Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Velotric

Over the last couple of years, some of your intrepid Ars staff have been trying out a very broad range of e-bikes. Some of these we’ve quite liked, a few we weren’t so sure about, and we suspected at least one of trying to kill us.

In nearly every case, we’ve gotten a sense of what the company’s offerings were about—what they are trying to do, and how that’s reflected in their hardware. Even if a bike wasn’t the right one for us, it was often easy to understand out who it might work well for. So, as these companies have started sending us information about the holiday sales they have going, we thought it might be helpful to share our impressions in order to help people find a bike that can match their needs. Plus, some of these deals really are quite good.

So, in alphabetical order, here’s a rundown on the bikes we looked at.

Gocycle: At the moment, Gocycle does one thing: lightweight commute bikes that, when folded, are compact enough to tuck under a desk (although they’ll be branching out into cargo bikes next year). The emphasis is on design features that make nearly every aspect of the bike carefully thought through and a pleasure to use, even on the bottom-of-the-range G4 that we tested. The downside is that all of this requires lots of custom parts and an elevated price. But holiday sales are taking $500-$1500 off that price.

Heybike: Heybike makes both regular and folding bicycles. We’ve sampled their folding versions, which are sort of the anti-Gocycle: heavier, more standardized parts, and not nearly as design focused. Instead, Heybike is aiming for something closer to a scooter, and adds city-focused safety features like a powered horn and directionals. Eric Bangeman describes the Tyson model as a great concept, but says quality problems with the bike we reviewed makes us hesitant to recommend. I’ve had a somewhat better experience with my review-in-progress model. The company’s offering some significant discounts on a number of models during its Black Friday sale.

Ride1Up: Ride1Up’s Cafe Cruiser was the first Class 3 e-bike I’d tested. Having tried a number since, I’ve come away ever more impressed with what the company put into it—it’s the only Class 3 I’ve tried where the gearing actually allows the pedals to keep up with the assist. Ride1Up has a wide range of other models that seem to offer a similar formula: pay a bit more than you would for budget bikes, and you’ll get slightly better components and a more carefully thought-through design. Their Black Friday sale upsets that equation since, if you target the right model, you may find that you may not actually have to pay a bit more.

Priority Bicycles: Priority offers a large range of traditional and electric bicycles, including less common formats like beach cruisers and cargo bikes. We’ve looked at their E-coast beach cruiser, which provided a stylish and comfortable ride, albeit in a package that isn’t practical for some uses. The company’s holiday sale includes 15-25 percent off a variety of models.

Specialized: Like Trek below, Specialized is a large, mainstream manufacturer that offers an enormous range of bikes, some of which happen to be electric. Unlike Trek, however, it works with manufacturers to produce electric hardware to its own specs. And, based on a couple of performance machines we’ve tried out (one of them a review-in-progress), the results are spectacular, a marriage of a great bike with an electric assist that seems to be reading our intentions before we’ve fully formed them. Again, sadly, you have to pay for what you’re getting; the prices of a single high-end bike can buy you a bike for every day of the week from some of the budget-conscious companies here. But Specialized offers a huge range of bikes, and almost all of them are on sale right now.

Tenways: An offering from the Netherlands, a company that takes its bicycling (if not its bicycles) very seriously. We’ve looked at their CGO600, a gearless belt drive that has a sleek design that makes it difficult to tell its an e-bike from a distance. It costs a bit more than some of the other bikes we’ve seen with similar features, and Eric Bangeman found the ride a bit stiff. Its holiday sale, however, brings its prices closer in line to the non-sale price of some competing offerings.

Trek: Trek’s offering is all about the brand. It takes good, quality, name-brand components and marries them to designs that, on the high end, are some of the best bicycles on offer. It sells and services those bikes via a huge chain of storefronts, meaning your investment in them can be good for decades. And all of that comes at a cost that’s typically much higher than some of the upstart companies you’ll see on this page. At the high end, this means absolutely fantastic (or highly specialized) bikes at eye-melting prices. But take a few steps down, and it’s possible to find offerings like the FX+2, which our revier calls “a quality e-bike that comes with everything you need for commuting, cargo, recreation, and more.” Trek is having an end-of-year clearance sale.

Urtopia: Urtopia’s bikes aren’t especially good for their price, but the company (along with Heybike) deserves credit for pushing the boundaries a bit on the “e” portion of e-bikes by offering a lot in the way of software both on the bike and in a paired phone app. Some of this is gimmicky—;it’s the only bike I’ve tested that would let me play a game or talk with ChatGPT while waiting at traffic lights. On the good side, some of the anti-theft features might be useful, the company regularly announces software updates, and the company’s Black Friday sale brings one of its bikes closer to a realistic price. On the bad side, getting the most out of it requires paying for a cellular connection for the bike.

Vanpowers: We were intrigued by Vanpowers’ City Vanture for two big reasons. One, its low-maintenance design, with a belt drive, an internal gear hub, and a single gear. Two, the fact that you could save a bit of cash and have some weird fun by assembling it yourself. The City Vanture left something to be desired in flexibility, given its relatively tough single gearing and limited sizing. But in terms of fit, finish, and performance, we had no qualms. The company’s UrbanGlide series, which has gears, sizes, step-through frames, and suspension, are on sale with a broad Black Friday timing, with some free accessories thrown in.

Velotric: We’ve been pretty impressed by this company’s offerings, which seem to squeeze slightly better components and a decent design into price slots that aren’t too much above some of the ultra-budget offerings. Put differently, they have helped shape my expectations for what a good, basic e-bike should be, and that same care has held when they branched out into higher-end offerings. Their Black Friday sale, however, now takes the price of some of these models into the sub-$1,000 range.

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