- A high end "all around" ebike that's comfortable on pavement or trails
- Top of the line full suspension by Fox, Avid Code hydraulic disc brakes, ultra bright headlights, front and rear fenders
- Only offers twist throttle mode but provides very high torque and excellent range
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance and lights when used on public roads.
The R8 is Optibike’s “all around” offering. It’s an upper-mid level bike for them but super high end compared with most other ebikes. It’s very capable of taking on mountains but is accessorized more for town and light trail riding. If you’re focus is purely off road, you can upgrade to the R8HD (heavy duty) to get knobby tires, tougher rims and headset and a beefier long-travel fork. Both ebikes offer front and rear fenders, an enormous battery pack and an ultra-powerful motor that won’t struggle with larger riders. It’s an impressive piece of technology that’s hand made in the United States and the team is very accessible to resolve any issues that come up over the years. This bike costs as much as some cars but is built just as well and should age well. There’s even an option to get a custom paint job with this bike!
Optibikes are high power, top of the line kit. What makes them so formidable is really the motorized bottom bracket (MBB) middrive system. The R8 features a 750 watt geared motor that can be set in two modes with a little switch on the control panel. For eco mode you get 300 watts and for fast mode it bumps all the way up to 750. Depending on the mode you pick the battery will drain faster or be extended. The motor turns the bottom bracket and spins the front chain ring, just like you do when you pedal, but instead of a rear cassette the R8 features a Rohloff 14 speed geared hub. This is a wonderful feature because it means you can change gears at rest and it also keeps the gears out of harms way in off road settings. No more squeaky, rusty, out of alignment gears to mess with… The geared hub also allows the chain to be shorter and tighter because there’s no rear cassette and that means it won’t fall off as easily or slap the chainstay and chip your paint. 14 speeds is really quite impressive for a geared hub and in my time testing that felt like plenty for both climbing and cruising at higher speeds.
The battery powering that enormous motor is equally impressive. It offers 37 volts of power and 26 amp hours of capacity. That’s almost a Kilowatt hour! Most other ebikes offer around 10 amp hours of capacity and that limits range. This bike is a bit heavier than other full suspension offerings like the Haibike AMT Pro but that’s partially due to the battery and custom frame that protects everything from the elements. In many ways, this bike rides more smoothly over bumps because it has a solid mass working with the front and rear shocks. It feels like a motorcycle sometimes with more inertia. Over long distances this bike feels relatively comfortable and won’t run out of juice. If you’re truly a super-commuter and need up to 100 miles of range, they’ve got a 37 volt 22 amp hour pack that attaches right where the rear fender would normally go. As with most things Optibike however, the upgrade pack is expensive at $2,300.
The R8 has power and distance but what about speed? Well, that really depends on the gear you choose, it will go anywhere from 20 to 28 miles per hour. Surprisingly, these higher speeds are accomplished in throttle mode because the R8 does not include a pedal assist setting. You can still pedal along however, and that helps extend your range in eco mode. The big downside here is that you constantly have to twist that throttle for motor support. Not only is it tiring to twist a throttle indefinitely, it can actually be dangerous in delicate riding situations. An extra little twist of the throttle, perhaps going over a bump, can forcefully propel the bike forward and throw your balance. Trail riding aside, I wouldn’t mind a cruise control or some other setting for longer rides. What’s the use of such a large pack if you have to pull over to rest your wrist?
I’ve always been a fan of full suspension bikes and that goes double for electric bikes. Cruising at higher speeds creates vibrations and enhances the jolt of potholes, cracks and rocks on the trail. Thankfully, the R8 comes with two Fox shocks that work wonderfully. Overall, I love the frame design these guys have created because it’s stiff, keeps the electronics clean, weight low to the ground and it looks cool… even if it can’t accommodate a water bottle cage. As with most full suspension ebikes, get a CamelBak ;) One big downside here however is transporting the bike. The custom frame won’t fit on many hanging style bike racks and since the battery isn’t easily removable it’s harder to reduce the weight when lifting the bike. Furthermore, this bike really only comes in one size. All ergonomic adjustments must be made by moving the handlebars or seat. I’d call it a medium-large and it worked well enough for me at 5’9″.
It’s hard not to admire the unique design, attention to detail and powerful performance the R8 and other Optibikes deliver. There are so many little things to discover with this bike from the unique chain guard to the tightly integrated fenders and the breakout junction for a custom rear battery pack. Everything from the electronics to the frame, motor and software are custom fabricated under Optibike’s close supervision. This ebike has been fine tuned and loved and that’s what makes it a part of the most recognizable, talked about and coveted brands of electric bikes around. For some people the price is simply out of the question but for others the power, custom design and locally sourced hardware and talent make it the perfect bike. That’s especially true for taller or larger riders who need the extra power.
- Excellent warranty: 1 year bike, 3 year/30,000 mile battery, 7 year frame
- Custom paint jobs available upon request, costs ~$2,000 depending on complexity
- Designed and built in the US with great customer support
- Optional touring battery upgrade replaces fender, extends range to 100 miles
- Front and rear fenders keep you dry and clean on or off road
- Powerful 750 watt motorized bottom bracket can move larger riders and scale steep hills
- Plentiful 37 volt 26 amp hour battery pack makes this bike great for commuting and can be extended for an additional 22 amp hours with an optional rear pack!
- Two ultra bright lights illuminate a wide area and make you more visible to cars
- Control center is easy with on/off, lights and eco/fast switches
- Cateye computer provides good stats but runs on a separate battery, would be nicer if integrated with control center
- High quality front and rear shocks, pedals and grips work very well
- Rohloff geared hub offers 14 speeds and can be changed at rest
- Hydraulic disc brakes are perfect for the heavier weight and potential for off road riding
- The bike has a kickstand!
- Battery is not easily removable for charging when commuting
- Relatively heavy ebike, 59lbs, harder to lift because battery is not easily removed
- Unique frame keeps battery and electronics safe but makes the bike harder to mount on many racks
- This is one of the most expensive electric bikes out there
- The front fender stays out of the way but doesn’t extend quite far enough to keep feet and shins dry
- The twist throttle isn’t smooth enough, it goes from zero to full blast in a short range which feels jerky sometimes
- Twist throttle only, no cruise control for longer rides, no pedal assist mode