Vela Model 1 Review

Vela Model 1 Electric Bike Review 1
Vela Model 1 Up Close
Vela Model 1 8fun 350 Watt Internally Geared Motor
Vela Model 1 36 Volt 10 Ah Battery In Seat Tube
Vela Model 1 Vintage City Bars Padded Matching Grips
Vela Model 1 700 X 35c Kenda City Tires
Vela Model 1 Bungee Loop For Rack Motor Disconnect Point
Vela Model 1 Classic Metallic Bell
Vela Model 1 Controller Box With Charge Port Usb Port Led Indicators
Vela Model 1 Fork Mounted Front Rack
Vela Model 1 Integrated Led Headlight By Spanninga
Vela Model 1 Matching Comfort Saddle With Springs
Vela Model 1 Mounted On A Car Rack
Vela Model 1 Portable Battery Charger 1 4 Jack
Vela Model 1 Right Side View
Vela Model 1 Standard Rear Carry Rack Spanninga Led Light
Vela Model 1 Starter Remote Alarm Activation
Vela Model 1
Vela Model 1 46 Tooth Chainring 12 Magnet Pedelec Sensor
Vela Model 1 Frame Geometry
Vela Model 1 Color Options
Vela Model 1 Electric Bike Review 1
Vela Model 1 Up Close
Vela Model 1 8fun 350 Watt Internally Geared Motor
Vela Model 1 36 Volt 10 Ah Battery In Seat Tube
Vela Model 1 Vintage City Bars Padded Matching Grips
Vela Model 1 700 X 35c Kenda City Tires
Vela Model 1 Bungee Loop For Rack Motor Disconnect Point
Vela Model 1 Classic Metallic Bell
Vela Model 1 Controller Box With Charge Port Usb Port Led Indicators
Vela Model 1 Fork Mounted Front Rack
Vela Model 1 Integrated Led Headlight By Spanninga
Vela Model 1 Matching Comfort Saddle With Springs
Vela Model 1 Mounted On A Car Rack
Vela Model 1 Portable Battery Charger 1 4 Jack
Vela Model 1 Right Side View
Vela Model 1 Standard Rear Carry Rack Spanninga Led Light
Vela Model 1 Starter Remote Alarm Activation
Vela Model 1
Vela Model 1 46 Tooth Chainring 12 Magnet Pedelec Sensor
Vela Model 1 Frame Geometry
Vela Model 1 Color Options

Summary

  • A classically styled electric city bike offering pedal assist only, available in high-step or low-step in four sizes and four colors
  • Beautifully integrated battery pack (mounts inside the seat tube), handsome controller box with USB charging port, efficient 350 watt hub motor by 8Fun
  • Full length metal fenders keep you dry, integrated LED lights are convenient and improve safety, front and rear racks use standard sized tubing adding utility
  • Includes two wireless remotes for starting the bike and arming a motion sensitive alarm, no bottle cage mounting points, single speed drivetrain is durable but less efficient for starting and climbing

Video Review

Introduction

Make:

Vela

Model:

Model 1

Price:

$1,899 USD

Body Position:

Upright

Suggested Use:

Neighborhood, Urban, Commuting

Electric Bike Class:

Pedal Assist (Class 1)
Learn more about Ebike classes

Warranty:

1 Year Electronics, 5 Year Frame (Upgrade to 2 Year Electronics and 10 Year Frame for $150)

Availability:

United States, Brazil, Netherlands, Worldwide

Model Year:

20152016

Bicycle Details

Total Weight:

49.5 lbs (22.45 kg)

Battery Weight:

5 lbs (2.26 kg)

Motor Weight:

8 lbs (3.62 kg)

Frame Material:

4130 Chromoly Steel

Frame Sizes:

19 in (48.26 cm)20 in (50.8 cm)22 in (55.88 cm)23 in (58.42 cm)

Geometry Measurements:

