WattWagon Ultimate Commuter Pro (UCP) in depth review

ak907

Member
This is my initial review of my new Watt Wagon Ultimate Commuter Pro (UCP). I wrote it a few weeks into ownership but never posted as life distracted me. I am now ~3months and ~600 miles/970 km into ownership.

I purchased the WattWagon to make high speed (hoped for avg speed of 18 mph) commuting to my job (8.5-9.5 miles each way) as pleasant and time efficient (~34-38 minutes) as possible. Performing the commute by car takes about 1:15 to 2:15 hrs depending on traffic and weather. Public transit would be 1 hour each way in ideal circumstances. A powerful ebike was the most time efficient and healthy solution I could come up with for my commute.

I don’t have nearly as much experience with ebikes as most on this forum. Most of what I know has been gathered from reading this and other forums and through our experience with my wife’s ebike (2015 raleigh tekoa). She has been commuting ~6.5-7 miles on an e-bike for a little over a year now. Some lessons have been learned during ownership. We were very fortunate in that we got a great deal buying it used ($1500) and it came with a transferable 5 year warranty. And we needed it! In the first 10 months of operation we have had to have replaced:
- chain and chainring (wear items)
- rear wheel (hub bearing failure)
- battery (possibly due to poor treatment by previous owner)
- motor (gearbox exploded inside the casing)
We also found that the promised range at high speeds, even with high levels of effort from the rider were better estimated at around 50% of what manufacturers’ promise as the bottom end of the range. We have also found the single piston brakes sorely lacking in power for such a heavy high speed machine.

Before buying the WattWagon I spent a lot of time comparing options. I really would have preferred to spend less and/or buy something used, but I was unable to find anything that really felt like it would make me happy, particularly when considering the experience we have had with my wife's bike. Overall the WattWagon UCP was the best fit for my purposes. A comfortable ride on rough streets was important to me. The relatively fat tires with front suspension and sprung seatpost seem perfect to me. A rear suspension would add cost, weight, and maintenance overhead that outweighs any benefit for street riding for me.

