- A high performance hardtail 29er with drop bars, this is a go-anywhere electric bike that's relatively lightweight, well balanced, and super quiet because of the Brose drive system
- Premium Italian wheelset and tires, 11-speed SRAM Apex drivetrain with punched-out cogs, clever motor casing design acts as a chain guide and cover to keep pant legs clean, narrow wide chainring reduces drops
- Available in four frame sizes, Boost hub spacing and thru-axles improve wheel strength and power transfer, excellent two year comprehensive warranty with three year coverage on the battery pack
- The battery design doesn't look as streamlined or integrated as some competing products but is attached to the frame very well, battery capacity is slightly below average for the 2018 season but the motor is efficient, no kickstand bosses, partial rear rack or fender bosses add utility
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The Gravel-X is the first Fantic electric bike I have ever test ridden or reviewed, but the parent company, Fantic Motors, dates all the way to 1968 and is delivering a wide range of electric bike products nowadays. Fantic is an Italian company that started out with enduro motorcycles, mini-bikes, and go-carts, then expanded into the ebike scene around 2015. Their products eventually reached America around 2017, and a handful of independent ebike stores like the Electric Bicycle Center in Fullerton, California picked them up. The owner of that shop, Sam Townsend, joined me for this review and provided some deep insights into the history of the brand and the rep who is leading US expansion, Stefy Bau. She was a professional motocross and supercross racer who began racing at age 6 and went on to win every round of the 1999 Women’s National Motocross Championship in the USA. With this review, I discovered that there’s a lot more going on with Fantic than just a pretty red bicycle, and I think that’s neat. Getting back on topic, I feel that you are paying a premium for the custom design, name brand parts, and Italian heritage here… but the bike really checks out. Aside from a few minor missed opportunities and limited availability through dealers right now in the US, it’s a solid offering. The Gravel-X spans multiple categories of bikes with its 29er mountain bike tires, slack head tube geometry, and gravel grinder drop bars. It strikes me as a cross country mountain bike with a more aerodynamic body position and multiple hand position options that could be fun for trekking and bikepacking adventures… or just a cool ride for weekly commuting. There are bosses on the seat stays for possibly adding a fender or rear rack if you swap out the seat collar. I love that it has bottle cage bosses, because many competing products with external downtube battery packs just don’t have room. The larger wheel diameter improves rolling momentum and feels very stable and comfortable at speed. And even though the motor is setup as a Class 1 (20 mph top speed), I was easily able to pedal beyond ~23 mph on flat paved sections because the 11 speed SRAM drivetrain offers a wide range of gears and the motor freewheels efficiently. While the drop bars are slightly wider than a road bike, they aren’t nearly as wide as a flat or low-rise mountain bike bar, and that makes steering a bit twitchier. The slack head tube angle helps, and I was able to ride no-handed without issue, but sharp turns and steep bumps felt a little unstable at times. The hydroformed alloy bike frame is stiff and responsive; sturdy thru-axles and wider Boost hub spacing support the larger tires. All of the drive system weight is positioned low and center for stability and maneuverability, and it’s available in four frame sizes to fit a wide range of body types. The battery capacity is somewhat lower than comparable electric mountain bikes from this generation, but the Brose mid-drive system is extremely efficient and quiet. The bike only weighs ~48lbs, which is on the lighter side, and the charger is compact and light enough to carry along for intermittent top-offs if you actually are touring across the state or country. Hydraulic disc brakes provide good stopping power, but the brake levers are only accessible when gripping the handlebar through the hoods vs. the flats and drops. The brakes don’t feel as instantaneous or powerful with these brake levers compared to the two or three-finger flat bar levers I usually see on cross country mountain bikes. The one-by drivetrain is simple, durable, and lightweight, thanks to the punched-out sprockets in the cassette, and the paddle shifter allows for multiple low-gear changes with a single long press. Yeah, I’m still not sure exactly where to fit this bike in terms of categorization, but I love each of the categories it draws from and feel that the end result is uniquely satisfying.
