There are not many Euro-spec 45km/h bikes available, but NZ importers are slowly waking up to the fact that commuters want speed, and that 25km/h is just too slow. This is evidenced by the number of dongled bikes being sold (a dongle tricks the bike into thinking it is going slower than it is, typically limiting speed at twice the makers limit). So kudos to Sheppard for bringing in the e-Silence SE. It appears to be a unique model to our shores, and not much other info is available on the interweb. So luckily, I got my hands on one and did some fairly thorough testing.

My first journey nearly ended in tears as I ran out of battery, fortunately only 1km from home, as a result of it not being fully charged ex shop. 4 1/2 hrs on the 4A charger and it was full again. The battery is 509 Wh (take that Bosch with your 500Wh!). I suspect at full bore it is good for 30km or so.

In my video somewhere I described this as a bike that can go fast, rather than a fast bike. It lacks the “wow, that’s fast” sensation, but it goes along at a reasonable clip – cruising at 41-42kph (indicating 43-44 on the dial). Part of that is the motor and the firmware settings and the rest is due to its good on-road manners. It handles really well, feeling confident in corners, and riding no-handed was no sweat even uphill. Its geometry is quite upright – tall headtube and relatively short top tube. It turns in nicely making it surprisingly nimble. I was worried about the lack of front suspension, but the 50x700c Schwalbe Marathon GT tyres at around 35psi handled things well. There was no jarring over potholes and road-path transitions. I’d still prefer a set of suspension forks like the super Rockshox Paragons onboard the cheaper (slower) model.

The parts selection onboard was super. Shimano XT shifters, SLX brakes, adjustable stem, FSA cranks, comfy Syncros grips, Supernova light. Mudguards and rack are quality components, no rattling. It has a built in mount for a Abus Bordo lock and a single key operates that and unlocks the battery. It’s a bit more hassle than a wheel lock but more versatile. The saddle wasn’t my personal fave, I’d prefer something wider for the upright riding position. The pedals too lacked either good grip or a wide platform to relieve pressure. These are easily remedied, and we all have our own preferences.

Ergonomics are good, with an enormous Bloks display, which is quickly removable and disables the bike if not present. It is a bit big to easily slip into a pocket. Bar graphs on the left and right show the balance of power from motor and rider respectively. In my view these are gimmicks and don’t add much to the riding experience. A neat thumb remote changes power mode and a touch in the middle changes display modes. I couldn’t figure out how to reset the trip odo or to engage walk mode, and couldn’t find a manual online anywhere. The thumb button clicks between “off” and 4 power modes. I tended to ride in 3 most of the time, occasionally using 4. It defaults to off after turning the bike on which is a bit annoying. Levels 1 and 2 were a bit anaemic, suitable for jamming with acoustic friends or touring perhaps.

Power uptake is smooth as silk, and quiet. When riding the wind noise drowns out any whirring from the motor, and it always felt like it was doing the right things, no weirdness at all. I expect the sensors are all top quality and the firmware developers have done their job well. I was hoping for a bit more grunt up hills – what there was is more than adequate but couldn’t quite match the Bosch ‘speed’ bikes, and was equalled by hub-drive bikes at half the price. Having said that it managed my Liverpool St climb with relative ease although the similarly motored Vado 3.0 beat it comfortably.

This is a premium bike with premium components and awesome handling manners. At $6500 it is not cheap, but within cooee of its direct competitors like the Specialized Vado $5800 (3.0) and $7000 (5.0), and Moustache Friday Speed ($7400). Each has it’s good points – if any of these bikes are in your price and wish range I suggest you ride them and work with your preferred dealer. Another option is to look at the cheaper e-Silence 20 which has a lower spec level, and would require that you ‘dongle’ it to get the speed – bearing in mind you are taking a warranty risk doing so, and your speed/distance display will not be accurate. I rode the e-Silence 20 and liked it’s Paragon fork, brighter colour scheme and simpler dashboard (the speed display is built into the thumb remote – really clever). The Brose motors ride nicely beyond their speed limit with no motor drag so you might find the slower version OK anyway.

The bike fits quite big so be sure to pick the right size for you. My L felt like an XL (great for me!).

Who should buy this?

  • You like quality and want a fast urban bike that handles impeccably
  • You tested the competition

Who shouldn’t?

  • You think you might like to ride a rail trail on it. Don’t.

Where can I find one?

  • I got my review sample from Bikes & Barbers Newmarket. Apparently AvantiPlus might have some, Electric Bike Hub has one as at time of writing.

More info please!