- A premium compact electric bike with unique partial-folding features, the handlebar folds down completely but can also be raised and angled forward to accommodate taller riders
- Sturdy rear rack, full-length fenders, reflective tires, and integrated Supernova lights offer utility and safety, three fun frame color option let you personalize the look
- Bosch CX motor is e-mountain bike capable in terms of power and responsiveness, it's known for reliability and works well with the clean quiet Gates Carbon belt drive system
- Fatter 2.15" diameter Schwalbe tires offer stability and comfort, they compliment the suspension fork and ergonomic grips allowing you to ride further without hand and back fatigue
When you want the steady feel of a non-folding bicycle but don’t have a lot of space for storage, compact bikes offer a good compromise. The Tinker is an electric assist compact bike from the famed German brand Riese & Müller with some unique folding properties that set it apart in the space. It offers the same high-quality frame design that other R&M models are known for along with premium components like a Supernova headlight, Busch & Müller backlight, Ergon ergonomic locking grips, a built-in cafe lock that’s keyed to match the battery, and a sturdy integrated rack that’s raised a bit to work with panniers and full-length fenders. While other compact e-bikes forego any kind of stem adjustment, the Tinker takes things to a whole other level… allowing you to raise and tilt the stem to accommodate petite and large sized riders alike. And yet, the steering and handling remains solid because of locking pins and quick release levers (two at the base of the stem) along with the low centered weight distribution of the motor and battery pack. When you combine a solid frame with slightly fatter tires and a stable stem and bar setup, you end up with a more traditional feel… and the suspension fork, while basic, takes the edge off of bumpy streets. Riese & Müller promotes the handling and comfort benefits of suspension on many of their models and although the Tinker is only a hardtail, they do offer a Thudbuster seat post suspension upgrade for $165 to improve comfort and control. If you’re bouncing around on the saddle, that movement may translate into the steering or pedaling and this is where a suspension post can help. I’m a big fan of this type of hardware but want to caution that it will raise the minimum saddle height by a few inches and may not be quite as long as the stock 430 mm rigid seat post. If you’re super short or tall, this is an upgrade to really think through so that you can maintain approachability and pedal extension. The other options you’ll have to consider when custom ordering a Tinker is which motor system to go with. In this review, I had the high-torque Bosch CX motor, which peaks out at 20 mph, offering up to 75 Newton meters of torque. The Gates Carbon belt drive and continuously variable transmission NuVinci hub were quiet and clean but add weight. And at ~54.8 lbs, this is one of the heavier compact electric bikes I have ever tested. Alternatively, the high-speed Bosch Performance Line Speed motor, which peaks out at 28 mph, offers up to 60 Nm of torque with a lighter Shimano 10-speed cassette and chain. Chains stretch over time, run louder, and can get your pants dirty compared to a belt drive but a chainring guard will help keep pants or skirts clear. While I haven’t had an opportunity to test ride the speed version of the Tinker, judging from the stability of this 20 mph model, I’d estimate that it would handle fairly well. And the 160 mm hydraulic disc brakes will provide great stopping power on both models but may lock up a bit easier than 24″, 26″ or 28″ wheels so take care when squeezing them. I did experience a bit of skidding during the test ride because of the mechanical advantage the brakes have on such a small wheelset, the adjustable-reach levers allow you to dial in fit for small or large hands and are nice for bringing in a bit if you ride with gloves as well.
Driving the Tinker NuVinci is a high-torque mid-drive from Bosch, whether you get the high speed or CX model. It’s incredibly responsive and fluid because it measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque one-thousand times per second! This drive system is known for being incredibly reliable but it does cost more and that’s reflected in the $4,489 price tag for the Tinker. Inside the motor is a gearbox that spins the small chainring 2.5 revolutions for every one crank arm revolution and this produces a small amount of friction and noise which can be heard when riding the bike unpowered. The benefit of using a smaller chainring, according to Bosch, is that it grips the chain or belt better. You won’t have to worry about dropped chains or belts when riding and in my experience, the quickness of the motor to start and stop the chainring results in reduced knee strain for starting and a sense of control when stopping or navigating precarious terrain. The Bosch CX drive unit is often reserved for electric mountain bikes so in many ways it seems like overkill on an urban model like the Tinker… you can save some money and opt for the Tinker City model which uses a 48 Nm Bosch Active Line motor and probably be just fine. It won’t be as loud and will help to extend your range but you also won’t get the same zippy fast feel that the CX and speed motors offer. It’s cool that there are so many options to consider for this ebike, including a rear basket and “pizza box” food container.
