- Great hill climber due to geared mid-drive motor and internally geared eight speed rear hub
- Quality build with full range of accessories including fenders, dynamo powered lights and rear rack
- Simple LED console is easy to use and durable but doesn't show speed, distance or precise battery capacity
- Gel seat is nice but this bike doesn't include a suspension fork or seat post shock absorber
The Kalkhoff Sahel i8 electric bike is a step down from the Tasman Tour C8 but offers a similar experience. While you won’t get the seat post shock, suspension fork, tool-free adjustable stem or larger 700cc wheels you do still get a gel seat and ergo grips with swept back handle bars for comfort. The smaller 26″ wheels are also fitted with larger Schwalbe Big Apple tires that absorb some of the bumps and of course the price is lower. The drive system itself is very similar with a 250 watt geared mid drive motor offering 40nm of force. It turns the same internally geared eight-speed rear hub and is powered by a similar 36 volt Lithium-ion battery that is a bit larger at 15 amp hours instead of just 11. It’s a solid urban commuter ebike from Kalkhoff which is part of Derby Cycle Werke out of Germany.
While a 250 watt motor may sound weak compared with larger 350 and 500 watt American hub motor designs, it’s quite capable and very efficient. During my ride tests in San Francisco the motor had no problem powering me up hills, in part because the bike only offers torque sensing pedal assist mode. In short, it only contributes if you do! Still, it’s quiet and very smooth. I love the positioning of this drive system because it keeps weight extremely low and centered on the bike which improves balance.
The battery pack is also low and centrally located on the frame, positioned just behind the seat tube. It’s beautifully integrated and even features a semi-circle cutout to compliment the rear wheel (OCD bicycle riders may rejoice in the beauty and symmetry of this bike). The batteries are part of the Impulse drive package and offer 36 volt of power and a whopping 15 amp hours of capacity which amounts to over half a kilowatt hour of juice (540 watt hours in total). This bike will just go and go as a result of the low power consumption motor, pedal assist only setup and large pack. It’s estimated to reach between 65 and 90 miles which is amazing for such a standard sized ebike weighing just 48 pounds.
While the creature comforts are a bit reduced by the lack of a front suspension, this contributes to the efficiency of the Sahel i8 as you won’t experience bobbing or increased weight. The upright riding position feels good and the gel seat and swept back handlebars do reduce some of the jitter along with the larger tires. I like that it comes in several sizes and appreciate the option of a high step frame which might be easier to mount on a car or bus rack for transportation. You can further reduce the weight of the bike by removing the battery pack temporarily and this is also convenient for charging inside your home or office.
Between the fenders, dynamo powered LED lights that don’t depend on the main battery to stay light and the quality rear rack this is a wonderful bike. For the extra $500 I might be tempted to upgrade to the Tasman Tour because I have some back and neck injuries and appreciate suspension but it’s hard to ignore the efficiency and functional nature of the i8. Both bikes use the same LED console that lets you choose different modes of pedal assist. It’s not the most engaging computer as there’s no LCD monitor showing your speed, range or precise battery capacity remaining but it does appear to be durable and water resistant – it’s also easy to reach and use. The Sahel i8 is a solid and thoughtfully engineered ebike that’s worth checking out… if you can find one. They are somewhat limited in the USA but I’ve linked to a shop that carries them in San Francisco called New Wheel just below.
- Front and rear lights are powered by Shimano dynamo so they will continue to work even if your main battery runs out
- Extremely good range due to limited top speed and mid drive system that leverages rear gears… also the half kilowatt sized battery offering 540 watt hours
- Middrive motor and battery pack mounted behind seat tube keeps weight low and centered on the bike
- Excellent combination of extras including water bottle braze ons, gel seat, ergonomic grips, front and rear fenders and lights, bell, adjustable stem and handle bars, chain guard, standard size rear rack and kickstand
- Available in three frame sizes and both step-through and high step diamond frame styles
- Solid two year warranty, bike is made by Kalkhoff which is part of Derby Cycle Werke, one of the largest German ebike manufacturers with a solid reputation
- Mid-drive motor is very quiet and works seamlessly with internally geared hub
- Offers great climbing torque (40 Nm at the crank vs. 40 Nm at the wheel with hub motors)
- 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
- Torque sensor is highly responsive with fast on and off motor controller that feels smooth
- Offers pedal assist mode only, no twist or trigger throttle
- A bit expensive compared with some other commuting style ebike
- Bolt-on style rack requires proper assembly and maintenance to avoid rattling loose over time vs. welded but the Kalkhoff hardware seems very high quality
- Simple LED computer console does not show top speed or range and offers a more basic capacity indicator (but it is easy to reach, understand and use)
- Very limited availability in the USA, harder to test ride and service as a result