With hundreds of E-bikes on the market, it can be daunting finding the right one to meet your needs. In this article, we'll help you decide by highlighting the best electric bikes for commuters looking to leave steep inclines in the dust.
In analyzing the best E-bikes for hilly commutes, there are a few key factors to be on the lookout for. One of the most important is Motor and Power. E-bikes with a more powerful motor will usually have faster acceleration, meaning better climbing ability.
Another factor to consider is the E-bike's Range and Battery Life. When dealing with inclines, smaller batteries can sometimes drain quickly and leave riders hanging. A larger battery leads to a longer range, or distance the E-bike can travel on a single charge.
Other features that have a big impact on an E-bike's climbing ability are its Build Quality and Design. This means taking a look at what the E-bike is made of. Is the bike heavy, or made of a light carbon frame? Is the bike meant to be ridden in a cycling or upright riding position?
We'll break down all of this below.
Best Electric Bike for Hilly Commute
Pick #1: RadCity 5 Plus
First up on the list is the RadCity 5 Plus, the most advanced iteration of RadCity's original commuter bike. This comfortable, European-style city bike is packed with features that let its riders climb hills with ease.
The RadCity 5 Plus comes equipped with a 750W geared hub motor. On this E-bike, riders can easily adjust pedal assist— an operating mode that, once activated, makes the motor kick in while you are pedaling to reach your desired speed.
This model also has puncture resistant tire liners, adjustable suspensions, and a 275 lb payload capacity. One of the newest updates on the RadCity 5 Plus are its two displays (one main, one secondary) for riders to interface with.
Range, Brakes, Wide Range of Accessories
One pro of the RadCity 5 Plus is it's incredibly long range. It can travel 50+ miles on a single charge, likely due to the E-bike's powerful 48V Lithium-Ion battery.
Another pro to this E-bike are the model's hydraulic brakes and ceramic brake pads. These brakes are perfect for stop-and-go city riding. They respond to a lighter touch, giving riders more control over their ride, and greater stopping power.
Finally, the RadCity 5 Plus works great with a variety of accessories. Rad Power sells mirrors, phone mounts, as well as front baskets and rear racks. These racks can be used to carry backpacks, delivery bags, and even groceries.
Long Charge Time, Price, Display Readability
One of the cons of the RadCity 5 Plus is the E-bike's long charging time. The battery can take up to 6 hours to fully recharge after use. Additionally, many riders have reported that the E-bike's secondary remote control display can be difficult to read in the sunlight.
While this E-bike promises great performance and user experience, it is rather expensive. First time E-bike riders may want to test the waters with a more moderately priced model, before splurging on all the bells and whistles the RadCity 5 Plus E-bike provides.
Tested against similar models within the same category
Pick #2: Aventon Level Commuter Bike
Next on the list is the Level Commuter Bike by Aventon. Similar to RadCity 5 Plus, the Level is also equipped with a 750W motor and a 48V battery. The Level has five levels of pedal assist to make sure riders will never be out of breath when they arrive at their destination.
The maximum speed of The Level is around 28 mph. Even without pedaling, The Level has an average speed of 20 mph, meaning the throttle has plenty of power to get you up even the steepest hills with ease.
Other features that set The Level apart from competition are its 300 lb payload capacity, its front suspension, and backlit LCD Display.
Range, Brakes, Frame Build
The Level commuter Bike has a lot of pros, but one of the biggest is its range. This E-bike averages 40 miles on a single charge, and has undergone extensive, real world testing to determine its range in different scenarios.
Take a look at this. Even with no pedaling, this E-bike can travel up 30 miles. On the lowest pedal assist setting, the Level's average range jumps all the way to 57 miles.
Another pro of this model are its hydraulic disc brakes. Hydraulic brakes have much more power than mechanical disc-brakes, and Aventon uses 180 mm rotors to ensure that riders can stop quickly.
Finally, the frame and build of The Level allow for balance and a smooth ride. The Level E-bike has a mid-drive motor, meaning the motor is installed between your pedals. E-bikes with mid-drive motors tend to feel more balanced and more natural to maneuver than ones with rear hub motors, where the motor is located on the rear wheel.
The Level is also built out of sturdy, 6061 Double-Butted Aluminum Alloy, comes with built in rear racks, and full-coverage aluminum alloy fenders welded on. The alloy construction means these fenders will rattle less than plastic, while still being more resilient than steel.
No Headlight, Weight, Standard Throttle Configuration
One con to the The Level Commuter E-bike is its lack of lighting. This oversight is very surprising, with LED headlights and rear lights being so popular on other commuter models. If you want to ride The Level at night, you'll have to buy one yourself.
One other drawback I saw while looking at the specs of The Level is its weight. This E-bike weighs approximately 62 pounds, which may make it difficult for some to carry it up stairs or load it into cars.
Finally, Aventon gives riders the option to buy the bike with “Throttle on Demand” or “Throttle on Pedal.” The standard configuration of Aventon E-bikes is the "Throttle on Pedal" option, meaning riders cannot use the throttle from a dead stop. Read more about Aventon's ebikes problems and drawbacks..
No matter which configuration you prefer, you can only pick one when purchasing The Level E-bike. Many riders expressed a desire to be able to toggle between these two configurations, disappointed that there isn't a way to swap their preference in the settings.
