- A mid-level hardtail electric trail bike that looks good, balances weight well and offers throttle and cadence based pedal assist
- Unique narrow throttle design is easy to reach and works well, hydraulic disc brakes are solid, suspension fork and gel saddle provide comfort and the display is large and easy to use
- Two level on/off process means it's easy to leave the battery on after you're finished riding, throttle power is capped by your pedal assist level
- Good year long comprehensive warranty, 5th generation build from Germany (well established company), 24 speed drivetrain makes it versatile (on or off road), nice pedal upgrades and rack/fender bosses for customizing as a commuter bike
Leisger is a german electric bike company that is expanding to the US with a few models for 2015/2016 including the MD5. This is a “mountain” style ebike with “downtube” mounted battery that’s a “5th generation” build. That’s what the MD5 stands for and it’s a fairly good overview of the bike. You get a refined product here but not one that’s super expensive like some other German made electric bikes (I’m thinking Haibike, Focus and Kalkhoff which all start around $4k). Leisger gives you a ~$2,500 bike here that’s definitely trail capable, even light mountain, but also useful as a commuter or city bike. As a hardtail, this is the type of platform that would work well with a rear carry rack and even fenders and it has all of the necessary braze-ons (threaded eyelets) built right in. You get a 24 speed drivetrain with Shimano Acera components (mid-level stuff) and some nice locking grips, upgraded pedals and then popular 650b tire size (27.5″) which people like for being an “in between” size that handles well but also rolls over obstacles easily.
Powering the Leisger MD5 is a standard 350 watt internally geared hub motor from 8Fun. I see these a lot and to me they are sort of a known quantity. They produce a bit of zipping noise under heavy power but aren’t especially loud, they are relatively small and fairly light (being geared) and this one features a quick disconnect power cable running along the chain stay that’s easy to unplug during maintenance. This is not the kind of motor that’s going to push you up large or even medium sized hills but with a bit of speed and pedaling but it can be very satisfying in pedal assist mode. I like that it’s painted black and matches the spokes and wheelset.
The battery pack offered here is slightly above average at 36 volts and 13 amp hours. It’s enough to go 20+ miles even in the higher levels of assist and it’s mounted in a sturdy and aesthetically pleasing way. Basically, most regular bicycles have two bosses along the downtube for adding a bottle cage… on this frame those holes are used to mount the battery bracket. What’s neat to me is that the downtube is rectangular and seems to support the battery bracket in a much sturdier way while also keeping it straight. The pack is removable and you can easily charge it on or off the bike. The charging port is very accessible on the right side of the pack and there’s even a USB charging port as well. I’m not sure I’d ride with an electronic device plugged into the port however because it would stick out and possibly get kicked or snagged while pedaling. This is a bummer because it would otherwise be useful for powering portable electronics… I’d like to see the port on the top front end of the pack instead of the side but at least it’s there. You could always just keep the battery charged as an extra supply for your phone off of the bike. Speaking of charging, I recommend storing the battery between 20% and 80% full when you’re not using it for long periods. Also, keep it in a cool dry place because extreme heat and cold can be bad for it.
Operating the MD5 takes a an extra step and has some deeper menus that may or may not be useful for everyone. First, you press the on/off rubber button on the battery pack and then you press the on/off button on the button pad near the left grip. I’m not a fan of this two step process because it takes extra time and makes forgetting to turn the battery off much easier than if there was just one switch. Once everything is on you’ll see the beautiful, large LCD display activate and list speed, battery level, assist level and some “other” readouts. You can arrow up or down to change assist and in so doing, you also change how much power the throttle has access to. I wish the throttle could use 100% power because it would be useful for overriding lower levels of assist (say, when you want to be efficient but need to climb a short hill or pass someone momentarily). By using the set button you can switch from odometer, trip distance and time readouts and I like that they are all listed (even though only one can be selected at a time) vs. being buried. The final area to interact with is power level and this is where it gets a little confusing. In addition to six levels of pedal assist (and zero for a very slow, weak throttle mode) you also get to choose a power setting. This changes how fast the motor accelerates and can help to extend your battery. To get to this setting you need to hold the set button down for several seconds and then navigate the settings menu. For someone testing this ebike at a shop this could be confusing and also lead to an underwhelming test ride if the system was left at the lowest power level. In practice, as an owner it might be nice to choose a weak or powerful setting depending on your needs but I usually get by with just changing assist levels.
