- A highly polished, purpose-built electric bicycle with easy-to-mount frame, adjustable bars and ergonomic touch points, available in five colors, additional $99 shipping with assembly by Velofix
- Custome extra-wide Aluminum fender that don't rattle, integrated Supernova LED lights with a custom light blade up front, large hydraulic disc brakes, internally routed cables
- Available in a single speed or nine speed configuration, BionX D-Series motor is an excellent climber and near silent, throttle on demand and torque sensing assist, removable color LCD and USB charger for phone with optional Bluetooth app
- Regen and motor cutoff switch is only built into the right brake lever, the bike is well balanced and surprisingly stiff for a wave frame, higher price tag here but you get nicer parts and a great warranty
Elby is a special creature, an electric bicycle designed from the ground up to be approachable, comfortable and responsive. Seriously, the drive system on this city/cruiser is also used on e-mountain bikes! It packs a lot of power and zip along with some cool power regeneration features and is near silent. The drive systems are all produced by BionX, a fixture in the industry and partner to other premium manufacturers like Mercedes SMART. The only real complaint I have is that the motor looks large, it’s like a gray pizza stuck in the middle of the rear wheel… but at least the other gray plastic accents on the bike (like the battery box) are matched. This is a nod to Elby and their attention to detail. You can choose from five glossy frame colors including white and silver (for increased night riding visual footprint) and I love that some of the plastic accents and fork are color matched for a cohesive visual appearance. Yeah, aside from the motor, the battery, compact control system and even the wires ae mostly hidden. And while the Elby City only comes in one frame size, it’s designed to be highly adjustable, accommodating riders from 5 foot to 6.5 foot tall. The extra-long 500 mm seat post is thick and sturdy, the stem swivels up and down, even the swept-back “gull wing” handle bar can be swiveled to raise or lower and change reach. I love the ergonomic grips and slightly large but active saddle. Between these touch points and the thicker tires, you end up with a comfortable ride despite there being no suspension hardware. This keeps the bike lighter, cheaper and stiffer. Many wave style deep step-thru frames used for electric bikes have this bendy feeling about them, as you pedal, turn and stop the frame flexes. That is not the case with the Elby thankfully and I’m glad because it honors the motor and premium hydraulic braing systems. This is an awesome ebike, it’s just more expensive than some. And that’s interesting considering the direct to consumer model being tried out. You order online then pay an additional $99 for shipping/assembly and if you’re in a city where Velofix operates, they deliver it to your doorstep and set it up just right… even returning 30 days later for a free tuneup and adjustments.
Driving the Elby is one of the most unique and effective hub motor systems I’m aware of. Yes BionX is an advertiser for EBR so you may interpret some of this as bias… but I invited them after having tested a number of systems across a range of electric bikes. This thing is years in the making and only compromises on visuals in my opinion. By designing something extra wide, they were able to achieve higher torque and better heat dissipation. The casing for the D-Series is plastic, keeping it light and durable, and it has an internal torque sensor that works well consistently. It’s one of the quietest high powered motors and I love how they tucked the power cable leading to it on the left side low and out of the way for snags or tips. Notice also that the rear wheel spokes connect to the hub and rim of the wheel, not to the hub motor casing. This provides a more natural ride and a bit of flex… so spokes don’t tend to loosen as much or break. I was told that the max weight for the Elby was 280 lbs by the rep but believe it’s actually 273 based on some literature at their site and some quick math. That’s still above average where many ebikes say 250. This allows for the addition of bags on the rear rack or for larger riders, tall, boxy and overweight. In my opinion, it has the power needed to move larger loads effectively, something people ask me about regularly. You get 500 watts nominal peaking around 1,000 with 50 Newton meters of torque that can be controlled with a throttle… that’s very unique in a world where more electric bikes are using mid-drive systems that require pedaling.
