The Reid Urban+ is a nicely put together ‘street’ bike featuring the Shimano STEPS drive system. It’s a quality-built bike with smooth welds on the main parts of the frame, a svelte grey colour scheme with subtle highlights and a nice parts selection. The geometry is ‘racy street’ bike (think NY City messenger) with rigid forks and fairly narrow handlebars – good if you want to avoid car mirrors.

But the headline-grabber is that it is only $2899 from Evolution Cycles [Update: you can get an extra 10% off making it $2609!]- correct me if I am wrong but I believe this is the cheapest name-brand mid-drive bike available in NZ. So what? you may say… well, mid-drive is a lot more versatile than rear- or front-drive, allowing a greater range of speeds because the motor uses your gears too, and importantly the bike feels just like the regular bike you love but hate riding up hills. Shimano is the largest manufacturer of bicycle drivetrain components and generally do what they do well. So this is no cheap generic drive system.

When I picked the bike up from Evo in Pukekohe (an impressive store btw) I noticed how light the bike felt loading it onto the rack. Only 18.3kg in size L, that’s lighter than Electricmeg’s tiny folding Onya! This translated into how it rides too, it feels sporty with good acceleration and the ride position is aggressive. It rides on fast rolling slightly nobbly 700x42c p[uncture resistant cross tyres (Speedrite by Continental – again, no cheap rubbish here). Brakes are Shimano hydraulic and work well with great feel and adequate power (160mm rotors are relatively small for an ebike). Rear shifting is through a Shimano Altus 9 speed that changes gear with a satisfying thunk.

The motor is rated 250W and the battery is 11.6Ah/418Wh at 36V. This isn’t a long distance tourer or speed commuter, so battery capacity is adequate. Importantly the battery is rated for over 1000 charge cycles, so should last for several years under typical usage. It also has a 4A charger – twice as fast as what most Chinese bikes come with. All up, an impressive collection of specs.

One thing I really like about the mid-drive system used here is that the wheels are regular hoops with quick releases, so fixing a puncture is no harder than any bike. If you dinged a wheel you could replace it off-the-shelf from any bike store.

To turn on the STEPS system (it is an acronym of Shimano Total Electric Power System) , you hold the button on the battery. The remote on the bar then lets you toggle through 3 power modes. The display shows speed, battery level and range estimates, and the usual trip/odo modes. It is removable. Yes, people do nick computers even if they are useless to them.

All STEPS bikes are torque sensors bikes without a throttle.

So off we go for a ride. Wow, this feels great… wait, has something happened to the motor… oh no, I just hit 25kph and lost my benefits! Get to uphill, slow down, motor kicks back in again. Phew. What this does give the opportunity to test is how it rides without its motor. Just like an ordinary bike, and you’ll be doing that a bit given how it chops off at a low 25kph. Damn, that really is just too slow. I average 27-28 on my unassisted road bike and I am no hero in lycra.

For the record, this 25-27kmh imposition is the same for all Euro spec bikes, that is any bikes with Bosch, Yamaha, STEPS, Impulse drives.

For “research purposes” I looked at ways that this could be defeated. I succeeded briefly, and for a few glorious minutes I had the best bike you could hope for at the price. It was sophisticated, progressive, powerful, fast enough (speedo said I was going 11kph though)… until the motor cut out with an E014 error. Oops… Good news is that it gets better again once you put the speed sensor back to its proper place and ride around a bit. The manual says to go back to the bike store, presumably so you can get a telling off about how speed kills, warranties, laws blah blah. So that doesn’t work, and I honestly can’t tell you what does work and if it would lead to trouble. But it was enough to tell me that this could be a great bike, and is a great bike if you can live with sub-25 speeds.

So why would you buy this bike? Well maybe you live in urban Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch Port Hills or Dunedin and want an ebike that can hack the hills. You want something sporty but not shouty because you really like bikes, and your ebike needs to ride like your favourite ‘acoustic’ bike. If that sounds like you then this really could be your next bike.

Why wouldn’t you buy this bike? You can’t live with low speeds. Or maybe, you want something more relaxed and cruisy.

OK, so you like the idea of this bike, what now? Well, you might want some mud guards for the wet weather, and some racks and panniers to carry you gear. No trouble, there are mounts for these. The guy at Evo said allow $300-400 all up for that. There are even mounts for a waterbottle (specially for Court at electricbikereview.com). You’ll need some lights too, but they’ll need to be rechargeable like a regular bike. Sizing seemed ‘true’ – the size L actually felt right whereas some other bikes seemed a bit small than expected.

What else could you consider that is similar?

  • Smartmotion Pacer or Catalyst – $3599 – faster (>38kph), rear hub motor – Pacer has mudguards, racks, lights
  • BH Evo Jet 700C – $2699 – very similar, slightly faster (32kph), rear hub
  • Juiced Crosscurrent – $2499 with 375Wh – faster (45kph), rear hub, cheaper frame build quality
  • Corratec EPower – $3499 – Bosch powered, Nexus hub gears, same speed limit, has mudguards, racks, lights, more relaxed geometry
  • Trek Conduit – $3799 – same STEPS drive, good brand, has mudguards, racks, lights
  • Avanti Montari – $3299 – same STEPS, MTB-style