SONDORS Smart Step Review

Sondors Smart Step Electric Bike Review
Sondors Smart Step
Sondors Smart Step Coil Suspension Fork 80mm Travel Cst Plus Sized Tires
Sondors Smart Step 52 Tooth Steel Chainring With Alloy Bash Guard And 170mm Crank Arms
Sondors Smart Step Shimano Tourney Derailleur Steel Derailleur Guard
Sondors Smart Step Bafang 500watt Geared Rear Hub Motor
Sondors Smart Step Tektro Aries Mechanical Disc Brake 160mm Rotor
Sondors Smart Step Mid Mounted Adjustable Length Kickstand
Sondors Smart Step Selle Royale Gel Saddle
Sondors Smart Step Cockpit View Mid Rise Handlebars Center Mounted Display
Sondors Smart Step 3.5in Grayscale Lcd Display
Sondors Smart Step Four Button Control Pad Four Finger Brake Lever
Sondors Smart Step Shimano Revoshift Grip Shifter Rubber Ergonomic Locking Grip
Sondors Smart Step Folded Side View
Sondors Smart Step Folded Top View
Sondors Smart Step Stock Step Thru Pearl
Sondors Smart Step Stock Step Thru Torch
Sondors Smart Step Stock Step Thru Black
Sondors Smart Step Electric Bike Review
Sondors Smart Step
Sondors Smart Step Coil Suspension Fork 80mm Travel Cst Plus Sized Tires
Sondors Smart Step 52 Tooth Steel Chainring With Alloy Bash Guard And 170mm Crank Arms
Sondors Smart Step Shimano Tourney Derailleur Steel Derailleur Guard
Sondors Smart Step Bafang 500watt Geared Rear Hub Motor
Sondors Smart Step Tektro Aries Mechanical Disc Brake 160mm Rotor
Sondors Smart Step Mid Mounted Adjustable Length Kickstand
Sondors Smart Step Selle Royale Gel Saddle
Sondors Smart Step Cockpit View Mid Rise Handlebars Center Mounted Display
Sondors Smart Step 3.5in Grayscale Lcd Display
Sondors Smart Step Four Button Control Pad Four Finger Brake Lever
Sondors Smart Step Shimano Revoshift Grip Shifter Rubber Ergonomic Locking Grip
Sondors Smart Step Folded Side View
Sondors Smart Step Folded Top View
Sondors Smart Step Stock Step Thru Pearl
Sondors Smart Step Stock Step Thru Torch
Sondors Smart Step Stock Step Thru Black

Summary

  • The Smart Step is the first step-thru Ebike from SONDORS that is both approachable and easier to transport due to the unique foldable frame, covered by a one-year comprehensive warranty, and at a great price point of only $999
  • Great ride comfort for a value-priced bike thanks to the coil suspension fork, plus-sized tires, and the upright-relaxed riding position, control systems are simple and intuitive, the grayscale LCD screen is highly visible even in direct sunlight
  • A rear-mounted geared hub motor from Bafang provides reliable power at 350 watts and is activated by either a cadence sensor or variable thumb throttle, the Shimano Tourney is a reliable derailleur and shifts smoothly with the RevoShift 7 grip shifter, good stopping power from Tektro Aries mechanical disk brakes
  • No accessories are included which means an extra cost if there are any accessories that you need, CST tires do not include puncture protection or reflective sidewalls, only available in one frame size which means it won't be a good fit for tall riders

Video Review

Introduction

Make:

SONDORS

Model:

Smart Step

Price:

$999

Body Position:

Upright, Upright Relaxed

Suggested Use:

Cruising, Neighborhood, Urban, Youth

Electric Bike Class:

Throttle on Demand (Class 2)
Learn more about Ebike classes

Warranty:

1 Year Comprehensive

Availability:

United States

Model Year:

2020

Bicycle Details

Total Weight:

55.6 lbs (25.21 kg)

Battery Weight:

5.2 lbs (2.35 kg)

Motor Weight:

6.5 lbs (2.94 kg)

