it on max power.

If you plan to put a kid’s seat on the back, then you may be underwhelmed with the front rack cargo capacity. The rack attaches to the front fork, rather than being directly bolted to the frame, meaning it has a smaller load capacity.

We wish the rain and mud guards came down further to provide better coverage. Their current length will leave you with wet feet if there is any water on the road. A easy enough fix is to add an extender flap to the front guard.

What we’ve heard around town

  • “Great price for what you get”
  • “Solid ride for not a lot of cash”
  • “Feels a bit bulky”
  • “It’s so fast, it will put a smile on your face!”
  • “Rain guards don’t work that well”

Rad Power RadRunner

What we like about it

If you’re in a house where multiple people will use the same bike, this bike is great because it fits people of all sizes, accommodating rider heights ranging from 4’11” to 6’2.” What makes it especially great for shorter or petite people is its low step-over frame. This has been helpful in our house because my wife is 5’3’’ and I’m 6’2” and we can both use it comfortably (whereas she struggles to comfortably ride my RadCity). We have attached the Thule kid seat to it, and can both use it to drop off or pick up our 2yo son from daycare.

We are big fans of its overall esthetic. The step-over frame and upright positioned handlebars give it a cruiser-casual-feel that makes my wife want to ride it around town for errands or wherever else as her default mode of transportation.

Where it falls short

It’s still a pretty heavy bike (65 lbs), so while it’s great for petite or smaller people overall, they may still struggle to maneuver it when not riding it. She hasn’t had any issues maneuvering or steering it while riding, but sometimes she does find it challenging to shift it to parked position in the garage.

Additionally, I’m not a fan of the seat. It’s not very ergonomic – it’s almost a square shape – making it uncomfortable to ride on for more than a few miles.

What we’ve heard around town

  • “It comes on hard accelerating out of corners”
  • “I like the look of the bike”
  • “It is a good bike for its price
  • “My only advice is to get a second battery”

Juiced CrossCurrent S2

What we like about it

The Juiced CrossCurrent S2 packs a punch. The pedal assist provides power up to a whopping 28mph, compared to most other e-bikes that cap out at 20mph. They are able to do this because the S2 is a Class 3 e-bike, not the traditional Class 2. This is a lot of power at a reasonable $1,499 price point.

It has a sleek low profile and comes in three different sizes making it good for riders of all sizes.

We are a big fan of the hydraulic disc brakes because they are much smoother and more responsive than cable disc brakes.

The S2 uses torque and cadence sensor technology to give a more responsive assist when you pedal so there is less of a lag from when you first pedal and the motor assist kicks in. This quick acceleration is a noticeable improvement from other e-bikes.

Where it falls short

The adjustable front suspension fork is low quality making it hard to find the right setting so that it isn’t too stiff or too loose. Also, rain guards don’t come by default, a red flag for any commuter bike. The S2 boasts a long range, but because the pedal assist goes up to 28mph, it’s easy to forget how much power you are using and run out of battery. We recommend keeping a close eye on your charge when you have it in full power mode.

The tires on the S2 are only 1.75” wide which is narrower than we’d like on a commuter e-bike. While narrower tires are faster, we find that slightly wider and thicker tires are better at handling the bumps in the road and keeping you upright on a wet day.

What we’ve heard around town

  • “I weigh 220 lbs and it gets me up all the hills”
  • “Bike seems well built but quality control is horrible”
  • “Excellent power and speed”
  • “Doesn’t feel like very high quality”

Lectric XP 2.0

What we like about it

We typically don’t recommend folding bikes, unless someone specifically needs one due to limited storage space, but the Lectric XP 2.0 is an award winning folding e-bike that delivers a comfortable ride at an affordable price. The fat tires and plush seat provide a very cushioned ride.

The XP offers a lot of power for its small size with an 850 watt motor. We like that they offer two battery options. The standard battery will give you a 45 mile range.

This is the only bike on our recommendations list that is sometimes less than $1,000 when Lectric is having a sale.

Where it falls short

For taller riders (over 6 feet), the positioning on the bike and upright posture can feel a bit awkward resulting in it feeling like the XP is undersized.

This is a folding bike, but it weighs 64 pounds, making it difficult to carry. So make sure you’ve been practicing your sandbag carries before trying to lug this thing very far.

