Kalkhoff Agattu 8 – the sophisticated commuter

This is a really popular bike from a German manufacturer, and there is a lot to like about it. There are few bikes with a deep step through frame that don’t have the battery perched on the rear rack (creating a slightly top-heavy feel), and even fewer with a mid drive motor. I like step through frames, it means you don’t have to be a gymnast to get on and off. No surprise that so many Euro bikes are step throughs. The Agattu is a sophisticated bike with well-mannered handling that soaks up the road bumps. In fact, if someone had told me that it had rear suspension I’d have believed them. This despite that the supplied suspension seatpost had been replaced with a regular one, and relatively narrow 37C Schwalbe Marathon puncture-resistant tyres. Large diameter 700c wheels (same as a road bike or MTB 29er) probably help to smooth the ride.

Drive is via the Impulse 2.0 mid motor system used in a number of German Derby Group brands including Kalkhoff and Focus in NZ. Its torque sensor is interesting in that it provides assist from standstill, which helps you get moving even on a hill without a throttle. Other brands tend to have a slight delay, ie they only work once you are already moving. In the rear is an 8 speed Shimano Nexus hub which is more user-friendly than a derailleur system – it means you can change gears while stationary. So I’d expect the chain to last longer and require not much maintenance. It has a shift sensor which pauses power while you shift gears to further protect chain and gears (though this does introduce a gap in power which is noticeable going up hill). There is a freewheel in the motor and the rear hub, and one of the benefits is that it is easy to flick the cranks backwards at a standstill to get back into the ‘pedal ready’ position.

Battery is also mid-mounted and quite capacious at 17Ah/612Wh. We did a >40km ride on Waiheke Island with some fairly mean hills and still had half the battery capacity remaining! You can charge on or off the bike, and the battery is easy to get in and out. The battery is also rated for more recharge cycles than most, so expect this bike to last for a long time.

Speed is Euro – maxxing out at 27kph. Above that speed it just rides like a regular bike with no sense of extra drag from the motor. For its intended use this seems ample.

The Magura hydraulic rim brakes are a bit unusual. They look quite space-age and work really well, with nice feel and bite. I didn’t however get to try them in the rain where discs excel.

The bike feels very natural to ride – set it in one of Eco/ Sport/ Power and just go. The torque sensor returns power as you put it in – fairly linearly – so you do end up working with the bike. Other torque sensing bikes I’ve ridden tend to ramp up the power to maximum fairly quickly, whereas this feeds it in gently until you are stomping quite hard on the pedals. This is probably the secret to its amazing battery life – it gets you doing at least some of the work. Unfit riders might not appreciate this as much though. I know that ‘non-cyclists’ who want an ebike to do the work for them tend to avoid this bike given a choice.

The only component that I really disliked were the grips. These are ‘ergo’ style, but are not locked on so they tend to rotate on the bars. Perhaps good grips are hard to find on account of the twist-grip gears on the right not matched by a throttle on the left. The kickstand is also in an awkward position to access when you have panniers installed.

The bike has quality rack, lights and mudguards. The supplied frame lock can also be paired with a matching chain (highly recommended – remember you want to keep this bike a long time!). Conveniently, battery and lock share the same key. The charger isn’t anything special at 3A output.  Expect a 6-8hr charge time from flat.

I rode a Small frame. It was slightly too small for my 6’2” but not by much. A longer seat tube would have fixed that.

So who should buy this bike?

  • Reasonably able riders who want to commute, run errands or just cruise and don’t mind sharing the duties with the motor
  • Riders who appreciate quality and style, and don’t mind paying a bit more to get it. It will last longer than most so it is probably worth it anyway.

Who shouldn’t buy it?

  • Unfit riders looking for their first bike – go for something with a throttle instead
  • Riders wanting a long distance fast commuter. Almost anything non-Euro will be faster

Retail price is $4999 with the 8 gears and massive 17Ah battery. I have seen the 7sp with smaller 10Ah battery for as low as $2999 on special ($3999 regular). The latter would be good buying for shorter commutes (up to 20km round trip).

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