Step Thru 19 - Small (530 mm Top Tube, 490 mm Seat Tube, 1020 mm Wheelbase), Step Thru 22 - Large (570 mm Top Tube, 550 mm Seat Tube, 1060 mm Wheelbase), High Step 20 - Small (560 mm Top Tube, 510 mm Seat Tube, 1020 mm Wheelbase), High Step 22 - Medium (570 mm Top Tube, 550 mm Seat Tube, 1060 mm Wheelbase), High Step 23 - Large (580 mm Top Tube, 590 mm Seat Tube, 1080 mm Wheelbase)

Frame Types:

High-Step, Step-Thru

Frame Colors:

Red Wine, Vanilla Cream, High Blue Sky, Brazillian Green

Frame Fork Details:

Rigid Steel

Attachment Points:

Rear Rack Bosses, Front Rack Bosses, Fender Bosses, Water Bottle Cage Bosses (Included on Production Models)

Gearing Details:

1 Single Speed, 2.1 Ratio (46-22T)

Cranks:

Cold-forged 6160 Aluminum Alloy Crank Arms

Pedals:

Wellgo Aluminum Alloy Platform, Model C280DU

Headset:

Neco, Aluminum Alloy

Stem:

Promax, Aluminum Alloy

Handlebar:

Porteur Style, Aluminum Alloy

Brake Details:

Promax Mechanical V-Brakes, Promax Levers with Motor Inhibitor

Grips:

Padded Stitched

Saddle:

Padded with Spring Support

Seat Post:

Custom Aluminum Alloy

Seat Post Length:

8 mm

Seat Post Diameter:

2.1 mm

Rims:

Alex Rims DA16, Double Walled

Spokes:

Stainless Steel, 36

Tire Brand:

Kenda City, 700 x 35c (Optional 26" x 1.25")

Wheel Sizes:

28 in (71.12cm)

Tire Details:

Kenda Tubes with Tire Liners

Tube Details:

Schrader Valve

Accessories:

100 Decibel Siren Alarm, GPS Tracking System, 5 Volt 2 Amp USB Charging Port, Color Matched Steel Fenders, Large Classic Styled Bell, Peak Aluminum Alloy Kickstand, Spanninga Swing Headlight, Spanninga Vena Backlight, Optional Front Rack: 15 kg (33 lbs) Load, Optional Rear Rack: 30 kg (66 lbs) Load

Other:

Removable Battery Pack, Ships Worldwide, Water Resistant to IP65 Standard

Electronic Details

Motor Brand:

8Fun

Motor Type:

Rear-Mounted Geared Hub
Learn more about Ebike motors

Motor Nominal Output:

350 watts

Motor Peak Output:

500 watts

Motor Torque:

35 Newton meters

Battery Brand:

Samsung

Battery Voltage:

36 volts

Battery Amp Hours:

10 ah

Battery Watt Hours:

360 wh

Battery Chemistry:

Lithium Manganese Cobalt

Charge Time:

3 hours

Estimated Min Range:

20 miles (32 km)

Estimated Max Range:

30 miles (48 km)

Display Type:

Fixed LED Console on Controller Box

Readouts:

On/Off (One Red LED is On), Battery Low (Both Red LED

Display Accessories:

Two Wireless Remotes (Power, Lock, Unlock, Alarm Test)

Drive Mode:

Cadence Sensing Pedal Assist (12 Magnet Pedelec Sensor)

Top Speed:

20 mph (32 kph)


