- The most affordable women's specific electric bike from Haibike, leverages the Yamaha mid-drive, features an upgraded LCD screen with USB charging port
- Excellent weight distribution, battery and motor are mounted low and center, the top tube is angled down to lower stand over height, solid hydraulic disc brakes
- Hydroformed Aluminum alloy frame and air suspension fork keep the bike light weight, quick release wheels, removable display and battery pack make it even lighter to transport
- Oversized two pound battery charger, no bottle cage bosses (limited fender and rack mounting points), top speed is more dependent on the gear you're in
The Haibike SDURO HardLife SL is a women’s specific variation of the Haibike SDURO HardSeven SL… They cost the same and have matched components and drive systems but the colors and sizes are slightly different. With the HardLife for women you get a nice matte white with light grey and hot-pink accents, the top tube is steeper (reaching a lower point to accommodate shorter riders) and there are only four frame sizes vs. five on the HardSeven. I appreciate the emphasis on affordability that these models and feel that there aren’t too many compromises being made with components and features. You get the feature rich removable LCD display panel with remote button pad that has a Micro USB charging port vs. the fixed LED console found on the cheapest SDURO HardSeven SM which is only $200 less. The SDURO HardLife SL comes with large hydraulic disc brakes (for easy but powerful stops), an upgraded Selle Royal saddle with mounting clip at the rear (for adding a light or saddle bag), an air fork with remote lockout and rebound adjust and a ten speed Shimano Deore drivetrain for just $2,799. In my opinion, it’s a sweet deal… but if you feel like adding extra gears and going for some even nicer components the HardLife RC delivers two front sprockets vs. a single chainring effectively doubling the 10 speed cassette found on the SL. This model also brings an upgraded Shimano SLX derailleur, RockShox Recon Silver Solo suspension fork, upgraded brakes and tires and it will cost you $400 more… and comes in blue accents instead of pink.
My experience with the Yamaha drive system has been mixed, it’s not as responsive as the Bosch Centerdrive offered on the more expensive Haibike models but it’s a big step up from TranzX, Shimano and some of the no-name mid-drives used on lower-level ebikes I’ve reviewed. This drive unit is mounted directly to the frame, incorporates a plastic skid plate along the bottom and offers 250 to 500 watts of power with 80 Newton meters of torque for excellent power climbing or reaching that top speed of 20 mph. These specs trump the Bosch Centerdrive on paper but in my experience the two systems feel about the same in terms of power and speed… The difference is in response time and output speed range. Even though Yamaha is touting “Zero Cadence” operation (meaning you don’t have to ramp up pedal speed for the motor to kick in) I’m not sure the 20 rpm startup requirement from Bosch is all that different in practice? I was impressed to find however even when holding the brake levers on the HardLife SL and pushing down on the pedals, the motor system did not activate and zip the bike out from under me. So… there must be some kind of fail safe that tells the motor not to switch on unless the bike or the cranks are moving just a little bit… just a little bit over zero ;) and that’s a good thing.
In practice, the Yamaha motor system is quieter than Bosch because it spins slower and uses a larger chainring. However, one side effect is that it doesn’t stop as quickly and this is much more noticeable in low gears when spinning rapidly as shown in the video. the motor offers enough of a speed range that the top couple of gears can help you reach 20 mph but the further down you shift the slower the assisted top speed becomes and for me this meant more knee pressure. Unlike the higher levels of assist with the Bosch Centerdrive, I felt like I had to push harder and spin slower to get the Yamaha to respond. This should enhance range and frankly, it works well enough. This e-bike would make an excellent urban ride, trail explorer or intermediate mountain bike. I could see myself riding it to work or school during the week and then taking it up to the hills for some recreational rides on the weekend. The one thing I wish it did a little better was accommodate a rear rack with seat stay bosses that had threaded eyelets! But this would mean the frame design would have to change and probably look a lot more normal and less cool.
