- A vintage-styled electric bicycle with beautiful alloy paint-matched fenders, rack and chain cover, you get several frame size choices and two styles (high-step and step-thru)
- Lots of little upgrades and accessories like an alloy chain guide to keep the chain on track, mini-USB port on the control pad for charging accessories and a triple bungee for the rack
- Clean simple cockpit, small quiet motor (with impressive zip for it's size) and the rack-mounted battery don't attract attention... especially if you put panniers on the rack
- Rear heavy design impacts handling and causes some frame flex, two-step power on process can be annoying, wired for lights but not included and no reflective paint on tires
The Raleigh Superbe iE is a bicycle first, with just a dash of electric. And that’s not to say it isn’t powerful or effective… just that the drive system doesn’t get in your way or change the appearance much. This is a beautiful, vintage-styled electric bicycle harkening back to Raleigh’s long, rich history of bicycle making in England. I love how approachable this bike is, especially the step-thru version. It’s available in two frame styles including a diamond high-step that rides a bit stiffer but isn’t as easy to mount. Both frames only come in one color but they are different (a cream for the step-thru and brown for the high-step). You get three frame sizes spread out across four style/size combinations. For this review, I was riding the small step-thru but was able to raise the saddle enough pedal comfortably. The geometry is relaxed and upright with swept-back handlebars, comfortable rubberized cork grips and a cushiony sprung saddle. Even though you won’t find a suspension fork or larger balloon tires here and the frame is all Aluminum (not exactly known for comfort) it actually felt pretty good to me. This is a Class 1 e-bike that can reach 20 mph in the US or 15.5 mph in parts of Europe with pedal assist only operation. You get seven gears to pedal with and a large easy to understand shifter. And while the Tourney drivetrain is at the bottom of the Shimano line in terms of performance and quality, the cassette offers good range with a Mega gear for climbing. This is, after all, a ~51 pound bicycle. The only missing feature was lights and the frame actually comes pre-wired for them so ask the dealer if you plan to ride in nighttime conditions.
Driving the bike is an average power 250/350 watt internally geared hub motor. It’s mounted in the rear wheel and almost disappears behind the cluster of sprockets. While the rating on this thing is average, it performed very well and was exceedingly quiet during my test rides. I had no problem climbing small hills and found that the 12-magnet cadence sensor was very responsive without making the bike feel jerky. As a person with sensitive knees, I appreciate how cadence sensors can take the work out of e-biking by listening only for crank arm movement and not force like torque sensors. They are bit simpler and cheaper but when the motor controller is programmed well, as it is here, they can be delightful. The only drawback is that they don’t offer power instantly when starting from a complete stop. If you haven’t planned ahead and shifted down, this could result in a very difficult first pedal stroke before the bike realizes you need assist and jumps in. Another highlight with the electronic drive system is how well the motor is wired with the power cable coming into the side of the axle vs. the end (which exposes it to bends and snags). Note that both wheels are fastened to the bike with nuts vs. quick release and the tires are more basic so you might want to bring a tool and a patch kit or cell phone in case you wind up with a leak.
Powering the motor and display panel as well as lights (if you choose to wire them in) is a rear-mounted removable battery pack. It offers efficient 48 volt power with 8.8 amp hours for an average capacity. Some older Raleigh electric bikes ran on 36 volts which didn’t seem as peppy. I don’t know what the Amperage is here on the Superb iE but as I mentioned before, it felt surprisingly capable given the size and low noise being produced under full power. The battery pack is well done with a magnetic handle at the back (great for pulling it off the bike and carrying it around safely), an integrated fuse for safety and an LED charge level indicator on the left side towards the back. You can see how full the battery is whether it’s on the bike or not and you can charge it on or off the bike which is super handy. I tend to park my bike in the garage and store my battery inside for charging and it’s the same setup at the office. Being able to remove the ~7.4 lb battery also makes the bike itself lighter and easier to work on or transport. Inside are premium Lithium-ion cells produced by Panasonic and they are covered by a leading two-year warranty. My only complaints with the battery are how it can be difficult to slide on and pull off because the track is tight… though perhaps it will loosen up over time? And also, how you have to press the LED power button before you can press the power button on the control pad near the left grip in order to actually operate the electric systems of the bike. It can be easy to get excited and hop right on the bike only to have to get off again to press the battery power button (unless you’re more flexible than me and can reach!).
