- A motorcycle inspired fat tire electric bike with powerful 750 watt geared hub motor from Bafang, unique battery integration designed to look like a gas tank, two battery size options
- High-volume tires provide comfort and stability, padded grips, oversized sprung saddle, and swept back handlebar deliver comfort and an upright body position, this bike can handle taller riders
- With a maximum allowable weight of 330lbs (150kb) this is a great electric bike for big people, integrated headlight has high and low beam, beautiful paint matched steel chain cover, three color options
- Only available in one frame size, basic 7-speed drivetrain with somewhat limited 13 to 38 tooth cassette means there aren't as many options for climbing or pedaling at high speed, I experienced some delay with the 12-magnet cadence sensor but the twist throttle is smooth and both brake levers have motor inhibitors
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance, and lights when used on public roads.
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This review was sponsored by Electric Bicycle Center which has a shop in Fullerton, California. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of CIVI BIKES products.
This is my first CIVI BIKES review, but I met the team during Interbike 2018 in Reno, Nevada and was impressed with their lineup. The bikes are all fat tire style and priced in the value range. Even this very unique model, the Cheetah, seems like a good deal at $2.3k if you opt for the default 624 watt hour battery size. For those who weigh a bit more, expect to use the throttle a lot, or simply want to go further, the company offers an 840wh pack for just $300 more. The battery and motor are beautifully integrated into the frame and rear wheel, almost hiding, but the design of the bike is bold. This thing was clearly motorcycle inspired! In my experience riding, the frame felt balanced and my legs and knees didn’t make contact with the battery box or handlebars, but the larger saddle and feet-forward position wasn’t as efficient to actually pedal. The gearing range is somewhat limited with a 13 to 28 tooth cassette and basic Shimano Altus derailleur. Since this is a Class 3 speed pedelec, capable of reaching ~28mph, it’s too bad they didn’t opt for an 11 to 32 tooth or wider cassette and use a larger chainring so you could actually keep up pedaling at higher speeds. Honestly, I’m not sure how important pedaling is on this ebike, it rides well as a throttle operated scooter… and technically, it violates the Class 2 and Class 3 legislation because the throttle is functional above 20mph. I’ve listed it as possible Class 2, 3, and 4 because the display has settings that allow you to adjust the max speed and it’s possible to unplug the throttle. As usual, be careful, know the laws where you ride, and consider getting it licensed as a moped or using it only on private property if you do choose to ride faster. Your weight will determine exactly how fast the bike can go, but Sam appeared to be able to reach 25mph+ and he weighs over 200lbs. The maximum weight rating is 330lbs and I noticed that the wheels were spoked in with thicker 13 and 12 gauge spokes. I love how they match the black motor casing and elongated fork. The adjustable headlight with low and high beam will keep you visible and completes the chopper look. I was satisfied with the larger 180mm hydraulic disc brakes and enjoyed the longer handlebars, padded grips, and oversized sprung saddle when we encountered some broken sections of road. This is clearly a special electric bike… and it appears to sell direct online as well as through some independent dealers like the Electric Bicycle Center. With a one year comprehensive warranty, a team that paid to go to Interbike and seems to be listening to shops and customers, it’s part of an exciting new brand. Yes, there’s room for refinement of the drivetrain, maybe some lighter punched out rims, and a faster charger, but it’s above average for such a custom design, in my opinion.
Driving the bike is a powerful 750 watt to 1,200 watt planetary geared hub motor from Bafang. I’ve estimated the peak torque output to be around 80 newton meters, but it could be higher. This thing zips, and you can hear the distinct electronic whirring noise a bit in the video review above. From standstill, I had no problem taking off and reaching the higher speeds quickly. Seeing Sam do the same was confidence inspiring, and he was also able to stop quick. Note that the brake levers appear to be reversed here, much like a real motorcycle, so the right brake goes to the front wheel vs. the rear on most other electric bicycles I’ve reviewed. Starting and stopping support are especially important when pedaling options are limited, but the large sturdy alloy pedals felt solid under foot. Pedal assist felt a bit delayed, so I found myself actively ramping up with the throttle because it felt smoother. CIVI BIKES has chosen a sealed 12-magnet sensor for their products that is durable and fairly quick, but I’m so happy to sea that the brake levers have motor inhibitor switches as a safety backup. Coming back to the motor for a moment, Bafang is a name I recognize and trust. It should be reliable and seems well supported by thicker 12 gauge spokes. This is a fat wheel specific motor, so the casing is wider in order to support the spoke bracing angle and heavier rims and tires.
