- An exceptionally affordable, feature rich electric bike, built around an approachable frame that's easier to mount and stand over, offers pedal assist and throttle override operation
- The battery pack is protected by the top tube, positioned low and center along the frame for balance, can be charged on or off the bike, and has a USB charging port for accessories
- Fairly comfortable thanks to a basic suspension fork, adjustable angle stem, and ergonomic grips, the Kenda tires are basic (no reflective paint or puncture protection) but offer a good PSI range and hybrid tread
- Entry-level derailleur with a bulky shifter, basic mechanical disc brakes that require more hand strength to actuate than hydraulic, bouncy and somewhat noisy fenders, only one frame size
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The VoltBike Elegant was massively updated for 2017, the price rose by $200 over the original but this is still one of the most affordable, feature-rich electric bikes I have tested. And now, the rear rack is quieter, stronger and better looking. It no longer has to support the battery box, which has been integrated into the downtube for improved frame balance. The motor is twice as powerful and has been spoked into the rear wheel vs. the front which improves steering and traction. The bike still has integrated LED lights for safety but the tires are not reflective like they used to be. You can get the Elegant in two colors however, including a matte white which is more reflective. But the matte paint has a funky look to it, in my opinion, and the white could show more dirt and become an off-white or yellow with use over time. Even though this upgraded VoltBike Elegant model does not offer the super low-step wave frame design, I feel that it’s very approachable, easy to stand over and handle, and is a lot stiffer and stronger. The wheels offer 36 holes vs. 32 and use a 13 gauge spoke thickness for improved strength which could accommodate larger riders or heavy rear-rack loads. The rear rack is rated up to 55 lbs and is setup with pannier guards and a loop towards the base of the support arms for use with a bungee cord. There’s a whole lot to cover with this e-bike and I want to praise the inclusion of a derailleur guard, which also protects the motor power cable, and integrated USB charging port on the battery pack. These are little things that can sometimes get overlooked. Areas that I feel are average or below average in terms of build and performance are the square tapered spindle vs. splined which isn’t as strong, the entry-level Shimano Tourney derailleur and thumb shifter which might require more tuneups and don’t shift as quickly, the loose chain and lack of chain guide and slap guard, the limited adjust suspension fork which can dive or bob (especially for heavy riders), the plastic fenders with basic support mounts which rattle quite bit on bumpy terrain and may even rub on the tires, and the basic mechanical 160 mm disc brake hardware vs. hydraulic. That said, the brakes work well enough and the levers are comfortable and smart, with integrated motor inhibitors that cut power to the motor when pulled.
Driving this bike is a 500 watt nominally rated, Bafang hub motor. It’s a planetary geared hub motor, which is more compact and zippy feeling than competing gearless models. VoltBike may have adjusted the Amp flow in the controller however, because it accelerates smoothly and does not feel as surprising and on/off as some of the other Bafang hub motors I have tested. You can still get a strong burst of energy by using the trigger throttle to override assist, but the 12 magnet cadence sensor works very well on its own and I actually like how smooth it feels. Hub motors operate independently from the chain and cassette that you power as a rider. This means that you won’t have to worry about shifting gears to maximize power, and you won’t encounter as much mashing as you might with a mid-drive. But, the downside is that the hub motor dosn’t benefit from the shifting either, and likely will not achieve the same range or climbing strength. I only weigh ~135 lbs but was very impressed with the climbing strength that the motor did offer when testing up an incline in a grassy section of a park in downtown Vancouver Canada. The bike was able to move me from near standstill and accelerate up a small hill. I didn’t have to worry about pedaling and was instead, able to focus on balancing and steering. This is exactly the kind of setup I prefer on an ebike, full control and power at anytime. The trigger throttle does offer variable-speed activation, so if you push it just a bit, you will only get a little bit of power. It isn’t active at the zero level of assist, but 1-9 can be overridden with full power which is handy for a last minute boost when climbing or a quick zip up to catch some friends or pass another cyclist. Be careful not to bump the trigger when mounting or dismounting the bike, it’s a good idea to arrow down to level zero or simply turn it off, especially when loading the bike on a rack or putting it away in your garage. Thankfully, the trigger throttle is small and mostly out of the way. Given the very basic seven speed drivetrain on this bike (that you pedal with), I love how versatile the motor operation is. You can basically leave the bike in assist level three, the drivetrain in gear four, and just use the throttle to start and then pedal without ever changing gears or switching levels. And again, that’s nice because nine levels of assist is a bit excessive and can be tedious to click through.
