Electric road bikes are booming, and none more so than these 'stealth' models whose designers have tucked the battery and motor inside the frame so that they don't look like electric bikes, but like regular road and gravel bikes.
Electric road bikes like these are being bought by riders coming back from illness and injury, older riders who are finding the hills they once romped up rather more of a chore, and folks who just want that zoomy road bike experience without having to get Tour de France fit first.
Like all electric bikes that you can ride legally in the UK without licence and insurance, these electric road bikes deliver up to 250 watts of continuous power assistance and stop helping when you get to 25km/h (15.5mph)
Lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium frames help keep down the weight of electric road bikes so they're not a huge chore to ride unassisted
To save weight, electric road bikes tend to have lower capacity batteries than urban e-bikes; the idea is that you use the assist sparingly rather than blatting around everywhere on full power
Electric road bikes make excellent commuter bikes too, with a handy burst of speed away from the lights; many have provision for mudguards and a rack as well as wide tyres
We have tongue firmly in cheek when we describe these bikes as providing electric-assistance 'on the sly'. Lots of the road.cc team ride e-bikes at one time or another; we emphatically disagree with the notion that they're cheating.
Ribble's Endurance SLe - Pro Di2 is a really excellent lightweight electric road bike that’s fun to ride, gives useful assistance on the climbs and is happy to roll along under just leg power too. The integration is neat, the frame and build comfortable without sacrificing performance. It's pretty much indistinguishable from a conventional road bike, largely because it uses the discreet ebikemotion system.
‘Endurance’ maybe makes you think that it’s a bit of an upright chugger; it’s not. Our large frame has a stack-to-reach ratio of 1.41, which is pretty racy for a large frame. It’s not a bike that’s designed to be pootled around on. The ride is purposeful, to say the least. It’s not an endurance platform in the sense of giving you a soft ride: the frame is race-bike stiff when you stamp on the pedals, and you get plenty of feedback through your hands and rear. That’s not to say it’s uncomfortable, though. The carbon seatpost has a bit of flex, and out build included carbon bars too, and Vittoria’s excellent Corsa G+ tyres in a 28mm width, which were confidence-inspiring in corners and big enough to soak up some of the road chatter. It’s more or less in the sweet spot of feeling fast without being harsh.
The ebikemotion system that Ribble uses to power its e-bikes is pretty straightforward. There’s a button on the top tube that gives you access to three levels of assistance, and also shows you your battery state. You can edit the three power settings and get more granular battery information by hooking up your bike to the ebikemotion app on your smartphone, which also does activity tracking and routing if you’re into those things.
For your five grand you get a carbon frame, Ultegra Di2 groupset, Mavic Cosmic Pro UST wheelset, carbon handlebars, Fizik Arione saddle and Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres. It’s fair to say that you’d struggle to get a bike that highly specced for that price from many manufacturers even without a motor system, so the SLe represents some pretty serious value for money even though this is a high-ticket bike.
Tester Big Dave writes: "Overall this is an excellent bike. Of the lightweight e-road bikes I’ve tested recently, it’s my firm favourite. It’s not giving away anything in terms of performance to the Wilier Cento1 Hybrid or the Pinarello Nytro, and it’s significantly lighter and less expensive.
Boardman’s Fazua-powered e-bikes offer really good value for money, and our experience aboard the ADV8.9E has been very positive. You’re getting a lot of the performance of more expensive e-road bikes at a much lower price point. The Fazua system is good for mixed riding, and offers useful assistance and good range. It’s built into a bike that’s solid and enjoyable to ride.
tester Big Dave writes: "With its 38mm Schwalbe G-One Speed tyres, the ADV8.9E is easily capable of taking on some rougher surfaces right out of the box. I’ve thrown it at some of the less technical off-road routes around here – farm tracks and fire roads, predominantly – and it’s coped absolutely fine. The frame is quite stiff but there’s enough give in the tyres to smooth out some fairly uneven surfaces, and more room in the frame for bigger rubber if you want to go a bit further from the beaten track.
"If you find yourself looking at a steep climb, either on the tarmac or off it, then you can rely on the Boardman’s sensible gearing and useful motor. The Fazua Evation system is, along with ebikemotion’s X35 hub motor, one of two systems that make up the majority of the e-road market right now. It’s a mid-motor with a 250Wh battery, a stated torque of 60Nm and peak power of 400W. In reality it doesn’t feel as powerful as other motors with similar numbers – the Bosch Performance Line motor is the closest – but in Rocket mode (the highest of the three available) there’s plenty of power to tackle even loose off-road climbs.
