The best lightweight electric bikes will give you a ride that’s not too dissimilar to a non-assisted bike but with an added electronic power boost.
At their best, lightweight e-bikes can approach the weight of many of the best road bikes, so they will often look and ride similarly. That’s usually achieved by using carbon fibre of the bike frame and fitting compact, lightweight motor and battery systems. As you’ll read in our buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page, this has advantages and disadvantages.
Chief among the minuses is higher prices from the more expensive materials and components used and the more limited assistance offered than some of the best electric bikes.
But in return, you’ll get an e-bike that feels more sprightly and climbs and accelerates better, and that’s a lot easier to carry if you need to move it around.
That applies particularly to drop-bar road e-bikes, but the same is true of some flat-bar hybrid e-bikes. Options are fewer for lightweight folding electric bikes, as the need for a robust folding mechanism tends to reduce the opportunity to reduce the frame’s weight and makes folding e-bikes costly.
We’ve covered options for lightweight road e-bikes, lightweight e-hybrids and lightweight folding e-bikes in the guide below. Lower down the page is our buyer’s guide to lightweight e-bikes.
Best lightweight electric bikes: road bikes
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If you like the sound of a hand-made carbon lightweight electric bike, then Alchemy is the answer. Since 2008 Alchemy has been producing some impressive work. All the manufacturing for every bike happens under the roof of its Denver, Colorado headquarters. The electric assist limits custom geometry options for the E-Ronin, but if you’d like to make your bike unique, custom paint schemes start at $500.
Other perks include a crash replacement discount, a two-week money-back guarantee, free shipping, and a lifetime warranty. There are four available build options and five frame sizes. There’s also the extremely rare – for electric bikes – option of buying the frame only and building it up yourself.
The electric system in the Wilier Cento1 Hybrid is almost an afterthought, in the best way possible. Yes, there is the same Mahle X35 system that finds its way into a lot of the lowest-weight electric bikes but that’s not the focus. The focus is on making a bike that feels like a performance road bike.
The carbon frame and fork come from proven Wilier designs, and in this case, the carbon construction comes paired with endurance geometry. The slightly taller head tube and shorter reach provide a more relaxed and less racy position. It’s a design perfect for longer distances but it doesn’t leave anything on the table.
If you want something racier, the Wilier Filante Hybrid is based on the pro-level Filante aero bike. It uses the newer, lighter, more compact Mahle X20 hub motor and Wilier says it drops the weight even further sub-12kg.
When you think about the category of high-end, lightweight electric bikes you have to include this Specialized entry. The S-Works Turbo Creo SL only launched a few years ago and yet in this category that’s practically a lifetime. Specialized was there early with an attention-grabbing bike that set the standard.
The motor system is a custom unit unique to Specialized. It features a 320Wh integrated battery and there’s also a 160Wh range extender available. Move over to the traditional bike components and you will find electronic SRAM AXS, plenty of carbon fibre, and the Specialized Future Shock suspension stem system.
The combination of a Trek Domane design plus the Fazua Evation electric drivetrain makes this bike a two-in-one endurance monster. Every time you ride it you can take advantage of Trek Isospeed at the rear of the bike, which means extra movement in the seatpost for a road-smoothing suspension effect.
If you decide to really stretch out the miles, the lightweight frame and Fazua system mean the bike is easy to pedal without any electric assist. Then if you feel like you can take things a little easier you can leave the electric battery system at home and utilise the space for storage.
Trek also now has the Domane+ SLR in its range. This reduces the weight, with top-spec builds coming in at under 12kg. It uses a compact, light motor from TQ and has an in-built battery so that it looks less e-bike-like. It’s available in road-going and gravel-oriented specs, to tackle whatever terrain you prefer and in the US, it’s limited to 28mph.
Cannondale was one of the companies that took all the time it could before adopting an aerodynamic focus. It has a history of prioritising weight and building race machines with exceptional handling. In 2021 there’s not really a place for ultralight, non-aero-optimised bikes, and aero has spread throughout the entire range.
That history is still there though and the SuperSix Evo is the closest to the old lineage. Cannondale has also been a company known for innovation and they’ve jumped into the electric bike market with both feet. The SuperSix Evo Neo is in many ways the culmination of what Cannondale stands for. It’s an ultralight, super responsive, high-technology bike. It also happens to have electric assistance.
Ribble offers its Endurance SL e in four starting build levels. Of course, as with all Ribble bikes, you can get in and customise from there but those four starting places represent a wide range of pricing.
The top-of-the-line gets Dura-Ace Di2 and all the components to match that level. Down at the bottom is where things get really interesting. You get the same top-of-the-line frame and low-weight motor system but it comes with the very dependable Shimano 105 mechanical shifting. It also comes with an excellent price for a top-calibre bike.
Orbea has updated its Gain electric bike range, which includes both alloy and carbon frames. The Gain M30 is towards the bottom of the spec range in the carbon bike. It’s equipped with a Shimano 105 mechanical groupset and a Mahle X35 rear hub motor.
The spec makes it heavier than higher spec carbon Gains, which can drop as low as a claimed 11.5kg in the highest spec builds.
Orbea has actually reduced the tyre clearance in the new Gain from the old model. It’s now down to 35mm from 40mm and Orbea has a more road-going spec and geometry as well, rather than trying to straddle the road-gravel divide.
Like the old bike, the new Gain comes with integrated lights and an out-front mount for Mahle’s display unit or a bike computer. You can now change the assistance level using control buttons mounted on the bars.
