- A stylish electric cruiser available in several unique colors (metallics and matte finishes), mid-step frame is easier to mount but feels solid, simplistic and easy to work on
- Long swept back handlebar and oversized comfort saddle give this ebike a relaxed ride quality, balloon tires with go-anywhere tread let you explore packed-dirt paths
- Mid-mount battery keeps weight low and centered, available in a range of sizes targeting range and power or lower price and lighter weight, zippy motor with assist and throttle operation
- No fenders, rack or lights but you could add your own... less refined than some competing models from larger companies but also easier to repair and upgrade
$0 (0 €)$38,500 (36,190 €)
0 lbs (0 kg)175 lbs (79 kg)
0 mph (0.0 km/hr)50 mph (80.5 km/hr)
0 watt3,000 watt
0 in (0.00 cm)22 in (55.88 cm)
0 Newton meters160 Nm
Motiv hasn’t changed their electric bikes much since I first saw and reviewed them in 2014. The brand is cool, their color options are unique and stylish vs. cutesy and the founder is very attentive to his dealers and customers. This is predominently West Coast brand that only sells through shops. Some use the Sleek as a rental bike because it’s approachable, being mid-step, and simplistic in design. The battery box isn’t built into the frame and the hub motor doesn’t require any customization beyond a uniquely-spoked wheel. And yet, this is still a purpose-built ebike. One with internally routed cables, reinforced frame sections and two specific chargers (one for 36 volt and one for 48 volt setups). that’s a big point actually, the Motiv Sleek is available with four different battery options to help you save money and weight or go further and ride longer if you’re willing to spend more. While the bike isn’t super cheap, it’s definitely on the more affordable side of the spectrum. You don’t get fenders, a rack or lights here but all of the provisions for adding them yourself post-purchase are present. Perhaps the biggest update with the Sleek as compared to earlier iterations is that it now offers an LCD display panel with speed, assist level numbering, battery charge level and trip stats vs. the old basic 3-LED display. Early Motiv e-bikes were throttle only but the latest round offer pedal assist as well and the throttle is setup to override at any level so you can zip up a hill or blast off from a stop sign. I had a great time reviewing this bike with Sam and went into it being more critical because he’s so positive about it. I certainly appreciate Cameron (the founder of Motiv), Sam (onwer of Electric Bicycle Center in Fullerton) and enjoy the product myself, but it does have some shortcomings.
Drivin the Sleek is a 500 watt internally geared motor from Bafang. It’s pretty standard, almost generic, but offers great power and doesn’t interfere with the drivetrain the way a mid-drive might. Expect 20 to 30 miles using the throttle only depending on what size battery you get. With lower levels of pedal assist, you’ll go much further but it’s not as efficient as a torque-sensing ebike. This one uses a cadence sensor for on/off response. It means you don’t have to push on the cranks as hard but the bike ends up doing more work. As someone with sensitive knees, I love the instant throttle operation and throttle override with independent assistance. It means I can pedal gently and stretch my legs and still go fast and feel smooth. The flip side is that the power ramp is a little jerky (on/off feeling in higher levels) and the battery drains faster. Also, be careful with the motor power cable when parking the bike or taking the rear wheel off for service. It protrudes a bit at the right rear dropout which is where the shifter cables and derailleur are as well. It’s a little crowded and some other companies have started putting the cable on the left side to diminish this, but it works well enough.
Powering the bike is a Lithium-ion battery mounted inside a “silver fish” battery case. The case is Aluminum, has a little handle and LED power readout on top and a charging port and keyed ignition slot on the left. This battery design has been around for years but sometimes it mounts to frames in ways that are vulnerable… a plastic sliding track. With the Motiv Sleek, it’s much more secure and has a metal surround at the sides and back. You probably will have to take the seat and seat post off the bike to get the battery completely off but it can be charged on or off the frame so that’s not a huge issue. My bigest hangup is that the key must be inserted and twisted to on (and left in) to get the bike going with electric power. If you have a keychain, this can mean extra jingling and potentially scratching on the beautiful paint. Ultimately, the battery keeps weight low and centered on the frame, keeps the price of the bike lower and fits four different sizes of packs so I can’t complain too much. In some ways, I appreciate that it’s generic in design because it could be repacked by a company like Renewable Power Energy more easily down the line or even replaced. Props to Cameron for getting a black battery casing that matches the spokes, saddle, grips and other accents vs. going with the half black half silver basic one.
