Volton Alation Mid-Drive 350 Review

Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Electric Bike Review 1
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Watt Geared Motor
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Battery Pack Cover
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Display Panel
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Eight Speed Shimano Alivio
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Front Chain Ring
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Modular Headlight
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Rear Fender
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Removable Battery
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Electric Bike Review 1
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Watt Geared Motor
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Battery Pack Cover
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Display Panel
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Eight Speed Shimano Alivio
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Front Chain Ring
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Modular Headlight
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Rear Fender
Volton Alation Mid Drive 350 Removable Battery

Summary

  • Affordable, well balanced and light-trail capable hardtail electric bike with an efficient mid-drive motor
  • Drive system by 8Fun (Bafang) includes a large backlit LCD display console and easy-reach external button pad
  • Removable Lithium-ion battery pack is mounted inside the downtube to keep weight low and center, looks great

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Video Review

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Introduction

Make:

Volton

Model:

Alation Mid-Drive 350

Price:

$2,249 USD

Body Position:

Forward

Suggested Use:

Trail, Urban

Electric Bike Class:

Throttle on Demand (Class 2)
Learn more about Ebike classes

Warranty:

1 Year Frame, Motor, Battery and Electronics

Availability:

United States

Model Year:

2014

Bicycle Details

Total Weight:

52 lbs (23.58 kg)

Frame Types:

High-Step, Step-Thru

Frame Sizes:

20 in (50.8 cm)18 in (45.72 cm)

Frame Material:

Hydro-Formed 6061 Aluminum Alloy

Frame Colors:

Black with Red Accents, Red with Black Accents, White, Graphite

Frame Fork Details:

SR Suntour XCR Suspension with Lockout

Attachment Points:

Rear Rack Bosses, Fender Bosses

Gearing Details:

8 Speed 1x8 Shimano Alivio HG50

Shifter Details:

Trigger Shifters on Right Bar

Pedals:

Wellgo Aluminum Alloy Platform

Headset:

Neco Oversized

Stem:

Truvativ, Fixed 80 mm

Handlebar:

Truvativ Mid­Rise

Brake Details:

Avid BB5 Mechanical Disc with 160 mm Rotors

Grips:

Dual Density

Saddle:

Velo Comfort

Rims:

Alex Rims DH19 Double Walled

Spokes:

Heavy Gauge (12) Stainless Steel

Tire Brand:

Kenda KRAD 26" x 2.3"

Wheel Sizes:

26 in (66.04cm)

Tire Details:

Puncture Resistant

Accessories:

Bell on Right Bar, Front and rear Plastic Polymer Fenders, Front and Rear LED Lights

Other:

Oversized Headset for Improved Strength, Multi-Tool Included for Assembly, Free Shipping, Novatec Alloy MTB Hubs

Electronic Details

Motor Brand:

8Fun

Motor Type:

Mid-Mounted Geared Motor
Learn more about Ebike motors

Motor Nominal Output:

350 watts

Battery Brand:

Samsung

Battery Voltage:

36 volts

Battery Amp Hours:

10.5 ah

Battery Watt Hours:

378 wh

Battery Chemistry:

Lithium Polymer

Charge Time:

3.5 hours

Estimated Min Range:

35 miles (56 km)

Estimated Max Range:

45 miles (72 km)

Display Type:

Bafang Backlit LCD

Readouts:

Speed, Odometer, Battery Capacity, Assist Level (3 Modes)

Display Accessories:

Independent Button Pad

Drive Mode:

Cadence Sensing Pedal Assist, Twist Throttle

Top Speed:

20 mph (32 kph)

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Written Review

Volton has been making the Alation since 2012, it’s an affordably priced, off-road capable ebike with a purpose built frame designed to keep battery weight low and balanced. While older models use 350 and 500 watt geared rear hub motors in 2014 this new mid-drive version was introduced with an 8Fun BBS01 geared center drive. I’m a big fan of the system because it’s quieter, stronger and more sophisticated than some other low end mid-drives but not so fancy that it jacks up the price. Keep in mind, if you bought the BBS01 with a 36 volt ~10 amp hour battery equivalent to what’s used on this bike it would likely cost upwards of $1,000. So with this bike priced at ~$2,300 including free shipping you get enormous value in my opinion. Not only does it include lights, fenders, an integrated battery design and a suspension fork with lockout but you also get a one year warranty. At the time of this review I was told that the bike is completely sold out and I can see why.

