For reliable everyday utility use, buy an e-bike that is powerful, efficient, reliable, feels manageable and pleasant to ride and is equipped for your purposes. Utility focussed e-bikes are relatively heavy at 18 – 25 kg, but pricier ones have a better quality frame and cycle parts, making them easier and more pleasant to ride with the assistance switched off or using lower levels of assistance when you choose to.
Consider the best frame type for your purposes. The ‘trapeze’ frame types are a great Unisex option for hopping on and off around town, but that still feels like a very normal hybrid type riding position.
The deeper Sit up and Beg ‘Dutch style’ unisex step through models (sometimes archaically marketed as Womens’ models) tend to have higher set handlebars and a more upright sitting position.This gives good control and visibility – ideal for urban duties, whatever your gender! They generally offer more adjustability of saddle height than the more usual ‘crossbar’ style frame, and so are better able to be adjusted for multiple users with different rider/saddle heights.
Other bike types include Cargo Bikes. e-bike power is particularly suitable for shifting heavy or bulky stuff in the guise of electrically assisted Cargo bikes. Cargo bikes present a flexible and green option for ‘last mile’ deliveries, and are often available to hire or buy on initiatives from Councils or manufacturers.
You can ferry the kids to school in comfort, or legally carry a passenger, besides a car boot full of stuff, or a Christmas tree…
A 65Kg load or a (legal) light passenger capacity ‘Mid Tail’ Cargo e-bike!!
‘Compact’ models, usually with smaller wheels, take up the minimum of space, whilst providing significantly more luggage and weight capacity than full size hybrid type bikes, and in some cases passenger space too.
Our own small wheel ‘Butchers bike’ style Orbea ‘Katu’ is proving ideal for shared use by differing height riders who want a nimble, versatile ‘do it all’ urban e-bike. In most respects it replaces a small car, including carrying a small car boot sized pile of shopping!
Note: Sadly the Katu-E is now only available in its least powerful Bosch Active Line motor form, and therefore less suitable for serious utility work in hillier parts of Sheffield.
Ridgeback have (July 2022) introduced a similar model, the Errand which although a hub drive is rated at 54Nm so may be strong enough for a bit of hilly Sheffield action.
Bigger Cargo models include the Urban Arrow , the amazing Bullit, and models that will also do passenger duties include the Riese + Muller Multicharger, (photo above) Urban Arrow , the Tern GSD or HSD , the cute Benno bikes like the boost , or the Raleigh stride and Cube transport
Some of these can be found at A Different Gear (Previously Recycle bikes) here in Sheffield.
The new UK brand mycle is producing an interesting range of models that look very good value, including the Cargo model, and although Hub drive, is powerful and well equipped, however be aware that, lacking a torque sensor based system, it has a lag between starting to pedal and the power kicking in, a characteristic noted by the tester of Bike Radar:
The Mycle’s power delivery can be a little odd, especially in the top-level setting. The bike has a cadence sensor with a dozen magnetic pick-up points, which sense when to input power. However, there is a definite delay from a standing start, with it taking more than a complete crank rotation before you get full power.
And elaborated on by the tester from Cycling Weekly:
When compared to the Tern, which is equipped with the top-end Bosch Cargo Line battery and motor, the Mycle is nowhere near as quick to kick in, and is also quick to cut out when you stop pedalling.
It’s a feature that you really need to be wary of, especially if stopping on a hill with a heavy cargo, eg a full grown adult. Remembering to swiftly change up to your smallest gear (biggest sprocket) will help, but sometimes it’s only the dispatching of your load, some more understanding than others, that will get the cranks turning again.
However, unless you have come to a dead stop, should you gently turn a crank, say to pick the left hand pedal up when cornering in the same direction, it will kick back in at the same speed when you last turned the cranks.
In practice this delivers some very erratic riding speeds which, if I’m being honest, at first, felt slightly out of control. The more you ride the bike the more you get ready for the sudden propulsion forward, but it does take a while to get used to.
This is a potentially very awkward on hilly terrain when starting off loaded at lights etc – so you may want to try before you buy to see if it suits your terrain.
Folding bikes add versatility – Which folder you want depends on what it’s for – do you need lightweight multi modal personal transport? Does it need to do everyday utility duties as well?
However, generally speaking, I guess people choosing a folding e-bike are more likely to be looking to use it as lightly laden personal transport rather than to perform heavy lifting utility type duties. As such, a less powerful model than the bikes generally described in this article may suffice.
Also, is it actually an access/storage space issue that is suggesting a folding or compact e-bike may be the best choice?….