Written Review

The Vela Model 1 is a crowdfunded electric bicycle that began its life in Brazil and then expanded North into America with an Indiegogo campaign. As of this review, it has not yet reached its US goal of $35k but it’s nearly half way there in only five days time. I’m told that actual production units are being delivered in Brazil as of February 2015 and that the US version is similar but includes a few improvements (bottle cage bosses!). Please note that the specs and information contained herein could evolve and I cannot vouch for the final product or shipping estimates. So… the first thing I noticed about the Vela electric bike is how clean and stylish it is. You can hardly tell it’s an electric bike at first glance because the small silver hub motor blends in with the rear wheel spokes and the battery pack is completely enclosed in the seat tube. It reminds me a lot of the Faraday Porteur, another crowd funded e-bike with frame-tube mounted batteries. I tried to learn a bit about the evolution of the Model 1 and was told that the founder, Victor, had built something very similar for himself in Brazil back in 2012 and recognized strong interest through family and friends. He saw potential and began refining the design then named his company Vela which means flame or wind in Portuguese (it was chosen to connotate power and renewability). At first glance, this word reminded me of the term “bella” which is related to the Italian and Latin words for beauty. I thought it was a mix of velo (short for velocity or speed) and bella (beauty), it sure is a beautiful bike… the saddle, grips and control box are all made with matching leather derivatives and the pedals, crank arms, chainring, spokes, handlebar, brake levers and racks and headlight are all shiny silver. You get four frame color options, four frame sizes and two wheels sizes to choose from for a perfect fit. Awesome. At just under $2k this bike seems expensive for a single speed pedal assist only setup at first glance but the color matched fenders, chain guard and completely custom design don’t come cheap or easy. For someone who appreciates those elements and is planning to use this in an urban or neighborhood environment it could be a great fit. You also get an integrated alarm system, GPS tracking and premium LED light options.

Driving the Vela Model 1 is a very average but proven 8Fun internally geared hub motor. It offers 350 watts of power with peak output around 500… though I’m not sure if you really reach that level with the default pedal assist setting. The motor is relatively quiet, light weight and efficient (it freewheels when you coast). This is the kind of electric bike you can ride without motor power and still feel efficient and comfortable on. The unit I tested was the largest size at 23″ and included all of the upgrade options which add weight; I measured it at ~49.5 lbs which isn’t bad. I like that the motor is silver because it blends in with the accessories mentioned earlier and I appreciate the quick disconnect cable situated near the rear dropout. Most of the cables are run through the frame on this bike and it was amazing to see the motor cable fed right through the chain stay. Usually these wires are just zip tied to the chain stay but that doesn’t look as good and can expose them to more wear over time. The drivetrain on this bicycle is very simple because it’s a single speed (just one 46 tooth chainring in the front and one 22 tooth cog in the rear). this means your chain doesn’t have to be as long, you don’t need to tune a derailleur and you shouldn’t have as many dropped chains when cruising over bumpy terrain. The one thing you should do to keep things in check is lube the chain. The downside of this simple drivetrain of course is that there’s only one speed to pedal at and this can make climbing at low speeds or accelerating at high speeds somewhat uncomfortable. It’s a trade off but this is definitely the type of bike where one speed is acceptable. It’s meant for those beautiful evenings when you ride downtown with your friends to watch concerts at the amphitheater. I want to also call out the custom chain guard again because it wraps around the front (which looks awesome) and really protects your pants or dress from this potentially messy, snaggy section of the bike.

The most iconic and unique feature on the Vela Model 1 in my opinion is the battery implementation. It consists of standard 18650 cells packed into an aluminum cylinder that slides into the oversized seat tube. At the base of the tube is a 1/4″ male connector (looks like a guitar amp plug) that fits securely into the base and I’m told there is a “very strong” neodymium magnet there as well to keep it from rattling as you pedal across varied terrain. Interesting… removing the battery wasn’t especially difficult as a result of this magnet but I understand and appreciate why it’s there. My time riding the Vela was spent mostly on paved streets so I didn’t test the connection very thoroughly. The pack offers a very standard 36 volts of power and 10 amp hours of capacity for 360 watt hours of energy in total. That would normally get you ~18 miles in throttle-only mode but since this bicycle is pedal assist only, you should achieve more. I love that you can charge the battery through the port on the control box (near the head tube of the bike) or independently. Both ports are the same so there’s no extra dongles to mess around with and the charger is extremely compact and light weight at less than one pound. I did find the length of the charger wires to be slightly below average but still adequate. To really care for this battery I suggest storing in a cool dry location because extreme heat and cold can be harmful. It’s also best to store between 20% and 80% full and check in every couple of months to top it off if the level decreases. The charger in the video is a test unit from the Brazilian model so the plug looks funny, the US model will have a standard two pronged blade design for use with 120 volt wall outlets. I did have one concern with the battery pack design and that is security. Instead of a keyed lock, this battery is protected by the audio alarm mentioned earlier and a unique screw head which clamps the seat post. If for some reason the seat post is lost or stolen, the battery could be easily lifted out with the fabric strap mounted to the top. The seat post itself is only eight inches long (because it will collide with the battery if made longer) and cannot be substituted for suspension posts or lighter weight designs. A big part of the “sizing” for this bike is done by cutting the seat post lower so the seat can drop further and this is alright but the reach may not change as much as other mass-produced ebikes. Check out the geometry specs posted above. None of this is a deal killer for me, just worth considering. You’ll probably have to work directly with Vela to do anything related to seat posts. Most of the rest of the components on this ebike are of traditional sizes and makes.

