Ranking the Best E-Bikes of 2020
During an evacuation or a period of major unrest roads and other traditional means of escape may not be available. An E-bike combines the maneuverability and flexibility of a bicycle with the added power and speed of an electric motor.
They’re one of the best options available for preppers who want to have a backup plan in case their vehicles are rendered unusable during a bug out situation.
We checked out some of the most highly rated E-bikes on the market today and put together a list of our favorites. The bikes below offer features that the modern prepper can really count on.
1. Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty Electric Bike (Class 3)
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The Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty is a high-speed Class 3 E-bike designed to ride farther and faster over rougher terrain than its competitors. It uses a top of the line Bosch 250W mid-drive motor and incorporates a wide variety of rack, trailer, and gear mourning points to carry all the essentials you’ll need while bugging out.
Why we like it: The Topstone Neo Carbon 3 is about as overbuilt and high-end as E-bikes come. It’s rock-solid, lighter than you’d expect, and offers power and range options that are hard for any E-bike to beat. Every component on this bike, from the gears and forks down to the tires themselves, are top quality. You get up 76 miles of pedal-assisted power from the 500 Wh battery plus can charge it back up to full in just 3.5 hours.
Flaws: As with many E-bikes, price. The Topstone Neo is an amazing bike, but it comes in north of $5k when you factor in the equipment mounts and other add-ons you need. That’s quite expensive even for a bike with this level of performance and capabilities.
2. Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 1 (Class 2)
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The Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 1 is a value-priced Class 2 E-bike designed for beginners and casual users. It lacks many of the higher-end control and design features of more expensive bikes, but still provides a massive return on your money in basic utility. For the prepper looking for a bike that’s easy to use and maintain without all the extra performance features top-level cyclists demand, it’s hard to beat.
Why we like it: The RadRunner 1 is that rare product that truly gets it. It provides much of the performance and feature set of higher-end E-bikes yet is barely a fraction of their price. It features a powerful 750W motor, a 48V/14Ah battery capable of traveling 45 miles between charges, and puncture-resistant tires designed to run effectively on and off the road.
Flaws: Despite all the good about the RadRunner 1, it’s not too difficult to see why it has that excellent price point. The bike itself is extremely basic, with a rigid front fork and single-speed drivetrain that provides much less flexibility in speed and control. For survival purposes though that can almost be considered a good thing, as it cuts down on the points of complexity when operating it.
3. Rambo Nomad 750W XPS Electric Hunting Bike (Class 2)
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The Rambo Nomad 750W XPS is a Class 2 E-bike with all the features we look for in a preparedness focused E-bike. We’re not going to lie, the name had us worried this would be another ‘Tacti-Cool’ product, but we were pleasantly surprised at just how capable this E-bike really was.
Why we like it: The Nomad 750W XPS is a bike built specifically for moving across wild country with a substantial load. It was designed as a useful tool for experienced hunters, and comes standard with a lot of features preppers can really benefit from. It offers a serious range and has mounting points for all kinds of gear containers, rifle racks, and even a trailer accessible mount.
Flaws: As a purpose built backcountry hunting E-bike, the Nomad doesn’t ride as smoothly, comfortably, or quickly across paved roads and other flat surfaces. You won’t have any trouble moving across them of course, but there are other E-bikes that offer a better mix of on and off road capability.
4. Batch Bicycles: The E-Bike (Class 1)
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The Batch Bicycles ‘The E-Bike’ is a Class 1 pedal assist E-bike designed as a quality recreational model for entry level cyclists. It’s meant to be a fun and easy to use way for newbies to get out on an E-bike and master the fundamentals while still being fun to ride. For the purposes of preppers this gives you an easy to control and manage E-bike with a reasonably 40 to 80 mile range that’s rated to carry a substantial amount of gear and has a highly reliable motor.
Why we like it: The mid-drive Bosch motor and control system used on The E-Bike is one of the best recreational grade motors on the market today. Everything else about the bike is a similar level of premium-lite, with excellent gears, brakes, and a robust yet lightweight frame. To top it all off it comes standard with an alloy cargo rack plus plastic fenders to protect your legs from the moving wheels.
Flaws: As a purely recreational theme bike the Batch E-Bike isn’t as powerful or as rugged as the top level bikes on our list. It also sports a price tag well above our top ranked value pick while not providing significantly more performance.