Powering the Volt Bike Elegant is a very capable 48 volt 10.4 amp hour battery pack that uses Samsung cells. Weighing in at roughly seven pounds, it’s about average in terms of size and is very easy to click on or remove from the frame. This battery is the biggest upgrade and improvement over the earlier Elegant model because it positions weight where it should be, low and center on the frame. I like that it can be charged when mounted or removed, because that’s useful for commuting situations where the bike might be locked up at a rack outside. The charging port is a bit vulnerable, situated low and near the left crank arm, and the charger is a bit average, putting out 2 Amps vs. 3 or 4, but it gets the job done. I do wonder if it would have been possible to put the battery even lower on the downtube, near the bottom bracket vs. the head tube, to further maximize stability, but perhaps they had to put the controller there in the downtube where the wiring would be easier to run to the motor? In any case, many of the shifting, braking, and power cables are internally routed through the frame for an improved aesthetic and reduced snag potential. They practically disappear on the black frame, because they have black plastic covers. One final highlight about the battery is the integrated full-sized USB charging port positioned near the top of the right side. This could be useful for keeping a mobile phone charged when using GPS or playing music on the way to work. I would recommend the use of a right angle USB adapter to keep your wires from getting kicked however. And again, you don’t have to use this port for add-on lights because the battery is already powering the two included lights. They aren’t the fanciest, and in fact the headlight may bounce as you ride because it’s positioned on the moving part of the suspension fork vs. the head tube or handlebar, but they are way better than no lights.
Operating the VoltBike Elegant is straightforward, in fact, it’s using the exact same display system and button pad as before. The LCD is large, backlit (if you hold the up arrow), and adjustable angle to reduce glare. It is not removable, but there does appear to be a disconnect spot for easy replacement if you experience damage at some point down the line. All of the standard readouts about current speed, battery capacity, and assist level are shown, and if you tap the power button (the little rubber button on the remote pad) it will cycle through advanced readouts like average speed and max speed. Holding down on the button pad activates walk mode, and double tapping the power button opens a menu where you can adjust the maximum speed of the bike, though you’ll need a password from VoltBike to do so. This cold be handy for people who want to ride slower for safety reasons… but you can always just arrow down on assist for less power. The real consideration is how fast the throttle will get you going, because it’s always offering up full power when pushed all the way down. I was able to reach just over 20 miles per hour in the highest assist level during my tests. I would have been happy with a five level assist vs. nine because I don’t love clicking through so many levels when trying to focus on riding. At least the display is within reach and easy to learn (there are only three buttons). After a bit of practice, it’s easy to click up or down without even looking at the display for feedback. The one thing I have noticed about this particular button pad is that if you snag the buttons with fabric or somehow bump them when parking, the plastic cover can get bent up and become vulnerable to breaking off. I have only seen this once, but I have never seen the rubberized buttons get broken, so I consider it a point of consideration and extra care. A secondary four-LED display is built into the top of the battery box, and this allows you to get a quick idea of how full the pack is, even when it’s not mounted to the bike.
I went extra long on the video review above and have included a very detailed list of pros and cons below because I feel like this ebike would be a great fit, at the right price, for a large audience of people. It’s not perfect, but it delivers a lot of value and is more than good enough for the majority of use cases. I’d love to see a matte/gloss mix, maybe a satin paint job in the future to reduce fingerprints, and maybe some reflective tires like the original VoltBike Elegant had. You don’t get quick release here, so consider bringing along a tool and some flat-fix supplies. There’s also no bottle cage and I have listed a few bag options in the pro/con section below to help address this with a holster or a bar mount cup holder like this if you can fit it on. It’s neat to see a well thought out electric bicycle that comes with a basic warranty that is sold online. There are these extremes with kits and super cheap bikes that have zero support… and I find that they usually require extra time and effort that can cost more in the long run. I have seen some very cheap electric bikes being sold on Kickstarter and Indiegogo that only have one gear or require hundreds of dollars of shipping and make you buy an LCD display separately. The VoltBike Elegant comes with everything you need and is being sold by a company that I have been reviewing for several years now, I trust them to stick around and uphold their product more than a lot of others. Big thanks to VoltBike and the founder George for partnering with me on this post and showing me the free helmet that comes with the bike and the big box that that they use to ship it in. It’s nice to get a deeper look, even though I did not unpack the bike myself as an end-customer might. I welcome your feedback and comments as always.
