Momentum Electric's Upstart is a stripped down urban machine with an automatic two-speed rear hub, front hub motor and 374Wh battery. It's light for an e-bike, the assistance is good and the bike is simple and fun to ride. It's better suited for less challenging topography, and with a recent £350 price drop to £1,000, bringing it in to cycle-to-work territory, it's excellent value.
Electric bikes are heavy; well, heavier than normal bikes. Whatever you do you're still adding a motor and a fairly hefty battery. That can add anything up to 8kg to a bike, and most city e-bikes come in somewhere between 20kg and 25kg. The Upstart is a bit lighter though. Momentum Electric claim a weight of 18.5kg for the bike, ours (a Large size) tipped the scales at 19kg. That's a chunk lighter than most, though, so where are the savings made?
SRAM's Automatix hub is simple and pretty effective
One of the main things Momentum Electric have done is cut down on shiftgear. You'll often get a derailleur setup or, increasingly, a hub gear on electric city bikes. The Upstart uses a SRAM Automatix two-speed hub. It's auto-shifting: as soon as you reach the shifting speed the hub clicks over to the higher gear. Clearly that doesn't give you the same kind of gear range as a fully geared bike but it's designed for an urban environment, not climbing mountains.
The battery is centrally positioned and low down
The aluminium alloy frame is simple and fairly lightly built, and the battery sits low down behind the seat tube to give a lower centre of gravity. Momentum Electric use a torque-sensing system, AUTORQ, to apply the power and there's three levels of assistance available, selectable from the simple bar-mounted display which also shows you how much battery you have left. Momentum Electric claim a range of 45-80km from the 374Wh battery which sounds achievable, and a spare battery is available for £350 if you like to be prepared.
The motor is a standard Bafang unit
The power is applied by a Bafang 8Fun front hub motor, putting out 250W and 40Nm of torque. It's a popular motor and offers plenty of assistance. Stopping is handled by Tektro V brakes, actuated by lightweight levers. The handlebars and seatpost are alloy, and there's an adjustable stem so you can tune your position. A lighting system is also included (controllable from the display), and so is an alloy rack, full mudguards and a kickstand. There's no chain case but you do get a rustless chain which should run fairly clean.
Dave says: If there's a word that sums up the Upstart, it's uncomplicated. You just get on and ride it. Okay, you're better off if you turn it on first. But there's very little to do. It changes gear when you reach the changing-gear speed and the application of power is good, and almost instant. The different levels of assistance are well-spaced, too. For rolling around on the flat you never really need to go above the minimum setting, and the higher power modes are useful for climbing. The Upstart didn't have any trouble with my benchmark hill, Bloomfield Road: 1.5km at an average of 6%, with a 12% section. It felt like a bit more of an effort to get up the hill than on bikes with a wider range of gears but it certainly wasn't a problem for me. If you're a less able cyclist, the lack of gears will be an issue on more challenging terrain.
Realistically, you'll be looking at the Upstart if your local topography is a bit flatter than mine. It doesn't struggle unduly on big hills but it's much more at home on flattish, rolling terrain. The two-speed Automatix hub is simple and quiet, and the change from low to high ratio is instant. Personally I felt that the gear the bike was running was too big: at the point where the bike switches up you have to pedal at a very low cadence. I'd rather be spinning my legs a bit quicker but that's more a personal preference than a real issue. The other time the SRAM hub takes a bit of getting used to is on climbs. You have to be careful to keep your speed below the shift-up point because the hub doesn't always shift down under load. If it shifts up, you have to remember to back off the pedals when you slow down so it'll drop back down. It's not hard to learn, though.
The Upstart is basically silent. On the highest motor mode you can hear a bit of a hum from the hub if you're somewhere quiet, but that's about it. Certainly it's heaps quieter than most mid-motor bikes. There's not much else on the bike to rattle either, with the single-ratio transmission and the simple finishing kit.
The position is more aggressive than some
The ride position for me (1.89m) riding the 58cm frame was more aggressive than many city e-bikes with more weight over the bars. The Upstart has a short head tube and it's reasonably long; it feels more like a sporty hybrid. That's fine if that's what you're looking for; it's worth noting that it's not as upright as many city e-bikes though. The bike can handle a decent range of sizes of riders; that's not me riding it in the pics but Oli, who's about 10cm shorter than me.
The bike is well balanced, with the battery low down in the frame. The front-forward position means the front wheel rarely loses traction, and the bike is nimble in traffic. Slowing it down is okay: the V-brakes are plenty for a bike that only weighs 19kg, but the levers are a bit weedy. I get the feeling they've been chosen more for their looks, and they do look nice. But I'd like a bit more lever to grab.
The slightly weedy levers have been improved in the latest build
The Upstart has a very decent range from the 374Wh battery. The fact it's a torque-sensing bike probably helps there as power application is more intelligent. I was getting 35km out of the Upstart on hilly terrain before I started twitching at the lack of battery bars on the control. If you live somewhere less bumpy, which is the terrain the bike prefers, the 45-80km stated range is certainly realistic.
The display is simple and effective
One of the selling points of the Upstart is its weight, and at 19kg it's comfortably lighter than most full-sized e-bikes, in some cases by up to 6kg. If you have to manhandle your bike up any steps on a regular basis, or lift it into a shed, or even if you just don't have much upper body strength, then that's a significant weight saving that should be taken into account. The bike doesn't suffer unduly from the lightweight build and it still gets full mudguards, integrated lighting and a kickstand. It doesn't have a chaincase, which is an odd ommission, especially on a bike with a single-ratio chainline. But it'd be simple enough to fit one.
Overall the Upstart is a likeable bike. It's maybe not as versatile as a fully-geared city bike but it's simple, reasonably light and powerful, with a decent range. If you're looking for something simple and classy for city use on flat or rolling terrain then it's one for the list. It's probably best to try one if you can to make sure the more sporty position works for you.
There's been some updates to the Upstart since we received the bike for testing. The brake levers are now a bit more hardy, and Momentum Electric have moved to a single frame size, from two. That'll be fine if you're average-sized but given the fairly aggressive ride position of the Upstart, and the fact that the new frame size is probably in between the current two, it'll probably mean I'd be a bit too tall for the new bike. What has changed most significantly, though, is the price. The Upstart will now retail for £1,000 instead of £1,350, a huge drop. At the original price it was decent value, but at a grand it feels like a bit of a bargain. It's well-made and well-specced and for city riding in flat or rolling terrain it's just the ticket for a fuss-free commute.