5. Rad Power Bikes RadWagon 4 (Class 2)
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The Rad Power Bikes RadWagon 4 is the newest generation of their value-packed cargo E-bike. It has a long-tail frame designed to provide a customizable cargo deck with the ability to attach everything from cargo containers to child seats to get you where you need to go with the things that matter most. It uses a hub-drive motor rather than a mid-drive but still manages to pack in a lot of power and performance.
Why we like it: With a beefy 750W motor and 14Ah battery the RadWagon 4 has the power and endurance to cover distances up to 45 miles while carrying a heavy load of gear. All of that while sporting a price tag that many basic road E-bikes would be hard-pressed to meet. It has a few rough edges, but overall packs some of the best value into a cargo-carrying bike for preppers.
Flaws: Given its extremely competitive price it’s obvious that Rad Power Bikes had to make a few compromises. The frame itself is sturdy, but basic, without any of the carbon fiber or lightweight aluminum/titanium we see on higher-end bikes. The control interface is similarly basic and lacks some of the more advanced indicators found on premium bikes.
6. Surly Bikes Big Easy (Class 1)
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The Surly Bikes Big Easy is marketed as the eighteen wheeler of E-bikes. Just looking from the first glance you can see why. It’s a big long-tail bike with the mounting points and trailer hitch to allow easy packing of heavy loads. For the prepper this means you can load it down with gear, weapons, food, kids, or anything else precious to you and get out of dodge a lot faster than you would on foot.
Why we like it: Everything about the Big Easy was built for carrying heavy loads. It has a high-power Bosch motor, longer range battery with the option of a dual battery setup, better brakes, an 11-speed gear shifter and reinforced frame all to make 100+ lb loads ride more comfortably and safer than on other cargo E-bikes.
Flaws: The long-tail design and comfort enhancing features are great while on the blacktop, but reduce its utility while off-road. If you think there’s a good chance you’ll move significant distances across dirt, gravel, and rocky terrain you should consider a different E-bike.
7. Yuba Spicy Curry AT Electric Bike (Class 1)
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The Yuba Bikes Spicy Curry is a long-tail E-bike designed for carrying heavy loads and wiggly kids. It offers an impressive 440 lbs of load capacity and is powered by a 400Wh battery capable of providing more range than you’d think. It’s a great option for preppers with small kids or those who really want to pack on the gear.
Why we like it: The Spicy Curry ships with everything you need to ride with two smaller kids plus basic food and equipment for them. That by itself is an awesome value add, but when you consider the overall quality of the bike and the design features that help it stay steady even under heavy loads, it really adds up to a great machine.
Flaws: The Spicy Curry isn’t a lightning-quick escape bike. It’s great for hauling heavy loads, but you’re not going to be outrunning anyone on it, even with the pedal-assist.
8. Propella 7-Speed V3.4 (Class 1)
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The Propella 7-Speed V3.4 is a Class 1 E-bike designed for the entry-level market. It offers the basic features of an E-bike that a prepper should look for at a very reasonable price. It sports a 250W Bafang hub-drive motor and runs off a 36V removable battery.
Why we like it: The Propella 7-Speed V3.4 offers excellent range and a very rapid recharge time. It’s a comfortable and easy to manage E-bike without the fancy features and settings you have to worry about with higher-end bikes. If you’re a total cycling novice this is a pretty good E-bike to get started with.
Flaws: This isn’t a speed bike or a heavy hauler. It tops out at just 18 mph and doesn’t have the power to carry much more than a rider and basic gear. You won’t be loading it down with all your family’s equipment and pedaling into the sunset if that’s what you’re looking for.
9. ANCHEER 500W Electric Mountain Bike (Class 2)
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The ANCHEER 500W Electric Mountain Bike is a low-cost entry-level E-bike that’s about as affordable as they come. It runs on a 500W brushless electric motor and offers up to 40 miles of range per charge. That’s pretty good for an E-bike and amazing considering how inexpensive this one is.
Why we like it: The price of the ANCHEER is absolutely unbeatable. It lacks basically all the features that E-bike aficionados would consider desirable, but for the purposes of a prepper can fit the bill quite well. This is especially true given you can buy an Electric Mountain Bike for every member of your family and still spend less than you would on a higher-end E-bike.
Flaws: This is very much an entry-level bike and a value-priced entry-level bike at that. While it does provide excellent value, you need to really put it through its paces right after you get it to check for defects or other problems so you can swap it out within the initial return period.