Strongest points
  • Brakes: The magura 7 brakes on the UCP are great. Which is so important. I get folks pulling out in front of my lane of travel in their cars all the time. So many large brand bikes put cut rate single or dual piston brakes on their bikes (I really want to know why. The price differential at manufacturer prices is not very high, and the safety factor is huge.). The four pistons and large pads on these brakes do an excellent job stopping this heavy high speed machine. The break levers are tough and have no flex. I also like that they use mineral oil instead of nasy DOT braking fluid (better for the environment, less of a pain to deal with and dispose of). The integration with the brake light is very desirable. All commuting e-bikes should have such integration, fantastic safety feature!
  • The fender on the bike are amazing, best coverage from spray I have ever gotten! They are sturdy and quiet, no rattling. Only thing I would change would be having the fender manufacture make them long enough on the rear to extend all the way to the bottom bracket, so gunk does not get deposited on the motor, in the cables holes.
  • Rohloff + gates drive: I love how quiet these are together. The lack of maintenance vs. what a chain and derailleur would require is a huge draw for me. It also performs much better than the few other internal hub shifters I have tried; which lacked range, had mushy imprecise shifting, and noticeable friction losses. I would say the Rohloff seems pretty close to a real world daily chain (dirty and a little worn) in efficiency.
  • Rack: The rack on the Watt wagon is very nice. It is sturdy, good looking and easy to use. The hand hold on top makes shifting the heavy rear end of the bike around much easier.
  • Frame: I do not know much about frames but this one seems to be very nice to me. There are beautiful touches to it that I like, the pinch where the lower arms of the rear triangle meets the frame, the shape of the tapered head tube. It seems to be very stiff and controlled over potholes and speed bumps at high speed on city streets.
  • Charger: The Grin Tech. Cycle Satiator is awesome. I love the different charging levels. I have it set to charge to 85% by default, which should make the battery last much longer. If you get a programming cable you can even add your own charging profiles. The 7amp charging capability is very handy for a quick top up to add a little extra in the morning or on the go! Sooo much better than the chargers that come with other bikes! The only improvement I can think of would be a built in charge-by timer so that you can have the battery reach 100% shortly before you want to start using it (say in the morning, supposedly much better for the battery than sitting at 100% all night).
  • Seat: I am really liking the saddle. You can move around on it easily on it due to the waxed surface, but you don't slide off. It is quite comfortable paired with the suspension seat-post.
  • Commuting time has been even better than I expected. My best time so far has been 27 minutes. Most of the time I am taking low 30 minutes to go to and from work.
  • Power: My bike is setup 1000 watts, I will be trying shifting it down to 750 once I get a cable from Pushkar. It does a great job getting me up to speed in Sport mode and high levels of assist. Some of the larger hills I cannot quite maintain 28 mph, but I can do ~25 with reasonable effort from me in additional to the motor. I have been able to achieve my goal average speeds and even higher. I have not been using the throttle. I tried it briefly but it was a bit much, there is a lot to touch and manage and look out for commuting, I don’t think I want another thing think about. It may be more helpful on bike tour trips or when I get more comfortable.
  • Physical Controls. The plus and minus assist buttons and nice and large, which is great because I use them with gloves frequently. Much better than the controls on my wife’s bike. The other buttons (headlight, info and power) at smaller and hard to differentiate, but are rarely useful while riding so this is not a big deal.
  • Wheels and tire: Solid, seem like a great choice. The bike glides very well, and is surprisingly nice to ride even with no motor assistance. I have been running over a surprising amount of glass, which definitely would have been more of a problem for my road bike.
  • Towing: Towing my 60 lb dog in a bike trailer with the bike is a dream. It feels very stable and there is no noticeable frame flex. I can outrun my wife with her 360 watt bike up steep hills while towing! It was wonderful of Pushkar to put on the tow hook for my trailer for me, so it was ready to tow out of the box, which I did!
  • Battery: Great for me so far, I like the shape of it. The plastic is of notably higher quality than that of my wife’s bike battery. I charge to 85% and I ride ~17-18 miles at 18 miles per hour, which generally brings charge down to about 51-45 volts (depending on effort and assist level used) which should be about 20-25% at the low end. I can get much greater mileage by going more slowly with less assist. It could use some labeling, I think it is not great to have something as dangerous as a high capacity lithium battery have zero labeling on capacity/voltage etc. I talked to Pushkar about this and it is a regulatory issue he is working to solve with the supplier.
  • The kickstand on the UCP is the bee’s knees! I have never seen such a nice sturdy kickstand. It is bolted onto a flange from the frame and far enough back that you can still back the bike up without the pedals hitting it. Very sturdy, quiet, with a very tough rubber boot.
  • Spurcycle bell is very nice, loud. Only downside is it does not work under my winter bar mitts so I won’t get to use it until spring.

