- A feature-complete and approachable step-through hybrid electric bike available in two frame sizes and two colors. The Rook comes standard with an integrated rear rack, fenders, and lights that run off of the main battery pack. The rear light activates when braking, the bike has two USB charging ports, and there's an optional battery size upgrade!
- A rare combination of a torque sensing with a hub motor delivers a smooth and responsive riding experience. The bike also comes with a trigger throttle, so you can relax or add power to climb hills or catch up to friends. Upright comfort-oriented geometry with a quality adjustable angle stem, wider swept-back handlebar, ergonomic grips, adjustable suspension fork, and high volume 2.4" tires.
- Excellent stopping power thanks to Tektro Auriga hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors and motor inhibitors. The bike will ship with a SRAM X5 or Shimano Alivio groupset that are known for reliability and crisp shifting. The 9-speed cassette offers smaller steps between gears than most entry-level ebikes which provides a more comfortable pedal experience.
- Larger color display now also includes an integrated full sized USB charger in the base, tires are moped rated and include reflective sidewall stripes for safety, the battery charge port is next to the right crank arm which could make it vulnerable but the kickstand is far back and won't create pedal lock. No slap guard on the right chainstay which leaves the paint vulnerable to scratches when going over bumps. Limited 11-32 tooth cassette vs. 34 or 42 on some comparable models.
This review was provided for free, but Surface 604 did provide a temporary demo bike and accessories to test. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased with you, this video and writeup are not meant to be an endorsement of S604 products. I welcome your corrections, additions, and feedback in the comments below, and the Surface 604 electric bike forums.
- Surface 604 dates all the way back to 2013. I was lucky enough to review their first product, the Element electric fat bike, in 2014. S604 products are designed to be affordable, but capable on a wide variety of terrain. Their designers frequently choose parts that are a step up in terms of durability and quality because they come from the mountain bike background. Surface 604 is based in British Columbia, Canada. Their name denotes the 604 phone area code for the Vancouver region, which is home to ocean, city, and mountain conditions. The brand is sold in the US and Canada.
- The big differences that I noticed in the 2021 version of the Rook and Colt models include wider 700mm handlebar for improved steering control and leverage over the larger 27.5″ x 2.4″ tires (previous models were 26″). The battery pack now comes in 14ah as a base (672wh) and optional 20ah (960wh) for extended rides. Other highlights include the hollow spindle bottom bracket, 180mm hydraulic disc brakes with rear light activation and motor inhibitor, and higher torque motor output of 45nm. The bike is available in two colors and two frame sizes, which is rare… I tested the M/L 19.5″ frame size for this review.
- The bike looks beautiful, S604 did a wonderful job selecting the paint colors, and offering two color schemes (light and dark). Notice how the wires and power cables are mostly hidden because they are routed through the frame, and the battery is half hidden and positioned low on the downtube vs. high up or on the rear rack.
- Most of the really affordable ebikes are not available in different frame sizes. With the Rook and Colt, you get a small/medium and medium/large frame choice, which improves body position and ride comfort. This sense of control and response is further supported by the torque sensor pedal assist here vs. a cadence sensor that feels more like “on/off” than smooth dynamic output. The downside is that it can be more sensitive to work on and occasionally activate due to chain bounce and not pedaling.
- Prior generations of this ebike used grayscale displays or a smaller color one. The 2021 Rook and Colt have large 3.5″ color LCD screens that are easier to see in daylight and easier to read. I love that there’s a precise battery percentage readout vs. five bars, and also a full sized USB type A port at the base of the display! This allows you to charge or maintain a smartphone or other portable electronic device.
- The controller and display have a settings menu that can be unlocked to allow the bike to go a bit faster ~26mph. This might be fun for people who enjoy riding off-road or want a Class 3 speed pedelec experience. By default, it’s Class 2 20mph (32km/h) with throttle.
