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Zectron e-bike first look: A week-long rider with a lot of potential

Zectron's newest folding e-bike comes with shock absorbers and week-long battery life. There are a few kinks you should watch out for, though.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on
Pros
  • Comfortable ride
  • Minimal visible wires
  • "Week-long" battery life
  • Bright front and rear lights
Cons
  • Loud button sound
  • Availablity remains limited

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out which e-bike to purchase given how saturated the market is. Zectron's new e-bike, launching first on Indiegogo, brings a unique folding frame design with an embedded display, amazingly bright lights, and a promise of technology features that let you track your bike's location. The company also says that the e-bike can last up to a week with a single charge. Those are some big promises for a product that's yet to officially release. 

For the past couple of weeks, I have been riding around on an early sample model of the Zectron e-bike, and have even had other riders test it out to gather their opinions on its performance. From what I've seen thus far, ride comfort, powerful battery assist, and responsiveness to turns are what separates the Zectron from the rest of the market. But is it polished enough to warrant your investment? 

Specifications

Frame Magnesium alloy
Motor size 350W brushless geared motor
Pedal Assist Five levels
Range 70 miles pedal assist. 150 mile external battery option
Top speed 20 mph
Battery capacity 36V 417.6Wh
Display Integrated 3.9 inch
Lights Front and rear LED provided
Gears Shimano 7-speed
Brakes Hydraulic disc
Fenders Front and rear optional when purchased
Water resistance IPX4
Tires 20" x 2.125" with mag wheels
Folded size 33 x 25 x 31 inches
Riding, unfolded, size 59 x 26 x 42 inches
Payload capacity 265 pounds
Bike weight 55 pounds

Unboxing and first look

Two boxes arrived to set up the Zectron e-bike, but your experience may vary when the commercial-final versions are shipped to customers. One box contained the bike in an extended position, with the handlebar folded down and the front wheel removed. The other box contained the seat, seat post, kickstand, front axle, folding pedals, and frame shock. For what it's worth, packaging the components separately should give each part enough space for safe and damage-free shipping.

Zectron ebike folded

Folded and ready to pack.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Assembling the e-bike was not as much of a hassle as two boxes make it seem. Remember, the main frame comes pre-installed, so all you really have to do is attach the smaller parts -- most of which don't require anything more than an Allen wrench and/or screwdriver. The frame shock attaches to the frame under the seat area with the two securing points clearly visible. All of the hardware and tools needed for final assembly are provided by Zectron and it only took me a few minutes to get everything installed.

More: The Urtopia Carbon E-Bike is a work of art that you can ride

Zectron ebike setup and ready to ride

The Zectron e-bike is ready to ride.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

There are a few elements to unfold for getting the bike ready to ride after all the parts are installed. The steps include:

  1. Unfolding the main frame: Swing the front half of the bike forward and align the main frame. Flip over the metal locking mechanism until the lock clicks into place. The frame lever is large, with a release button underneath.
  2. Front stem: Swing up the front stem with the handlebar assembly and lock it into place. The front stem does not adjust and remains at a single height.
  3. Slide up the seat post: Release the quick lock clamp and raise the seat up to a level that matches your height. You can keep the seat in position moving forward if you do not want to make the folded position that compact.
  4. Flip down the pedals: The pedals fold in half to make for a smaller stowage form factor, so make sure to flip these down and into place before riding.

The front light is installed and ready to go out of the box. The large, bright rear light is mounted to the aft of the main frame and lights up automatically when you push the brakes. 

Zectron ebike display and handlebars

A 3.9-inch display is integrated into the handlebars.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The 3.9-inch display is integrated into the center of the handlebars and lights up to a high brightness level for easy visibility when riding outside. I've tested e-bikes with dimmer screens and those are often illegible in direct sunlight. That's not the case here, and I'm very happy about that. The only problem I currently have with the display is that you can set the System of Units (SI). 

The buttons to control the display are on the left side of the handlebars, though one of the buttons on this early model is a bit off-center so it takes a positioned press to activate it. I'd be on the watch when the official product comes out to see if the buttons are properly fitted.

Review: The $800 Lectric XP Lite e-bike is a sheer joy to ride

As for the sound that comes from the display when your press a button, I found it too loud for comfort. Sometimes, I don't need everyone on the block to know that I'm on my e-bike. While it's always practical to have a confirmation sound, others who have ridden the bike over the past few weeks made the exact same observation. Zectron tells me that this will be adjusted before commercial release, so I'll keep an eye out for that, too. 

Zectron ebike brake light

The rear light is bright and also serves as a brake light

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

One aspect that stands out from all of the other e-bikes I've tested is the invisible wires. The wires on the Zectron are hidden inside the frame so that all you see is one cable collection leading down from the handlebars and then a short cable from the front light into the frame. For how much of a tangling mess e-bikes can be, I'm impressed by how clean and modern this one looks.

The model I tested has an integrated, non-removable battery with an advertised range of 74 miles. An external battery option will be available when the bike is officially launched for retail sales which will double the battery range of the bike. Obviously, that benefit comes at the cost of extra weight and money. 

Review: The Charge Comfort 2 e-bike is a smooth ride that fits in tight spaces

Performance

The unique frame and shock system are designed to provide the rider with a comfortable riding experience -- even for extended periods. The seat is suspended by the frame and shock absorber so when you go over bumpy roads, the ride feels less turbulent. When the bike ships, buyers will be able to select different-sized suspension shocks to accommodate their size. It's a nice touch that makes the e-bike more user-friendly.

As far as battery life goes, Zectron's 74-mile rating is under the assumption that you have pedal assist turned on. This range obviously varies based on rider size, terrain, and the method of propulsion used, but the bike is clearly designed with endurance in mind. I charged it up only two times during my testing over a couple of weeks and never felt I had to worry about the battery life.

Zectron ebike rear hub motor has 350W

A 350W rear hub motor powers the e-bike.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

While the handlebar height cannot be adjusted, I tested the bike with people ranging from 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 1 inch, and it was comfortable for all riders. The seat can be adjusted to match the rider's height and the handlebars seem to be positioned just optimally enough to not have to be leveled.

Finally, a powerful 350W motor is present on the US model, with a maximum throttle speed of 20 mph. I was able to achieve that speed and also reach 10 mph up very steep hills thanks to pedal assist and the 7-speed Shimano gear system.

More: The best electric bikes: Top e-bikes for commuting

Bottom line

There are many folding e-bikes available today but Zectron's model provides one of the most comfortable rides and a clean and modern look thanks to the hidden wiring. It folds down to a small enough size for placing in a trunk or storing in a closet but is by no means wimpy thanks to the large display, powerful motor, and mag wheels.

My call-outs are as follows: There is currently no option to switch to SI units on the display, the button press sound is very loud, and the bike is pretty heavy at 55 pounds for a foldable bike. A couple of these things may be addressed as the bike continues to be refined for commercial release. There is also a smartphone app and connectivity that is in development with future options to enable a tracker in the bike, too.

Zectron offers five cool colors -- we tested the black and yellow bumblebee one -- with the price starting at $1,999. The company is running a crowdfunding campaign, though, that offers the base model at just $899.

Alternatives to consider

If you want an e-bike that you rarely have to charge and one that you rarely have to pedal, then the Fiido L3 is a great option. There are plenty of other folding options to consider too.

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