- A compact electric bike with great cargo-hauling options, the included metal basket is easy to load thanks to a double-leg kickstand and doesn't tip when you steer because it's frame mounted
- Low stand-over height and balanced drive system components make the bike feel stable and under control, smaller wheels bring the frame down and provide more strength than large ones
- Built to handle wet and dry, bright and dark riding conditions with plastic fenders, a minimalist chainring cover, and high-quality integrated LED lights, the headlight won't get blocked by the basket
- There are provisions for adding a rear rack if you need even more storage, the rigid frame and steel fork can feel uncomfortable on bumpy streets but the included 2.25" tires and gel saddle help
The Orbea Katu-E 10 is an urban compact electric bike with some unique and well-designed cargo hauling capabilities. Just like many other compact models out there, you get improved strength, lower standover height, and low-stable weight distribution from the small 20″ wheels. A bit of comfort is traded for stiffness because it doesn’t have a suspension fork or seat post suspension, but the steel fork reduces weight, dampens vibration, and is capable of supporting the large alloy basket at the front. When you turn the handle bar and steer this bike, the basket and headlight do not turn. It can take some time to get used to the feeling of turning but not seeing the bike turn but this is design is better suited to managing the weight of a full basket because it won’t slosh side to side. And when you park, the double-leg kickstand makes loading easy as well, the basket always stays straight and level. For people who need even more cargo space, the seat stays are setup with threaded bosses for adding a disc brake compatible rear rack. Whether you use it for a trunk bag with a bottle holster or find some short panniers to hang off the sides, this could really increase your hauling capacity. And everything you carry should stay relatively clean and dry thanks to the plastic fenders and chainring cover. This bike uses an eight-speed internally geared hub which only requires one external sprocket. The chain stays tight and the shifting mechanisms stay more protected than a side hanging derailleur… and the absence of a derailleur might also create room for a pannier to sit more comfortably on the right side of the bike if you add that rear rack. Overall, I was impressed with the relatively low price of the bike considering it uses a premium Bosch Performance line motor/battery system. Smaller wheels can feel less comfortable than large ones because they tend to fall into cracks and potholes vs. spanning them, but the fatter 2.25″ tires, gel saddle, ergonomic grips, and somewhat adjustable quill stem make a difference. Part of me wonders how portable and compact this ebike really is however, because it still weighs ~51 lbs and doesn’t have quick release wheels or basket mounts. Maybe it would fit into an elevator or closet a bit easier than a traditionally sized e-bike. Standing it on end could scratch up or bend the rear fender stays, but the overall length of ~63″ is still 10″ shorter than most full sized bikes so I guess it works :)
Driving the bike is a Bosch Performance Line Cruise motor that is capable of delivering pedal-assisted support up to 20 mph. It peaks with 63 Newton meters of torque output and is incredibly fast and smooth. In the video review above, you can see how quickly it responds to my pedal start and stop forces and that’s because it measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque 1,000 times per second. If you are operating the Katu-E 10 in a crowded urban environment like Brooklyn, New York, (where I was riding) it’s important to have full control of the bike to stay clear of cars and other pedestrians. And I feel like the Bosch motor delivers this sense of control, along with the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. The brakes offer 160 mm rotors which is plenty for 20″ wheels and they are smoother and easier to actuate than mechanical and cleaner than rim brakes. You can adjust brake lever reach if you have smaller hands or wear gloves and the rear brake line is external for easier maintenance and bleeding while all of the other cables are internally routed through the frame for aesthetic appeal and reduced snagging on clothing. As with most mid-drive motors, weight is kept low and centered along the frame and you benefit from the eight-speed gearing to empower both you and the motor to operate more efficiently. If you shift to a lower gear, both you and the motor will have an easier time working… and shifting can be done at standstill with the Alfine internally geared hub, though it can take a moment to catch once you begin pedaling again. Apparently Bosch has put out some software updates for this drive system to be able to detect shifting and possibly to activate walk mode (which did not work on the model I tested). A couple of gripes I have about the Bosch mid-motor is that it produces more sound than some other systems, even when turned off, because there’s a gearbox inside converting each crank revolution to 2.5 sprocket revolutions. This allows for a smaller chainring which grabs well and responds quickly but it’s just a bit louder, especially when pedaling at high RPM and high power assist modes.
