The electric fat bike space has really blossomed since 2015 when they seemed like a novelty to me. Products like the RadRover, Voltbike Yukon, and ultra-affordable Sondors Fat Bike have transformed a niche product, meant to address soft terrain like sand and snow, into an everyday experience. And they make a lot of sense, fat tires comfortable and capable for use on varied terrain but they aren’t as efficient or lightweight as traditional or even plus-sized tires. They require more effort to move… and that’s where electric assist and throttle power come in. The Téo S and more expensive S Limited shown here offer both drive modes. It’s a product that seeks to address comfort, strength, style, utility, and range in a way that the other value products do not. And in my opinion, it’s still a good value. The original owner gets a one year comprehensive warranty but will have to unbox and assemble the bike. It’s the same situation for the competing products mentioned above. However, not all of those products offer a 9-speed drivetrain with upgraded Shimano groupset, hydraulic disc brakes, integrated lights, or custom fenders and rack. And it goes beyond the obvious, you get a tapered head tube for improved strength, an adjustable angle stem and ergonomic grips for improved comfort, and a derailleur guard and alloy chain guide to protect the drivetrain and keep the chain on track. And this is a niche electric bike that manages to come in two frame sizes and three colorways. It’s doing a lot right in my opinion, but of course it’s not perfect. Weighing it at over 70 lbs (with the rack and steel fenders) it’s one of the heaviest e-bikes I have tested in recent years, and those steel fenders can rust if scratched and rattle a bit on rough terrain. The display panel is pretty standard, easy to use and read on the go, but it offers nine levels of assist which can become tedious. And the twist throttle, while able to override pedal assist at full power, requires a moment of cadence activation before it goes live… that means you have to pedal for a half-a-turn before you can use it! To me, that’s a bummer because I’d like to rely on the throttle to start the bike and save my knees, or in a pinch while riding off-road. The founder of the company is enthusiastic and responsive, their website is great, and the customers seem to be delighted. There’s a lot to celebrate with this one but we’re talking about a smaller company with seemingly limited inventory. You may face shipping delays, as Patrick did, because smaller companies usually don’t order as much inventory from manufacturers in Asia and thus, are de-prioritized. What I see here is a lot of creativity, attention to detail, and initiative that has produced an attractive and enjoyable end product.
Driving the Teo S and Teo S Limited is a 500 watt internally geared hub motor that peaks out around 750 watts and is said to produce up to 80 Newton meters of torque. In practice, it is very zippy and satisfying, but does produce some whirring noise. The hub motor casing is extra wide to accommodate the wide rims and heavy tires found on fat bikes. It’s painted black in this case and blends in perfectly with the extra-thick black spokes and punched out, double-wall, black rims. I love that Téo went the extra mile to match their tire liners to the frame color (red in this case). Internally geared hub motors balance increased torque and power against smaller form factor and this one nearly hides between the nine-speed cassette and 160 mm disc brake rotor… nearly. The disc brakes are a point of celebration and question for me because they have motor inhibitors built in to give you maximum control over the drive system, and are hydraulic vs. mechanical which tends to be easier to operate and more adjustable, but the rotors seem a bit small considering how large and heavy the bikes are. I’m used to seeing 180 mm or even 200 mm rotors on a lot of electric mountain bikes that weigh 46 or 50 lbs and this thing is 72 lbs. With a top assisted speed of 20 mph and the hardtail layout, perhaps you don’t have to worry about overheating or limited mechanical advantage here, the setup is more geared towards neighborhood rides and a bit of trails than true cross country or all mountain. Riding through the snow to town or across a forest path should be no problem. Patrick told me that he weighs ~320 lbs and the brakes have been fine, he had not owned it long enough to ride in the snow (I visited Vancouver Island to review this bike with him in the summer months). His tires were inflated at a higher PSI to be efficient and I found that the bike felt a little stiff and had more banging during my forest ride… but I only weigh 135 lbs so that’s part of it.
