2016 SmartMotion Catalyst Review


Technical Specs & Ratings





Class 3


Front Suspension



Hydraulic Disc



696 Wh

696 Wh

52.5 lbs / 23.84 kgs


Neco Integrated, Tapered 1-1/8"

Aluminum Alloy, 3° Rise, 70 mm Length

Aluminum Alloy, Low-Rise, 31.8 mm Diametr, 15° Rise, 26.75" Length

Rubber Flat, Locking

Aluminum Alloy


Velo Active

Wellgo M195 Alloy Platform, Black

Hydraulic Disc

Magura MT4 Hydraulic Disc with 180 mm Rotors, Magura MT4E Levers with Motor Inhibitor on Right

More Details


2 Year Comprehensive

United States

16, 18

Small/Medium: 16" Seat Tube, 21.5" Reach, 29.5" Stand Over Height, 72" Length, Medium/Large: 18” Seat Tube, 22” Top Tube Length, 30” Stand Over Height, 73” Length

Matte Midnight Blue with Orange and Gray Accents, Metallic Green with Lime and Gray Accents

Fender Bosses, Rear Rack Bosses

Magura MT4 Hydraulic Disc with 180 mm Rotors, Magura MT4E Levers with Motor Inhibitor on Right

Video Reviews

Written Reviews

SmartMotion is a New Zealand brand that has been popular in Europe for several years, now making its way to America thanks to Lectric Cycles (the guys who do e-RAD Kits). I went into this review feeling very excited because the Catalyst (a hardtail, trail capable speed pedelec with assist and throttle) is exactly my type of electric bike. It offers a broad range of experiences but hones in on the ones I use most often ie. commuting and a bit of easy mountain biking… and it does all of this for a very reasonable $2,699 while offering an impressive two year comprehensive warranty. And I’m still not done… you get an integrated color display panel with some very cool and unique readouts, a large 48 volt 14.5 amp hour battery pack with premium Panasonic cells and for just $200 more you can upgrade to 17.5 amp hours for maximum range. Considering the bike is capable of higher speeds and off-road the upgraded battery is a nice option (air resistance adds up quickly above 20 mph).

But of course, this ebike is not perfect. The battery, while large in capacity, is also a bit bulky in design. It’s partially integrated into the downtube but sticks up a bit, sacrificing some of the stealthiness that the compact motor and integrated display offer. Some onlookers may notice that the bike is electric while others just wonder what kind of cool, angular Transformer style bike you have. The battery pack felt fairly solid but I did notice just a bit of play and having seen this exact sort of battery design before I believe it would rattle slightly over time, especially on bumpy terrain. Other gripes include the lack of bottle cage mounting points, a kickstand that gets in the way a bit and a less rugged front axle design. A couple areas I would complain about have been overcome with thoughtful design, namely the charging port and USB outlet on the sides of the battery… their position makes them vulnerable to snags, kicking and bending if you’re not careful but SmartMotion has replicated these ports up near the display panel for much easier, safer access.

The display panel is a real highlight on this bike, showing speed, realtime power use in watts and assist level which can switch between cadence or torque mode! That’s a big point there, this is the only electric bike (in addition to the road-specific Smart Motion Pacer) that offers both assist modes and it really pays off if you ride on the trail. Torque sensing assist is more responsive and natural, complimenting your legs in how it outputs power instead of just blasting on and off… on and off. When comparing the two bikes, you’ll notice that this one doesn’t have a rack or lights but I’m told you can pay extra and have them installed. The rack design is sturdy and neat looking with wooden slats on top but of course adds weight and might rattle or get in the way if you like mountain riding.

I got the chance to actually ride this e-bike off-road on some serious terrain at Bootleg Canyon Nevada where Interbike Outdoor Demo Day is held annually. Some of the trails are very steep with loose terrain and interspersed boulders. The Catalyst could not ascend the steeper trails on throttle power alone but I was able to conquer most with some downshifting and active pedaling. The motor is a 500 watt geared hub design made by Dapu, one of my favorite motor designers due to the compact design that still packs a punch. It’s not as efficient or powerful as some mid-drive motors but you have access to full power no matter which gear you’re in and won’t wear the chain and sprockets as quickly. Admittedly, hub motors tend to be better for urban paved riding sorts of environments but given that this is a hardtail ebike you don’t have to worry about the added weight of the motor being unsprung weight and given the knobby tires and suspension fork it still works on trails so I see it as a winning compromise. For someone who just likes to play with trails and isn’t trying to use this as a full on mountain bike I think it works fine.

There’s a lot to say about this bike, it’s exciting to explore because it isn’t the same as all of the mainstream stock designs that just add a motor to an existing frame… the frame is completely custom and beautiful! The two color choices are neat (if not a little over-stimulating) and the two sizes make it workable for more riders, tall or short. I appreciate the large hydraulic disc brakes, upgraded 10 speed SRAM drivetrain and things like the longer bar, flat grips, trigger shifters and active saddle. I think that for myself, given the potential for higher speed riding and some off-road use with bumps I’d consider adding a seat post suspension. Look for one with 30.4 mm diameter to fit properly and keep in mind that it will raise the minimum seat height three to four inches. Something like the 27.2 mm Thudbuster ST with their 27.2 to 30.4 mm shim adapter could work very well, delivering a more full-suspension feel that would take the edge off of longer rides without changing geometry too much. Big thanks to Lectric Cycles for partnering with me for this review.


