Electrifying the Category of Folding Bikes Introduces New Frustrations
The folding bike has long held a place of utility for many cyclists. The design makes travel seamless with a fully geared bike folded into a space that can fit under a desk, in a closet, or kept in an automobile trunk. As seen throughout the other categories of bicycles, the electric version of the folding bike seems like a natural extension of the category and does provide advantages, filling in areas that folding bikes lacked. However, it has entirely removed a feature that makes a folding bike so useful: airline travel.
The Future of Transportation
In many ways, the electric folding bike has the potential to entirely revolutionize how you transport yourself. The small storage allows you to possess a bike capable of carrying you and a good amount of gear over 60 miles at 20 miles an hour. And at the end of the trip, the bike folds into an extremely convenient size, easily stored away until the next journey. The getting-to-work-while-sweaty problem and the base level of fitness required for non-electric bikes, are both solved with an electric folding bike. Suburban areas with distances that may require more time in the saddle than you have to commute, are shortened with the assist that helps to bring your average speed to something that will have you to work before the boss.
So There’s That
For many who swear by folding bikes, a significant advantage comes when traveling by plane. Folding bikes in obscured luggage typically get designated with an oversized bag fee, $20-50. This is in comparison to the bike fee that is typically more costly, $150-300. You may still be asked what is contained in your oversized luggage and airlines will still apply the bike fee, even in a smaller luggage size. But once you arrive at your destination with a folding bike, the path to pedaling is so much shorter than with the un-packing and assembly required when flying with a traditional bike. While touring amongst multiple destinations, where planes will be depended on for inter-journey connections, a folding bike seems a given.
However, this advantage is removed for electric versions of the folding bike. As of 2016, passengers are only allowed batteries with a maximum energy rating of 160WH. All electric folders on the market exceed this requirement, effectively removing the option of traveling by plane with the bike, unless the batteries have been removed and shipped to your final destination. This is a legitimate option and something to keep in mind as an option for traveling with your electric folder, but it adds layers of complexity that folding bikes are meant to solve.
As of 2016, passengers are only allowed batteries with a maximum energy rating of 160WH. All electric folders on the market exceed this requirement, effectively removing the option of traveling by plane with the bike, unless the batteries have been removed and shipped to your final destination.
Weights and Measures
Many folding bikes have an added weight penalty due to the more robust frame and locking mechanism inherent to the design. Electric folding bikes may seem to make this worse, but this is true only while carrying the bike. The added weight of the folding bike design doesn’t matter while riding, as you now have the benefits of the electric assist. The convenience of storing your folded electric bike under your desk or in a corner of your office cannot be overstated. There really is no place it can’t go with you – except by plane.
Unlike the example of the prohibition on traveling with electric folders, the weight penalty of the electric additions is relatively manageable. The added weight introduced in the electric folder comes down to 10 pounds. This is most likely a non-issue for lifting and shipping because the added weight cost will be offset by the reduced shipping volume. Of the electric folders we can recommend, the weights range from just over 38 pounds on the Brompton to the near 48 pounds of the Tern. To get an idea of what you’ll need to lift, consider that a full 5 gallon water jug comes in at 42 pounds.
If airline travel isn’t in your future, or you already have your travel bike figured out, the electric folder combines the advantages of taking up a small volume while stored with the benefits electric assist offer the rider. The consideration left is the cost. As it is, an electric version of a bike is more expensive than the non-electric version, and a folding bike is typically more expensive than a non-folding bike, all else being equal. The best value that we could recommend last year was the Oyama CX E8D, priced at $1,299. Oyama’s latest version of the CX E8D is the Series II and only further solidifies Oyamas place as the best value for folding electric bikes. See the opposite page for more detail on the Series II.
The best approach to considering a new bike is riding it. We can recommend the following models, and suggest finding a dealer local to you who can help you select the ideal ride for your path.
Oyama CX E8D Series II
- BATTERY 36V 367Wh
- MOTOR Aikema 350 W
- POSITION Rear-hub
- RANGE 25-50 Miles
- WEIGHT 43.2 lb
- PRICE $1899
- WEBSITE oyama.com
Tern eLink D7i
- BATTERY 36V 374Wh
- MOTOR Bafang 250 W
- POSITION Mid-motor
- RANGE 25-50 Miles
- WEIGHT 47.8 lb
- PRICE $2000
- WEBSITE ternbicycles.com
- BATTERY 36V 307Wh
- MOTOR Brompton 250 W
- POSITION Front-hub
- RANGE 25-50 Miles
- WEIGHT 38.3 lb
- PRICE $3300 (est.)
- WEBSITE us.brompton.com
OYAMA ELECTRIC FOLDER
Oyama CX E8D Series II
Improvements all around, still under $2k.
We previously highlighted the Oyama CX E8D in Issue 146 and are pleased to see Oyama has released the CX E8D Series II that further improves on what we felt was a great value for the category. The Series II bike is priced at $1899, and the premium over the CX E8D includes upgrades across the component group, and comes in a handsome matte-black color-way.
No Jerks Here
The most noticeable change is a larger 350W spec’d motor compared with the previous 250W Aikema AKM-13 that is used in the base model. The battery has been updated to 10.2 Ah from the base models 6.2 Ah, effectively keeping the range intact at 30 miles even with the larger motor size. A very welcomed change is the implementation of a torque sensor for the speed management. The original model uses a cadence sensor to regulate and switch the motor power assist, a less refined technology that can be jerky and inconsistent, especially on hills. The Series II changes this, with the torque sensor providing a noticeably smoother power curve. It outputs power when expected, a simple but surprisingly difficult achievement that is really only possible by sensing how much power the rider is outputting, not how fast the cranks are spinning.
The 6061 aluminum frame stays the same, as do the double-walled aluminum rims, Altus 8-speed gearing and disc brakes. The Series II brings hydraulics actuation for the discs, an improvement of the mechanical activation on the base model, especially with the added 100 Watts of power on tap. The ride is smooth, thanks in large part to the thick Schwalbe Big Apple 2.3 tires that do a great job in smoothing out the pavement.
Oyama CX E8D Series II Specifications
|Derailleur:||Shimano Altus Derailleur|
|Gears:||7 speeds, 14-28 tooth|
|Battery:||36 Volt – 10 Ah|
|Top Speed:||20 mph|
|Motor:||Aikema AKM-13, 350W geared brushless rear hub|
|Range:||Up to 30 miles|
|Motor Control:||Torque Sensor|
|Tires:||Schwalbe Big Apple, 20” x 2.3|
|Brakes:||Tektro Hydraulic Disc (Front and Rear)|
|Origin:||Made in China|
|Warranty:||5 years for bike parts, 2 years for battery|
|E-bike Class:||Pedal Assist (Class 1) – 20 mph w/ no throttle|
|Weight:||43.5 lbs (including motor and battery)|
|Folded Dimensions:||33.5” x 14.5” x 27.5”|
The weight hasn’t changed, still pegged in the low 40 pounds. This is heavy for a folding bike, but light for an electric bike, and about average for an electric folder. Where the Oyama really shines is the price, the most significant criteria for many people. There are no alternatives under $2000 in the electric folder category, and Oyama brings not one, but two offerings. And even with the inexpensive price tag, you’re still getting a 5 year warranty on the bike and 2 years on the batteries. And since Oyama has been building folding bikes for more than 30 years, they have the reputation to back the warranty.
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