In 2020 we tested loads of ebikes, and we’ve spent the festive period mainlining mince pies and sherry and picking out the very best of them: welcome to ebiketips’ Bike of the Year awards!
First things first: for a bike to be featured in our Bike of the Year awards, we have to have reviewed it on ebiketips in 2020. There are loads of brilliant bikes out there that won’t make the cut, because we haven’t had them in to test. Manufacturers take note! From the bikes that we have tested (or have been tested on our sister sites, road.cc and off.road.cc), we’ve picked out a winner in six categories: City, Cargo, Budget, Road/Gravel, MTB and Folding bikes each get an award.
We haven’t picked an overall winner this year. Not because there aren’t any great bikes in this list, but simply because they’re so diverse that it’s not really useful to rank them in order. It’s a bit like asking a carpenter to tell you if his favourite chisel is better than his favourite saw: different tools for different jobs. So really we have six overall winners! Without any further ado let’s dive into the bikes.
City: Cube Kathmandu Hybrid Exc 625 £2,999
Cube makes about a million different e-bikes, as even a cursory glance at its website will attest. There are 36 Kathmandu bikes in the range just for starters. That means you can get the spec and the frame design that suits you: the Kathmandu is available as a diamond frame as tested, and in Trapeze (dropped top tube) and Easy Entry (single beam low-step) builds as well.
The Kathmandu Hybrid Exc 625 sits near the top of the range, and as such is graced with some high quality componentry, firstly and foremostly the fourth-generation Bosch Performance Line CX motor system. Whether you’re riding this Cube round town on your daily commute or pointing it across a continent, you’ll never struggle for power, and the 625Wh internal battery gives it a prodigious range too, especially in the lower assistance modes. The 12-speed Shimano XT transmission will see you to the top of anything you point the bike at, and the Schwalbe Marathon E-Plus tyres are happy on tarmac or light off-road. You get a Suntour suspension fork and a suspension seatpost for a bit of extra damping if things get rough.
For city riding the Kathmandu has everything you need. The rear rack is part of the frame and will take a full load of shopping, and there are mudguards and lights as well as a kickstand. As a day-to-day city companion it’s ideal, and if you want to head out on longer leisure rides or even a multi-day tour the high quality motor system and componentry will make longer rides a joy. At a penny under three grand it’s not cheap, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far there are lots of options in Cube’s Kathmandu and Touring ranges for less, all of which are good value at their price point.
Why it won: High quality throughout, with a powerful motor and great spec for city riding or touring
Cargo bike: Tern GSD from £4,499
The Tern GSD has been our e-bike of the year in the past, so it’s no surprise to find it back in this list again. The generation 2 Tern GSD has been updated in some important areas that have made it a more useful bike overall. Most noticeable is the extra motor power: The GSD S10 pictured has moved up two rungs (or possibly a rung and a half) of the Bosch motor ladder, and now sports the Cargo Line unit, which is Bosch’s most powerful EU-pedelec-friendly motor and ideal for lugging kids or shopping up hill and down dale.
The GSD scores maximum points for both practicality and versatility. With a big rear cargo area but small 20” wheels, it’s no longer than a normal city bike, but it’s rated to carry 200kg of rider and cargo. With a huge range of accessories there’ll be a build of the GSD that will suit your particular needs, and you can chop and change as your family grows or you get rid of a car. There’s everything from pannier bags to a fully enclosed Clubhouse Fort that’ll keep two kids dry whatever the weather. It’s as versatile as a bike can reasonably be, and although it’s expensive it’s a solid investment that’ll give you years of service with its high-quality frame, motor system and componentry.
The S10 build of this bike is the cheapest, at £4,499. The bike doesn’t come with any capacity for luggage or kids, so you’ll need to add bags or child seats according to your needs. Other accessories - the Clubhouse Fort, for example, or a second battery - can up the spend considerably. Even though the S10 is the cheapest bike it’s the build we’d go for: the derailleur transmission is lighter and more efficient than the belt drives and hub gears on the more expensive bikes.
Why it won: The GSD is the most practical bike there is
Road/Gravel: Ribble CGR AL e from £2,399
If it seems a bit odd to lump both road and gravel into a single category, that’s mostly testament to the versatility of the Ribble CGR AL e, which is a great bike to pilot both on- and off-road. The bike was reviewed mostly as an off-roader when we reviewed it on off.road.cc [review], and that bike was a big-tyred, 650b-wheeled, single ring gravel basher. But the CGR AL e is also available in some much more road-oriented stock builds, with twin-chainring transmissions and 700c wheels. And if the standard specs don’t float your boat then you can make it your own with the Ribble Bike Builder, which allows you to pick your perfect bits. You can even have a custom paint job if you like. That’ll hike the price (and the lead time) a bit but the CGR AL e is really good value for money, with Stock builds starting at £2,399.
However you build it, the CGR AL e is a very tidy bike, with Mahle’s ebikemotion X35 system all-but-invisible to the casual observer. It’s not the most powerful assistance but it’s a very light motor system, well suited to a bike that’ll spend long periods not needing much assistance, especially on the tarmac. Whatever you’re riding on, it’s a hugely capable bike, effortlessly eating the miles on road and well-mannered when the asphalt runs out. There’s not much within the sphere of gravel and road riding you couldn’t do on it. Don’t believe us? Laura Laker rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats on one. You’ll certainly be wanting the external range extender battery for adventures such as that, which ups the bike’s total battery capacity to 460Wh, nearly double what the internal battery can supply on its own.
