Benno was a new company to me, I heard about it through my friend Chris who owns and runs Propel Bikes in Brooklyn NY. He’s an early adopter and I always learn a lot during visits to his shop. As it turns out, the founder of Benno Bikes is actually Benno Baenziger who co-founded Electra Bicycles. I’m very familiar with them and their recent acquisition by Trek. Elektra has an awesome ebike called the Townie Go! which switched over to the Bosch system in 2016. That’s the same system the Benno Boost E is using and it’s one of my favorites. As a compact cargo ebike, the Boost E 10D is short enough to fit in some tight spaces while still delivering utility with a longer rear rack. They also sell a tray that attaches to the head tube and provides even more space. I’m being specific about how it attaches because some cargo bikes have a bar and fork mounted basket which turns as you do. These baskets (when loaded) tend to sway side to side and I’m glad that the Benno Boost E is delivering more than just looks and a promise of usefulness. The rear rack can handle up to 110 lbs of weight and has an extra long standard-gauge tube fixed to both sides for the clip-on style panniers. The fenders are another highlight on the utility front and I was impressed with their great coverage and strength… no rattling! You get integrated front and rear lights by Supernova (the front is mounted with an adjustable angle clamp so you can use it to see, not just be seen). In short, this is a nimble bike that’s easier to handle and lighter weight than a lot of full sized models. You may not be able to fit two Yepp seats on the back but they do sell an adapter for one and you may not have running boards to start but the 24″ wheels match so tires and tubes are easier to replace together. They keep weight low and improve wheel strength but aren’t so small that the derailleur hits curbs or have you dragging pedals during leaning turns.
Powering the bike is a Bosch Powerpack 400 downtube battery. It’s easy to charge on the bike but also has a plastic carry-loop on top so you can bring it inside. The mounting interface is forward compatible to work with the larger Powerpack 500 released in the United States in 2017 and in my experience, the charger for these batteries is fast and easy to use. It’s also light weight and compact so tossing it into a pannier or trunk bag is easy. Note that Benno sells their own extra-long bags that work perfectly with the Boost models. I’m a big proponent of bicycle safety and noticed that their bags have reflective stripes woven in. This is key, and something I wish they had considered for their branded tires as well. I’ve seen reflective tape on tires that helps you stand out even more and I’m not sure how easy it is to add at the consumer level. In any case, the lights are nice but the headlight doesn’t shine out to the sides and if you’re a messenger or someone who is just focused on a child or big load of groceries please be safe and consider additional lights and reflective gear. I do like that the frame comes in multiple color choices; the putty white and neon yellow would probably stand out best but the black does look cool.
Driving the bike is a Bosch Performance Line 350 watt mid-drive motor. It peaks at 63 Newton meters of torque and is super responsive. In addition to being powerful and efficient (with great range) it delivers shift sensing which will help your chain, sprockets and derailleur last. It’s still up to you to ease off when shifting gears, it’s a software driven sensor and imperfect, but the sensing technology is better than nothing. The motor measures your pedal cadence, force and rear wheel speed so the bike won’t start if you just rest a foot on the pedal. It’s capable of assisting you up to 20 mph and I appreciate the range of RPM output it delivers. Some motors have more of a sweet spot while the Bosch Centerdrive performs well at a range and allows you to pedal at higher RPMs without dropping out (which is my personal preference due to knee sensitivity). The motor is balanced by excellent hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano. They aren’t the largest or fanciest as you’d see on a downhill ebike but they are larger than average and from a name-brand manufacturer. The Shimano levers are easy to use with just a finger or two and the levers can be adjusted for reach which is great if you’re wearing work gloves or lending the bike to different employees or family members.
Once the battery is charged and mounted, turning the bike on is very simple. You press the power button on the Intuvia display near the lower left corner. It blinks on and delivers battery capacity, current speed, assist level and ride stats. You can change these readouts without taking your hands off the grip which is huge if you’re trying to balance a large load. One thing this cargo bike does not have stock is a super wide double-leg kickstand. Instead, it features a single side adjustable length stand that’s positioned far enough back to clear the left crank arm and pedal but not so far that a front basket add-on would tip the bike. Not everyone needs the huge stands but they do come in handy for large loads… they add cost and weight but the Benno Boost E 10D is already fairly light in comparison to full sized cargo bikes. It weighs about 57 lbs and the removable battery shaves off nearly 6 lbs. Both wheels are also easy to take off with quick release but depending on your environment it could be worth replacing with security skewers. Anyway, the display panel is also removable for convenience and to keep it protected in the rain, direct sun or rowdy bike racks. At the top right edge of the Intuvia display there’s a Micro USB port so you can charge portable electronics like a phone GPS. I love how easy it is to reach vs. some ebikes with a battery-mounted USB charging port.
For now, this is the only e-bike from Benno but I appreciate the unique qualities it offers and can see that they put a lot of time and energy into getting it right. I’m a big fan of the Bosch drive system and noticed that they went with a larger chainring here (which confused me at first), designed to balance out the smaller wheel diameter for a more natural cadence range. You get 10 gears here with a solid Shimano Deore LX derailleur. To me, this is a sweet spot where you don’t drop the chain as frequently and don’t have the complexity of two derailleurs… the Bosch system only works with one sprocket up front for now and the chainring has a nice plastic cover to keep your pant leg or dress clear and clean. I suppose I’d like a bell added for friendly signaling but that’s cheap and easy to add yourself later. The ergonomic grips felt great and used lockers so they won’t twist around if you’re really bearing down while transporting a heavy load. It’s a great bike and I’m excited about how it might empower people who couldn’t fit the full sized cargo ebikes into their garages, elevators, sheds and other storage spots.
