- A miniaturized fat tire electric bike that's sand and snow capable, you get fenders, a rack and integrated lights for utility and safety no matter the terrain
- Mid-mount battery design keeps weight low and centered, it's removable for reduced weight (when folding and transporting the bike) but requires that the seat be removed to get it off
- Seat post suspension improves ride quality, you get nine levels of assist as well as trigger throttle mode that overrides for help climbing or slogging through soft stuff
- Key must be left in when riding and can jingle a bit, the display is not removable and it along with the compass, bell and throttle could get bumped when folding, no clasps to keep it folded
The Mariner is one of just a handful of mini sized electric fat bikes I’ve seen that are designed to be both easier to mount and ride for short people as well as transportable for people who maybe have a boat, RV or trunk space. It’s a bike that’s fairly adaptable with telescoping stem (to raise the handle bars) and a seat post that can also raise and has a built in suspension element for comfort. The frame on the bike is sturdy but rigid and it comes with a bolt-on rear rack so you can add a trunk bag or panniers. Also, it has a headlight and tail light for improved safety and perhaps a bit of off-road nighttime adventure! Ultimately, it’s a surprisingly affordable little bike with a big personality that younger people, women and even large guys can enjoy on nearly any type of terrain.
For this review, I was able to get the company that makes them, VoltBike, to send a unit to Cabo San Lucas Mexico for testing at a resort called Cabo Adventures. This company specializes in scuba, zip line and biking adventures and has been considering adding electric bikes but was unsure how they would fare in the soft sand (and with different types of riders). Ultimately, the bike worked VERY well in the sand… even soft sand, which surprised and delighted me. To be fair, all of our fat tire ebikes handled the sand and the larger-wheeled models performed best, but even the 20″ x 4″ tires on this folding model made it through once the tire pressure was lowered sufficiently. Note, lowering the tire pressure makes a HUGE difference on soft terrain like sand or snow. The 500 watt internally geared Bafang hub motor zipped along in pedal assist and throttle mode without a hitch. Being able to add power on demand with the throttle (overriding assist on demand) made a big difference for me and my girlfriend and the fact that VoltBike uses a trigger throttle helped to keep the grips feeling solid vs. the half-twist design that some other bikes employ. It’s personal preference though and I noticed that the throttle on this bike is always active which means it could get bumped if you forget to turn the bike off after riding (if you lift it or decide to fold and pack it up).
Getting in to some of the gripes I have about the bike… activating it is a two step process which takes a bit of extra time and attention and can leave you wondering if it’s charged or has some sort of issue if you haven’t ridden for a while. First, insert the key into the battery and turn to on then hold the little on button at the control pad near the left grip. At this point the display comes to life showing speed, assist level, battery level and sone other stats about ride time and distance. You can activate the LED lights by holding up which is very nice and you can arrow up or down to navigate nine levels of assist but you cannot go to zero. So the throttle and assist are constantly active once the bike is on. Also, those keys mentioned earlier are constantly dangling and at risk of snagging or bending… but at least they’re harder to lose. I appreciate that the battery pack on the Mariner is mounted low and center, just behind the seat tube, and that it has a handle on top for easy removal. But you do have to slide the seat and seat post off in order to actually remove the battery in my experience.
Riding the bike is easy enough because the fat tires are wider and more stable than traditional ones. They cushion the ride a bit and offer plenty of traction. I found that braking with the rear kept me stable on soft sand and became almost fun like sliding out. Both brakes are mechanical disc and the levers have motor inhibitors so any time you activate them the power cuts out instantly for safety. I love that the cadence sensor they chose (for motor activation) features 12 magnets vs. six on some other models because that helps it respond quicker and on soft or unstable terrain it’s nice to feel in control. I also appreciate the black color scheme they chose for the bike because it hides the cables and wires coming from the brakes, display and shifter up front as they snake towards the rear end. You get six gears here which is very minimal and basic but the chainring is extra large to help balance out the extra small wheels. Pedaling feels normal and shifting is tight thanks to a slightly upgraded Shimano Acera derailleur. The shifter levers are extra large and take up some space at the handle bars but may be easier to use with gloves… and that’s nice if you’re getting this bike for use in the snow.
VoltBike is a Canadian company with a whole range of different styles of electric bikes that are all value priced. They only charge $70 to ship to the continental USA and offer a solid year long warranty. Note that anytime you’re buying an e-bike or other heavy, large and somewhat intricate product online there’s room for error. The Mariner we got made it all the way from Canada through the USA and into Mexico with just one busted part. The kickstand got mangled but we were able to take it off and use the bike without issue. I do like that it comes with a kickstand and a fun little bell compass combo. It would be easy to remove if you wanted but otherwise adds to the fun and sense of adventure. My girlfriend loved the narrower tube because she didn’t hit her knee as easily as with some other bikes we tested and I liked that both folding points locked for safety but noticed that there wasn’t a magnetic clasp or bungee system to keep the bike from unfolding. We all had a blast with this bike and the full sized models, VoltBike does sell a larger fat tire electric bicycle called the Yukon that I preferred for its suspension fork and larger tires but given the convenience and impressive performance on the Mariner, I could see myself being swayed by the space savings and flexibility… also being able to share with a wider range of friends. Big thanks to VoltBike for partnering with me for this review.