Best lightweight e-bikes: hybrids
Top-of-the-line, lightweight, and carbon fibre. Those words commonly refer to the latest, greatest, top-of-the-line race-focused road bike. Instead, they describe a new city bike from Tour de France winner Greg Lemond. It’s an integrated everything flat bar bike, that is perfect for city living.
It’s easy to carry up a flight of stairs, looks amazing, and rides in a way that might make you think you haven’t turned on the electric assist. That is until you turn off the electric assist and realize how much it was actually doing.
Read more about what we thought of the LeMond Bicycles Prolog e-bike in our first ride review.
Specialized’s e-bikes fall into its 4x You and 2x You categories, with the Turbo Vado SL in the latter. That’s because Specialized uses its lighter weight, less powerful SL 1.1 motor in the Turbo Vado SL. There’s still a claimed 130km range though thanks to the relatively high battery capacity and you can add a range extender for an extra 64km between charges.
The 5.0 spec comes either without lights, mudguards and a rack or as an EQ version which adds these – and a little extra weight. Both bikes get Specialized’s FutureShock 1.5 suspension headset with 20mm of travel to the handlebars.
You can read our first ride impressions of the Specialized Turbo Vado SL 5.0 here.
Best lightweight e-bikes: folding e-bikes
For light weight in a folding bike, the Hummingbird Gen 2.0 bike takes the prize. Made of carbon fibre with a trussed rear section and kitted out with lightweight components it undercuts even the best road e-bikes at 10.4kg. The rear hub motor helps with ride quality and handling too.
Of course, compromises have to be made to hit this weight and the Hummingbird doesn’t fold quite as small as the Brompton Electric, it has a more limited range, you only get one gear and it does carry a high retail price.
At over 15kg and with a steel frame, the Brompton Electric C Line Urban folder may not really fit the “lightweight” bill, but its iconic folding mechanism makes it a great option for the commuter and the battery pack unclips from the front of the bike. Allowing you to carry it over your shoulder as a separate 2.3kg package and dropping the bike weight somewhat.
If you want to lose some weight, Brompton has added the Electric P Line to its range, which it reckons shaves around one kilogram off the bike’s weight by using a titanium rear frame and lighter components.
Our full review of the Brompton Electric C Line Urban folding bike covers all the attributes of ownership.
Best lightweight e-bikes: Everything you need to know
How are lightweight e-bikes made lighter?
Many electric bikes have an alloy frame and they’ll often have a heavy, high-capacity battery and a high-torque motor system.
In many cases, a lightweight electric bike will start off with a carbon fibre frame, which will be lighter than an alloy. It will usually pair with a less powerful motor system. Most electric bike motors will produce 250 watts, but what’s important is the torque output. That can vary between around 30Nm up to 60Nm for a lightweight e-bike.
There may be some overlap with heavier models, but the output range for non-lightweight e-bikes will typically spread from around 50Nm up to 90Nm.
A heavier bike with a higher-powered motor will draw more juice from the e-bike’s battery, so that will itself usually need to be heavier. A lightweight e-bike will usually have a smaller-capacity battery. This might limit the range, depending on where and how you ride.
But if the motor is speed-limited to 25kph, many riders will be exceeding this speed on the flat and the motor will only be called into use to any extent on climbs, extending the available range.
Many lightweight electric bike systems, like those from Specialized, Mahle and TQ allow you to add a range extender battery if you need more range. These usually fit into a bottle cage and plug into the internal battery’s charging socket. They can add around 50 per cent to the e-bike’s range, although you do lose the option to carry a second water bottle and you are adding extra weight to your lightweight e-bike.
Is there any drawback to a lightweight e-bike?
With most things in life optimizing for one feature means other features get left behind. When it comes to non-electric bikes that usually plays out as a choice between aero optimisation or lightweight. But what about electric bikes? Is there a trade-off for going lightweight?
The answer is both a yes and a no. It all depends on how you look at things. If you are expecting an American-style, class III e-bike with a big battery and huge torque you won’t find it. As long as you set expectations that what’s possible is light assist and smaller batteries then there’s no real drawback to going light.
No performance drawback doesn’t completely mean no drawbacks at all though. The one big trade-off when you go lightweight is price. When it comes to bikes, powered or not, if you want a light bike, it’s gonna be more expensive. Electric bikes aren’t immune from this same equation.
Do lightweight e-bikes ride differently to heavier models?
Lightweight electric bikes are a distinct flavour of electric bikes. They have a unique ride feel to them and as long as you understand what you can expect you won’t have any surprises.
There are some electric bikes that speed along at up to 28mph with very little rider input. These types of bikes are common in the American market. European law makes them difficult to own but they also make more sense in expansive American cities. The distances travelled are longer and there’s more mixing with auto traffic. It makes sense in this context to travel at higher speeds.
You won’t find anything like that in the ultralight market, with the exception of the Trek Domane+ SLR. Bikes of this style feel more like a traditional bike with the wind constantly at your back. With the Mahle x35 motor system, you can even set it to add assistance based on heart rate. It’s a much more sport-focused design that makes it easy to forget you even have electric assist.
How do you charge a lightweight e-bike?
Another thing to consider if you’re looking for the best lightweight electric bike for you is how you charge it. Many lightweight e-bikes have batteries built into the frame’s down tube. This makes the e-bike look less porky but means that the battery needs to be charged in situ.
That in turn means that you need somewhere to store the electric bike that’s near a power supply, whereas with a removable battery system, you can take your battery to the wall socket.
There are exceptions to this generalisation. The Fazua system has a removable battery in the down tube, while range extender batteries can be taken elsewhere to charge.