Improvements:
  • Display: the DPC-18 display is awkward to use. It looks pretty, but is lacking in user friendly-ness. It defaults to trip on boot as the configurable information display line. Trip has to be reset through a labyrinthine trip through settings, not something many will bother doing each ride, making trip is duplicate odo. Range predictions seem pretty unreliable, and the battery bar/percentage readout do not seem accurate either (shows close to half battery at 45 volts, which should be around 20%). I think it is best to rely on the voltage readout, and know how that maps to battery capacity. But that does not give a very good estimate of range, and not very friendly for the average user. It is also brighter at the lowest settings that would be ideal in low lighting conditions.
  • Lights: Having an integrated brake light that lights up with you brake is wonderful, and it is very nicely integrated! I think things could be improved with an additional light, and have the lights be brighter as well, perhaps adjusting brightness based on ambient light levels. The headlight is now the Lezyne Macro1000 and I am not that impressed. It is wonderful that one is included, and the integration is great. The light sensing that turns off and on the headlight and brake light works wonderfully. But the Lezyne Macro1000 seems to struggle with the 6 volts from Bafang. If it was possible to run it at the full 1000 lumens it would be acceptable lighting. Unfortunately the best it can do is slowly transition between ~500 lumens and 1000. This is distressing riding in dark areas, being able to see, then not being able, then being able to. It also keeps pointing itself up at the sky, I have attempted to tighten the bolt, but it remains to loose to stay firmly pointed so that light is thrown onto the road in front of you.
  • Front shock: I am mixed on the front shock. It is much more compliant, as is should be, than the one on my mountain bike, which gives it a very comfortable ride on rough streets. But it does seem to dive much more under hard braking which is unnerving at first. It also lacks a lockout option and so far I have not been able to discern much of a difference between the compression settings. As a result it bobs quite badly if you get up out of the seat to crank up a hill instead of relying on motor torque. It also seems to run out of travel at times, which is surprising with so much travel. I may try higher pressure (than what is recommended by weight) to address some of these issues. There is also more flex under hard braking than I would like. A fork from a bigger brand, like the Fox 36e might have been the way to go. I also think perhaps greater rake would stabilize the bike a bit more when you have the rear panniers loaded down or are towing. As it is, it occasionally feels scary twitchy at times.
  • There is no wheelie prevention and in low gear the throttle or a hard press on the cranks when in low gear on Sport 3-5 PAS can cause the front wheel to leave the ground! This could be dangerous.
  • As I mentioned, the battery seems high quality, but has no labeling whatsoever. No brand, no serial, not printout of capacity/type. This is bad omission in my opinion. Something like a large capacity lithium ion battery, which can be dangerous if mistreated, should come with more information/documentation.
  • Absolutely no documentation/instructions came with the bike. While most big brand machine documentation is not great, there is some. I have had to go and download documentation pdf's from the manufacturers of the components in order to figure out how to use components I have never seen before and determine how/what type of maintenance is needed. A welcome email with the bike shipment with links to these sort of documents along with something written up by WattWagons would be a very nice touch to provide information and add to the excitement that would take little effort/cost.
  • I would prefer greater use of the internal cable routing, and shorter cables. While Pushkar has increased the amount of cable management he does, and there is only so much you can do with so many needed cables, they are messier than needed. The argument is external routing makes for easier service. But I have never had to service a well made hydraulic brake line, why not more cleanly route it? It does seem like the current frame design needs larger/more cable routing holes to fit everything, so I can understand at least some of the issue. I also wonder about the upward facing holes for motor cable pass through, it almost seems like they should be plugged up to prevent water ingress/sitting on top of motor.
  • The motor is much better tuned than I expected, overall very nicely done! It does tend to stay on to long after you stop pedaling, particularly in Sport mode. I talked to Pushkar about this and there is not anything to be done about it currently. This makes changing gears much more challenging, you end up pausing for longer than would be ideal in order to change gear. This makes going up hill very fast a tricky process of speed up > stop pedaling slow down a bunch and change gear > grind out speeding back up and a bit faster > repeat.
  • One big problem I have been having is that my bike is setup 1000 watts. It is just to much for the Rohloff and has been making the riding experience stressful. This by far has been the most difficult thing for me. I do not want to damage the Rohloff, I want this expensive machine and its components to last me a long time.
    • With 1000 watts you need to set off in gear 6 or lower to prevent damage to the gears. I did not know this when I first got the bike and had the gears slip a few times starting out. I am not sure if this has done permanent damage. The Rohloff has gotten a bit noisier with use. One nice thing is that the Rohloff is near silent in gear 6 and under, but makes a louder freewheeling noise when not pedaling over gear 6, so it is easy to tell rolling up to a stop if I am in the correct gear even with the bar mitts covering the shifter.
    • Shifting is perfect under lower levels of power and speeds. Something is funky at higher speeds and power levels though. I am not sure what is happening but I have more weird shifts in the middle of the range when pushing hard. For example when using Sport pedal assist 3-5 I pause to shift, wait for motor to stop, shift with no resistance and resume pedaling and sometimes one of a few things can go wrong; it will drop out of gear into way to low of a gear, it will tick like its halfway between gears, it will drop into gear 14 instead of goal gear of something like 8 to 10. It almost seems like the motor hits too hard and too fast in high PAS modes when resuming pedaling and the gears actually need an easy revolution or two to get settled before you pedal hard and fast.
    • In eco mode, not trying to sprint commute across the city, the number of gears are very useful. Those who think there are too many gears are wrong IMO. But at the same time they are correct when using high levels of pedal assist to accelerate fast between stop signs/lights the pattern goes, start off in 6 quickly shift up to ~10, speed up, shift to 14, get up to speed then hit a stop and shift back to 6 and start all over again. Doing this many times each way on a commute you start to feel twisting the grip so far just to use 3 gears is a bit silly. I do not know what the correct answer to this issue is. I love having the range and gears for the Rohloff for towing and efficient riding, but there are simply to many to be of use when pushing hard. Long term Rohloff should probably make a stronger 8 gear with slightly less range but bigger steps between the gears and it would be the perfect e-bike drive train.
  • I do think the gearing is a bit too low, my legs are about spun out at ~29 mph. I have talked to Pushkar about getting a 60 tooth front socket which would be too large for smaller frames, but will fit my large, so I am excited about that.