The motor driving this electric bike offers 350 watts of power which is about average. However, thanks to its mid-mounted configuration it actually climbs better and can reach higher top speeds than a hub motor would. You can operate the bike in one of three pedal assist modes that use a cadence sensor built right into the mid-motor casing and at any time you can also use the twist throttle as an override. The twist throttle offers as much power as the assist mode you choose so level 1 will feel weak and level 3 will feel strong. One downside with the twist throttle is that the bike does not offer throttle only mode… if you want that type of experience just choose pedal assist level three and don’t pedal, the throttle will still work. That said, if you forget that pedal assist is enabled and turn the cranks at all with your feet the bike may surprise you by activating the motor. Overall the motor is quiet, smooth and fairly powerful. You can use the eight speed cassette in the rear like the transmission on a car to optimize torque or speed but there is no shift sensor built in. This means that if you are throttling the bike hard while shifting you might encounter mashing and grinding. I usually slow my pedaling or activate the brakes momentarily (which cuts off power to the motor) and then shift.

The battery pack used for the Alation Mid Drive is a 36 volt 10.5 amp hour Samsung brick that’s designed to fit right into the downtube. It’s a wonderful design, especially considering the low price of this bike. Aesthetically it’s similar to what higher priced Stromer, Specialized and Easy Motion designs offer but not quite as secure or polished. Older Alation models had a cover that would rattle but that has been solved here with a rubberized edge that also keeps out dust and light exposure to water. The battery pack inside is also more secure now thanks to a canvas tote (complete with handles) designed to make charging and storing the battery away from the bike even easier. Frankly, it’s a great design for what it is and the cells themselves are high quality with Lithium-ion chemistry. The battery weight is kept low and center, very near the motor, and the controller and wiring are also stored in the frame so the overall appearance of the bike is not degraded. All except the front of the bike I guess, where wires from the brake levers and drive system are a bit exposed. I think normally they’d be more wrapped up but the demo bike I tested had just been built for our ride.

Operating the Alation Mid-Drive is similar to other Volton Alation ebikes but uses the stock Bafang display instead of a J-LCD King Meter. Once the battery pack is secure in the frame, you hold the power button on the control pad (located on the left portion of the handle bar near the grip) and the screen activates. It starts out in assist level one (the weakest level) and from there you press + or – on the control pad for more or less power. The display is large, backlit and adjustable (swivels forward or back) to reduce glare but it is not easily removable. that’s a bummer because you don’t want to tempt vandals or alert people to this being an electric bike. I suppose you could get a velcro cover or something to hide it and keep rain off but overall it’s very well sealed and designed to be exposed to the elements without issue. I like the trigger shifters, twist throttle and brake levers in use here. they’re all pretty standard in terms of design but the brake levers do cut power to the motor and include an integrated bell on the left grip which is neat.

I’ve long been a fan of Volton because their founder Joe Marchfield is such a nice and responsive guy. We recently went for a test ride near Chicago and I got to use the Mid-Drive and his 500 watt Alation and both performed well. It’s tough to find any ebikes below $2,500 that offer so many features and even tougher to find one that looks great and is well balanced. This bike is capable of light trail riding but also performs well in urban environments thanks to the suspension lockout and mounting points for adding a rear rack. I like the kickstand, pedals, disc brakes and lights that are included and feel like this is a great value overall.

Pros:

  • Efficient 350 watt mid-drive is a capable hill climber when used in conjunction with the eight speed Shimano cassette
  • Front shock is smooth with good travel and offers lockout to reduce bob when riding on-road
  • Fenders reduce exposure to water and mud, reinforced to limit ratting when used off-road
  • LCD computer is intuitive, shows speed, capacity and range and has a breakout set of buttons that are easy to reach when riding, it is also backlit and operates the headlight
  • Available in four color schemes and two frame sizes (step-thru and standard diamond high-step)
  • 26″ wheels provide room for fenders, offer mechanical advantage for climbing and improve maneuverability for technical terrain
  • Uses an oversized headset for increased strength in off-road applications and handling small jumps
  • Solid single-sided kickstand stays up when riding and actually supports the bike well
  • 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
  • This is one of the few purpose built electric bikes that leverages the 8Fun BBS01, it’s a mid-level centerdrive system that costs less than Bosch, Panasonic and Yamaha but offers better performance than iGo, EVELO and eProdigy

Cons:

  • 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
  • Throttle mode can only be used when bike is set to pedal assist (one of three levels), it would be nice if it worked at zero for throttle-only riding

Resources:

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Ron
2 years ago

10% restocking fee if you find it is too small. That's tough. But apparently they have a few dealers now, if you're lucky enough to live near one.