Frame Material:

6061 Aluminum Alloy

Frame Sizes:

16 in (40.64 cm)

Geometry Measurements:

16" Seat Tube, Reach, 20.25" Standover Height, 32.5" Minimum Saddle Height, 28" Width 73" Length, Folded Dimensions: 37" Length, 39" Height, 28" Width

Frame Types:

Step-Thru

Frame Colors:

Torch, Pearl, Black

Frame Fork Details:

Generic Coil Suspension Fork, 80mm Travel, 29.5mm Steel Stanchions, 100mm Hub Spacing, 9mm Axle with Nuts

Frame Rear Details:

135mm Hub Spacing, 12mm Threaded Axle with Nuts

Attachment Points:

Rear Rack Bosses, Fender Bosses

Gearing Details:

7 Speed 1x7 Shimano Tourney Derailleur, Shimano MF-TZ500-7 14-28 Tooth Cassette

Shifter Details:

Shimano RevoShift 7 Grip Shifter on Right

Cranks:

Prowheel Forged Aluminum Alloy, 170mm Crank Arms, 52 Tooth Steel Chainring

Pedals:

Wellgo Folding Platform, Plastic

Headset:

Integrated, 1-1/8”, Sealed Cartridge Bearings, Three 5mm Spacers

Stem:

Aluminum Alloy, 80mm Length, 30 Degree Rise, 31.8mm Clamp Diameter

Handlebar:

Aluminum Alloy, Mid-Rise, 28” Width

Brake Details:

Tektro Aries Mechanical Disc with 160mm Rotors, Three-Finger Levers, Motor Inhibitors

Grips:

Ergonomic, Rubber, Locking, Dark Grey

Saddle:

Selle Royal Gel

Seat Post:

Aluminum Alloy, Quick-Release Skewer

Seat Post Length:

270 mm

Seat Post Diameter:

27.2 mm

Rims:

Aluminum Alloy, Double Wall, 36 Hole, Black

Spokes:

Stainless Steel, 14 Gauge Front, 13 Gauge Rear, White with Silver Spoke Screws

Tire Brand:

CST, 27.5" x 3.0" (76-584)

Wheel Sizes:

27.5 in (69.85cm)

Tire Details:

15 to 30 PSI, 1.0 to 2.0 BAR

Tube Details:

Schrader Valve

Accessories:

Center-Mount Adjustable Kickstand

Other:

Locking Removable Downtube-Integrated Battery Pack, 1.4lb 3 Amp Charger, Folding Frame, Internal Cable Routing, 36 Volt 15 Amp Controller, Rust Resistant Stainless Steel Chain

Electronic Details

Motor Brand:

Bafang

Motor Type:

Rear-Mounted Geared Hub
Learn more about Ebike motors

Motor Nominal Output:

350 watts

Motor Peak Output:

450 watts

Motor Torque:

40 Newton meters

Battery Brand:

LG 3500

Battery Voltage:

36 volts

Battery Amp Hours:

10.4 ah

Battery Watt Hours:

374.4 wh

Battery Chemistry:

Lithium-Ion

Charge Time:

4 hours

Estimated Min Range:

20 miles (32 km)

Estimated Max Range:

30 miles (48 km)

Display Type:

3” GrayScale LCD, Adjustable Angle, Non-Removable

Readouts:

Charge Level (5 Bars), Current Speed, Assist Level (1-5), Odometer, Trip Distance

Display Accessories:

Four-Button Pad on Left, Buttons: +, -, i, W, Power: Hold +, Walk Mode: Hold W, Settings: Hold + and -

Drive Mode:

Cadence Sensing Pedal Assist, Trigger Throttle

Top Speed:

20 mph (32 kph)


Written Review

To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This in-depth review was sponsored by SONDORS. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased with you, this video and writeup are not meant to be an endorsement of SONDORS products. I welcome your corrections, additions, and feedback in the comments below and the SONDORS electric bike forums.