"If you’re on tarmac then the Boardman is easy to wind up to well above the 25km/h assistance limit on the flat. It’s not the lightest e-road bike out there at 16kg (the lightest Ribble SLe is under 12kg), so it’s not quite as much fun when you’re trying to keep your pace up on rolling terrain, but it’s still easy enough to roll round without troubling the battery too much. The motor decouples from the pedals quite effectively when you’re not using it, and the assistance fades in a pretty natural manner as you approach 25km/h.
"For £2,700, you’re getting a lot of bike here. Okay it’s not cheap, but if you want an e-road bike with one of the two most commonly-specced motor systems then it’s a lot nearer the bottom than the top price-wise. If you’re looking for a multi-purpose bike for a bit of everything, but you want something a bit lighter than a full-fat mid-motor bike, then the ADV8.9E makes a lot of sense. It’s very versatile with full rack and mudguard mounts and it can take a big tyre, but it’s still nimble enough to ride as a road bike with your roadie mates - it really has a lot going for it."
The Gain was first launched with an aluminium frame, and now the new carbon version has a claimed weight of just 11.3kg in its top spec version. Using the Ebikemotion X35 system, the Gain's battery sits neatly inside the down tube and the assistance is controlled via one simple button unit integrated into the top tube.
Another from Ribble, this time it's an all-rounder that they say is "as at home on the road as it is on the most adventurous of trails". CGR stands for 'cross gravel road', and the bike uses the same Ebikemotion system as the Hybrid AL e. It can run either 700c or 650b tyres, with the latter pushing the tyre clearance up to a massive 2". It also has mudguards and rack mounts for commuting and bikepacking duties, and build options start from £1,899.00.
Tester Mike writes: "The Ribble CGR AL e is a cracking bike for the money. Comfortable, stable and capable over very rough ground or while effortlessly eating up road miles, it adds intuitive, discreet electric assist to a fundamentally great chassis. It's a bike that opens up huge possibilities (for all levels of rider) in covering serious ground – and having a lot of fun along the way."
The Impulso is Bianchi's first electric road bike, and positioned itself as a happy medium between heavier bikes with bigger batteries and sleeker e-bikes with reduced power. It has a Polini motor that has a comparable power output to a Bosch Performance Line CX unit, and there's a 490Wh internal battery in the down tube. All this and the bike weighs in at around 16kg for a large frame, not bad for such a powerful motor.
The Endurace:On 7.0 is Canyon's first attempt at an e-road bike, and it's largely a successful one. The price is palatable, it's very stable and easy to get on with, and the Fazua Evation system delivers a natural-feeling boost and flattens hills to make big days in the saddle more accessible to all.
Canyon says the Endurace:ON is aimed at new or less experienced road riders who want to keep up with the group, those who want to be able to ride more demanding terrain they otherwise wouldn't be able to experience, and those who prefer steadier, more consistent rides.
The Endurace:ON is a solid entry into e-road for Canyon, and it's an impressively affordable package. If you’re looking for an e-bike that really does just feel like a normal road bike to ride for the most part, then it’s a solid option. Heading out for a steady cruise on the Endurace:ON never failed to make me happy, so long as I wasn't expecting to be gunning it around like I would on a very light, non-powered racing bike.
This high-end electric road bike ranges from three and a half grand up to £6,599 for the Paralane² 9.8, above. It uses the Fazua Evation motor system, and Focus say it's versatile enough to be used for road riding, gravel or bikepacking adventures.
There are two versions, with aluminium and carbon fibre frames respectively, and Focus claim the carbon bike weighs under 13kg. The whole Fazua system other than the gearbox is removable – doing so means you'd have a bike of around 9kg in weight if you want to use it as a standard road bike.
Coming in various specs, the Agree Hybrid takes Cube's all-round lightweight race bike and adds some extra oomph. This comes in the form of the Fazua system (that can again be removed) and the total bike weight comes in at around 14kg. The tyre clearance is big enough for some cross tyres should you want to briefly take it off-road, and overall it's very well integrated.
The 2021 bikes don't seem to have landed yet, but when they do those of you with very deep pockets will be able to ponder dropping £7,299 on the Dura-Ace Di2-equipped Agree Hybrid C:62 SLT, above.
Here's a shiny new entry in the stealth electric road bike field, from long-standing aluminium specialists Kinesis. The Range uses the Fazua Evation motor and battery system, which has become a really popular choice among bike makers who don't want their drop-handlebar electric bikes to look like electric bikes.
We called it a road bike for its drop handlebars, but to be more precise the Range is a gravel bike, intended for exploring dirt roads and Britain's frost-ravaged back lanes. Of course you could slap slick tyres on it and use it on Tarmac too, but arguably you'd be squandering the potential of a bike that has clearance for tyres up to 50mm wide.
