The first Volton Alation I got to ride and review arrived at my house in a large box in 2012. I was impressed with the purpose-built frame designed to keep battery weight low and centered on the bike and the overall power of the 500 watt motor and 48 volt battery. The components all worked well and the price was pretty reasonable. The founder of Volton, Joe Marchfield, was (and still is) very easy to reach for support and questions. I’m a fan of off-road capable ebikes that offer suspension and rugged tires and this one goes a step further with fenders, lights and threaded eyelets (for adding a rear rack). The Alation series only comes in two sizes (medium for high-step and a bit smaller for step-thru) but this is fine for average sized riders (I’m about 5’9″ and it feels perfect. The bike offers great power, doesn’t produce excess noise from the motor or rattling accessories and the different color options add a bit of fun.
Having ridden three different versions of this ebike (most recently in late 2014) I continue to be impressed with the little improvements Joe and his team make. My favorite has been a rubber edge piece that reduces rattling on the battery cover and keeps dust from getting into the downtube. This was introduced in 2013 and the battery setup has been further improved in 2014 with a canvas bag surrounding the actual cells pack inside. The bag system looks nicer, reduces rattling and friction wear inside the frame and makes it easier to take the pack out for charging or storage. Other updates to the newer Volton Alation 500 seriese of electric bikes include a nicer headlight that attaches directly to the top curve of the suspension fork (it’s solid and doesn’t bounce around), an integrated bell that’s built right into the Tektro brake lever and an aluminum bash guard. Also, the front and rear fenders have been extended to reduce water and mud splashing. Due to the length of the rear fender two support arms have been added that connect with the rear dropouts for improved strength.
The motor driving the Alation 500 offers, you guessed it, 500 watts of power. It’s a geared design which provides more torque but doesn’t weigh as much as a gearless equivalent. While there are more moving parts inside, gearless hubs have come a long way and are standard fair on ebikes these days. This one runs smooth and stays relatively quiet but is noticeable during full acceleration and climbing. It really shines in off road and hill climbing applications because it’s just so powerful when combined with the higher voltage battery pack. To avoid damage and overheating there’s a built in sensor that automatically shuts the bike down (though I’ve never encountered this on my test rides). If this happens, just give the bike a rest and let it cool for five minutes or so. It should work just fine after that. Note that for smaller riders, those looking to save some money or those who don’t plan on climbing as much Volton does offer a 350 watt Alation as well.
The battery unit powering this bike offers a whopping 48 volts of power and 11 amp hours of capacity. That’s an awesome combination and it really shows when you twist the throttle. This is a strong bike and I’ve read that you can even adjust the computer to make it go a bit faster than the 20mph set limit by exploring the menu. Aside from the power, the big draw of this battery design is how it’s mounted on the frame as mentioned earlier. It’s hard to find an ebike with a downtube-mounted pack for ~$2,000 and while this design isn’t quite as fancy as one of the off-road Neo or Stromer bikes, it’s very capable and accomplishes nearly the same end result.
All things considered, this bike is still one of my favorites because it offers great value. I like the new color choices (black with red highlights or white on white). The battery pack cover works a lot better and the controls are very intuitive. The LCD computer is large making it easy to read but also has a set of rubberized buttons that extend from the main unit over to the left grip making them convenient to reach when riding. You don’t have to compromise your grip too much to change pedal assist levels. There are five modes of assist that run off of a pedelec sensor. It’s not quite as fluid as a torque sensor, and for some off road riding that’s a drawback, but it works as expected switching on and off as you pedal and stop. While the pedal assist settings give you exercise when riding and extend battery range, the bike also offers a twist throttle on the right grip that performs as you might expect.
In terms of gearing, the Alation 500 offers seven speeds which is enough to climb but still reach higher top speeds on flats and downhills. The highest cog is an extra large “granny gear” for ascending steep hills. There’s only one ring on the front and it’s protected by an aluminum bash guard that keeps your pants from snagging and getting greasy (this used to just be plastic). A couple of missed opportunities I see with this bike are that there’s nowhere to mount a water bottle cage and the rear light requires its own batteries, making it easier to forget to turn on or off after a ride. The Volton Alation is a solid bike designed to offer great value. The company is friendly and responsive and the design is quite advanced and aesthetically pleasing considering it’s at least $500 less than similar models from larger brands like IZIP and Easy Motion.
- Strong 500 watt motor 48 volt battery combination for climbing hills and going off road (the Alation 350 uses a 350 watt motor with 36 volt pack), higher voltage offers more power and increased efficiency for longer rides
- Front shock is smooth with good travel and offers lockout to reduce bob when riding on-road
- Fenders reduce exposure to water and mud, the newer fenders have been extended to offer better coverage but are also reinforced to limit ratting with off-road use
- LCD computer is intuitive, shows speed, capacity and range and has a breakout set of buttons that are easy to reach when riding
- Available in three color schemes and two frame sizes (step-thru and standard diamond high-step)
- 26″ wheels provide room for fenders, offer leverage for climbing and improve maneuverability for technical riding
- Uses an oversized headset for increased strength in off-road applications and jumps
- Solid kickstand that stays up when riding and actually supports the bike well (so many off road bikes skip the kickstand but I love it for commuting)
- Removable battery can be charged off the bike which is very convenient for commuting or if you don’t have room inside for the entire bike, also reduces weight for transporting the frame on a bike rack
- Great customer service and support, one year warranty, bike includes a nice multi-tool for assembly
- Integrated front headlight is modular, plugs into the frame instead of being hard wired so you can completely remove it for off-road use if you want to reduce weight and complexity
- Uses a five-magnet pedelec sensor to activate pedal assist vs. torque sensing which would be more responsive
- Rear light runs off of its own batteries vs. using the main pack, easier to forget and wear batteries down
- Primarily available online which makes demoing the bike and getting maintenance help a bit trickier
- No braze ons for mounting a water bottle cage on the seat post tube or downtube… get a CamelBak?
- Assembly required if you buy this online, may want to take it to a shop to true wheels but that adds to the cost
- Uses mechanical disc brakes vs. hydraulic, they work well enough but add to hand fatigue when riding off road and down steep hills for extended periods
- Only available in one frame size which is about medium for both stepthru and high step