This isn’t the first time a Ribble e-bike has featured prominently in our ebike of the year list. Last year the Endurance SL e, the company’s carbon e-road bike, walked off with the overall title. The CGR AL e isn’t quite as light or quick, but it’s exceptionally versatile and easy to recommend.
Why it won: Great value, fun to ride and a good motor system
Budget: Rad Power RadRunner £1,199
Here’s a bike that’s more or less perfect for city living: compact and fun, and capable of carrying people and cargo with ease. And at not much over a grand, it really is a proper bargain. With 20” wheels and a big set of cowhorn bars it has a bit of a BMX feel to it, and it’s a lot of fun to ride. Unladen it feels nimble, and the upright position makes it a confident city bike. The big-chamber 3.3” tyres do a great job of soaking up the bumps and potholes along the way.
The motor system in the RadRunner is a Bafang 48v rear hub coupled with a 672Wh battery mounted behind the seatpost. It’s not a particularly complicated system and you wouldn’t expect it for the money, but the motor has plenty of power for city riding and well-matched to a bike that’s designed to carry lots of stuff.
Carrying is one of the RadRunner’s real strong points. It doesn’t look like a cargo bike but the integrated rear rack can carry 55kg, so a large child or a small adult, and there’s a bench seat you can add. Or you can put some big panniers on the back, or a Yepp child seat, or a rack for a crate at the front or the rear. There’s even a box that fits in between the saddle and the handlebars. It’s easy to configure the bike exactly how you need it.
There’s a couple of gripes - the saddle is awful, but it’s easily replaced, as are the cheap pedals - but for the money it’s hard to go wrong here. Rad Power Bikes sell direct, so there’s a bit of assembly required, but once you’re up and running it’s a practical and fun city bike
Why it won: Useful, fun and cheap with loads of cargo options
e-MTB: Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp £6,250
While it might seem that much of the electric mountain bike market is an arms race, with ever more powerful motors, the Specialized Turbo Levo SL ploughs a different furrow. Specialized has teamed up with German tech giants Mahle to create a new lightweight motor system that has been rolled out across road, city and mountain bikes. The SL1.1 motor isn’t as powerful as the Brose motor Specialized use in the full-fat Turbo Levo bike but the smooth power delivery and lower weight make it a perfect choice if you’re looking for a bike that’s a ride extender rather than relying on the electrics to do all the work.
The Turbo Levo SL Comp is great fun on flowing singletrack and the geometry lends itself to the kind of all-day rides that are made a lot easier with the addition of a bit of assistance on hand. The Specialized Mission Control app gives you granular control over the motor settings and the battery management, so you should never find yourself stranded; it can manage power so you'll never run out of juice. At 19kg this is a bike you should easily be able to ride back to base without any help, anyway. If you find the range from the internal 360Wh battery isn’t enough for your adventures, there’s a 160Wh piggyback battery that lets you extend the range.
Point the Turbo Levo SL Comp at anything too rowdy and you’ll soon find the limits of the Fox 34 fork, and the rest of the componentry is a couple of rungs down from what you’d normally get on a £6k bike, to make room in the budget for the motor. But If you’re looking for a rig that’ll take up some of the slack on day rides and get you to the top of your favourite descent fresh enough to really attack the fun bits, this is a great trail companion.
Why it won: it’s not perfect, but the lightweight concept is a winner for trail feel
Folding/conversion kit: Cytronex Brompton £1145
Electric folding bikes have to address two seemingly mutually exclusive goals: on the one hand you want them to fold up small enough, and be light enough, to sling in your car boot or hoik up the stairs to your flat. On the other, you want the motor system to be powerful enough to make a real difference when you need it. Everyone’s agreed that the Brompton is impossible to beat when it comes to folding size, and the Cytronex C1 system adds nothing to the bike’s folded footprint. It only adds 3.2kg of weight too, meaning that the finished bike ticks all the boxes for assisted multi-modal travel.
The Cytronex C1 kit is very high quality, with the 180Wh bottle battery driving a custom geared front hub motor that’s been slimmed down to fit in the Brompton’s narrow fork. The system uses a clever sensor that looks for movement at the rear sprocket rather than the cranks, and the whole system - including lights - is controlled by a single button on the bars. Everything except for the motor is made by Cytronex in Winchester. The motor feel is excellent, with plenty of power for assistance on the hills and close control of the system by the sprocket sensor. The single button is pretty intuitive, and the whole system is unobtrusive both in looks and in use. If you want the full power it’s there, but you can also program the system to give you the assistance you need and make the most of the smallish battery capacity.
The C1 system is a retrofit option, of course: you’ll need a donor bike, and at £1,145 it’s not cheap. For an extra £145 you can send your Brompton down to Cytronex and they’ll fit the motor, battery and other bits as neatly as possible, which is definitely worth the money if you’re all thumbs. Overall it’s a great system and well-suited to folding bikes, and the result is probably the best option there is for a properly portable folding e-bike.
Why it won: The best option for assisted multi-modal travel