- Steel frame is heavy but absorbs some vibration along with the entry level suspension fork
- External side-mounted chain driven 450 Watt brushed motor offers good torque but is loud and more difficult to work with when servicing the rear wheel, rim and tire
- Entry level, inexpensive, sold at some Walmart stores and online through Amazon
- Lead acid batteries are heavy and endure fewer charge cycles before needing replacement but you can use two packs and they are less expensive to replace than Lithium-ion
The Currie eZip Trailz is one of the most affordable entry level ebikes around. I’ve ridden all of the major brands out there and tried varying levels of ebikes but the Trailz is one of the most common and enduring models I’ve come across. Sure, it’s sold at Walmart and seems so much more basic than other bikes but that’s actually one of its strengths. I found myself riding it more often and feeling less protective due to the low price and basic non-glamorous feature set.
The external side-mounted motor performs great and isn’t that loud but will still be heard over something like a hub motor or mid-drive system. Picture this, on the left side of the rear wheel is the motor which is attached via chain and on the right side of the wheel are the normal chainrings attached to the pedal and cranks system. This sort of balances out the bike and allows the rider to stop pedaling without disrupting the motor which turns its very own chain. It does mean there are more chains to deal with though, more rust, more noise and friction, and it also makes changing a flat harder.
The eZip Trails features a 450 Watt motor which is pretty powerful for an entry level bike (most are just 250 or 300) but it’s necessary for the heavier Lead acid battery and steel frame, especially if you add a second Lead Acid battery. The motor provides a decent amount of torque and works well in PAS (pedal assist mode) and TAG (twist and go mode). Sometimes when I ride cheaper bikes in this “low end” category I feel myself wondering if simply riding a lighter, faster bike would be as efficient and fast as going electric… but then I find myself passing road cyclists going up hills and I remember just how much work the motor is actually doing for me! This motor and drive system, as with most ebikes, is electronically limited at 20mph.
Because the motor is connected to the rear wheel and drives independently from rider pedaling action, you can pedal at any speed you want, fast or slow, and pick gears that fit your desired level of effort and speed. This is a huge benefit over some fixed mid-drive systems that require you to work with the motor at set gear ratios. Also, since all of the drive energy is going into the rear wheel the front of the bike is easier to handle; light for popping up curbs and making quick turns. Bikes with front drive systems require heavy duty forks and the shocks are less fluid.
The brakes on the Currie eZip Trailz bikes are old style v-brakes that also serve to cut power to the motor when squeezed. They won’t last as long as disc brakes before you have to get new pads but that’s super cheap (less than $10) and easy enough for nearly anyone to install with just a screwdriver and wrench. They perform well and stop the bike very effectively, sometimes faster than disc brakes because they are mounted on the rim instead of the hub which provides more mechanical leverage. The downside to v-brakes is riding in wetter conditions because if your rim gets wet it will create a bit more slip in the system and can also scratch the rims if you’ve gone through mud.
The eZip Trailz is one of the few bikes out there designed to accommodate two batteries right from the get-go. You’ll still have to buy that second battery, and most people don’t need that extra distance, but it’s a nice built in feature. You can also switch which side of the bike the battery is on and balance your ride out! The pannier style side mount also let’s you balance out your own cargo with groceries on one side and the battery on the other. The battery locks directly to the frame which is great for security. Over time, this bike will become more rattly sounding than some other ebikes because the rear rack is bolt-on verses welded.
There’s a reason this bike has been around so long and why so many used models are available and still running. It’s inexpensive, relatively solid and offers several upgrades and replacements. It’s also backed by one of the largest ebike manufacturers around so parts and service are easier to come by. I especially like the addition of a shock, even if it is lower end and does not include a lock-out. The front chain ring only offers one gear but centers the chain with guides on both sides so it’s nearly impossible to have the chain fall off when riding on bumpy terrain. The extra thick tires with smooth rolling tread pattern perform very well on pavement and help you avoid flats in a way that can only truly be appreciated when changing the tires on a 50+ pound machine.
- one of the least expensive electric bikes out there
- simple and tough, solid steel frame doesn’t vibrate as much as aluminum but is heavier
- intuitive twist throttle and grip shifter
- throttle mode or pedal assist for extended range
- less of a liability if it gets stolen or vandalized because it’s so cheap, you may use it more as a result
- thick, smooth rolling tires resist flats and coast well
- built in pannier rack with space for second battery and saddle bag
- decent front shock considering the low price, not overly firm or sticky
- stronger 450w motor provides good torque
- Lead acid batteries are less expensive, more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle than lithium but won’t last as long
- both batteries lock to rack to deter theft and secure in place, don’t lose the key!
- heavy, heavy, heavy… hard to cary up stairs, rear of bike is especially unweildly and could do some real damage if tipped over
- lower end brakes, still stop well but are susceptible to slippage when rims are wet vs. disc brakes
- external side motor and side battery make bike non-semetrical, and potentially less balanced if not riding with a pannier on the other side
- external motor and motor-chain more susceptible to damage and water issues, not sealed like some hub motors
- a bit louder than hub motors, not terribly noisy though
- rear rack and batteries can wiggle and create noise over time, especially if ridden off road, they are bolt-on vs. welded permanently
- range and power of batteries diminishes over time, sooner than lithium