- VoltBike has a shipping facility in the US and Canada, the price for shipping one of their electric bikes is only $70 USD (possibly even less in Canada ~$50) and that’s very low compared to most other manufactures that sell online
- The VoltBike Elegant is one of the most affordable e-bikes I have seen, and it comes with a full set of accessories for commuting such as fenders, a chain cover, and stand-alone LED lights
- I would call this a mid-step frame, it’s approachable, easy to stand-over, and the battery is well protected between the top tube and downtube, weight is also well balanced front to rear and kept fairly low
- Great positioning and hardware choice on the kickstand, it supports the rear-end of the bike and stays out of the way of the left crank arm vs. a bottom-bracket mount design, if you load the cargo rack it should support the weight securely
- Comfort is a bit consideration for me with electric bikes because I tend to ride further and at higher average speeds… so I really appreciate the ergonomic grips, adjustable-angle stem, and suspension fork… though the fork is very basic with only preload adjust (that has to be adjusted on each stanchion independently), lockout can be nice for solid paved surfaces to reduce bobbing and dive when stopping, it’s especially nice to have compression adjust with lockout if you’re a heavier rider
- An integrated USB port on the right side of the battery pack allows you to charge phones, music players, and other portable electronic devices on the go or at home with the battery off the bike, it’s a useful feature but I’d recommend using a 90 degree adapter like this to keep the wire clean and safe from being kicked or bumped
- Weighing in at about 55.6 lbs, this isn’t the heaviest nor lightest weight electric bike, but at least you can take the battery pack off for charging or transporting the bike, it locks securely with a key and slides in from the left vs. clicking down, this enables the lower top tube design
- Since the derailleur and motor power cable are both positioned on the right side of the bike, near the right axle, it’s cool that VoltBike has added a derailleur guard to keep them from getting bumped in shipping and if the bike tips or is parked at a crowded rack where people might kick it accidentally
- Even though the mechanical disc brakes are a little basic, the brake levers look and feel good because they are black and have a rubberized edge, they also have motor inhibitors built in to cut power to the bike when you make an emergency stop
- When you purchase an electric bike from VoltBike, they throw in a DOT approved helmet for free, it’s a neat policy and the helmets come in a few different colors, as someone who cares about safety, I like this
- I have a sensitive back and neck so the front suspension and possible upright bar position helps, but I might also swap the seat post with a 27.2 mm diameter suspension post like the Suntour NCX or Thudbuster ST but keep in mind, this raises the minimum saddle height by a few inches so it might not be the best plan for people who want to keep that saddle super low
- I was really impressed that the LED lights are both integrated! This makes them less of a target for theft and reduces the time you have to spend when starting and stopping (turning them on and off)
- The matte black and matte white color schemes look unique and maybe trendy but they seem to show fingerprints and dirt more (especially the white), but I like that the white will be more visible at night vs. black
- I like that the side of the chain cover has a section of reflective material (like a sticker) but wish that the tires also had some reflective accents, especially for the black frame, it’s a minor gripe but consider upgrading to the affordable Schwalbe Marathon GG RLX or the Schwalbe Marathon Plus which also has some puncture protection qualities
- Minor consideration here, both wheels use bolts vs. a quick release system and this means that changing flats and performing maintenance requires more tools and time, consider using a small trunk bag like this for the charger and a multi-tool, and consider upgrading the tubes to pre-Slimed ones like this if you get flats frequently and bring a mini pump like this
- There are no bottle cage bosses, so consider using a trunk bag with a bottle holster like this so you can stay hydrated… it’s not as easy to reach your water with a bag or pannier setup but there are drink holders like this to consider as well which might fit on the handlebar
- The Elegant only comes in one frame size but I was able to raise the seat and use the adjustable stem to get full leg extension and a comfortable body position, I’m 5’9″ tall
- The display panel is large and the control pad is easy to reach and use while riding but you cannot remove the display when parking so it could get scratched and faded over time, also, I have seen this specific button pad get messed up with clothing snagging the underside of the button cover and bending it up, just be delicate with it because it just doesn’t seem as tough as a fully rubberized pad or a different plastic design
- Minor considerations here but worth mentioning, the Shimano Tourney drivetrain is the most basic low-end derailleur and cassette package and the shifting mechanism is pretty big and bulky on the handlebar, I also feel that the disc brakes are very basic and don’t allow for reach adjust or the same power as hydraulic brakes would, they are however, an upgrade from mechanical rim brakes and should stay cleaner, avoid touching the rotors so they don’t squeak
- The plastic fenders produce a bit more noise when riding on rough terrain, the rear fender seemed a bit high above the wheel and did not connect to the rack hardware for extra support like some higher-quality solutions I have seen, some shops have told me that this type of fender can come loose or rub on the tires a bit more over time
- Because of the more entry-level derailleur, the chain seemed a bit loose and bouncy, I also noticed that the chainstay did not have a plastic slap guard sticker on it and may chip (but the frame is Aluminum so it won’t rust, and it probably won’t be visible because of the chain cover)
- Some of the electrical cables and wires were exposed at the bottom bracket (which isn’t uncommon, but one was a bit longer and seemed vulnerable), there’s not chain guide so the chain could still bounce off and would be tricky to re-seat because of the chain cover
- Since the headlight is mounted on the sliding lowers of the suspension fork vs. the head tube or handlebar, it will bounce up and down on rough terrain which could create a bit of distraction or flashing view vs. steady and consistent, it might also bounce out of place or change the aim over time
- The bike offers nine levers of assist by default… which is more than I prefer, especially with a basic urban bike like this with a 20 mph cap, the nine levels just mean you need to click more frequently which can be tedious, I love how the throttle overrides assist with full power at any level however