My family has been car-free for 15 years, and during that time, my Bay Area commute has never been more than a couple of miles. Riding to work is my morning cup of coffee, but in recent years, I’ve found myself taking the bus or asking for a ride more often. I realized an e-bike was the solution to keep me rolling on two wheels.

red electric bike icon
The Expert: Laura McCamy is a freelance writer who started her journey as a bike activist when she was East Bay Bike Commuter of the Year in 2008. As a writer for the California Bicycle Coalition, she has collected dozens of e-bike stories and helped promote California’s soon-to-launch Electric Bicycle Incentive Project.

An electric bike, like a classic bike, is a fabulous tool. It makes biking a viable choice for people who have long commutes, need to transport kids or cargo, or live in hilly places that might otherwise be hard to bike around. And, when you feel that extra boost from the electric motor, you might just get hooked.

One of my favorite things about getting around by e-bike is that, other than charging the battery, there's not much to worry about. Instead of clipless-ready cycling shoes, I can ride in my favorite platform sandals without sacrificing speed or performance, and I don’t have to worry about sweating through my work clothes. My bike, like most e-bikes, has built-in lights powered by the battery, so I never ride home in the dark because I forgot to charge my lights.

rad power radmission electric hybrid bike ridden by amy wolff in easton, pa in october 2022
Trevor Raab

All you really need to start e-bike commuting is the bike itself. However, there are a few essential considerations that can make your transition easier.

First, get an e-bike with a built-in motor rather than adding after-market power to your current ride. The performance and safety of a bike designed to be electric far surpasses a DIY add-on. To help offset the cost, check whether you qualify for a local rebate or purchase incentive. Government agencies are slowly waking up to the fact that e-bikes are an excellent way to replace car trips and protect the environment, so they deserve subsidies similar to what’s already available for electric vehicles.

My e-bike has gotten me on my bike on days when I might have otherwise wimped out.

The logistics of your commute and even your parking options will affect the type of e-bike that makes sense for you. For a multimodal commute, a standard or folding e-bike that can easily fit on a bus rack or in an elevator is a good choice. Meanwhile, a long-tail cargo bike makes ferrying kids to school on your way to the office or taking presentation materials to client meetings easy. But many cargo bikes like mine are too big to fit in bike lockers, and even freeform bike parking can present a challenge. Most bike racks weren’t made for bikes with running boards (like my bike has), and some are placed too close to the wall for bigger wheels, so I often find myself cursing the lack of suitable cargo bike parking.

Most e-bikes are pricey, so security at your chosen parking spot is essential. Even though I carry two beefy locks, I look for indoor parking if I’m going to be somewhere for more than an hour or so. Finding a secure place to park during the workday, such as a bike locker, bike station, or in your office, is crucial preparation for an e-bike commute.

My e-bike has gotten me on my bike on days when I might have otherwise wimped out, and I don’t have to worry that I’ll be too tired to ride home at the end of a long day because I can boost the pedal assist. I love all the stuff I can haul on my bike, whether it’s groceries or furniture. But mostly, my regular commutes keep me connected to the joy of biking, no matter what speed.

red electric bike icons driving away from each other with lines indicating their speed trailing behind them

The Best E-Bikes for Commuting

E-bike choices are broad and expanding as more manufacturers add electric models in a variety of styles to suit different needs. Rides come in a range of prices, starting at under $1,000 to over $10,000 for a high-end cargo bike. Here are three versatile options I recommend.


Xtracycle Swoop

A Cargo E-Bike for Hauling Anything

Xtracycle Swoop

A Cargo E-Bike for Hauling Anything

Xtracycle Swoop

$4,999 at
  • Comfortable and easy to mount
  • Excellent for hauling groceries, furniture, and people
  • Bike size can limit secure parking options
  • Pricey

Key Specs

BatteryShimano Steps 630 Wh
Pedal Assist Levels3 (Eco, Trail, and Boost)
Top Speed20 mph

I tried this long-tail cargo bike and a shorter Xtracycle model when I bought my e-bike, and although a compact size was appealing, I found the Swoop more comfortable. The small rear wheel gives it a stable ride, even with a full load of groceries or passengers in back, and the step-through frame makes it easy to mount. The Swoop isn’t the cheapest long-tail cargo bike on the market, but it’s a well-made bike with a Chromoly frame that can carry up to 400 pounds and should last you (and hopefully me) many years.


