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What are the best lightweight electric bikes?
The word lightweight isn’t something that usually springs to mind when thinking about electric bikes. Traditionally e-bikes have been very heavy, mainly down to the extra weight of the electric motor and in particular the battery. Thanks to recent developments in motor and battery technology, the weight of electric bikes is starting to come down significantly. In fact, some are even lighter that regular bikes. In this article I will be looking at a selection of 9 of the best lightweight electric bikes currently available **plus a bonus bike at the end.
About 20 years ago, early e-bikes were still using very heavy sealed lead acid batteries, as we moved through the first decade of the 21st century, NiCAD batteries started to be used, but is wasn’t until this last decade we saw lithium battery technology become commonplace.
As the technology has evolved so has the energy density of the lithium cells – put simply you can cram more power into a single cell than you could a few years back. The upshot of this, is a more powerful battery, that is not only smaller but considerably lighter.
Another big leap in technology is motor efficiency. Back in the day when e-bikes first became available, the motors used were typically heavy direct-drive hub motors.
The latest generation of electric bike motors like the Fazua Evation and X35 ebikemotion are small, lightweight and efficient. Not only that, but they result in an e-bike that is practically indistinguishable from a regular bicycle.
The benefits of owning a lightweight e-bike
Owning a lightweight e-bike is a particularly good idea if you have trouble lugging heavy items around. One of the first questions a lot of my customers used to ask me was ‘how heavy will my bike be’ after I had fitted a conversion kit. Another thing to think about is a lot of bike racks made for cars have a weight limit, and a lot of modern e-bikes exceed this limit. Below I have listed four of the key benefits to owning a lightweight electric bike.
Ease of transportation
With the difference in weight being as much as 10kg, owning a sub-15kg electric bike is going to make life a lot easier, particularly if you want to put your bike on a car rack or you live in a flat and have to take your bike up stairs. They’re also a lot easier to cart around especially if you take your bike on a train from time to time.
Easy to pedal with motor switched off
Regular e-bikes that weigh in excess of 20kg can be pedalled with the assist off, but the extra weight quickly becomes a burden, even on the slightest hill – you will feel like you are cycling with a couple of panniers loaded with shopping!
When riding a lightweight electric bike, pedalling with the motor off isn’t an issue. In fact, all the lighter e-bikes I have tested feel like regular bikes and the moderately extra weight doesn’t really impact on the overall riding feel.
Most lightweight e-bikes have lower capacity batteries by design. There are a couple of reasons for this – the main one is to keep the weight down, the second is so the battery can be neatly integrated into the frame.
Lower overall weight will improve the efficiency of the motor, as it will not need to work so hard in order to produce the assist. 8-10kg can make one hell of a difference to a 250w motor.
An e-bike that looks like a regular bike
All of the bikes featured in this article don’t really look like electric bikes. This can have a few benefits – from an aesthetics point of view these bikes look a lot neater, there’s no large battery pack dominating the frame. Also, they are less likely to be targeted by would-be thieves.
Another thing is, there is still a bit of isolated snobbery within the cycling community regarding e-bikes and some riders don’t want to ride a bike that shouts out ‘I’M RIDING AN E-BIKE’. Personally any cyclist who knocks someone for riding an electric bike is a backward-thinking idiot and shouldn’t be given the time of day!
The best lightweight electric bikes are…
And so, on to my selection of 9 of the best lightweight electric bikes currently available. None of the e-bikes below are particularly cheap. There are cheaper bikes available, but I have gone with models that, in my opinion offer the best all-round riding experience and versatility.
1. Orbea Vibe H30
The new Orbea Vibe H30 is a totally redesigned replacement for last years Gain F40. It uses the latest version of the tried and tested Mahle X35 ebikemotion system which a small and lightweight 250w rear hub motor and 250Wh (watt hour) internal battery. Pedal assist is provided by a magnetic sensor ring installed on the rear freehub. This ensures smooth electric assistance as and when needed.
If it’s light weight you’re looking for, the Orbea Vibe H30 will fit the bill perfectly. Weighing in at under 14kg it weighs about the same as a regular hardtail mountain bike. The 42t front chainring combined with 11-46 10-speed rear cassette give a good spread of gears and the excellent Magura MT30 hydraulic brakes do a good job of slowing the rider down.