Tested against similar models within the same category
Pick #3: 500 Series from Ride1Up
Last but not least, we have the 500 Series from Ride1Up. The 500 Series is Ride1Up's best selling model. The all-surface performing, lightweight and uniquely agile E-bike is designed for comfortable touring over long-distances.
This water-resistant model is powered by a 750W motor, with 60N-m torque. The E-bike's 48V battery can carry riders anywhere between 25-45 miles on a single charge. Weighing only 55 pounds, The 500 Series is a lightweight bike, and has a little more portability than the others on this list.
Lighting, Tires, Warranty
One pro of the 500 Series E-bike are its wide tires. These 27.5 inch tires are all-Terrain, and feature additional K-Shield protection for puncture resistance.
This E-bike model also comes with an LED headlight already included. The integrated lights can be operated from the display of the E-Bike.
Finally, it is comforting to know that the 500 Series E-bike comes 85% assembled, with a 1 year warranty in case of any manufacturing defects.
Motor Lag, Battery Readout
One drawback that riders have pointed out is a noticeable torque sensor lag that occurs before the motor stops applying power and after you stop pedaling.
Another frequent complaint is that the battery readout on the 500 Series isn’t always accurate. Sometimes, the readout says the battery is more empty than it really is.
Tested against similar models within the same category
electric bike good for hills - Must-Know Tips
Electric bikes are increasingly becoming a popular commute option. Their greatest appeal is they come with a motor to serve as bike hill assist
helping you get around and even tackle the intimidating hills.
Hills are inevitable when it comes to cycling.
Unfortunately, not all e-bikes are suited for hill climbing and picking the wrong e-bike means you might struggle a lot getting up the hard hills.
But for e-bikes that can tackle hills, the big question is, how steep a hill can an electric bike climb
What are some of their unique features and what is the best electric bike for hilly commute?
Here we look at everything you need to know.
There’s no “best” e-bike for hill climbing. However, there’re common features among the best e-bikes for hilly climbing.
In the section below, we shall look at the features that matter when choosing an e-bike for hill climbing. The motor provides the power needed for pushing an e-bike.
Generally, there’re two types of motors for e-bikes:
1. Hub Motor
Hub motors are the most popular motors and are usually positioned at the center of the wheel.
Now, while they're an affordable option, they're not designed for climbing steep hills but rather suitable for the flatlands and relatively light areas.
The hub motors don't use the existing gearing, but instead, propel your e-bike directly, and so they're independent of your input.
2. Mid Drive Motors
The Mid dive motors are the opposite of the hub motors as they’re beefier, so suited for hilly commutes.
The greatest strength of these motors is they depend on your existing drivetrain for propulsion.
The mid-drive motors are normally positioned low down on the center of the bike and the best option for regular hill use.
Unlike the hub motors, they’ve higher torque rating and better center of gravity, which makes them ideal for riding with natural, indirect power delivery.
Weight is yet another critical component determining how good your e-bike is for tackling the hills. Ideally, an e-bike for hill climbing should be lightweight.
Heavy e-bikes are harder to pedal, and their performance on hills is usually compromised, regardless of the gear ratio.
When cycling uphill, you also have to consider the inevitable downhill section, A good e-bike for uphill should equally come with perfect brakes.
Can Electric Bikes Go Up Steep Hills?
Yes, e-bikes can go uphill, and they make it easier than using a traditional bike.To put this into perspective, an e-bike effectively reduces the hill's gradient, as well as reduces the energy you would need to go up that hill.
The extra power provided by the motor will take the pain out of the climbs, and so it’s easy to cruise up every climb.
The beauty of an e-bike is it gives you the option of deciding how much effort you need to put in when tackling a hill.
For instance, in full power “turbo” mode, you can easily fly past most of the climbs.
On the other hand, if you switch to a less powerful model, you might need to put some effort to attain the same speed.
And finally, using the low power mode will allow you to preserve the battery and ride further, but you’ll have to put more effort pedaling.
How Steep a Hill Can an Electric Bike Climb?
For starters, since an e-bike can be pedaled just like a regular bike, it means it can also climb any hill a traditional bike climbs.
But with the addition of a motor, it means, an e-bike can tackle an even steeper hill.
But how steep?
This depends on a plethora of factors including battery and motor power, weight, and your effort.
That said, the steepest roads have a gradient of between 30-37%. Fortunately, they’re not many such roads and in the US, there’re only three of them (Canton Avenue, Pittsburgh, Waipio Rd., Honokaa, Hawaii & Eldred Street, Los Angeles).
So, is there an e-bike capable of handling such roads?
Well, yes, there're such e-bikes, and we shall look at their features later in the "best electric bike for hilly commute" section.
But before then, let’s first see how we can make riding hills more manageable;
1. Know When to Sit or Stand
For the less steep hills, standing is a more effective position since it allows you to generate more power.
However, for the steeper gradient, cycling while standing is somewhat impossible and uncomfortable. You might also feel the need for sitting to keep the front wheel on the ground.
However, the best position is one in which you feel you can maximize your effort. Generally speaking, most cyclists perform best when they can find a rhythm and stick to it. Changing positions frequently is discouraged as it might disrupt your riding momentum.
Never start climbing a hill with a large gear.
Instead, start with a gear that optimizes your cadence and shift when it starts to get steeper.
Finally, it would be best if you apportioned your energy. For instance, you don't want to sprint at the bottom of the hill and consume all the energy you need to complete the hill.
Pace yourself, and preserve your energy for use where it matters most.