SmartMotion Vista electric bike

Updated 25th August 2017

New SmartMotion Vista ebike

Contents

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Introduction

The SmartMotion eMetro has now been renamed the SmartMotion Essence. Some changes include an updated battery and controller design, a five assist-level LED console, an improved carrier which can fit a basket, and a slight price increase to $2099.

The SmartMotion Essence is now joined by the folding SmartMotion Vista with a similar specification and price. The frame and wheel sizes are the same as the SmartMotion e20. A 250 watt motor is fitted in the front wheel and there is a 3-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub gear in the rear. This bike may be better balanced and simpler to maintain, for some users, when compared with the SmartMotion e20.

Details

Performance

I have now ridden this bike and my comments for the SmartMotion eMetro Electric Bike, apply to this bike. I found that riding at 20% to 40% power was plenty for me. Hills and a strong wind were not a problem. The available power is similar to my SmartMotion e20. The acceleration is a little more sudden than my SmartMotion e20, so inexperienced riders should start with the lower assist levels and with the throttle temporarily disconnected. The battery range should be very good with the 20% to 40% settings.

Display

The LED display is shown at upper right. It is functional and simple. One simplification that is perhaps not so desirable is that the assist levels can only be set in an increasing fashion 1-2-3-4-5, and then back to 1. For beginners this makes the bike more difficult to control, as you have to go up through the high assist settings to get to a low assist setting. A solution is to simply stop pedalling. The lower assist level can be easily set, since the motor is now off. Turning the controller off, then on, would achieve the same thing.

An LCD display with +/- settings would be a nice upgrade, as it is also a bike computer. Speed, trip distances and other statistics will now be available.

Gearing

The gearing was ideal with 3 wide-range gears, each equivalent to 2 steps on a derailleur. A simple 3-speed Shimano Revoshift gear shifter made for easy gear changes. I used 1 for steeper hills, 2 for gentler hills or head winds, and 3 for flat riding. Electric powered bikes can be ridden using fewer gears than normal. On my SmartMotion e20 I tend to use similar gear settings for most of my riding.

Tyres

Kenda, Kevlar-guard, 20 X 1.95 inch tyres are fitted. These have a strong kevlar band under the tread, which resists punctures.

Seat

A Velo-Plush seat is specified but a narrower, and possibly better, comfort seat is provided. There is no suspension seat post. It should not be needed for routine use, if the seat is good

Mirror

Since many users may be car drivers, I would suggest that a rear vision mirror be added to the end of the right handlebar. In addition to seeing cars and trucks behind, other cyclists can also be seen, which avoids any surprises.

Lock

Although an integrated frame C-lock, or Café-lock is specified for the SmartMotion Vista, it is not pictured in the brochure, nor is it supplied with current SmartMotion Vista models. Considering the type of user likely to use this bike, this is an unfortunate oversight. Mounting points are provided, so a Café-lock can be easily fitted. For me, an Café-lock is a major selling point. Two cuts are required to defeat this lock. A high quality Café-lock can be obtained here and here. A plug-in cable can be added so the bike can be secured to nearby objects.

Weights

The bike weighs 19 kg and the 10.4 ah lithium battery weighs about 3 kg, making for a total weight of 22 kg. This is slightly lighter than the e20 at 24.5 kg.

Front fork and rims

The front fork is now made from Chrome-molybdenum steel. Extra strength is advisable to counter the forces from the front disc brake and, to a lesser extent, the electric motor. The rims are double walled, with a strong parabolic profile.

Some other items of interest are shown above, at right.

Additions

I added a CatEye mirror to the right handlebar. I also installed a Phillips handlebar bag.\ It is a removable bag which allows the bike to fold properly. These items are widely available in New Zealand.

Conclusion

This bike would be ideal for retired people to keep inside a car, caravan or boat and to carry on a train for exploring new areas. Weight-wise it is better balanced than other options, so it is easier to lift into place. Folding the bike need not be be complete for storage. Folding just the frame and the handlebar stem may suffice in many cases. The seat can be left up and the pedals not folded to make things simpler. Hopefully, the bike will be suitable for light touring.

A bike for normal use should be simple, comfortable and convenient. It should be noted that the SmartMotion folding bike frames are longer than normal, so the riding experience is similar to that of a full size bike. The simplicity of this bike means the ride can be enjoyed more, rather than having technicalities intruding. Apart from a mirror and a lock, nothing more needs to be added.

I have now test-ridden this bike around my hilly suburb. For me, even the steepest hills, about 14% slope, needed no more than 60% assist which would be similar to level 3 on the SmartMotion e20. As with all legal electric bikes, some assistance is required from the rider. The bike does not feel very different from the SmartMotion e20, so for general use it should be fine. In Wellington it will help both with hills and against strong winds.

Thanks to Aimée McLeod for letting me test her new bike.

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Vista and e20s

Postscript

I am gradually working out the ideal bike for the inexperienced older rider in Wellington. Step-through or low-step is important as it is not always easy to lift the leg over a carrier with a battery included. With electric assistance the gearing can be simplified, so a hub gear would be ideal. A protected chain would mean that the chain life is extended. A built-in café lock is important. We use ours all the time - at cafés.

The battery need not be very large as the bike would normally be ridden at around 15 to 20 kilometers per hour for a 30 - 60 km range, with some effort by the rider. A front hub mounted electric motor is simple and requires few changes to the bike design, as long as the motor power is around 250 watts. A hub motor extends the chain life as it drives the wheel directly, which reduces the chain tension.

These design ideas are a blend of the classic Dutch bike with a simple electric drive. All weather performance, minimum maintenance and simple adjustments are basic requirements. Three bikes which almost meet this specification are the $2099 Smartmotion Essence, the $2000 SmartMotion Vista - if folding is needed, and the $2699 step-through Volterra, which is also designed in New Zealand. The only "fault" I can find with the Volterra is that the handlebar is not a classic Dutch swept back style. I don't think there is much value to be gained by spending a lot more. One exception to this is the very nice $5995 Faraday Cortland at Bicycle Junction in Wellington.

Recently Lekker has started shipping Dutch style ebikes to New Zealand from Australia. The Lekker Jordaan ebike looks very nice.

Another good option is to upgrade an existing classic steel frame bike with a mid or hub drive kit.