One of the trends we saw at this year’s big Interbike Show in Las Vegas was the number of companies bringing out folding electric bikes. The folding non-electrified bike has become increasingly popular with both short run bike commuters as well as urban dwellers who don’t have enough space to easily store a full-sized bike. The addition of an electric motor is intended to make the genre more attractive to a broader audience, including the 50+ generation. Despite their diminutive size, the seats and handlebars easily accommodate full-sized riders in comfort.
Not for Everyone
These are not generally going to be the bikes you’ll want to take on a leisurely ride covering twenty miles. They make a number comprises in order to get to their compact form factor. The technology to get them to fold up generally adds both weight and price to the bike. They all require some kind of a sturdy latching system to hold the two sections of the frame together. Their batteries are generally less powerful than those on full-sized e-bikes. That means more work for the rider and a shorter range. Gearing is usually limited to about three gears instead of the usual complement of seven or more. They are generally throttle powered, sometimes called “power-on-demand.” They usually don’t have pedelec capability. In other words, the motor runs when you make it run, not when it senses your pedaling effort.
Specific Use Cases
E-bike makers are betting that despite these drawbacks, the folding e-bikes will become popular. There are a couple of cases in which these may be ideal for the 50+ audience. Most fold up small enough so they can be maneuvered into the trunk of a sedan, so no need for an SUV or a bike rack that could mar your car. They are also helpful to RV’ers and boaters – once you setup your RV at a campground you can get into town to pick up groceries without having to tow a car behind you. Pretty much the same thing holds true for boaters. If you own a boat you know that one challenge is how to get around town once you bring it into dock outside of your home port. A folding e-bike can be stowed, then help you grab groceries or get to a restaurant.
We saw some new designs on the show floor at Interbike, with more being promised for 2017. Here are a few that caught our eye:
GoCycle G3 – This may be the most stunning design of any portable e-bike we saw. It’s also one of the priciest. But if you’re sticking it on your yacht, what’s a few thousand dollars? It features among the most powerful motors we’ve seen – 500 Watts. It has an internal battery and innovative daytime running lights. It also claims up to a 50 mile range – huge for a folding bike. It weighs in at 35.9 pounds, a reasonable weight for a portable. It also can use a smartphone app to monitor a range of functions. Price starts at $4,500.
A2B Kuo+ – This portable does have a full 7 gear complement. Power is rated at 250 Watts and range is estimated at more than 30 miles. It goes up to about 19.5 mph which is barely less than the 20 mph legal limit. The Kuo+ has better specs than the original,more power, more range and even a lower price. Price is about $1700 making it a good value for the money. .
Oyama Folding Bike CX E8D– This folding e-bike is due in the U.S. market in January of 2017. It has an 8 speed gearset, a 250 Watt motor and a range of up to 30 miles. It weighs in at about 44lbs and features a USB charging port. Price will be just about $1300, perhaps the lowest entry price of the folders.
E-JOE Epik SE – While the E-JOE folding bike has good specs, what impressed us most was its pricetag. At just about $1600, this comes in as one of the lowest priced electric folders without giving up much. It’s a bit on the heavy side at 42lbs. It has a large battery and advertises a range of up to 55 miles depending on riding style, the rider’s weight, and terrain. It has a 350 Watt motor, seven gears, and one of the few folders we’ve seen with pedal assist (three levels) as well as a throttle.
Brompton Electric Bike – British made Brompton is one of the first names in folding bikes. The company says that sometime this coming year it will introduce its own version of an e-bike. Meanwhile, dealers are already adding front motor kits to the non-electric Bromptons. Unfortunately we can’t tell you the specs on the new Brompton since it was not being shown on the Interbike show floor. We can tell you that the Brompton with a third party kit from NYCe Wheels in New York is about $2850.
Pedego Latch – Pedego was not on the Interbike show floor, but we think their folding back is worth including in this mix. Read our review here. The Latch uses a belt drive, which is greaseless and quiet. At 43 pounds without the battery, it’s a little heavier than some of the others. It has a good electronic display and goes for $2595.
You can find more of our Interbike coverage here.