Similar to the Rad Power bikes, Lectric uses cable disc breaks which can be noisy.

What we’ve heard around town

  • “Definitely needs a tune-up after the 100 mile ‘dial-in period’”
  • “Great bang for the buck and includes lights, rack, fenders”
  • ”All around good entry level e-bike”

Common Questions

Is an e-bike worth it for commuting?

This really depends on how you define worth it. If “worth it” means “worth the cost of an e-bike” than I would definitely say yes. E-bikes are much more affordable than a car and you’ll save lots of money on gas, car payments, and car maintenance.

From our perspective, there are a lot of benefits that make an e-bike worth it for commuting:

  1. E-bikes are much cheaper to operate than cars. So much cheaper. No car payments, gas bills, insurance payments, or car maintenance. We get our e-bikes tuned up once a year in the spring and a tune-up costs about $150.
  2. E-bikes are a great way to get some exercise while still getting around quickly. The majority of e-bikes allow you to adjust how much pedal assist they provide. While it’s not the same workout as taking my road bike out for a few hours, an e-bike does give me the flexibility of turning down the pedal assist on my way home and breaking a little sweat.
  3. E-bikes are environmentally friendly. No more gas emissions bubbling out of your car as you sit in traffic on your way to the office.
  4. E-bikes open up more biking possibilities. I find that an e-bike has become my default means of transportation now, more so than my regular bike ever was. As an avid cyclist who rode my regular bike to commute almost everyday, I was still surprised to find how much more often I opt for my e-bike rather than a car. While I was able to ride my regular bike to many places, too often if I had to meetup with someone across town I would opt for a car or bus to get me there.
  5. E-bikes are a fun way to commute! No more traffic. No more packed busses or trains. It’s a joy to ride a bike to and from work. It gives me the space to think about my day without the frustration that can come from navigating traffic in a car. I also never have to worry about road closures due to special event or bad traffic on a Friday evening. My commute is always the exact same time door to door. Also, with an e-bike you don’t arrive to the office all sweaty like you would on a regular bike. This means you can arrive at the office much more comfortably and ready to interact with co-workers.

So yes, an e-bike is worth it for commuting.

What should I look for in a commuter e-bike?

When you are looking for a commuter e-bike, there are a handful of things you should keep in mind.

First, you’ll want to ensure the bike is comfortable to ride. This means it should have a comfortable seat and handlebars. Because e-bikes can be heavy, it’s important that the bike is the right size for you and the top-tube — the part of the bike that is in between your legs when you are standing over the frame — is not too tall. You want some clearance so that it’s easy for you to get on and off. Most e-bikes come in a variety of sizes. If you are on the shorter side, consider getting one that has a “step thru” frame, rather than the more traditional top tube style.

Second, you’ll want to make sure the bike is durable. It should be made from quality materials that can withstand regular use. This can be very hard to tell from a simple test ride or looking at the company’s website. Check out resources, such as our website, and other online review sites that will tell you if the components (the various parts of the bike) are from reputable manufacturers. Like the saying, “you get what you pay for”, e-bikes that are more expensive tend to have higher quality components and materials.

Third, you’ll want to consider the battery range and power. Does the bike have enough range to get you to and from work on a single charge. We tell our friends to take the minimum range on the company’s website, divide it in half and see if that will get you to and from work. This means you’ll still be able to get to work if you forget to charge on a given night or you can use full power when you are in a hurry. So, let’s say the bike’s range is listed as 30 to 50 miles. If your roundtrip commute is 15 miles or less than that is perfect. You’ll still be okay if your commute is longer, you’ll just need to pay more attention to what pedal assist setting you have it on and if you fully charged the battery the night before.

Fourth, you’ll want to make sure the bike is safe. It should have quality brakes, and integrated lights. More and more e-bikes are coming with built in lights which have increased their safety.

Finally, it’s worth taking a look through the company’s accessories for the bike, such as cargo racks, panniers, and rain fenders. A good quality company will have a wide range of accessories for your e-bike to help you customize it. This doesn’t mean you have to buy all of the accessories on the first day or directly from the company. Ride your e-bike for a few weeks and figure out what you think would make it better.

If you keep all of these things in mind (and read our bike recommendations 😄) you’ll be sure to find the perfect commuter e-bike.

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