The e-765 Optimum is Look's first electric bike of any description, and has been endorsed by Look ambassador and five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault. Like the Pinarello Nytro and the Focus Paralane2 they've selected the Fazua Evation mid-motor system to provide the motor and battery, which gives you up to 250 watts of power on tap when you need it with three levels of assistance.
The geometry of the frame is described as 'endurance-bred', with a stiff and responsive high modulus carbon frame that's made to feel comfortable for day-long rides. Look's latest 3D Wave design is used in the seatstays, which incorporates deflections that they say adds up to an extra 15% of vertical compliance compared to their pre-3D Wave frames, adding further comfort. With the battery and motor included the bike weighs in at 13.2kg.
Launched last summer and evolved from Cannondale's popular SuperSix lightweight road bike, the SuperSix Neo uses a Mahle ebikemotion X35 battery and motor that helps make it one of the stealthiest e-road bikes.
The latest claimant for the titles of world's lightest e-road bike comes from Scott, who say the top-end version of their new Addict eRIDE electric bike weighs just 10.75kg. All four Addict eRide models share the same frame so even the cheapest, the Addict eRide 20, comes in at just 12kg.
Assistance comes from the latest version of the Mahle ebikemotion X35 system. A new feature for 2021 is the ability to send data to an ANT+ bike computer so you can monitor power and battery levels without having to mount your phone and Mahle's app on your handlebar.
Tester Stu writes: "The Addict eRide is a fast, comfortable, sweet-handling road bike with the benefit of smooth power assistance. This is a high-performance beast that integrates motorised assistance really well, to the point you never really feel the transition between e-bike and er, just bike. The handling, ride position and comfort levels are top notch and, while it's an expensive bike, it's fairly priced both for what it is and against the top-end opposition.
If low weight and sleek looks matters to you more than huge battery power, then look no further than the Bianchi Aria e-road. Its Inner Power Drive System weighs just 3.5kg in total, and makes use of Ebikemotion’s X35 V.2 pedal assist technology in the form of a rear hub motor. The 250W battery can take you up 1,200 metres of elevation gain on a full charge, and there are three levels of assistance working at 30%, 60% or 100% of the total power.
Another well known conventional road bike with a motor added, Wilier's Cento1 Hybrid claimed to be the lightest e-road bike when it was launched back in May at 12kg (although things are moving fast, as you'll read below). It has a full carbon frame and fork, and uses the ebikemotion system to provide assistance with a rear hub motor. Wilier also have their own app to control the bike's functions, and you can also, for example, link up a heart rate monitor to your smartphone and set a limit, so the bike will feed power in from the motor when you start going above it.
Launched in March 2019, the E64 is inspired by Colnago's high-end C64 road racer. It comes in two colourways – grey/black/yellow and black/white/orange – and is built around a full 11 speed Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset. The assistance is in the form of a 250 watt hub-based motor courtesy of Ebikemotion, and the full bike plus electronics is just 12kg in weight.
The Domane + is an electrified take on Trek's popular Domane endurance bike. It has Trek's IsoSpeed technology to absorb bumps in the road, and riding assistance courtesy of a Fazua motor and 250Wh battery.You don't get the range of Trek's previous Bosch-powered electric road bikes, but at 14.7kg it's significantly lighter, and you have the option of leaving the drive pack at home.
While the main talking point of the top-of-the-range S-Works version might be the £10,999 price tag (making it the most expensive bicycle of any genre road.cc have ever reviewed) this e-road machine also features the SL 1.1 motor system – built by Specialized in collaboration with Mahle of Germany from the ground up – and has the Future Shock 2.0 damping system for extra comfort. Weighing in at 13kg it's not the lightest e-road bike there is, but is certainly one of the lightest out there with a mid-motor. If you haven't quite got 11 grand to spend on your next steed, you'll be pleased to know the Turbo Creo SL range starts from £5,499 with a carbon frame.
Launched with plenty of fanfare late in 2017, the Italians have blended assistance with aero pretty seamlessly in their Nytro electric road bike. Find out more in the video above.
Electric road bikes — often referred to as ‘e-road’ bikes — are arguably the newest bike genre, with Haibike’s now discontinued Xduro Race being one of the first commercially available electric bikes with drop bars back in 2014.
Another early example was Giant’s Road-E+, although like the Haibike this has an obvious battery integrated into the downtube. In the last few years we’ve started to see e-road bikes that are difficult to distinguish from unassisted ones to the untrained eye, and the weights are coming down too.
