When we were approached to review the Smart eBike we jumped at the chance, as we have admired this electric bike (of sorts) for some time now and often wondered how practical it would be. Before we get going, you should know that this is not a fully electric bike, but rather one that adds assistants to make life easier
You need to put some of those cheaper electric bikes to the back of your mind for two reasons, the technology is much different, and so is its design, as it is very stylish, although to make it look much better the mudguards would need to go. However, this would be a bit of an issue seeing as though this is where some of the wires have been hidden.
The one thing that we noticed was how this bike was themed to look like some of the Smart car range. The one we had was white with some green accents, although there is a dark grey with orange option as well. The frame is medium in size and has a height adjustable seat, which I had to lower all the way to the bottom.
It’s made from aluminum alloy and weighs around 26 kilos give or take, and you certainly know it when having to carry the bike down any stairs, or trying to maneuver it within the small confines of your home. Most of the weight is to the rear because of its gearless hub drive motor, it is actually powered by BionX, which limits the top speed to 15 mph, and you certainly know it when you reach that magic speed, which we will get to a little later.
The Smart eBike is torque sensing and uses a carbon belt drive, which is both quiet, elegant and also avoids rust; perfect for the British weather then. There are no multiple cogs as there is an SRAM 3-speed hub inside the motor. The battery is centrally mounted, and so does help to shift some of that weight to towards the front.
The last part of this eBike introduction is to have a look at just a few more of its features. We have wide pedals with plenty of grip, ideal; if you commute to work and do not wish to wear shoes designed solely for biking, stylish grips with grip shifter on one side. There are also controls that gives you access to a few of the main control features, such as setting the amount of assistance you wish to have.
It’s not all about going though, as you also need to be able to stop, and those 180mm hydraulic disc brakes will certainly do that for you. There are super bright lights to the front and rear and a handy USB port, charger below the light, ideal if you wish to attach something like an iPhone to run one of the many cycling apps.
Before we got into the test we did have a play with the settings to familiarize ourselves rather than doing this while cycling along the road. You have four settings for the amount of regenerative charging you would like, and also four settings for the amount of assistance you require. We thought we would start off with the full beans first just to get an idea of just how easy it was to get going, and the first couple of turns of the pedal seem like a normal bike, but then a strange sensation happens, and it feels as though you are given a gentle push to make the whole process that much easier.
We did find that the bike was very quiet while riding, although it is not very forgiving when cycling over rougher road surfaces because there is no suspension. However, we are told that there is a suspension pack for this, although not certain if this is country specific.
After cycling for around 5 to 10 minutes we thought it was time to start taking the assist level down, and you do start to feel the extra effort you have to put it. However, it was a mistake to try and flick things in to regenerative mode because it truly does take a huge amount of effort. The trick is to only put it on the first setting if you can handle the extra weight it seems to put on your legs while on a flat road.
However, when you have a huge hill to cycle down, then selecting the maximum setting was perfect, as it never hurt as much and so put some power back into the battery, and the extra braking also added a bit of extra juice to the battery. It’s also the opposite effect when you have it on maximum asset, as you can pretty much go uphill with hardly any effort whatsoever.
During our review over several days we never took the bike to its range limit, which is said to be 62 miles. This is the maximum likely range and will come down to various factors, such as how hard you push the bike, which setting you have it selected on and also your weight. We did not wish to push the eBike to its range limit as we felt how hard it was to cycle while in full regenerative mode, and it was not a pleasant experience at all.
If you do plan a long journey try to have it on the lowest assist setting you can manage, although upping it when needed for hills. Also, make certain you allow it to generate some power to the battery every time you go downhill, not matter what sort of a gradient it is.
We would guess that you will get around 30-35 miles range on average before the battery is depleted, which is still ideal for most commutes. However, you can always charge the battery pack up while at work, as this can be easily removed from the bike with the provided key. This means you will be able to take the battery to your office or wherever it is you work, while leaving your bike stored away where you would usually keep your standard bike. The battery takes 5 hours to fully charge from dead, which is not an issue if you work full time.
It would be wise to purchase the special lock, which folds away neatly and stored underneath the seat. At least this will give you peace of mind considering this Smart eBike does cost £2,200. Having said that, this is a saving of £300, as it did cost £2,500 when the bike was first released. Who knows, maybe the price will reduce even further once it increases in popularity?
Before we get to our final verdict, it is worth noting that there is also a Smart eBike iPhone app that offers a multitude of information, such as map of travelled distance, speed, altitude uphill or downhill, stats and so much more. More details can be found on iTunes.
Final Verdict — We were truly impressed with the Smart eBike, although it is clear to see that this is a first-generation design. We are not talking about looks, but rather some of its other aspects, such as weight. If your home is not on the ground floor, then you really are going to struggle. However, we are very certain that the engineers behind this project are already looking at ways to shed a bit of weight, as well as making the battery even more efficient. Don’t try to push the bike over 15mph, as we found that the motor stops assisting you, and you will then be doing all the work yourself.
The price is also another sticking point, as £2,500 is just too much to pay for the likes of you or I. This does disappoint me a little, as I would so much love to own one of these eBikes. Okay, you can see that I do have a Mercedes in the background of some of the images, but this is an older model, and so I can fully understand why the bike costs so much, as you cannot argue with the build quality.
This is one of the Smart eBikes strengths, its build quality. There is Mercedes blood running right through this electrically assistant bike, and this is one of the reason why you have to pay a premium, that and the use of some pretty ingenuous technology, such as its carbon belt drive and torque sensing system.
It’s funny really, but the major thing about this bike that impressed us the most was its brakes, as they are very sensitive and when called upon they will stop you in a shorter distance than any conventional bicycle. Be warned you do get some funny looks when riding this bike, but we like to think this is because of its funky design, albeit this ugly looking mudguards.
All the techincal specs for the Smart eBike can be found here, and all other details can be seen on the Smart website. We would like to add one more thing in, if you are unable to pay the £2,500 outright, but would still like to have the use of one, then you have until September 30th to take advantage of a special offer to hire an eBike instead, more details of which can been seen by visiting this link.