Court Rye
2 years ago

Bummer, sounds like the frame was a bit small for you Ron? Volton only offers one frame size for most of their ebikes and they are primarily an online company so that keeps the price low but also makes test riding and returning a bit more difficult... and expensive :(

AJ
2 years ago

I'm 6'3", 190lbs. You think I would fit on this bike?

Court Rye
2 years ago

You could make it work but the frame might feel a little tight, positioning your body more upright and possibly not allowing for full leg extension without a longer seat tube. One alternative worth considering that also uses a mid-drive and comes in medium and large frame sizes is the IZIP E3 Peak or the BMEBIKES BM-Night Hawk that comes in 17", 19", 21" and 23" and uses the same 8Fun motor as the Alation.

mike
2 years ago

Also a 500W, 48V option for $400

Scott
2 years ago

Court, have you riden the 500 watt 48v version of this bike? I think this bike looks awesome and has great performance but I am wondering how much better the 48v version might be since I am 5' 11" and 250 lbs. Thanks, Scott

Court Rye
2 years ago

Hi Scott, no I haven't! At the time of review there was only a 350 watt version and it was decent but did leave something to be desired in terms of power. For anyone who weighs over 180 or plans to transport extra cargo in this weight range I recommend upgrading to 500+ motors and 48 volt systems if they're available. The bike will operate more efficiently and just be more enjoyable. Volton makes great stuff and I'm sure Joe (the owner) will take care of you if you reach out with questions :)

Mike Leroy
2 years ago

Court, I trust you know Lithium Polymer is not considered a chemistry. I assume the manufacturer gave you that. Info. I explain the details here, for anyone wanting clarification.

Court Rye
2 years ago

Great feedback as always Mike! Thanks for clarifying this and adding your voice here for people who are considering the Alation and other Lithium Polymer packs :)

Link Shadley
1 year ago

Volton Alation 350 Mid-drive. FANTASTIC ! I received this bike in November, just as the first winter storm hit in the north Idaho mountains. Snow, trees down, only rode 1/2 a mile. Lots of time in the shop to add accessories. Today, 2/8/2016 the snow had melted from the bike trails in Sandpoint, Idaho and we put 7 miles on the bike. It is great. Rarely got above Assist Level 2 and the bike battery indicator still shows full charge. My wife who has good legs was on her bike and often came up huffing and puffing when I stopped for her to catch up. My legs don't work well due to claudication and diabetes thanks to Agent Orange from 'Nam. This bike is exactly what I need to get back outdoors and do moderate exercise. Perfect customer service from Joe, well made, works as advertised. Couldn't be happier.

Court Rye
1 year ago

Sounds like the bike is working great for you Link! Joe has always been good to me as well and I think the 350 mid-drive model strikes a perfect balance between power, efficiency and price. Appreciate your comment :)

Link Shadley
1 year ago

Completed a mountain bike trek yesterday with the Volton Alation 350 Mid-drive of 20 miles and 1500' elevation gain near Sandpoint, Idaho on pavement, gravel, dirt and mud. Out Rapid Lightning, up Upper Gold Creek, south on Colburn Culver and back. Used about 60% of the bike battery and 80% of my energy - however, I now believe the bike is capable of 30+ miles with conservative use of the battery so the 72 mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alene's seems achievable where there is a 32 mile stretch between plugins. I'm going to bring a portable solar panel also in case I get stranded and need to bivouac for a couple of days to recharge the battery.

This bike is fantastic. I think the upgraded 48 volt version this year will be better (might give the 350 to my wife and get the 500 next year).

Court Rye
1 year ago

Awesome! Thanks for sharing your experience and the ride stats Link, win-win for you and your Wife if you get the 48, would love to hear back after more rides have been completed ;)

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Mac Expert
1 year ago

Your hands make me nervous. If you need to communicate with hearing impaired use subtitles....

Nicholas Yiannakis
2 years ago

Is this bike water proof when the battery is removed?

Olexandr Ignatov
2 years ago

Hello! Thanks for this review!
What do you think of Volton Alation Mid-Drive 500W version? Is it worth it or better to go with 350W or standard Alation 500?

Ron Warrick
1 year ago

+ElectricBikeReview.com Because you can use the derailleurs with the mid-drive, a 350 watt motor will deliver more useable torque than a 500 watt nominal hub. I have a 250 watt mid-drive that outperforms my 400 watt hub on any kind of a hill.