  • This combination of high-speed operation (~28 mph top speed) with both pedal assist and throttle mode combined with larger squishier tires and a suspension fork can be useful for commuters who might need to cross some dirt trails on the way to work or those who want to ride for fun on the weekends off-road
  • Because this ebike uses a hub motor vs. mid-drive your shifting is not changed or overpowered so the chain and sprockets should last longer, you also get full power and top speed performance regardless of what gear you’re in
  • The 500 watt motor and large 48 volt 14.5 amp hour battery ensure both speed and distance, it’s a great combination for people who want to commute and trail ride or those who ride further on trails… and for people who want even more, they sell an optional 17.5 amp hour upgraded battery pack for just $200 more!
  • The battery pack isn’t perfectly integrated with the frame (the top sticks up a bit) but it still blends in nicely and keeps weight low and center… the low profile design also allowed them to angle the top tube for a lower stand over height
  • I would say the bike is “stealthy” meaning it blends in and people might not know it’s electric given the battery design and smaller hub motor but the flashy paint and thicker tubing might still turn some heads ;)
  • Really unique integrated display panel there in the top tube, it’s backlit and color, for me the readouts really worked well and were something fresh and different from most of the other displays I test
  • The handle bar cockpit area of the bike is clean with triggers on the right and a small control pad on the left, since the display isn’t mounted here it’s less vulnerable if you crash and again it just blends in and looks like a regular bicycle, I like that they went with a longer bar since this is an off-road design and that gives you more turning strength
  • By holding the up and down buttons on the control pad you can change settings in the display including metric to standard and backlight brightness, you can also cycle through the normal display readouts and get range which approximates how far you can go with the given assist level
  • I was especially impressed with their “night mode” option that reduces brightness of the display and uses a dark background so it’s not as distracting at night or other low-light riding conditions (hold up on the button pad for a couple seconds to switch from light to dark)
  • With two color choices and a paint job that extends all the way down to the fork these bikes are a big step above the competition (especially in this price range) in terms of visual appearance
  • In addition to the two colors you also get two frame sizes to choose from making this bike accessible to a wider range of riders (taller or shorter), I’m 5’9″ and rode the larger size which worked out fairly well and felt comfortable
  • It’s nice to have a quick release system for the front wheel to make flat fixes and transporting the bike easier, the back wheel is bolted in and requires tools to get off
  • There are two different types of pedal assist sensing, torque sensing which is very responsive and fluid (great for off-road) and cadence sensing which is zippy and doesn’t require as much pedal force (great for resting your muscles or knees but still getting some cardio)
  • I love that you can override any pedal assist mode with the trigger throttle at full power, this helps to overcome hills, pass others without shifting gears or messing with assist or get through a soft patch
  • Rather than using a twist throttle design (which could compromise the strength and stability of your grip) they used a trigger which I think was a great choice given the off-road orientation of the bike
  • The right brake lever activates a motor cutoff switch when pulled, this can be useful when riding off-road but also get in the way if you’re hovering the brakes but still want power… note that the left lever for the front brake does not have a motor inhibitor built in


  • You have to power the bike on with two steps, first press the button on top of the battery (which is kind of tight and difficult to see) then hold the power “M” button on the control pad
  • No bottle cage bosses on this bike, doesn’t seem like there’s enough room on the seat tube without impacting the seat post… one option is to buy their rack and use a trunk bag with a bottle slot like this but that might rattle if you ride off-road, CamelBak or other hydration packs could be another way
  • I like Wellgo platform pedals but the M195 models chosen for this bike aren’t especially wide so people with larger feet might want to swap them for the BMX style ones, you can go ultra light with magnesium for under $50 note however that the shorter included pedals might not drag as easily when turning sharply and leaning
  • The battery is really well integrated and weight is kept low and center but the pack had a little bit of play so the interface could rattle over time, especially if you do a lot of off-road riding
  • I love that the bike has a kickstand but wish it was mounted further back so the left crank arm didn’t collide when you walk the bike backwards, it feels tight but given that this is a trail bike… the stand might flop down and get it the way if you’re riding hard, you could always remove it completely
  • Because the display panel is mounted lower and further back than many other electric bikes (which have display units mounted to the handle bars) you have to look down and possibly further to see it which takes more time and could be more distracting
  • The front wheel is attached to the bike with an 11 mm skewer vs. a 15 mm thru-axle so this isn’t designed for heavy mountain riding like enduro or downhill, given the potential for riding at higher speed and off-road use I feel like this is an area they might consider upgrading in the future
  • Be careful charging the battery pack while mounted to the bike because one of the plug ports is very near the left crank arm and could get bent or snagged if you move the bike or pedal accidentally, also the little rubber cap that’s meant to cover this port doesn’t fit in easily… thankfully there is a second charging port at the display along with a USB charging interface for portable electronics!
  • I was surprised that they didn’t include some form of slap guard on the chainstay? Consider adding one yourself like this to avoid the noise and chipping that can occur when riding off-road

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