Powering the drive system, backlit display, and lights is a 36 volt Lithium-ion battery that comes in two flavors, the Bosch Powerpack 400 or 500 (on the Speed version). The batteries look the same, weigh within 0.3 lbs of each other, and interface with the same mount so you could have one of each if you decided to purchase a second pack to extend range. On the left side, there’s a power-test button that illuminates up to five LEDs to communicate how full the pack is. Charging is a breeze, whether the battery is mounted on the frame or is stored separately because the plug interface is the same. And the pack fills quickly thanks to the faster than average 4 Amp charger. Bosch has two charger models now and the four Amp is slightly larger and heavier, consider purchasing a second two amp “travel charger” if you intend to leave one at your place of work and one at home. While some electric bike companies have focused resources on integrating batteries into their frames, I’m guessing that R&M has stuck with the Powerpack because it will be supported longer, is easier to find (for replacement), and won’t cost as much to replace. The side affect is that the battery stands out on the frame, and given the tight triangle where the mount is positioned, it can be tricky to click the battery on and take it off. This is one area where compromises have been made… it’s a minor gripe and I’d much rather keep the top tube low to make the bike accessible to petite riders, but it can slow you down a bit, especially if you take the battery off to lift the bike up stairs or to charge while parking the bike outside.
Operating the Tinker is as easy as any other Bosch powered electric bicycle with the Intuvia display interface system. This is one of my favorite control panels because it’s large and easy to read, has an integrated Micro-USB port on the right to charge a phone or other portable electronic device, and is removable. If you park the bike outside, you can bring the battery and display panel in while not worrying so much about the sturdy integrated lights… just remember to lock the front wheel and saddle because they use quick release systems. The display panel is automatically backlit with a faint blue glow that is easy to read in low-light and dark riding conditions. It shows your current speed, battery capacity, assist level, power use, and a bunch of trip stats like average speed and trip distance. My favorite stat to check on is range. You can get to this readout by clicking the i button on the display or the left mounted control pad. When looking at range, you can arrow up or down through the four levels of assist to get an idea for how far the bike can go based on the last mile of riding and remaining battery level. It’s much more useful than the five-led battery indicator on the battery and five-dot battery infographic readout on the display. One other cool readout is shift recommendation, a little up or down arrow that appears above the speed readout, urging you to maximize pedal and motor efficiency by shifting. For people who opt for the NuVinci CVT system, shifting can be done at anytime without fear of mashing the gears. People who go for the traditional 10-speed will benefit from shift detection, where the motor eases off automatically to reduce tension as the chain is sent from one sprocket to the next… but this design cannot be shifted at standstill.
The Riese and Müller Tinker is a neat platform with some great drivetrain and motor options, it’s much more customizable than the ordinary electric bike, but it also takes longer to produce and deliver. R&M builds to order and has to ship internationally so I’m told there is a 1+ month lead time on their bikes. They are clearly more expensive and I was surprised by how much the NuVinci model weighed. The suspension fork is nice but doesn’t include lockout and as much as I like Thudbuster I believe they only make a 350 mm long post which comes up short compared to the 430 mm stock post. The stock pedals can be a little slippery if it’s wet out but the fenders should keep the rest of your clothes and gear dry. I’m not sure exactly how much weight this ebike is capable of holding but reinforced 20″ wheels tend to be very sturdy and the rigid vs. folding frame offers the same sort of strength properties. It’s easy to slap any generic fender and rack set onto an electric bike and have it look good but R&M opted for accessories that actually work well, notice how the rack is raised to allow for longer panniers to work on the sides, and there’s even a slot at the bottom for use with a bungee strap side to side if you need more support than the included rubber straps that go front to back. It’s also nice to have a kickstand and the placement here is spot on because it stays out of your way when backing the bike up (as the crank arms turn). The Tinker serves a niche but it does so very well and can break down smaller than most of the other compact models I have tested and reviewed. Maybe future models will come with a lockout suspension fork… and for those who want to get the saddle as low as possible, you may have to hack-saw the included post or buy a shorter one along with a shim to fit the unique 34.9 mm diameter. Big thanks to Riese & Müller for partnering with me on this post, it was neat to see their different products back to back for the sake of comparison. And thanks to Propel for hosting me in Brooklyn where the streets present all kinds of obstacles and the traffic and sirens blare ;)
