2014-evelo-aries-electric-bike-review

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Summary:

  • Full suspension city bike with basic mid-drive system (upgradable motor, battery and drivetrain options)
  • Nice accessories including USB charger, front and rear LED lights, mechanical disc brakes and a fender
  • Battery weight is mounted high vs. low and center, the motor isn’t sophisticated enough to let up when shifting which can mash gears, the frame is relatively heavy and can feel squishy vs. stiff

Stats:

  • Price: $2,079 USD MSRP (base model) + $400 for NuVinci N360 internally geared hub, + $500 for upgraded battery pack, +$675 for 500 watt motor
  • Range: 20 to 40 miles (32.2 to 64.4 kilometers) depending on rider, terrain, weather, and use of pedal assist vs. throttle
  • Top Speed: 20 miles/hour (32.2 km/hour) in the highest pedaling gear on flat terrain (easier to reach 20mph with the upgraded motor)
  • Gearing: 8 speed 1×8 Shimano Alvio or NuVinci N360 geared hub ($400 upgrade, adds weight), both use a grip shifter located on the right handle bar
  • Weight: 59 lbs (26.8 kg) total including battery pack, add 2 pounds for the NuVinci hub and 1 pound for the upgraded battery pack
  • Battery: 36 volt, 10 amp hour (360 watt hour) Lithium-ion with Samsung cells, pack weighs ~8 lbs (3.6 kg), $550 replacement, upgraded battery offers 36 volt 17 amp hours and weighs ~9 lbs (4.1 kg) with Panasonic cells for + $500
  • Charge Time: 4 to 6 hours for a full charge from empty, reach 80% in ~3 hours
  • Ride Time: ~1.5 hours varying by rider, terrain, weather and use of pedal assist vs. throttle, larger battery option will go for ~2 hours following the same conditions
  • Charge Cycles: ~1,000
  • Motor: 250 watt geared mid-drive motor, optional 500 watt motor upgrade
  • Other: available in one frame size (medium) and two colors (white or black), RockShox XC28 suspension fork with lockout, backlit LCD display panel with easy-reach remote button console, 26″ wheels with hybrid Kenda tires, Tektro Novelo mechanical disc brakes, Tektro brake levers cut power to motor, standard Velo saddle (with optional upgrade program), aluminum alloy Wellgo platform pedals, front and rear LED lights by Spinnga, plastic front fender (battery rack acts as a rear fender), Tonaro TDS-C215 adjustable stem, spring loaded carry rack on battery case, side mounted kickstand

Video Review:

Written Review:

The Evelo Aries offers a cool aesthetic and comfortable “full suspension” ride that’s best suited for on-road and light trail riding. The frame is relatively heavy, somewhat bouncy and limited to a medium size. It’s meant to offer the benefits of mid-drive (improved climbing ability, balance and range) at a value price but suffers from a couple of technical issues (slower pedal cadence and rougher shifting). These issues can be be addressed if you’re willing to pay a bit extra for the 500 watt motor and NuVinci continuously variable transmission (CVT) but that will also add extra weight to an already solid 59 pound bike. The core of this bike hasn’t changed since version one but in 2014 several improvements were made including the addition of a large backlit LCD display panel with included USB charger, tighter battery case that no longer rattles, stiffer front fender that reduces bouncing motion in the headlight and a 12 magnet cadence sensor with smoother assist activation.

The stock motor on the Aries is a 250 watt mid-drive canister that pulls the same chain that the rider does when pedaling. By doing this, it is able to leverage the rear cassette cogs to improve mechanical efficiency when climbing or gaining speed. The logic here is “why make the motor only use one gear when there are eight available” and it makes a lot of sense. The downside is increased stress on the chain and rear chain ring teeth. It also doesn’t work very well if the motor speed range is limited (which is the case here) because it changes the way you have to pedal in order to “match the motor” vs. having it just work for you. This issue can be somewhat addressed with the upgraded 500 watt motor and 48 volt battery (that will also improve power for climbing) but it’s still not perfect.

You can also improve the ride by upgrading to the NuVinci N360 hub which doesn’t rely on gears and can thus be adjusted at standstill or on the fly without any grinding. I love these “upgrade” options that Evelo offers but together they will cost over $1,000. There are other drive systems available on the market like the Bosch centerdrive that actually sense when you shift and cut the motor off. Many of these systems spin at higher RPM’s by default for a smoother more natural ride. Another more affordable ebike called the IZIP Peak actually senses your cadence, torque and speed to direct the motor while the Evelo Aries mid-drive system only uses cadence. If you’re planning to actually go off road, the Peak is also rated for trail riding and has a more rigid frame in part thanks to the hardtail setup. A future full suspension Peak is planned but will cost more.