The powerful motor is a big focal point and needs to be capable for such a large off-road type of electric bicycle but the battery is just as important. The Téo S Limited is packing an impressive pack here with 48 volts and 17.4 amp hours for nearly a kilowatt hour capacity. This 9.2 lb pack is part of the reason the bike itself weighs so much, but I appreciate where and how it is mounted to the frame. The weight is kept low and center to improve handling and balance, it’s even sunk into the downtube vs. bolted on top. It feels secure, blends in (especially on the black frame), and can be charged on or off the frame for convenience. I would definitely remove the battery when transporting the bike or doing maintenance on the wheels, tires, or drivetrain… I might even remove the fenders and rear rack depending on the situation. The battery has a sleek latch built into the top left side that doubles a handle when carrying it around. The charging port is located near the lower left, which is a bit vulnerable if the left crank arm passes by or you trip on the power cord. And there’s a 5 Volt full-sized USB port near the top right edge of the pack so you can tap into all of that juice to use your smartphone for GPS or power additional lights. I love how the Téo bikes come with an integrated headlight but wish the rear light was also integrated vs. running off of two AA batteries. That said, both lights are pretty nice in terms of quality and the rear light should remain visible even if you load up the rack. I noticed that Patrick’s bike had an additional Blaze-Lite rear light on the seat post that you could clip onto a backpack or helmet if it got blocked by a trunk bag. They probably carried this light over from the standard Téo S model. And while we’re on the topic of accessories, I like that they threw in a floating compass bell and upgraded Wellgo platform pedals! These things work great for people with larger feet or if the soles of your shoes are wet. They are stiff, the look great, and they tend to hold up better against rocks and tips than cage style pedals.
Operating the Téo S Limited is fairly similar to other mid-level ebikes. It has a good sized LCD display that’s controlled by an independent button pad mounted near the left grip. You hold the rubberized center button to turn it on and then tap that button several times to cycle through menus. Above and below the rubber power/select button are up and down arrow keys covered with plastic. These keys are satisfying to click but can get pulled up and broken more easily than rubber buttons in my experience. I have only seen this once in person, and it resulted from fabric getting snagged at the base of the button and then pulling up. I love that you can hold up to turn on backlighting for the display (and activate the headlight) and that you can hold down to activate a slow “walk mode” because that’s handy for pushing up ramps, difficult technical sections of trail, and even stairs. It surprised me that there were nine levels of assist pre-programmed into the display, and you might be able to change this by exploring the settings menu (quickly tap the power key twice to enter this menu). With nine gears and nine levels of assist, there are many ways to enjoy this bike… but to me it’s almost like too many. I’d rather have an always-active throttle and just five levels of assist to really feel in control, in the way that’s important to me on trails and at stops. As it stands, you’ll probably want to shift down to lower gears when slowing down or stopping because it can be slow and difficult to start up again in a high gear. If the throttle was live, this would be less of an issue. At least the cadence sensor used here is a higher resolution 12 magnet design vs. the cheaper 6 magnet products I’ve seen from some other companies. And back to those brake levers, they allow you to tell the motor to stop almost instantly at any time. I can see how an off-road bike with a twist throttle might want to err on the safe side. If you accidentally grab too hard onto the handlebar in a tense moment, it could result in accidental throttle activation. And I think this is why some other fat bikes use a trigger throttle instead. I actually like twist throttles, and there are still other products that leave them “hot” at all times despite the twist risk described here.
