Aerobike's X-Ride isn't going to break the bank at £799, but for the money it puts in a pretty good performance as a no-frills, easy-to-use city companion. The motor is okay rather than great, the tange limited and the gearing way off, but there's lots to like about the simplicity of the system and the fact that it's a light bike that's quite fun to ride.
Under a grand is pretty cheap for an electric bike, so what you're looking for is solid and dependable kit rather than anything flashy. The X-Ride uses a simple diamond-construction alloy frame – there's a low-step version too – and a matching rigid alloy fork. The battery bolts to the down tube and the motor's in the front hub. There's a simple cadence-sensing ring behind the chainring to tell the bike when to apply the power.
Tektro V-brakes front and rear haul you to a stop, and you get two gears courtesy of a two-speed SRAM Automatix hub. And really, that's about it. There's no display, just a simple on/off button on the battery. All the finishing kit – bars, stem, seatpost – is alloy, and there's a decent saddle, rubber bar grips and basic caged pedals. The battery isn't locked in, just held in place by a clip and a rubber strap. Our rubber strap broke the first time we used it, so I subbed in an O-ring from a light. Aerobike have told us that the strap has been updated since our sample, so that shouldn't be an issue.
If you're going to save money on an e-bike then one of the easiest things to do is reduce the capacity of the battery. Batteries are expensive, and fitting a smaller one is a significant saving. That's what Aerobike have done here: the battery is a 208Wh unit, and that's small in the spectrum of e-bike batteries. It's light, though, and that helps the bike to an 18.4kg all-in weight. That's lighter for a full-sized e-bike than almost anything out there; okay you can get a £3,299 Gocycle G3 that's a kilo and a half lighter, but it's not really comparing apples with apples.
The motor is a fairly beefy hub affair; hub motors have been getting more compact and that likely means that you can get a slightly older-spec one, which the motor on the X-Ride presumably is, for a bit less money.
SRAM's Automatix featured on the £999 Momentum Electric Upstart we tested recently. It's a simple two-speed hub gear that automatically changes from low to high ratio at a certain speed. There's no controls to worry about and it generally does a pretty good job, although obviously it's more limited in terms of range than a derailleur or multi-speed gear setup.
Dave says: The X-ride looks, and rides, like an urban hybrid. It's running on (comparatively) narrow tyres and the alloy frame and fork are rigid, so it's got quite a firm, sporty feel. It's quite responsive in the turn with fairly quick steering, and that makes it a fun bike to dart around town on; it's not quite as assured on longer descents where it feels a little bit twitchy, but you're more likely to be doing the former on a regular basis than the latter.
Normally when I get a new test e-bike I point it up my reference hill (1.2km at 5%, with a 12% section) to see how it gets on. The first time I did this it became apparent that the X-Ride is massively overgeared. It's running around a 68” gear; that may not mean a lot to you but it's the kind of gear ratio a road rider might have on a singlespeed winter trainer, a decent gear for reasonable speed on the flat (20-25mph) without being impossible on the hills.
Sounds ideal? For that sort of riding it is, but it's all wrong here. For a start, on an e-bike you're not going to be spending much of your time winding the bike above 15mph, so you can easily spec a lower gear. The main issue is the SRAM hub, though: it's two speed, but the second speed is an overdrive. That's to say it starts off in direct drive mode and when you reach a certain speed it'll click over to the overdrive gear, a ratio of 1.37, giving the bike an effective 92” top gear.
This might all be double Dutch to you, but the upshot is that you have one good general purpose gear, and one gear that an average road rider would be able to wind up to about 30mph. That gear has no place on a bike like this. I swapped the chainset from the 46-tooth one to a 33-tooth one (you can see it in the riding shots), drastically dropping the gear ratios, and the bike was hugely improved as a result. It made climbing my test hill a whole lot easier, and the bike still had a high enough overdrive gear for rolling around on the flat. It didn't make the X-Ride a match for a more expensive hub-gear bike or a mid-motor city bike, but it was decent enough, making the climb do-able without too much puffing. Realistically, its spiritual home is somewhere a bit flatter than Bath, though.
Around the city on flatter terrain the Aerobike offers useful assistance for your errands. There's a fairly considerable lag when you're starting off (up to a couple of seconds) but once the assistance kicks in it's good, smooth and reasonably quiet. The 208Wh battery has enough range for general commuting and errands; you're not going to be doing any huge rides on this bike but that's not really what it's designed for. I was getting between 15km and 25km depending on the sort of riding I was doing, which is about what I'd expect from a hub-powered bike with a battery that size. It can't compete with cleverer, more expensive bikes with more efficient drive systems but then they're generally a lot more expensive. There's no knocking the mode down on this bike if you think you're going to run out of juice: you can either have it turned off, or turned on. That's your lot. Actually the bike works pretty well with the electrics turned off: it's not very heavy and there insn't that much drag from the hub. The battery is pretty quick to charge, a couple of hours and it's good to go.
The build of the X-Ride is pretty solid. The brakes are basic but work effectively on the shallow alloy rims; the wheels are heavy but well-built and they stayed true during testing. The stem, handlebars and seatpost are all standard alloy kit and the saddle and grips are fine for short rides. It's a well-built machine, really. There's nothing much to worry about here.
Overall the X-Ride puts in a decent performance for a bike well under a grand. It's not pretending to be a fully-featured machine with a huge range, and so long as you're not expecting that you'll not be disappointed. The only thing that Aerobike have really got wrong is the gearing, and that needs to be addressed. But there's plenty of positives to take away too.