- A futuristic series electric bike that converts rider pedaling energy into electricity for motor-only operation
- Unique folding design allows the bike to be rolled forward in its most compact state, anti-theft mode locks rear wheel
- Very expensive, limited availability, very loud (motor and pedaling generator system), limited power for hilly terrain
- Mando is a large established Korean automotive company, the Footloose comes with a two year limited warranty
Mando is a global automotive parts manufacturer in South Korea which has been making ABS, ESP, ECS and EPS since 1962… I’m not sure what all of those acronyms mean, besides “anti lock braking system” but that’s besides the point here. These guys have experience and are large enough to experiment and enter new fields. It’s great to see them stepping into the electric bicycle space and the Footloose is their first offering available in the USA. Please note that the unit I reviewed is a bit older, from ~2013 so don’t mix it up with newer “IM” models that feature a removable battery, integrated LED lights and improved performance. I was intrigued with the idea of a series electric bicycle (where rider pedaling charges a battery instead of moving the bike) but there were some real limitations with this design. The vision is that riders won’t have to think about shifting gears or working harder to scale hills, fight wind etc. What I experienced however was a loud, uncomfortable, very expensive folding bike that functions on easy terrain but isn’t especially satisfying. I’m optimistic that they can get this thing working better through iteration and appreciate the four color choices and quality extras like mechanical disc brakes and a color backlit LCD display. The kickstand was also a unique design but ultimately felt like more work and lower performance than traditional offerings.
Driving the Mando Footloose electric bike is a 250 watt dual winding motor. I believe the purpose of dual winding is to operate at two different speeds more optimally, the first being low speed high torque and the second being higher speed but without as much torque. This bike is designed to “switch gears” dynamically based on the terrain you encounter and I believe this motor is what’s being referred to – not actual gears. While 250 watts is the standard for electric bikes in Europe (based on laws governing power and speed), in the US this motor would be considered small. During my ride test it produced a fair amount of noise but did a solid job zipping me up to ~15 mph on flats which is the maximum advertised speed. Unlike direct-pedal electric bikes, on the Footloose you cannot pedal beyond the top drive speed because you’re really just charging the battery. The same limitation exists when climbing and I experienced this while attempting to scale a larger hill, the bike simply gave up about half way through as my momentum dissipated. I’m sure any 250 watt hub motor powered electric bike would have struggled here so that shouldn’t be the focus, what it really had me wondering is whether the motor could overheat more easily given the sealed metal casing. I couldn’t tell whether this was a second cover or the actual outside of the motor itself.
The battery powering the Mando Footloose offers 36 volts of power with 8.2 amp hours of capacity. I’d call this slightly below average for the US market but given the 250 watt motor, it’s actually a step up and should provide more power for starting and climbing. The pack uses Lithium ion batteries which cost more but deliver long lasting performance and weigh less than alternatives while avoiding “memory” from deep discharges. I’d recommend keeping the battery between 20% and 80% charged whenever possible to really maximize its life. Since it’s not removable, you’ll have to bring the Mando Footloose inside and situate it near a charging outlet on a regular basis and at ~48 pounds that could be difficult in some situations. The best storage conditions for any Lithium-ion battery is a cool and dry climate, avoid extreme heat and cold. The charging socket is located just under the folding lever near the seat tube on the right side. It’s fairly well hidden which contributes to the clean aesthetic of the bike but can be difficult to reach and plug into when the bike is not folded… Once you do scissor the frame upwards however, it becomes much more accessible. I believe the battery is built into the rear leg of the bike and this positions more weight towards the back where the hub motor is located. It’s not as rear-heavy as some ebikes I’ve tested (and the weight is low on the frame) but it’s not perfectly balanced either.
Operating this ebike is super simple at a base level but offers more drive modes than other products I’ve tested, allowing experienced users to dig in and optimize the ride. Once the battery is charged you simply press the rubberized on/off button on the LCD display which is mounted near the left grip. It’s barely reachable while still keeping your grip but not something you should need to adjust regularly while riding. Once activated, the screen comes to life and shows readouts in vivid color that are backlit for use day or night. You can see your speed, battery level, riding mode and how many calories have been burned. At any time you can activate the trigger throttle on the right bar for instant power but the real focus is pedal assist which allows you to charge the battery and have the bike respond naturally as if you were truly pedaling a bicycle. The three mode settings include motor output, energy use and pedal resistance. Here’s a quick overview of the default settings: Automatic motor output – the bike senses the terrain you’re on and provides more or less boost to keep the ride speed consistent, Eco energy use – the bike conserves energy to maximize range, Normal riding mode – pedaling offers a workout and charges the battery efficiently. I found myself immediately dropping the ride mode to easy because the pedal cadence did not feel natural at first. Downward strokes felt alright but getting past the top and bottom of each rotation arc was a struggle and had my leg strokes were surging from fast to slow, fast, slow, fast slow… once I adopted a slower overall cadence the surge decreased and I felt more comfortable. As a traditional cyclist, the slower cadence felt uncomfortable to me at first (I prefer to spin at 70+ rpm to reduce strain on my knees) but slowing down provided the added benefit of reducing noise. I kept reminding myself that the pressure required to pedal was not going to change with terrain and that helped to reduce concerns about straining my body.