10. Delfast Bikes Top 3.0 (Class 4/Electric Motorcycle)
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The Delfast Bikes Top 3.0 is a high-performance electric bike capable of reaching speeds up to 50 mph. It’s powered by an impressive 72V/48Ah battery and boasts a range of up to 200 miles on a single charge. It may lack some of the cargo-carrying capability and legal flexibility of other E-bikes but it’s undeniably a fast and reliable way to evacuate from an urban area in a hurry.
Why we like it: The Top 3.0 is more powerful, longer range, and faster than any other E-bike on our list. It sports an impressive price tag to match but offers some excellent performance in return.
Flaws: The Top 3.0 is closer to an electric motorcycle than a true E-bike. It requires DMV registration and will likely require a motorcycle license to drive on surface streets. Even with all its power it lacks much of the cargo-carrying capability of other E-bikes on our list and isn’t designed to work with gear like child seats or trailers.
What’s new with E-Bikes
E-Bikes Are Having Their Moment. They Deserve It….
NYC Council set to legalize electric bikes and scooters….
In New England, declining car sales prompt call for electric bike rebates….
Who should buy an E-Bike?
E-bikes are undeniably a second-tier prepping item, but if you’ve checked all the top-level boxes of basic survival gear they can provide a ton of value to the right person.
Preppers who live in urban areas – If you live in an urban area the need to evacuate during a major disturbance or disaster becomes much more pressing. Unfortunately, one of the hallmarks of even the best functioning urban areas is traffic slowdowns.
Imagine your Monday morning commute, except five to ten times as many people who are also panicking. In a major event, there’s a very real chance all the roads out of urban areas will be blocked by disabled vehicles and panicked drivers causing accidents (1).
An E-bike allows you to carry much more equipment much faster than a standard bicycle while still enabling you to move across sidewalks, through parks, and even in between stopped vehicles. It’s one of the best options out there for the urban prepper in the event of an emergency.
Preppers looking for alternative ways to bug out – Bugging out should always be a last resort for the dedicated prepper, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. When those moments hit you may find that roads are impassable to cars and other traditional vehicles to the point where you may not be able to evacuate.
E-bikes offer a good mix of cargo capacity, speed, and range while still preserving the core benefit of a bicycle: The ability to ride it basically anywhere.
Preppers looking to combine physical fitness with preparedness – Cycling has long been recognized as one of the best ways to keep your entire body fit and healthy. E-bikes provide an effective full-body workout that can improve cardiovascular health, build muscle mass, and increase overall endurance (2).
In your everyday life, you can cycle to keep fit, but if an emergency hits and you need to evacuate without a car you can rely more on the assisted features to move rapidly across hilly and rugged terrain. Physical fitness has long been recognized by preparedness experts as one of if not the most important factor in effective preparedness (3).
Combining that with a valuable preparedness tool is a win/win.
Preppers with small children – If you’ve got small children an E-bike is a great backup plan or primary bug-out vehicle. The core purpose of an E-bike is to let you move faster across longer distances without exhausting yourself.
Many are designed to accept child seats and have the cargo capacity to keep all the supplies you’d need for your whole family. If you’ve ever tried pedaling a non-assisted bike with a child seat you know how difficult it can be even on level ground.
If you need to move rapidly across all manner of terrain with your young children, an E-bike outfitted for that purpose is the ideal vehicle.
Single preppers – If you’re a prepper living alone an E-bike is one of the best options for getting out of tight places quietly. A car can carry more and move faster, but an E-bike can go places a car can’t and move quietly through dangerous areas.
On your own, you don’t have to worry about bringing kids, your spouse, or other family members with you. You can move rapidly across miles of varying terrain, even ignoring the roads if you have to.
How we ranked
We used seven key factor groups while evaluating the E-bikes on our list. These were the type of bike, motor type, class, power, and torque, battery power, capacity, and range, pedal-assist levels and throttle ability, payload capacity and frame size, control interface and accessory mounts, and affordability.
Type of bike – If you aren’t already a cyclist it may surprise you to learn there are actually several different types of electric bicycles out there. Most people picture some version of the mixed-use bike they rode as a kid, except with an electric motor, when in reality there are multiple types of bikes with very specialized use cases.
The ones we considered best from a preparedness standpoint were road/touring E-bikes, mountain E-bikes, and cargo E-bikes. There are several other sub-categories and fusion style E-bikes, but for the most part, these three will cover the bulk of bikes on our list.