Driving the Fantic Gravel-X is a 350 to 530 watt mid-motor from Brose. It offers a solid torque output of up to 90 newton meters (but hovers closer to 80nm) and can support pedal speeds of 120 strokes per minute. These specs are very competitive, and my own experience riding on this and other ebikes that use the same drive system have been very good. I love how quite and smooth it operates, in large part due to an internal Gates carbon belt drive that transfers power between the gearing system to reduce vibration. It feels more natural than the exclusively nylon gears of other systems. While the motor does not offer shift detection, like Bosch, it does respond very naturally and quickly when you ease back on pedal force. Many competing motors fade to a stop, but the Brose responds almost like a fixed chainring. The motor controller measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque, creating a dynamic ride feel. I have found the pedal torque signal to be the most noticeable variable, meaning that if you only pedal lightly, the motor will only activate a little bit… even if you’re in the highest level of assist. This is awesome for those technical sections of trail, and for a more nimble handlebar setup. The Brose T namesake stands for Trekking and designates the higher efficiency and limited 20 mph speed output. At roughly 6.61 lbs, it’s lightweight compared to other motors, and it’s also very compact and streamlined. The motor doesn’t protrude down or forward, lowering ground clearance, and Fantic designed a plastic shell that doubles as a chain cover and guide. The 36 tooth alloy chainring uses a narrow-wide tooth pattern to reduce slipping and chain drops as well. Only the front wheel offers quick release, but the rear is easy enough to remove with a 6mm Allen wrench. The traditional high-step frame is easy to lift and mount on car racks and chair lifts, especially if you remove the battery.
Powering the motor and beautiful backlit display, as well as a full sized 5 volt 500 milliamp USB port on the base of the display panel, is a 36.5 volt 11.4 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack. The capacity is below average for this generation, bit it’s still going to provide good range because of the Brose motor and overall efficient wheels and lightweight design of the bike. The casing design is large and proud, not inset and hidden like Bulls or Easy Motion. This positions weight higher and proclaims the bike to be electric, but it’s also easier to remove and probably lighter because it doesn’t interfere with the frame tubing as much. The battery pack weighs roughly 6.1lbs and locks directly to a plastic interface, which is bolted to the downtube in four places. Most competing downtube battery solutions I see only use two or three bolts, so this thing should be very solid. I love how the pack makes room for a bottle cage on the seat tube, but am reminded that this moves weight up and forward vs. low and center. Electrical wires, shifter cables, and brake lines are not all internally routed, but none are strung along the base of the top tube… making it easier to lift. The rear brake and shifter cable run below the downtube and then tuck into the plastic motor skid plate for protection. This is an excellent blend of accessibility for repairability and protection for riding in rough terrain. The included two amp battery charger is about average in terms of speed, but that’s not a huge deal given the modest battery capacity. I like the magnetic EnergyBus plug interface, because it pops off if tripped over vs. pulling the bike down or cracking and bending the plug. Note that this ebike does not have a kickstand or mounting points to add one yourself. It’s a purist configuration that could leave your gel grip tape scuffed up when the eventual tip does occur. As a weekend warrior type of rider, I appreciate the quietness of not having a kickstand but would definitely put one to use in my garage and at the bike rack. It’s great that the battery and display panel can both be removed for safe keeping and independent charging. The battery only has one charge point connector one the left side whereas many other designs have two. This reduces cost and weight but means that you have to physically plug the motor cable into the battery once the pack is mounted to the frame. When you’re all setup and ready to go with the battery mounted and locked (press in on the circular cylinder on the right side of the pack to lock it on), there’s a final step of pressing the on/off button on the battery to boot up the display. As with all lithium-ion batteries, try to avoid extreme temperatures when storing and charging , and try to keep it above 20% full at all times to reduce stress in the cell chemistry.
