- An affordable hardtail electric bike with 650B wheels, 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes, integrated LED lights and solid Aluminum Wellgo pedals
- Compact display seems tough and blends in nicely, two USB charging ports (on the headlight and battery pack), basic suspension fork that's paint matched and lockable
- Average sized 350 watt internally geared motor is responsive but fades out at higher speed, fairly responsive pedal assist with three power levels
- Only available in one frame style, high-step, and one average sized 19" frame, difficult to find at shops so you'll likely order online and assemble yourself
$0 (0 €)$38,500 (36,190 €)
0 lbs (0 kg)175 lbs (79 kg)
0 mph (0.0 km/hr)50 mph (80.5 km/hr)
0 watt3,000 watt
0 in (0.00 cm)22 in (55.88 cm)
0 Newton meters160 Nm
To Date, Freway has released two value-driven electric bikes in the United States. The first model, VR-01, took a more efficient light-weight approach with a below-average sized 250 watt geared hub motor and 36v 5.2ah battery pack. it weighed in at about 43 pounds and was priced at just over $1k. For me, it brought some of the best aspects of electric assist to a platform that was easier to lift and more agile than a lot of other products. The non-removable color display panel seemed super fancy and unnecessary given the mountain bike build but I loved the suspension fork and hydraulic disc brakes that normally aren’t present at these lower price points. Their new Buffalo model takes a lot of the best things from the VR-01 and gravitates towards mainstream e-bikes with a larger motor and battery pack. It’s still only available in one color, one frame size and one frame style (high-step) but it looks good and works well enough. You get 180 mm disc brake rotors vs. 160 mm before and now the levers have motor inhibitors built in so you get more control over the drive system and it feels safer. The adjustable integrated lights include a blinking mode to save power and the headlight even has a USB power port built in to charge your phone, music player or GPS device when mounted to the handle bars. The bars themselves are MUCH more open and normal looking thanks to a smaller (but still backlit) display panel. Overall, the bike looks a lot more polished and stealthy than the VR-01 because the battery is partially integrated into the downtube. It’s a lot less vulnerable, keeps weight low and center for improved balance and can still be charged on or off the frame. Perhaps the biggest win here is that there’s space for bottle cage bosses on the seat tube! For those who want to bring even more gear, there are additional threaded eyelets on the seat stays and near the rear dropout for adding a cargo rack. These are important little details that even some larger companies seem to miss or forego.
Being a mostly online-purchased electric bike, you’ll have to receive a huge box, unpack it and assemble the Freway Buffalo before you can take a ride. Assembly too me around 20 minutes and only involves twisting the stem, attaching the handle bar and spinning the pedals on. I absolutely love the sturdy Wellgo Aluminum pedals because they provide the stiffness needed to transmit pedal power into the wheels and a large enough pad with solid knubs to stay connected in wet or even snowy environments… I got to review the Buffalo when visiting family and friends in Colorado and had a blast romping in the snow but found that it wasn’t as powerful or fast as expected. Again, the 350 watt motor and 36 volt 11 amp hour battery are what I’d consider average in the US and despite a 25 mph top speed listed on their website, my experience put it closer to 20 mph and there was no cruise button mentioned on the Indiegogo page. Perhaps that’s just as well because it keeps the bike in Class 1 vs. Class 2 (throttle powered) or even a weak Class 3 (ebikes that go over 20 mph in pedal assist mode). The assist itself is driven by a 12 magnet cadence sensor that detects crank arm movement. You don’t need to push especially hard to get motor support but it isn’t always instant. Consider switching to lower gears so you spin faster if you want more immediate power. I guess the biggest takeaway here is that the latest Freway e-bike is a lot more normal in terms of weight and performance but still comes in at a lower price and packs some interesting extras.