A major advantage is that it can be bought readily and locally, so you have backup if there are any warranty issues. The same bike is also sold by Halfords as the Evo. (don’t forget UK cycling and British cycling discount)
Going up the Raleigh folding bike ladder we have the well reviewed motus kompact – although you will want to test ride and ensure the combination of the entry level Active Line bosch motor and Nexus 7 speed gears suffice for your usual routes, particularly if they are hilly.
French firm Eovolt produce a good looking folder: https://eovolt.co.uk/collections/20-bikes/products/eovolt-afternoon-20-folding-electric-bike-1 also available at also available at A Different Gear
A high quality but heavy do anything everyday folder with good power for breezing the hillier parts of Sheffield would be the Tern Vektron – highly rated here in its Q9 model form by e-bike tips, and also available as the more powerful, wider geared Tern-vektron-s10 model which will prove easier in the hillier parts of Sheffield.
Cube have just entered the folding fray with their typically well thought through and high value Fold Hybrid .
Based on the excellent Compact Hybrid, it comes with the excellent Performance motor with the new Shimano e-bike specific 5 speed hub gear, and although this has a relatively narrow gear range together they could be a winning combo for low maintenance Sheffield utility use.
These are all around the 20 – 24kg mark, so hard work to carry far, but you may want to check out their various design formats that allow them to be wheeled when folded.
If leaping on and off busy trains or lugging your bike up stairs etc you need lightness and especially compactness when folded, and nothing beats a Brompton if these attributes are needed.
Consider a genuine electric brompton but note that users have experienced issues, such as those noted by Brompton themselves , and some local users have had to have bikes or motors replaced under warranty.
Here are great reviews comparing the electric and ‘acoustic’ Bromptons by Brilliant bikes
OR consider one of the Brompton conversions (but first buy your Brompton, and be sure it is a 6 speed model, maybe with the lower 44T chainring gearing option for really hilly parts of Sheffield !)
The sparticle and nano Brompton conversions are solid well known performers. A friend loves his Nano converted Brommy, he and his partner both use it.They value its ‘throttle’ function, and its use of everyday Bosch tool batteries. He had his converted at Manchester based popupbikes
Woosh bikes produce the high value Rambletta folder and have just released what looks like a well developed and good value Brompton conversion kit that fits straight into the front wheel, with smaller batteries in the pipeline.
If money is no object, and maximum utility is not a priority, consider the top end low weight folders from gocycle, reviewed here but note this will be less Sheffield friendly as power doesn’t kick in till the bike reaches 4 mph – potentially problematic on a steep hill start.
Note that you’d need to consider the 4 speed model for hilly Sheffield, and even then try to test it’s suitability for your routes/purposes.
If you want a semi folding compact(ish) car replacement type bike and need to move your kids or loads of stuff around consider the very clever tern hsd-p9 which parks on its backside! (Not to be confused with the similar but heftier and even more useful gsd )
Rent the hsd to try it or buy it locally at A Different Gear.
BUT If it’s space or storage issues you are trying to address and you just want a good non folding but compact bike consider a compact-hybrid tested here . It has clever ‘Speedlifter twist’ fold sideways handlebars – just add folding or detachable pedals and you’ve got a virtually 2 dimensional bike to park in a hallway, on a vehicle bike rack, or indeed to lay flat in a hatchback. Eg: the cheap n cheerful folding pedals at: Decathlon folding-pedals
OR personally i’d go for better quality ones that come off completely for a real slimline result: eg MKS-MT-E-Ezy-Pedals (but means you have to remember to take them with the bike – just hang them on the bars when you remove them!) – a good anti theft measure too!
Both pairs have the legally required pedal reflectors fitted!
Electrically assisted Mountain bikes (e-mtb’s) are also now popular. Most retail models are road legal (ie standard 250watt motors) however more powerful machines can legally be used off road on ‘private land’.
Electrical assist is also well suited to Tandems, to Recumbents, and to those cycles adapted for users who have particular needs beyond a usual bike.
Note1: Bear in mind where you are planning to use and keep the bike. Not everyone will be able to lift a heavier e-bike model plus accessories up steps/on to trains etc. For example if you are likely to be putting your e-bike on a train, particularly one with ‘hang your bike up on a hook by its front wheel’ style storage as part of a tour you may want to give serious thought to getting one of the lighter models.(more train info in section 19 below.)
Note 2: Be aware that the few remaining older style e-bikes with batteries mounted between the seat post and the back wheel are a bit longer overall. With these storage or using dedicated train spaces and lifts etc can be an issue.