- A folding fat tire electric bike with smaller 20" wheels, adjustable height seat and stem with adjustable angle bars improves fit, quick release front wheel makes stowing in small spaces even easier
- Removable battery pack reduces weight when lifting and makes care easier, integrated headlight adds safety, basic independent rear light included (uses AAA batteries)
- No bottle cage mounts but there are bosses for a rear rack, seat must be removed to get the battery off and key must be left in the pack to operate the bike (more jingling and snag potential), solid one year comprehensive warranty
The Trail Viper is a folding fat-tire electric bike that combines portability with fun. It’s a “go anywhere” platform that benefits from smaller diameter wheels in two ways… they’re smaller and thus easier to store but also offer a mechanical advantage to the motor and your legs when pedaling. The custom 17″ frame feels surprisingly solid off-road and has been extended horizontally so you don’t feel squished as with some other folders. There’s a lot of adjustability with a quick release seat collar (seat goes up and down) and a telescoping stem (also goes up and down) with adjustable angle. Basically, whether you’re tall or short the bike can be setup to feel natural. Because it’s folding and you’re more likely to adjust everything to its smallest dimensions during trips it can be useful to make a little tic mark on the stem and seat post for quicker setup when you’re ready to ride again. This holds especially true for the seat post because you have to take it off in order to remove the battery pack. The battery can be charged on or off the bike but reduces weight by ~6 lbs if it’s off and that can make the platform easier to lift… same with the front wheel which has a quick release skewer. The first SSR Motorsports electric bike I tested was the 350W Sand Viper and it performed surprisingly well given the low price point. The trail viper matches that price ~$1,399 and introduces a nicer kickstand, rear LED light and softer grips. I really enjoyed this ebike because it’s unique but also well outfitted for a first generation build. There’s a quick shot of the Trailviper completely folded up with the seat post all the way down, we had just taken it out of the trunk and we didn’t even have to remove the front wheel to get it to fit.
Powering the Trail Viper is an extra wide 350 watt internally geared hub motor from Bafang. It reminds me of the one used for the Sondors Ebike but offers more leverage for climbing here due to the smaller wheel size. I’ve tested several folding bikes that use 250 watt motors but those usually run smaller hybrid or slick tires, the 350 watt size is great for this platform and surprisingly zippy. There’s an inline quick-disconnect so you can completely remove the rear wheel for maintenance. On the left side of the motor you’ve got a 160 mm mechanical Tektro Novella disc brake setup (that matches the front brake) and both brake levers include a motor inhibitor switch which is important tho disengage the system in pedal assist mode. Mechanical disc brakes require a bit more effort to actuate but they’re less expensive and easier to repair than hydraulic. For this type of bike (smaller wheels and lighter weight ~65 lbs than a full sized fat) the brakes work well. On the right side of the motor is a six speed cog set with entry-level Shimano Tourney TX derailleur. Lots of affordable ebikes use this drivetrain and the components should do alright if you clean them after dusty or sandy rides or every couple hundred miles and go for tuneups occasionally if the shifter begins making noises.
Powering the drive system, LCD display and integrated headlight is a 36 volt 10 amp hour Lithium-ion type battery. It’s built into a “silver fish” aluminum case that mounts just behind the seat tube. This position is great for protection of the battery and weight distribution across the frame, it’s not as clean as something like the e-Joe EPIK SE or EZ Pedaler X350 which have integrated packs but it’s much better than a rack based system in my opinion. At the top of the battery there’s a little flip up handle that’s useful for taking it off the frame and carrying it around (to and from the charger etc.) and there’s a basic LED power level indicator to communicate how full the pack is when you get there. Overall, it’s a good design and while I’m not sure what brand of cells are being used, I take comfort in the year long comprehensive warranty offered by SSR Motorsports. As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to take the seat and post off to get the battery off the frame and the charger is small and light for portability.
Activating the Trail Viper is a two step process where you turn the key to “on” in the battery pack and then press a rubber “on” button at the control pad. The LCD display panel used here is from Bafang and offers some advanced settings if you dig into the menu but the default readouts show battery level, assist level and speed. Assist defaults to 1 when you activate the bike and I like this because the throttle is operable in pedal assist mode but not at level 0. If you’re worried about accidentally bumping the throttle, you can press the red button near the right grip that disengages it. The demo unit I was testing in the video review above had the display setup for nine levels of assist and this was nice because folding bikes with smaller wheels tend to be less stable in my experience and these smaller increments let me find the perfect, comfortable speed. SSR uses a different display unit on their full sized Sand Viper fat bikes and I like that display too but it only offers five levels of assist to choose from. To activate the lights on the Trail Viper just hold the up arrow for a few seconds and to activate walk mode just hold down. I like that the main LCD unit is backlit (when the lights are switched on) and that it can swivel easily forward and back if not over tightened.
