- The Bandit is a true electric moped, fully street legal in all 50 states, complete with VIN and origin documents for easy registration and insurance. Tastefully designed and assembled by a small and passionate team in Connecticut, covered by a standard one-year comprehensive warranty
- Custom-designed hub motor peaks at 2,400 watts with an impressive 95 newton-meters of torque, paired with one of the largest batteries I've ever tested with a capacity of almost 1,200 watt-hours. Dual battery and even dual motor upgrade options, huge 60-tooth chainring allows pedaling speeds up to 45mph
- Fully accessorized with steel fenders as well as motorcycle-grade lights, mirrors, a horn and turn signals. Extra-long banana seat is comfortable and has space for carrying some cargo or a friend using the passenger foot pegs. BMX-style handlebars for comfortable upright seating position even for large and tall riders
- The rear lights and turn signals are dim and hard to see in bright daylight, steel fenders are resilient but too small to provide full coverage, the Bandit is a first-generation product from a relatively new company which may feel risky compared to more established products
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance and lights when used on public roads.
This in-depth review was not sponsored by Spark Cycleworks or any other company, but Spark Cycleworks did ship me a test model to use for this review. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased with you, this video and writeup are not meant to be an endorsement of Spark Cycleworks products. I welcome your corrections, additions, and feedback in the comments below and the Spark Cycleworks electric moped forums.
- The Bandit is not categorized as an E-Bike, it is legally a moped. In fact, the Bandit is the first fully street legal electric moped available in the United States, shipping with VIN plates and a Certificate of Origin. This is an important distinction, because you’ll be able to register it as a low-power scooter, more easily obtain insurance, and ride legally anywhere! By comparison, many competing products masquerade as Ebikes despite being too fast and powerful for riding safely on normal cycling paths, often lacking the appropriate safety features and DOT registration to ride legally on public roads. Those products occupy a legal grey area, and although law enforcement will often look the other way, it’s still a risk that should be avoided.
- There are some fun upgrade options, you can get a dual battery setup with the second battery mounted on the top tube in front of the seat. There’s also a dual motor option that puts another 1500-watt hub motor in the front wheel! That would mean a combined 190 newton-meters of torque and could transform the Bandit into an offroad beast if you switched to some knobby tires for better traction.
- Available online with shipping anywhere in the United States, designed and built by a small, passionate team in Connecticut, and covered by a one year comprehensive warranty.
- The custom-designed 1500-watt rear hub motor puts out an impressive 95 newton-meters of torque, I found I could cruise at 30-35mph and easily climb hills on just the throttle. Hub motors are usually lackluster on acceleration, so I was pleasantly surprised with how zippy the Bandit is!
- The massive battery pack has a capacity of 1,176 watt-hours, the highest I’ve seen on a moped or an ebike. Spark Cycleworks uses Samsung 35E cells which are some of the best available, and I also appreciate the carry handle on top of the pack for easily transporting for indoor storage or charging.
- The color LCD provides a variety of readouts for speed, distance, and motor wattage, there’s also a full amp USB charging port on the right side of the display, which means it can charge iPhones in addition to Androids which only require 0.5 amps to charge
- The design feels well thought out with intuitive controls for anyone with motorcycle or moped experience, I appreciated being able to reach all the controls without needing to move my hands away from the grips. Mirrors on most minibikes are too small and poorly positioned for me to see anything – keep in mind I’m taller than average at 6ft 3in – but on the Bandit the mirrors are just right, I felt I had good visibility to both the side and rear. Display placement on the lower portion of the handlebars leaves a lot of room on the top bar for mounting and powering your phone or other electronics.
- The Shimano Tourney derailleur and 14-28 tooth freewheel are entry level components, but they fit great on the Bandit since riders will rely primarily on the electric drivetrain, since there is plenty of power to spare and pedaling isn’t very comfortable compared to a full-sized bicycle. I love the gigantic 60-tooth steel chainring, this is intentionally large to support high-speed pedaling and I was able to reach 45mph with considerable effort. Cruising at 40mph is easier to sustain, although this will cut into your range; expect around 20mph of range when traveling at top speed.