Powering the motor, backlit display panel, integrated Micro-USB charging port, and the front and rear lights is a standard Bosch Powerpack 400. This battery pack contains reliable Lithium-ion cells that are known for being lightweight and long lasting. They won’t develop a memory if you forget to charge them and the charger that Bosch includes is a faster 4-Amp design vs. the industry standard 2-Amp. This battery fits perfectly between the top tube and downtube, where it is protected from being kicked and stepped on. The fit is a bit tight because the pack mounts downward vs. from the side, and you want to make sure it really clicks in and is locked before taking off. Overall, I love how easy the pack is to carry wit its integrated loop at the top and how convenient it is to charge whether on or off the bike. This battery looks nearly identical to the newer Bosch Powerpack 500 which offers 25% higher capacity (for longer rides) and is backward compatible with the same mount. This means that you could purchase a second battery or replace the existing battery someday in the future and still have it work. With a Bosch powered electric bicycle, I feel like you get something that is a known quantity with lots of dealers who understand how it works, can get parts, and will have an easier time diagnosing issues because it uses the CAN bus diagnostics system, just like an automobile. While the Bosch Powerpack batteries do stand out a bit on the frame compared to some more integrated custom batteries, they offer peace of mind.
Operating the Orbea Katue-E 10 is very quick and intuitive. The Bosch Intuvia display panel sits front and center, just above the stem in the middle of the handlebar. You can angle it forward or back and even remove it for protection if the bike is parked outside in a public place. Sometimes, I have seen this display mounted down more permanently with an included set screw… but I like being able to take it and the battery inside for charging and safe keeping. The Intuvia display does run off of its own battery, but doesn’t usually need charging because it connects to the ebike. My Uncle owned this display on a Haibike for several years and eventually did have to replace the battery inside but it’s not something to really worry about. Once the display is mounted to the bike and the battery is also charged and mounted, you just press the power button near the lower left corner and it snaps to life. The grayscale display is faintly backlit with a light blue for easy readability in dark environments. It shows your speed, 5-bar battery level, assist level, and a bunch of trip stats. The most routine interaction is changing assist levels by pressing the plus and minus keys on the remote button pad which mounts near the left grip. This pad is easy to reach and so intuitive that you can click through without even looking down after just a few rides and some practice. For someone who is balancing a load in the front rack and possibly riding on crowded streets… this is a great thing. I usually ride in the two lower levels of assist, Eco and Tour, to conserve battery, but the higher Sport and Turbo levels are extremely capable for climbing. Even heavier riders should not worry about climbing with this bike, it’s very capable as long as you shift down to lower gears. The other important button is the i key which cycles through trip stats like average speed, trip distance, and range. Range is cool because it dynamically calculates how far you can go in each level of assist. This calculation is based on the last mile of riding performance, the remaining battery capacity, and the assist level and I find it much more useful than the five bar battery infographic. I’d prefer that Bosch eventually change that graphic to a percentage to be more precise, but range is a good compromise for now and I hope they always keep it as well.
I view the Orbea Katu-E 10 as a handy little electric bike that is both capable and reliable. Priced at ~$3k, and considering how custom it is, I think it’s a good bargain but would definitely buy a 31.6 mm suspension seat post right away. And because the included post is 400 mm long and I have only seen posts like this one that go up to 350 mm, I wonder if that might limit some taller riders. Still, the fatter tires, ergo grips, and gel saddle help… and the weight is kept down by not having a suspension fork, which would also probably increase price. I’m a sensitive rider and tend to feel and cringe at every large crack and bump. Smaller wheels have smaller tubes with less air and thus, less comfort. They fall into bumps vs. spanning them but tend to be very strong and nimble. At ~63″ long, the bike is still compact but not quite as portable as some of the other compact models. To me, it seems very niche, but it could be exactly what some riders are looking for in an urban environment. I love the color options and solid warranty, Orbea is a bicycle brand from Spain with years of experience (making bikes since the 1930’s) and now a complete range of urban and mountain models with electric assist. I trust Bosch and would expect the Shimano drivetrain and brakes to hold up very well. The rear light shines up vs. straight back and the headlight doesn’t turn as you steer… but at least they are wired in for convenience and less susceptible to theft.
