After initially being introduced to consumers as super commuters complete with all of the bells and whistles, it should come as little surprise that e-bikes have begun to filter their way down to more affordable price points.
Being best known for its direct-to-consumer business model that packs an obscene amount of value into its budget-friendly bikes, Reid Cycles of Australia have introduced a new entry-level e-bike into its product line-up.
Complete with racks, fenders, lights and a hub driven e-bike motor, we set about putting the budget-priced Pulse e-bike to the test to see how it fares against its (much) more expensive competition.
Who’s it for?:The budget-conscious commuter looking for an affordable entry to the e-bike market.
What we liked:Impressive battery life, slick shifting drivetrain and the value for money.
What we didn’t:So-so brakes, limited gear range, budget finishing kit and inconsistent power delivery.
Related Reading: E-Bike Buyers Guide: Everything to Know in 2018
The Pulse (AU$1,499) sits as the entry-level offering in Reid Cycles value-packed e-bike range. Much like it’s more expensive siblings, the Pulse makes use of a hydroformed aluminium frame. Sturdy in its construction, the frame doesn't have the smoothest welds going, but they are consistent and without questionable gaps. There are some surprisingly high-end features to be seen, such as the internal cable routing which adds a clean and polished aesthetic. A rigid steel fork features up front, well suited to the urban environments the bike is designed to traverse.
The geometry on our test-bike is similar to what you would find on an urban bike. With a comfortable riding position and a long wheelbase, the bike offered up great stability at speed. With the bike's tall front, I was both upright enough to be comfortable, yet able to maneuver around pedestrians and obstacles with ease.
Our size large test bike weighed in at 23.9 kilograms, a hefty number compared to a non-assisted bike, but not too bad when considering the number of additional extras fitted to the bike (more on that below).
Drive Unit and Battery
Keeping to the budget oriented build of the bike, the Pulse is powered by a Bafang rear-hub drive unit. Inline with Australian standards for pedal assist e-bikes, the unit produces 250 watts of assistance to the rider with a maximum assisted speed of 25km/h.
For urban bikes such as the Pulse, designed for use on roads and paths, hub motors present as a more discrete and affordable choice over a mid-mount motor design. Weighing in at a claimed 2.9 kg, a hub motor also undercuts a mid-mount, or pedelec drive unit by around a kilogram.
The handlebar-mounted computer displays basic metrics to the rider in addition to serving as a remote for cycling through the assistance levels, powering the integrated lights, and turning the drive unit on and off. The drive unit offers up five levels of scalable assistance, with higher levels producing increased levels of torque and pedal response, while lower levels seek to conserve battery.
Powering the drive unit is an 11ah Panasonic lithium-ion battery that is discretely mounted under the rear pannier rack. Both Bafang and Reid claim a battery life of 40-70 kilometres from a full battery, however, our test bike easily eclipsed these claimed figured, more on that below.
Groupset and Components
The Pulse is outfitted with Shimano Tourney drivetrain components, including a 40t front chainring paired with a relatively limited 7-speed 14-28t cassette out back. Tektro mechanical disc brakes, with 160mm rotors front and rear handle the stopping duties. Despite the entry-level nature of the components, the crisp shift quality of the Shimano groupset (when maintained) is to be commended.
The 1x7 gearing set-up (a single chainring with 7 gears at the back) leaves riders with quite a narrow gear range and thus is better-suited to flatter terrain. A wider range of gears would be a good addition for anyone looking to tackle steeper inclines. The gear range on offer means that riders will need to rely on the assistance from the drive unit to tackle any steep pinches.
Touch points are an in-house affair with a Reid alloy finishing kit adoring the Pulse. Included in this is a commuter-friendly 710mm wide handlebar which aids in the maneuverability and control. Double wall alloy rims with 38c Chaoyang hippo skin tyres round out this value-packed build.
Much like other urban-focussed e-bikes, the Pulse rolls off the showroom floor with a number of additional features fitted. This includes a bottom bracket mounted kickstand, mudguards front and rear, and a rear rack with a 25kg limit. Additionally, an integrated lighting solution in the form of front and rear LED lights also feature, something not typically seen on bikes in this price range.
After performing commuting duties for a handful of staff in the office, the first impression that we collectively took away from the Pulse was that it was more than up to the task of performing its duties as a simple commuting steed.
The drive unit offers up good power delivery, however, the way in which the assistance kicks in is much more unintuitive than what you’re likely to find on more premium pedelec powered e-bikes. This isn’t necessarily a fault with the Pulse, more a characteristic of hub drive e-bike motors. Thankfully, the lag in pedal response and surges present in power delivery are easy to get used to, and far from what you’d deem as uncontrollable. There was also an impressively low amount of noise from the motor when the assistance kicked in.
The battery life of our test bike was another big plus, on par with much more expensive pedelec option we’d previously tested. Achieving in excess of 80km to a full charge, the Pulse easily outdid the company's claimed range. Charging the battery took around three and half hours to charge from one bar of battery remaining. The charging process is easy, with no need to remove the battery, just attach the end of the charger cable to the easily accessible charging port and away you go.
When it comes to using the electronics, the included cycling computer is easy to use and the large screen is simple to read at a glance. Displaying battery life, speed and the assistance lever, the no-fuss metrics are all you need when commuting.
The groupset on our test bike, despite being entry-level, shifts well, as can be expected from Shimano. Besides the limited gear range, the other downside to the drivetrain is the unbranded chainring, which occasionally suffered of a small chain skip when putting the power down unassisted. If you’re unfortunate enough run out of juice mid-ride, you'll be in for a tough slog given the lack of easier gearing and general heft of the bike.
Braking performance from the Tektro brakes is consistent enough, however, squealing and shuddering was ever present throughout the duration of the test, despite cleaning both the rotors and the calipers as per manufacturers standards. There was also a small amount of occasional brake rub that had a habit of rearing its head throughout the review period, likely caused by the brake pads not returning fully.
The 700c wheelset fitted to our test bike performed its duties well and has a good amount of rollover ability when commuting around the urban landscape. The tyres are also up to the task, we had no issues with punctures despite traversing wet, and debris littered roads and cycle paths.
With regards to the contact points, the saddle fitted is comfortable, however, I do have some durability concerns over seemingly thin finish on top. Up top, the supplied slide on grips have a tendency to twist around the bars under normal riding conditions. A set of lock on grips would be an inexpensive upgrade worth pursuing for those that like a tackier, more comfortable feel to their handlebars.
The list of additional features fitted to the Pulse is impressive given the price of the bike. The integrated kickstand is handy for storing the bike when not in use and the fitted mudguards did their job in shielding water spray and debris. The included front and rear LED lights are a good “Be seen” option, however, their low-output makes them inadequate for sole use in darker conditions. A light set is a worthwhile addition to round out the bike.
Priced at $1,499, the Pulse represents fantastic value for little trade-off in terms of quality. Add in the fact it offers up pedal assistance to make your morning commute, or coffee shop stop a breeze, and there’s little denying that Reid is onto a winning formula with its low cost, highly functional range of e-bikes.
Despite some obvious flaws that come with the pursuit of hitting such a price point, the Pulse is every bit as practical every-day as bikes costing twice as much. For that fact alone, this is one bike I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending to anyone considering an affordable e-bike that's big on features, range and practicality.
Thanks to Reid Cycles Australia for lending the bike for this test. The Reid Pulse is available right now and carries an RRP of AUD$1,499