Buy Now: Orbea Vibe H30 £2199.00
2. Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0
The all-new Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 uses the same technology as found on their £10k + S-Works Creo carbon e-road bike. Their latest SL 1.1 mid-drive motor was developed in collaboration with German company Mahle (who also make the x35 system).
Riding the Turbo Vado SL is a totally sublime e-bike experience – imagine losing 20kg in weight overnight, then having a super smoothie for breakfast before heading out on a ride with a strong tailwind… You get the idea?
What the Specialized offers isn’t a motor that takes over, but an assist system that mechanically enhances your own abilities in a way that make you feel superhuman!
Tipping the scales at just 14.9kg, makes the Vado SL an easy bike to get along with. When you bear in mind the impressive 320Wh internal battery and the 1.96kg motor, you have the perfect combination of e-assist combined with a potential range of up to 80 miles.
In my opinion the Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 is the best hybrid electric bike in it’s class. There’s nothing else at this price that has the battery range combined with ultra smooth pedal assist all wrapped up in a bike that weighs under 15kg. The Vado SL has given us a glimpse of things to come, and from this point onward, e-bikes can only get better. The Vado SL 4.0 is also featured in my article 10 of the best electric hybrid bikes under £3000
3. Ribble CGR AL e Step-Through
For those of you already familiar with Ribble’s excellent range of e-bikes, the new CGR AL e Step-Through is basically an easy-entry frame version of their best-selling electric gravel bike. The CGR AL e Step-Through is available with Shimano Tiagra (Sport version) or Shimano 105 (Enthusiast version) and comes fitted with high volume Schwalbe G-One gravel tyres and a practical low-step frame geometry that can also handle the rough and tumble of riding unpaved surfaces. Not only is this an incredibly versatile electric bike, but it tips the scales at just 14.1kg. Making it lighter than quite a few regular hybrid bikes.
The Ribble is powered by the latest version of the Mahle X35 ebikemotion system, as used in the Orbea Gain. This drive system is not only very lightweight, but has proven to be generally very reliable over time. The 250Wh battery will give an assisted range in the region of 50 miles, or more if you only use the assist occasionally.
The Ribble CGR AL e gravel bike heritage is unmistakable, this step-through version is a game-changer and will open up the world of gravel riding to a lot of people who may have previously been put off by the standover height of the original version. The basic frame geometry is the same as its regular counterpart apart from the sloping top tube. It’s a very capable all-terrain bike, and would be perfect for the daily commute or exploring trails on the weekend.
4. Boardman HYB 8.9e
Boardman have obviously put a lot of thought into the HYB 8.9e – it uses the excellent Fazua Evation modular drive system and the total bike weighs in at under 16kg. Better still, if you want to ride without the motor and battery, you can remove it in seconds, fit a blanking plate (optional extra) and away you go!
The HYB 8.9e is the cheapest Fazua-powered e-bike currently available, and the rest of the bike uses quality Shimano components, particularly the excellent Deore M6000 1 x 10 drivetrain.
The Boardman HYB 8.9e offers excellent value for money. It is a well-designed bike that can comfortably handle a mixture of terrains. It’s a bit heavier than both the Ribble and Orbea, but has the benefit of an easily removable drive system and battery. Here is my full review of the Boardman HYB 8.9e.
5. Lapierre E-Sensium 2.2
It’s good to see this excellent and affordable lightweight electric bike has been continued in 2021. The Lapierre E-Sensium 2.2 is the latest version of last years E-Sensium 200. It looks to be largely unchanged from last years model apart from a different colour scheme.
The Lapierre E-Sensium 2.2 uses the same x35 ebikemotion system as a lot of the other e-bikes in this article, but the E-Sensium is the cheapest one available. It really is excellent value for money and the bike is incredibly well finished off and uses Shimano’s 2 x 9 Sora drivetrain. This is basically a flat handlebar road bike that benefits from a more upright riding position while retaining the sporty feel of its more expensive stablemate, the E-Sensium 3.2 – this really is a quality bike for the price and weighing in at around 15kg it’s nice and lightweight.
Lapierre are a quality brand with a long heritage in producing thoroughbred race bikes, that heritage is evident in the E-Sensium 2.2.
