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Today’s electric bikes are a far cry from a decade ago – scratch that, even five years ago.
Gone are the bulky batteries, chunky motors and bicep-busting weights. As electric bike technology has developed, batteries have morphed into frames and motors have reduced in size. It’s now entirely possible to buy an e-bike that looks like a regular bike.
The Benefit of E-Bikes
Ignore the naysayers – electric bikes are great – and they’re not cheating. Whether cycling to work, pedalling some errands or simply riding for fun or fitness, the assistance provided by an electric bike ensures every ride is fun.
With an electric bike, hills are no trouble. Longer bike rides also become more accessible. In traffic, the assistance of an electric motor helps e-bike riders get up to speed from a standing start. Plus, if you’re thinking of an alternative to a car or public transport, electric bikes are greener, healthier and potentially better value than other transport modes.
E-Bikes That Don’t Look Like E-Bikes
The Problem with E-Bikes
Owning an electric bike isn’t all plain sailing. There’s the nagging worry of range anxiety, plus the fact that electric bikes are expensive. Most retail for £1000 or more. Add a glinting display and a pricey battery, and they become instantly attractive to would-be cycle thieves.
Indeed, studies in the Netherlands have shown that electric bikes are more likely to get stolen than normal bikes. There’s also a third reason why some wouldn’t consider purchasing an electric bike.
Why You Might Want a Normal-Looking Electric Bike
Keen cyclist or not, some people wouldn’t be seen dead on an electric bike. Some critics deride the fun-thrilled, smile-inducing ride an electric bike can bring; purely because they believe muscle power is better than battery. That, or they can’t stand the supposed shame of riding a bike with assistance.
Here’s where ‘normal’ looking electric bikes come in. They help you breeze past your friends on the high street, looking fit, sweat-free and perhaps crucially for some, without a snide comment uttered in your general direction.
Don’t forget these normal electric bikes might also be svelte enough for a light-fingered bike thief with a pair of bolt croppers in his backpack to pass on by.
Are electric bikes are worth it? Whilst we leave that up to you to ponder, here are three of our favourite discreet electric bikes available today.
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E-Bikes That Look Like Regular Bikes
1. VanMoof S5
Prices are approximate
- Weight: 23 kg
Rider height: 165-210 cm
Striking design – where’s the motor?
Motor controls are well hidden
Lights are tastefully integrated
Like all bikes in our list, the Van Moof S5 has a (wheel) hub motor rather than a ‘mid-drive’ or ‘crank’ motor. This engineering choice is step 1 in the recipe: making a discrete electric bike. By citing the electric bike motor in the wheel hub, Van Moof’s designers have managed to secrete one of the bulkiest and most cumbersome parts of an electric bike out of sight and very much out of mind. At first glance, the motor is unnoticeable. At a second look, it’s barely visible, and at a third glance, it’s unobtrusive at most.
But what marks the S5 out from other electric bikes in this field is the location of the electric motor, not in the back wheel, but in the front. The motor, exclusive to Van Moof, makes for a unique ride feeling, not jerky or out of control, just always there, increasing in intensity as you build up speed.
The clever design touches don’t end with the motor. Two simple rings, one on each side of the handlebars are the extent of the S5’s e-bike display. One of the rings displays the current assistance mode of the bike, whilst the other ring the current battery level. A boost button provides a thurst of assistance when the situation arises.
Angles and chunky frame shapes – the Van Moof S5 is a distinctive electric bike. Whether that increases its chance of theft is up for debate but the decidedly more traditional horizontal top tube of the bike cleverly integrates front and rear lights with no wiring on show.
Prices are approximate
- Approximate Weight: 17.5kg/38.5lbs (medium)
- Size: Small 5′ 0″ – 5′ 6″/ Medium: 5′ 6″ – 5′ 10″/ Large: 5′ 10″ – 6′ 2″
Neatly integrated battery and motor
Comfortable to ride
Comfortable to ride
British bicycle brand Ribble makes some of the best electric road bikes around. No surprise then that they’ve turned their attention to a lightweight city electric bike. The swept-back handlebars, mudguards and pannier rack mean the Urban e looks like a regular step-through city bike. Add in the bike’s neatly integrated battery (it’s in the frame downtube) and the hub wheel motor and it easily it makes onto our list of the best discreet electric bikes.
Step-through electric bikes like this are comfortable to ride. They enable the rider to adopt a heads-up, shoulder’s back riding style. This kind of cycling is more about watching the world go slowly by, rather than nose to the handlebars and mashing away at the pedals.
These days most electric bikes, certainly those sold for use in and around town anyway, are sold with a rear pannier rack. There’s no doubting the benefits of a pannier rack, but the accompanying panniers can be an inflexible storage method, certainly when an onward journey on foot awaits. That’s why we love the addition of a front pannier rack on the Urban e. With a canny bungee cord, all manner of items can be transported up front. From a favourite dog-eared backpack to a crate of beer or, as Ribble displays in the marketing of the bike, a yoga mat.
Prices are approximate
- Weight: 13.3 Kg
Inegenious battery integration
Light to carry
Folds and stores neatly
The final model on our list of discreet-looking electric bikes is a folding bike made from carbon fibre. Yes, that’s right, an electric bike with a carbon frame, that folds. Again at first look, the uninitiated would be hard-pressed to confirm that the Model X was indeed electric. The battery to power the bike is cannily hidden away in the seatpost of the bike.
Nudging the scales at a shade over 13kg the Model X is light for a normal bike, let alone an electric bike. The light weight of the bike is mainly thanks to the carbon frame, but also thanks to the rear wheel hub motor and single-speed gearing. As such the Model X will be an excellent bike for those who commute by train or frequently find themselves lugging a bike upstairs.
The Carbo Model X is also folded in a trice. With a quick press and flick of the main frame latch, followed by a quick swipe of the handlebar lever and the bike folds to a paltry 80cm x 60cm x 33cm.