Operating the bike, powering it on, is a bit untraditional but very simple. Once you’ve charged the battery and the seat post is secure you’ll need to use the included wireless remote to activate the system. There’s a small lightening bolt symbol that you press once (twice on the older Brazilian model) and this causes the alarm to chirp once. In addition to the audio confirmation, a single red LED will light up on the leather control box. This means your bike is on and the battery is not empty. There are no other displays to reference on this e-bike. You will not know how fast you’re going, how much battery has been used, how far you’ve gone or how long you’ve been riding… but maybe you don’t care if you’re just cruising along, looking beautiful on this bike. Once the battery is very low, the second LED light will switch on but good luck seeing it if you’re riding! They are both concealed by the top tube when looking down. One solution to all of this is the USB charging port on the control box, this lets you power a myriad of portable electronic devices including a phone with GPS! You could use easily mount a device to the porteur bars (they are very long with plenty of space in the middle and the diameter does not change). Once you get a feel for the bike you can track how far you’ve gone and use that as an estimate for how much further you can go with power before the battery taps out. Overall, I really like the cockpit of this bike because it’s ergonomic and beautiful. The longer swept back bars come to you, you don’t have to lean far forward to reach them (which can cause back and neck pain). The brake levers feel solid and activate a pair of mechanical v-brakes that work just fine… they also include motor inhibitor switches that cut power to the drive system when activated. I tested these by pedaling around with brakes half squeezed and confirmed that the motor was not activating. I guess this brings us to the “feel” of the motor. As you pedal (maybe one and a half strokes in) the motor activates smoothly and continues until you stop. I was told they’re tweaking the system to feel a little zippier for the American market but I felt the demo unit performed just fine. Since you can’t switch gears, don’t have a throttle and cannot choose an assist level on the Vela I feel like the drive response settings are an important area to optimize and it seems like they’re doing a good job. It certainly wasn’t jerky and that’s key but I also definitely noticed that it was helping me accelerate and maintain a higher than normal riding speed which is the whole point of an ebike.

In conclusion! this is a pretty sweet crowd funded electric bike. I’m impressed with the custom frame, thoughtfully selected accessories, multiple sizes and color choices and the multi-national launch and availability. The specs listed in the campaign do not seem exaggerated (the lighter weight of 44 lbs is without fenders or racks and averages out the different sizes). The guys I spoke with and met from the company seemed very genuine and trustworthy. I’m excited that they’re adding a bottle cage mount because it’s nice to bring water along (especially if you don’t get the rack options) and it’s neat to see them refining other features like motor activation and controller settings. the unit I tested was a Brazilian demo and I was told they are tweaking the leather a bit but otherwise it should be very similar to the final US build due out later this year. while I did not get a chance to test a step-thru model I was impressed with the design plan to do a diamond frame (with top tube and downtube for increased strength). Given the mid-mounted battery I feel like all models will be strong and well balanced and you shouldn’t get too much flex. I also like the generous one year comprehensive warranty (with five on the frame) and the option to double both periods for $150. I was told that additional or replacement battery packs are $200 which is very reasonable. Again, this is a crowd funded ebike with an estimated December 2015 deliver date and I cannot predict the future but I like what I saw and hope this review answers some questions for those interested in the project. This is a very custom and innovative build in my opinion and I’m excited to see where Vela goes with future models.