- I appreciate the kickstand choice here, because it offers adjustable length. It’s mounted using a standard 40mm bolt spacing, which makes it easy to replace. They positioned it far enough back that it won’t cause pedal lock when backing the bike up, and it should support a loaded rear rack well.
- I appreciate that Surface 604 has a higher weight rating for these ebikes at 300lbs + 50lbs on the rear rack! That means heavier riders can enjoy the bikes and still feel safe. Part of what makes this possible is the thicker 13 gauge spokes and 36 spoke setup here vs. 32 or 28 on some other ebikes. Do keep an eye on the wheels and spokes to keep them true and taught.
- With the larger 27.5″ wheel size on the most recent version of the Rook and Colt, the ride experience feels smoother and more stable. The attack angle of the tires is lower, so they roll over cracks and dips more easily. There’s a bit of added weight, but the longer handlebar helps to give you control over that, and it all works quite well.
- Surface 604 was able to maintain the same relatively low standover height of the bike, despite using larger 27.5″ wheels. That’s pretty impressive, and it makes the bike approachable and safe feeling for people with knee and hip sensitivity. I like that they went with a mid-step frame because it improves frame stiffness vs. a full “wave” step-thru.
- Given the larger heavier wheels+tires here compared to last generation, I was still impressed by the motor power and torque. Surface 604 reps told me that the motor can produce up to 45 newton meters of torque and peak out well above 500 watts, and my experience riding was quite satisfying. Keep in mind that I’m 5’9″ at 135lbs (61kg).
- This ebike has powerful hydraulic disc brakes with large 180mm rotors. This provides a strong mechanical advantage and cooling, and both brake levers also send a signal to cut off motor power. I appreciate that the brake levers offer adjustable reach to work well with different sized hands, it works well with the two frame size options.
- In addition to stopping the bike, the braking system also activates the rear light when the lights are off. This increases your visibility and improves safety. When the lights are on, it appears that the rear light just stays constant during braking.
- This ebike is a hybrid, meaning that it blends city and mountain components. You can see that with the suspension fork, handlebar bore, hydraulic disc brakes, and upgraded spindle. The riser stem with adjustable angle option feels sturdy and strong, the medium-sized comfort saddle was plush, and the larger aluminum pedals gave me a sense of confidence when pedaling and standing while riding off curbs and over roots.
- I love that the company offers two battery pack sizes! The standard 672 watt hour is already above average, in terms of capacity. If you want to go even higher, the 960 watt hour pack is a great fit for $400 more and only adds 2.3lbs. Although I did not see it, the high capacity battery is said to be a bit wider and bulge out on the left side of the frame about a half an inch.
- My understanding is that many of the Surface 604 bikes now use the same Reention Dorado battery interface, so the pack can be shared! This is a more open battery standard, which means you can have the batteries repacked or purchase them from generic suppliers someday if S604 changes their design or goes out of business.
- This is a little thing, but I like how the suspension forks match the frame colors. They chose a black one for the dark gray color scheme and a white one for the light color scheme :) the forks also offer preload adjust to “pre load” the spring for heavier riders, and lockout to reduce bobbing when riding on a very smooth surface.
- In addition to the full length fenders, this ebike also comes with a plastic chain cover to keep your right pant leg or dress end from getting greasy and snagged on the chain and chainring. The cover has a reflective section designed in, which adds to the visual footprint created by the reflective tires and side-visible lights.
- Surface 604 has some cool optional accessories including a sturdy Ergotec handlebar mirror for spotting traffic (shown in the video review), a suspension seatpost from SR Suntour, and some genuine leather saddle bag panniers that are guaranteed to fit the bike.
- Lots of changes from previous generations for easier maintenance and repairs, for example, the controller has been changed to use standard XT60 connectors and is much easier to reach for diagnostics and repairs when necessary. Notice the quick disconnect for the motor, headlight, display, brake motor inhibitors, and trigger throttle. The controller has also been upgraded to produce 25 amps of power output for that zippy powerful ride feel. Many cheaper ebikes use 18 amp controllers.
