3 Perfect Electric Bikes for Commuting in Traffic
Paradoxically, road traffic is often a bigger concern for suburban and rural commuters (when compared to city commuters) as traffic moves faster and often travels further between traffic lights and other control points.
As a commuter cycling in traffic the safest approach is to attempt to keep up with the other road users. In these situations acceleration is key so as to discourage other drivers from attempting to pass you – sometimes unsafely.
Below we recommend specific electric bikes that have some features that may be of relevance to you.
Click here to jump immediately to these recommendations. Or, continue reading to understand the thinking behind these recommendations.
Electric bikes are heavier than traditional bikes and thus require more effort to accelerate – especially from standing still. The motors on electric bikes are designed to assist with your pedalling, not replace it. The important factor here is how the bike detects that you are pedalling.
Most front hub and rear hub electric bikes looks for rotation of the crank (which is what your pedals are attached to). Often you need to make at least half a turn before power is provided. What this means is that you have to get the bike moving from a standing start without any assistance at all.
Mid-drive electric motors are integrating into the crank and include torque sensors. These measure the force you are putting on the pedals themselves and provide power immediately – dramatically easing the effort of starting off from a standing stop.
If your commute requires you to ride in traffic, especially in a suburban setting where speeds are faster, torque sensors are critical.
A traditional bike has a very light front end (the front wheel and fork). This allows for easy maneuvering.
Electric bikes with front hubs incorporate the electric motor in the front wheel, which makes steering heavier and less responsive. If you are commuting in quick moving traffic, you should probably avoid front hub electric motors.
Battery Range is likely not as big of a factor. Yes, you need a sufficient largely battery to handle your journey, but when cycling in suburban setting or rural settings with lots of traffic, head winds are less pronounced and thus the amount of energy used for a given leg of your commute is likely to be more consistent.
Weight and its distribution is also not a major factor. Yes, it is always better to have a lighter bike (as they are easier to handle when riding and when not); however, the electric motor will largely compensate in most circumstances.
1st Option - Emu Roam Crossbar Electric Road Bike (£997)
Perhaps one of the least expensive electric bikes available in the UK, The Guardian summarises the Emu Roam as " a good bike at a fair price."
A British brand and a UK company, the Emu Roam is configured as a city bike and so a more comfortable, leisurely ride - perhaps not suitable if you have a longer commute. The entry level battery has a range of 50 miles, which can be removed and charged during the day - taking a good top up in 1-2 hours but requiring 6-7 hours for a full recharge.
The components are good quality: Shimano breaks and gears, Samsung battery cells, puncture-resistant tyres, chain guard.
One drawback is the front hub motor. Although this is simpler (and thus an inexpensive bike) and easier to maintain, the bike is heavier, especially in the front, noticeable even when mounting a kerb.
Another drawback is the 250W motor. Although this is the highest power allowed for an EAPC (see FAQ: Are electric bikes legal? ), combined with the overgearing typical of city bikes and the loss of traction typical of a front hub, this means that the Emu Roam is good on the flat but might not give sufficient assistance on reasonable hills.
It has a nice security feature. The display is password protected and the motor won't work if you don't unlock the display. On the other hand, if the display is stolen during the day you will be in a pickle getting the bike home.
2nd Option - Emu Evo Crossbar Electric City Bike (£1,697)
The Emu Evo is a good step up from the Emu Roam. Same British brand and UK company, this bike is configured for a longer or more varied commute. First, the seat is slightly higher, pushing you into the more traditional cycling posture.
Second, rather than a front hub, the Evo has a rear hub mounted electric motor. Thus, although still 250W, this bike is easier to handle and maintains better traction on loose surfaces and inclines. An advantage of a rear hub motor is that the bike is noticeably lighter (18.5 kg instead of 22.5), and given that the weight is in the back, you will find this bike much more natural to ride.
The entry-level bike has a smaller battery and thus less range (30 miles) and, unlike the Emu Roam, the battery is not removable meaning that to recharge you need to plug in the whole bike. If it is inconvenient to charge the bike during the day, you might want to opt for the larger batter (range 60 miles). If it is inconvenient to charge overnight, then this may not be the right bike for you.
Similar good quality Shimano gears, Samsung battery cells, and puncture-resistant tyres. The Evo comes with Shimano hydraulic disk brakes rather than V-brakes, giving better stopping power.
It comes with the same nice security feature. The display is password protected and the motor won't work if you don't unlock the display. On the other hand, if the display is stolen during the day you will be in a pickle getting the bike home.
3rd Option - Ghost Hybride Square Cross B2.9 Urban Electric Bike (£2,599)
If you have further to commute or want more natural power assistance, Bike Review magazine rates this bike 9.1 out of 10, adding that they are "hugely impressed by the quality, price, reviews and features" of this bike.
The bike comes with mid-drive Bosch Performance CX motor, which was rated the "Best Motor" by EBIKE Magazine in 2020 and was awarded Gold in 2021 by the readers of eMTB News. Mid-drive ebikes offer the best feedback and control as they monitor the pressure and power you are putting into the pedals.
The Ghost comes with a 500 Wh battery giving you a range of 68 miles before charging.
The bike weighs 22 kg but is easy to manage as the weight is in the centre and low down. This bike comes with Shimano components and the Bosch Purion display. Which? magazine reviewed components for ebikes and found that the Bosch motor and better were the best, and the Bosch Purion display was only beaten out by the Bosch Intuvia display.