- An approachable neighborhood electric bike with lots of utility extras, plastic fenders with rubber mud flaps, a long plastic chain cover, a rear carry rack, and LED lights
- The step-thru frame is reinforced with a gusset at the front and shortened top tube near the bottom to reduce frame flex, smaller 26-inch tires bring the frame closer to the ground
- Efficient 48 volt power system offers a bit of zip and climbing power, Velec sells three battery size options for this model so you can extend range, the battery is removable but you must take the saddle and seat post off
- Simple LED display panel doesn't offer as precise of power readouts, there's no up or down arrows to change assist (you just cycle all the way through 1-5), basic 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain, linear pull brakes vs. disc
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The Velec A2 is a lower, approachable electric bicycle with easy step-thru frame and smaller 26-inch wheels. This makes it a good choice for people with short inseams, but I was impressed with how well it could also work for taller riders like Dusty, an employee of Best Electric Bikes in Denver Colorado, who is 6’3″ tall. I was able to cover several of the Velec models during this visit, and the A2 is the most affordable in the line. It compromises on features and specs a bit, utilizing an entry-level Shimano Tourney derailleur and basic LED display, but offers a good sized battery and both pedal assist and twist throttle operation! I love that it comes in both grey and red, so you could get a set for you and a friend or partner, and that they provide fenders, a chain cover, a rear rack, and LED lights. There’s a lot of utility here, and the parent company has been around since 2005, selling throughout Canada and the United States. The two-year warranty covers both the battery and motor, and I was told that Best Electric Bikes did have a motor replacement situation, and the company was very responsive. What I’m covering here is the 2017-Early 2018 model, and it sounds like Velec will be changing motor brands and introducing a fancier LCD display in late 2018 with a $100 price increase. Considering that this e-bike does not offer suspension, I found the 1.95″ wide tires to provide some vibration dampening, the adjustable stem to offer lots of body position options (and shorten reach for petite riders), and I loved the plush saddle and suspension seat post.
Driving this electric bike is a 350 watt planetary geared hub motor with Velec branding. I’m not sure who produces the motor that I tested, but future versions of this ebike will come motors from Bafang. I found it to be zippy but a little noisy at high speed and when operated at high power. The motor freewheels efficiently, so there’s no extra drag or interference with gears, it’s just a standard, proven, hub motor. The casing is black, which matches the spokes, rims, rack, battery, fenders, and other hardware beautifully. The power cable leading back to the motor is run along the base of the right chain stay and most of the shifter, brake, and electrical cables elsewhere on the frame are internally routed. I definitely appreciate the steel derailleur guard, also black, that protects the motor power cable and Shimano Tourney derailleur. The derailleur is entry-level, but good enough for casual riding… and I love that Velec upgraded to trigger shifters vs. the large thumb shifter seen on comparable products like the DJ City. There are many similarities between these two models but that one weighs more because of a suspension fork and more powerful motor. One of the biggest differences is that Velec is being sold through dealers who will assemble, fit, and service the product ongoing. DJ Bikes is sold online only and only offers a one year warranty.
Powering the Velec A2 is one of three battery options! The default is a 48 volt 10 amp hour pack that slides down behind the seat tube. You can upgrade the capacity on this pack from 10 amp hours to 13 amp hours for $200 or get a large 17 amp hour total with their rear-rack battery upgrade. I personally love how open and free the stock rack is, but I’m a lightweight rider who doesn’t usually struggle with range. You can extend range by using pedal assist more frequently and shifting gears to pedal along actively as you ride. The A2 comes pre-wired for the rack battery upgrade and there’s a toggle switch near the left grip which allows you to select from the main or rack battery (if installed). I was a little confused and intrigued by this button at first and was assured that it only switches the battery source and is not relevant with the stock setup. The 48 volt power system provides efficiency and higher amp throughput potential for a zippier feel and better climbing ability. Since the wheels are smaller than average for this type of bike (most use 28″ 700c wheels) the hub motor gets a mechanical advantage, so it actually feels pretty zippy at times. My complaints around the battery have to do with removability and activation… You must remove the saddle and seat post before the battery can slide up and off of the frame. For people who live upstairs or in hot/cold environments, this could become a daily routine. It’s best to store your battery in a cool, dry location to avoid stressing the chemistry… and there are flip-up saddle mounts, but I haven’t seen one that works with a suspension seat post. I like that Velec went for comfort here, but need to acknowledge the trade-off in convenience of battery access. Also, the key must be left in the pack to run the electronics on the bike, and this could lead to keychains jingling as you ride or easier snags on pants and skirts.
