Stealthy Electric Bikes; For the Discreet and the Cheaters

June 11, 2012

In the name of discretion, for those who do not want to stick out when you ride your E-bike, here are the motor kit set ups that are least likely to make you a sore toe while you are among your pedaling counterparts. If you have a desire to be stealthy on your E-bike you are not alone. Many traditional cyclists consider electric bikers to be “cheaters” and will often vocalize their discontent. Also it feels better if people think you are superman and can just pedal super-hard than have a high tech E-bike doing all that super hard hill climbing  work for you.

Always remember there are 2 elements that  make an E-bike stealthy… it looks and how it sounds.

The 5 Stealthiest Commercially Available Electric Bikes

Now we give credit to the  normal looking and sounding electric bikes. We give extra credit to bikes that are able to achieve electric power without having to go with an unsightly rear battery pack. These days, because of all the DIY hub motor builds,  bulky rear battery packs are a give away to a possible electric drive system.  Click on highlighted links to read our reviews of some of these bikes.

1. Specialized Turbo

The Specialized turbo is one of the cleanest electric bikes ever built with a puny and quiet rear hub motor, and battery built into the down tube.

2. Stromer Electric Bike

Like the Specialized, built from the ground up to be a clean E-bike…and like the Specialized the battery is hidden in the extra large downtube

3.  Ktm Egnition

Still another purpose built E-bike thats beautiful and disguised but still an amazing performer. In this case battery fits under downtube.

4. Faraday Electric Cargo Bike

The Faraday is an elegant design with the lipo batteries built into the top tubes. The only hint that this is an electric bike is the puny geared hub motor in the front.


5. Currie Izip e3


With its stylish designs, and oversized downtube battery holder and small and quiet hub motors, this bike appears to be a regular bike…but a sharp looking bike. It took Currie getting bought out before they finally got a decent looking bike.

The 5 Non-Stealthy Commercially Available  Electric Bikes

For those of you  who like to ride electric loud and proud. Click on the highlighted links for review of the bike.


1. Hanebrink

Exaggerated and Fat, the Hanebrink is not fooling anyone

2. Stealth Bomber

Although it is stealthily silent, the Stealth Bomber looks too menacing to be believable…so much for Stealth

3. Picycle

Screams “electric bike” in a visually weird way….love it or hate it…but don’t deny it is an electric

4. Currie Trail Z

Cheap, clackety and ugly looking…You’re not fooling or impressing your neighbors by rolling up on this E-bike

5. Optibike 

The Optibike looks kind of stealthy, but you can hear it coming 100 yards away. It sounds like a weed whacker.


The 5 stealthiest E-bike Motor Set ups

1. Gruber Assist

Built into the seat tube this motor system  is nearly impossible to detect visually…however the system is noisy, so ride with care so you’re not  discovered….especially if you happen to be  in a sanctioned bicycle race…mechanical doping AWESOME!

2. Crystalyte G-series

This is the size of a small geared hub motor but is a direct drive and therefore whisper quiet.

3. Bafang /Cute geared hub

The Bafang/Cute motors are geared hub motors that are so small they can barely be seen or heard. At 250 watts they don’t offer much boost.

4. Friction Drives (eboost and commuter booster)

These kits are super steatlhy looking (bolted to seat stay) but a little noisy. They come right on and off the bike, so the bike can double as a regular bike.

5.   BMC motor 

The BMC motor hides well behind a disc brake, and packs a powerful punch. Its quite a “sleeper”


The 5 Stealthiest battery chemistries.

  1. LiPo (lithium cobalt) large cells
  2. LiPo  (lithium cobalt magnanese) large cells
  3. LiPo (lithium cobalt) small cells strung together and isolated  (see a tear down of an example of this kind of pack here)
  4. LiPo (lithium magnanse) large cells
  5. LiFePO4 large, safe,  and long lasting packs. But large! (read our complete review on lifepo4 here)


When choosing a battery in the name of stealth, you want a pack that is small that is easy to hide. Therefore you should consider your battery’s volume, not just the weight.  For sure you need to go with a lithium chemistry and not an old school heavy and large Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) or Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) chemistry.

The stealthiest battery chemistry by far is LiPo, the large cell cobalt chemistry such as the Hobby King cells.

For a complete description of lightweight and stealthy battery choices for an E-bike read our lithium battery primer here.

Build your own Stealth E-bike

If you want to build your own stealthy E-bike here are some tips:

  1. Go with a hub motor…they are easy to hide, cheap, and easy to install and stealthier (visually and noise)  than any other option other than expensive and slow Gruber Assist.
  2. Mount hub motor in rear wheel and use disc brake so that you are safer and motor hides behind disc brake.
  3. Cut your wires to size and take the time to really hide them. Keep your bike as simple as possible.
  4.  Consider going without a Cycle Analyst, or hiding CA in battery bag. Unfortunately a CA is a dead giveaway.
  5. Use a triangle bag to hide battery or a Topeak bag if you want to go the easy route and hide it in the rear.


5 Useful tips on how to ride Stealthy

1. Do not go too fast…stay believeable

2. When you drift pass road bikers, cut the throttle and pedal like hell.

3. If your bike is noisy, do not juice the motor within ear shot of riders you are passing. Sprint pedal way past them then reapply the motor.

4. Use your motor as a pedal assist and always try to pedal at appropriate times (ie climbing hills or from dead stop)

5. Stand up on the pedals and thrust bike from side to side to give illusion you are really getting on it when you are juicing the throttle heavy.



5 Tips for those who like to be loud and proud about electric bikes

1. Install turns signals and horns so you “talk the same language” as cars.

2. Ride in the middle of the car lane, why not? you’re as fast as a car.

3. Why should you pedal when you got all that battery…just sit there.

4. Let those wires hang loose…use duct tape to hold your battery together and have it strapped to the back or front rack with bungee cords.

5. Build a bike that is all about performance and function….and choose as your hero  liveforphysics riding his  80mph “Death Bike”:

Hold your (unhelmeted)  head up high if you get a chance to joy-ride LFP’s Death Bike


So discreet and stealthy, or loud and proud electric (representing)…What is your preferred style? Please comment and let us know.

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


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