- A relatively affordable, well-supported, feature packed electric bike with plastic fenders, a chain cover, integrated LED Lights, and an adjustable suspension fork
- With shorter reach and an adjustable-angle stem, this ebike feels pretty upright and relaxed, the gel saddle and basic ergonomic grips provide a lot of comfort, along with the fatter tires
- Available in two frame sizes and two beautiful color schemes (satin white or black), pedal assist feels smooth and natural because it uses a torque sensor, satisfying trigger throttle, hydraulic disc brakes with motor inhibitors
- The tires are pretty basic (no puncture protection or reflective stripes), the plastic fenders are durable but rattle more than steel or aluminum, sturdy rack with pannier rods and bungee loop, great kickstand, optional suspension seat post
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Surface 604 is an electric bike company that has in business since 2013, selling to both the United States and Canada. Their products emphasize value pricing but often mix in higher quality components, hydraulic disc brakes, a sealed torque sensing bottom bracket, integrated lights, and a highly adjustable suspension fork in this case. You can find their bikes at a broad network of dealers and online direct (if you don’t live near a dealer). What I love about the Rook and the Colt is that together, they offer two frame styles and a wide range of fit options as well as two color pallets. The Rook is the most approachable with it’s step-thru frame and comes in 17″ and 19″ sizing. The stem is highly adjustable and there’s plenty of room to lower the saddle height without colliding with the cargo rack in the back. They’ve paid a lot of attention to detail here by including bottle cage bosses along the base of the downtube (yes, not the most convenient to reach but better than skipping them), and designing a rack with narrow-gauge pannier hangars for use with quick connect clip-on bags like this. Of course, at this price point, not everything is perfect. The plastic fenders are a bit close and can zip and jitter when riding on rough terrain, the tires are pretty basic (no puncture protection or reflective sidewalls), and the trigger throttle is limited in power and speed by the level of pedal assist that you choose. Still, for a bike that comes with a comprehensive two-year warranty and rides this well, I feel that it’s a great value… and I like how it looks, the graphics and branding elements are understated and the satin paint hides fingerprints but isn’t obnoxiously glossy.
The motor driving this bike feels smooth, doesn’t make a whole lot of noise (for an internally geared hub motor), but still provides a good amount of torque and power. I’m not sure on the model number, but it’s made by a company called Bafang. I have seen their products installed on many other electric bikes over the years and come to trust them. This motor is silver, and matches the thicker 12 gauge spokes that support the rear wheel. The rims are double walled alloy and painted black to blend in with the tires. I’ve already griped about the tires a bit, but they aren’t all that bad… I appreciate the 26″ diameter because this lowers the frame a bit compared to 27.5″ or the most common 28″ city size. This raises the attack angle a bit which, means they won’t span cracks as efficiently, but the fatter 2.1″ diameter adds air volume and comfort. The bike felt stable and tracked nicely. I have been on some cruiser style ebikes that suffered from speed wobble, where the front wheel would shake back and forth at certain speeds. I did not encounter that here, and I feel that the combination of lowered weight and stiffer frame design (with the double tubing) provides strength and stiffness. It’s nice to have your pedal power instantly transferred into the drivetrain of a bicycle, and it’s empowering to feel quick steering response, but your body will still be cushioned by the tires, front shock, ergonomic grips, and gel saddle. For those who want even more comfort, Surface 604 sells a nice suspension seat post for $99 with a shim to make it fit the seat tube perfectly. Considering that the motor can propel this ebike up to 20 mph (32 km/h) in the highest level of assist, it’s something I would strongly consider for myself. Shops that sell both regular bikes and e-bikes frequently tell me that the e-bikes get significantly more use and are ridden for longer periods of time… because they are more fun or more practical for commuting. This motor should support upwards of 25 miles per charge, and maybe as high as 60 miles, depending on the level of assist you choose, how much you use the throttle, and how actively you pedal. But, because it uses a torque sensing bottom bracket, you are forced to push at least a little bit to get the motor working in pedal assist mode. It’s actually very satisfying because the bike responds naturally. Some of the older Surface 604 models (and many current cheaper models) use cadence sensors that produce an on/off feeling that can be a bit startling if you accidentally move the crank arm. The strain/torque sensing unit is built into a plastic part that’s fitted on the left side of the bottom bracket, and it seemed well sealed and compact, making it durable. In summary, the motor and pedal assist system worked very well for me on this electric bicycle, I only wish the throttle could go full power without having to click the control pad to raise the level of assist. That said, the default assist level that comes up when the bike is powered on is level 1, so the throttle is live instantly. It’s nice to know that if you do accidentally bump the throttle, the bike won’t be zooming away on you with full power.
