- A feature rich, step-thru cruiser, with adjustable handlebar, suspension fork, suspension seat post, and extra-large sprung saddle for comfort
- Thicker spokes provide wheel strength, the tires have puncture protective lining to reduce flats, and the plastic fenders and chain cover should keep you clean and dry
- Priced fairly well considering it comes with lights, has two optional battery capacity upgrades, is available in two frame sizes, three colors, and is supported through dealers with a one year comprehensive warranty
- The 8 magnet cadence sensor isn't as quick to respond as the 12 magnet or torque sensors found on some other products, motor inhibitors cut power instantly and the twist throttle can be shut off
To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This in-depth review was sponsored by Velec. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of Velec products.
Velec is a Canadian electric bicycle company based in Montreal (Quebec) Canada, that has been designing and selling products in Canada and the US since 2005. The R48 is a 48-volt hub motor powered city cruiser that delivers comfort and utility at a mid-range price point. Most of the components are mid-level, including the eight speed Shimano Acera drivetrain. It provides an 11-32 tooth cassette that climbs comfortably… which is good, because the bike weighs above average at 65.5lbs. Much of that weight is in the reinforced step-thru frame, sturdy rear rack, upgraded suspension seat post, and spring suspension fork. Overall, it’s an intuitive product with some fun extras like a USB port on the battery box, safety upgrades like lights, reflective tires, fenders, and three classy frame color options. There are even two frame sizes to choose from! This e-bike features an eight magnet cadence sensor, along with a half grip twist throttle that has its own on/off switch. That’s something unique, but potentially useful and extra safe. Both brake levers have motor inhibitors, so there’s a sense of control. One downside for me was the cheaper independently operated lights (with physical on/off switches that take extra time to deal with). The company sells through a growing network of dealers, most of which were located in Canada at the time of this review, and offers a 1+ year comprehensive warranty (2 years on the motor and battery).
Driving this electric bike is a Das-Kit 500 watt planetary geared hub motor. It feels zippy with the 48 volt battery support vs. 36 volts, and operates a bit quieter than Bafang and some other brands I’ve tried. The motor controller listens for crank arm movement past the eight magnet sensor to send an on/off signal. It then applies power based on the level of assist that was chosen using the display. Hub motors don’t interfere with shifting, geared motors don’t introduce any drag, and they tend to keep the overall price down. While there’s a power cable exiting from the right rear axle, this is well protected by a steel derailleur guard. Similar ebikes that lack this guard are more vulnerable if the bike tips, and if that motor cable is bent or cut, it could require expensive maintenance or even replacement. This is one of the many little extras that The R48 delivers. I like how the motor casing is black, matching the spokes and rims. Regardless of the frame color, the fenders, chain cover, and chainring guard will all be black. I feel like there should be a slap guard on the right chain stay, to protect the nice paint from nicks, but you can make your own using a piece of clear box tape. Compared to the more expensive M48M (mid-drive), this motor positions weight further back on the frame and introduces a bit more frame flex. Velec went above and beyond to strengthen this ebike by adding gusset plating near the top and bottom sections of downtube as well as secondary chain stay tubing at the rear. Can you see how there are three tubes in the back vs. just two on a standard bicycle? This should strengthen the frame and improve stability while riding and also fortify the rear-rack mounting position… and that’s important considering the optional rack mount battery upgrade!
The battery situation for some of the Velec’s models is unique, and good if you want to ride further or spend more time using the throttle vs. pedaling. The stock pack offers 48 volts 11 amp hours for 528 watt hours, which I would consider above average for the 2018 season. It weighs about 7.4lbs, which is more than the Bosch and Yamaha 500 watt hour packs that are built into plastic cases. I like how neatly the Velec pack seats into the downtube, nearly disappearing and keeping weight low for balance and stability. For ~$300 more, you can upgrade to a 48 volt 14 amp hour 672 watt hour battery that will take you further and weigh about 0.5lbs more. It seats into the same downtube interface and has apparently become one of the most popular choices for consumers, based on feedback from a shop I visited for this review. In the scheme of things, for a $2.3k ebike, $300 isn’t much money to get that extra peace of mind. At first, I thought that these were the only two battery options on offer for the R48, but I was later shown a rear rack upgrade with 48 volt 4.4 amp hour battery for an additional $375. You’re paying at a similar rate for the rack battery, which replaces the stock rack, but bringing weight up on the frame. The Velec models I test rode for this review were all pre-wired for this rack battery, and that impressed but also surprised me. That’s a bit of extra weight and cost on every bike sold and I probably don’t fit the use case for really needing the extra juice, so it didn’t resonate with me as much as the $300 main battery upgrade. All said and done, with both battery upgrades purchased, you could be riding with 48 volt 18.4 amp hours, 883.2 watt hours… almost an entire kilowatt hour of battery capacity! For larger riders, commuters who can’t charge half way, and those who heavily rely on assist level 5 or the twist throttle, this is a cool option. It’s especially relevant with the hub motor R48 because they don’t tend to be as efficient as mid-motors. It’s great that all battery options are removable for storing and charging independent of the frame. Extreme heat and cold can damage Lithium-ion cells, especially if you charge a very cold battery. The stock charger offers 3 amp output, so it will fill faster than the standard 2 amp chargers included with more basic bikes.