- The company has been around since 2013 and earned my trust. I feel like they produce a quality product and offer good support. I try to communicate this whenever I have covered multiple generations of products.
- Older Rook models featured tires without puncture protection or reflective sidewall stripes, so it’s great to see the reflective striping on this new 2021 generation. However, I still think they do not include extra puncture resistance. The rep told me that tires have been difficult to come by in recent years, so they got custom ones made by Panaracer! I saw a “moped” label which suggests that the rubber is thicker than normal, so hopefully that helps with thorns and the like. Always keep the tire pressure within the recommended range to reduce pinch flats :)
- The charger for this ebike is pretty basic, though I do appreciate the branding they did. It’s fairly compact, has a removable wall-side cord to reduce length, and it only weighs ~1.4lbs, but it only puts out 2 amps. This makes it slower than some of the 3 and 4 amp chargers I’ve seen from other companies, which is especially relevant if you get the upgraded 20 amp hour battery (960 watt hour) because it could take 7+ hours for a full charge. I’ve also heard that the barrel style charger plugs can ark easier or crack the plug socket if bumped.
- The charging port on the battery pack is positioned low on the left side of the bike, directly in the path of the left crank arm. This could cause the cord to get snagged or cracked if the crank arms turn while the bike is plugged in. The battery lock cylinder is also on the left (non-drivetrain) side of the bike. Ideally, both the lock and charging port would be up high and on the right side of the bike to be less vulnerable and easier to reach.
- The rear rack is welded to the frame, which means it cannot be removed and adds weight to the overall build. The upside is that it won’t rattle loose over time, it’s color matched and has the pannier hangers, bungee loops, and flat slats on top, and is rated to 50lbs (22.6kg). This rack would probably work well with child seats like the Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxi, and has the nice integrated rear light well positioned.
- The ergonomic grips are not locking, which means that if you bear down on them you can twist them forward and back (or even slip them off the ends if you really go for it). Fortunately, the relaxed position of the riser stem and handlebar mean that you won’t be bearing down on the grips the way you might with a mountain bike. I also felt that the grips were a little hard vs. softer rubber, but replacing them with something like the popular Ergon GP1 isn’t too expensive or difficult.
- I was surprised to see that there was no slap guard sticker on the right chainstay. This is a minor annoyance, but it does mean that the paint can get chipped off if the chain is bouncing up and down a lot while riding off-road. Consider a piece of clear box tape or aftermarket velcro slap guard like this if you ride fast and on bumpy terrain.
- The rear derailleur and motor power cable are not protected by a derailleur guard, which mean that they could get bent in shipping or if the bike tips over. Many bicycles forego derailleur guards, but it’s more relevant here because of the hub motor and extra cable there… just be careful not to get snags and consider using extra zip ties if your cable protrudes a lot.
- As mentioned earlier, one drawback to torque sensing pedal assist is that the controller may think that you’re pedaling when it’s really just the chain bouncing down hard. The strain plate (mounted on the inside of the right chainstay rear dropout area) can also be more sensitive to over-tightening the rear bolt in my experience.
- Hub motors are zippy, work well with throttles, aren’t as hard on the drivetrain, and cost less than mid-drives, but usually do not allow for quick release (which is the case here) so only the front wheel has that feature. It just adds time and requires tools to work on the rear wheel and motor.
- The headlight performed well, but is mounted to the arch of the suspension fork which means it adds to the unsprung weight of the bike and will bounce up and down when riding on rough terrain vs. being “suspended” up on the steer tube, stem, or handlebar. This lower position won’t be as visible to high-riding automobiles and the light be may be partially obstructed by a front fender and tire.
- Due to supply chain challenges, this ebike may come with a SRAM X5 or Shimano Alivio drivetrain and the shifters are slightly different… that’s not a huge deal to me, but you may care. Furthermore, the fenders may be plastic SKS which are durable and light but noisier than the aluminum alloy ones.