- A step-thru urban electric bike that hits a sweet spot between cruiser comfort and city efficiency performance, adjustable angle stem, locking suspension fork and hydraulic disc brakes
- The bike comes with fenders, a sturdy oversized rack (with standard gauge pannier rods), integrated LED lights that run off the main battery pack and a USB charging port for convenience
- Available in two color schemes and two frame sizes, this ebike would make a great his and hers platform, not everyone wants to lift their legs high to get on (especially with a loaded rear rack)
- The frame is stiff and sturdy but that requires more metal which increases weight, annoying rubber cap on the battery charging port, throttle power is limited by assist level
The Surface 604 Rook weighs the same as her big brother the high-step Surface 604 Colt. And even though I’m personifying them as a “she and he” you get two frame sizes with the Rook, all of the same quality hardware and for many people… the frame is just going to be easier to mount and stand over. It still felt stiff and sturdy during my ride tests (a quality often sacrificed by step-thru’s) but my Girlfriend preferred it over many of the other demo bikes because she wasn’t worried about bumping her crotch or bruising her legs. The bike really stands out in a lot of ways comfort wise (ergonomic grips, tool-free adjustable angle stem, gel saddle, 80 mm suspension fork) but also impresses with mountain-bike level hardware. Rather than mechanical linear pull brakes you get hydraulic disc brakes which are easier to actuate regardless of hand size and strength, a sealed hollow spindle bottom bracket for durability and stiffness, a 10-speed drivetrain with upgraded SRAM X5 hardware and a thicker seat post. The normal callouts for an ebike like this are included fenders, integrated lights and a cargo rack, which the Rook delivers. But you also get a reflective chain guard, bottle cage bosses, special mounting points on the rack (for Yepp child seat and others) as well as a USB charging port on the battery (positioned high and mostly out of the way for pedaling). In my opinion, they really built something special given the lower ~$1,800 price point. Especially considering the two frame sizes and color choices mentioned earlier… that costs extra to do, and you get a year-long comprehensive warranty with three years on the frame.
Driving this bike is a zippy 500 watt internally geared rear-mounted hub motor. These are known for being lightweight, compact and drag-free. You may notice a bit of whirring noise in the video review above and that’s one of the compromises. You might hear it a bit when riding at high speed. I do appreciate the silver color of the hub which matches the thicker rear spokes. Rather than coming on abruptly like some other cadence sensing electric bike controllers, this motor feels smooth because it relies on a torque sensor. You do have to pedal with force to get it going but can always override using the trigger throttle. I have sort of a mixed view on the throttle because it’s spring loaded and can be pressed a little or a lot. This makes it smooth but unfortunately, the most power you get is limited by the level of assist chosen to pedal with. As someone who likes to pedal with a lower level of assist (to save power) but occasionally wants to zip past a car or power up a hill, I wish I had access to the full power of the motor with the throttle at all times vs. having to arrow up through five levels to get to the max.
Powering the motor, backlit display and LED lights is a capable 48 volt battery pack mounted halfway into the downtube. The cells are lightweight, long lasting Lithium-ion produced by Samsung and they won’t be as prone to developing a memory if not charged right away. I usually store my batteries in a cool dry location, avoiding extreme heat and cold. The pack locks to the frame securely with a keyed core and can be charged on or off the frame with its 2 Amp charger. The charger isn’t especially fast but it’s also not heavy or large. Given the rack design of the Rook you could easily add a trunk bag or panniers and take it along on every ride. The position of the battery is important, forward and low, because it balances out the motor and keeps the bike from being top heavy. The more you add to that rear rack, the more your handling will change and this is already a heavy e-bike at ~57.5 lbs. I think a lot of the weight comes from the larger motor, battery, heavy-duty rack and the suspension fork. For me, it works great and even my smaller girlfriend was able to handle the bike and feel comfortable. I guess the way weight is positioned really matters with these things and I think Surface 604 got it right.
Operating the bike is a two-step process once the battery is charged and seated properly. Just press the power button on the button pad (mounted near the left grip) and the display lights up. From here you can use plus or minus symbols to choose from 1-5 pedal assist or down to zero and ride like a normal unpowered bicycle. There’s also an “i” symbol which rotates through different readouts but the standard ones include battery charge level, current speed and current assist level. The display is large and easy to read but not removable… you can angle it forward and back and it does feel solid but it could still get scratched at a bike rack or faded over time in the sun and rain. It should hold up well overall, most ebikes are designed to be highly water-resistant. One thing I love about the control pad is how easy it is to understand, there’s a light icon built in rather than forcing you to remember some menu system or a long-press as many other ebikes do. Due to the throttle placement, also on the left, you will have to reach a bit further to cycle through the display menus and power levels. While we’re up here at the cockpit, I want to call out the brake levers because I believe they offer adjustable reach (for people with smaller hands or those wearing gloves).
