- A unique combination of 28 mph top speed, off-road capability and stealthy frame design with quiet motor operation that's suited to both urban and trail environments
- Available in a four frame and wheel combinations! choose from high-step or step-thru design then either 26" wheels or smaller 24" wheels that lower the frame
- Lots of color choices make it fun, integrated headlight improves safety, rack bosses allow it to transform into a commuter bike, upgraded 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes
- The fenders can rattle a lot so I'd recommend taking them off for trail or mountain riding, the battery isn't as easy or fast to take off as some other bikes, no bottle cages
The latest Volton Alation electric bike builds on what has worked for Volton over the past several years (a mid-priced, powerful ebike with clean battery integration) but improves frame balance, efficiency and climbing power with a Bafang Max Drive mid-motor vs. a hub motor or older bolt-on BBS02 motor. The Max Drive looks a lot more polished and in my experience offers excellent power without producing much noise. While the diamond frame version of this bike (which comes with either a 24″ or regular sized 26″ wheel) is on par with many competing bikes I found the step-thru model to be unique and exciting because it opens up trail riding to petite riders in a way that inspires confidence. This model also comes in the 24″ or 26″ wheel size as well as several fun colors but doesn’t skimp on power. The battery is just slightly smaller (in order to fit in the smaller frame) but otherwise it’s basically the same bike. Trade-offs with most step-thru bikes include a flexier feeling frame and often more limited bicycle rack mounting options… thankfully the battery and both wheels are removable.
I tested this e-bike with lots of help from my girlfriend who is ~5’2″ and an avid pedal-power mountain biker. At first the weigh of the bike was a question mark and the lack of bottle cages, clunky kickstand and rattly fenders gave us pause. The first half of the review above was filmed with the fenders still attached but for mountain biking applications you’d be well served to take them off immediately. That’s the thing about this bike, it’s really well rounded and would work for neighborhood riding in the rain, high speed 28 mph commuting in the city if you added a rack or trail and light mountain riding as we did. There just aren’t a lot of bikes out there that let you jump right off onto both feet with no problem. Furthering this sense of control and confidence are the powerful and easy to use 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes. For riders with smaller hands and less muscular forearms and fingers these brakes are a real blessing. Keep in mind… you can pay a lot more for e-mountain bikes with adjustable length levers and lighter weight air forks and shift sensing and 203 mm rotors etc. etc. but most of those aren’t truly step-thru’s like this even if they are marketed to petite riders and they all cost a lot more. Volton is maintaining that balance of value and while I wouldn’t call this bike cheap at $2,649 it is certainly justifying the price with a lot of upgraded components and custom frame.
A few gripes I have to mention are how tricky it was to get the battery pack out due to the canvas bag it’s mounted in. This made it tight (reducing rattling) but the handle started to tear after taking it out and putting it back a few times and even with my knowledge of how to do it correctly… it took more time than other e-bikes I’ve tested. The battery is low, centered and completely hidden in the frame. The cover locks for security but is just made of plastic so maybe not as confidence inspiring as some other designs. The cover also didn’t sit perfectly flush and tight with the tubing so I believe that in heavy rain some water would get in. That’s not a huge issue as the pack itself is sealed in a metal box but the bag and wires might get a little wet. At ~7.1 lbs the battery can be charged on or off the bike and is nice to take off if you’re lifting like for a car rack but I think I’d prefer to just leave it in given the hassle.
Once charged up, activating the bike is easy and clear thanks to a multi-button control pad positioned near the left grip. Just hold the power button then press + or – to change assist levels. You can go all the way to zero and use the battery just to power the computer display showing speed, range and odometer readouts as well as the headlight or you can arrow up to level 5 for maximum power and speed. Note that by unlocking the display (double tap the “i” button then use +, – and i to navigate) you can change the top speed and adjust other settings. The maximum speed is 28 mph but we tested at 20 while trail riding to perform as a Class 1 ebike for legal reasons. In the parking lot, I was able to hit the top speed by shifting to the highest gear and using level 5 assist and I was really impressed with the power and how quiet, smooth and responsive the motor was.
I’m sure we will see more ebikes using the Bafang Maxdrive and they will probably cost more due to the custom interface with bike frames vs. bottom bracket adapter… but to me it was worth it. The motor combined with the battery design on this bike made for a clean, stealthy ride that would perform well in a whole range of environments. My girlfriend had a blast and really came away glowing, convinced that the step-thru was worth it because she wasn’t so worried about landing on her crotch or hanging one leg up and crashing (which has happened several times on her regular women’s specific Specialized mountain bike). For guys and girls alike I could see this bike being fun and capable. I’d probably opt for the high-step myself and liked the bright white color option for improved visibility and reflection at night. I’d probably also add a rack and keep the fenders on… even then I think smooth trails would be fine but given the rocks and bumps we hit during the test, the fenders just got in the way. I would love to see water bottle cage bosses and a rear mounted kickstand in the future and have heard that the high-step frames come with an adjustable stem vs. fixed which might be worth swapping for rigid if you like to mountain bike so it won’t come loose. Big thanks to Volton for partnering with me for this review.