- This is one of the most affordable custom compact electric bikes I have seen, it’s a high quality ride with a nice drive system from Bosch so $3k feels pretty reasonable
- In addition to the nice motor, battery, and display panel, the Orbea Katu-E 10 also comes with plastic fenders, a minimalist chainring cover to keep your pant leg clean, a custom metal basket, integrated lights and reflective tires to keep you safe at night
- The basket attaches to the head tube vs. the handlebars and fork so it does not turn as you steer the bike,
this makes it much more stable and capable of carrying heavy loads, the double-leg kickstand makes filling the basket easier because it keeps the bike straight
- I’m really glad that Orbea went with some fatter tires, 2.25″ diameter, and a gel saddle given that the frame and fork are rigid, these help to smooth out the ride and offer comfort but you could always go further by replacing the seat post with a 31.6 mm suspension post like the Thudbuster ST
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes offer smooth but powerful stops and the 160 mm rotors are plenty for the smaller 20″ diameter wheelset on the Katu, in fact, you might want to brake easier on this bike to avoid skidding
- The bike feels sturdy but offers a bit of comfort with mid-rise bars and ergonomic grips, the stem is not adjustable angle but it offers a steeper angle by default and the quill portion can be raised so your body position is more upright
- The Bosch Performance Line motor is very strong and quick, but also feels fluid, you can get support from near-standstill which is nice if the bike is loaded up with gear (since this is sort of a mini cargo ebike) and the internally geared hub can be shifted at standstill so that also helps
- The drivetrain is super clean and you shouldn’t have to worry about dropping the chain, a single chainring and single rear sprocket keep the chain tight and there is no derailleur to get bumped if the bike tips, internally geared hubs tend to be reliable and stay clean
- Bosch controller systems offer shift detection and apparently the newer software works for internally geared hubs as well as traditional derailleurs, this should improve shifting and reduce wear on the drivetrain based on the high torque and power being put out by the motor
- I love that the battery is so compact, removable, and uses a high-speed charger, it has a handle on top to make it easier to carry around as well
- Considering the cargo type setup of the front basket, I like that Orbea included a cafe lock so you can quickly secure the bike and run into a store etc. without busting out a cable and u-lock… and I love that it uses the same key as the Bosch battery so you don’t need extra keys to keep track of!
- The smaller 20″ wheels and angled top tube bring weight low and make the Katu-E 10 easy to mount and stand over, it’s just easier to handle than a bike with larger wheels… but they also reduce some comfort on bumpy terrain because of the high attack angle (the wheels fall into large cracks and potholes compared to larger wheels that would span them)
- The battery mount for the Bosch Powerpack 400 is the same for the Powerpack 500 so you could upgrade to a larger battery in the future (and they should be making them for many years, easier to find than a custom pack)
- You can tap into the main battery by connecting electronic accessories to the 5 Volt 500 milliamp Micro-USB port on the right side of the Bosch Intuvia display panel, it’s handy for charging a phone on the go, especially if you use GPS or something that takes a lot of power and could run your phone down
- Even though I’m a fan of Aluminum or Magnesium pedals vs. plastic or the alloy cage design, the plastic platform pedals used here offer good surface area and felt grippy so they worked quite well, I like that Orbea also included a bell to signal other riders and pedestrians
- This electric bicycle is available in eight different colors so you can really stand out and have fun, I liked the creative color names :)
- I really appreciate how easy the remote button pad is to reach from the left grip so you can focus on steering and stabilizing the bike but still reach with your thumb to click it, this is critical if you’ve got lots of cargo and with the smaller wheels that tend to be quicker and less stable than larger ones at lower speeds, I like that there’s also a walk mode built in… even though it didn’t work on the model I tried, so you wouldn’t have to push a loaded bike all on your own (press the walk button at the top edge of the button pad then hold the plus button to activate it)
- I was a little bit surprised that the bike weighs ~51 lbs given how small it looks, but the accessories all add some weight and at least you can take the 5.4 lb battery and display off to make it lighter if you want to lift it up stairs etc.
- The rigid steel fork doesn’t offer as much comfort or versatility as a suspension fork with lockout would but it probably weighs less and is very strong and stiff which provides good control and handling with a full basket
- This compact e-bike might not get as small as some of the others that I have reviewed because of the fenders and large front rack, both wheels use nuts vs. quick release and it would just take more time to break it down to be smaller
- While there are no bottle cage bosses, the basket is handy and there are rear rack bosses so you could add additional storage or get a trunk bag with a bottle holster like this for under $20, maybe future models will have bosses behind the seat tube because the rear triangle seemed to have room and this would be a cool spot for a side-entry bottle cage
- The Shimano Alfine eight-speed internally geared hub is compact and clean but it does add weight and sometimes it clicks when shifting and won’t shift as immediately as a traditional derailleur, you might have to ease off a bit for the gear to change
- Because the Bosch battery clicks down into the mount vs. sliding in from the side, the top tube can sort of get in the way and you can bump the battery into the tubing a bit more easily, it’s a minor complaint but the battery can just feel tight and cramped, it also stands out on the frame vs. being more integrated
- The headlight is mounted to the basket which does not turn… so you don’t always have the light pointing exactly where you’re heading and that can feel confusing, but at least the light won’t be blocked by stuff that’s in the basket because it’s mounted below
- It’s great that the quill stem offers adjustable height and is stiffer than an adjustable angle stem but they don’t tend to be as sturdy or stiff as a threadless stem which offers the best control
- The back light, which is mounted to the fender, appears to be tilted up higher than it was designed to be, this may be due to the smaller diameter wheels or a shorter rear fender length, I was concerned that this could shine up into the eyes of a fellow cyclist or car vs. more straight back