The above complaints come from my perhaps overly high expectations given the very high (at least from my perspective) price this bike is going for. Many of the issues are simply issues with what is available on the bike market currently, there are simply compromises in function you have to choose between. That being said the UCP an amazing price when you look at the cost of the components, and many large brands have these same issues or much worse (see fitting woefully underpowered/unsafe brakes which is still surprisingly common). I think the most interesting and direct comparison is the Koga e-WorldTraveler, which is much more expensive! Pushkar has clearly put an amazing amount of thought and work into the selection of the bike’s components. I think his efforts have been a great success!

Overall, I am very happy. The brakes are excellent. It is very quiet, much more so than I dared hope for. The ride is very comfortable while not feeling disconnected. It looks much better in person to me than it did in the pictures, even though I think it could do with being much prettier. The charger that comes with the bike is a truly awesome product compared to the dumb and slow chargers that come with every other ebike. The details of the frame are beautiful. The brake activated brake light is awesome, all commuting bikes need this! The seat is great. The tires, while a bit odd looking, are functionally a step forward. I was able to get to/from work several times in 27 minutes, with an average speed of 19 mph. I am putting more effort in than I anticipated, but I am enjoying it so far.
 

ak907

Member
I have since received cables for programing the Bafang motor and the Grin Satiator.

I recently ordered the new cranks Pushkar as developed and the new brighter lights, along with a 60 tooth front sprocket and 125 tooth belt. I am looking forward to playing with the new toys when they get here.
 

ak907

Member
Another interesting note is that I had my first belt off last week around 470 miles. So I would suggest checking belt tension around that time. I was able to get it tensioned with the tools I carry on the roadside without much difficulty and less grease than a chain. A bit more time consuming/difficult than a badly pinched/wrapped chain that has come off, but a good experience overall.
I tensioned the belt properly when I got home. I did find it a real challenge, as the app does not seem to pick up the lower frequency vibrations it recommends for an internal gear hub very well. It is doable but it does seem like there should be a better way. My shifting got a bit better after the tensioning so I wonder if the tension was a bit tight originally and that is why I have has some indexing/shifting troubles.
 

Ayl

Active Member
Hi ak907,
Welcome aboard! I find your review very detailed and expressing some of the same points that I've come across. You've done a great write up.
One thing I found interesting is in regards to the 1000W engine. I ordered the 750W version and still find it quite powerful. However, confidence in my riding ability and my Ultimate Commuter has grown, and feel ready to upgrade to a 1000W engine. I think in time you'll be accustomed to the 1000W, and before then customize the power via a programming cable is a good idea.
 

ak907

Member
Hi ak907,
I think in time you'll be accustomed to the 1000W, and before then customize the power via a programming cable is a good idea.
I am happy with the power, I have not tried it with 750 yet, but I imagine decreasing it will make hill climbing slower (currently with a lot of hard peddling I can maintain 22-25 on the biggest hills I tackle daily). My main concern is for the health of the Rohloff, I would be very very sad if it were to fail. I failed to account for the more catastrophic nature of IGH gear failure vs easy to replace chain/cassettes.