The Teo S Limited is an electric bike that swings for the bleachers in terms of accessories, design, and fit. You can really see how the founder of the company, who lives in Montreal Canada, has studied the landscape and created something more refined. When you have to balance cost though, there are some trade-offs to be made. Perhaps future iterations will address some of the minor questions I have about operation, or maybe that’s a benefit to some riders who care more about a safer-feeling more predictable experience than a super responsive one. I noticed that the frame wheelbase is a bit longer with a double-tube yolk vs. custom design that would bring it closer in towards the bottom bracket. When you take a 26″ wheel diameter and add a 4″ tire to it, you end up with a 29er feel. The wheels have a low attack angle that allows them to smooth out bumps and cracks by simply rolling over them vs. going around. But with a longer wheelbase the bike doesn’t turn as quickly or feel as nimble. Larger diameter tires create this feel and the longer frame exacerbates it. Again, I tested the Large frame so perhaps the smaller option would feel tighter, but I doubt it. That frame probably has a shorter seat tube and shorter reach by an inch or inch and a half. This is not a deal killer by any means, the bike feels very stable and steady, but it’s not the most technically capable fat e-bike out there. If you care to double or triple the price, you can get a much lighter, better balanced, but less utilitarian experience from bikes like the Bulls Monster E S or Haibike XDURO Fatsix. For those who enjoy the aesthetic of fat bikes, appreciate the support of electric assist, want some good range and power, and might want to stay dry or haul their groceries or work supplies around… the Téo S Limited is a great choice. I might consider the white frame to increase my visual footprint when riding at night but love how the motor, battery and cables blend in on the black one. This is definitely a purpose-built ebike with internally routed cables that stay mostly hidden regardless of color choice. I’d like to send a big thanks to Benoit, the founder of Téo for partnering with me on this review, providing some additional specs and insights about the company, and of course Patrick for inviting me to his home on Vancouver Island, Canada to test ride his bike. I had a great time and came away very impressed and just feeling good about a motivated focused company and positive fanbase.
- Good weight distribution, the semi-integrated downtube battery pack improves balance and lowers the center of gravity for improved handling and parking
- The Téo S Limited offers fenders and a rear rack for just $200 more than the Téo S which seems like a great deal to me, I love that all of their models appear to come with lights and they provide two rear lights with the Limited model (one that’s built into the rack so it won’t get blocked by trunk bags)
- I really like how the rear rack is positioned further out towards the back so that the saddle can come down low and accommodate shorter riders, it’s great that the frame also comes in two sizes to suite medium and taller people
- I think the frame just looks really cool, the top tube is angled down to reduce stand-over height and most of the cables are internally routed through the frame to reduce snags and improve aesthetic
- Comfort is a big deal to me, but so is performance, I love that the suspension fork on this bike has preload adjust to reduce bobbing and compression adjust for stiffness along with full lockout (great for heavier riders)
- The adjustable-angle stem allows you to easily transform this e-bike into a comfortable upright neighborhood bike or get forward, low, and stretched out for trail riding… but to keep an eye on it and tighten if you feel it coming loose at all because it can get stripped, you might even want to bring the included multi-tool along on big rides or replace the stem at some point down the line when you know what body position you really like
- The Shimano Alivio derailleur is three steps up from the base Tourney model, positioned just above Acera, and offers reliable crisp shifting with two-way action, the nine-speed cassette is perfect for trail riding and provides a nice low range for starting and climbing
- I love the large, sturdy platform pedals and appreciate the alloy chainring guard and guide to keep your pants clean and the chain from dropping!
