- A colorful folding electric bike with sturdy cast rims, strong rear rack, wide alloy fenders, and LED lights, the suspension fork and slightly wider tires improve comfort
- The 12-magnet cadence sensor is responsive and doesn't require much effort to activate, just keep the crank arms turning, twist-throttle on demand helps you get going
- Decent 160 mm mechanical disc brakes with motor inhibiting levers improve safety, nice bell on the left, plastic chain guide, folding support arm, and steel derailleur guard
- Basic 7-speed Shimano Tourney cassette and derailleur gets the job done but uses a larger shifter mechanism that can require more effort, a bit heavy at ~52 lbs, two-step on/off and key must stay in the battery when riding
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The Ness Rua is a sturdy, fairly adjustable, folding electric bike. Weighing in at ~52 lbs, it’s no the lightest e-bike around, but the quick release front wheel and removable battery pack make a big difference. It offers one of my favorite drive-mode configurations with sensitive pedal assist and throttle on demand. You get an impressive range of color choices, and the slightly fatter tires pair nicely with ergonomic grips and a basic suspension fork to reduce discomfort. Smaller wheels and tires, like these 20″ Kenda’s, are great for lowering stand over height and making the bike approachable (and compact when folded) but they don’t span cracks or potholes as easily… so the attention to comfort is a win in my book. The suspension fork does not have lockout however, which means the bike will shift and dive forward when braking hard, but this is exactly what I would expect for a $1,395 electric bike. I actually think you get a lot of value with this thing and the company has been around since 2015 so there’s a sense of stability in my mind. They offer a one year warranty, a whole bunch of color choices, and even a second frame which is slightly lower called the Icon which I reviewed separately here. I asked the folks at Ness about the name and apparently Rua means street in Portuguese. The black coloring of the frame really blends the fenders, rack, and wires… which are not as hidden or internally routed as they are on the Icon model. With the Rua, you get a slightly more masculine look but it’s still approachable. The folding joint at the center isn’t especially wide so you shouldn’t have issues bumping your knees when pedaling. I love the plastic chain guide, which will protect pants from grease and snags, and the telescoping stem and extra-long seat post make it feel natural for medium and even taller sized riders.
Driving the bike is a compact, planetary-geared hub motor that’s encased in the rear wheel. Rated from 200 to 350 watts, it may not sound as impressive as some full sized ebikes rated 350 to 500 watts, but keep in mind that the smaller wheels provide a mechanical advantage. By using a compact motor like this, Ness was able to keep weight down and use battery power more efficiently. The battery is a more powerful 42 volt design vs. many 36 volt options I have seen. In short, the motor does a fine job and I was more impressed with how responsive it was and how much control I had using the throttle. Note, that because this is a geared motor, it produces a bit more whirring noise under power. However, since this is not a mid-drive design, the motor does not interfere with the chain and derailleur at all. it’s also a lot more affordable than most mid-drives. The motor supports up to 20 mph top speed but you can actually dig into the display settings and lower the top speed if that makes you more comfortable. Smaller wheels can sometimes feel twitchy and even though the folding joints were solid, sometimes I just feel comfortable taking it easy on an e-bike like this. Another approach to lower speed is to use lower levels of assist which use less power, extending your ride, and don’t go as fast. The more frequently you juice it from standstill using the throttle, the quicker you’ll drain that pack.
Powering the motor, backlit display panel, and headlight, is a removable 42 Volt 13 Amp hour battery pack. While not as hidden as some competing folding electric bikes (which have batteries that fit into the main tube horizontally like this), it still looks good in my opinion and offers greater capacity and access without having to fold the bike. I was told that this pack contains Lithium-ion Samsung cells, which are known for being lightweight and long lasting. The black-painted Aluminum battery casing blends in with the black frame and is very durable. At the top, a plastic cover houses an LED readout to communicate how full the pack is, but you might have to turn the bike on to get it to light up? There’s also a handle at the top for sliding the battery off of the bike and carrying it around safely. Note, you have to unlock the battery before removing it by inserting the key into a slot near the base and twisting… but then pull the key out of the pack! If you leave the key in and try to slide up, you may bend the key as it collides with the left seat stay tube. I have seen and tested many electric bikes with a vertical battery design like this but not all of them felt as secure and smooth. I feel that the battery weight is well positioned on the bike and the battery itself is solid. You do have to insert the key into the pack and twist to “on” in order to ride with electric assist, and the key must remain in. For those using a keychain, this could result in some rattling noise and does raise the potential for snags… but if you just leave the key without any kind of keychain, the top portion does fold to stay out of the way which is nice. The only thing is, just leaving the key makes it easier to misplace or get stolen. I prefer battery packs that don’t have a key requirement or independent on/off switch… where you just rely on the power button at the display panel to get it going.