Because of the amount of power it puts out and the occasional weird mis-shifts I have been stressed about damage. The shifts have been getting better, whether due to wear in, more experience, belt tension or a combination I am not sure, but mis-shifts happen less often (for a while is was several times every ride) so I am less stressed. And I have just about completely eliminated gear slip/skip using gears 5-6 to start out as Pushkar advised. it will be interesting to see what the correct starting gear with a 60 tooth front socket will be, 4-5?
 

Ayl

Active Member
I totally understand your concern on damaging your rear hub. The Rohloff isn't bombproof, but it's a pretty stout IGH. I'll take it over my Nuvinci any day of the week. I've experienced the mis-shifts you're mentioning, but they tended to happen when I was starting from a dead stop on PAS 5 (eco or sport mode) and on a high gear like 9. Lately I haven't noticed them, and I hope it's due to me being better at riding my UC and/or my Rohloff getting better with use. The next time I'm out doing a few miles I'll be more conscious of how my hub is behaving just to make sure I'm not somehow tuning it out.
 

ak907

Member
Thanks! Good to know I am not alone in experiencing weirdness when shifting.

Generally it's not much a problem when casually riding. It's when I am trying accelerate and ride fast, like between the many stop signs and stoplights on city streets, when commuting that I experience the difficulties.
Part of it could be the the indexing on the Rohloff needs to be stronger/more authoritative, I have definitely noticed is possible to get in in between states, particularly with hard fast shifting.
 
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Ebiker33

Well-Known Member
First off, great detailed review.

A question about the Rohloff, doesn't it go to gear 1 if you stop for like 5 seconds? I have seen Court riding these in video's and when he stops you hear it resetting back.
 
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ak907

Member
@Ebiker33
I believe what you are talking about is the Bosh electric shifter for the Rohloff, which is not available on the current WattWagon as it is not Bosh powered.
The WattWagon has a twist shifter.

The video of the electronic shift and the reviews made me think that it is not quite there yet.
I have a Shimano Di2 XT electric shifter on my mountain bike and I personally find it amazing and love it. So I think eventually Rohloff will be able to come out with something that works well, but it may be a while, and compatibility across e-bike drive trains may be limited for a while.
 
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Ebiker33

Well-Known Member
@Ebiker33
I believe what you are talking about is the Bosh electric shifter for the Rohloff, which is not available on the current WattWagon as it is not Bosh powered.
The WattWagon has a twist shifter.

The video of the electronic shift and the reviews made me think that it is not quite there yet.
I have a Shimano Di2 XT electric shifter on my mountain bike and I personally find it amazing and love it. So I think eventually Rohloff will be able to come out with something that works well, but it may be a while, and compatibility across e-bike drive trains may be limited for a while.

So Bafang needs to develop electronic shifting that relates to Rohloff, I have a feeling in the next 5 years more and more bikes are going to go this route as chain snapping becomes an issue, maybe they will do the whole package, their R & D is working on stuff right now.
 
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ak907

Member
Yeah. There was a video tour of the Bafang factor posted in the forums here recently in which it was hinted that they were working on a drive train/shifting product.
 
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webcurl

Active Member
The Rohloff E14 is electronic shifting i believe design by Rohloff in conjunction with Bosch. It currently only works on Bosch systems and is compatible with most but not all Bosch ebike components.
The Bosch system reserves a certain percentage of battery power for light's & E14, exact numbers are unknown but around 5%. Effectively it cuts power to the motor when battery drains below a certain point to allow electric gear shifting to continue.
The Bosch system uses a CAN bus, this is used in automobiles, shimano Di12, Bionx and many other systems.
It allows components to communicate with each other, eg. a controller attached to a display to enable gear shifting in turn allowing a motor to temporarily dis-engage to allow a gear shift, the possibilities are endless as in many digital systems.
The whole ebike world could do with a generic standard CAN bus or similar to be used with chargers, batteries, motors, displays, thumb controllers, twist controllers, lights, indicators, brake systems, ABS systems, suspension systems, etc.
 