Fully activating the bike takes several steps, starting with the key in the battery pack. From here, you can press the power button on the display panel and then activate the headlight (there’s a rubber button on top) if it’s dark out. I really appreciate how the headlight runs off of the main battery but wish that I could control it directly from the control pad without bending down and forward each time. The rear LED light is similar, but runs off of two AA batteries. You can turn it on and off at any time, but don’t forget to turn it off after you arrive at your destination! Again, I want to be thankful that the bike comes with lights at all, but they do require some extra attention to activate. The 2017 Early-2018 display is a simple LED console with four red lights to communicate battery charge level (that’s 25% steps) and it could leave a lot to the imagination. Imagine only having one dot?! Does that mean you’re about empty or still at 25%? It’s best to maintain Lithium-ion packs above 20% when storing long term (and just avoid hitting zero in general, even when riding) so maybe the last dot is a good time to plan for a stop and recharge regardless? There’s no current speed, odometer, or range estimates on this display. The only other readout is assist level, consisting of five dots. I must say, the red LED lights could be bright at night, so I would consider tipping the display up a bit or maybe putting some tan masking tape over the LED lights to tone it down. These five levels of assist can only be navigated by pressing the gear button and going in one direction, like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then it loops down to zero. Neither pedal assist or throttle work at level zero, but you could still run the headlight. Pedal assist activates pretty quickly thanks to an 8-magnet cadence sensor positioned on the right side of the bottom bracket. The twist-throttle is active (and provides full power) any time you’re in level 1-5 assist. It accelerates smoothly if you are careful, but there is not off switch for the twist throttle as with the fancier Velec models. This means that it’s probably best to turn the bike off before dismounting, just to be safe. The cockpit is fairly organized, both brake levers have motor inhibitors and the grips are comfortable ergonomic design, but not locking. The most unique thing about the control system on this bike is that it provides cruise control. So, you could use the twist throttle to reach a set speed and then hold the throttle while pressing the clock icon on the control pad. This will lock in a set speed and allow you to relax your wrist. It’s a neat, and somewhat rare feature, that could be good for people with sensitive hands or longer rides. I doubt that this feature will be available with the LCD display unit from the upcoming Late-2018 model (using Bafang systems).
All things considered, I really liked the Velec A2 and have been continually impressed with their customer service. This product is designed to be affordable, approachable, and utilitarian, but it goes above and beyond in terms of controls. It would be nice to see bottle cage bosses on the seat tube or maybe the top of the downtube, but at least there’s a rear rack to work with. The rubber flaps on the fenders will be more durable if you turn sharp and kick the fender. I feel that the included pedals are good for this type of ebike, large but not sharp like medal ones that could cut your shins if you slipped off. The kickstand held the bike securely but was positioned near the bottom bracket, blocking the left crank arm when deployed, and this could create issues if you’re trying to back the bike out of a tight space (so just stow the kickstand first if you can). Both wheels have been built with thicker spokes to provide increased strength and the rigid fork is made from sturdy steel, which offers some vibration dampening. It’s a lighter build than similar products with front suspension, and it handled and tracked very well during my test rides. I hope this deep review helps you to compare and contrast some of the hardware here, and gets you thinking about your specific needs, budget, and access to shops. I’d like to thank Velec for partnering with me on this review, coordinating a few of their models, and the Best Electric Bikes shop in Denver for their support as well… and Dusty, of course ;) feel free to post your questions below or in the EBR Velec Forums where I’ll chime in and try to help out.