Once the battery is charged and both power buttons have been pressed, the control pad will come to life with four red LED lights showing what assist level has been chosen, a red, yellow or green LED at the top right indicating battery charge level and a number at the top left indicating your current ride speed or range. I love how Raleigh was able to cram so many useful readouts into such a small, neat space. And even though it’s not as easy to see from afar or removable, I feel like it fits well on a relaxed neighborhood styled electric bike like this. The handlebar looks clean and open compared to many other electric bikes… but I do wish you got more than just green, yellow and red for charge level. It’s no fun to be outside on a nice day riding your bike, wondering how far you can go now that the battery light says yellow or red. Does that mean 60% and 30% respectively? I have no idea. And that’s where the range menu really shines, but it’s a little buried. This is the secret! In order to have the bike show how far it thinks you can go based on the level of charge remaining and your chosen level of pedal assist, you have to press the power button while in one of the four assist levels. For a brief moment, the speed readout changes to a different number and this is your estimated range… I believe in miles, at least for the US version of the bike. I welcome owners or test riders from abroad to chime in on how theirs works and whether it’s in kilometers :)
In my opinion, the Raleigh Superbe iE is a fantastic electric bike. It uses older, more basic drive systems (hub motor, cadence sensor) but has refined how they work so you aren’t suffering from a loud, weak or jerky ride. You get the benefits of these proven systems, the simplicity of pedaling and shifting independently from the motor, a less expensive product and a more hidden design, while still feeling decent power and performance. For me, it was actually beyond decent but I tend to pedal actively and don’t weigh a whole lot at ~135 lbs. I love how these bikes look, the matching fenders are both functional and beautiful with silver accents. Your chain shouldn’t bounce off even though the fenders might rattle a little on bumps and your pant legs will stay clean thanks to the chain cover. The brakes are nothing special, linear pull v-brakes, but they’ve worked for decades on non-electric bikes. The brake levers aren’t a real high point compared to new hydraulic ones that offer adjustable reach, but they match the silver accents. At ~$1,800, you get decent value here, especially if you can buy from a dealer and get setup properly. Whether you’re planning to commute or just ride for fun, the Raleigh Superbe iE is a great platform to work with. It does have some lower-end parts and is rear heavy but it exceeded my expectations for comfort and I love how the kickstand was mounted (out of the way of the pedals and motor) and that both frame styles come with bottle cage bosses. They got the little things right and it’s hard to argue with something this beautiful. Big thanks to Raleigh for partnering with me on this review and inviting me to their North Amerian headquarters to test ride several models back to back.
- These bikes are beautiful, very classy frame designs and paint schemes that include the fenders, chain cover and rear rack
- Great electric bike for a his-and-hers setup, the step-thru will be easier to mount but the high-step is stiffer (less frame flex), there are three frame sizes to choose from in total
- The cockpit is simple and clean, there’s less to keep track of and be distracted by than a lot of other electric bikes… and possibly less to break
- Sometimes electric bikes skip bottle cage mounts because they don’t have space or just don’t think people need them, but this e-bike has them! both the step-thru and high-step frames (great for folding locks or mini-pumps as well as water bottles)
- Plenty of utility here with the rack and fenders, the only thing missing is lights but the frame comes pre-wired so your shop could add some or you could get independent rechargeable lights
- The bike feels pretty zippy with a peak torque rating on the motor of 45 Newton meters and electricity is spent efficiently with the 48-volt battery system, note that I’m a 5’9″ guy weighing ~135 lbs
- The motor is compact and nearly hidden behind the 7-speed cassette… with some panniers over the battery rack it would blend in even more look just like a regular unpowered bicycle
- I love how the chainring has two Aluminum alloy plates sandwiching the chain so it won’t bounce off as easily when riding, this can be a big problem with some electric bicycles
- The battery pack can be charged on or off the frame and is easy to remove to reduce weight or store safely away from the bike
- Sometimes the cables on ebikes get in the way but the Superbe has them organized well and the motor power cable is very well protected (entering at the base of the rear axle vs. the end)
- The battery has a magnetic handle at the back that won’t rattle (and makes it easy and safe to carry around), it has a fuse built in for safety and the battery charger has a tough metal cap… the one thing I struggled with was how tight the battery slides onto the rack
- I like that the control pad has a little Mini-USB port built in so you could charge a phone to use GPS or play music
- This electric bike uses a cadence sensor which can sometimes be jerky on/off vs. smooth but it performed well and was responsive with a 12 magnet sensor while a lot of other ones only have 5 or 6 magnets, one big benefit of cadence sensors is that they don’t require force when pedaling to activate… that’s good for people with sensitive knees
- One of the really neat things about hub motors, compared to mid-drive systems, is that they operate independently from pedaling and don’t put as much stress on the chain, sprockets or derailleur
- The display doesn’t show as many readouts as a full LCD panel might (time, average speed, max speed, precise battery level) but you do get speed, 3-color battery capacity, assist level and range estimate which is pretty solid
- Because the battery pack and motor are both mounted at the back of the bike, it tends to feel rear heavy which impacts handling, makes the bike easier to tip and can make it wonky to lift the front and move (ideally, weight would be as low and centered as possible)
- Consider adding some lights if you ride at dusk or dawn when it gets dark out, the Superbe iE doesn’t come with reflective tires or integrated lights but some ebike shops can add them easily since the frame comes pre-wired
- My test rides felt good enough thanks to the swept-back handlebars, hybrid tires and sprung saddle but you don’t get suspension, you could add a 27.2 mm short-travel suspension seat post but that will raise the minimum saddle height which could be too high for petite riders
- The saddle comes pretty close to the rack when you lower the seat so make sure you also slide the saddle forward a bit to make it fit right… some trunk bags might not fit very well with the saddle lower and slid back
- This shouldn’t be a big concern for relaxed neighborhood riding or basic commutes but the Shimano Tourney drivetrain (rear derailleur) is at the lowest end of the performance/quality line, they work alright but might need more tuneups over time
- There’s an on-switch at the battery as well as the control pad near the left grip…
this two-step process is easy to forget and many newer bikes only have one power button that can be reached while seated, which I appreciate
- The fenders do clink around a bit while riding over bumps and the bolt-on rear rack might require tightening over time
- I love that the fenders offer full coverage protection against water but if you have longer feet, it’s possible to clip your toe on the front fender when turning