- While not officially a folding bike, the stem does pivot and pedals do fold to create a slim profile
- Rigid frame paired with oversized Schwalbe Big Ben ballon tires creates a solid but comfortable ride
- Smaller 20" wheels paired with internally geared hub and mid-drive motor creates mechanical advantage for climbing
- Three levels of torque sensing pedal assist, no throttle mode, so you have to pedal along
The Kalkhoff Sahel Compact i8 electric bike isn’t exactly a folding bike but it does offer a smaller footprint and lighter overall weight. The pedals fold up and the stem pivots to twist the handle bars in line with the frame, allowing it to squeeze into cars, RV’s, busses or trains more easily. This is a very capable ebike, running on the same drive system as the full sized Kalkhoff Sahel i8 only with a slightly smaller 11 amp hour battery instead of the 15. With its smaller 20″ wheels, the Compact is an excellent climber and one of the easiest electric bikes to mount due to its step-through frame. It could be one of the best options for a smaller person or someone with shorter legs that’s struggling with full sized bicycle designs. In terms of quality, Kalkhoff is part of Derby Cycle Werke out of Germany, a trusted name in the space that make quality systems… and that is reflected in the higher price tag of this ebike.
The motor on the Sahel Compact i8 is a 250 watt geared mid-drive design. While 250 watts may not sound like much, especially compared with many US made 350 or 500 watt motors, the middrive system leverages the internally geared hub for efficiency. It’s a great climber for this reason and also very capable in terms of range and ride time. The motor itself is quiet, responsive and mounted extremely low on the frame. This keeps the center of balance low, stabilizes the ride and makes the bike easier to lift when climbing stairs or loading into a car. While the bike may not have a throttle mode or reach the higher speeds of many US made bikes, some that now reach 28 miles per hour in speed pedelec mode, it’s a master of utility.
The battery pack in this system offers 36 volts of power and 11 amp hours of capacity which is pretty standard for a full sized ebike but impressive for a smaller one like the Compact. The advantages here are battery position (low and central just like the motor), removability for convenience in charging and power to weight ratio. This bike is much lighter than a full sized ebike but still rigid and stable at higher speeds as mentioned before. Battery position is a big part of that balance and the fact that the battery locks to the frame but is also removable means it can get even lighter for transport if you keep the battery off. In terms of design, I like the unique concave design that mirrors the rear wheel. It feels like Kalkhoff considered every efficiency and artistic angle when engineering this bike vs. slapping generic parts together.
All things considered, this is one of the most impressive miniature electric bikes I’ve ridden. Others such as the Pedego 24″ Cruiser are designed with smaller riders in mind first and foremost while the Sahel Compact is more about commuter efficiency and space savings. You’ll always have to pedal to activate the motor here as there’s no throttle mode and the LED computer is very basic (no speed, range or precise battery displays to reference) but it’s durable and very functional. It’s actually very easy to understand and use and it also felt durable, like it would resist water and dust well over time. The fenders, chain guard, bell, ergonomic grips, adjustable kickstand and dynamo powered lights (that don’t need the battery to stay light) are wonderful. It’s easy to take these things for granted or assume you can add them on to any bike you get but the way these are integrated is beautiful.
There are drawbacks with this design including the lack of suspension (no seat post shock or suspension fork) but the larger ballon tires do smooth things out a bit. In truth, most folding or mini electric bikes are lacking in the comfort department, it’s part of what makes them small and light. Of all the folders I’ve ridden, this is definitely one of the more comfortable designs. You could ride it further without experiencing the same fatigue or even insecurity of balance that others are know for. It’s not the most affordable model out there but you get a quality build for your money.
- Solid frame, doesn’t feel wobbly or soft when riding, could support larger riders
- Impressive drive system for a miniature electric bike, excellent range due to larger capacity battery pack
- Great hill climber due to mechanical advantage of smaller 20″ wheels, geared mid drive motor and pedal assist
- Ergonomic grips, front and rear fenders, chain guard and dynamo powered lights are very functional
- Larger Schwalbe Big Ben tires absorb some of the bumps, the seat is a bit more rigid and the lack of suspension is noticeable compared with full sized Kalkhoff ebikes
- Front and rear lights are powered by Shimano dynamo so they will continue to work even if your main battery runs out
- Middrive motor and battery pack mounted behind seat tube keeps weight low and centered on the bike
- Manufactured by Kalkhoff which is part of Derby Cycle Werke, one of the largest German ebike makers with a solid reputation
- Mid-drive motor is very quiet and works seamlessly with internally geared hub, gears can be shifted even when the bike is standing still
- Key unlocks the battery pack and is not required to be left in when riding, the battery can be charged on or off the bike
- Doesn’t get quite as small as true folding electric bikes (the frame doesn’t fold) but it does feel more solid when riding
- No fancy LCD monitor to show you speed, distance or precise battery capacity remaining
- Only available in one size, 46cm, and in the step-through design but it does come in multiple colors including black and blue
- Offers torque sensing pedal assist mode only, no twist or trigger throttle
- Very expensive compared with other small wheeled electric bikes but the components and drive system is comparable to the full sized Kalkhoff Sahel i8
- Bolt-on style rack is a bit small and requires proper assembly and maintenance to avoid rattling loose over time vs. welded but the Kalkhoff hardware seems very high quality
- Very limited availability in the USA, harder to test ride and service as a result