Powering the bike is one of two battery options, both rated at 48 volts. You can opt for the default pack, which offers 13 amp hours, or pay a bit more for the 17.5 amp hour pack to go further. The weight difference is roughly one pound, and the form factor is exactly the same. CIVI BIKES advertises the cells as being lithium-ion made by Samsung, which is fairly common for electric bikes these days. The battery fits inside the gas tank inspired top tube box, and is not meant to come out without an Allen key tool. This means that you’ll most likely need to wheel the bike over to an outlet to fill it up. That’s not a big deal for most people at home, but it could be a challenge for commuters who park outside at public racks. Since the bike is longer and heavier than average, you might end up storing it outside or in a garage… and that could lead to extreme temperatures for the battery, which will degrade the cells faster. To maximize life, it’s best to store this sort of battery in a cool dry location and maintain between 20% and 80% at all times, checking in monthly if you haven’t taken it for a ride. I didn’t see a battery capacity infographic on the box, but the display panel of the bike did have a five bar icon (communicating 20% increments). The battery box has a little circular female port for the charger to plug into, and it also has a small toggle switch for off/on. I’d recommend turning it off when parking at racks to deter tampering and also when storing long term to reduce phantom power draw which could take the pack to zero and damage the cells. Given the higher but near-center position of the battery, you’re getting decent weight distribution, but not as good as low and center. At least the battery box doesn’t protrude too much out to either side, which could make pedaling uncomfortable if your knees were bumping into it. Sam, being a taller guy, did mention that his knees were coming up towards the handlebars and that he’s used aftermarket stem risers and adapters for other long-legged individuals. There’s good adjustability on the seat post height and the bars can tip up as well.
Operating the bike is a two-step process, once the battery has been charged up. You click the toggle switch to on and then hold the power button on the control pad for a couple of seconds. From here, the display panel boots up in backlit color and a few standard readouts are shown. Speed is the largest, right at the center, with odometer, battery charge level, and trip meter below. Assist level is listed on the left side and power level on the right… but performance didn’t appear to change when we cycled through different power options. I feel like more of the display real estate could have been used and been easier to read with larger numbers and text. The colors don’t actually communicate anything on this display, just make it look a little nicer. I found that pressing the power button once the bike was already powered up would introduce a light icon, but didn’t actually turn on the headlight. To activate this, CIVI BIKES has mounted a second control switch in front of the main control pad, with high and low beam settings. It’s nice to have two light modes, but the position of this switch makes it a little bit further to interact with the main buttons. Perhaps they did it this way because the cable length for the main control pad was limited? It’s a minor complaint or consideration. If you hold the minus key, this ebike does have walk mode, and if you hold the set key, you can get to a settings and advanced settings menu. I personally would trade the color display for a grayscale to save cost and get other features like removability or built-in USB charging. This display looks very nice and could attract attention or get weather worn and scratched up… but is actually fairly protected at the center of the long handlebars. All in all, the control systems are above average in some ways but less functional than they could be in others.
Given the fat tire setup here, with 5 to 30 PSI range, I could see myself going off-road and through some softer terrain after lowering the pressure. In those cases, I’d really be thankful for the throttle to help get started and balanced. This really seems like more of an on-road ebike, but they went for cheaper Chaoyang tires that can handle a variety of terrain with the knobs. Perhaps in the future they will find some slicks to reduce noise and improve efficiency. I realize I’m getting into the weeds and discussing my own preferences a bit here, but I’m really quite impressed with the value on offer. This thing is very unique, pretty well specced, and tons of fun to ride. In a world where companies like Rad Power Bikes have gained mass appeal, it’s cool to have different styles to choose from. This would make a fun neighborhood electric bike or commuting platform, and I noticed that it did have rear rack bosses. Perhaps the company will offer racks or fenders in the future? I’d love to see the addition of an integrated rear light and maybe a seatpost suspension upgrade. It’s rare to see ebikes with such large custom headlights, and the low beam has this cool blue LED circle outline that really sets the bike off. I welcome your feedback and testimonials about the company or this specific bike in the comments below and invite you to connect in the CIVI BIKES forums as well.