Buy Now: Lapierre E-Sensium 2.2 £1999.00
6. GT eGrade Current Gravel E-Bike
Gravel bikes are designed to be versatile ‘do everything’ bikes and the new GT eGrade Current is designed for riding on tarmac, gravel paths and forest trails. GT Cycles have a long and illustrious history producing award winning mountain bikes and this experience is evident in the frame geometry of the eGrade.
Another great thing about the eGrade Current is the sensible use of a wide gear range – with a 40 tooth front chainring paired up with an 11-48 10-speed rear cassette, you’re guaranteed to never run out of gears on steep climbs. Tektro flat-mount hydraulic brakes provide good stopping power.
At the heart of the eGrade is the popular x35 ebikemotion system with 250Wh battery, which helps keep the total weight to around 14kg.
If you’re after a lightweight electric bike that can handle the rough stuff, then the GT eGrade Current is hard to beat. The gearing is perfect for off-road riding and the bike benefits from light and responsive handling. Well worth considering if you’re after a light e-bike for riding off the beaten track. Read the full review here.
7. Ribble AL e Fully Loaded Step-Through
Ribble cycles have just released their first step-through electric bike range using the same X35 ebikemotion technology as other models. The Hybrid AL e has now been given the low-step treatment and this ‘fully loaded’ version comes complete with rack and mudguards. Weighing in at a total of 15kg, it’s very light for a hybrid e-bike. It also comes ready for light trail riding courtesy of the gravel bike frame geometry and Schwalbe G-One tyres. There is also the excellent SRAM NX 1 x 11 gearing which uses a massive 11-42 rear cassette for a good spread of gears.
Ribble have succeeded in producing a practical and versatile step-through electric bike that not only looks great, but is substantially lighter than some of the competition. Here is an e-bike that will be equally comfortable on canal paths and urban streets. Use the assist only when you really need it and ride it like a regular bike any other time – the best of both worlds!
8. Orbea Optima E50
The Orbea Optima E50 is designed to be a lightweight alternative to the raft of heavy low-step urban e-bikes currently available. It uses the same x35 ebikemotion system as its sibling the Orbea Vibe.
Designed to be nimble and easy to ride, the Optima E50 can be ridden as a normal bike without feeling the weight penalty you would usually associate with an electric bike. There is a useful boost of electric once the assist is engaged which feels like you have a very strong tailwind all the time!
I really like the Orbea Optima E50, its appeal is in its simplicity – if you’re looking for a lightweight electric bike to negotiate urban streets the Orbea Optima is ideal, it’s also the cheapest bike on this list.
Buy Now: Orbea Optima E50 £1899
9. Specialized Como SL 4.0
Just released is the new Specialized Como SL 4.0 – this great new low-step electric bike uses the same excellent SL 1.1 motor and 320Wh battery as the Turbo Vado SL but with a unisex design easy-entry frame, and load-lugging capabilities. Another great feature is the city-friendly Shimano Nexus 5 internally geared hub.
This is going to be a great choice for commuters or anyone who wants to negotiate busy urban streets to run errands like popping to the shops or going out to meet friends for a coffee. I can also see it being useful for the ever growing band of cycle couriers working for companies like Deliveroo or Stuart.
Considering this bike is fully-equipped with mudguards, pannier rack, front rack with useful basket and heavy-duty puncture resistant tyres it weighs in at a very respectable 17kg – this is for a bike that’s designed to carry 130kg (including rider).
If you’re after an efficient and practical e-bike for commuting, shopping or leisure riding, the new Specialized Como SL 4.0 looks like a great machine!
Buy Now: Specialized Como SL 4.0 £3500
🥇My Personal Recommendation – Vitus Mach E Urban Electric Bike
I had a chance to ride a Vitus Mach E Urban recently and I was so impressed with it, I’ve brought one! It really is a cracking electric bike for the money. Although slightly heavier than the other e-bikes featured here, it does feature a powerful Shimano Steps E6100 motor and long-range 504Wh battery. I have personally weighed this bike and it comes in at 17.8kg (for the large frame) which is still substantially lighter than something like a Cube Touring Hybrid One 400, which weighs 25kg.
Shimano claim a range of around 62 miles (100km) when used in ‘Normal’ assist mode, with a potential range of 180km in ‘Eco’ mode (based on 100kg combined rider/bike weight riding flat terrain). I went out on my first ride yesterday (19/10/20) and rode 25 miles with 2200ft climbing – I kept the bike in Eco mode for the entire ride and only used one bar off the battery indicator. After the ride, the estimated remaining range (on the display) is still 65 miles using Eco mode. This is really promising, considering I weigh 107kg, making the combined rider/bike weight 124.8kg – I reckon a 100 mile range is quite possible.