Operating the Velec R48 is intuitive, but there are extra steps and more control over drive modes than most of the other electric bicycles I’ve reviewed in this category. To start, you charge and mount the battery pack… and yes, you can charge the pack while mounted to the bike by plugging in on the left side of the downtube. I love that Velec positioned the charging port high and clear of the left crank arm. And, on that note, it’s nice that they also positioned the rear kickstand clear of the left crank arm. So once the battery is in place, you hold the power button on the control pad, mounted near the left grip. The monochrome display blinks to life fairly quickly with speed, assist level, battery charge level, and trip stats. Since Canada and the US use different units of measurement for speed, I want to point out that you can switch from MPH to KM/H and back by Holding the + and – keys on the control pad. Holding the – key alone will enter into a password menu where I’m guessing that you could adjust the speed and wheel size settings, or perform diagnostics. Holding the Set button will clear your trip meter. The control pad is fairly easy to reach and I appreciate the Set key, but wish that there was a way to operate the lights from here as well. It would be nice if you could remove the display unit to reduce damage when parking outside or at a public rack, especially since it’s a bit large. The extra toggle button on the left (which may not always be included) allow you to switch from the main downtube battery to the optional rear rack battery. The extra red toggle button on the right allows you to turn the twist throttle on and off. This feature is wonderful to have but not always included because it can block trigger shifters. Imagine that you’re getting on or off the bike but you haven’t turned the throttle off, it could be twisted accidentally and send the bike forward. Again, nice to have this! It’s neat to see how Velec paid close attention to all of these details. In closing, I want to highlight that the battery pack has an integrated full-sized USB port near the top edge, where the flip-up handle is, and that’s nice to have if you’re navigating with a smartphone or adding extra lights etc. but it would be nice if the display panel also had a USB port built in, so the wire wouldn’t have to go as far. You could always purchase a right angle interface like this to keep the wire pointed forward.
Velec makes a wide range of ebike products and the R48 is a great balance of utility, comfort, and value. Not everything here is top notch, the mechanical disc brakes are average compared to hydraulic but do have motor inhibitors and a larger front rotor for easier stops. The bike weighs and costs more than their A2 model, which also offers an approachable step-thru design, but that one only comes in one size. The included plastic fenders, with mud flaps, performed well and stayed pretty quiet, even when I rode through wet streets and across a grassy field. Plastic almost always produces some rattling noise, but the rear fender was attached to the rack for increased strength. You get a little flick bell, decent rubberized pedals that won’t cut your shins if you slip off, and premium Schwalbe tires with Performance Line SmartGuard puncture protection. It’s neat that this bike offers an adjustable stem that can change angles and height, as well as mid-rise bars with ergonomic grips. This electric bicycle is a turn-key solution for people who want power, balance, and comfort. I personally love that there are so many choices here in terms of size, color, and even motor type (if you pay more for the mid-drive R48M). If you do opt for the secondary rack battery, note that it will have to be charged separately from the main pack, they don’t charge in a connected way. If you do get that rear battery, it has a built-in light vs. the independent stock backlight. The charger for this bike is compact, very lightweight at 1.3lbs, and fills faster than average because it’s 3 amps vs. 2 amps. And again, the USB port near the top of the battery could maintain a portable electronic device while riding or separately, using the pack as a backup power source. Big thanks to Best Electric Bikes for hosting me during these reviews and to Velec for partnering with me on this review! I welcome your feedback and comments below or in the Velec electric bike forums.