Powering this bike is an above-average capacity 48 volt Lithium-ion battery pack with name brand Samsung cells. It weighs a bit more than average at 7.5 lbs because of the sturdy alloy casing, but I love that it offers a USB port on the right hand side. This port can be used whether the battery is mounted to the bike or stored separately, acting as a backup power source. With nearly half a kilowatt hour of electricity on hand, there’s plenty of support for the hub motor, lights, backlit display, and accessories. The motor is rated between 500 watts and 750 watts, producing up to 65 Newton meters of torque, which is quiet good for how small and quiet it is. This sort of performance uses energy faster however, so it comes back to which level of assist you choose, how often you use the throttle, and the torque sensor setup. For me, it’s just nice to know that this thing can climb pretty well (I experienced this with some of the grassy hills on a golf course I rode through for the video review above). Some ebikes feel zippy, and others feel subtle and sort of build. This one offered a good mix of both sensations, and I attribute it to the torque sensor and more powerful drive system. The battery pack seats in to the frame dock from the left side of the bike and comes in at an angle. This allows the top tube to be very close to the battery and ultimately, lower the stand over height. The frame tubing protects the pack from kicks and scratches, but the alloy casing seemed pretty tough anyway. There’s a spring-loaded key slot on the left side of the downtube, which unlocks the battery. And, you pull a lever to release and lift it up. I like having the lever because it provides more secure lifting and holding. Large batteries like this are expensive and can be damaged if dropped or left in extreme hot or cold temperatures. I have read that the cells are least stressed when filled between 20% and 80% and the display panel has a better than average 10-bar charge level infographic to help you estimate your range and time to next charge. The charger itself is pretty basic, just a standard, lightweight, two-amp charger. You could easily fit it into a trunk bag and bring it with you for quick fill-ups at the office or a friend’s house.
I like the display that was chosen for this bike, even though it’s not removable. It just seems solid and tough… I recently saw the plastic hinge on a much fancier $4,800 ebike display crack and break during careful routine service, and quickly came to appreciate how some brackets can swivel and be removed without weakening. We fixed that display by using zip ties :) Anyway, the display that comes with the Rook and Colt does swivel easily (to reduce glare while riding), has a very large inset LCD that is easy to read at a distance, and has an intuitive and reachable button pad to interact with. This display isn’t trying to hide, and it just works well. The top left has the 10-bar battery indicator, there’s speed near the top right, your level of assist (0-5) are at the very bottom, and a bunch of trip stat menus like trip distance, odometer, max speed, etc. are listed in the middle. The bike starts in assist level 1 but you can use the minus key to go down to zero and pedal without assist or throttle active. This mode is useful for keeping track of ride stats and running the lights. The lights are pretty neat, because they will activate automatically based on how dark it is outside, or you can manually switch them on by holding the light icon on the button pad. Of course, the plus button raises assist. Holding the power button turns the display on and off, and the i button cycles through stats or enters the settings menu if you tap it quickly two times. From here, there are several options including: Data Reset, Units (Metric or Imperial), Light Sensitivity (for the headlight and backlight), LCD Backlight Brightness, Automatic Off Timer, Maintenance Warning Settings, Password, Wheel Diameter Settings, and Top Speed Adjustment. I don’t think you can adjust the wheel diameter or top speed adjustment without the password, and that requires contacting the company. Some of the older Rook and Colt models could reach higher top speeds, but that’s technically illegal for many bike paths and it wears the motor out faster. Many shops have told me that customers often want to ride slower than 20 mph, and you can achieve this by limiting which level of assist you select: Level 1 is ~6 mph, 2 ~9 mph, 3 ~14 mph, 4 ~17 mph, and Level 5 is ~20 mph. I just appreciate that there is only one power button to press in order to activate the display panel… that it seems tough and water resistant, and that you don’t have to memorize too many fancy button combinations to get things working. The one secret you might be interested however, is that holding the minus key will activate walk mode. This allows the bike to help you move through grass, up ramps, or limp home in the event of a flat tire. Do keep an eye on the tire pressure because it’s easier to get a pinch flat if you allow it to drop too low and run into a sharp curb.