- Probably for shipping purposes as well as trail toughness, the derailleur has a steel guard surrounding it, this will keep the sensitive shifting mechanisms and motor power cable safe, especially if the bike accidentally tips onto its right side
- Minor plus here, the hydraulic disc brakes are easy to pull, have adjustable-reach levers if you have smaller hands or are wearing gloves and need to bring them in a bit, and they even have motor inhibitors to put you in full control of the drive system but the disc size is a bit small for such a large and heavy bike, Teo has 160 mm rotors vs. 180 mm or even 200/203 which would cool faster and provide greater mechanical advantage
- The Kenda Juggernaut tires are an upgrade over Chao Yang that I see on some other fat e-bikes, they offer a great PSI range so you can increase traction and ride on snow or sand (lower to the ~5 PSI mark for this sort of terrain)
- Rather than go cheap with a five or ten magnet cadence sensor, Téo upgraded all the way to twelve and this makes it respond faster so you don’t have to pedal as long to get assist… and of course, you can always just use the twist throttle to help get going from zero
- The geared hub motor is fat bike specific, this improves spoke bracing angle and the rear spokes are actually thicker for added strength and there are more of them (36 vs. 32 on some other models)
- The display panel is large but narrow, leaving room for other accessories like the compass bell or maybe a drink holder or phone mount, it’s backlit and easy to see and use but it is not removable and therefor could take more damage if left outside in the elements (some riders put a helmet or garment over their displays to protect them)
- In addition to the integrated headlight and backlit display panel, you could power some of your own electronic devices by tapping into the USB port on the right side of the battery pack, consider using a right angle USB adapter like this to keep the plug out of the way when you pedal
- If you hold the down button for a few seconds, it activates walk mode which could be very handy if you need to walk a section of rough trail, navigate through a crowd, or push the bike up stairs considering how heavy it is
- Weighing in at a whopping 72.5 lbs (32.9 kg), this is one of the heaviest electric bikes I have ever tested, fat bikes tend to weigh more but the fenders and larger battery pack really put it over the top, at least the rims are punched out to reduce material and allow for a bit more cushion
- As much as I appreciate fenders for staying dry and clean, I wonder if Steel fenders add more weight than Aluminum and could start to rust over time, especially if scratched
- The Teo electric fat bike models seems upgraded from a lot of other value products like the RadRover and VoltBike Yukon (tapered head tube, hydraulic disc brakes, and a suspension seat post) but the wheels still just use a 9 mm skewer and 10 mm axle vs. thicker thru-axles, this is probably good enough for street and light trail riding but the weight of the bike and motor forces being exerted could benefit from upgrades here in the future
- Minor complaint, there are no bottle cage bosses on this bike frame, consider adding a trunk bag with bottle holster like this
- The bike I tested did not have a slap guard on the right chainstay which could result in scratches and nicks, at least the frame is Aluminum so it won’t rust there, I was told that the 2018 models will have a Neoprene slap guard
- The charger is compact and relatively lightweight but it’s not super fast, at 2 Amps, I’d call it average and expect to wait 6.5+ hours for a full charge considering how large the battery is
- In some ways I appreciate the comfort and utility of the saddle and seat post suspension but do be careful using the integrated saddle handle because if you lift the bike here, it could start to loosen or damage the seat post suspension, maybe lift with the rack or from the frame of the bike vs. the saddle despite this convenient handle
- As much as I like the design and positioning of the rear light, it is independent, meaning that you have to remember to get off and turn it on and then turn it off after a ride to conserve battery vs. tapping directly into that main rechargeable ebike battery which the headlight is connected to
- I can’t speak for all sizes, just the Large that I tested, but the wheelbase is longer and the yolk (the part of the frame that connects the bottom bracket to the chainstays that hold the rear wheel) is longer and just less custom, this might impact how snappy the bike feels, how quickly it turns and how maneuverable it is
- Minor gripe here but I feel that the seat post (and seat tube) could have been thicker to improve strength and allow for heavier riders or a more robust suspension component, the 27.2 mm post works fine and I haven’t heard of issues but there is probably a reason that some off-road ebikes come with 30.9 or 31.6 mm posts
- On the one hand, I love that the throttle overrides pedal assist at full power, but I wish that you didn’t have to pedal for a moment in order to sort of unlock it, some other designs give you throttle power instantly and this is useful for starting off from zero or getting a quick burst of power while balancing the bike on rough terrain and not pedaling (or if you raise the pedals while going through water or deep snow… you have to pedal on this bike for a moment to get that throttle to switch on)
- Be mindful of the charger cord if you decide to charge the battery pack while mounted to the bike, notice how the left crank arm passes right by the charging port and could snag or bend the plug accidentally if bumped