One of the most noticeable “extras” I discovered were the bull-horn grip ends that allow you to switch hand positions while riding. The execution is lackluster in some ways because the grip and horn piece are permanently connected. If you want a different grip angle then the bar end is also going to rotate. At least the grip locks so it shouldn’t spin out of position as easily and… at least it’s ergonomic, just not as adjustable. Another upgrade, mentioned earlier, are the hydraulic disc brakes. For people who actually ride off-road or in precarious environments (like snow) it’s nice to have brakes that respond with less hand force. I’ve heard that super low temperatures can impact hydraulic fluid (and that you can replace it with different grades for better performance) but these worked great for me even though it was a colder day. When you toss in an average suspension fork with lockout and rebound adjust and have larger 27.5″ x 2.1″ knobby tires you get a more comfortable, trail capable ride. Overall, I had a good time and was impressed with the traction and suspension but not thrilled. As a rider with some back and neck sensitivity, I’d probably get a basic seat post suspension like this to fit the 27.2 mm stock post and take the edge off rough terrain a bit.
Activating and controlling the Buffalo is simple enough and actually requires fewer steps than some nicer models. Just charge the battery, fit it into the downtube mounting slot (perhaps use the key to help click it on more easily) then press the rubberized power button on top of the pack. This button simultaneously activates the display ring near the left grip and illuminates an LED light gauge on the battery indicating roughly how full it is. These little gauges are nice because they work even when the pack is off the bike, keeping you in the know about charging. Up at the display ring you can see all of the standard readouts such as current speed, assist level (of which there are three) and battery level… but the battery graphic actually shows a percentage, not just four or five chunks! This makes it much more precise and allows you to make better decisions about how far you can go before turning back. If you want to push ahead, the charger supplied with this bike is relatively compact and very light weight at just 1.2 pounds. I guess the only minor complaint I have about charging the battery on the bike is that the port is a bit tight, positioned at the base of the pack near the seat tube, so your cable will have to bend at a hard right angle and plugging in might not be as easy. Back to the display, I found that the left and right buttons cycled through the different power levels and that the picture of a person riding was “off” or zero assist mode. The three different levels display as chevrons and the whole thing loops so you can go from full power to no power with just one click. To see different readouts just hold the left or right button for a few seconds and to enter the settings menu hold both simultaneously. This is where you can set the lights or change from Kilometers to Miles. It all works fine but I came away impressed with how capable and nice looking the little display was. It automatically becomes backlight for a few moments when either button is clicked and it’s close enough the grip that it’s easy to manipulate while riding. It also seemed protected against bike tips and crashes compared to the much larger (and not removable) attention-grabbing display on the VR-01.
It’s a little weird to review bikes that aren’t fully available and which advertise features not present on the demo models. Also, reading through the official Indiegogo page left me somewhat confused due to conflicting details and a lot of grammatical mistakes. I believe this ebike comes direct from Asia and is priced lower because there’s no dealer or middle-man distributor / marketer who might otherwise fix some of this. I feel like they got the main things right and I can tell they put a lot of energy into the video and fancy rendered images on the site but an editor would inspire even more confidence. As a 5’9″ tall male who enjoys urban plus a bit of trail riding, this bike is a great fit. I love that they included a kickstand and positioned it towards the back so I could fine tune the drivetrain. It’s great that the front wheel uses quick release to make it easier to lift and place into the trunk of a car and while I’m not sure I’d want to screw around with a warranty issue, it’s nice to see that the company is going on two years in the States and that their warranty is so long (5 Year Frame, 2 Year Battery and Motor). The Freway Buffalo joins a whole mess of 350 watt 36 volt ebikes but has a much nicer battery, some cool electronics upgrades (like the USB ports) and a neat little display panel. Sure, I’d add a suspension post and maybe replace the grips but this thing would make riding to school a bit easier and I wouldn’t feel so bad about bumps at the rack. The display wouldn’t attract as much attention or be as exposed to scrapes and at this lower price, it’s easier to justify spending money on fixes or completely losing the bike as time goes on. My hope is that Freway continues to refine their products and stays present in the US market so we can get that service and perhaps some accessories in the future. For now, it’s a good upgrade to what the VR-01 offered but different enough to stand on its own as a heavier, more powerful trail capable bike.