Pros:

  • Comfortable upright seating position, the saddle has some give thanks to its spring design and the swept back retro-riser bars don’t require much of a reach
  • Two classic frame styles (traditional high-step and step-thru) available in several sizes (19, 20, 22 and 23) and two wheel options (700C ~28″ or the shorter 26″)
  • Steel frame dampens vibration and creates a nice ride quality that some cyclists prefer to aluminum, the bike is still relatively light at 49.5 lbs even with metal fenders, chain guard and lights
  • The battery can be charged on or off the bike using the same style of plug (looks like a guitar amp 1/4″ jack) and the seat tube conceals it from environmental damage (uses a special locking screw)
  • Four beautiful color choices including bright blue, olive green, brick red and vanilla cream, the saddle, grips an control box all match in leather and the racks, pedals, spokes, motor and brakes also match in silver
  • Quick release front wheel makes the bike shorter and lighter weight for transporting, the disconnect plug on motor power cable makes maintenance easier
  • Wires are mostly run through the frame, this thing hardly looks like an electric bike aside from the rear hub motor
  • You get two portable remotes (that start the bike and arm the alarm system) they are fairly easy to us and compact, the bike includes an integrated GPS tracking system to help you locate if lost or stolen
  • The LED lights are both integrated meaning they run off of the primary battery pack! They are made by Spanninga and of higher quality and design, there is also a female USB charging port so you can power your portable electronics off of the main battery
  • If you live near LA or are willing to travel they will cut down the shipping price by 50% (presumably because there are shipping costs to get the bike parts to the USA as well as taxes) the US bikes are all assembled locally
  • Emphasis on sustainability with vegan leather (fake leather) grips, saddle and controller cover

Cons:

  • The racks match, use standard gauge tubing and look nice but the front design isn’t as stable as if it were mounted to the head tube vs. the fork, as you turn it turns and this impacts steering when you add weight
  • Unique 2.1 inch seat tube size means you cannot add a suspension post and might struggle if the original post goes missing…
  • No LCD display panel and limited battery LED readout, it can be difficult to know how much further this bike can go before you run out of juice and easy to accidentally leave it powered on after rides
  • The wireless control key thing was a bit finicky during my test, I had to press the start and lock buttons a couple of times for the system to activate, the cadence sensor also didn’t kick in right away if I was already moving on the bike but this might be due to it being a demo unit (they are adjusting these settings a bit still for the final US build)
  • Single speed drivetrain works alright and benefits from assist but could be limiting on hilly terrain

Resources:

Comments (5) YouTube Comments

Frank
5 years ago

Nice looking bike. I pledged $50 to their Indiegogo campaign. @Court, I live in San Francisco…how do you think this bike would do on the hills?

  Reply
Court Rye
5 years ago

Hi Frank! In my opinion it’s a big step up from “no assist” but for SF with the steep hills this type of drive system will definitely require pedaling and likely some standing. The Vela only has one gear so the best way to approach a hill is with some speed and then consistently pedal without stopping. For the price this is a neat bike, it’s durable and beautiful at the same time but the drivetrain is simple and limited. Some of the best electric bikes for the city in my opinion are Kalkhoff, Focus, Felt or Haibike due to their mid-drives.

  Reply
Court Rye
3 years ago

Very cool, thanks for sharing Guilherme :)

  Reply
Jason Taylor
1 month ago

I got an ad for the bike on Instagram when they launched the Vela 2, would be interested in seeing your review with the upgrades on the second generation model. Super cool looking bike. I love the simplicity of the single speed.

  Reply
Court
1 month ago

Cool! I’d love to see it, just did a quick Google search but it didn’t bring anything up. Do you have a link, Jason? Also, what’s your favorite Metroid game? Mine is Super Metroid… one of the first and best video games I have ever played. The music, setting, sense of exploration, the ending. It’s awesome. And of course, Metroid Prime ;)

  Reply

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