Bike Review – BLIX VIKA+
The designs of their bikes hark back to the origins of bicycling
Blix is located in Santa Cruz, California, but their heritage is classically Scandinavian. The designs of their bikes hark back to the origins of bicycling—simple, clean bikes in nice colors that are modernized with motorized assist.
The Vika+ is the larger of their two folding bikes. It features 20-inch wheels, and it’s made for daily use. There’s also a smaller one, the Vika Travel, with 16-inch wheels and an even smaller footprint when folded.
If you have seen a lot of folding bikes, you’ll recognize this bike as pretty standard. It’s a small bike with 20-inch wheels, and the frame has one downtube that extends from the head tube to the bottom bracket with a hinge in the middle to fold it down. The stem folds over, and the pedals can fold as well.
Where do you put the battery on a folding, low step-through frame so you don’t trip over it? Behind the seat tube between the seatstays of course. It’s an e-bike, so there are wires aplenty, and Blix has nicely wrapped them all to keep things tidy.
The Velo seat and ergonomic grips are faux leather, and the latter have a hand-stitched look, offering a classic and classy accent to the bike.
The wheels are 20 inches with sturdy 13-gauge spokes to withstand the forces of an electric bike. The rear wheel has not only the motor, but a Shimano Acera seven-speed derailleur. A trigger shifter makes those shifts easy. The front sprocket is massive with 52 teeth, and the rear cassette is a 14-28t, so you’ll never run out of gears. It also has chainguides/guards to keep the chain on the sprocket and off your pants.
Full fenders keep you dry through puddles. V-brakes grab the rims and provide the stopping power. We wish these were discs, but that would’ve made the bike more expensive, and Blix knows the market they’re after.
All of the wiring is external. This made routing much easier for the folding bit, as internal routing on a folder is much more difficult. There is an integrated Spanniga LED lighting running off the main battery. The front headlight is attached to the fork crown, so it turns with the bike. It’s bright enough for night rides and not a bad idea for daytime, either, to let people see you coming.
The seatpost has a hinge mechanism at the top to allow a rider to flip the saddle forward to remove the battery. There’s a quick release on the seatpost clamp, and we think it would be just as easy—and far less complex—to skip the hinge and let users remove the seatpost. The hinge adds weight, and every little bit can help on a bike that weighs in at around 50 pounds.
Blix expects, however, that most people will remove the battery before lifting the bike into their car to shave some of the weight off while hefting the bike into or out of the trunk. The battery weighs in at over 6 pounds, so that can help. It’s less convenient if you have to carry it up stairs, because that may mean two trips, but it’s useful to be able to remove the battery so you can leave your bike in the garage but carry the battery in to charge it.
Speaking of the hinge and all that complexity, there are a bunch of adjustment points on the bike. There’s the frame hinge, which is a pretty standard one for folding bikes, with a solid locking mechanism. There are adjustments you can make, like seat height, and there’s a quick release for it and for the telescoping stem. All this adjustability means that there are a lot of things that you need to ensure they are tight before riding.
When you fold the bike up (a feat that takes under a minute), it has a magnet that holds it together and a stand welded on under the bottom bracket that’s slightly lower than the front sprocket to let it stand on its own while folded.
There’s an optional bike carrying bag that actually mounts on the rear rack when not in use. Because it’s a small rack over a small wheel, there isn’t a lot of room to strap things onto it, and some panniers might be way too big for it.
A Bafang 350-watt geared rear hub drive powers the bike. The 350 watts doesn’t seem like much in this era of 500-plus-watt hub motors, but on smaller wheels, the torque is immense! It can get you up to the limited top speed of 18 mph in just a few seconds, using pedal assist or the throttle lever on the left side.
There are two choices on batteries—one is 11 amp-hour, which is the one we tested, and the other is 17.4. Blix claims a range of 35–55 miles depending on battery, and, as usual, we think those claims are optimistic. We’ll explain later.
The monochromatic display is from Bafang. It’s branded “Spin Tech,” and it’s really nice in that it displays everything on one screen, and the contrast is outstanding so you can easily read it in bright sunlight. Power-level controls are located right below the display.
The tiny control pad is by the left grip. The on/off button is in the center. You must first press the on/off button on the battery pack to wake the system up, then press the on button on the control to turn it on.
There are four levels of assist; they don’t have names, just numbers. Level 1 will get you up to about 7–8 mph all the way up to level 4, which will get you all the way to 18. You can also put the bike in level 0 and just use the throttle, and the throttle can override any pedal-assist level. The throttle is on the left side of the bars and is actuated by pressing it forward. It’s a bit backwards if you’re used to most bikes that have throttles on the right side. When you toggle through the power levels, it loops around instead of stopping at the ends.
A cadence sensor is employed with 12 magnetic sensors in the massive front sprocket, which makes it responsive. It kicks in and shuts off in almost real time with very little delay. The Tektro brake levers have built-in cutoff switches, so a slight squeeze on either lever instantly cuts the motor power. Because it’s cadence only, riders can ghost pedal (i.e., just keep moving the pedals forward and the motor will provide as much power and speed as the level you’ve selected).
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Vika+ is aimed squarely at commuters and those who like to take their bikes out into the country for a leisurely ride, or those who want an electric bike that takes up very little space when not in use and folded up. It’s a relatively inexpensive folding e-bike.
We picked the bike up at a local shop, and the first ride was the ride home. First impressions are important, and the Vika+ made a good one. Even when we started off with a battery that had less than 40-percent charge, it made mincemeat of a couple of steep hills. After fully charging it, we set off for another ride. The claimed range is far from the reality. Instead of 35 miles, we plowed through half of the fully charged battery in the first 10 miles. We’d definitely recommend spending the extra money for the larger battery if you plan on 20-plus-mile rides.
There is plenty of power, though. We spent a lot of time in levels 2–3, as level 1 seemed far too mellow. The seven-speed gearing doesn’t have a very wide range, but we never ran out of gears on either end, with or without pedal assist. Overall, the bike feels really planted when cornering, the tires held on in easy or hard cornering, and we confidently cruised through the concrete jungle.
Because of the design with only one main tube in the front of the bike, there is a lot of flex. It’s not from the hinge; it’s just the design and size of the tube. It can be a little disconcerting at first. Even with that, the bike is rigid enough to transfer bumps through the frame to the seat and bars. The touch points are all nicely padded, and the saddle has springs, which helps.
Quality, fit and finish, and ride quality are all very good. We were impressed with the adjustability. It fit everyone who tried it, and the telescoping steer tube made it comfortable for everyone. If you’re looking for a folder on a budget, something to save space and fit in your car, the corner of your apartment or the corner of your cubicle, take a test ride on the Vika+.
SPECS: BLIX VIKA+
Motor: 350W Bafang Spin Tech rear hub motor
Battery: Kingco 36V/11 Ah (as tested) or 17.5 Ah
Charge time: 4.5 hours
Top speed: 18 mph (with assist)
Range: 35-55 miles (claimed)
Drive: Shimano Acera 7-speed
Tires: Kenda 20×1.75”
Weight: 49 lb.
Color choices: Black/Racing Green/Cream
Sizes: One size (fits 4-foot-10 up to 6-foot-3)
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET ELECTRIC BIKE ACTION
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