- Unique tire size… they’re basically 24″ diameter plus sized tires (like you’d find on a mountain bike or fancy speed pedelec), the extra air provides traction and comfort and the smaller wheel diameter improves strength and lowers weight for stability (technically I think plus sized is 2.8″ to 3″ but 2.6 is still large for something like t his)
- Cool rack options, there’s a longer cargo-style rack in the rear that can handle up to 110 lbs along with an extra set of braze-ons for bags, up front there are threaded eyelets setup for a porter style tray (the kind that mounts directly to the head tube and offers better handling), they also sell a Yepp child seat adapter
- Nice fenders, you get matching Aluminum front and rear fenders that are extra wide for the plus sized tires… and given the smaller wheel size you probably won’t clip your toe on them as much when turning! During my ride tests the fenders didn’t rattle at all
- Heavy duty Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, you get 180 mm up front and 160 mm in the rear, it’s enough to stop you and larger loads (and again, the smaller wheel diameter improves your mechanical advantage here with braking)
- Premium drive system from Bosch, this is the same motor used for e-mountain bikes and full sized cargo models like the Xtracycle Edgerunner, it’s responsive and very efficient but still plenty powerful
- Given the shorter frame length of the Benno Boost, you can fit it into more compact places (like some elevators, sheds and car racks)
- Well positioned kickstand… sometimes they mount these things to the bottom bracket which gets in the way of your crank arms and pedals, in this case it’s set back a little bit and positioned under the cargo rack
- Comfortable and accessible frame with an angled top tube… I’d call this a mid-step because it’s not as high as a traditional diamond frame but not as low as a step-thru, one advantage of still using the high top-tube is improved strength and stiffness
- Battery and motor weight are kept low and central (if not a bit forward) on the frame, this keeps the rack completely open and allows for more weight to be added (compared with frame mounted batteries), you can charge on or off the bike easily and the battery can be upgraded to 500 watt hours for maximum range
- In addition to having a removable battery, the display is also easy to take off and that’s really handy if you’re parking in a city or bike rack where vandalism or accidental bumps and tips can happen
- The display panel has an integrated Micro USB charging port so you can tap into the main battery for additional power for your cell phone, GPS or other device and it’s right there easy to reach vs. down at the battery
- You get two awesome LED Lights from Supernova and both are run off the main battery pack, this saves time and materials compared with add-on lights that can be easily stolen and require separate charging or replacement cells
- I like the cockpit, they went with a riser bar and ergonomic grips to increase comfort and position the rider upright (to help spot traffic and fellow pedestrians)
- It’s nice that you get several colors to choose from and the putty color and yellow struck me as being high visibility for increased safety and visual footprint
- I like the oversized saddle with integrated handle at the back, this comes in handy to lift and position the bike but might be hard on a suspension seat post (if you swapped one in) so be careful ;)
- The brake levers offer adjustable reach so you can fit your hand size and account for wearing work gloves or winter gloves
- I like the pedals they chose, they seemed sturdy and had a larger surface area with good contact points so you won’t slip off easily
- Quick release wheels make maintenance and transport easier but you might want to swap them with security hardware to prevent tampering and theft depending on your locale
- Internally routed shifting, brake and motor cables help to reduce snags and keep the bike looking good
- Reinforced spokes and rim eyelets reduce breaking and cracking under load
- The control pad is very easy to reach while riding, you don’t have to take your left hand off the grip in order to arrow up or down in assist power level or change the display readout and that’s extra important if you’re carrying heavy/unstable cargo and need power instantly
- Despite having large tires, this bike can feel a little stiff (especially if they’re fully inflated for a full load), there’s no suspension so if you’re sensitive like me, consider adding a 31.2 mm Thudbuster seat post suspension (you might need a shim to fit this size properly)
- The frame is only available in one size at this time and while it works okay (and actually pretty well for shorter riders) some taller people might feel scrunched, consider tipping the bars forward to extend reach and really raising that seat
- Minor gripe here but it would be nice if the tires had reflective sidewall stripes (especially since they were already customized to say Benno on the side)… the LED lights are great but the Supernova headlight doesn’t shine through the sides at all, keep in mind that a brighter colored frame will help increase your visual footprint
- I’m glad they included a slap guard to protect your right chainstay but wish it was a little longer… just given the stretched out tubing here it might get nicked in places that aren’t fully covered if you ride on very bumpy terrain
- Benno Bikes are new to the US and may not be available to test ride and purchase in as many locations, on the upside however, Benno was the co-founder of Electra which made great bicycles and was well respected in the space
- I wouldn’t want to compromise the frame strength but it would be nice to have bottle cage bosses, perhaps under the top tube? Seems like there’s room for a cage, min-pump or lock there
- The Bosch motor is super quick to start and stop but it rotates at roughly two times your normal pedal cadence and I’ve noticed that there is a little whine sound that is produced which is slightly more audible than some other systems
- depending on your cargo needs, it would be nice to have a double-side kickstand for added stability when loading, I do like that the single side stand that it comes with has adjustable length