The LCD display on the Ness Rua was new to me, but it worked very well. It is not removable, but is positioned within reach of the left grip. I was able to reach over with my left thumb and raise or lower motor power about as easily as I was able to reach over with my right thumb to shift gears. They weren’t quiet as easy as some independent button pads and trigger shifters, but they seemed durable (the rubberized covers on the display were nice) and would be easy to interact with if you had gloves on. The display shows battery capacity, speed and trip stats (cycle through by tapping power once it’s on). You can hold the up arrow to activate backlighting and the headlight, or hold down to activate walk mode and let the bike push itself along slowly. Some other features I have seen on competing electric bikes are USB charging ports for portable electronics and adjustable-angle displays to reduce glare. Some displays from Bosch, Yamaha, and Shimano are even removable which could reduce scratches on a folding electric bike like this… but might be easier to lose as well. One thing the Rua did not have was a magnetic clasp or rubber band system to keep it folded. I suggest buying your own adjustable-length bungee cord like this to reduce noise and paint damage when transporting the bike. Perhaps this display panel could be forced forward or back, maybe if you loosen the mounting bracket just a bit you could achieve this. The wires at the front of the bike are bundled nicely with a neoprene Ness-branded wrap and even though they are exposed on the frame, they seemed securely fastened and were positioned below the main tube vs. on the top or side which could take more wear or cause scratches and snags. And there are a lot of wires at the cockpit area because of the two brake lever motor inhibitors. This is still a good looking bike for being so feature rich in my opinion.
There are many factors to consider with folding electric bikes, probably more than with full sized e-bikes… and yet, they may not be ridden as frequently. I think about weight, power, drive modes, and of course price. The Ness Rua is a product that balances comfort and utility against price very well. You get pretty much everything you need to get going and stay safe. I love the integrated adjustable headlight, and appreciate the stand-alone battery powered rear light. Sure, it would be nice if both ran off the main ebike battery, but that adds complexity and price, just make sure you shut it off after each ride to extend the life of those two AA batteries inside. The kickstand is a nice thing to have, it offers some length adjustment, and is right on the edge of being in the way of the left crank arm. I show this in the video review and think about it with relation to how the bike folds. I’d rather have a bit of collision and scraping on the Aluminum stand than no kickstand at all, or a less compact final fold dimension. Be selective about which panniers or trunk bag you get, I’d probably go for a cheap one like this with reflective accents and a bottle slot for bringing a drink. This type of bag can be very useful for transporting small personal items and the battery charger. The charger itself is compact and lightweight but only average in terms of speed. Big thanks to the founding brothers of Ness for meeting me in Vancouver and partnering with me on this review. The company is from Florida and we just happened to both be there in the same place at the same time for a really special backdrop and interesting ride.
- Ness is based in Florida and offers a pretty good warranty for a relatively new, smaller company, they provide one year comprehensive with five years on the frame, I like that they offer free shipping in the USA (Canada costs $200 for shipping)
- Five color options let you personalize the bike a bit, or get a pair and have slightly different colors to keep the bikes separate, I like that the Icon model uses a white background because it will be more visible to cars in low-light conditions
- Included fenders and a rear rack make the bike more capable if you plan on commuting, transporting groceries, or live in an area like Vancouver BC (where I filmed this) that experiences frequent rain
- As someone who has transported a lot of e-bikes, folded them, and ridden on varied terrain using throttle and pedal assist, I have experienced chain drops frequently and seen derailleurs bend when bikes tip onto their side, so I like that the Ness bikes have plastic chain guides to keep the chain on track and a steel derailleur guard to protect the sensitive bits (including the motor cable)
- Instead of using spokes, the Ness Icon has solid cast rims that won’t get bent as easily and can probably support more weight, they are paint-matched and look great, the rear rim encases the motor for added protection
- While not as low as the Ness Icon model, the Rua is still very easy to approach, mount, and stand over at stops, if you have hip or knee sensitivities it shouldn’t be as difficult as a full high-step diamond bicycle
- I love that the saddle has a lever at the back allowing it to flip forward and make way for the battery to slide on or off the frame, just make sure you unlock the pack at the base and then take the key out or you could bend the key while sliding the pack up because the left seat-stay is very close to the edge of the pack
