We rode the Vado through the gauntlet, including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto, and it easily handled everything we threw at it, maintaining a steady 20 miles per hour even on the most daunting of ascents. The bike also handles well on downhills and is both nimble and quick on city streets and paved trails. It’s even comfortable to ride for extended distances, which is vitally important for any bike built for urban settings.
The final major consideration is what type of riding you will be doing. Are you going on an off-road adventure through the mountains? You’ll want a very different electric bike than you would need if you’re riding on paved roads the whole time. Most bike tours are going to be on paved roads, but you should always research the area in detail during your planning process.
Riese & Muller’s Nevo line definitely tops my list for commuting electric bikes. These bikes are premium, custom made bikes for a reasonable, middle-of-the-road price. All Riese & Muller bikes are hand made in Germany exactly to your specifications. The Nevo line specifically is incredibly well balanced and keeps riders in a comfortable, upright position. Riders also get a suspension seatpost (either the Cane Creek Thudbuster or Satori Elegance LT), which is a nice compromise between the full suspension Homage line and a complete hardtail.
The second type of electric bike is a much smaller, often foldable unit designed for convenient urban (or suburban) commuting and for easy storage in minimal space. These compact electric bikes are perfect for trips of a few miles, and many are small and lightweight enough to be carried onto trains or buses, allowing their rider to make use of multiple types of transportation in a single trip, and to store their bike in a closet or even under a desk at work, at school, or at home.
Back to the bike. I’ve gotta be honest, it doesn’t look half bad. The battery fits into the downtube, which is way better than those crazy brackets you see on cheap ebikes. The welds are also smoothed over, like an old Aluminum Cannondale. The drivetrain is a mix of parts, with Shimano Altus in the rear. Altus is a mountain bike groupset, but on the very low end.
Known for not only their powerful line of mountain bikes and specialty bikes—cruisers to fat—Bulls also has a versatile line of urban models. The Cross E Wave comes as one of their more affordable options at roughly $2,800, but at 20 mph can still range for up to 134 in optimal conditions with everything you’d expect (fenders, lock, lights and adjustability). The entire family of Bulls e-bikes has specifications built for any scenario.
“Second, even if you do make bikes in the US, they will be multiple times more expensive than their overseas counterparts and 99.9% of consumers won’t pay that price. When my shop tried selling a US-made bike next to a Chinese bike, with signage that explained why the US-made bike was more expensive, we couldn’t even sell one. Customers would stand there and talk about how they want American-made goods, then they would buy the Chinese bike.”
Because e-bikes are capable of greater speeds for longer periods of time than standard bikes, you want extra control. Wider tires provide traction and some bump absorption with little penalty. You also want strong brakes to slow you (and all that extra weight) easily. It's worth looking at the quality of the brakes and investing in bikes with better ones if you can.