The Trail Viper is one of the most enjoyable folding electric bikes I’ve tried. The fat tires add a lot of comfort, stability and fun that’s often lacking on “traditional” folding ebikes. Even though it folds, the frame feels secure and there’s a lot of adjustability on the seat and stem height and even the stem angle. Yeah, there’s no bottle cage here but even if there was, it might spill water all over because the top tube is basically horizontal. For the price, this bike packs a punch in terms of features and I love that they included a tail light even though it’s not wired in. The motor size is just right in my opinion (to keep price and weight low) and the six speed drivetrain is just enough to get the job done. SSR Motorsports has really impressed me this past year because they’ve responded so quickly to customer feedback and added features without raising prices. I could see the Trail Viper becoming very popular and was simply amazed at how portable it could become when folded… even more so if you take off the front wheel. This is a company that’s built success in the gas powered motorcycle and scooter space with years of experience and dealer support, it launched in 2002 but only entered the ebike space in 2015. Even though they’re new-ish, to me it seems like they are doing a good job and offering products that appeal to a powersports crowd in form and function. Ebikes are quiet, light weight and relatively low maintenance compared to gas powered vehicles and while they might not go as fast or far on a tank of fuel, they can be perfect for a bit of exercise and fun for under-aged users who won’t need a license or insurance to get going.
- For a folding electric bike, especially one with larger wheels and a heavier build, it felt sturdy to ride and steer, it didn’t rattle when riding off-road
- The smaller 20″ wheels provide a mechanical advantage to the hub motor and allow this bike to start quickly and climb well even though the motor isn’t especially large
- It folds down to a surprisingly small size (at the center of the frame, the stem and with the removable front wheel) we fit it into the back area of a small SUV without folding the rear row of seats down!
- Removable battery pack reduces the overall weight (great for lifting during transport/storage) and is easy to charge off the bike, the charger is light weight ~1.3 lbs and has a metal cuff at the end port so it should be more durable if dropped or stepped on
- Offers nine levels of pedal assist with full-power throttle override, given the smaller wheel (which are less stable than large ones) it’s nice to have many incriments to choose from with assist, also the throttle can be completely shut off so it isn’t accidentally bumped
- 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 the battery pack mounted behind the seat tube, it’s also well protected by the frame tubing if the bike tips or is being stored in an awkward position
- The seat post shock, semi-ergonomic rubber grips and fat 20″ x 4″ tires add some cushion, especially if used at lower PSI ~10 but this will drain the battery quicker, in general this is one of the only folding fat ebikes I’ve ever seen
- In addition to an adjustable seat post and stem height there is also an angle adjust on the stem so you can bring the handlebars closer and improve fit
- 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
- 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, the levers are upgraded and include rubber for improved grip and vibration dampening
- Upgraded sealed cartridge bottom bracket should be more durable when exposed to dust, sand, snow and water
- Sturdy side-mounted kickstand keeps the Trailviper from tipping over at bike racks or in your garage, it’s mounted towards the back to avoid contact with feet while pedaling
- One year comprehensive warranty serviced through dealers, pretty solid for a 500 watt ebike under $2,000
- To remove the battery you basically need to take the seat post off, it has a quick release collar so this isn’t a big deal but it does take extra time and can be tricky to setup exactly as high or straight, consider adding a tic mark on your seat post to help with alignment
- As with many folding electric bikes, this one doesn’t feature a bottle cage mount, there are bosses on the rear portion of the frame for adding a rack which could be used for water storage or you could get a a CamelBak
- The battery requires the key to be in and turned to the “on” position in order for the bike to activate, this means the key can jingle around (if you have a keychain attached) or snag more easily when riding
- At the time of this review only one frame size was available, also the rear light is not integrated and may therefore be easier to forget and leave on (which will drain its battery)
- Official Site: http://www.ssrmotorsports.com/store/ebicycle/electric_bicycle-index.htm
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/Y9dgYTTMjo4r12MU9