Tern Vektron

A Space-Saving Folding E-Bike

Tern Vektron S10

Vektron S10
A Space-Saving Folding E-Bike

Tern Vektron S10

  • Rides like a standard e-bike
  • Folding design can still support cargo
  • Not the most compact folding e-bike

Key Specs

BatteryBosch PowerPack 400 Wh
Pedal Assist Levels4 (Eco, Tour, Sport, Turbo)
Top Speed20 mph

This recommendation comes courtesy of my wife, whose bike-plus-train commute necessitated an adaptable e-bike. She loves the Vektron’s classic bike look and feel, even though it’s electric and folds. Although it isn’t as compact as a small-wheeled folder like a Brompton, she’s able to fold it and fit it in her classroom at work. The sturdy rear rack can carry a small passenger or a surprising amount of cargo—she recently used it to bring home a range hood from IKEA.


Aventon Soltera

Aventon Soltera

  • Sleek frame with integrated battery
  • Lightweight for an e-bike
  • Not stock with rack or fenders
  • Rim brakes


BATTERYAventon 346 Wh

Aventon has played a big role in popularizing e-bikes by offering them at more affordable prices. The Soltera is a singlespeed bike with a boost. At 42.1 pounds, it’s heavier than standard bikes but lighter than many other electric bikes. But its primary benefit is the price: Selling for just $1,300, the cost is comparable to some classic bikes. It’s a great intro to e-biking and ideal for bike-only commuting. And if singlespeeds aren't for you, the Soltera is also available as a 7-speed bike.

Essential E-Bike Commuting Accessories

Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 Bike Lock
ABUS Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 Bike Lock
Now 39% Off
$128 at Amazon$160 at Walmart$160 at Overstock

Securely locking an e-bike with fat wheels and a fat tube to a bike rack or pole is a geometry problem that’s almost impossible to solve without the flexibility of a lock like the Bordo. It provides maximum protection thanks to hardened steel links joined with rivets that can stand up even to sawing and a locking mechanism that will frustrate bike thieves.

Xtracycle U-Tubes

This set of two U-Tubes, which attach to my bike’s frame alongside the rear wheel, is a cargo bike essential for me. They provide a footrest for my passengers and add stability to cargo in my panniers. I once balanced a wooden table on one, and I regularly use them to tie down oversized loads. This model is specific to my Xtracycle; get a comparable product to fit the cargo bike of your choice.

Nyon Computer Retrofit Kit
Bosch Nyon Computer Retrofit Kit

I saved money on my e-bike by getting the Purion Bosch computer that came standard, which displays my mode and a few other battery stats. I instantly regretted not upgrading, mostly because I want to see if I’m on time for work as I ride. The Nyon has a clock and much more, showing weather, fitness stats, and navigation. It also connects to your phone through Bosch’s eBike Connect app. You can add this kit later as a retrofit if your bike has a Bosch motor. No matter what motor your bike comes with, I recommend getting a comprehensive computer, if you have the option.

Porteur Rack
Velo Orange Porteur Rack

A porteur rack adds front carrying capacity for a backpack, box, or bag of groceries without blocking your e-bike’s built-in lights. I got a built-in porteur rack when I bought my Xtracycle, but if I hadn’t, I’d add this one from Velo Orange. It’s both elegant and sturdy, and it attaches to the front fork, so it’s much more stable than a front basket.

Polka Face Gloss with MIPS
Nutcase Polka Face Gloss with MIPS
Now 44% Off

Nutcase helmets combine solid MIPS protection with fun style. They aren’t as well-vented or lightweight as some more expensive helmets, but you don’t need vents on your e-bike. You need polka dots and stripes! I’m a fan of the Polka Face Gloss, but if you ride a lot at night, you might want Nutcase’s Vio helmet, $150, that has a built-in USB-rechargeable light.

red electric bike icons driving away from each other with lines indicating their speed trailing behind them

How to Safely Charge an E-bike Battery

rad power radmission electric hybrid bike ridden by amy wolff in easton, pa in october 2022
Trevor Raab

The lithium-ion batteries that power e-bikes can, in rare instances, catch fire. A few simple safety precautions will keep your battery safe and powered up.

⚡️ Don’t use an aftermarket or off-brand battery. Yes, e-bike batteries are expensive (a Bosch replacement battery can cost around $800), but the risk of starting a fire isn’t worth it.

⚡️ Only use a charger made for your bike’s battery. Here again, aftermarket options can increase fire risk.

⚡️ Finally, don’t charge your e-bike battery when you’re not around to monitor it. If the battery gets hot, unplug it (and then go get a new battery). Frequent topping off can shorten battery life, but a few hours of charging once or twice a week will probably give you the range you need for your commute.