Observations:

  • SONDORS is a well-known name in the Ebike space, mostly due to the first SONDORS Ebike which was crowdfunded and received an enormous amount of publicity due to the amount raised and the bold claims made of producing an Ebike that would only cost $500. To the surprise of many SONDORS was successful in producing and shipping that first model, and in the years since they have transitioned to a more typical company structure with many different models available and a proper support team.
  • The SONDORS owner community tends to express a lot more excitement and pride of ownership than most, and one of the big interests of this community is modifying and upgrading their bikes. One of the ways SONDORS is able to keep prices so low is that their bikes don’t include any accessories, and while you can add these on for an extra cost when buying from SONDORS, many owners prefer to add on the exact accessories they want from a third party or to make their own DIY solution. If this sounds interesting, you can find lots of online communities to get inspiration and help from other owners!

Pros:

  • Amazing price point at just $999 (plus shipping which is cheaper than most at only $97 for many North America locations) and three frame color options, covered by a one-year comprehensive warranty which is a nice upgrade for the SONDORS brand, where in the past they were criticized for only offering 30-day warranties
  • I’m a big fan of this step-thru frame, not only is it approachable with the low standover height… but it folds! There is a sturdy fold junction in the downtube that allows the bike to fold in half. You can’t fold down the handlebars and this is not as compact as a true folding bike… but it still makes a huge difference if you ever need to toss the Smart Step in your trunk or backseat, or to minimize the footprint when storing indoors
  • Elaborating on the approachability, I would say that the Smart Step really shines for average-to-small sized riders, the low standover height makes mounting and dismounting easy, and this is the lightest of the SONDORS models at 55.6 pounds, fairly average for a step-thru electric bike
  • The ride experience is comfortable thanks to the upright relaxed seating position, the suspension fork is a basic coil setup with 80mm of travel but it still makes a noticeable upgrade for ride comfort, you also get the gel saddle adding some more cushion
  • The ergonomic rubber grips also help out in terms of ride comfort, and the mid-rise handlebars elevate them enough that it’s easy to achieve a comfortable upright-relaxed seating position even with the saddle raised to the maximum height
  • The CST tires are plus-sized which means a high volume of air and a low attack angle, both of which help to smooth out bumps in the road and make for a more comfortable ride. These tires have a good traction-oriented tread pattern with thick knobs, they will work well for a variety of terrain and did well for me on hard-packed sand (not recommended for soft sand or snow)
  • The Tourney derailleur with a from Shimano is a reliable basic setup and I appreciate that SONDORS included a steel derailleur guard which also protects the motor cable connection point, the RevoShift grip shifter is intuitive to use for shifting up and down the seven available gears, and there is also an alloy bash guard to protect the chainring from errant pantlegs
  • Good stopping power from the mechanical disc brakes, these are Tektro Aries and include dual-piston calipers and 160mm rotors, along with large four-finger levers which provide a good mechanical advantage for easier actuation. These also feature motor inhibitors which cut power to the motor immediately on actuation, a great safety feature
  • The control system is simple and easy to use with a fairly large grayscale LCD display that is incredibly visible, easy to see even in bright direct sunlight
  • Sleek and stylish appearance thanks to the internal routing of cables through the frame and sturdy cable wraps for the front control cabling
  • Large online communities of SONDORS owners make it easy to connect with other riders to share stories and find advice
  • The included charger is 3amps and will charge the battery faster than the typical 2amp Ebike charger, it still only weighs 1.4 pounds and can be easily transported in a backpack, and it also includes a built-in fan to prevent overheating
  • The charge port is positioned high on the frame and out of reach of the crank arms helping to minimize the risk of damage while charging, and the battery allows for charging while removed from the frame
  • The cadence sensor is high-resolution with 12 magnets and SONDORS really did a great job tuning the response time, it kicks in almost immediately, this is compared against most other cadence sensors that will have a noticeable delay of 1-2 revolutions on the cranks before they kick in
  • The chain is stainless steel making it more durable and rust-resistant – great if you’re riding on the beach!
  • The battery is 36 volt and 10.4 amp-hour which is an average capacity, the big win here is that it’s using high-quality 3500 series cells from LG