- Some of the Velec models, including the A2 here, offer battery capacity upgrades and even secondary packs to provide greater range, the default 48 volt 10 amp hour is pretty great on its own but you can also get 13 ah or 17 ah total
- The step-thru frame is approachable but reinforced with a secondary tube and gusset to reduce frame flex
- Comfort and body position have been addressed with a basic suspension seat post, plus saddle, adjustable angle stem, and ergonomic grips
- Lots of utility, right out of the gate, I appreciate the plastic fenders, long plastic chain cover, rear carry rack, and LED lights
- I love that both brake levers have motor inhibitors built in, this provides much faster response times to stop the motor, even if you forget to release the twist throttle or continue moving the cranks
- Good weight distribution, the battery is positioned low and center on the frame (which improves handling) and completely frees the rear rack for hauling gear
- For this type of bicycle, the large plastic pedals work fairly well, they won’t cut your shins as easily if your foot slips off and they are wider than some basic pedals
- Velec has added a derailleur guard to protect the sensitive bits at the rear-right dropout, it will also shield the motor power cable from bumps and bends if the bike tips over
- This bike, like many other entry-level products, uses the basic 7-speed Shimano Tourney derailleur to save money (and because you probably don’t need as many gears or toughness for neighborhood/city riding) but I love that they opted for trigger shifters vs. the large thumb shifter because these are easier to reach and use in my experience
- Because it uses smaller 26-inch wheels, the bike sits closer to the ground and is easier to mount, I appreciate the wider 1.95″ tire diameter for increased air volume and comfort, and the steel fork which has vibration dampening properties vs. aluminum alloy
- The stock tires have K-Shield which is a puncture protective lining designed to reduce flats, this is a good thing on heavier ebikes that might be ridden more frequently and for further distances, keep the tire pressure between the recommended 40 to 65 PSI to reduce the potential for pinch flats
- The bikes both look, the red frame has matching decals on the battery box and both use all-black accessories, spokes, rims, battery, motor etc. and I appreciate that the cables are mostly internally routed to reduce snags
- Velec has been around since 2005, offers a solid two-year warranty on the motor and battery, sells through shops (so you can go take a test ride), and I was told that they are responsive to issues when I asked the shop that I was visiting
- The battery system runs at 48 volts which tends to be more efficient and can offer zippier acceleration and climbing power, even with the average-sized 350 watt geared hub motor
- Rather than holding the twist throttle to maintain a constant speed, the control pad has a cruise control button that will lock in a speed (just twist the throttle and hold it, then press and hold the clock icon button to set cruising speed)
- The rear light runs off of two independent AA batteries and both lights require a physical button press to activate vs. being integrated into the main display, this means more reaching and remembering to turn on/off for each ride
- Linear pull brakes (also called V-Brakes when produced by Shimano) offer good stopping power because they grab far out on the wheel but might not stay as clean as disc brakes or be as adjustable as hydraulic brakes, it’s a cheaper part to keep the price down
- In order to power on the bike, you must insert the key into the battery pack and turn to the right… then leave it in, this could add rattling noise if you’ve got a keychain attached or present a snag opportunity when pedaling
- Minor consideration, the twist throttle doesn’t have an on/off switch built into it like the fancier R48M, this means you could accidentally activate it when mounting or dismounting if the bike is turned on and in 1-5 pedal assist… thankfully, the bike boots up in no-assist and the throttle is not active
- I really like the saddle and suspension seat post, but you have to remove them completely in order to take the battery pack off the bike… some other stems have a flip-up design that makes battery removal easier, also, the minimum saddle height is a bit higher on this bicycle because of the suspension travel (about three inches higher than it would be with a rigid seat post)
- The kickstand is adjustable and works fine, but is positioned near the center of the bike and can block the left crank arm when backing up
- The display panel is very basic, it just uses LEDs to indicate charge level and assist level, you don’t get to see your speed, odometer, or other fancy menus like range estimate and there are no up and down keys… you simply keep pressing the gear-icon button ty cycle through 1-5 assist which could require more hand effort and time
- You can hear the motor whirring a bit more than some other planetary geared hub motors that I have tested, and Velec is planning to switch suppliers to Bafang with their bikes to improve reliability (but they still service and replace the older motors if you have one)
- It would be nice to have bottle cage bosses somewhere on the frame, maybe the seat tube, on top of the downtube, or even below the downtube for a folding lock