- A family-friendly midtail electric cargo bike with a broad range of custom rack and bag accessories to handle work gear, additional passengers (infants, toddlers, or even adults), 400lb maximum weight capacity
- Available in two beautiful colors, glossy blue or white, premium integrated lights with multi-LED brake-activated rear light, large stable tires with reflective sidewalls and puncture protection
- Unique 24-inch wheel size lowers frame height and makes the bike easier to approach, load, and stand over, mid-step frame is approachable but not as stiff as a diamond so there is some frame flex and possibility of speed wobble
- Optional second battery pack extends range, pedal assist with throttle mode gives you multiple ways to ride and help getting started from standstill, adjustable angle stem, steel fork, swept back handlebar, and padded saddle all add comfort, Mechanical disc brakes may require more hand strength but help to keep the price lower and may be easier to adjust, integrated USB charging port on display for accessories
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This review was sponsored by Blix Bikes. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of Blix products.
[NOTICE: The Blix Packa is scheduled to launch on Indiegogo on March 26th, they requested that I publish this review early and have posted more information on their official website in the meantime.] The Packa is a mid-tail cargo electric bike offering lots of utility, value, and good looks. It’s unique in many ways, but fits in line with a growing number of approachable cargo models that allow you to move more stuff or even transport a child or friend. The Packa has an extended rear rack that is reinforced with beautifully positioned Aluminum alloy bars to handle up to 150lbs. There are two Yepp! windows on top of the rear rack, so you can fit the Maxi Easyfit (as shown in the video). The company also sells seat pads for adult passengers or a surround-bar for kids. An optional front rack or basket can handle 50lbs more, and the total load capacity for the bike is 400lbs. Included in the $2k base price are alloy running boards that could act as foot platforms or bag supports, and they incorporate beautiful bamboo deck vs. being empty and open. I love that the rear rack has standard gauge pannier hangers, so you could recycle existing industry-standard gear, and was very impressed with the 27-LED tail light that goes bright whenever the brakes are pulled! Yes, the bike includes integrated lights, extra wide fenders, and even reflective tires with puncture protection built in. If you want to match the bamboo runnign boards, Blix sells matching deck accessory for the top of the rack as well.
The video review for this product is pretty long and thorough because the founder, Pontus Malmberg, met me with a van full of accessories to explain and demo. One thing that was not shown is the wooden deck mentioned just above. Anyway, I’ve listed most of them in the details section above but was not given pricing information because the bike is going to be crowd funded on Indiegogo in March, 2019 and there could be adjustments. Normally, I avoid crowd funded products because they are subject to change. In this case, I decided to go ahead because Blix has been in business since 2014 and sells through a growing network of shops in North America. I was told that they will be shipping the Packa direct as well as providing it to shops, and interest from shops has been high so far. Personally, I prefer the assembly help and ongoing support of shops when it’s available, so I like the dual-channel distribution model here. Blix offers a one year comprehensive warranty and is positioned as a stylish mid-level brand in my mind; striving for reasonable prices while using higher-end parts. The compromises that I feel were made on the Packa to hit the lower price with this bike are the use of a gearless hub motor vs. a more efficient mid-drive (though this allows for throttle operation, which is great if you’ve got a heavily loaded bike), and mechanical disc brakes vs. hydraulic. Many people rationalize mechanical brakes because they’re easy to service and might not require the help of a shop. The downside, however, is increased hand effort and imbalance between front brake and rear brake because of the cable length. All things considered, the bike is special because it’s so custom and well thought out. Notice the color-matching on the mid-frame battery pack, the option of purchasing a secondary battery for longer rides (almost unheard of with a value-priced ebike), Blix included a deflopilator front wheel stabilizing device, upgraded reflective tires with puncture protection, and they’re offering two color choices! The kickstand is sturdy and reliable, they custom-made the frame and kickstand mounting point so it wouldn’t block the crank arms when pedaling backwards, servicing the drivetrain when the bike is parked. While the chain-line is long and sometimes noisy (on rough terrain as it bounces into the chain stay), Blix did include an alloy guide to keep the chain from dropping off the chainring, and they upgraded the cadence sensor to a higher resolution 12-magnet sealed sensor for increased reliability. The derailleur is an entry/mid-level part, and good enough for this price range… I’m glad they went with a larger 11 to 32 tooth cassette vs. 14 to 28 tooth on many others I’ve seen. I’m going to dig in to the motor, battery, and display unit below, before wrapping things up and sharing some pros/cons at the very end :)
Driving this ebike is a a Shengyi gearless hub motor that weighs about 10lbs and is spoked into a sturdy 24-inch double-wall rim with extra-thick 12 gauge spokes. I’ve seen this motor brand before, on competing products from Rad Power Bikes, and heard that it’s very reliable from customers who have purchased and used it regularly for multiple years ongoing. Gearless motors need to be larger, and are usually heavier than geared, because they produce power through electromagnetic staters and rare earth magnets pushing against each other. This, compared with a planetary geared motor that uses a faster-spinning motor that is geared down for torque. With a gearless motor, the further out those magnets are from the center, the more torque power is generated. The advantage to this type of motor is that you don’t have plastic gears rubbing against each other to produce power, making it quiet and more durable over the long run. The magnets and staters don’t actually touch, so propulsion is smooth and quiet. However, when the motor is finished pushing, it also drags a bit because there is no freewheel mechanism. Some ebike