The Juiced Riders ODK U500 has one of the worst names I’ve seen but offers one of the best electric cargo bikes I’ve come across. Please note that this review is for the 2013 model, to learn about the most recent version check out the ODK V3 review. The ODK U500 is available as a standard non-electric cargo bike for just $899 or a very reasonable $2,199 as an ebike. For the money, you’ll get strength, range, durability and a decent one year warranty on the frame, components and battery system! Unlike some other entries in this space such as the the Pedego Tandem that optionally converts to cargo bike by removing the rear seat, the Juiced Riders ODK U500 was purpose built with hauling in mind and it really shows.
The hub motor on this bike offers 500 watts of power (as you might have guessed from the U500 name) and is designed to work with 48 volts of power input which is at the upper end of mainstream ebikes. It’s a geared motor meaning it offers more torque but has internal parts that could wear out a little faster over time. You’ll be able to ride with large loads (up to 330 lbs including rider) and easily manage small and medium sized hills without pedaling. The motor runs smooth and quiet (see the video review above) and is so powerful that the front wheel will actually spin out if the throttle is twisted abruptly from stop.
The battery configuration chosen for the ODK U500 is Lithium Manganese which strikes a balance between the high performance, low weight benefits of Lithium-ion and the lower cost but fewer cycles offered by Lead Acid. All things considered, given the generous one year warranty and low price of this bike, this battery choice makes sense. In terms of positioning on the bike, the battery is protected very well in a long aluminum case that is mounted in the rear rack area and completely surrounded by aluminum tubing. The front of the pack has an on/off switch and the rear has a twist cover for charging. Unfortunately this battery is not so easy to take off so you’ll want to charge it while on the bike. The battery offers 15 amp hours of capacity which is 50% more than most electric bikes and that extends range dramatically, especially when paired with the higher 48 volts of power which creates efficiency in riding. This bike gets over 30 miles on a charge and that’s without pedaling!
Beyond the motor and battery chosen for the ODK U500, the frame and components are all very solid and well thought out. I have very few complaints other than the relatively stiff ride quality. The wheels are 20″ in diameter which is smaller than the standard 26″ or 29″/700c that most bikes use. This makes the bike easier to mount, load and balance on at stop signs but doesn’t smooth over bumps quite as gently. Also, there are no shock absorbers and while the tires are oversized, they are made with extra thick rubber that takes some of the softness out. The seat is oversized and fairly soft which helps but I recommend considering a seat post shock if you live in an especially bumpy area or will be riding a lot.
A few drawbacks to this bike include the lack of pedal assist, although there is a unique cruise control feature built in. This is an interesting feature, rare in the world of ebikes, that could serve to relax the hand of a rider who might otherwise have to twist the throttle unendingly over the course of long commutes. I also would have liked integrated lights, especially given the extra capacity of the 15 amp hour battery. The control unit on this bike is very simple and won’t display your speed, distance or other fancy statistics. One other drawback is the lack of a rear disc brake, only the front wheel has it. In wet conditions and with heavy loads disc brakes are preferred and it would be nice to have them on both wheels but I think this decision was made to keep the rear wheel simple, inexpensive and to more easily accomodate the hub gearing system in the rear.
My favorite part of this bike is the rear rack itself. I was delighted to find that the cross bar configuration works perfectly with child seats, food boxes and other after market accessories. There are five cross bars to work with along the top and three along each side. The top bars on the rear rack are oversized, providing strength and durability but the extra side bars are narrow gauge and match standard bicycle racks exactly! This is a big deal because it opens up a whole world of pannier accessories. Many electric bikes require double sided panniers that sling over the top because the rear racks are too fat (having to support a battery and extreme forces), but that’s not the case here.
Other pleasing features of this bike include the internally geared rear hub which makes shifting from stand still possible. While it only offers three gears, this bike wasn’t built for speed and three works well enough while keeping the bike light, simple and avoiding derailleurs. The chain itself is relatively tight because there aren’t any rings for shifting gears, this means it won’t slap the chainstay or fall off as easily when riding over bumps. The chain is also protected with an extended chain guard to keep your pants clean and snag free. The metal studded Welgo pedals work well and will hold up in wet conditions or if the bike tips over onto its side. The rear hub has a protective metal cage surrounding the cable inclosure. The spokes on both wheels are wide gauge, offering increased strength for heavy loads.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan of this bike. I was delighted by the features and quality I found when inspecting and riding it. The combination of thoughtful design choices, durability, warranty and low price combined with three fun colors make this bike a strong competitor in the world of electric cargo bikes and even as a stand along electric bike! It’s not as smooth riding as a bike with 700c wheels and oversized balloon tires with a sprung saddle, but it more than delivers in almost every other way. Especially if you’re using it as a delivery bike ;)
- Extra thick tires are durable and thorn resistant
- Rear rack provides numerous top mounting points that work seamlessly with Yepp child seat, mobile food boxes, seat pads and other accessories
- Rear rack provides side bars made with narrow gauge tubing that match standard bicycle racks, making it compatible with nearly all pannier bags
- Smaller 20″ wheels keep the weight of this bike low to the ground
- Low step design makes mounting, and resting with one foot very easy, this is especially helpful when hauling heavy loads
- Super strong 500 watt motor and 48 volt battery combination
- Large sized 15 amp hour battery will go 30+ miles
- Ultra durable aluminum battery case is protected on all sides by rear rack
- Internal hub gear can be shifted from standstill, helpful when hauling large loads
- Solid Welgo pedals, high end Tektro ebike brake levers and quality fenders
- Built in “cruise control” button allows twist-free riding over long distances
- Plastic chain guard keeps pants clean and snag free, rear derailleur cage protects shifting mechanics
- Wide gauge spokes and additional cross bar supports on frame support heavy loads up to 330 lbs (150 kg)
- Lower grade Lithium Manganese battery pack won’t get as many charge cycles as Lithium-ion but keeps the bike affordable
- Only three gears available, work well enough but more limiting than other comparable bikes
- Smaller wheels combined with thick tires make this bike more jarring when riding over bumps, no shocks but the soft wide seat helps some, consider a seat post shock absorber
- Battery is meant to be left on the bike, cannot easily remove for charging
- No computer console to show speed, distance or precise battery level, instead opts for a cheaper LED indecator
- No pedal assist mode, must twist throttle or use cruise control
- No lights included, must buy separately and power from separate sources
- Wires are not run through the bicycle frame but do stay out of the way and are managed well enough