- This is one of the most affordable mini-fat bikes on the market and shipping from Canada is just $70 to the US… overall it’s a fun capable bike and the motor is powerful enough to ride in soft sand as shown in the video review (just lower the air pressure first)
- Low standover height makes this a great option for kids, petite riders like my girlfriend and some other ladies or people with sensitive knees or back that can’t swing their legs up high
- Longer telescoping adjustable-length stem allows you to dial in fit, this is great if you’re a taller rider and in my experience the stem didn’t feel loose or wobbly as some designs do
- The top tube is fairly narrow and the joint where it folds doesn’t stick out as much as some competing bikes meaning you shouldn’t hit your knee as easily when getting on or off (still good to be careful)
- The fact that it folds means you can bring this bike to more fun spots, just stick it in your trunk or back seat
- A 12 magnet cadence sensor provides very quick on/off motor performance, it felt responsive and controlled to me which is great for riding off road… some other ebikes only use a six magnet sensor which usually requires more time, this e-bike also has brake levers with motor inhibitors so the motor stops instantly whenever you brake
- I like that the kickstand is mounted far back and out of the way, this makes it easier to work on the cranks, bottom bracket and chain or back the bike up without colliding and bending the stand, I also felt that the stand worked pretty well on the soft sandy beach
- Suspension seat post adds to the comfort of those larger 4″ wide tires and comfort saddle… smaller wheels usually aren’t as comfortable (less air to cushion) so having this post shock really helps if you’re on a bumpy beach or trail
- Front and rear integrated LED lights really take this ebike to the next level! It’s ot something I’d fault the bike for not having because I assume most riding would be during the day out on trails vs. nighttime but then again… if it snows or you’re camping those lights can come in handy and do keep you safe
- Front and rear fenders help to keep you dry when riding, they add to the utility of the lights and rear rack making this both portable and capable as a hauler perhaps for grocery getting or other errands, I was surprised that they are made of steel however because it can rust if scraped vs. aluminum or plastic which would be more durable in salty environments (sea and salted snowy streets)
- The rear cargo rack is pretty awesome! It’s constructed of standard gauge tubing so you can mount most panniers and even has pannier blockers along the sides to keep your straps from rubbing on the extra-wide tires, the rack can support up to 25 kg (~55 lbs) and protects the rear light
- The bike is a bit rear heavy but I love that the battery is not mounted on the rack, instead it is kept low and more central just behind the seat tube so you have more space to haul cargo and get better balance when riding
- Name brand Kenda tires with improved grip and durability, upgraded mechanical disc brakes with a larger 180 mm rotor up front to improve stopping power
- Fun little extras like the compass bell make you feel like an adventurer but could be easily removed if you wanted (be careful with it when folding)
- Oversized Wellgo folding pedals are a huge win for me, they are still small (as with most folding designs) but are larger, sturdier and stiffer than the cheap plastic ones I see a lot… great upgrade there ;)
- Chain guard and a metal rest below the bottom bracket help to protect your chain and sprocket when folding and transporting the bike
- Upgraded Shimano Acera derailleur should be tighter and provide more shifts between tuneups, it’s two steps up from the base level Tourney component group… you get six gears on the bike which is enough but not great
- The bike ships fully assembled including the front wheel so you don’t have to mess around much in order to get up and going
- Neither wheel offers quick release, perhaps this allows for tighter stronger axle mounting but it does mean you’ll need a tool for repairs or flat fixes
- At ~60 lbs this is not a light electric bike but given the larger tires, stronger motor and high capacity battery pack I can understand where the weight comes from, at least the ~7.7 lb battery is removable (highly recommended if you’re folding and lifting the bike)
- I didn’t see any rubber bands or clasps to help keep the bike from coming unfolded… consider purchasing some of your own adjustable bungee cords and maybe using an old towel to keep it from rattling and coming undone
- Considering the off-road nature of fat bikes, I was surprised to not see a slap guard? the chain is upgraded to be rust resistant and the tubing is aluminum so rust isn’t the issue, just the little chips in the paint, consider an after-market neoprene guard like this
- During our tests, the bike must have fallen over or bumped into the bars of another bike because the plastic button pad got bent, the cover sort of bent upward and didn’t protect the clicker beneath as well so be careful with yours, these might just be more delicate than the rubberized flat button designs I’ve seen on some other bikes
- I love that the bike offers assist and throttle mode but would have liked a throttle-only option, minor gripe… I also found that whenever the bike is on, the throttle is always active which can lead to more easy accidental motor bursts (especially if you’re trying to fold it without shutting it off first), that said… it’s a trigger throttle so slightly less likely to bump than a twist throttle and this is my preference for off-roading because it allows for more grip options and just a sturdier feel on the grip
- The keys have to be inserted and twisted then left in the bike in order to activate and use it, this presents some challenges like jingling keys and potential snags when riding, consider a small carabiner? Once the battery is on you have to press and hold the power button on the control pad to activate the bike fully… you’ll see the display come to life then
- The black color was a good choice because the wires blend in, they aren’t integrated through the frame and stick out a bit up front and below the frame… but that makes them easier to reach for repairs, mixed…
- The motor was a bit louder than some other hubs but performed very well, even for larger riders, it’s an fat-tire specific wider motor from a well known company in the space, Bafang
- The motor power cable protrudes directly from the end of the right side of the axle so be careful not to tip the bike onto it (or bump it when folding and transporting), this is also where the derailleur is so the right side of the bike is just more delicate in general
- I think they could make the bike tougher by adding a derailleur guard, tucking the motor cable in further (I’ve seen some different designs that do this) and adding a second bash guard plat to the chainring so you’d have a guide which prevents dropping the chain as easily
- The display can be swiveled forward and back to reduce glare but is not removable, this means it could get bumped easier if the bike tips, when you’re folding it and when it’s being stored and transported
- As with a lot of the folding electric bicycles I test, this one didn’t include bottle cage bosses so you might want to get a trunk bag with a built in bottle holster like this for bringing along fluids