Quick note from Freway about using the control pad: Left button single click adds a power assist level. Left button double click enters the second interface (with charge level indicator) and you can open the front light. Right button single click reduces power assist level. Right button double click enters the second interface and you can open the rear light. I think they mean “activate” the lights… I couldn’t try this in person as Gary already had the bike! Big thanks to Freway for partnering with me for this review and to Andrew at Ultimate Sports Nutrition in Fort Collins Colorado and his friend Gary :)
- They chose some of my favorite pedals! These aren’t the top of the line but they offer more traction and surface area than a lot of stock pedals… especially for a more affordable ebike
- Love that the seat tube has bottle cage bosses, convenient for adding a folding lock, mini-pump or standard water bottle holder. There is also a pair of bosses and threaded eyelets at the back so you could add a rack or possibly a fender setup
- Decent tires, the 27.5″ diameter offers a nice compromise between quick steering 26″ and smoother cushier gap-spanning 29ers
- Very nice integrated lights! I couldn’t figure out how to keep them on during the daytime but I love that the rear light flashes vs. just staying solid… I’m guessing that they use light sensors and automatically turn on when it gets dark out, to change settings hold both control pad buttons
- The display is compact but easy to reach and fairly easy to read day or night (thanks to a soft green backlight that comes on when you press either of the two buttons), it blends in and keeps the bike looking more normal
- Solid eight speed drivetrain with Shimano Altus (one step up from the bottom), I appreciate the bash guard on the chainring and the 12 magnet cadence sensor… all good for a value e-bike
- Adjustable length kickstand with a larger pad so it won’t sink into soft terrain, positioned towards the back of the bike so you can lube your chain or adjust settings without colliding
- Superb hydraulic disc brakes with large 180 mm rotors, the levers have ebike specific motor inhibitors to keep the bike under control when you need to stop
- I like the upgraded Selle Royale saddle and locking ergonomic grips but felt that the bar end parts were less useful (since they don’t adjust independently)
- Most of the wires are internally routed which keeps them from snagging and makes the bike look nicer, it seems that just one hydraulic line is tacked below the downtube
- It’s really nice that instead of a four or five bar info-graphic communicating battery charge level they actually show percentage (which is much more precise)
- Even though there was lots of repetition and some mistakes on the Indiegogo page, I could tell the Freway team put a lot of effort into the video and graphics, they have been around for over a year now selling in the US and it seems like they are committed to getting better (this is likely a direct from Asia ebike)
- The suspension fork has lockout and rebound adjust but didn’t travel as smoothly or fluidly as higher end hardware, maybe it just needed some more breaking in? Consider adding a 27.2 mm suspension seat post for greater comfort
- I love that there’s quick release on the front wheel be cause it makes flat fixes easier and reduces the size and weight of the frame (great for tossing it into the trunk of a car)
- The battery charging port and USB outlet can be a little tricky to reach when the pack is mounted, you might have to bend the cables at a hard angle due to the location of the seat tube
- The Buffalo only comes in one size, one frame style and one color scheme… thankfully they all work pretty well but shorter riders just might not fit
- Limited power with the average sized motor and I felt like it faded out prematurely towards the 20 mph top speed mark, though I was testing in snow ;)
- Since this is mostly an online-sale bike, you might need some extra time and effort to build and service it, if you don’t have grease or the patience to true the wheels and lube the chain it might all wear out sooner or just not ride as well as a shop built ebike
- Offering 2 Amps of power output, the charger isn’t going to be as quick as some others (these days I see a lot of 4 Amp chargers but mostly on 48 volt ebikes)
- It seems like several items on their Indiegogo campaign did not match the test unit I received (the disc brake model, the top speed, the number of assists levels) and there were lots of grammatical errors which didn’t inspire confidence… still, the bike worked pretty well and doesn’t cost a lot
- It sounds like they are working on a “cruise button” that would act like a throttle, this changes the ebike from Class 1 to Class 2 and if the bike truly can hit 25 mph then it is already some sort of Class 3 ebike which has me confused (most Class 3 feel a lot more powerful and hit ~28 mph)
- I can’t believe their promotional video ends with “Life is Short, Ride or Die” that’s just hilarious… also the conflicting text “we can not guarantee our services to be satisfying to the western customers” followed immediately with “We are planning to ship the bikes only to the Northern-American countries – America, Mexico and Canada.” I think they need a native English speaker or editor badly but admire the energy and enthusiasm ;)
- Official Website: http://ifreway.com/
- Official Indiegogo Page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/freway-buffalo-ebike-you-are-how-you-ride
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/WHciMvKgcGEaUE2g6