Motor type, class, power, and torque – There were several key points we looked at in the type and specifications of E-bike motors. The first was the actual location, with both hub drive and mid-drive motors available. Hub drives are more common but change the feel of riding a bike more than mid-drive do and offer lower power and performance.
After that, we looked at the class of E-bike, as well as the power of the motor and the amount of torque they were able to provide. There are three classes of E-bikes, class 1, class 2, and class 3, that we cover more in-depth below. For ranking purposes, we focused on class 1 and class 2 E-bikes as class 3 are legally considered electric motorcycles in many jurisdictions, though we still included a few excellent examples in our list.
Battery power, capacity, and range – The battery capacity is one of the most important features we considered when building our list. It determines what range you can travel between charges and generally impacts the power more than anything other than the motor itself.
We also took into account charging time and the ability to swap out charged batteries easily. That increases the total range of your bike and the flexibility in how you use it. The last consideration was the actual power of the battery. This is measured in Watts and affects how much power it can actually output to the motor. If you’re a bigger person or are looking to haul a lot of gear, you need a more powerful battery paired with a more powerful motor.
Pedal-assist levels and throttle ability- One of the best features to look for is a control level for pedal assists. The majority of bikes have multiple settings that you can adjust to increase or decrease the pedal-assist to prioritize power or battery life.
Throttles are an excellent feature to consider as well as they allow you to provide a direct zip of power and speed without having to pedal. This can be very useful in a situation where you need to accelerate rapidly.
Payload capacity and frame size – Payload capacity and frame size both refer to measures of fit and capability for an E-bike, with certain frames fitting certain body sizes. Payload capacity is the total weight the motor and bike frame itself is rated to handle.
It’s extremely important from the perspective of who can use an E-bike effectively and how much gear they can carry with them.
Control interface and accessory mounts – One thing a lot of people overlook with an E-bike is the control interface. In cheaper bikes, it may be as basic as a smartphone app you connect to the bike, while more premium models have a dedicated digital display with advanced features.
Accessory mounts are also extremely important, especially if you plan to put cargo-carrying racks and other add-ons onto your bike.
Affordability – There’s no getting around it: E-bikes are expensive. You’ll likely pay two to five times as much for an E-bike than you would for a comparable traditional bicycle.
The benefits of an E-bike far outweigh the costs in our view, but it’s definitely still a major consideration, especially as higher-end bikes can approach the cost of full-scale motorcycles.
Brands we trust – There are a LOT of companies in the emerging E-bike market, with new ones starting and old ones failing on an almost weekly basis. Thankfully there are a few brands you can trust to have your back. Two of our favorites are Cannondale and RadPower.
Cannondale has made high-end bicycles and bicycle parts for decades, with their E-bike line showcasing some of the most advanced motors and battery systems available. RadPower is a newer company, but have made a name for themselves as makers of very well-made entry level bikes and value-priced products.
Things to avoid – The biggest thing to watch out for with E-bikes is the brand of the motor. There are several really good motor manufacturers out there such as Bosch, Yamaha, and Shimano. There are also a lot of good motors from unknown makers, but the issue becomes quality control and durability. You can get a lesser-known motor for a lower price, but you gamble a bit on the longevity of your E-bike.
We weighted each of these factors in order of importance and used them to create our list. All of the bikes above are good options for most preppers, with certain bikes fitting specific need cases.
E-bikes allow you to move faster and with more ease across greater distances – Let’s face it, most of us aren’t and won’t ever be a competition level cyclist. Traveling long distances on a bicycle requires training and special levels of fitness that most of us just don’t have.
E-bikes flip the script on this, allowing people of moderate physical fitness and cycling levels to move across tens of miles a day without substantial hardship. Even better, they make carrying heavier loads of gear and equipment far less of a burden.
E-bikes won’t get bogged down if roads are blocked to cars – Cars, trucks, and other vehicles are the obvious first choice in an evacuation, but sometimes they just aren’t an option. During major emergencies in the past millions of people have been forced to evacuate all at once, resulting in a level of gridlock that actually became deadly for many (4).
E-bikes are a good way to get in shape and build your physical preparedness – E-bikes may be motor-assisted, but using one is still a good workout. Studies carried out by scientists at Brigham Young University show that people riding on pedal-assist E-bikes had 94% the heart rate elevation of people on traditional bicycles (5).
Staying fit not only improves your health, but it also makes you more physically capable to deal with emergency situations that come up. You can carry more weight, fight more effectively, and generally perform better under stressful situations.