There’s a lot to explore on this product and I appreciate the decisions that were made to keep it affordable but not cheapen the parts and performance too much. The suspension fork has compression adjust with lockout, to conserve energy and improve handling on smooth roads… it even has preload adjust. No, it’s not an air fork, but it’s also not one of those forks with hidden preload clickers and no lockout. The 9-speed cassette gives you lots of pedal speed options, and the Shimano Altus derailleur is a step up from entry-level. It looks pretty nice, seems positioned out of the way (tucked under the right chain stay), and uses faster trigger shifters vs. the big thumb shifters on other products. The cockpit on this bike is fairly clean, even with the big display, trigger throttle (which is easy to reach and offers variable speed output depending on how far you press), and ebike specific hydraulic disc brake levers. Whenever you brake, the motor instantly shuts off. It’s a great feature, and one that is often skipped when torque sensing assist is implemented… because it’s already so much more responsive than cadence sensing. Yes, the grips are pretty cheap, they don’t lock on and could spin if you really bear down. Thankfully, they are fairly comfortable and could be upgraded significantly for just $20. While exploring the bike closely, I noticed what appears to be a stainless steel insert at the rear dropout to protect the softer alloy frame from the motor power being exerted on the axle. I also saw how they organized the power cable for the motor (which is a bit exposed) so that it’s not interfering with the derailleur cable or rear light power cable. Be careful not to let the bike tip onto the right side, because this is where the fancier bits are. The front wheel and seat post collar are quick release, which makes adjustment and servicing easier but also makes them vulnerable to theft and tampering. Consider a locking seat leash cable and always loop your front wheel with the frame when locking. Mounting a folding lock to the base of the downtube, where those bottle cage bosses are, could be a good thing. And finally, it seems like the bar that Surface 604 specced for this bike offers a bit of rise but is shorter than some (especially the swept-back cruiser bars). And, my guess is that this allows it to fit between cars and through doorways easier. It all works together well and makes for an enjoyable and empowering ride. The shorter reach and comfortable design make it ride like a cruiser, but it offers the utility and durability of a city bike. Big thanks to Surface 604 for partnering with me on this post and shipping me a demo unit for the review, which I passed onto a shop after the videos. I was impressed by the packaging and had the bike arrive in great shape while visiting family in the US. It gave me the full “online order” experience, which is neat to see and hopefully helps relate to actual customers. I welcome your feedback in the comment section below and the Surface 604 forums.
