- A top of the line, tadpole style cargo trike powered by the Bosch Performance mid-drive motor and an 11 speed SRAM drivetrain, optional NuVinci N360 or Harmony continuously variable transmission with Gates Carbon belt drive
- The bike leans side to side so you can corner faster and avoid the two-wheel tipping experience of most other electric trikes, built in spring suspension and larger rear wheel cushion driver and cargo, puncture resistant tires reduce maintenance
- Lots of cool options for the cargo box (clear cover for kids, bench seats with three-point seatbelts, infant carrier or a flat rain fly with snaps, clever cup holder "glove box" area near the handlebars locks and serves as a cover for the battery
- Optional Supernova integrated lights that point where you steer, two color choices, brilliant front door system for easier loading of cargo, kids or pets (so you don't have to lift so high), the bike is cool but expensive and heavy
The MK1-E is an electric version of the MK1 from Butchers and Bicycles, a company located in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen. Copenhagen is the capital city of Denmark, a bicycle friendly country in Europe where cycling accounts for roughly 20% of all commuter trips! I was impressed with the look of this thing from the very start and found that the ride is thrilling and dynamic given the tadpole trike three-wheel design. Butchers & Bicycles emphasizes their “Built to Tilt” handling which strives to maintain the fun of a two-wheel bicycle with the utility and strength of a trike. In my opinion, they did an excellent job engineering a leaning experience that is still strong capable as a hauler. The front wheels are 20″ which tend to be sturdier than more traditional 26″ wheels and allow the cargo box to be lower. This keeps the center of gravity down, high-stacked cargo out of your line of sight and makes it easier for children or dogs to jump in. I love that they offer a clear plastic door option with a child-resistant latch so kiddos can also enjoy the view as well and found that the side opening design didn’t rattle a whole lot. Same deal with the fenders and other accessories, it’s a quiet ebike even though it’s large and fully accessorized. The only real complaint I have about the MK1-E is that it costs a lot. You start at ~$6k USD and go up from there with integrated lighting options, a canvas cover for the front bucket, a clear rain cover that works in tandem with a child-pack (bench seat and two three-point safety belts), a rear facing infant seat and even different drivetrains. Stock, the bike offers a fairly traditional 11-speed cogset with SRAM derailleur but the demo bike I tested at Propel Bikes in New York was upgraded to a NuVinci N360 continuously variable transmission with Gates Carbon belt drive. This drivetrain is quiet, clean, more durable and permits shifting at standstill. That’s a great feature when you’re hauling a heavy load and dealing with hills. For those who want to completely do away with shifting, you can upgrade further to the NuVinci Harmony electronic auto-shifter which lets you choose a pedal cadence then handles all of the shifting automatically. This is a car-replacement electric bike and one that can be ridden faster thanks to the leaning design. Even at the 20 mph top speed, it feels comfortable thanks to a spring suspension system on both of the front swing arms and an upgraded Selle Royal saddle. You can take this further by adding your own suspension seat post as was done on the demo bike… just keep in mind that this option can raise the saddle’s minimum height. One of the nicer upgrades here that come standard are Schwalbe tires with a high level of puncture protection and reflective sidewalls. There are two color options and I’m a fan of the white which might show up better when riding in dark environments, complementing the standard reflectors, tires and optional Supernova lights that point where you steer.
Driving this electric cargo bike is one of my favorite motor systems, it’s a mid-motor that measures your wheel speed, pedal cadence and pedal pressure 1,000 times per second to be as responsive as possible. When you’re hauling gear, especially kids, you want a system that’s going to be reliable but also strong so you don’t get distracted or worn out. The Bosch Performance Line motor is an excellent choice for this and I had no problem carting my friend Chris around before we started filming the review. He later took me around on the bike and while I’m a bit lighter than his 200 lbs, the bike worked fine for both of us. I’d say, the most difficult part about the bike is not pedaling but getting used to riding a trike more like a traditional two-wheeled bicycle. It’s an experience that changes the way other trikes feel after you’ve tried it because you don’t have to slow down so much when turning or turn as hard. I’d say it’s safer because you don’t end up on two wheels when riding at higher speeds on unaven terrain while steering. Anyway, the motor is balance out by three 160 mm hydraulic disc brakes. The two front brakes are powered by a single lever (on the left) with a splitter and the rear by the second lever (on the right). The worked very well for me even with the extra weight of a grown man in the front. When it’s time to stop, the left brake lever has a little switch built in that locks front brakes and keeps the bike from rolling away. To fully stabilize the platform however, it’s best to deploy the kickstand system which has a leverage bar you step on and lifts the front of the bike up onto two metal posts with rubber caps. This completely eliminates the side to side tilting of the bike and allows for steady loading. When it’s time to go, just push the bike forward and the stand stows automatically. The cargo bay drops back onto the wheels and the suspension system cushions the load. Brilliant.