- Great integrated lighting with a 2600 lumen dual-beam headlight, this is equivalent to standard car headlights and it’s great for both night visibility and daytime safety. It’s a standard 12-volt motorcycle headlight, easy to swap out if you want a different beam style. The taillight features brighter brake activation but only when the lights are switched on, I recommend always riding with your lights on to make sure drivers can see you!
- Being street legal requires turn signals, mirrors, and a horn, and all are present on the Bandit. The mirrors are well positioned and the horn is loud without being ear-splitting, and the control pad buttons use the standard layout found on motorcycles. A nice extra touch is the status lights on the light buttons, so you can easily see if your lights or on (or if you accidentally left on your turn signal).
- The padded leather banana seat is long and soft, very comfortable when riding solo or double. It’s also big enough to strap on a small bag or other cargo and still ride comfortably.
- The included passenger foot pegs are sturdy and spring loaded, just press lightly on them to release and they snap out with a satisfying click. The weight limit of the Bandit is 300 pounds, near the end of the review video you can see some test riding with two full-size adults. The passenger experience surprisingly comfortable, much better than average for similar minibike-style vehicles.
- I like BMX-style handlebars because they’re very adjustable with high rise, this provides a nice upright relaxed seating position. They’re also fairly wide with locking ergonomic grips, overall the Bandit feels more comfortable than most minibikes, not to mention more stable at high speeds.
- Full suspension with a coil front fork and a dual shock swingarm rear setup, the suspension is not adjustable but the rear uses standard motorcycle shocks which means you could easily swap them out for something with more travel or adjustability. The suspension is tuned on the stiff side which makes sense for the Bandit, good for city riding and you won’t have to worry about bottomming out when riding two up.
- The HD-E350 hydraulic brakes from Tektro are rock solid as always, these are ebike-specific and a popular choice for heaver bikes. Motor inhibitors cut power immediately when actuating the levers and upgraded 203-mm rotors provide great heat disappation.
- Kraze Street tires from Kenda have thick, slick tread for great rolling efficiency, these are intended for riding on pavement and they do great on city streets. The 20″ by 4 1/4″ platform provides a great balance of comfort and agility as well as a mechanical advantage for the hub motor (compared to larger diameter bicycle wheels).
- I had to assemble the Bandit after receiving it but the process was easier than most electric bikes I’ve put together, mostly because the front wheel was already mounted with the brakes perfectly aligned.
- Throttle and pedal assist tuning can make a huge difference for the ride experience and I love how the Bandit is tuned. Full throttle assist is available from any assist level – even 0 – so it’s always easy to quickly accelerate without needing to fiddle with display buttons. The assist levels effectively cap the maximum speed of the motor, starting at 20mph for level 1, with five-mph increments (level 5 is unlimited). This means acceleration is always satisfyingly strong, but you can still limit your speed to maximize range or increase safety. Level 1’s 20mph top speed makes it perfect if you need to ride on a bike path or other multi-use trail.
- The front and rear fenders are steel which is sturdy with vibration dampening qualities, so they have minimal rattle compared to plastic or alloy fenders. They’re also color matched, overall the Bandit looks very sleek and stylish with all black components
- The cadence sensor means you just need to cycle the cranks to activate the motor, a good fit since it can be hard to put a lot of pressure on the cranks due to the cramped pedaling position. The sensor is a sealed 12-magnet sensor, more resilient and worry-free compared to external unsealed sensors.
- The Bandit is fairly heavy at 87 pounds thanks to the powerful electronics, sturdy frame, and fat tires. This makes it feel stable even at high speeds but it’s less convenient if you run out of battery and need to pedal home! Storing indoors would be difficult especially if you need to traverse up and down stairs, and transporting with a vehicle will require a heavy-duty rack.