- By double tapping the “i” button you can enter the display settings and change the top speed (by entering the unlock code that Volton provides) and this lets you hit up to 28 mph top speeds as a Class 3 or dial it down as low as you want, at 20 mph it’s Class 1 and can be used on more mountain bike trails
- Without removing the fenders, you get a solid urban bike that could transform into a commuter if you just add a rear rack using the threaded eyelets (just get a disc-brake ready rack like this)
- Volton has included an integrated LED headlight here that runs off the main battery pack and wasn’t so big or intrusive that I felt it had to come off when riding on trails, it didn’t rattle or feel flimsy
- I love that you can get the frame in diamond (stiffer, stronger) or step-thru (much easier to mount and stand over) frame styles AND that you can choose from 26″ or 24″ wheels because that makes the bike approachable for a wide range of riders, specifically petite riders like my girlfriend who loved the step-thru
- Good choice on the tires, they were wide and grippy enough to handle the trail but rolled fairly smoothly on pavement, I also appreciated the upgraded thicker 13 gauge spokes for rugged terrain or heavier loads
- Very nice drivetrain here for a value priced ebike, you get an 8 speed Shimano Alivio with trigger shifters vs. the large wonky thumb shifter on some other bikes
- Decent suspension fork with preload and lockout adjustment, makes it suitable to trails or city riding and I like that they sort of match the frame color depending on which one you get
- Both wheels have quick release skewers making it much easier to change flats or transport the bike if you don’t have a rack (like if you’re carrying it in your car’s trunk) without needing tools, this is one of the potential big benefits of mid-drive ebikes
- The motor is compact, good looking and VERY quiet… possibly one of the quietest mid-drive motors I have tested to date, this is great when riding on trails in nature
- Impressive saddle, it felt comfortable but also active… many of the other accessories were slightly upgraded as well including the handle bar, seat tube and even the stem (which is an adjustable angle option on some models)
- Given that this bike is capable of high speeds or going off-road I like that it has suspension and the bigger tires but might also consider a seat post suspension like the Thudbuster ST, just make sure it’s a 27.2 mm diameter to fit correctly and note that it will raise the minimum seat post height… and that the post is already a little high on the step-thru models
- Not all models do this but I was impressed with how well the white frame matched the rims, seat post, bars and stem… also the Alex Rims are a good upgrade for strength and durability
- Hydraulic disc brakes with full sized 180 mm rotors! This is an important upgrade that helps the make the bike trail worthy, they are easier to use, stronger and smoother than mechanical
- The motor offers 80 Newton meters of torque which had no problem taking me up a steeper section of trail, you have to pedal since there’s no throttle but it worked great and truly impressed me given this was the first Bafang Max Drive electric bicycle I had tried
- Very high quality Panasonic battery cells that should last a long time, the pack sizes are great at 48 volts 10.5 or 11 amp hours (depending on the step-thru or high-step frame) and you get a solid 1 year comprehensive warranty to back it all up
- I love that the display panel shows 10 ticks on the battery level indicator! that’s much better for communicating than a lot of ebikes which only have 4 or 5 tick
- Considering there’s an integrated headlight, it would be nice to also have a wired-in backlight as well
- I wasn’t a huge fan of the kickstand because it mounts at the bottom bracket exposing it to your cranks once parked (like if you back up the cranks will collide with it) and I felt that even in its longest position the bike still tipped too far to the side
- The deep step-thru model we tested felt a little front heavy and flexy which could turn into speed wobble if you ride 20+ mph fast without having a good grip and paying attention, it’s a common design compromise with single-tube step-thru’s
- The cover for the battery pack works well enough but didn’t completely seal at the top which could allow a bit of water in if it’s raining heavily… shouldn’t cause a huge issue as the battery is sealed inside the downtube in its own metal case but the bag it’s in could get wet
- I found the battery with the bag to be a little tricky to remove and put back in, I didn’t realize that you have to un-Velcro the straps first and I started to rip the demo model a bit, I think in practice I’d just leave the battery in most of the time but at ~7.1 lbs it would reduce weight if you took it off for transport and is handy that you can charge separately
- There isn’t a slap guard on the chainstay which means the chain will chip it over time as it bounces if you ride over bumpy terrain… you could get an aftermarket neoprene one like this if you expect to do trail riding
- No bottle cages… this is a big let down if you’re going to use the bike for mountain biking or trail riding and don’t want to carry a trunk bag, consider a CamelBak or maybe a saddle mount for two cages like this
- The shifter cables, brake lines and wires are mostly hidden and protected thanks to a channel and cover along the downtube but they are exposed at and below the motor… thankfully the chainring drops even lower and has a big bash guard that would offer some protection but it’s not as refined as a Bosch, Brose or Yamaha mid-drive
- The display is fairly large and not removable, that means it could be exposed to more damage in the event of a crash and will take more sun and wear when parked outside, also there are no USB charging ports or other little extras