The thing that's enabled the new wave of stealth e-road bikes is the introduction of motor and battery systems that can easily be incorporated into a road bike without the result screaming "E-BIKE!".
There are two main suppliers of drive systems. Germany's Fazua was founded in 2013 specifically to make integrated motor-and-battery packs and you'll now find its Evation system on many e-road bikes.
Mahle GmbH is a large supplier of components to the automotive industry that bought Spanish company ebikemotion Technologies S.L. in 2018. The most common Mahle ebikemotion system you'll find is the X35, which has a battery concealed in the frame powering a compact rear hub motor. Mahle/ebikemotion also makes mid-drive motors, as used by Specialized in its Creo bikes.
Both manufacturers continue to develop their platforms. Fazua has recently announced a software upgrade it calls Black Pepper, which is claimed to yield more power and a more natural ride feel from the existing Evation unit.
Both systems have 250Wh batteries, which is rather less than the 500Wh of typical utility e-bikes, but because they're lighter, built into lighter bikes and can be set to metre out their power assist very conservatively you can still get a decent range out of them.
If range is a real worry for you, you can get a range extender (essentially an extra battery) for the Mahle ebikemotion system. On the other hand, you can drop the battery unit and motor completely out of a Fazua-equipped bike and ride without it, or just make it lighter to load on a rack.
Our readers are always a useful source of experience and opinion. Here are their best comments on electric road bikes from a previous version of this article.
Kapelmuur: I was never a cyclist and only got into it after I retired as a way of keeping fit when my knees gave up and I had to stop running.
I always struggled with hills and as I got older (73 now) found anything over 10% almost impossible. So I planned rides to avoid inclines which limited my scope and excluded the more interesting rides in my area.
So I bought a Cube Agree and it has transformed my riding, it's a nice bike to ride on flat routes with the battery pack removed and it's great to be able to get up climbs without fear of a heart attack when using the e assistance.
As for being "sly", I tell anyone I meet going up hill that I have a motor. I also point out that on the flat when we get above 15mph I'm carrying 4.5kgs of dead weight!
Oldfatgit: I've returned to cycling after being hit by a car in 2018, and my injuries limit what I can do on a normal bike.
I spent most of 2019 looking at e-bike and was even lucky enough to try the Focus Paralane2 9.9 - which is a really nice bike.
I ended up with a Bosch powered Cannondale Synapse Neo as the Bosch motor suited my injuries better than the Fazua system and its a wonderful bit of kit. It's opened so many roads for me, and I'm able to join back in with group and club rides (just before the CoVid restrictions came in).
I looked in to the battery hidden in the down tube, like the e-motion bikes, but then had a look at the practicalities of charging it. You might have a garage or shed with power - I have neither - and if you are out for a few days in hotel or B&B land, then you've got to get the whole bike up in to your room. Not everywhere will like you doing that.
I found the removable battery and motor of the Fazua system appealing, however that was before I tried (without a bike stand) to remove the unit. There is limited room between the tube and the front wheel; the units are also in tight to make a waterproof seal and I found getting the unit off and back on difficult. I have limited ability to bend, and I am not able to kneel, and it wasn't the struggle-free job you would hope.
The removable battery on the top side of the down tube is easier to remove - the bike can be propped up, the only real bending is to put the key in the lock, and you can see what you are doing.
The bikes are heavy, however once you get them rolling and the motor has cut out, you don't really notice until you hit a hill ... and the speed bleeds off and the assistance comes on line and everything is ok again in the world.
But not everything is about speed; 60 - 70 miles in Central Scotland are no problem (after the accident I struggled to do 20 miles on the flattest ground I could find, and then I'd struggle walking for a few days afterwards) with careful battery management. It helps that I've a double ring on the front so I can use the gears and assistance to their full advantage.
Only downside is chain wear; I'm looking at a new chain every 1,000 miles or so. I've just worn one out in 3 months, and I'm looking forwards to wearing this one out.
If you are like me, with permanent long term injury and you don't want to give up cycling, I'd wholeheartedly recommend an e-bike ... but try as many of the motor systems as you can. Just because Bosch was right for me, doesn't mean it will be right for you.
Something to consider with the e-motion and some of the Fazua bikes ...
To change assistance levels you have to press and hold a button that's on the cross bar until the light flashes.
You then have to press the button again a number of times until you reach the assistance level you want.
While not onerous, it does mean that you are looking down for several seconds - instead of looking where you are going - and your concentration is on the button and not the road.
True, it looks sleeker than a Garmin sized control unit, but most control units have up and down buttons, and are mounted on the handlebars, so distraction is minimal.
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Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.