- A classy, comfortable, lightweight city ebike available in high-step and step-thru frame styles, choose from light blue or black, and three sizes
- Swept-back handlebar, ergonomic grips, comfort saddle, fenders, and a combination chain guide plus cover offer a lot of utility for commuters
- The Shimano STePs mid-drive is efficient, compact, and well balanced, it uses an advanced sensor for smooth starts and stops and is easier on the drivetrain
- You get nine speeds for comfortable pedaling (climbing or cruising up to 20 mph), removable battery, and a removable display panel, the charger is relatively fast but uses an adapter which can be misplaced and lost more easily
The Raleigh Detour iE is a pedal-assisted version of the traditional unpowered Detour model. It offers efficiency and utility, well-suited to urban commuters who want help scaling hills, fighting wind, or just going further. The 700c wheels coast smoothly and an all-Aluminum frame and fork keep it lightweight… but trade a bit of comfort in the process. Balancing these characteristics are swept-back handlebars, ergonomic grips, and a slightly larger comfort saddle. Notice that the rear portion is wide but the nose is still narrow, so you don’t chaffe your thighs when pedaling. This is an active electric bike, one that requires pedaling in order to activate the motor, and it’s one of the smoother products I have tested. By positioning the motor at the center of the bike, Raleigh has achieved better stability and made the wheels and drivetrain easier to service. The battery is positioned high and towards the rear (surrounded and protected by the cargo rack) but it’s relatively light at ~5.6 lbs so you don’t get as much frame flex as some competing models. Plastic fenders and a paint-matched alloy chain cover paired with a plastic chain guide keep you clean and snag-free, you can wear pants or a dress and still enjoy this bike. And the biggest highlight for me is the choice of two frames, a high-step and comfortable low-step.
Driving this bike is an efficient 250-watt centerdrive from Shimano, the same company that produces the 9-speed drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes. The motor peaks out around 500 watts and offers a solid 50 Newton meters of torque, a step below the more expensive Bosch centerdrive which produces up to 63 Nm. And this may be why the range estimates on the bike are so high. It’s an excellent choice for city riding. I like how compact the motor is and noticed instantly how it responded to my pedaling. I never felt like it was surprising me or jerking me forward. Rather than rely on a torque or cadence sensor alone, this motor relies on a combination of both along with the rear wheel speed. This advanced approach tends to reduce wear on the chain, sprockets, and rear derailleur but will still put more stress on them than a hub motor. The benefits are that it pulls the same chain you do and can operate more easily when climbing or cruising up to the top assisted speed of 20 mph if you simply shift gears. There was one part in the video review where I stopped the bike but neglected to shift down to a lower gear… and I could definitely notice the bike struggling a bit to start again (as was I). And to me, that’s a perfect example for the pros and the cons of any drivetrain operating mid-drive. It’s efficient, but only if you use it properly.
Powering the motor and backlit display is a healthy sized 36 volt 11.6 amp hour battery pack. I’d call 36 volt 10 amp hour standard, so you get a slightly higher capacity here and it should help you to go further and extend the life of the pack. While I do wish that the Raleigh Detour iE had integrated LED lights running off of the battery, I can understand that it would add complexity and possibly raise the price. Considering the human-powered Raleigh Detour models are in the $400 range, it’s interesting to think that the motor, battery, and display are adding nearly $2k of cost here. To me, the bike seems a little expensive, but then again, battery packs like this can cost $800+ to replace, so that’s nearly half the cost right there. Inside are energy dense Lithium-ion cells that are known for reliability and long life. You can optimize that life by storing the pack in a cool, dry location. I tend to store it at ~80% full and check in every month or two to refill if necessary. Lithium-ion packs don’t develop the same “memory” as some older battery types and given that this pack is produced at scale by Shimano vs. being a custom Raleigh design, it should be easier to replace when it eventually wears down. Expect 1,000+ full cycles, years of regular use. I do like that the battery is removable and that you can opt to charge it on or off the frame but was disappointed to find that the charging ports are different. This means you’ll have to keep track of an extra wire adapter dongle, and there’s no included leash for this part. If you set it down at work or in the garage and forget where you last left it, you will only be able to charge the pack off the bike, which requires more time to unlock and presents more opportunities for dropping the pack. I like how easily the pack unlocked from the rack, the fact that you don’t need to leave the key in while riding, and that there’s a built-in handle near the back.
And speaking of built-in handles, the saddle also has a plastic grip on the bottom. This allows you to more easily maneuver the bike when parking but could twist the seat tube if the collar is not tight. Given the rigid frame design, I would consider purchasing a 30.9 mm seat post suspension to smooth out the ride, but if you lift the bike with that seat handle and have one of the cheaper seat post suspension products, it could get damaged. Check out the Thudbuster Short Travel (ST) which is lighter than the LT and won’t push the saddle up so high when completely lowered. The step-thru frame is ideal for petite riders who want the ability to mount and stabilize the bike and sit on the saddle without being so high and precarious… but with a seat post suspension, the minimum saddle height is higher, and if you use a trunk bag on the rear rack, that could block the seat from going all the way down. As it is, you may have to slide the saddle all the way forward in order to lower it completely.