Operating this bike is fairly intuitive in terms of button and display arrangement. The display is large, clear, and mounted high in the center of the handlebar, making it easy to read. I have done an in-depth guide and video on the display in the EBR Forums here, but will also go into some detail below. Once the battery is activated, the display automatically powers up as well. It’s a grayscale LCD that has a dim mode and a bright mode that activates automatically whenever you press the navigation buttons. It’s handy, and saves power this way while also reducing distraction at night. There’s a power button at the top right edge of the display that basically puts it to sleep but does not de-activate the battery, you can accomplish that by holding the button for several seconds. On the right edge of the display, there’s a light button that would activate integrated lights (which some shops can add for you aftermarket). If you hold the light button in, it will cycle to automatic mode, which uses a built-in sensor to switch the lights on and off as you ride. Just below the light button is a menu button that cycles through readouts, and this button is duplicated on the remote pad which is mounted within reach of the left flat grip. Now think about this… there is always a compromise on control pad interface with drop bars because of the three distinct hand positions (drops, hoods, flats). If you’re adjusting the assist level or pressing the mode menu on the button pad, you will not be able to activate the left brake because your hand will be holding onto the flat section of bar and this bike only has two sets of brake levers. It would be interesting to see a second set of brake levers for the flats, bu that would add additional wires, weight, and probably boost the price (especially given the hydraulic brakes here vs. mechanical). Anyway, on this button pad, the center circle button is what changes menus. Above the circle is an up arrow and below the circle is a down arrow. These arrows let you navigate through three levels of assist (Cruise, Tour, and Sport), or you can go all the way down to Off and then hold the down arrow to activate walk mode. I love that the bike has a functional walk-mode because some big companies have disabled it on their US products and it can really come in handy for steep climbs or if you get a flat tire. The walk assist only goes up to ~4mph (~6km/h). For an electric bike like the Fantic Gravel-X, that weighs 48lbs all on its own without cargo, walk mode could be especially useful if you did add a rear rack and load it up with gear for a bikepacking trip. All in all, this display is elegant, simple to use, and offers more precise battery charge level feedback than a lot of competing devices. You get a 10-bar infographic with each bar representing a 10% step, and this is great because I didn’t see a range menu anywhere. The Brose Classic Original display is removable, easier to find and replace than some custom proprietary solution, and provides most of the menus I like.
This was a really fun electric bike to ride because it feels sporty and can go basically anywhere. Some people only have the budget and space for one bicycle, and this one could be a commuter or weekend fun machine. It certainly looks cool and the air suspension, high-volume tires, and gel grip tape felt great on the bumpy dirt trail that Sam took me to. You could further improve comfort by swapping the rigid seat post out for a 31.6mm suspension post. Because of the larger 29″ wheels, this bike looks large and has a slightly taller standover height. My buddy Sam is 6’4″ and the large frame looked like it was his size. Again, very cool that Fantic is offering four frame sizes to accommodate smaller riders, and I appreciate the aggressively sloped top tube because it keeps standover as low as possible and joins the seat stays at the rear for a nice solid visual line. I’m not sure if the pedals Sam was using were stock, but they weren’t my favorite. Alloy cage style platform pedals can get bent in easily when bikes are laid down and will eventually become sharp. They don’t offer as much space or grip as something like these lightweight magnesium Wellgo pedals with adjustable pins. I noticed a bit of bobbing in the suspension when Sam rode because the air pressure was probably setup for a smaller rider. You can lockout the fork to reduce bob and prevent dive on stopping. It’s cool that the front disc brake rotor is slightly larger at 180mm vs. the rear 160mm because the front does most of the work when weight shifts forward as you slow down. One crazy cool upgrade would be a lightweight carbon fiber Lauf suspension post, that uses elastomers vs. sliding stanchions. They do make one that fits a tapered head tube and Boost hub spacing with 15mm thru axle, and it happens to be black and red… I’d love to see a picture of this setup in the Fantic Forums if someone goes for it! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback below. Big thanks to Sam at the Electric Bicycle Center and Fantic for partnering with me on this post. It was neat to have two Gravel-X models riding side by side and I think Sam had a blast on the trails.