- I love how Surface 604 is offering a high-step and step-thru version of this bike (the high-step is called the Colt) and that the Rook comes in two frame sizes and two color choices, there’s a lot of adjustability for fit and relatively low standover height on this particular model, but the frame didn’t flex
- Excellent hydraulic brake setup with adjustable-reach levers that are easier to pull (if you have small or sensitive hands) and motor inhibitors to override assist and throttle
- Pretty decent drivetrain, Shimano Altus is only one step above the Tourney entry-level but you get nine gears here and the derailleur is really tucked in, I especially like the trigger shifters vs. the big thumb shifters on some other affordable ebikes
- The touch points are comfortable and you get an adjustable suspension fork (with rebound adjust, compression adjust, and lockout), I like the gel saddle and grips, even though the grips aren’t locking… consider upgrading to something like this if you find that they spin on you
- I appreciate how Surface 604 is selling through shops and direct, their prices are really competitive but they use nicer hardware like sealed headsets and bottom brackets, the integrated lights are a big deal for me too, it seems like many competing products use a non-integrated rear light which requires two AA batteries
- Good weight distribution, the battery is low and center on the frame, I feel like the tubing protects the pack well but is also really approachable on this model
- I tested the USB Type A port with my iPhone and it worked! Even when the bike is turned off or the battery is disconnected, you can maintain or charge your portable electronic devices (but you might want to use a right-angle USB adapter and zip ties to keep the wires from sticking out and getting snagged)
- I like how the rear rack is welded onto the frame and that it is color matched, there’s a sturdy deck on top for a trunk bag and the saddle and there’s plenty of room for the seat to come all the way down, you can also hang clip-on panniers on the special narrow rods along both sides, or use bungee cords with the lower loops
- I like how the branding is subtle and feel that the paint job on these ebikes is a step above some of the competition, they use satin finish which looks more premium and I really appreciate the white option to be more visible at night… note the brown highlights on the top-tube which is an area that could get kicked or more dirty when you stand over the frame (the brown will help to hide this)
- The display panel is not removable but does swivel easily and feels pretty tough, I especially like the 10-bar battery infographic vs. just 5-bars on many competing displays
- Both wheels use thicker spokes for strength, the rear wheel uses the most thick at 12 gauge which helps to secure the powerful hub motor, this bike definitely feels zippy in the highest level of assist and throttle
- The comfort is already pretty good with the shorter reach, adjustable stem, suspension fork, and gel saddle, but Surface 604 also offers a nice Suntour NCX suspension seat post and shim at a discounted rate of $99 when you buy the bike
- Surface 604 has been operating since 2013 and I’ve reviewed a bunch of their other ebikes, I feel like their comprehensive year-long warranty is good and they offer solid customer support considering the more affordable pricing
- Great attention to detail here, they used a nicer Satori adjustable stem, upgraded Wellgo pedals, and even included bottle cage bosses on the base of the downtube!
- The tires are kind of basic, they don’t include a special puncture protective liner or have reflective sidewall stripes, I do appreciate wider size of them (26″ x 2.1″), for comfort and stability but might replace them with something like this down the line
- The plastic fenders and chain cover reduce weight and won’t get bent or rust like aluminum or steel, but they do rattle a bit more, and the front fender arrived a bit warped to the side… so I put some of the foam packing material underneath and it straightened out over a couple of days :)
- The Bafang hub motor has its power cable run in from the right axle and it’s just a bit vulnerable to snags and bends there, plus it crowds the light cable and shifter cable a bit
- The trigger throttle power output is limited by the level of assist being used, this means you can’t use it as a quick override to climb easier or go faster… they might have done this as a safety feature since the bike starts in level 1 assist where the throttle is active
- There’s no slap guard on the right chainstay, but the shifter wire and motor cable are both run along the top and will protect the frame if the chain bounces down, the chainring does not have a guide or bash guard… but that’s probably not a huge deal for a city cruiser bike like this
- The headlight worked surprisingly well, it has a pretty bright and focused beam that does more than just keep you visible, however, it is mounted to the suspension arch and may bounce up and down on bumpy terrain compared to if it had been mounted to the crown, headset, stem, or handlebar above the moving part of the fork
- Official Site: https://surface604bikes.com/products/rook-electric-cruiser-bike
- More Pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/m7Qg3nAeJFPrZFs52