Cons:

  • Only one size is available and not a great fit for especially tall or large riders, for reference I am 6ft 3in and while it was still a fairly comfortable ride, I was not able to get close to full leg extensions and wouldn’t want to pedal the Smart Step for a long period of time
  • While there are a few dealers out there that carry SONDORS they are primarily sold direct to consumer, which means you will need to finish assembly of the bike after it ships to you, this can be difficult to do unless you have the proper tools and are comfortable following instructions to do so… which is why many people will rather take it to their local bike shop and pay to have it assembled. This can also make getting support more difficult as you will have to contact the support staff online and repairs may require you to pack and ship your bike, fortunately SONDORS has greatly expanded their warranty coverage and support staff which should help to mitigate this
  • No accessories are included which means you will need to pay extra for lights, fenders, racks, and anything else that you want to add, but considering the incredibly low price point for this electric bike it makes sense, and you save money in the long run by only adding the accessories you need (and getting the exact ones you want as opposed to whatever generic ones might have been included)
  • The CST tires do not have reflective striping on the sidewalls which means less visibility, they also lack puncture protection, I recommend adding either sealant or protective liners to help prevent flat tires as those are more difficult to change on hub-motor-equipped Ebikes due to the extra weight and wiring for the motor
  • The suspension fork is basic and not adjustable for preload, but it does make a welcome difference and it is adjusted well for average weight riders
  • The cadence sensor is not sealed which leaves it vulnerable to getting bumped which can cause damage or knock magnets out, fortunately, this is a pretty rare occurrence especially with more relaxed riding like the Smart Step is built for
  • Mechanical brakes do have some downsides when compared to hydraulic, they require more frequent maintenance in the form of tightening as they loosen over time, however they are easier to service than hydraulic brakes which can get messy. They also require more grip strength to actuate, this is somewhat mitigated on the Smart Step thanks to the mechanical advantage provided by the large four-finger levers
  • The kickstand is center-mounted which can cause “pedal lock”, which happens when you move the bike backward while the kickstand is down and cause the crank arms to become locked up against the kickstand
  • The Tourney derailleur is reliable but it is also the most basic offering from Shimano, and the cassette gearing range is 14-28 teeth which is pretty limited, I do think is a good fit for the Smart Step that caters to more casual city and neighborhood riding
  • Neither the display nor the battery have any USB ports for charging other devices, which certainly isn’t a requirement, but they can be nice to have especially if you like to mount your phone on the handlebars and use it for music or navigation while riding
  • A minor concern here but the display is non-removable, which means it could get bumped and damaged by other cyclists at a bike rack, or if left outside in harsh weather. Fortunately, these displays tend to be very durable, and you should avoid leaving your Ebike outside in harsh weather as a general rule

Useful Resources:

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Comments (7) YouTube Comments

R. Pullus
8 months ago

Thank you for reviewing Sondors bikes. I am a Sondors Step (1st generation) and a Sondors MXS owner.

NO MORE CENTER MOUNTED KICKSTANDS, PLEASE!

I enjoyed reading your review and watching the video. Well done. That said, I have my own two cents to add. I’m not sure that the bike pictured (or reviewed) is a “Smart” Step. The bike pictured seems to be a first generation ($975 delivered) Step that originally shipped in August 2019. Though, first generation Steps did arrive with only a 2 amp fanless charger. Since then, the second and third generation (Smart) Steps have arrived. As you commented, the center mounted kickstand is (was) an annoyance, however the second and third generations of the Step do have rear mounted kickstands. Good call on your part. The third generation of Smart Step also has an upgraded frame from the seat post back. The rear stays are now triangulated and are similar, if not identical to the rear stays on the Sondors MXS. It seems improvements are made to the Step with every shipment. It is low powered, but will cruise along at 15 mph (on the flat) for 20+ miles, if you don’t forget to pedal. It is the perfect bike for leisurely rides on a bike path or paved street. If you are looking for something to ride using throttle only or you have hills to climb, this is probably not the bike for you. With the internal 36 volt battery and 15 amp controller it is not a bike than can be easily or cheaply upgraded. For more spirited riding buy a Sondors MXS. No upgrades needed.