- The bike has 160 mm disc brakes which perform well and actually cutoff motor power (both levers have motor inhibitor switches), the left Tektro lever also has a bell built in for friendly signaling, Mechanical brakes can require a bit more hand strength to actuate compared to hydraulic but they cost less and still have some advantages over rim brakes (staying cleaner than rim brakes in wet or muddy conditions) and the smaller 20″ wheel size here is easier to stop than a larger wheel so the rotor size can also be smaller
- Minor plus here, the seven-speed drivetrain gives you plenty of pedaling options for urban riding and the large thumb-shifter, while basic, is easy to understand and use for most people I speak with, it may also work better with gloves than tiny triggers since the plastic levers are so big
- Ness is using a responsive 12-magnet cadence sensor here that will start and stop faster when you are riding, but you also get a twist throttle that can override assist and work at zero which is nice given the more limited ergonomics of folding bikes
- The headlight runs off of the main battery pack and is controlled by the display panel, the rear light requires two AA batteries and has its own on/off switch but is positioned nicely below the rack so it won’t get blocked or bumped, both lights are name brand (Blaze-Light and Spanninga) and fairly large, it’s cool that they come included
- Considering the relatively low price and feature set here, I feel like the bike offers a lot of value and appreciate that it comes with an LCD display vs. a 3-led console or something very basic, the display isn’t perfect (the battery indicator only has four bars) but it is easy to read, easy to reach and interact with, allows you to enter settings like top-speed (to make it slower if you want), and I think it looks nice
- The Rua looks especially clean because the paint job is black and so are the wide alloy fenders, rear rack, stem, seat post, and handlebars
- I like how convenient it is to get the battery pack off, just flip the saddle forward with the little lever underneath and then use the integrated plastic handle to slide it up (once it is unlocked), the handle is a great feature so you don’t drop the battery pack… many folding e-bike designs require you to fold the bike to get the pack off but that is not the case here
- The folding joint at the middle of the frame is not as wide as some other models I have seen from competing companies and this is good because it reduces leg and knee bumps while pedaling
- Sometimes folding electric bikes have magnets, rubber straps, or other tie-down mechanisms to keep them from rattling and clinking together or unfolding during transport, the Rua does not have this but at least it has a metal support tube that’s welded onto the bottom bracket to help protect the plastic chain guide and stabilize the bike when folded
- Cast may be heavier than spokes and don’t flex as much for comfort, but given the small 20″ wheel diameter, spokes would probably have felt rigid as well so I love the choice of ergonomic grips (even though they aren’t locking and could twist easier) and the suspension fork (even though it doesn’t have lockout)
- This bike only comes in one frame size which is very similar to the Ness Icon, so it’s great that the stem telescopes upwards to match the seat post and provide some different fit options, this allows for taller riders to optimize leg extension
- Minor gripe here but it appears that the right chainstay does not have a slap guard, this isn’t as big of a deal given how short the chainstays are and how large the chainring is… and you could always add one yourself like this aftermarket
- The battery pack design stands out a bit, there are other folding e-bikes that have tube-integrated batteries but they often don’t provide as much capacity or quick removability without folding, at least the pack is positioned towards the middle of the frame for balance and is black to blend in with the black paint job
- In order to activate this ebike, you have to put the key into the battery pack ignition and turn to on… and then leave it in there, you can’t take the key out while riding and this means it could rattle around or get snagged (especially if you have a keychain and other keys attached) but at least the key folds and the ignition slot is positioned high up and mostly out of the way
- As with most folding electric bikes I review, the Ness Icon does not have bottle cage bosses, consider using a trunk bag like this with a bottle holster if you plan on bringing water for a longer ride
- The kickstand is mounted near the bottom bracket by the left crank arm, not quite far back enough to stay completely out of the way if you walk the bike backward but it does sort of push to the side if you force it so it’s not quite as inconvenient
- The fenders, rear rack, and key can produce a bit of rattle noise when riding on bumpy terrain, you can see and hear this in the video, the motor also produces some whirring noise under full power
- I was comparing the Rua mid-step to the lower Ness Icon model and noticed that the wiring wasn’t as clean, they were tacked onto the outside vs. internally routed
- This folding ebike weighs about 52 lbs, which is not light, but you get the larger battery capacity, stronger rims, fenders, rack etc. and at least you can take the front wheel off easily with quick release and slide the 7.2 lb battery off quickly as well
- Minor grip here, the folding pedal design is not as easy as some others I have seen, you have to push the whole platform in vs. pulling a loop like on this bike