The award-winning Elby bike is designed for just about anyone from 5’1″ to 6’5″. It has a low-step frame that I found was a breeze to get on and off. In order to accommodate such a range of human sizes (and weights), Elby uses a proprietary seatpost that’s wider than most. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later. The bike itself weighs 57 pounds, and it will hold a total load of 330 pounds including bike, rider, battery, and any saddlebags.
Elby’s propulsion system is the hub-mounted Bionix “D” series motor. This is a powerful 500W motor that did a great job on getting up some of the toughest hills I could find (though with some effort on my part too). It uses a high capacity lightweight battery that’s concealed in the bottom part of the frame. Elby claims it will go 90 miles on a charge. But remember your mileage will vary based on your weight, the terrain, and how much throttle or assist you’re using. Even if 90 miles is a generous figure, we figure there are few of our 50+ readers who are going to want to be on a bike seat for 90 miles anyway.
I found the controls really easy to use and the display easy to read, even in bright sunshine. It has a simple, intuitive BionX handlebar control ring that includes On/Off, thumb-activated assist level button, throttle, and lighting. The controls will let you adjust the four-stage power assist level, whether you want to use regenerative braking, and it will let you scroll through the functions you’d expect like trip, odometer, and trip timer views. The controls are really well-positioned. I found I could do everything with my thumb, and without having to move it from the handlebar. You can swap the Elby display for your own smartphone running the Elby app which you gives the same information in a larger format.
There’s an integrated bright light with wings on the handlebar and a small light in the rear fender.
While Elby makes only one frame, it offers two variations, a 9-speed, and a single speed. Elby figured, and I agree, that with its powerful drivetrain, most of the time you’ll just be riding in high gear. That was certainly my experience. But when you get to some serious hills, you still may want the ability to shift to lower gears. I did. But again, riding mostly on roads and rail-trails, I spent about 90% of my time in high.
In addition to the four levels of power assist, there’s a throttle. The pedelec was quite responsive, though I am a big fan of using that throttle button at traffic lights or starting up a hill. It also can regenerate it’s own power when you’re braking and heading downhill. But generally, regeneration sounds better than it is, adding back only about 10% at most to your power reserve.
Even without a suspension, I found the ride quite comfortable, due in part to the 2.2″ X 26″ puncture-resistant Continental tires. As we mentioned, Elby uses a proprietary seatpost to accommodate the variations among riders. But that means you won’t be able to replace it with a suspension seatpost like the Thudbuster or Body Float. Another problem with the seatpost is that with Elby’s drive for a smooth design it eliminated the usual seatpost clamp and put in a screw that requires an Allen wrench. I found that a real pain, and very time consuming during my first couple of rides. The stem height and handlebar pitch are also adjustable with different Allen keys. So prepare to bring your toolkit with you. You can replace the seat. While the standard seat is moderately comfortable, I have a love-hate, well, mostly hate, relationship with most bike seats and use a noseless, split, well-padded seat.
The Elby has front and rear fenders. The rear has bars so you can attach a set of panniers, though there’s really not much to use as an attachment point for the bottom of your saddlebags. There’s no ability to attach a standard rack, so it’s tough to carry almost anything else.
The bottom line is that the Elby is a wonderful bike to ride, and it has most of the features you could want in an e-bike. It comes in five attractive colors. It’s pretty, it’s powerful, it’s quiet. It has terrific range and was able to get me up the toughest hills. Price for the single speed version is $3500. Price for the nine-speed is $3,700. My advice is just to kick in the extra $200 for the hill-tackling capability of those gears.
Tech journalist David Pogue did a review which pretty much matches our findings as well