Courtesy of Electric Bike Action Magazine
We get asked about budget bikes all the time. Some people balk at spending a couple thousand dollars for what they consider merely a bicycle. And not everyone has thousands to spend on an electric bike, especially those who don’t regularly ride bikes currently.
We do test some expensive bikes here, because manufacturers like to put out their best bikes for us to review. Sometimes, however, we get inexpensive bikes. Green Bike USA, a company based in Florida, sent us their 20-inch GB500 folding bike to review.
At first glance the GB500 seems like many other folding e-bikes, but it does have some interesting differences. One thing that sets this bike apart is that it features full suspension.
Another unique feature is that it has front and rear lighting, not that that is different, but the rear-light setup has turn-signal indicators. This may be the first bike we’ve ever reviewed with signals like this. The turn signal even makes a noise when it flashes, so you’re aware of when it’s flashing so you can cancel it after you make your turn.
“Thankfully, squeezing the brake lever cut the motor or we’d have hit a wall!”
It has mechanical disc brakes with cutoff switches, which add to the incredible number of wires protruding from the front of the bike. They’re neatly wrapped, but they are then attached, en masse, under the frame like someone had unleashed a den of snakes to the bottom of the bike.
The GB500 also features mudguards, a handy rear rack, and optional handlebar-mounted carrying bag and side bags. Other options include even larger batteries (up to 15.6 amp-hour).
This bike uses a 500-watt Bafang rear hub motor. It’s quiet, powerful, and well-hidden behind the brake rotor on one side and the six-speed Shimano cassette on the other. It’s actuated by a cadence sensor, not a torque sensor, which means that as long as you are moving the pedals, you’ll get the full power and speed of whatever level of pedal assist you choose.
The Bafang controller is our least favorite. The display is fine, but there are nine (yes, nine!) different power levels. Though it does allow you to efficiently control top speed and motor output, it’s just not necessary to have that many (four or five would be plenty). Someone who is timid on a bike or wants to extend their range can ride in level 1 or 2, and those in a hurry can use the top level. Scrolling through nine levels is the epitome of tediousness.
The display does have a USB port to allow you to charge your phone, and as of this writing, the company is including a free phone holder for your handlebars to make it easy to ride and use your phone for directions.
Where most folding bikes on the market have gone to small, internal batteries, Green Bike’s behind-the-seat design allows for a much larger battery (13-amp-hour). This does make the bike heavier, but you only notice that when you’re lifting it. It’s significantly back-heavy, and that spacing does make the rear triangle of the bike pretty long. The battery can easily take six-plus hours to fully charge.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Green Bike folds small enough to fit in the back seat or trunk of a car easily, so if you like to take your bike with you without using a rack (and more securely held inside), this is a definite plus. It’s also one of the least expensive electric bikes, with a very comfortable ride. If you’re an avid cyclist, the cadence sensor will take away from the good pedal feel you get from riding
The bike is very configurable to almost any sized person. The handlebars can rotate, the stem telescopes and the seat is adjustable. It has a low-step frame to make it easy to climb aboard.
The saddle is huge and comfortable, but doesn’t feel as solid as it could. And there’s a reason. There’s a hinge built in to allow users to tilt the seat forward and out of the way to remove the battery. This adds weight and complexity that is completely unnecessary, because it’s just as easy to open the quick release on the seatpost to take the battery out. Unless you take your battery out regularly to swap it for a fresh one, or more likely to take it upstairs to charge, it’s way easier to charge it on the bike.
Speaking of taking it up and down stairs, we were impressed with the clearance underneath the bottom bracket, even with the built-in stand (for when the bike is folded, to protect the chain/sprocket), allowed us to wheel it down stairs.
When we first climbed aboard and turned the bike on, we thought we’d start at level 5. Pushing on the pedal activated the cadence sensor, and the bike took off. Thankfully, squeezing the brake lever cut the motor or we’d have hit a wall! Small wheels make a powerful motor feel even more torquey, and this thing proves it.
The Tektro mechanical disc brakes are adequate, helped by the motor cutting off instantly when they’re applied. The Kenda puncture-resistant tires feel thick and rather stiff, giving a slightly slippery feel on even dry pavement.
We went over some serious bumps in the road, where tree roots are trying to emerge, to test the suspension. The RST fork in the front has plenty of travel, and the unique rear-spring setup works well together. It made even the bumpiest roads we usually ride feel much smoother.
Owing to the throttle, the bike is rated a class 2. We did sometimes use the throttle in stop-and-go areas to get going at stop signs because we liked being at a lower power level but still wanted the speed to kick in. The throttle is good to get going, but you can’t shift gears using the SIS shifter and operate the thumb throttle on the same side. It can get to 20 mph with the throttle or in level nine, but going over that speed is hard—not because it cuts off, but because you run out of gears. We tried on a long downhill, but the most we could hit was 23 mph.
This bike is sold direct-to-consumer via their website and through several online retailers, including Amazon. Green Bike has even less expensive bikes on their site, including lower power/speed/spec bikes, as well as some fat-tire and non-folding bikes.
The GB500 is good for those on a budget who want a folding bike that has a long range with plenty of power and don’t really care if the motor overpowers their legs most of the time. The suspension really is nice, and the ride quality is pretty good, but the cyclist in us doesn’t care for the way the cadence sensor works with the motor.
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