- Very unique setup… the Gravel-X is a cross between a 29er hardtail electric mountain bike and a gravel grinder because it has drop bars, I like how wide and flared the bars are because it offers more control over the large wheelset and fatter tires
- The Fantic rep, Stefy Bau, explained that this product was designed to handle multiple use cases and environments, it could be a commuting platform during the week because of the aerodynamic body position and rear rack bosses (you’d need to add a seat clamp collar with rack bosses to make this work) as well as a trail bike on the weekends because of the knobby tires, suspension fork, and bottle cage bosses
- The large 29″ wheel diameter rolls quickly and feels stable, it offers a lower attack angle which overcomes obstacles and spans cracks more comfortably, very nice tires here with a good range of tire pressure options balancing comfort and efficiency 37 to 65 PSI
- Both wheels connect to the frame with sturdy thru-axles and the front offers quick release, making it easier to remove for transport or trail maintenance, wider Boost hub spacing provides a sturdier spoke bracing angle which makes the wheels tougher and more responsive
- Excellent SRAM Apex derailleur with wide 11 to 42 tooth cassette, the chainring uses a narrow to wide tooth pattern which reduces slip and drops, it’s a standard sized chainring which could be replaced or swapped for different sizes
- The Brose mid-motor series is extremely quiet and smooth in my experience, they designed it with a Gates carbon belt drive inside to reduce vibration, it’s also fairly small and lightweight compared to other leading mid-drives
- Even though this motor was not designed with a shift detection system, it’s incredibly responsive because it measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque… just ease off when shifting gears to avoid mashing
- This motor is great for technical riding because it doesn’t surge on and off like a lot of competing products, you can get it to work gently and slowly even in the highest levels of assist by reducing how hard you push
- The motor blends into the frame visually and doesn’t hang down, lowering ground clearance, it offers 80 newton meters of torque (which is above average), and tends to get excellent range
- Both the display panel and battery pack are removable for independent safe storage, this is great for people who might have to park the bike outside during the day and want to reduce wear while topping off the battery charge
- I love how the display lists 10 bars for the battery capacity vs. just four or five on most other products in the market right now, it’s more precise and that’s useful for longer rides where you don’t want to run the battery all the way down
- Even though the Brose charger only puts out 2 amps, which is very standard in the ebike industry right now, it does utilize a magnetic charging tip designed to pop out without tipping if someone trips on it, the end piece is fairly durable and follows the Rosenberger EnergyBus charging standard
- Most of the drive system weight is positioned low and center on the frame, this improves balance and handling, I like how the top tube is sloped to lower standover height but still has clearance for lifting and hanging the bike on car racks
- Weighing in at roughly 48lbs, this is one of the lighter electric mountain bikes on the market that I have tested… especially considering the bigger tires and drop bars. I think the air fork, smaller battery, punched out cassette cogs, and lightweight Brose motor help a lot, I weighed the size Large frame
- The bike only comes in red for now, but is offered in four frame sizes so you can dial in fit and ride more comfortably for longer periods of time
- The combination of boost hub spacing, hydroformed alloy frame tubing with reinforcement struts (on the top tube), and nicer wheels with reinforcement eyelets makes this a responsive bike to pedal and steer, there’s good power transfer and the frame doesn’t flex
- I really appreciate the cable routing choices (they aren’t run along the bottom of the top tube), and noticed that most of the accessories were black to tie in together, everything from the fork, stem, handlebar, seat post, cranks, and spokes are black
- The plastic motor casing was molded to provide chain retention and upper protection (almost like a chain cover) which is very clever, it should reduce drops and help to keep your pants clean while pedaling
- Excellent two year comprehensive warranty with an incredible three year warranty on the battery pack… that’s way above average compared to most other brands I have reviewed, Fantic began as an Italian motorcycle company that has been around since 1968
- The battery interface is mounted to the frame with four bolts! it looked very sturdy compared to many others I see that just use two bolts
- The display panel mount has a full sized USB Type A charging port built into the lower edge, this could be useful for maintaining a phone, charging a headlight, or running other portable electronic devices
- The motor supports higher rates of pedaling, I believe up to 120 RPM, this allows you to adjust how fast you pedal to change speeds without shifting gears and is a big benefit (for me) over cheaper motors that top out around 100 RPM
- The brakes are only accessible from the hoods hand position, if you’re gripping the flat or drop section of the handlebar you cannot brake without quickly changing position with at least one hand, I’ve seen other bikes setup with two sets of levers available in the drops and flats
- The Brose T mid-drive motor is responsive and powerful, but part of me wishes that it could go beyond 20 mph on this ebike, because I tend to ride faster on road in the aerodynamic drop position, Brose does make a TF (fast) motor that can reach 28 mph but Fantic doesn’t offer it on this model at the time of review
- The battery pack is kind of funky… it mounts on top of the downtube and is fairly tall vs. being tucked in, you have to plug the battery into the motor with a little cable on the left, and the battery must be powered on with a physical button in order to get the display to activate… frankly, this pack doesn’t offer the highest capacity at 416.1 watt hours vs. 500+ on many competing products for this generation
- Minor complaint, the bike does not come with a kickstand, nor are there provisions for adding one yourself aftermarket
- This bike is unique in terms of design, sold exclusively through dealers, and utilizes some higher-end componentry… so the price is higher than similarly specced hardtail e-mountain bikes