With the unnatural feel and noise of an outdated piece of exercise machinery, the limited power and speed of a European specced ebike and a price tag befitting a cheap used car the Mando Footloose is a curiosity. I really appreciate the time and energy that Mando has put into producing something truly unique, people at Interbike couldn’t stop talking about the Footloose, but not everything they had to say was positive and I agree that this first iteration definitely has room for improvement. I love that the vertical folding design allows the bike to roll at all times, the mechanical disc brakes are nice and the rigid wheelset is virtually maintenance free, the carbon fiber fork improves ride quality, the clean integrated fenders add utility and the removable LCD display and security locking feature are convenient. I’m not a fan of the weight, extra steps required to change flat tires, limited suspension, non removable battery and noisy operation. Given the average consumer’s limited budget, there are many other folding ebikes which offer more utility, weigh significantly less and are more enjoyable to pedal for less money. If you do go for one of these, I’d steer clear of steep terrain and situations where you’ll be required to lift it up.
- The rigid wheelset is durable and looks neat, there are no spokes to go out of true but the ride quality may suffer with less flex
- Smaller 20″ wheels allow the bike to fold more compact and offer leverage to the rear motor when starting and climbing
- The Mondo Footloose offers a wide range of vertical folding positions and can be rolled in most of them which makes entering elevators or trains much easier than a horizontal-scissoring fold design
- The backlit color LCD is fairly easy to reach when riding and has an intuitive interface with lots of options
- Automatic ride mode senses terrain (flats vs. hills) and lets you focus on pedaling while it regulates the motor at two speeds
- Unique eye-catching design is available in four colors including white, black, dark gray and light blue
- To help smooth out the ride and reduce overall weight, the front fork is made with carbon fiber
- Includes an anti theft system which is activated through the LCD display, it disables the rear wheel so the pedals won’t move the bike
- Good stopping power thanks to Avid mechanical disc brakes front and rear, matching plastic fenders hug both wheels and keep you clean and dry
- At 295.2 watt hours, the battery in this bike allows it to be checked on flights according to the FAA terms which limit Lithium-ion batteries to 300 watts or less
- Nice extras including a bell, reflectors and light with the option to purchase a fitted carry bag
- No bottle cage mounting points on the downtube or seat tube which means you’ll need to add one to the seat post or saddle rails, wear a CamelBak or setup a rear beam rack
- Given the low power motor, heavier weight and limited use if the battery runs out this thing is very expensive at ~$4k
- The idea of a series hybrid bicycle (where the rider simply pedals at one speed and the bike intelligently adjusts to terrain) is novel but pedaling on this bike did not feel consistent or satisfying, downstrokes were natural but the bottom and top part of the rotation felt challenging
- Extremely limited availability in the United States, may be difficult to test ride before buying
- Changing flat tires or swapping tubes appears to be difficult because axles are concealed by additional covers which have multiple screws, there did not appear to be quick release on either wheel but!! you may be able to change the tires without taking wheels off as there is only one half of an axle… the tube could just come off of the wheel while it’s still on the bike… though do be careful with the extra ~50 lb bike frame w hile doing this, maybe flip it up side down?
- The battery pack is not removable which means you’ll have to carry this ~48 pound ebike inside to charge it or use an extension cord
- No suspension fork, active stiff saddle and smaller 20″ diameter wheels contribute to a bumpier ride though the 2″ tires help to cushion a bit
- The motor is fairly loud, especially when taking on challenging terrain, it’s sealed within a metal hub cover and may not get the same air circulation and cooling that other hub motors enjoy
- The bike I tested was very noisy to pedal, you can hear the generator as loud if not louder than the motor itself, I’m not sure if the unit I tried was faulty but you can hear another one in this video around 1:55 making similar noises