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pushkar

Well-Known Member
.
The whole ebike world could do with a generic standard CAN bus or similar to be used with chargers, batteries, motors, displays, thumb controllers, twist controllers, lights, indicators, brake systems, ABS systems, suspension systems, etc.
Amen to that. 😊
 

ak907

Member
Update: Good news. I am more pleased with the front shock after adding more air into it. I found that having higher air pressure has helped stop it from bottoming out, and settled it a bit. It still bobs when pedaling out of the seat, but less so. It is a little less plush as a result but that is understandable, always a tradeoff. For those curious I added ~15 pounds to my weight, pushing me up the recommended pressure graph for the fork. Which makes sense, between the battery and the motor there is at least 15 more pounds on the fork than there would be on it with a non-ebike. I still have not figured out the adjustments on top.

More good news, I purchased the new lights that now come with the bike from Pushkar and am much happier with them than the stock ones. The ability to turn the front light on/off and have the back light power on/off in response is clutch, very helpful for commuting. Very bright, nicely configurable with good mode options. Mounting of the lights is not the most convenient. If you do not have secure parking and have to remove and attach the lights it will get annoying. Even doing so to charge the 2 times a week I do so is bothersome. Many lights come with a mount that stays on the bike that allows for easy removal of the light for charging/security, not the light and whole mount.
Having so many separate batteries to charge and manage is a bit odd, one for the bike, one for the front light, one for the rear, one for my gopro (bike dashcam), phone for navigating, but that is state of technology. Perhaps it is better this way, smaller failure domains and more modularity for upgrades (a big one!). I think getting usb charging added to our electric bike charging station at the house will help. Gopros are the worst to charge due to their cage/mount.

I also ordered the new crank arms but found I needed a different crank puller than the one I have so I am waiting on that and have not installed them yet.

I ordered a larger front sprocket and belt so that I do not have to peddle as fast at top speed, and also have not installed them for the lack of crank puller. In addition, I got the chance more recently to ride casually more, and now I am conflicted and think changing them out might be a mistake. When riding without electric assist, or very low levels when towing, the drive ratio makes much more sense, putting a bigger sprocket on may make it too difficult to pedal without electric assist uphill/from a start.


Something I have started to notice is that trouble I sometimes have shifting/indexing of the Rohloff happens more in cold weather (let’s say under ~31 F). I am not sure why that would be, I don’t think it is gloves, as I often do not wear them as I use bar mitts (all the time right now). It could be cold hands, but I do not think so, as they are generally warm due to the effort I am putting in. It is possible the cold makes the dual cable setup bind more. Or it could be something inside the hub, but that seems less likely as there is probably enough thermal mass and friction to keep things warm enough in it. Just something interesting I noticed.
Also I would like to mention the Rohloff without electric assist or eco 1-2 while riding slow is so smooth and pleasant to use, particularly when towing when compared to a regular shifter. Shifting at a stop is a great feature as well.

I still have fairly consistent trouble with my seat post slipping down over time which is irritating, not sure if anyone has a solution for that.
 

ak907

Member
Oh I totally forgot, Pushkar was kind enough to ship me additional springs for the seatpost. Thank you! It was a little confusing telling the different springs apart, but I ended up adding one of the new ones on that seemed stronger on the lower section and I am very pleased with the results. The seat does not bottom out now and is less bouncy. With the previous springs it was so bouncy I had to crank down on the preload bolt, but that unfortunately reduces travel. It feels so natural and nice at high speed now, and still comfortable at low speed. I am very happy.

I should also mention Pushkar builds some STRONG wheels. I do my best, but there are potholes on the roads and I hit a big one hard at speed this week and it didn't cause any damage or even upset the bike. I am very impressed particularly with how heavy it is loaded up.
 

Ayl

Active Member
Try a clamp style and see if that helps.
@Ayl does yours work better ?

I've never had any issues with my seat post slipping down. I have a quick release seat post clamp as part of my theft deterrence setup, but I don't know if this could be the reason I don't have any slipping.