Operating the bike is a one step process, but it’s not as intuitive as I was expecting. You have to press a power button on the battery pack vs. one on the control pad or display. This requires some foresight because if you hop onto the bike and have not yet activated it, you might have to turn and reach way down or completely dismount. Thankfully, once it’s on, the control pad is easy to reach from the left grip and the display panel is highly adjustable so you can get the perfect angle reading it. I love that the display is removable, so you can reduce tampering and weather exposure at bike racks. It’s fairly compact but doesn’t overload the space with stats, just the important stuff like speed, battery capacity, and range. You can cycle through trip stats using the black button at the top of the control pad and arrow up or down through Eco, Normal, and High pedal assist levels. The button pad clicks, the motor delivers a noticeable increase in power and perhaps a bit more noise is produced. The Shimano STePs motor isn’t silent, nor is the rear fender on this bike, but it’s not the loudest either, and with a bit of traffic or wind you hardly notice it. I love that the display gives you easy access to a settings menu where you can change the units from kilometers to miles, turn off backlighting, and even mute the annoying beep that chimes whenever you interact with the button pad. Some people may appreciate this affirmative beep, but I don’t :)
A the end of the day, this is a great mid-level electric bike that’s approachable and comfortable. You get three frame size choice, the possibility of test riding it at a dealer, and an excellent warranty from one of the oldest bicycle brands around. Raleigh offers a range of ebike models but the Detour iE performs at a higher level because of the advanced motor sensors and upgraded drivetrain. Both colorways look beautiful and I appreciate the extra attention to detail with the paint-matched chain cover. You shouldn’t ever drop the chain thanks to the plastic guide and you should be able to go a bit further than a lot of other similarly specced electric bikes between charges because the tires are rated for higher PSI and there’s no bobbing from suspension. At ~48 lbs, this is an impressively light ebike given the rack and fenders… it’s going to be easier to load onto cars or repair with those quick release wheels, battery, and display. And when it is time for a charge, you’ll be back up and ready to ride again faster because the charger offers 3.1 Amp output vs. the standard 2 Amp. Big thanks to the Raleigh team for inviting me to their headquarters in North America to see and review the entire 2017 line. It’s wonderful to test products back to back in order to really eek out the differences. As always, I welcome feedback and input from those who have owned this bike or the prior 2016 model.
- Available in two frame styles, high-step and step-thru, three sizes, and two classy colors with clean integrated cables
- Relaxed, swept-back handlebar supports a more upright body position, ergonomic grips ease hand fatigue
- Both frames have bottle cage bosses! You can bring along fluids without using a trunk bag or panniers or use this mounting point for a folding lock
- Fenders, a paint-matched chain cover, and plastic chain guide keep you clean and snag-free, especially if you’re wearing pants or a skirt
- Hydraulic disc brakes offer great stopping power and don’t require as much hand strength or endurance to use, the adjustable-reach levers are nice for people with small hands
- The 9-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain is two steps up from the base and offers a comfortable range for pedaling up to 20 mph
- Mid-drive motors are nice because they position weight low and center on the frame while also de-cluttering the wheels and making maintenance easier vs. hub motors
- Both the battery pack and display panel are removable, this is nice for people who commute to work and have to leave the bike outside during the day (reduce tampering, scratches, and weather wear)
- I was really impressed by how light these bikes were considering that they have fenders and a rack, at ~48.2 lbs they are lighter than comparable models in the ~52 lb range
- Both wheels have quick release which makes maintenance and flat fixes easier but take care to lock the wheels with a cable if you park at a rack
- The Shimano STePs motor controller senses more than just cadence or torque, this lets it operate smoothly and reduces drivetrain wear, it also feels less jerky or abrupt than TranzX and other entry-level systems
- Having a kickstand on a bike like this really makes sense and I think Raleigh chose well, the stand is positioned out of the way towards the back and has adjustable length so you can keep the bike stable on varied terrain
- The rack is rated for up to 55 lbs and only 5.6 lbs are used by the battery pack so you get a lot of capacity, there are spots to clip a bungee cable on both sides as well as multiple bars for hanging panniers
- The battery has a handle built in which makes removal and transport easy and safe, you don’t want to drop the pack because it is delicate and expensive
- The charger is relatively compact and only weighs 1.7 lbs, I like that it puts out up to 3.1 Amps vs. 2 Amps on most others because that means it will fill the battery faster
- The saddle has a plastic handle indentation on the bottom back side which is useful for moving the bike and positioning for a ride, just make sure the seat post collar is tight so you don’t turn it accidentally, you could also damage a cheap seat post suspension this way if you add one aftermarket
- The Shimano STePs drive system is extremely efficient, it offers incredible range and the display dynamically estimates how far you can go based on the chosen level of pedal assist so you can plan your ride without running the battery dry
- I love how easy it is to adjust the display settings, including turning the backlight off and silencing the beep noise! just hold the up and down arrow keys on the control pad for a few seconds to launch settings
- The motor is extremely responsive, as soon as you pedal, or stop pedaling, it responds so you feel in control and can ride safely no matter the situation
- The plastic fenders provide good coverage in wet conditions but did rattle a bit, especially the rear fender which does not have a mid support strut or rack connection point
- I’m not a huge fan of rack-mounted batteries because they position weight up high and create a rear-heavy bike with more frame flex but at least the rack offers good storage potential and the battery isn’t too heavy at ~5.6 lbs
- Given the skinny hybrid tires and the rigid all-Aluminum frame, this bike doesn’t absorb bumps and vibration as well as it could, the ergo grips, swept back handle bar, and comfort saddle help but you might want to swap the seat post with a 30.9 mm suspension post to really maximize comfort or ride a bit slower
- It’s great to be able to charge the battery on or off the bike but I wish it used the same plug interface, instead, you have to use (and keep track of) a dongle adapter
- You power the bike on using a button at the battery pack, not the display or control pad, if you forget to do this before mounting the bike you might have to get off or reach backward which can be time-consuming or uncomfortable
- It would be nice to have integrated LED lights on this bike, especially considering the mid-level price point,
instead, you will have to use your own independently powered lights that could be stolen easier