Powering the bike is a standard Bosch Powerpack 400, at least on the bike I tested. The interface for the battery is forward compatible to the newer 500 watt hour pack if you want increased range, but it will cost more. The way it’s setup, with a 115+ lb bike frame, the rider and cargo, I’m guessing the max range with minimal assist would be 50+ miles and if you use the full power of the motor and are climbing a lot you might get 30+ miles per charge. Bosch batteries are compact and have a nice plastic loop on the top making them easier to lift and carry around…. which is important in this case because it’s not exactly easy to charge on the bike. You have to reach up from the bottom and peer into a dark space while trying to plug the charging cable in. Of all the Bosch powered electric bikes I have tested and reviewed to date, the battery is most hidden and secured here but also the most difficult and time consuming to charge on-bike and and remove, there are just more steps and fiddling involved. I appreciat that the Powerpack battery case has an integrated LED readout to communicate charge level even when it’s not mounted to the bike. For someone who doesn’t ride often but wants to maintain their pack (by not letting it completely discharge) this is a handy feature.
Operating the Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E is fairly straight forward once the battery is charged and mounted. Just press the power button on the Intuvia display panel and watch it flicker to life. It starts up quickly and is large enough to read without bending over. You get a little battery infographic with five ticks, a speed readout and an assist level bar on the right. You can arrow up or down using the remote button pad positioned near the left grip to add or reduce power and there’s a little “i” button in between that circulates through trip stats like max speed, odometer and range. Range is very cool because it estimates how far you can go with the remaining battery charge based on how you’ve been riding over the past five miles and the assist level currently chosen. This is way more useful than the basic battery readout (which I wish was a percentage or had more ticks). The “i” button is duplicated on the right portion of the display just above the light button which activates the optional Supernova lights. It’s neat to be able to operate everything from one central location without having to reach too far or flick multiple switches AND I love that the display panel has a built-in Micro-USB port for maintaining the charge in your phone, music player or additional lights. Basically, any portable electronic device you want to add to the bike that can be connected through a Micro-USB cable (which you have to buy separately) you can get a 5 Volt charge for here. I’ve seen some ebikes with holiday lights strung across the frame and as Chris said, you could mount a sign for your business in the mid section of the frame or on the side of the front bucket and maybe illuminate it this way. My final props to this display are that it can swivel forward and back to reduce glare and that it’s removable! Being able to stop tampering and care for the display is really nice. For those who want to leave it on at all times, there is an included set screw that goes into the base of the mount also.
This review has been overwhelmingly positive because I can tell that the MK1 and MK1-E were designed well, use quality parts and offer a unique experience that other front-load cargo trikes just don’t. It does take some getting used to but it’s well worth the time and patience of practice… If you’re already used to two-wheel bicycles then it will feel natural. Many of my other trike reviews talk about stability and accessibility for people with limited balance and that is not what this trike excels at. It’s slightly more stable than a bicycle but less familiar and thus, on par in my opinion. I love the way it loads, am a huge fan of the accessories and appreciate the color options. The telescoping stem and standard adjustable seat post allow it to fit a wide range of riders, tall and short alike, and that’s great because you might need to share it in order to justify the high price tag. Yes, the Bosch drive system will last you and yes the frame is going to be solid. Perhaps you need to replace the battery someday and yes I’m confident that they will still be available. This is an ebike that will last and perform in ways that make it a valid car replacement. The Butchers and Bicycles website has a list of dealers in a number of countries and while only a handful are in the US so far, it’s a great bike to see in person if you get the chance.
- Clean, quiet Alu-Core fenders on all wheels, they’re long enough to keep your feet and pants dry up front and will keep your back clean in the rear… there’s still space and threaded eyelets to mount a traditional rear cargo rack if you wish
- Optional NuVinci continuously variable transmission can be shifted at standstill, this is great if you’ve got a lot of weight and have to make a sudden stop or are starting a climb from rest, there’s also an optional Harmony drive system from NuVinci that auto-shifts and is pretty cool, both use a clean quiet belt drive
- Hydraulic disc brakes on all three wheels wheels for powerful stops without the need for a lot of hand strength, the brake levers are adjustable reach so you can use them easily with gloves or if you have smaller hands
- Plenty of traditional plastic reflectors, painted tires with reflective sidewall stripes and option for two integrated Supernova headlights that point where you steer as well as a rear LED light… it’s safe and utilitarian in darker ride conditions, I might choose the white frame color to increase the visual footprint of the bike vs. black shown in the review
- The front portion of the bike uses springs to cushion the cargo box and Propel Bikes had added a 27.2 mm seat post suspension element so both passenger and driver would get some comfort on bumpy terrain, if you add a seat post suspension like this it will raise the minimum saddle height so keep that in mind