companies that use gearless direct drive motors has designed their controller systems to recapture some of this magnetic drag as electricity for regeneration. That is not the case with Blix, and I don’t see this as a major drawback because it simplifies the controller and keeps it cooler. My understanding is that the electricity recaptured through regen on ebikes is only a small percentage, and the optional second battery option with the Packa is going to be much, much, more effective for extending range. Offering between 500 and 750 watts of power output and up to 40 newton meters of torque, the motor is powerful and effective in most situations. One challenging scenario however, is starting from standstill while climbing. Gearless motors just don’t generate as much torque at standstill… so try to get some momentum going in, if you can. In short, this motor is quiet, tough, and very capable of transporting heavy loads, especially with the 11 to 32 tooth cassette. You might have to pedal along when ascending steep hills, but it should do fine on small and medium hills without too much input, as long as you’ve got a little momentum going in.
Powering the bike, it’s backlit LCD display, and two integrated LED Lights is a 48 volt 10.5 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack. The case is a fairly standard design that I’ve seen on other ebikes, but never color-matched like this. It seats in from the left side of the frame and comes in at an angle. This allowed Blix to lower the top tube, providing a lower stand-over height and easier mounting/stabilizing of the bike. The capacity of this pack is pretty standard at roughly 500 watt hours, and should be enough for 20+ mile rides, even if you’re relying heavily on the throttle or using a higher level of assist. For those who want to go further, or plan on carrying lots of cargo over varied terrain, Blix offers a secondary pack rated at 48 volt 14 amp hours! When combined, this ebike has over 1 kilowatt-hour of juice, to offer. Only the default downtube battery has a built-in USB charging port, but they both use the same three amp charger. One of the compromises the company made to lower the cost of this second battery and the controller that draws from both, is that each pack must be physically plugged in separately. Some of the really fancy new systems from Bosch and Shimano are able to charge two packs at once, requiring less attention and handling by the rider. Also, both packs on the Blix Packa must be unlocked separately, using unique keys. If you opt for their optional front wheel frame lock, there will be a third key in use… So, there’s extra time and clutter with the Packa, but at $2k, it’s priced at half of most other high-end multi-battery products on the market right now. One very cool feature about the dual-battery setup is that the packs drain fairly evenly when riding. The onboard control system is smart enough to switch back and fort when the difference is greater than 5%. This reduces the cycle count of any given pack and reduces the chance that you’ll hit zero (which can strain the cells). To extend the usable life of most Lithium-ion batteries, it’s best to store them in a cool, dry location. Extreme heat can damage them, and cold will limit their range. I’ve also heard that if you know you won’t be riding with a pack for a month or more, it’s great to keep it about half full or full but avoid letting it drain down all the way. All things considered, I feel that the positioning of both batteries is fairly good, low and center on the bike, protected by the frame tubing from scratches and bumps at racks or tips.
Operating the Packa is fairly straightforward, but there are a couple of hidden features built into the LCD computer display that I’d like to share with you. First of all, the LCD screen is fairly large and can be swiveled to adjust for glare, but it’s not removable. This means that it could take some weather wear and scratches over time and bike racks. It’s very thin, large enough to read easily from a distance, and incorporates a second USB charging port (in addition to the one on the battery pack) which could maintain a smartphone or other portable electronic device. That is, unless your device requires at least an amp of power (as many iOS devices do). I believe that both USB ports on this bike deliver 5 volts 500 milliamps. To activate the display, just press and hold the M button on the base of the control ring which is mounted near the left grip. The LCD blinks to life quickly and shows several industry-standard readouts. I was a little disappointed to discover that the battery capacity meter (which shows 10 bars) is really only a five bar meter. That’s pretty standard for cheaper displays, with each bar representing a 20% drop. Since there’s no battery percentage readout or range estimator built in, you won’t get as much precise feedback about charging. It might not be a big issue if you’ve opted for the second pack, but this ebike is definitely heavier than average at 72+lbs and could be a struggle to ride home with a heavy load, unpowered. For this reason, I’d recommend bringing the charger as a backup when going for longer rides. It would fit easily into one of the optional pannier bags that Blix sells. So, the display boots up into assist level one, and the throttle is active at this level. It’s not going to deliver as much power as levels 2-5, which was disappointing to me. The trigger throttle offers variable power output as you press further, and yet, it’s capped by the level of assist in use. This means that you cannot use the trigger throttle to briefly add power for climbing or catching up with a friend. Instead, you’ll have to click the up arrow a couple of times and then use the throttle, then click back down to a lower level of assist to match your original setting. Some riders might prefer to always ride with assist level 5, but then the battery will run down faster and the starts aren’t as smooth… it’s more zippy in this mode. Finally, the lowest level of assist is zero, which basically supplies no power in assist or throttle mode. Zero level allows you to read the display for feedback about your speed, battery level, and other trip stats (as with the other levels of assist) while running the lights. It’s a good option if you are running low on battery but still want to remain visible while pedaling manually. In order to activate the bikes integrated lights, hold up on the button pad for a few seconds. Walk mode can be activated by holding down ongoing, and you can get into the settings menu to change units (mph to km/h) or lower the top speed by holding the up and down arrows simultaneously.