- Velec has two R48 models, this one has a hub motor vs. mid-drive (which isn’t quite as efficient) but it costs about $1,000 less because it uses a cassette vs. internally geared hub, it also weighs ~2.5lbs less
- Extremely approachable and comfortable, with two frame sizes (both in step-thru), a vertically adjustable quill stem with adjustable angle, ergonomic grips, suspension fork, suspension seat post, and extra wide sprung saddle!
- Great utility with stock plastic fenders, a derailleur guard, front and rear light, flick bell, adjustable kickstand positioned clear of the left crank arm, and sturdy rear rack with pannier hangers and bungee loops on the sides
- Available in three beautiful colors, so you can mix and match if more than one member of the family buys a bike… I like the metallic titanium and red because they offer increased visibility, but the black really hides the wires, motor casing, and battery
- In addition to the higher visibility paint options, you also get lights and reflective tires that keep you seen in dark riding conditions
- Velec provides a faster than average three amp battery charger, so you can spend more time riding and less time waiting, it’s cool that they offer two battery sizes and even have a rear-rack battery upgrade for people who need extra range
- This ebike offers pedal assist and throttle model, which is great for those who need help getting started or might not want to pedal constantly, it’s a great feature to have
- I love that the twist throttle can be disabled, simply click the red toggle switch to the lower left area and you won’t have to worry about bumping it during mounting/dismounting or bumpy sections of terrain
- I love how integrated the battery is because it basically disappears, you can still remove it for independent charging and storage away from extreme temperatures, or to make the bike lighter to lift and service
- Minor pro here, the brake levers both have motor inhibitor switches built-in, which offers a bit more control and peace of mind
- If you look at the frame tubing here, it’s clear that Velec added a lot of material where the downtube meets the seat tube to reduce flex, they even added a second chain stay so there are three tubes working together on each side of the rear section of frame
- Cables are internally routed for nicer aesthetics and reduced snags when pedaling, steering, and transporting the bike, I appreciate where they positioned the charging port too, on the left side of the frame, because it’s clear of the crank arms further down
- The battery pack has a flip-up handle to help you remove and transport it safely, that’s a big deal because Lithium-ion battery packs like this tend to be very expensive and can be damaged easily if dropped
- I appreciate the chainring guard and chain cover because they keep your pants or skirt ends clean while pedaling… but it would have been nice to see a full chain guide to reduce inward drops, the cover support arm may act as a guide
- The tires have puncture protection, which reduces flats… and that’s especially nice with a heavier ebike and a hub motor, because there are extra wires and no quick release
- Extra thick spokes were used to handle more weight and keep wheels in true, threaded connectors with rubber washers where used to keep water out and make the cables more reliable
- Compared to the mid-drive with the belt and continuously variable transmission, the standard R48 is more rear heavy, makes a bit more noise, and cannot be shifted at standstill
- The integrated headlight is mounted to the arch of the suspension and may bounce as you navigate through bumpy terrain vs. if it were mounted to the head tube, stem, or handlebar… the backlight runs on two AA batteries and takes more effort to switch on and remember to switch off after each ride, I was surprised that the headlight also still has a manual button press vs. using the main control pad/display to operate
- The spring suspension fork is a little basic and does not include lockout so there can be some bobbing and dive when braking especially, you can adjust the preload by pulling off the plastic caps
- Mechanical disc brakes are okay, but hydraulic tend to require less effort and offer more adjustability, the rubberized plastic pedals won’t cut your shins but aren’t as stiff or grippy as alloy, the display works fine but isn’t removable and doesn’t have a USB charging port built-in… thankfully, the battery pack does have a full sized USB so you could run a cable up from there
- Even though it’s lighter than the R48M, 65lbs is still on the heavier side for an ebike, this may be due to the sturdier rear rack, spring suspension, larger saddle, and integrated battery design (with reinforced downtube and double chain stay to help reduce frame flex), it will weigh even more if you opt for the additional rear rack battery
- The rear rack is positioned pretty close to the seat tube and saddle, this brings weight closer to the frame for strength and reduced flex but it might also put a trunk bag very close to the saddle and limit the minimum seat height in that case… this is more of a wash than a con for me personally :)
- This is more of a consideration than a con, sometimes the adjustable angle stems can rattle loose over time (especially on bumpy terrain or if you go off curbs), this one seemed to have one main bolt vs. two so just check it occasionally and tighten right away to keep it from stripping
- Minor complaint, I didn’t notice a slap guard to keep the paint from getting chipped by the chain bouncing up and down, you could always buy one or use clear box tape