At the end of the day this is a nice looking, well built electric bike that isn’t quite as fancy as something from Easy Motion (in terms of battery design) but offers a bit more power, range and features for the right type of buyer. Given the established nature of the company in Europe and one year warranty I feel more comfortable accepting the bike but it doesn’t strike me as the most unique product. The frame is only available in one size and color and I felt like the reach was a bit shorter which could impact how it rides for taller people who could feel scrunched. This is an electric bike that’s capable in many situations from trail to light mountain to commuting or just fun. It’s very portable given the removable battery and front quick release wheel, the frame is classic diamond which is very easy to hang off racks and also very stiff and sturdy. With an 8Fun motor and Samsung batteries I feel like the systems are proven and even though there’s that two step on/off bit and the extra stuff in the menu it all looks good and is easy to operate while riding. This could be a solid choice for people who fit the frame and like the sporty style.
- I like that it comes with a kickstand! Not all trail/mountain style bikes have them and considering this is a less aggressive build (and might even be used for commuting) a good adjustable kickstand is nice to have ;)
- Upgraded sine wave controller applies power to the motor system more smoothly and results in quieter more efficient operation
- The controller operates at a higher amp output which provides a slightly higher top speed ~22 mph and more power than similar 36 volt ebikes I’ve tested. I believe it’s 10 amp nominal to 15 peak
- Good weight distribution, the hub motor is relatively small and light in the rear and the battery is kept low and center on the downtube
- I like the paint job, white looks good and is safe, you get matching grips, suspension fork and even the battery pack is white to match. At the rear you’ve got a black motor laced into a black rim with black spokes (same for the front) so it blends in and looks sharp
- The rectangular downtube provides more strength for the battery mount, it stays flatter and straighter while some similar ebikes I’ve tested with round tubing can have crooked battery mounts
- The display panel swivels to reduce glare, has backlighting and is just large and easy to understand, I like that menus are shown at all times and you don’t have to guess at what’s buried within
- I really like the throttle design, it’s very slim and compact which allowed Leisger to mount it very close to the right grip and that means you don’t have to reach far to use it
- Oversized tapered head tube adds strength, the frame looks clean and should be more durable given the internally routed power cables
- Suspension fork includes lockout for improved efficiency on flats but adds comfort if you leave it open, this compliments the gel saddle nicely
- Capable of reaching higher top speeds in pedal assist, even though the motor and battery are a bit more average you’ll reach ~28 mph in pedal assist before the motor will cut out if you pedal rigorously
- Only available in one frame size and the reach seems a bit less than other 19″ ebikes I’ve tested, this isn’t a bad thing if you’re going to use it on trails or around town but the geometry just isn’t as aggressive
- The USB charging port is nice but it’s located right where my leg and knee were passing by the downtube and I worry that a plug would get bumped (if I was using it to charge my phone or portable music player) would be more useful if the port was at the top of the pack near the stem instead of the side
- More basic cadence sensor, doesn’t start or stop as quickly as some 12 magnet designs I’ve seen but might stay cleaner and is definitely more compact
- The display panel is not removable and has to be activated separately from the battery pack (so you turn two things on and two things off) which can make it easy to forget and leave on accidentally
- The power and speed on this bike are both limited by the level of pedal assist you choose, in level zero you barely get any power, I wish you could override every assist level to full speed with the throttle
- No bottle cage bosses, you can add storage by purchasing the fitted rear carry rack for $39 and getting a trunk bag or panniers
- Official Site: http://www.magnumbikes.com/portfolio-item/leisger-md5/
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/kNcseMMUSBFgT7Gg8