- A high end off road ebike that's capable of moving larger riders and climbing steeper hills
- High end long-travel suspension by Fox, hydraulic disc brakes by Avid, 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 R8HD is Optibike’s mid-level “off road” offering. The HD stands for “heavy duty” and that alludes to the burlier suspension, rims, headset and tires that this bike offers over the standard R8. This bike delivers high end components, massive range and slightly discounted price over the R11 which features a larger motor and weighs one pound more. The R8HD includes front and rear fenders, an enormous battery pack and an ultra-powerful motor that won’t struggle with larger riders or steeper hills. It’s an impressive piece of technology that’s hand made in the United States and the company is very helpful resolving any issues that come up. It’s family run business with more of a specialty feel and while the R8HD may cost as much as some cars, it’s built just as well and should last many years. You can even get a custom paint job with this bike which is quite rare even in the world of regular bikes!
Optibikes are high power, top of the line kit. What makes them so formidable is really the motorized bottom bracket (MBB) middrive system. The R8HD 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. So the motor turns the bottom bracket and spins the front chain ring, just like you do when you pedal. Instead of a rear cassette, the R8HD features a Rohloff 14 speed geared hub. This is wonderful because it means you can change gears at rest and it keeps the gears clean in dusty or muddy off-road settings. It also means the chain can be shorter and tighter because there’s no rear cassette. This means it’s less likely to fall off when going over bumps or bounce and chip the paint off of your chain stay. 14 speeds is really quite impressive for a geared hub and offers enough range for climbing steep hills or powering down long descents.
The battery fueling 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. Now, this bike is a bit heavier than some other full suspension ebikes like the Haibike Xduro AMP Pro but that’s partially due to the large 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. Over long distances this bike feels comfortable and won’t run out of juice but if you need even more range, there’s a 37 volt 22 amp hour addon 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 R8HD 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. This is all accomplished in throttle mode because the R8 does not include a pedal assist setting. You can still pedal along however, and that really helps extend your range in eco mode. The big downside is that you constantly have to twist that throttle for motor support. This is one of the biggest drawbacks for me with R8, R8HD and R11 ebikes. Not only is it tiring to twist a throttle indefinitely, it can actually be dangerous in delicate riding situations. An accidental twist of the throttle, perhaps going over a bump, can forcefully propel the bike forward throwing you off balance. Also, when I ride off road I use the handlebars for support and balance so having a twist throttle and twist grip shifter seem a bit out of place here.
I’ve always been a fan of full suspension bikes and that goes double for off road electric bikes. The increased speed of motorized transport combined with rocks, roots and bumps means your back and wrists can get sore. Thankfully, the R8HD 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 and looks cool… even if it can’t accommodate bottle cages. As with most full suspension ebikes, get a CamelBak ;) One big downside here however, is transporting the bike to and from trails. The custom frame won’t fit on many bike racks and since the battery is completely encolsed, it’s harder to reduce the weight for 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 medium-large and it worked well enough for me at 5’9″ but might be worth test riding first if you can.
It’s hard not to admire the unique design, attention to detail and powerful performance the R8HD delivers. 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 and under Optibike’s close supervision. This bike, and all Optibikes really, have been fine tuned and loved and that’s what makes them some of the most recognizable, talked about and coveted systems 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 set it apart.
- 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 in the dust and mud
- 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 for evening or nighttime trail riding
- Control center is easy to use 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
- Quality long-travel front and rear shocks, pedals and grips work very well
- Rohloff geared hub offers 14 speeds and can be changed at stop or during climbing
- Hydraulic disc brakes are perfect for the heavier weight of this bike and off road focus
- Relatively heavy ebike, 62lbs, harder to lift because battery is not easily removed
- Unique frame keeps battery and electronics clean and safe but makes the bike harder to mount on some 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 pedal assist mode for technical trail riding