- Powerful and responsive mid-drive from Bosch, it offers ~63 Newton meters of peak torque and is an excellent climber, the motor is mounted centrally on the frame to keep it balanced and stays clear of shifting mechanisms (even has shift sensing built in to reduce wear if you opt for the standard chain + derailleur SRAM GX drivetrain
- There’s a built-in parking switch so you can keep the bike from rolling away but you won’t need it if you use the oversized kickstand, this thing has two bars that swing down and lift the front wheels off the ground! it’s easy to use even when the bike is loaded thanks to a leveraged foot press mechanism
- Useful rain fly will keep your cargo dry… one of the kids at the shop jumped in and covered himself up with it like a fort! he was peering through the front plastic window just for fun (see in the pictures posted above)
- You can do many different things with the cargo box including basic storage for groceries or gear, use the seat and seatbelts for kids or mount an infant seat using the special Isofix bracket
- As the driver, you’ve got some neat options for storage that’s easy to reach, there’s a cup holder and bungee strap that works almost like a glovebox at the edge of the cargo bin close to the handle bars
- Amazingly, not only do they have a cup holder in the cargo box area up front but there are also bottle cage bosses added to the base of the top tube! And the top tube is low enough that standover height isn’t so difficult for short riders
- I LOVE the way they situated the battery pack… it’s almost completely hidden and very well protected just below the cup holder/cargo which is locking, the battery is still easy to get out and has a loop on top for easy grabbing (batteries are sensitive so you wouldn’t want to drop it)
- You can charge the battery on or off the bike which is great considering how large the bike is… you might want to leave that part in the garage or outside, note that the recently launched Bosch Powerpack 500 battery is compatible with the same interface used here, the Butchers & Bicycles MK1-E that I tested used the older smaller 400 watt hour pack but it still offers good range
- Notice how the front wheels are smaller than the rear? the smaller diameter can support more weight and lowers the front section of the bike making the cargo box easier to load or step into, the larger rear wheel is going to be more comfortable since it spans cracks and bumps better, it also has more air which can compress and cushion the ride, all rims have reinforcement eyeletts to improve strength where the spoke enters the rim
- Both the seat post and stem height are adjustable so you can adapt the bike to taller and shorter riders very quickly and easily… could be perfect for parents who have different leg lengths
- In addition to turning, the bike sort of leans side to side so it rides a lot more naturally and can corner without tipping the way that many other three-wheeled bicycles do
- The way the front is designed, you can open a door so dogs can hop in or you can lift heavy items in without raising them all the way up and over the edges of the cargo box area, the optional clear door has a child-proof connection that’s designed to not open if your kids are poking at it from the inside ;)
- The cargo box is made from ABS plastic, has grip tape on it to reduce slips and also drain holes in case of spills or rain entering… makes it easier to clean out too
- Rather than having sharp threaded axles exposed at the front (the widest part of the bike) they have little caps that help you avoid scrapes
- The tires used on this bike not only have reflective sidewall paint but they are also the Plus models from Schwalbe that offer the most puncture protection, changing flats on something this large and heavy would be a bummer so this is a smart upgrade in my opinion
- I think there are five threaded bosses between the top tube and downtube (as well as two on the base of the downtube) where you could mount accessories or as Chris suggested, add a sign on the bike if you’re using it as a delivery platform for food or cargo… pretty neat
- The Bosch Intuvia display panel is removable so you can keep it out of rough weather and away from possible scratches or theft (or tinkering if your kids are messing with it) and it even has a Micro USB port on the right side to charge your portable electronics, like a phone for GPS
- At over $6k and weighing in at over 110 lbs, this is an expensive and heavy electric bike… it may be difficult to bring home from the shop and isn’t sold in a lot of places in the US yet
- I love all of the options here including a clear cover, the child seats, NuVinci drivetrains with Gates Carbon belt drives etc. but it really starts to add up… I know, repeat of the first con, it’s just a very expensive product to really do it right, even the lights cost extra :/
- I feel like one thing that’s missing on this bike is a bell… I like the ones that are built into the brake levers (only Tektro offers this from what I’ve seen) but you could always add a flick bell like this, it just wouldn’t be as clean, sturdy or easy to reach
- The bike is just narrow enough to fit through larger doors, I’ve listed all of the dimensions in the geometry section above in the stats but we were able to test this on one of the shop doors at Propel Bikes in Brooklyn and it worked, barely, if you have a more standard sized door it may not fit (most doors are 32″ wide)
- There’s no chain cover or slap guard (at least on the belt drive system), if you get the chain option I’m wondering if it would bounce and potentially chip the paint? Chime in with a comment if there is a sticker slap guard or something different with the chain version :)
- This is a more active trike requiring some balance and core strength, unlike many other three-wheeled electric bikes I’ve tested, this one lets you lean side to side and that makes for a more dynamic and fun ride but also less stable to start and possibly too much to handle when the front bucket is full of heavy stuff
- While it’s possible to charge the battery when mounted to the bike frame, it’s a lot easier to simply remove it… and this is okay given the light weight of the Bosch Powerpack and its integrated loop handle, just don’t drop it because batteries are sensitive and expensive, ultimately this adds to the time and effort required for charging