No gimmicks, no problems: The low-fuss, reasonably priced e-bike

Enlarge / Nothing fancy, but solid construction and lots of bonuses like fenders and a rack.

John Timmer

As someone who’s not a car person, being told that a new offering is “the Honda Accord of e-bikes” doesn’t have a lot of resonance. As near as I can tell, the implication here is that the bike is just a bit more expensive than low-end offerings yet provides something a lot closer to a high-end experience.

Even if that wasn’t the intended message, it does seem to be what the bike—the $1,299 Velotric Discover 1—delivers. There’s nothing especially exciting about the ride, and the bike won’t turn heads or invite questions. But in terms of the overall experience, it delivers something a bit closer to a high-end e-bike at a cost that’s much closer to a no-frills budget option.

what you get

The Discover 1 has a standard U-shaped frame. There’s no top bar, which makes getting on and off the seat simpler—and easier for people with limited mobility. If, like me, you have been irreversibly trained to throw your leg over the top bar when getting on a bike, it will lead to awkward moments halfway through the process where you realize you don’t need to complete the movements your brain has just automatically started. In any case, the lack of a top bar means that the bike’s other tubes and joints have to be significantly stronger to maintain a stable frame. This produces a pretty heavy bike unless you move up in price to where carbon fiber is an option—and it’s not for the Velotric.

The weight of the Discover 1’s frame demands decent power from both the motor and the brakes, and Velotric delivers. Strong disk brakes provide lots of stopping power, and the front suspension soaks up some of the forces of rapid braking. Meanwhile, the 500 W motor offers enough torque (65 Newton-meters) to not only get the bike moving but keep it moving on reasonable slopes. You can find hills that will overwhelm the pedal assist and slow you to a halt, but you have to go looking for them.

The front suspension both smooths out bumps and handles hard braking.
Enlarge / The front suspension both smooths out bumps and handles hard braking.

John Timmer

The motor is paired with a battery that delivers just under 700 Wh, enough to get you 70 km (45 miles) of range without any pedaling; pedal assist boosts the promised range to nearly 100 km (60 miles). If you’re just using the bike for running errands around town, you probably only need to charge it once a week. The Discover 1 offers a decent-sized LCD screen that provides a clear, intuitive display of stats like battery level and speed. Two buttons give access to different levels of electric assist and let you turn the lights on and off. A power button and throttle for pedal-free power round out the electronics.

Like the rest of the bike, the display shows what you need, with no unnecessary frills.

Like the rest of the bike, the display shows what you need, with no unnecessary frills.

John Timmer

Niceties that some companies charge extra for, like fenders, a rack, and a kickstand, are all part of the standard package. The tires are big and fat; combined with the front suspension, they make the ride comfortable, even on questionable pavement.

But for me, the standout feature was the bike’s gears—seven of them on a rear derailleur. The previous three bikes I’ve tested (not all of them budget models) offered fixed gearing, and there are plenty of circumstances where that’s perfectly fine. But the Velotric provided a reminder that there are also plenty of situations where it’s not. More generally, gearing gives you a lot of flexibility to tune your ride to anything from exercise to relaxation. For me, the presence of gearing alone was nearly enough to justify the several-hundred-dollar difference between the Discover 1 and budget e-bikes.

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