Powering the motor, backlit color display and premium ebike specific lights is a high quality, custom designed, Lithium-ion battery pack. It offers 48 volts and 11.6 amp hours which is above average and the cells inside are produced by Panasonic, one of the top brands in the space. You can charge it on or off the bike and it locks securely with a key… but is kept hidden and perhaps protected by a plastic shell with stylized metal step pad. Now, I’m not sure I’d actually want to step on that, it looks too nice and might scratch over time. The downtube is low enough that most people should be able to step over easily. However, if you do scratch this plastic part or end up losing it (as you have to take it off for battery removal) I was told the company does sell replacements. One unique and semi-confusing aspect of the battery is that it interfaces with the bike using an EnergyBus Rosenberger plug (very high quality, magnetically connected). The plug is floating so it self-aligns easily and can transfer data and power… it’s like top of the line as far as plugs go :P but on the outside of the batter pack, the charger plug is more basic. It’s not magnetic and could get bent or pull the bike over like other more basic plugs. At least it’s kept mostly clear of the left crank arm and pedal but why not use the magnetic port there too? Yes, it would add to the already high cost of the bike and perhaps would have required a larger heavier charger. That’s one thing I love about the Elby and other BionX e-bikes, the charger is fast at 3.45 Amps but also super small and light weight making it very easy to take along to work or a friend’s house for a quick fill. One other grip I have about this mid-section of the bike is that the kickstand is mounted very near the left crank arm and will collide if you back the bike up or try to spin the cranks when parked. Many ebikes manufacturers are moving to a rear mounted kickstand but some feel these don’t look as nice (sticking out towards the back). I guess it’s just a small note and consideration.
So the motor and battery are great, the display system and control pad follow along as being some of my favorite. The bike powers on with one click on the control ring (near the left grip) and the color backlit display blinks to life. The really neat thing here is that if you didn’t have the display, the control ring functions just fine on its own! It has an LED charge level chart and LED assist level chart that blinks when you go into regen (by pulling the right grip). It’s slim so it doesn’t block the shifters or brake lever, mounted close so you can reach it easily, and intuitive with a plus and minus for assist level navigation and forward back for changing menu readouts. There’s a separate button just for the lights and that power button to turn it off again. But if you forget to turn it off, no worries… it powers down automatically after a few minutes on its own. We went in-depth on video above showing all of the settings and I listed them as well but this shouldn’t be overlooked. The button pad is great and the display is also awesome. I love being able to take the fancy pieces off of electric bikes when parking in the elements or sketchy neighborhoods. Nobody wants their fancy bike scratched or tinkered with and you might be wondering about the button ring… Couldn’t someone turn it on and press the throttle at the bike rack? Yes, they could turn it on and turn the lights on maybe but the throttle won’t activate until the bike is moving 5 km/h (for safety reasons) so this has the fortunate side effect of making it tamper resistant as well. So you get a bike only mode, four levels of assist, four levels of regen (which can slow you when coasting down hills or act as a fun workout mode) and regenerative braking activated by the right brake lever. As mentioned earlier, the brakes on the Elby are wonderful… You get 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes with adjustable reach levers that are ebike specific. Or, at least the right one is, the left one does not have a motor inhibitor regen switch in it unfortunately. This is another area that I’d like to see upgraded. You’d pay slightly more and have one tiny more wire but it would also add a bit more complexity to the control system. The way it is now is fine, but many other ebikes have two levers with motor inhibitors and I like that.
It may seem like I’m gushing over the Elby City and that’s probably true. I’m a huge fan of the drive system and can see the care that went into its custom frame, light interface, optional phone mount and Bluetooth app. They give you basically everything here, the fenders are custom and oversized but still tight and out of the way when pedaling (specifically the front one which is pushed forward thanks to some rake in the fork which also stabilizes the ride). I’m excited about the experience and quality here but recognize that you really are paying for it. I wish the price was lower considering the Velofix delivery model. Perhaps some dealers will have the bike as well and it is available to test ride at the traveling ebike expo so check it out for yourself. Other highlights for me are the reflective and puncture resistant tires, upgraded Alex rims with reinforcement eyelets, reflective saddle with built in handle for easy lifting and moving. You may need a platform rack to move this electric bike with a car and in that case check out the Thule EasyFold Carrier with ramp which makes loading easier.