- The twist throttle is active at zero and overrides each of the five pedal assist levels, considering the heavy build of this product and less efficient knobby tires, it’s nice to have help getting started
- The 750 watt geared motor and 48 volt battery system really kicks, the bike was able to move Sam with ease, and he weighs 200+ lbs, it’s neat that the frame is rated up to 33lbs while most other ebikes are just rated for 200lbs or 250lbs but do keep an eye on the spokes if you’re a heavier rider, so they don’t loosen up
- Very cool styling, everything from the gas tank inspired battery casing to the large steel headlight and elongated fork resemble a motorcycle and the big tires feel proportional, consider swapping to slick fat tires to make the bike smoother and more efficient (the size is 26″ x 4″)
- It’s great that they upgraded to hydraulic disc brakes vs. mechanical because they are more consistent and won’t stretch out over time, you need the extra stopping power with such a heavy and powerful e-bike
- Even though this frame only comes in high-step, the minimum saddle height is fairly low and approachable because the seat tube is angled way back, I love longer handlebars that sweep back to meet you, so you can sit upright and comfortable
- Padded grips, an oversized saddle with springs, high-volume fat tires, and the longer handlebar all contribute to reduced vibration and make this a comfy ride… even without suspension, consider a 30.4mm seatpost suspension for even more comfort
- The kickstand is mounted near the center of the bike, which is probably good considering the length and weight of the frame, but far back enough that the pedal won’t lock if you back it up or pedal backwards (to work on the drivetrain), I like that it offers adjustable length
- Great choice of pedals here, these things are oversized, extra stiff, provide great traction, and look nice
- The display panel is large, bright, and easy to read and interpret in color vs. many others which are black and white grayscale, I like that it has a day/night mode if you hold the + button for a few seconds
- In low-beam mode, the headlight has this cool blue circle that is really attention grabbing, it’s cool that the light is wired-in to run off of the main battery, can be aimed a bit, and has low and high beam
- The lower crown of the fork has this big metal pin built into it that stops the handlebars and fork from turning all the way to the right or left, which would scratch or ding the frame… great attention to detail with that
- Weighing in at nearly 76lbs, this ebike is heavier than average, they could reduce some of the weight and possibly improve comfort by punching out the rims
- This ebike only comes in one frame size, but it’s neat that they offer three color combinations, only the black and brown have the faux leather cover on the battery… the rest are just painted
- The extra-long chain can bounce around when you’re pedaling with a high gear and I didn’t see a slap guard, I could hear the chain bounce up into the steel chain cover when going off curbs and this could create scratches that might eventually rust, consider using some clear box tape on the right chain stay to protect it without detracting from the nice aesthetic of the bike frame color
- The drivetrain is one step above base level on the Shimano product line and only offers 13 to 28 tooth spread vs. 11 to 32 or higher and that means you can’t climb as easily or pedal as comfortably at high speed, considering the higher top speed potential of the bike and heavier build, it would be nice to have a Shimano Deore with wider cassette
- I’m not a big fan of the oversized Shimano SIS indexed thumb shifter used here, it requires more reaching and hand/finger effort to shift, but they probably chose it to make room for the half-grip twist throttle housing, and at least it works well with gloves because the buttons are so large and spread out
- The display is nice, but it would be cool if it could swivel a bit more, be removable, or have a USB port built-in to charge phones, additional lights, or wireless speakers on the go
- Minor complaint, I love the headlight and wish that the bike also came with a backlight that was also wired in, I would definitely wear a light on my backpack, helmet, or use a rechargeable one on the seat post or seat stays
- Even with a nicer sealed 12-magnet cadence sensor like this, pedal assist still lags a bit when starting and stopping and isn’t as smooth or natural as a torque sensor or multi-sensor, I’m glad that the brake levers have motor inhibitor switches built in
- It’s great to have battery size choices, especially given the high power use of the larger motor and heavier ebike, but the 2-amp charger is going to take longer to fill than if they had opted for a 3 or 4 amp
- Minor complaint, I didn’t see anywhere to mount a water bottle or accessory on the seat tube or downtube, consider an anywhere adapter if you want to mount something here
- Official Site: https://www.civibikes.com/products/cheetah-the-cafe-racer
- More Pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JAaonXKeTTejgXhM8