I personally found ‘Eco’ mode more than adequate, even for a 12% climb. Others may need to use higher assist as it really depends on your level of fitness. In full power mode it absolutely flies, and I can say without question it is the liveliest e-bike in this group.
Pedalling beyond the 15.5mph cut-off point was not a problem, and the transition is incredibly smooth (almost seamless). The Vitus Mach E has a 44t chainring with a 9-speed 11-34 rear cassette and the Shimano Alivio gears work flawlessly. The Shimano UR300 flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes work really well, and the high volume gravel tyres make for a really comfy ride.
Apart from the incredibly smooth, quiet and responsive motor, the display has some really neat features – I really liked the pedalling cadence reading and the estimated range, which is given for ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’ and ‘High’ power modes. There is also bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity available through the Shimano E-Tube Project smartphone app. You can even connect to a Garmin compatible bike computer.
The Vitus Mach E is a really well-made e-bike. The 6061 alloy frame has a relaxed geometry and is finished with smooth welds and a great paint finish. It also comes with a full-carbon fork (including steerer) and tough wheels with thru-axles. I did a 3 mile gravel loop on Bodmin moor and it handled rougher terrain with confidence.
The Mach E is a great all-rounder and at the current price is unbeatable. I cannot recommend this bike enough, and I’ll be doing some much longer rides in future to test the battery range to its fullest. Read my full review of the Vitus Mach E Urban e-bike.
Buy Now: Vitus Mach E Urban £2199
So, out of all the lightweight electric bikes featured in this article, which one is the best?
I have updated this post to include the Vitus Mach E Urban which I purchased in October 2020. It’s great value for money. I love the way it rides and the smooth power delivery, but the big deal clincher is the massive battery range. Although it’s marginally heavier than the other e-bikes featured here, I find it is fine to ride with the assist off, even on moderate hills. The 2021 model Vitus Mach E is now available (subject to stock).
The Mach E is a great bike to ride. It handles very well, and inspires confidence on tarmac and gravel. I personally find ‘Eco’ assist mode to be just right for me, but it’s good to know there is more power on tap if needed. It’s more gutsy than the other bikes featured here and the 60Nm torque Shimano Steps E6100 motor is an absolute gem!
I still really like the Specialized Turbo Vado SL at £2900 for the entry-level model it really is a great bit of kit. It’s lightweight, looks great, has a very good battery range and that motor is just sublime! The Specialized was released late in 2020 and uses the same e-assist technology found on the £10k + Turbo Creo S-works.
If you’re looking for an e-bike that can handle rougher terrain but has the practicality of a low-step frame, then the Ribble CGR AL e Step-Through takes some beating (for the price). The GT eGrade Current also has a good set of gravel riding credentials and would certainly be worth considering if you’re going to be riding on unpaved surfaces.
The Boardman HYB 8.9e is a best seller, and is still the cheapest electric bike (that I’m aware of) that uses the removable Fazua Evation drive system.
For lightweight urban e-biking, both the Lapierre E-Sensium 2.2 and Orbea Vibe H30 are both fairly evenly matched as far as specification is concerned, although I think the Lapierre definitely has the edge in both price and on-road performance.
The Ribble AL e Hybrid Step-Through is a worthwhile alternative to the Cannondale and Orbea, particularly if you prefer the practicality of an easy-entry frame. It boasts an impressive list of components, and comes with a useful pannier rack and mudguards – there is also a ‘naked’ version which is £100 cheaper.
I’m also really impressed with the new Specialized Como SL 4.0 – it’s probably one of the most versatile e-bikes featured here, benefiting from an internally geared hub and very good cargo carrying credentials.
Regardless of what you decide, all of the e-bikes featured above are excellent. My personal favourite is the Vitus, but it is a bit heavier than the rest. I absolutely love the new Specialized, but I realise that the price tag will put some people off. Ribble currently have a great range of lightweight electric bikes available including the AL e hybrid (pictured above).
Thanks for reading, and if you need any help or advice choosing the right electric bike, please leave a comment below and I will aim to reply within 24hrs.