- The Elby City looks beautiful and comes in five colors which all include reflective tires and accents on the saddle and pedals, I’d opt for white or silver to stand out even more during night or early morning rides… I love how the fork and plastic covers are perfectly paint matched
- You get to choose a nine speed or single speed drivetrain (which saves weight and cost), in both cases there’s an excellent guide system so the chain shouldn’t fall off easily
- I love how smooth and immediate pedal assist feels, the BionX torque system is very natural and shouldn’t ever surprise you or make you strain your knees the way some delayed cadence sensors do
- Throttle mode is awesome, the throttle is easy to reach and offers variable speed response depending on how far you press it, I hit the top speed of 20 mph quickly and felt smooth bursts to maintain me at that speed as I held it down
- Not only do you get four levels of assist, you also get four levels of regen (extremely unique in the world of electric bikes), I love how you can immediately activate regeneration by pulling the right grip too
- Comfort touch points like the ergonomic grips and wider (but still active) saddle make the bike ride comfortably even though there are no suspension points, I like the wider tires and might run at a lower PSI to improve comfort further (I believe the range is 35 to 65 PSI)
- I really like the idea of their Velofix partnership, it’s a way to reach a wider audience and ensure the bike is built well, it’s not available everywhere but does give them a jump start over dealer networks and you get a 30 day tuneup… in some ways I would have expected a lower overall price for the bike since there is no middleman, or maybe free shipping at least?
- Considering the pedals are plastic, they felt stiff and grippy, I usually complain about flexy small pedals but these ones were unique and might not scrape your shins the way metal spiked ones cand
- Beautiful color display that’s easy to remove on a solid adjustable angle mount, it’s cool that they also provide a phone mount adapter and 5 Volt USB port so you can use their app and completely replace the stock display if you want
- The display panel gives you a lot more feedback than basic ones and is intuitive to use (left and right bars change views or enter setup if you hold the left one while on setup, the up and down bars raise or lower assist/regen, there’s an independent light button and power button too… I believe the control ring works even without the display panel if you want (it has two LED light strips that indicate charge level and assist/regen setting
- Super small, lightweight charger would be easy to toss into a backpack or perhaps pannier bags if you get them, it’s one of the most compact I’ve seen from any company but still delivers a whopping 3.45 Amps for fast charging! Most chargers just put out 2 Amps
- The display automatically shuts down after three minutes and if you stop using the bike to conserve battery, there’s also a Deep Sleep feature whereby the battery limits power draw after weeks or months of non-use (great for winter or times when you’re on a trip) to protect itself
- Given the extra-long seat post (500 mm long) the Elby website says this e-bike can accommodate riders from 5′ to 6’5″ tall which is great
- The power cable for the motor is tucked away nicely, most cables are internally routed but the motor cable is especially important and potentially vulnerable if the bike tips… for the Elby it seemed well protected
- I like that they positioned the charging port on the battery towards the front of the bike, mostly out of the way of the left crank arm and pedal… many other ebikes have the port situated where it could get bumped or snagged easier
- Given how deep and wide the step-thru portion of this frame is, it’s fairly stiff but there’s still a touch of frame flex, I like the metal accent on the downtube but some other curved parts are plastic and I’m guessing they could get kicked and scratched easier when mounting (so be careful)
- The rear rack pannier bar thing is cool but only holds up to 40 lbs vs. a traditional platform rack which is usually rated at 55 lbs, it’s also a bit thick so I’m not sure all clip-on bags will work and there’s nowhere to put a trunk bag on top and no bottle cage bosses on the frame
- This electric bike is on the expensive side (although the price dropped a bit in March 2018), but you do get a premium drive system, in addition to the price of the bike you also pay $99 for shipping and Velofix assembly
- While I love how powerful the BionX D-Series motor is, the casing is large and stands out on most bikes, the rest of the systems are all mostly hidden however
- The seat post is unnecessarily large and I’m told that was due to a previous design goal (to have a pump built in) but the company that makes that accessory went out of business so they were stuck with this really large post, I’d like it if they included a 39.9 mm to 27.2 mm shim so people could use their own seat posts with suspension perhaps
- If you back the bike up with the kickstand down, the left crank arm will collide because it’s mounted near the center of the bike, this also limits ground maintenance like chain lubing if you want to pedal backward
- When you add the bike to your shopping cart on the website, I think it should take you to the cart… instead you’re left on the same page you were before and have to look around to actually buy, they could make that easier (especially given this will be sold online mostly)
- The battery charging port is a more traditional plug even though they use the magnetic EnergyBus interface from the battery to the bike… I wish they kept the magnetic design on the side of the pack too so the plug would pop off easily and not get bent or tip the bike as it is designed now