If you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan of the Rook for many reasons. I feel like they went above and beyond with hardware choices and set it up to be comfortable but also capable (power wise especially). You’ve got enough gears to handle most urban landscapes, a longer travel suspension fork with larger more comfortable tires and extras like ergonomic grips and a bottle cage mounting point below the downtube! So many of these little things get passed up, especially at the sub $2k price point. You don’t usually get color choices and often suffer from weight balance issues and frame flex in order to get a bike that’s easier to mount like this. Yes, the bike ends up weighing more but there’s nothing that has to be added to keep you dry or safe… it’s all setup and the parts will last. One other consideration is local availability. I believe the Surface 604 team is growing their dealer base but in the United States it could be somewhat limited. This is a Canadian company opperating out of Vancouver and the 604 number in their name is the phone area code which denotes city, sea and mountains. Fun! Big thanks to Surface 604 for partnering with me for this review and also to my girlfriend Mony for her wonderful laugh and great help testing :)
- Stiff and responsive step-thru frame design, I love how they were able to make this bike easy to approach and mount without sacrificing performance (many step-thru frames feel flexy)
- Excellent weight distribution front to rear, the downtube battery balances out the geared hub motor in the back… I appreciate that they didn’t go with a rack mounted battery as it keeps your cargo lower and allows for more weight there
- Wonderful safety and utility accessories with this ebike, fenders and chain cover keep you dry and integrated lights keep you seen without adding much effort for recharging, the rear light is wired through the frame vs. the fender (like many other bikes) which should help it last longer and stay dry
- The Rook offers a pretty comfortable ride, larger tires with more air reduce jar from little bumps and a decent suspension fork takes care of big bumps while supporting hands and wrists, the fork offers lockout so you can decrease bobbing if you’d like… for those who want even more comfort consider swapping the seat post with a suspension seat post (just check with Surface 604 on the correct diameter first)
- Adjustable angle stem lets you sit more upright if you prefer (or angle forward if you’ve got long arms), ergonomic grips and premium gel saddle help you ride further without getting uncomfortable
- Available in two sizes for improved fit and two colors so you can keep your bikes straight! I feel like this would make a great his and her model even though Surface 604 does offer a high-step version of the bike too… many people (guys or girls) appreciate a step-thru because it’s easy to mount (especially with a rear rack)
- The front wheel attaches with quick release making it easier to fit the bike into your car and some other tight spaces, you can also fix flat tires faster
- It’s pretty neat to have hydraulic disc brakes on a more value-priced urban electric bike like this, they will be easier to use (especially for people with smaller hands or weaker strength)
- This is a minor thing but I appreciate that they mounted the kickstand clear of the cranks and pedals so you can work on the bike or walk it backward with it down, I also think the kickstand they chose is of higher quality – it has adjustable length
- Reliable 10 speed drivetrain with SRAM X5 components, this is more than enough gears for neighborhood riding and should provide the range needed for climbing with extra weight or maintaining the ~20 mph top assisted speed
- At just under $2k I feel like the Rook offers great value for your money, it hits a sweet spot between quality parts (like the hollow spindle bottom bracket) and matched accessories and a price that people can afford for recreation
- The display is easy to read, you can swivel it forward and back to reduce glare, and it’s also pretty easy to operate without being distracting because you get a remote button pad near the left grip (press buttons without taking your hands off the wheel)
- The battery blends in with the frame, this bike doesn’t really stand out that much considering it’s a bit more affordable… and I like that the battery can be charged on or off the frame but locks securely with a key
- The flat pieces on top of the rear rack probably make it compatible with the Yepp child seat and other accessories without needing special adapters, I like the pannier rails on the sides and the little bungee loops near the base of the rack… it’s setup well for many scenarios
- At first I thought this bike didn’t have bottle cage bosses but then I found them below the downtube! Your water bottle, mini-pump or folding lock could mount here and should stay fairly protected thanks to the fender… but you could also get a trunk bag with bottle holster like these instead for that gear
- In addition to torque sensing pedal assist (which requires a bit more effort but is smooth and helps to extend battery life), this e-bike also comes with a trigger throttle to give you power on demand!
- You get a one year comprehensive warranty with three years on the frame, Surface 604 has been around for several years and is from Vancouver Canada, they seem to be easy to reach and work with
- The battery pack has a USB charging port on it so you could charge your phone or other portable electronic device! It’s on the right side (near the top) and could get in the way of pedaling a little bit so consider using a right angle adapter like one of these and maybe zip tying the cable to your bike frame
- The integrated rack and thicker tubing (to support an angled downtube and mid-mount battery) make this bike heavier at ~57.5 lbs
- Limited dealer network in the US at this time could make test riding and getting hands-on help more difficult than someo other electric bicycles
- I like how large the display panel is because it’s easy to read and it seems sturdy too (without crowding the shifters and brakes much) but it’s not removable so might take more damage in the weather and at the bike rack
- The grips are a little cheaper, they don’t lock which means they could rotate a little if you really bear down on them
- Part of me wishes the tires had reflective sidewall stripes to increase the visual footprint of the bike and keep you safer in town but with the lights, light-colored frame option and a reflector on the chain cover they are doing pretty well
- Even though this bike would probably do alright on packed dirt and a bit of light trail riding the stem is not setup for big drops or truly rigorous terrain, it could be forced out of position due to the adjustable angle feature so consider swapping it out if you ride hard
- Even though the throttle hardware offers variable power output you’re limited by the level of assist chose, I prefer to have full power with the throttle so I can override assist momentarily without pressing up on the assist buttons
- The rubber cap on the battery charging port is finicky to get in and it’s positioned near the left crank arm so don’t accidentally snag it and bend the charger plug