  Reply
Tyson Roehrkasse
8 months ago

Hey R. Pullus, thanks for commenting!

Very interesting what you have to say about my review bike possibly being an older version of the Step. I got this bike directly from SONDORS reps when I was in Malibu in early March, so I assumed they gave me the latest and greatest… but they did mention that they’ve been making a lot of updates to it! I heard from another rider that he just purchased one in Torch and that it had a rear-mounted kickstand. I get the sense that SONDORS is constantly improving their products and their may be a lot of minor updates that happen without any fanfare or changing of model names.

In any event, I’ll reach out to them and see what I can find :)

I also noticed that photos on the current SONDORS site show it with some different CST BFT tires

  Reply
R. Pullus
8 months ago

Yes, one would think Sondors would send you their latest and greatest Step for your review. So far there are at least three different versions of the Step out there. Four if you count the version pictured on their website. Your review was fair and very well done. Thank you again. Please review the MXS.
IMHO: No Sondors Step (or MXS) has ever been delivered to a retail customer that matches their advertised photos. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just how it is. I own both bikes and I love them.
The photos on the Sondors site are PROTOTYPES ONLY. No one has received a Step with those CST BFT tires (Labeled 29 X 3.0) which have been pictured on the Sondors Step since April 2019, four months before the first Step was ever delivered to any customer in the US in August 2019. If you look closely at the Step photos on the Sondors site you should notice the flat handlebars. No Step, that I know of, has those handlebars. Not deal breaking differences, just not photos of the bike(s) you will receive. Sondors does not update their advertising photos to reflect any changes or improvements. I will continue to recommend Sondors bikes to my friends and I would have no problem buying another for myself.

Greeny
8 months ago

I have a newer model bike as well (delivered Dec 2019). I bought this as I want one that stores inside my van RV (randomly, I wish they made 1 side of the handle bars – literally 1 bar – to fold down, then the compact design would be A+ for my size needs). There are some but few full size folders. Per the previous poster, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many issues have been corrected with the latest shipment. The only real complaint I have with this bike is the complete lack of power (I prefer to choose my own lights, phone charger, kickstand, etc.). This bike won’t even make it up my driveway, it’s a reall pain after a long ride. I plan to retrofit the motor with a 750 (although battery capacity will then be a MAJOR issue) or buy a new one when they release an upgraded model. FYI, I have 2 of these – white and fire red whiich is really just an attractive orange, a Sonders MXS, a Qualisport Dolphin, and a Vintage Electric Cafe (the price is stupid vs. the level of tech but I have yet to find a bike with better fiit, form, and function… if they made a folder, I’d buy it immediately!). I have acreage that friends and family come play on, that’s why I have so many bikes. I’m looking at a trike as my last one, to pull double duty as a way for my older/impaired/less confident riders to get in on the fun and to be able to add an attachment to drag downed tree limbs to my wood burning pile (wanted the BMP Imports but they don’t stock the yellow). Thanks for all the information you share on this platform Court and Co.!

  Reply
Tyson Roehrkasse
8 months ago

You’ve got quite the collection there, right on! Thanks for sharing your experience with the Smart Step :)

If you like the Vintage Electric bikes, you might also like the bikes from Michael Blast – We haven’t reviewed them yet but I did get to ride a Greaser and it was a blast. I’m hoping to check out their 2020 version before too long!

  Reply
Greeny
2 months ago

Just wanted to follow, having had this bike for some time. We really enjoy this bike! It definitely could use more power (I’m thinking about upgrading the motor but there are tradeoffs) but it’s faults are not nearly as bad as I originally thought (the power drop off is significant with a low battery but with a fresh charge it’s fine). I hope Sondors offers an upgraded 750 watt version, same as other bikes have evolved.

  Reply

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