I like that the battery can be charged on or off the frame and that it slides in from the side (which is how they were able to bring the top tube down so low). The handlebar area is clean and easy to use, I love the remote button pad near the left grip because it can be accessed without looking down and since it produces little clicking sounds when used, it let you know what’s happening while you focus on the terrain. The display is large, easy to read and backlit for use at dusk or dawn and even the trigger shifters on the right are intuitive but small and clean as you’d expect from a mountain bike. One note here however is that the Yamaha middrive system does not offer shift detection so it’s a lot easier to mash and bang gears. This happens to me most frequently when I hit a steep hill and realize I need to shift down rapidly… It’s bad enough when my legs are the power source forcing the chain, derailleur and sprockets to change gears but when you add a motor with up to 500 watts into the mix the strain can be enormous and this can prematurely wear down on the drivetrain. I suggest shifting in advance… unfortunately this will slow your top speed based on the limited motor speed from Yamaha so consider hopping off and pushing or going into hills way slower… like a normal cyclist. while we’re talking about the chain and sprockets, I do want to call out the nice plastic guide that should reduce chain drops and clear debris from muddy or wet environments.
A couple of other things I appreciated about the SDURO HardLife SL electric bicycle were the Schwalbe Rapid Rob tires with puncture resistant Active K-Guard lining, the solid Wellgo alloy pedals and the neoprene slap guard… even the black matching spokes and wires add a touch of professionalism and artistry that other entry-level ebikes lack. It’s weird calling this an entry level ebike but for the Haibike line, that’s exactly what it is. Haibike is a premium brand, at least that’s how they were positioned when they entered the US market in 2014 / 2015 and while the Yamaha system makes their bikes more accessible price-wise you benefit from a lot of the same design work that was done for higher-end products. The wires are integrated through the frame for example and again, four frame sizes to choose from! That’s awesome and it means you’ll find one that fits your body more correctly and ultimately be able to ride further and more frequently without back and neck pain. I’d estimate 30 to 60+ miles per charge and even with the large clunky charger you get 4 amps of output so it should charge faster which is nice. Callout to the two year comprehensive warranty and wide reaching dealer network that help to make buying and maintaining this and other Haibikes a better experience.
- Haibike is touting their Yamaha powered electric bikes as offering “uncompromising performance” geared for a younger demographic, zero cadence assist is meant to be more immediate (verses the Bosch Centerdrive which requires 20 rpm for the motor to kick in), in my experience both systems start extremely quickly and Yamaha’s primary advantage is that it costs less and is compatible with two chainrings vs. just one for a wider gear range 455% vs. 420%
- The Selle Royal saddle matches the frame, feels pretty good (but firm for active riding) and has an integrated light or bag clip for Selle Royal compatible accessories
- The display panel is large, easy to read, backlit and removable! I like that the button pad is easy to reach, well sealed and has an integrated Micro USB port for charging accessories
- The Yamaha mid-drive motor operates fairly quietly in high and mid level gears (when it’s not spinning super fast)
- You can charge the battery pack on or off the frame and since it slides on from the side vs. straight down like Bosch and other brands, it allows the top tube of the frame to drop lower for a decreased stand over height
- Awesome color scheme, the matte white with gray and hot-pink accents looks rad and even the saddle and fork are color matched! The fork is actually pearlescent white with a pink tint
- Nice suspension fork that’s air and oil for reduced weight, has remote lockout for easy operation while riding and rebound adjustment at the base of the right slider near the dropout
- Excellent weight distribution, the motor and battery are positioned low and center improving handling, both wheels have quick release for easier transport or trail maintenance and the motor is well protected with a replaceable plastic skidplate
- Limited motor speed range, I found that when switching down to lower gears the motor support dropped out significantly (even in the highest pedal assist mode) because it relies so heavily on torque as an input, this was a bummer when approaching hills at high speed riding off-road
- No shift sensing or shift detection built into the drive system, this could lead to more mashing, banging and premature wear on the chain, cassette and derailleur
- No bottle cage bosses on the frame though it appears that you could add fenders or at least mud guards and possibly a rear carry rack