SuperBike

Volto e-bike review

After researching the available electric bikes in New Zealand, I concluded that the best bang for the buck is the range of 3 e-bikes from Volto in Tauranga. A 10 minute test drive on one of Pete Wilcox’s bikes at Rockgas Wanganui‘s e-bike agency left me smitten.

The Volto bikes are manufactured in China, but designed by New Zealanders for our conditions.

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The Volto Falcon e-bike

Safety first

Contrary to my expectation, I feel safer on the e-bike in city traffic than I do on my conventional bike. The extra acceleration available, especially from a standstill, makes it easier to keep up with the flow in busy city traffic; you’re not being shunted to the side of the road and made vulnerable to negligent car drivers who’re dying to open their doors in your face, or to suddenly back out of an angled parking space because they didn’t see you coming. Or maybe because they did.   :o)

At stop signs and traffic lights, the same applies; I’m less vulnerable because I can accelerate as easily as a car, again, avoiding being shunted to the side of the road.

The bike

The Volto (mine’s a Falcon) has 3 power levels; I haven’t found it necessary to go beyond level 1, even on steepish hills. Higher levels give you more boost on the flat, but when you’re putting in extra effort on a steep hill you get maximum assistance even on level 1. My perception: hills are flattened by a factor of about five; head winds are forever vanquished.

I expected the considerable extra weight to be a handling issue, but it isn’t so; the weight distribution is perfect, and handling is a no-brainer even after 76 years of serious abuse of my muscles and joints.

I needed an hour or two to get accustomed to the available power; your mileage may differ. As pointed out by the sales team, don’t switch on the controller until you’re in the seat, with the support stand raised, and a brake applied; otherwise, it’s too easy to inadvertently nudge the twist grip and have the bike take off before you’re ready. An applied brake cuts power from the motor until it’s released.

I’ve noticed that there’s much less irritating vibration from rough chip road verges than on my normal bike. A factor of tyre size? Dunno.

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The Volto Tui folding e-bike

Choosing an e-bike

Here are my criteria and the brownie points for the Volto:

Pros

  1. Battery voltage and capacity: 36V, 16 Ah (576 Wh); in line with other brands. You can upgrade if you need more range, but I’ve found it more than adequate for town use.
    Battery placement is in the centre of the bike which is preferable. Some have them above the rear carrier, which is bad for handling because it raises the centre of gravity.
  2. The motor output, at 300W, is plenty powerful enough.
  3. The rear wheel hub motor is a no-brainer. Front hub motors are vulnerable to traction and handling problems; crank motors put too much load on the bike’s chain.
  4. There is an excellent 12V/24V charger available here for we caravan nuts.
  5. 3 power levels, combined with 6 conventional gears meet my needs and then some. I rarely got out of the top two gears in Whanganui, but Whangaparaoa is more of a challenge and I use the full range.
  6. The bike has a solid rear carrier and a good kickstand.
  7. Excellent brakes in the hubs: front; disc, rear; roller, both brake handles incorporate motor cut-out.
  8. The aluminium alloy frame helps to keep the weight down.

Cons

So far, none at all.

Minor niggles

  1. The front light has a flasher mode, but the rear light doesn’t. Easily replaced.
  2. It’s not easy to locate the power controller buttons in the dark.
  3. I’d prefer a slightly higher top gear ratio. Even with power level 1, the motor sometimes seems to overtake my pedaling.
  4. As far as I can tell, removing the rear wheel is a major mission. So if you have a puncture, you’re in trouble. I’ll be investigating the puncture-resistant tires that come with some more expensive machines.
  5. The optional extra front basket needs extra support.

See the bikes here

Find a dealer here

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The Volto Tui step-through e-bike

Full specifications of the Volto Falcon and Tui

Battery: 36V, 16 Ah (576 Wh) or 23 Ah (828 Wh), mounted behind seat post for central weight distribution. 3.5kg (16Ah), easy to remove, frame locked. Charging time: 8 hrs when empty

Motor: 300 W brush less direct drive (no internal gears)

Controller: high efficient MOS-FET controller, max. 18A, up to 60V. Full throttle on right handle with PAS override. Drive modes: PAS only, Throttle only, mixed.

Speed: up to 32 kph on motor

Display: Easy to understand LED Display with battery level and 3 level PAS control, 6 kph option, waterproof

Brakes: Front – Shimano Disc brake, Rear – Dia Compe roller brake, both brake handles with motor cut-out

Range: on PAS level 1 up to 90 km, depending on terrain and weather condition

Gears: Shimano Tourney 6-speed, 52T front sprocket, 14-34 MEGA RANGE cassette

Frame: Alloy 6061, hydroformed, rated load: up to 120kg. Frame size: 17″, suitable for riders from 155 cm to 185 cm. All screws and washers stainless steel. Rear mounted side stand.

Fork: Suspension fork

Wheels: 26″ double wall Alloy rim, heavy duty 3mm spokes, 26×2.1 tyres

Seat: Volto comfort seat with swivel function to remove battery

Weight: 28 kg incl. battery

Warranty: 2 years on battery and motor, 5 years on frame, 12 months on other parts

Accessories: including charger, LED front and rear lights and bell

Optional: front basket, 23 Ah battery (+ $240)