- Feature rich electric fat bike with good weight distribution, some ergonomic extras and assist plus throttle mode
- Locking removable mid-mount battery reduces weight for transport, makes charging easier and keeps weight low and center on the frame which improves balance for riding in unstable conditions
- Average power output for a heavier bike style, front wheel drive provides less traction and impacts steering a bit
At under $1,500 the Sand Viper is the most affordable electric fat bike I’ve ever tested… but that doesn’t mean it skimps on features, or even quality. I found out about this ebike while researching the Indiegogo Storm electric bike which is dubbed as being ultra affordable. I rushed to test the Sand Viper because it has very similar specs and I was curious about the range it would be capable of and how well it would actually perform in sand. In short, this bike offers an excellent selection of drive modes with five levels of assist and twist throttle with seven pedal speeds to choose from (very handy when climbing or hitting that 20 mph max speed) and a few ergonomic and utilitarian extras that left me very satisfied. If there were one thing I’d add, it would be seat stay bosses so a rear rack could be more easily added to move cargo around… and maybe a rear light to match the front. Still, given the price tag on this thing it’s pleasantly surprising to get a headlight and while I’d never seen this LCD display before (and it’s not removable) I quickly figured out how to use it and never felt frustrated.
The motor driving this ~61 lb beast is a modest 350 watt geared hub design that’s mounted in the front wheel. Normally I’d prefer a rear-mounted motor but given the extra weight of the wheels and tires of this bike, I found that the front wheel drive design worked fairly well and maintained traction in all but the softest of sand environments I tested. The motor is fairly quiet but does produce the standard mechanical whirring that other geared hubs do. The cable connecting it to the battery and control box is well secured and blends in nicely. I like that they included a quick disconnect point for the cable as it runs up the right side of the fork, this will make wheel maintenance much easier. While neither wheel offers quick release (and this will slow transport and storage) the nuts looked easy enough to work with. This is a value fat-e bike after all and if you want the most convenience, power and range I recommend something like the Felt LEBOWSKe which uses a mid-drive and does offer quick release wheels.
The battery powering the SSR Sand Viper is a generic, but thoughtfully built Lithium-ion pack. It offers 36 volts of power and 10 amp hours of capacity for an average 360 watt hours total. I believe I’ve seen this same battery pack used by Dillenger electric bikes and fitted to the 8Fun BBS01 and BBS02 setups I tested in 2014. The black casing is sleek, fits to the mount very securely, includes a locking core for security and even has a built in LED power indicator. This is very handy when storing the battery inside because it lets you check charge level without powering the bike up. My favorite part about the battery is how and where it’s mounted. while it does take up the space that might otherwise support a water bottle cage, it does keep the ~6.5 lb battery low, center and out of the way. Just behind the battery, on the seat tube, is a control box which controls how the motor, battery and headlight interact. It’s not the prettiest part of the bike but it probably contributes to the lower price point. Other systems that integrate the controller into the motor or battery casing look nicer but have to deal with heat and wire spacing issues that this bike does not.
Operating the SSR Motorsports Sandviper is fairly straightforward but not perfect. Once the battery has been charged (using a fairly small, light weight charger I might ad) you fit it to the frame and lock it securely. After that, you must press a circular power button on the side of the battery pack before the ebike itself can really power up. To do this, you press a second rubberized power button on the top left corner of the display panel. This display was new to me but performed very well. It’s mounted near the left grip and easy enough to reach while riding. In addition to the power button (which also activates the LED headlight and backlighting on the display by pressing power once more) it controls the five levels of pedal assist. At any time, in any level of assist the twist throttle can override the system and is capable of maxing out the power. This means you can be in the first level of assist but harness the fifth level of power! Additionally, if you’re worried about accidentally bumping the throttle while only meaning to use assist, there’s a red toggle button that disables the twist throttle! In my opinion, this whole setup is very well executed, this is exactly how I’d program assist and throttle if it were up to me. One possible missed opportunity however, is that you can disengage all drive modes on the display by arrowing down past the first level of assist… I wish this would have been a throttle-only mode as you can still choose to disengage the throttle with its own red toggle switch. In practice however, the lowest level setting on the display basically disengages everything but the display and headlight. So basically, you get a backlit cycle computer and a safety light, and that’s not to bad :)
To be honest, I really enjoyed this electric bike. I set out trying to comprehend what the low-budget Storm would offer and came away appreciating some of the extras while getting a better idea about range and power in actual sand and off-road environments. I’ve done little tests before but rarely maxed-out batteries (which I did here) and have never been on super-deep sand. The seven pedal levels really came in handy when climbing (the motor became overwhelmed on a medium-sized hill shown in the video review above) and then again when I ran the battery out. Even at the lowest gear level, I was standing up a lot while pedaling since the bike weighs more and the tires aren’t that efficient. I love that the saddle they chose is soft and the seat post suspension saved my back and neck on some of the rough terrain. Fat tire bikes can perform better in soft terrain like sand and snow if air pressure is lowered but that cuts down on range so for my test I kept it fairly high. Ultimately, I got about 13 miles of range at sea level using throttle mode almost exclusively. The SSR website says the Sand Viper has a 25 mile range and I buy that if you use pedal assist. If you’re looking for a solid fat ebike at a very good price and want it now… without some of the potential risks of crowdfunding, this could be a good option. I personally prefer full suspension ebike and like regular mountain bike tires but must admit that the smiles I got during my ride test and the “go anywhere feeling” that I felt was quite enjoyable.
- One year comprehensive warranty serviced through dealers, pretty solid for an ebike under $1,500
- Offers both pedal assist (five levels) as well as throttle on demand and even includes a throttle off switch (rare for low-price offerings)
- Backlit LED screen is easy to see and navigate while riding without taking your hand off the grip, controls the headlight which runs off the main battery
- good weight distribution with a mid-mounted battery pack on the downtube, battery is locking and removable for convenient charging and lighter transport of the frame
- The large 26″ x 4″ tires add some cushion and the padded saddle and seat post shock add some more, nice extra that make distance riding more comfortable
- Oversized SIS Index shifter may be entry-level but works well on fat bikes like this which may be used in the snow… easier to shift gears when wearing gloves thanks to the big levers
- Ergonomic grips are a nice touch, I also liked the oversized Wellgo platform pedals which felt stiff and grippy (important for snow-riding when it’s wet and you’re wearing boots)
- Available in black, white and red frame colors (the paint looked very nice to me considering the price point), though the frame is only available in one size and only high-step
- Solid Tektro mechanical disc brakes with average-sized 160 mm rotors, these are controlled by Tektro e-bike brake levers that cut power to the motor when pulled
- Adjustable side-mounted kickstand keeps the Sandviper from tipping over at bike racks, quick lunch stops or into your car while being stored in the garage
- No quick release system on either wheel, this can make transporting less convenient – especially for a larger fat tire style ebike
- No water bottle cage mounting points (space taken by battery and controller), limited options for adding a rear rack or fenders
- Front-mounted motor adds weight to steering making the bike less nimble, also reduces traction when on loose surfaces vs. rear wheel drive
- Limited availability right now, relatively new player in the ebike space but established track record in internal combustion driven transports like mopeds and motorcycles
- You have to turn the battery pack on before you can turn the LCD display panel on and begin operating the bike, this could cause some confusion
- Official Site: http://www.ssrmotorsports.com/store/ebicycle/sandviper.html
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/3g7w4kSetS2QT2te9