Operating the Motiv Sleek has become a little more time consuming and advanced than with the original models because of assist… but it’s on par with any other ebike now. Charge the battery and mount it, insert the key and turn to on, hold the power button on the display panel and then arrow up or down to select an assist level… or twist the throttle immediately for instant power. The LCD display is combined with a column of buttons that are fairly easy to reach, even with your hand on the grip. I wish it showed a battery percentage instead of a four-bar infographic because there’s a big drop going from two bars (up to 50%) down to to just one bar (up to 25%) and it’s nice to have more precision on long rides. The charger is compact and light weight enough to bring along but again, you need to add your own rack or wear a backpack to do so. One of the cool features of the display is being able to enter into the settings and slightly raise or lower your top speed. This is handy for rental shops that want to keep customers safe, wobbly riders that want to reduce risk of crashing or getting hurt and on the flip side… daring riders who want to zip along at higher speeds, possibly for commuting.
All things considered, Motiv is doing a great job delivering a bike that has become iconic. It was born on the West Coast and reflects some of the values and styling that people love… Sam had a ton of good things to say about it including reliability. I have seen the founder of Motiv, Cameron, come in and help Sam and even deliver bikes to customers or just get any problems solved. He offers a one year warranty and the cool thing about a consistent product like this is that he has lots of parts available. While some of the parts are more basic, like the kickstand and grips, the motor-inhibitor brake levers with a bell integrated and the larger grippier pedals are great upgrades. The steel fork and larger tires smooth out the ride and optional Kevlar-lined tires are a cool upgrade. You can pop the front wheel off easily (as it has quick release) and take the battery off to reduce weight if you’re hauling it around in your car and since the bike also comes in a high-step design and all of those colors I feel like you could fit a range of riders and sort of have your own thing while still being able to swap batteries and stuff (as long as you keep the same voltage level ie. 36 volt or 48 volt systems).
- Larger tires, saddle, swept-back handle bar and suspension seat post deliver a cushy ride
- To me, this cruiser is a bit more stylish and “mean” than some of the others, from the colors to the studded tires and handlebar angle it just looks different
- Mechanical disc brakes are a step up and allow for quick stopping rain or shine vs. rim brakes that can squeak and scrape the rims (color matched rims in this case)
- Steel fork is sturdy and has a nice rake forward to stabilize the ride, it dampens vibration more than Aluminum
- Older Motiv electric bikes only offered throttle mode but now you get pedal assist and a much nicer LCD display panel with trip stats and a battery level indicator vs. three LED lights
- The kickstand is cheap but I like where it’s mounted, staying out of the way for your crank arms to move freely and keeping the main weight of the bike well supported
- Despite being a step-thru / mid-step frame design, there’s very little frame flex thanks to the battery position and double-tubing
- I really appreciate that Motiv offers two separate chargers (one for the 36 volt system and another for the 48 volt system) this reduces the possibility of using the incorrect one and damaging the pack
- You can lower the top speed of the bike through the display panel, this is popular for places that use Motiv bikes as rentals
- Motiv offers a tire upgrade to Fat Franks from Schwalbe which have a puncture protective lining, I noticed that even the normal tubes came with some puncture protectant goop inside which is cool
- The throttle is always active and overrides pedal assist, this is useful for when you want to pedal and save the battery but need a quick burst of energy to catch up with a friend, start from rest at a stop sign or top a hill… I like that both brake levers have motor inhibitors so you can stop the bike immediately if an issue comes up
- Several nice little upgrades including stiff, large Wellgo platform pedals and a little bell built into the left brake lever
- You don’t get fenders, a rear rack or bottle cage bosses here but the chain cover is nice (I like that it and the rims are paint-matched to the frame)
- Only available in one size, sold exclusively through shops and the dealer base is somewhat limited (mostly on the West Coast at the time of this review)
- Entry-level drivetrain (shimano Tourney) with just six speeds… but it works for this type of bike and keeps the price down
- The key must be inserted and left in the battery pack for it to run, not a huge deal given the battery location (not likely to snag) but it could jingle and is one extra thing to check vs. many new systems that just have an on/off switch at the display
- The power cable for the hub motor protrudes out of the right side of the rear axle and adds to the clutter of the derailleur and shift cables, it’s a sensitive part so try not to let the bike tip or snag there
- The cadence sensor / controller wasn’t as responsive as some other’s I’ve tested but it is very compact and sealed so it probably won’t get bumped or have issues as easily