- The rear taillight isn’t very bright, drivers will probably not notice the brake light or turn signals during the daytime. I recommend using hand signals to alert drivers behind you, fortunately the lights are much easier to see when riding at night!
- The suspension isn’t adjustable and might be too stiff for lightweight riders. Fortunately, it will be good for the majority of riders, and it does great at high speeds and fully loaded. The rear shocks are also easily swapped out for any standard motorcycle shocks, so tall riders can elevate the seat and feel even more comfortable!
- The display is not removable which leaves it vulnerable to damage when parked outdoors, however these are very durable displays and the low bar mounting position will keep it protected from most serious impacts. It’s also not very bright and smaller details are difficult to make out in direct sunlight. I’ve seen this display model on several different ebikes and there doesn’t appear to be an accessible settings menu, although I don’t see a need for it here since the Bandit is so well tuned. It would be nice to be able to change the clock time though!
- Spark Cycleworks doesn’t have any dealers which means you have to buy it online without test riding, and you’ll have to assemble the Bandit after you receive it. I found it easier to assemble than most electric bikes… but I have a lot of experience in this area, if you’ve never assembled a bicycle before it can be a difficult process. I recommend at least having a helper for lifting it out of the box! Another point of consideration is maintenance and repairs, any bike shop will be able to work on the bicycle components such as the derailleur, tires, and brakes, but electronics problems would probably have to be addressed by Spark Cycleworks and might be time consuming and expensive if you’re out of warranty. It’s worth mentioning that the support team is entirely locally based in Branford CT, so the experience should be much better than with other companies that only have limited overseas support.
- Only available in one size which may not fit all riders… but it should fit most. I had a 6ft 4in friend test it and he felt comfortable, and small riders will find pedaling much easier. There’s also only one color option, all black, which looks sleek and stylish but I’d love a white option for increased visibility.
- If you’re used to riding regular bicycles then you’ll find the pedaling experience on the Bandit cramped and uncomfortable at first. When I first started riding minibikes my knees would hurt after a few miles, but after a few rides I got used to it and now I don’t notice any pain on any of them. Just remember that you don’t need to put a lot of pressure on the cranks, cycling with light pressure will activate the cadence sensor and let the motor do the heavy lifting.
- The black-on-black color scheme looks beautiful but it makes the Bandit difficult to see from the side. There are side reflectors on the spokes, but I’d really like to see reflective striping on the sidewall tires for increased safety.
- There’s no mount points or hooks in the rear, so no easy way to add a rack or strap down cargo. There’s space on the seat to fit a bag and I was able to bungee one down, it was just a bit difficult to secure since the chainstays are a bit crowded with cables and foot pegs. This is a minor complaint but having rack provisions would really make the Bandit a utility vehicle, I could see it being popular for delivery drivers especially with a dual-battery setup.
- The downside of steel fenders is that they will rust if they get dinged or scratched, be sure to apply touch-up paint to any damaged areas! You can also cover damage with clear tape to prevent rusting.
- The kickstand is center-mounted which means it will lock up with the cranks if you roll the bike backwards. This makes chain maintenance more difficult, as well as maneuvering at the bike rack or in the garage. The left chainstay is already crowded with cables and foot pegs though, so it makes sense to have the kickstand mounted in the center.
- Spark Cycleworks is a relatively new company and this is the first generation of the Bandit moped which means there may be production and support delays, especially considering the global shortage of ebike components at the time of writing this review (June of 2021). There is always increased risk when buying first-generation products, but I think that Spark Cycleworks has done a great job here and I appreciate their attention to detail in their manuals and online support tools.
- Assist level 1 limits motor top speed to 20mph but with full power up to that speed, which makes for powerful acceleration especially with a full battery. I prefer this because I like the acceleration, but it could feel too powerful and jarring for inexperienced riders. Reduced torque would feel more smooth in assist level one, and probably be safer since you may be riding with regular cyclists or pedestrians on a multi-use trail.