I rode this bike in Hamilton where ElectricMeg and I were working at the Mercury try an ebike days. Bikes International distribute a range of BH bikes mostly through the Bike Barn chain and Waikato/Online retailer Evolution Cycles. They are all geared rear hub designs and mostly with a battery integrated into the down tube. Painted in yellow for Mercury they look quite sporty and funky.

The Evo 27.5 is an e-MTB design with (who woulda thought?) 27.5″ wheels. There are other similar designs with 29″ wheels and 700C wheels. The handlebar and drivechain selections go along with the wheel selection, for example the 700C model has racy feeling straight/flat bars.

I am always somewhat dismayed at the pseudo-MTB e-bike market, but research suggests that most bikes sold in NZ are MTBs of some description. And at the demo, most male riders were initially drawn to the genre.

Power is through a 350W geared rear hub motor (allegedly limited to 250W). Battery is a nicely integrated 432Wh which is common across the BH range. Brakes are the dependable and well modulated Tektro Aurigas with motor arrestors built in. There is no throttle and the supplied bell was terrible (but it’s a MTB right?). Being a MTB design you won’t find lights, rack or mudguards. Suspension forks felt fine and fit-for-purpose, apparently made by Suntour, definitely not premium MTB componentry. Drive train is a mix of Deore and XT. It has a triple-crank upfront which is a bit old-school for a MTB. I think we can conclude that this is definitely for wheels-on-the-ground riding.

From the get-go the bike felt powerful. It is a torque-sensing design so the torque (which is how you feel power) comes through strongly when you pedal a bit harder. The internal gearing is profiled for torque and it will grind up some hills that would have an ‘acoustic bike’ rider off and walking. What was unfortunate for this and the other BH bikes including the ‘racer’ is that they have been governed to back off at around 30km/h, presumably for the 20mph USA market. I tried a quick hack on a bike (changing wheel size setting) but it didn’t seem to help with the speed. Perhaps the motors really are restricted to 250W max.

The controller is simple. Turning on or off requires you to hold the on button about 3 seconds which feels quite long. Not sure why they did that. On means on and off means off in my world. Just do it…please. The controller is made of a cheap-looking and cheap-feeling plastic. Not what I would expect from a >$4000 bike. You can choose 4 levels of power assist. For casual riding as we did along the Waikato river track through Hamilton, level 2 was plenty. Being a torque sensor you can modulate your speed nicely and determine how much or little you want to pedal – meaning that you can ride with others who might not be so fortunate to own an e-bike.

The ride was pleasant and the motor not too noisy. I did find some strain on my forearms so I wouldn’t want to do a rail trail on a bike like this. I don’t get this on my own MTB or commuter but then I have it set up properly for me so perhaps that would be the case here too, which is why you should always try before you buy and consult the local bike shop you trust.

So who would buy this bike? At the price (Bike Barn $4299, Evolution $4799), probably nobody. If the price was right then it would suit someone who mostly rides with a mate or social group on easy tracks, in the daylight, never in the rain and never carrying anything. There are plenty of retired people in this category who ride socially and a bit of fitness rather than for adrenaline. And I see many people commuting on MTBs so perhaps  that could translate to eMTBs too. Why? I always ask myself…when they could be on a fit-for-purpose commuter.

Other alternatives for this group (in approximate price order) include :

  • Magnum MI5 ($2500)
  • Avanti Montari-E (mid-drive) ($3199)
  • Smartmotion Catalyst ($3500)
  • Avanti Competitor Plus-E ($3999)
  • Focus Jarifa (mid-drive) ($4699)
  • Scott eAspect (mid-drive) ($5299)
  • or one of the Moustache Samedi or Haibike offerings.

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