- Compact electric bikes provide space savings characteristics similar to folding models but tend to feel a lot more stable because and rigid, the Tinker has a quick release front wheel, seat tube collar, and folding stem so you can break it down and store it in smaller spaces like closets or car trunks
- The removable Bosch battery and display panel allow you to protect and charge the expensive bits at your office or home, I like that the display panel has a Micro-USB port for accessing battery power for portable electronics devices while the bike is powered on (I have used it to charge my iPhone before for GPS)
- Supernova and Busch & Müller integrated lights are a big step up in terms of durability, the headlight in particular has an Aluminum housing that won’t crack or rattle over time with use, it’s aimable and the light is very bright
- If you opt for the Tinker NuVinci, you’ll be able to shift gears at standstill which comes in handy for unexpected stops, it’s a smooth drivetrain that works well with the belt drive which will tend to require fewer tuneups than the 10-speed Deore cassette and traditional chain
- The Bosch CX motor is very powerful but also smooth and dynamic, it doesn’t feel overwhelming or surprising and the new eMTB mode software update lets you ride in Sport level assist with access to low and high power all at once (based on pedal torque) so you don’t have to think about clicking the button pad while riding
- Hydraulic disc brakes are smooth but powerful and the 160 mm rotors on this e-bike are perfect for the smaller 20″ wheel size, adjustable reach levers improve fit for small and large hands alike
- Internally routed cables keep the frame looking clean while reducing snags, the adjustable rear-mounted kickstand stays out of the way and works well
- Not only does the stem telescope up an down but it locks into position with a pin and secures with a clamp,
lower down there’s a rotator which can angle the stem and bars more forward or back to really dial in fit and both systems just feel solid which makes the ride comfortable (especially important if you get the high-speed HS Tinker model)
- I love the little extras like a flick bell and rubber straps on the rear rack, they let you hit the ground running on day one without needing to invest in add-ons
- The optional Thudbuster suspension seat post is a great add-on for those with sensitivity in the back and neck, it turns the Tinker into something like a full suspension compact bike which is great considering the smaller diameter 20″ wheels don’t usually tend to be as comfortable on bumpy roads… you could always buy your own Thudbuster or other suspension post but make sure you get the longer length and a 34.9 mm shim so it will fit into the seat tube here
- This is a really great option for super short petite people because the bar and seat do go down so far, the smaller wheels keep the bike frame closer to the ground and the stand-over height isn’t so tall
- The Bosch electric bike battery charger is relatively compact, only weighs ~1.7 lbs, and puts out double what most chargers do, you get four amps which fills the larger Powerpack 500 watt hour battery pretty quickly
- Clearly the bike can fit petite riders, maybe as short as 4’8″ but it is also quite capable for taller riders because of the longer seat post and telescoping angling stem, you could still ride the Riese & Müller Tinker comfortably if you’re over 6 foot tall!
- No integrated bottle cage bosses for bringing liquids and other accessories but you do get the standard-gauge rack which could be used with a trunk bag bottle holster and an ABUS Shield cafe lock for quick stops (I love that the frame lock is keyed to match the battery so you don’t need to have extra keys floating around), consider a bar mount cup holder or saddle rail adapter for adding a cage or other accessories
- I was surprised that the Tinker, being so compact, weighs as much as most full sized electric bicycles, weighing in at 54.8 lbs this is not a lightweight ebike and that may be due to the fenders, rack, NuVinci CVT and possibly the sturdy build of the frame
- While the NuVinci CVT hub and belt drive are quiet and clean, the Bosch motor does produce a high pitched electronic whir that becomes more noticable at high powere levels and high RPM (especially with smooth tires and the quite drivetrain)
- Riese & Müller electric bikes offer a great warranty and use high-end components and hardware but they do cost more and there’s usually a one+ month weight time because they build and ship to order through dealers
- I like the chainring protector because it doubles as a pants protector but it’s not as good as a fully enclosed plastic cover like I’ve seen on some other Bosch powered ebikes, given the nice fenders, it would be great to have a bit more protection against wet, dirt, and oil on the belt or chain
- Because the Bosch Powerpack battery clicks down onto the downtube vs. sliding in from the side, the top tube wasn’t as low as it might have otherwise been and getting the pack on or off the bike can be a little tricky because there isn’t a lot of space above it
- I reviewed this bike at Propel Bikes in Brooklyn New York and the owner, Chris Nolte, had replaced the stock pedals with larger grippier ones because they tend to feel more comfortable and aren’t as slippery (worth considering if you ride in the rain or wet environments frequently), I like these affordable Alloy pedals from Wellgo
- Official Site: https://www.r-m.de/en-us/e-bike/tinker/tinker-nuvinci-us/#17T02US_02
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/uv2LL4LP9avmeJRW6