I was surprised and delighted to hear about and then experience the new Blix Packa electric bicycle. It’s a beautiful mid-tail cargo electric bike with an approachable frame. While the mid-step design does flex a bit, increasingly as the rear rack is loaded, it feels very comfortable and steady to mount. Blix opted for fairly high-volume 24″ tires that worked well when I took the bike off-road for a stretch during the video review ride test. Even without a suspension fork or suspension seat post, the bike felt comfortable because of the steel fork, taller adjustable stem, swept-back handlebar, and the padded Velo saddle. You could swap the rigid seat post out for an affordable 31.6mm suspension seat post and reduce back, neck, and arm fatigue, but it’s probably not necessary if you’re on smooth neighborhood streets. I’m hoping that Blix introduces a sticker slap guard with their final build, since the longer chain can bounce around to create noise and even chip the paint over time. I was told that the front fender will have a metal reinforcement support to reduce light vibration and fender noise. I want to call out and compliment the alloy chainring guide, that will protect your pants/dress ends and reduce chain drops. As always, I welcome your comments below, especially as the bike evolves with the crowdfunding campaign and eventual delivery. I’ve covered several other Blix models here and have created a special section in the EBR forums for Blix, where you can connect with other owners to share pictures and direct feedback :)
- Excellent value here, this mid-tail cargo platform comes with extra wide fenders, integrated lights, dealer distribution (so you don’t have to assemble it yourself if you can find a local dealer), and the option of expanding the battery for long-range use for $2k which is very impressive to me
- Beautiful custom frame design, the tubing matches and lines up perfectly, I love that it’s available in two frame colors and the cover of the main battery is paint-matched!
- The prototype shown in the pictures and video did not have bottle cage bosses, but I’m told that the final build will have them on the top tube
- Lots of great accessories for hauling cargo or additional passengers (infants, kids, and adults), Blix designed many of the bags to work in conjunction with the bolt-on cargo racks so you can maximize utility
- With two 24″ wheels, tubes, and tires on the Packa, you don’t need as many different sized replacement parts, Blix chose this size because it keeps the frame low, is sturdier than 26″ or 28″ (especially with the 12 gauge extra-thick spokes), but is more comfortable and stable than super small 20″
- Mounting and loading the bike is very easy thanks to the giant double-leg kickstand and stabilizing “deflopilator” spring at the front fork
- The drivetrain good for around town riding with a wider 11 to 32 tooth cassette (vs. 12-28) and an alloy chainring guide (to reduce chain drops), the chain is also rust-resistant
- Safety is important, especially if you’ve got passengers along for the ride! so I really appreciate the reflective tires, integrated lights, extra-bright 27-LED rear light with brake bright activation, and the white frame option (which will stand out more in low lighting situations)
- It’s neat that Blix includes running board with bamboo decks, these offer support for pannier bags or a place for a passenger to put their feet… some companies charge extra for this feature or don’t include a wood insert
- I love that the rear rack includes a standard gauge tube for clipping-on aftermarket pannier bags, Blix has a great range of bag options that are guaranteed to work and look pretty good, but the industry standard tubing is a nice “open source” touch that adds utility and value if you already own gear
- The bike felt very comfortable to me, even without suspension, because of the higher volume 2.4″ tires, upright stem, swept back handlebar, and steel fork (which dampens vibration)
- Lots of little details are dialed in with this frame including internally routed cables, threaded water-sealed electrical cabling, sturdy 31.6mm seat post diameter, front wheel frame lock mounting option, and fender-mounted headlight… I was told that the final design will have a metal insert to increase fender strength and reduce headlight bounce
- The LCD display panel is fairly large, I appreciate the half-grip twist shifter because it’s intuitive to use (it has a little clear window showing the chosen gear), the stem can be adjusted without tools so it’s easy to switch riders, and Blix opted for a high power 48 volt electrical system vs. 36 volt and has a powerful external 22 amp motor controller that reduces the cost of replacement batteries and also reduces battery/controller heat
- It’s neat that the LCD display and battery pack have 5 volt 500mA USB charging ports built-in, this could be useful for charging portable electronics, additional lights, or even for picnic situations where you remove the main battery and bring it with you.