ElectricBikeReview.com
2 years ago

+Olexandr Ignatov I'd probably just go with the standard Alation 500 and save the cash. Those hub motors have been around forever and work pretty well. You're correct about mid-drive motors adding more wear and tear to the chain and cassette.

Olexandr Ignatov
2 years ago

+ElectricBikeReview.com Thanks for the answer! Became a little bit confused choosing between Alation 500, Alation Mid Drive 500 or some similar bikes...It looks like Alation 500 does the job pretty well, and it has that throttle from scratch mode, which Mid Drive didn't. But in other hand, it has less overall battery performance and efficiency and the rear hub motor could be more pain if something breaks. But you say that 8Fun mid drive motor could be even more complex. Also I've seen in some of your videos that switching gears on mid drive systems could be a little tricky. After all, a Mid Drive 500 is $500 more than the Alation 500.

What would you choose for yourself, man? :) Sorry for disturbing you so much.

ElectricBikeReview.com
2 years ago

+Olexandr Ignatov I'd say the mid drive will offer better balance and efficiency (this includes battery performance... the batteries are the same but the mid-drive just operates more efficiently if you shift gears). It may be easier to service the wheels on a mid-drive because there are fewer cables and less weight in the wheels but the motor itself is more complex when mounted at the bottom bracket than if it were a hub motor.

Olexandr Ignatov
2 years ago

+ElectricBikeReview.com Thank you! So Alation 500 will be as good as Mid Drive 500, except better balance, efficiency, easier customization and service and better battery performance overall in the Mid Drive?

mixflip
2 years ago

I love mid drives for their torque but i hate systems that have the motor in the worst place possible for offroad. One rock or log hit and the motor is destroyed. Please review the electric motoped bike by Race Proven in San Diego!!! Their motor is in a great spot for offroad.

nebula722
2 years ago

The 8Fun drive is what I want and hope to get soon.  I wonder how many lumens the headlamp is. 

nebula722
2 years ago

+ElectricBikeReview.com I did not order one as yet.  I order the 20" wheel and then after the first of the year I plan on purchasing the 8ifun.  I am excited as I do think I will be able to bulldoze up the grades with me pedaling.   I have a headlamp this is just great.  750 lumens.  Good morning. 

ElectricBikeReview.com
2 years ago

Yeah, it's a nice setup! Did you order one? Sorry, not sure on the lumens for this headlamp.

Marcelo Gutierrez
2 years ago

Is this model faster than the Alation 500?. I read on that review of the Alation 500 that you can play with the setting and get up to 25 m/h.

ElectricBikeReview.com
2 years ago

I've heard that as well and seen it on some models. I think this one goes slightly above 20mph actually but not much. There is another mid-drive from 8Fun that offers 750 watts of power (vs. 350 here) and it definitely goes a bit faster. Here are the reviews for both motors stand-alone http://electricbikereview.com/8fun/bbs01/ and http://electricbikereview.com/8fun/bbs02/

Nichen
3 years ago

Wow there are sooo many different Electric bikes today! It's crazy! Just compare to let's say...the year 2012. It's great! It's the future! :)

ElectricBikeReview.com
3 years ago

I agree, it's kind of crazy! I started reviewing bikes around 2012 and the options were much more limited. This year (2014) in particular has been huge with Haibike coming to the US and the updates from BionX. Easy Motion has also been doing great stuff and was one of the leaders in 2013 to bring purpose built high quality designs. Have you been to the main site? I've got a list of different types of bikes to help you sort through: http://electricbikereview.com/#bikes

Bierce88
3 years ago

what kind of range would that thing get

ElectricBikeReview.com
3 years ago

I've estimated 35 to 45 miles (the website says up to 44 miles) and it really depends on how much you use the throttle vs. pedaling along in assist as well as your weight, the terrain and even the weather (like wind) to some extent. The nice LCD display shows battery level and has an odometer so you can kind of estimate your range with each ride and decrease assist to conserve juice if needed.

G Robbo
3 years ago

Great review, and nice to see the Bafang installed and sold as the finished product as a complete rig,  a very nice bike indeed .. 

ElectricBikeReview.com
3 years ago

I completely agree, buying it this way eliminates the need for special tools and gets you a warranty. I think the Volton frames look really nice and the fact that you also get a year warranty is hard to beat.

Onoh Udensi
3 years ago

Again, yet another wonderful review. Thank you.

ElectricBikeReview.com
3 years ago

Thanks, this was a fun one! Excited to see a few affordable mid-drive electric bikes coming out :)