- Improves on the standard Kuo with smoother cadence sensing pedal assist, a larger motor and battery and upgraded drivetrain using Shimano Alivio vs. Shimano Tourney
- Low weight distribution, removable battery is easy to access, fenders rack and lights look good and perform well
- The display isn't as easy to reach and adjust while riding, the trigger throttle seems flipped and is mounted to the left bar vs. the right which is more traditional
The 2015 A2B Kuo+ is a much improved version of the 2013/2014 Kuo. While it does cost several hundred dollars more, you get a more powerful motor, more consistent pedal assist, longer crank arms for a more natural ride, a rear carry rack, better LED lights and nicer drivetrain components (Shimano Alivio vs. Tourney). It’s totally worth the money in my opinion and easily one of the best folding electric bikes I’ve tested for the price. A2B is known for their iconic Metro electric bike which launched in 2008 and has since expanded their line of ebikes to include models like this folding bike which could be perfect for those with boats, RV’s or limited housing space. At 43 pounds with the battery attached and closer to 38 without, it’s not too difficult to lift and maneuver. The folding points are all reinforced with locking quick release hinges and the chainging is protected with a nice aluminum bash guard. There’s even a flat metal block below the bottom bracket designed to stabilize the bike when it’s completely folded and a pair of magnetic discs connect at the front and rear to keep it from coming unfolded. There are a few quirks here including a trigger throttle on the left bar that was flipped on the model I tested and an LCD display that’s a bit small with difficult to reach buttons, there’s also no suspension fork to counteract the bumpy ride that smaller wheels tend to create but overall it’s a winner and comes with a generous two year electronics warranty.
Driving the Kuo+ is a 250 watt geared hub motor located in the rear wheel. Being geared, the motor is relatively small (you can hardly see it behind the seven speed Shimano Alivio cassette in the picture below). It operates fairly quietly but has a noticeable whir when driving at full power. I wasn’t able to weigh it, but geared motors tend to be lighter than gearless and for a folding application like the Kuo Plus that’s a welcomed attribute. One thing that both the front and rear wheel lack is a quick release skewer for easier maintenance and flat fixes. I like that the tires are designed with K-Shield puncture protection and that they feature a reflective sidewall stripe to keep riders safe. Between the three colors (Black, White and Silver) the two lighter tones might offer the best visibility and be worth seeking out if you’ll be riding this bike in foreign lands on vacation or business travel.
The battery has also been upgraded for the A2B Kuo+ and now offers 36 volts of power instead of just 24. This improves the range and power that riders will experience. The cells use a Lithium-ion chemistry that’s light weight and long lasting and I was impressed with how compact the pack is. It’s mounted just behind the set tube and between the seat stays and chain stays for excellent protection in the event of a tip. It’s not as centrally located as some folding ebikes which have a top-tube integrated pack, but I still appreciate the lower weight distribution found here and love how easy the battery is to access and remove. It blends in with the frame nicely and can be charged on or off the bike.
Once the A2B Kuo+ battery is charged and mounted to the frame, you actually have to press a toggle switch on the pack before the main display can operate. This can be confusing if you haven’t used the electric bike for a while, one might wonder if the battery is charged or if there has been another problem with circuitry? Once the main display is powered on using the tiny rubberized on/off button below the screen you’ll see readouts listing speed, battery level, range and assist level. Using the rubberized “i” button to the right of on/off you can navigate through different “information” readouts. Using the rubberized “m” button to the left of on/off you can jump between 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 “modes” of drive output. At zero, only the throttle will work and going from 1-5 pedal assist will work with increasing power output. At any time, in any of the assist modes, the throttle can be actuated to add more power but it is capped with each level. So basically, in pedal assist level five you get more throttle power than zero and pedal assist mode one. Considering the throttle is a slider with variable power output, I’d prefer that it just offered full power at all times. I do like that A2B is now using a cadence sensor instead of the less consistent feeling torque sensor that the standard Kuo had. This pedelec disc features 12 magnets and operates relatively quickly and smoothly.
The Kuo+ is a solid folding electric bike from a reputable company. It offers great utility at a reasonable price and shows that A2B is dedicated to improving their products as it is much better than the original Kuo in almost every way. There are still a few little quirks with the system and areas of improvement to be made but if you’re looking for a folding bike at your local shop and they carry this one, it would be a solid choice. The removable battery, longer crank arms and multiple drive modes (that feel smooth and natural) won me over but the attention to detail on the rack, fenders, lights, tires and solid folding mechanisms reinforced my interest and I like that there are multiple colors. Again, I’d probably choose the lighter colors for improved visual footprint, especially if using for travel. In the future, if they chose to offer a suspension fork option I’d definitely go for that, even if it weighed more, because the smaller 20″ wheels on all folding bikes tend to feel uncomfortable but I’ve got a stiff back and neck. For most people on smooth roads this thing should work just fine.
- Full length matching plastic fenders with mud guards keep the rider clean and dry
- Rear rack uses standard gauge tubing for use with a wide range of panniers or saddle bags, the reinforced sides block panniers from rubbing on the wheel and spokes, the integrated spring latch is handy for small items
- Front and rear LED lights blend into the frame and add an element of safety, the front one is aimable
- Reinforced front chainring has a large metal bash guard that protects the sprocket teeth and helps to block pants from dragging on the greasy chain, it also doubles as a guide to keep the chain on track while riding over rough terrain
- Easy to fold with locking quick release points on the stem and middle of the top tube, nice metal rest below the seat tube designed to stabilize the bike once folded
- Offers throttle only mode at level zero with five levels of assist that can be overridden by the throttle at any time, great intuitive design
- Longer crank arms are comfortable and efficient to pedal with, the original Kuo had short arms that felt awkward at times
- Good price with an excellent warranty and track record from A2B (which was one of the early ebike companies lauching the A2B Metro in 2008)
- I like that they included mounting holes for a bottle cage on the top tube, even though the bottle would basically be horizontal
- Built-in magnetic clasp on front and rear stays to help keep the bike from unfolding during transport
- Battery is easy to take off for convenient transporting (reduced weight) and for charging away from where the ebike frame is stored
- Weighs about four pounds more than the original A2B Kuo (~43 lbs vs. 39 lbs) due to the larger motor and rear rack, could make it more difficult to lift and transport for some
- Uses a trigger throttle rather than a twist throttle like the original Kuo had, that’s fine but it’s mounted on the left bar and seems flipped compared with other ebikes I’ve tested (which may be less intuitive or bothersome for some riders)
- The LCD display pad is mounted further away from the left grip (in part due to the trigger throttle setup) which makes it more difficult to interact with while riding without taking your hand off the grip to change assist modes or information readouts, the buttons are at the bottom of the display and are small instead of the side and large which also makes them trickier to reach and use
- The plastic folding pedals aren’t as stiff as aluminum ones might be but likely save weight and keep the price low
- While the battery and motor weight are kept low on the bike frame, they are mounted more towards the rear than some other folding ebikes like the e-Joe Epik SE which place it in the downtube
- Brake and power cables aren’t integrated into the frame tubing which contributes to a messier aesthetic and may expose them to more damage during transport and riding but will make them easier to service and fix
- Throttle mode is limited by the level of assist you’re riding in and won’t put out full power if you’re not in level five, even in throttle mode (mode zero)
- Official Site: http://www.wearea2b.com/us/collection/usa-kuo-plus
- Official Documentation: a2b-kuo-plus-manual.pdf
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/AnS9Sv7a5czqjmrH8