The battery design on the Aries has been improved from the first generation and no longer rattles when riding which is fantastic. The pack consists of either Samsung or Panasonic Lithium ion cells in a 36 volt configuration at 10 or 17 amp hours respectively or 48 volt 10 amp hour with the upgraded 500 watt motor. These packs are high quality and come with an 18 month warranty which is great. I love that you can charge the pack on or off the bike and that removing it reduces the overall weight of the unit for transport. Still, the way it’s mounted high and in the rear isn’t my favorite in terms of balance. This is especially true for a full suspension design where the rear end bounces around when traveling off curbs due to the lack of rebound and extra weight of the battery. I like that they’ve included a basic metal rack on top of the battery rack for a bag or panniers but there aren’t guards along the sides so make sure your panniers aren’t too long or they could bump into the tire and spokes.

One of the biggest areas of improvement for this version of the Aries is a large backlit LCD display panel mounted right at the center of the handle bars. It’s easy to read and offers information about speed, distance, pedal assist level and battery capacity. I’ve seen this display (made by King) in use on other ebikes and am a big fan, you can even swivel it forward or back to reduce glare. As mentioned before, it includes a USB port along the backside to make charging your portable electronics easy and the main battery is also wired into the front and rear light so basically you can run everything from one central location. Reaching the display panel is simple thanks to a small control pad located near the grip on the left handle bar. From here you can turn the bike on and navigate up or down through different levels of assist. All in all the cockpit on this ebike is easy to use and the grip shifter on the right compliments the twist throttle on the left. I appreciate the Tektro brake levers which activate the mechanical disc brakes and simultaneously cut power to the motor (which can be useful when shifting gears). If you do end up going off road, the disc brakes will stay cleaner than rim brakes might and that will improve stopping power.

The Aries isn’t a perfect bike, it only comes in one size and costs a bit extra to really get right, but it’s one of the few lower-end full suspension ebikes available. The RockShox suspension fork really smoothes things out and includes a lockout for improved efficiency by reducing energy loss through “bobbing” as a result of heavy pedaling but there are no such adjustments at the rear. The ergonomic grips add a bit of comfort but don’t have lockers at the end and may spin if you grip them tightly when riding. It’s great that they offer black and white color options and the oversized Wellgo platform pedals are stiff and grippy… This is one of the more affordable mid-drive ebikes (especially if you pass up on the NuVinci and motor upgrades). Most mid-drive ebikes aren’t as immediately satisfying as a hub motor design but they do offer that increased range and climbing ability and Evelo offers excellent customer service. They are very responsive and committed to ongoing improvement (as evidenced through all of the improvements shown here).

Pros:

  • Mid-drive motor system offers efficient power use by leveraging the rear cassette (good for climbing and extended range)
  • Upgraded LCD display panel is backlit and includes a break-out button pad for easy reach when riding
  • Optional NuVinci continuously variable transmission hub is smooth, can be changed at rest and won’t mash when pedaling
  • Battery pack doubles as a fender and includes a spring rack on top for mounting a bag, battery can be removed for charging off the bike or to make the unit lighter during transport
  • Tires and wheels are easier to service on a mid-drive bicycle because you don’t have extra wires and the weight of a hub motor to deal with
  • Solid RockShox suspension fork with long travel and lockout for use on hard pavement to reduce bobbing
  • Basic rear suspension provides extra cushion when riding over cracks, bumps and potholes
  • Good mechanical disc brakes with Tektro levers that cut power to the motor when used
  • The cadence sensor uses 12 magnets which smoothes out assist (old units used just 5 sensors)
  • Front and rear LED lights work well and are wired right into the main battery, there is also a USB charger for use with portable electronics like mobile phones or mp3 players
  • Comfort saddle and adjustable stem improve ergonomics for riders of different sizes
  • Solid year and a half warranty on everything including frame, motor and battery pack
  • Lithium-ion battery cells are from higher end manufacturers (Samsung and Panasonic) offering higher energy density and increased number of charge cycles
  • Solid kickstand is easy to use and stays high out of the way when riding

Cons:

  • Front fender design has been improved (stiffer than 1st gen) but the LED light can still bounce a bit and the fender doesn’t offer the same water protection as a closer and longer one might
  • In its base form this bike is offers good value but the price can really add up with the NuVinci, 500 watt motor and extended range 17 amp hour battery pack
  • The motors used for this bike can’t sense when you’re shifting gears and thus, will not ease up which can cause mashing and strain the chain
  • The battery pack is mounted high up and in the rear which is not ideal for balance, the weight here creates a bouncy feeling with the rear suspension
  • The rear spring rack is decent but doesn’t work very well for longer panniers
  • There are no water bottle mounts, have to use the saddle rack with a bag or a camel back
  • This full suspension frame design bends and bounces more than higher end true off-road electric bikes which stay rigid and keep battery weight closer to the main triangle vs. off to the back
  • If you get the NuVinci CVT hub there will be extra cables that run across the downtube (it requires two cables vs. one with standard derailleurs) see pictures above

Rating:

Evelo Aries, Rated 3.5 out of 5
Updated by Court Rye

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