E-bikes can carry a lot more gear than a traditional bicycle – One of the ways companies are looking to commercialize E-bikes is as urban cargo-carrying vehicles. Pedal-assist bikes can carry substantially more weight over greater distances with larger elevation changes than those that aren’t assisted (6).
Certain consumer E-bikes are specifically designed as cargo carrying platforms. They make it much easier for your family to evacuate on bicycles by allowing a single cargo E-bike to do the heavy lifting while they focus on moving quickly around obstacles to get to safety.
Q: Are E-bikes worth it?
A: Yes. If you fit the profile of someone who could benefit from a bicycle as a bug-out vehicle, an E-bike can very much be worth it. They’re on the expensive side, sure, but they allow even novice cyclists to cover tens of miles per day while carrying a substantial amount of gear without exhausting themselves.
Q: How do E-bikes work?
A: In most respects, E-bikes are the same as traditional bicycles. They use the same frames, wheel types, braking systems, and ride in much the same manner. The difference is an E-bike incorporates an electric motor paired with a rechargeable battery that allows you to go faster and farther than with a traditional bike. These motors are quite compact and mount in a low profile manner to the frame of the bike or are built inside the frame entirely (7).
Q: What are E-bike classes?
A: There are three classes of E-bikes currently on the market. Class 1 E-bikes offer pedal assist only and cut out assistance once you reach a speed of 20 mph. Class 2 E-bikes offer the same pedal assist up to 20 mph, but add in a throttle that allows you to use them in much the same way as you would a motorcycle. Class 3 E-bikes are more powerful than the previous two and offer assistance up to speeds of 28 mph.
Why are these important?
The class of an E-bike determines where and when it can legally be ridden.
Q: Are E-bikes street legal?
A: Mostly. Class 1 and Class 2 E-bikes are legally considered bicycles in most jurisdictions and as such can be ridden anywhere a bicycle can, including the street. Class 3 E-bikes are a touchy subject. Because they can go substantially faster with motorized assistance than Class 1 or Class 2 E-bikes, they’re often considered to be legally motorized vehicles.
Check your local laws to find out what your DMV classifies them as. In many places, Class 3 E-bikes must be registered and titled much like a moped or motorcycle (8).
Q: Are E-bikes safe?
A: E-bikes are just as safe as traditional bicycles. Class 1 and Class 2 E-bikes rarely move faster than you would normally go on a bicycle, they just make it easier to maintain your pace. The batteries themselves are designed to be robust enough to handle the occasional drop or even crash without damage (9).
Q: Can electric bikes get wet?
A: Yes. Modern E-bikes are designed with water resistance levels perfectly adequate for the odd rainstorm or splash. You shouldn’t submerge the motor or battery, but other than that they’ll handle water just fine (10).
Q:Can E-bikes go up steep hills?
A: Yes. Riding in hilly areas is one of the best uses for an E-bike as they allow you to keep moving at a good pace even while moving over rougher terrain with more obstacles. It’s important to keep motor power and location in mind though. Mid-drive motors are better for handling larger hills. If you’re on the larger side or your bike is loaded down with gear you’re going to need a more powerful motor to move effectively over hills (11).
Q: How often should I service an E-bike?
A: Just as often as you’d service a regular bike. That means regularly checking your tires, brakes, and chain for damage and performing basic maintenance tasks like oiling the chain and adjusting settings. The actual electric parts of your E-bike should be fully serviced by a trained tech at least once a year to ensure a long life (12).
Q: Are E-bikes considered motorized vehicles?
A: There are currently no federal laws in the U.S. that specifically address E-bikes. The most common classification of E-bikes relates to speed and type of power-assist. We mentioned the different classes above, with the breakdown of where and how they can be used. State laws, and even county and city ordinances, can vary from location to location. You should check your local laws and classifications before purchasing an E-bike (13).
Q: How much do E-bikes weigh?
A: One of the biggest criticisms many make against E-bikes is their perceived high weight. While E-bikes are undeniably heavier than traditional bikes they aren’t the hundred-pound behemoths many critics would have you believe. The average E-bike weighs between 38 and 70 lbs, with some lighter and a few heavy-duty cargo bikes heavier (14).
E-bikes are fast, easy to use, and offer cargo carrying capacity that can’t be beaten by comparable options. They’re able to go places cars can’t and move you and your family out of harm’s way a lot faster than going on foot.
For Survival At Home’s #1 E-bike recommendation, click here.
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