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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 7 of the lightest e-bikes currently available.
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 7 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 Gain F40
The Orbea Gain F40 is currently the cheapest electric bike in the Orbea Gain range. It is basically a cheaper flat handlebar version of the D50, with the added bonus of hydraulic disc brakes an 11-36 9-speed rear cassette. If you’re after a lightweight e-bike then this is about the lightest you will get at this price.
I have ridden various models of the Gain and what always surprises me is how light and nimble they feel. If you were given this bike to ride and weren’t told it was an e-bike, you wouldn’t be any the wiser.
The tried and tested Mahle X35 ebikemotion system utilises a small 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 Gain F40 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 11-36 9-speed rear cassette give a good spread of gears and the Shimano hydraulic brakes do a good job of slowing the rider down. I personally think this is much better value than their D50 drop-bar version which is £200 dearer, but has mechanical disc brakes and 8 gears (at the back). It’s a great looking bike too!
Buy Now: Orbea Gain F40 £1799.00
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.
3. Ribble CGR AL e Flat Bar Edition
For those of you already familiar with Ribble’s excellent range of e-bikes, the CGR AL e is basically a flat handlebar version of their best-selling electric gravel bike. The CGR AL e uses the excellent SRAM Apex 1 x 11 drivetrain and has high volume WTB gravel tyres and a frame geometry designed to 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 13.5kg. Making it lighter than quite a few regular hybrid bikes.
The Ribble is powered by the proven 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 flat handlebar version is identical to its drop bar counterpart apart from the bars. It’s a very capable all-terrain bike, and is perfect for the daily commute or exploring trails on the weekend. It’s also one of the lightest bikes in this selection at only 13.5kg. One of my favourites here.
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. Cannondale Quick NEO 2 SL
Cannondale have been producing some great e-bikes over the last few years, but most of these have been the heavier, mid-drive variety. More recently they have been focusing on keeping the weight down by producing a whole range of bikes that use the X35 ebikemotion system.
The Cannondale Quick NEO 2 SL is their answer to the Orbea Gain F40, and it really is an excellent, lightweight electric bike.
It uses a lightweight alloy frame with carbon fork and Shimano 9-speed gearing and Shwalbe Energizer puncture resistant e-bike specific tyres. Performance and battery range will be similar to the Orbea and Ribble.
I really like the Cannondale Quick NEO 2 SL, it has a very clean, understated look and weighs in at just shy of 14kg making it worthy of a place on this list. It’s also priced very reasonably being a bit cheaper than the Ribble and a little more expensive than the Orbea. It’s a light and responsive ride and whether you choose to use the assist or not.
Buy Now: Cannondale Quick NEO 2 SL £1999.00
6. Whyte Hoxton V1
British brand Whyte started producing e-bikes only a few years ago and their range now covers various discipline from gravel to mountain biking. The Whyte Hoxton V1 is primarily aimed at the urban and leisure market.
Like the Boardman above, the Hoxton uses the excellent Fazua Evation motor and has very similar frame geometry to their Gosford gravel e-bike. It’s a really tough looking, well put together bike, that weighs in at under 16kg.
The Hoxton uses Shimano’s excellent SLX groupset with a single chainring up front and an 11-42 cassette at the rear. The brakes are excellent Tektro Auriga HD-M290 and the tyres are the excellent WTB Horizon 650b x 47c tubeless ready – perfect for riding gravel, bridleways, tarmac or whatever takes your fancy!
The Whyte Hoxton is basically a flat handlebar version of their excellent Gosford electric gravel bike. I has a very similar specification, but is considerably cheaper. It weighs in at under 16kg and has all the benefits associated with the Fazua drive system. I really like the Hoxton, it’s well-built and has that rugged all-terrain versatility which is so important in a bike these days. Definitely worth considering.
7. Lapierre E-Sensium 200
The Lapierre E-Sensium 200 is basically a flat handlebar version of their E-Sensium 300 electric road bike. This is a real competitor to the likes of the Orbea Gain, and it’s a very well made bike, that’s nicely finished off with fully internally routed cables.
The E-sensium 200 uses Shimano’s dependable Sora 9 x 2 drivetrain featuring a 50/34 compact crankset with an 11-34 9-speed rear cassette and hydraulic brakes.
Just like the Orbea, Cannondale and Ribble the Lapierre uses the excellent X35 e-assist system, which means the overall weight is kept to a minimum at 14.5kg. It’s definitely a worthwhile alternative to the Orbea Gain. Read my full review here.
Buy Now: Lapierre E-Sensium 200 £1999
So, out of all the lightweight electric bikes featured in this article, which one is the best?
My personal favourite is the Specialized Turbo Vado SL at £2499 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 has only just been released (May 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, then the Ribble CGR AL e flat bar edition takes some beating (for the price). The Whyte Hoxton 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 Cannondale Quick NEO 2 and Orbea Gain F40 are both fairly evenly matched as far as specification is concerned. I have a ridden many different models of the Orbea Gain and I think it pips the Cannondale to the post for sheer value (at £200 cheaper) while offering the same X35 motor / battery system.
Lapierre’s E-Sensium 200 is a worthwhile alternative to the Cannondale, Orbea and Ribble. It’s finished in a lovely metallic blue with smooth weld alloy-frame and fully internally routed cables and at £1999 is competitively priced.
Regardless of what you decide, all of the e-bikes featured above are excellent. 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.