- Blix opted for a slightly faster 3 amp battery charger vs. 2 amp with many competing products, this is great for such a high capacity two-battery setup… but you will have to plug the charger in separately to each pack vs. a really fancy simultaneously-charging setup I’ve seen on some Bosch and Shimano drive systems
- Both brake levers have motor inhibitors built in, so they instantly cut power to the drive system whenever you need to stop, it’s especially important with a cadence sensing ebike vs. torque sensing, and the sensor also activates the tail light so you’ll be more visible when slowing down
- I like how the tail light has angled sides so you’ll stand out from more directions, the headlight does not have this… it just shines out the front, but it does point where you steer and won’t be blocked by the optional front rack or basket accessories
- Gearless hub motors are known for being super reliable and quiet, I didn’t really hear it much during the ride test and have actually experienced the Shengyi motor on competing products from Rad Power Bikes with good success over year of use
- The 12-magnet cadence sensor is a bit more responsive than the 5, 6, and 8-magnet sensors I see on some other ebikes, I like how it’s sealed in plastic to keep water and dust out
- By choosing a trigger throttle vs. a twist throttle, Blix made the bike less prone to accidental activation, it’s still a good idea to turn it off before mounting and dismounting since it’s automatically active in assist level 1 (which is the default powerup mode)
- It’s nice to have a trigger throttle to help getting started from stop signs, especially with a cadence sensor vs. multi-sensor or torque sensor… I’m saying this as someone with sensitive knees, once you get the bike started, all you have to do is move the cranks for pedal assist to kick in, you don’t have to pedal hard since it only senses motion
- Blix has been in business since 2014, I’ve reviewed a bunch of their products and met the founder, they seem to offer great customer support and really focus on building good relationships with local dealers who can assemble properly support the product with its two year warranty, I trust this product more than other crowd-funding stuff because of the longstanding Blix reputation and dealer network
- Most electric cargo bikes weigh more because the frames require additional material for strength, the Blix Packa uses a heavier Gearless hub motor and with the optional second battery pack it does start to weigh a lot, I did experience some frame flex and speed wobble when the rear rack had bags and a child seat added (as is the case with most mid-step cargo ebikes)
- The trigger throttle does not work in pedal assist level zero and is actually power-limited based on the assist level chosen, I prefer to have the throttle offering full power at all levels of assist because it helps during brief climbs or catching up to a friend, requiring less button presses to raise power
- Large 180mm disc brakes provide good cooling benefits and a mechanical advantage over the 24″ wheels, but mechanical requires more hand effort and adjustment over time compared with hydraulic… which would have raised the bike price
- Since this ebike is launching on crowd funding platform Indiegogo in mid March, 2019, some things may change with the final product and you’ll probably have to wait to receive it, which could cut into the Spring and Summer months for riding
- It’s really neat to have an secondary battery option and front wheel frame lock option but each unit will utilize a different key, which means lots of clutter in your pocket or purse and more time spent trying to figure out which key goes to which lock
- The long chain and mid-level derailleur results in some bounces around, producing some noise and possibly marring the frame, consider using some box tape to protect the right chain stay, I’d love it if Blix included a slap guard with their final product but am not sure if that will be the case
- Gearless direct drive hub motors tend to weigh more, produce less torque from standstill, and cause some magnetic drag when coasting, Blix is not recapturing energy with any sort of regenerative braking on this setup
- Minor complaint, the frame only comes in one size… but the mid-step design is fairly easy to approach and the adjustable angle stem, swept back handlebar, and adjustable seat offer a wide range of fit options
- If you opt for the secondary battery pack and have your seat positioned low, you might need to raise or even remove it each time you wish to remove the battery pack because of where it’s mounted
- The charging port for the main battery is directly in the path of the left crank arm, so be careful not to bump the pedals while it’s plugged in or the plug and socket could get damaged
- The display isn’t removable for protection at public bike racks or from inclement weather but at least it can be angled to reduce glare while riding
- Sometimes, adjustable angle stems can start to wiggle loose and then strip, I’ve experienced this with some cheaper stems and would just keep an eye out this part and keep the bolt tight to avoid issues (the bolt is located under the folding handle on the top portion of the stem)