Bike Test: Evelo Delta
Yevgeniy Mordkovich loves cycling, and he loves to ride with his wife. However, she wasn’t always able to keep up with him on longer rides. As a solution, back in 2011, Mordkovich decided to build his wife an electric bike. This allowed them not only to take longer rides together, but also to pull a trailer with their young son in it and make cycling a true family affair.
His brother and eventual Evelo co-founder Boris Mordkovich helped launch the first peer-to-peer car-sharing startup (RelayRides) in Boston and San Francisco. This offered first-hand experience on how society’s relationship with cars was beginning to shift, and when he saw Yevgeniy’s one-off electric bike, the light bulb went off.
“We were surprised more than once at how rapidly it takes off.”
In order to launch the endeavor and gain recognition by the public and prove that they had a reliable product, the brothers decided to ride 4000 miles, from New York City to San Francisco. It would put the bikes through a real-world test and get them some needed PR.
They completed the trip in 2 1/2 months, learning a lot and meeting tons of people along the way. They also became, as they called it, “master mechanics” along the trip, as you’d expect from a cross-country ride. Their entire trip is chronicled on their site: www.transamericanelectricbiketour.com.
The Evelo Delta is geared at off-road riders. It’s the first e-MTB we’ve ever seen with a Nuvinci CVT (constantly variable transmission). The engineering on the CVT is nothing short of brilliant, but it isn’t the most efficient way to get power to the wheels. Still, this bike has more than enough oomph, as it’s three times as powerful as the mid-drives we’ve seen from the likes of Bosch, Brose, Shimano, et al.
The design of the frame is interesting. The top tube is welded lower on the seat tube for a lower stand-over height, then there’s a gusset from the top tube to the seat tube to preserve stiffness. A fairly slack head tube mated with a RockShox Recon RL Solo Air fork is designed for easy descents.
The downtube is definitely different. It looks like it was originally going to fully enclose the battery, but the designer decided not to quite finish the job. It gives the illusion that it is protecting the battery, and in a way it is, but with a wide gap around the battery, it seems more like a design detail.
The bars, at 740mm, are modern-day wide. The stem length, stretching 90mm forward, is a bit dated. The steer tube is also really tall, offering a more upright riding position or a choice for riders to cut it to their preferred height. Controls for the throttle and pedal-assist level are easily accessible by your right thumb.
The brakes are unusual as well. We don’t see hydraulic disc brakes with cutoff switches very often, but that’s just what we found with the e-bike-specific Tektro E-Comp brakes.
Evelo chose a Bafang 750-watt mid-drive motor to power the Delta. Where most bikes on the market offer 250 watts of output, they went “full throttle” on this one (pun intended). And, this bike is a Class 2, meaning it will provide power up to 20 mph via either the throttle or pedal assist. This does mean that riders will have to know the laws governing their local trails. Some trails will only allow Class 1 (no throttle).
The motor is fully encased in the frame to protect it. The casing also looks good, though the motor is part of the bike and not merely bolted on.
Our test bike came with a monochrome LCD, but the production model will feature a full-color display. Either way, it is in the top center of the stem, easy to see all information from speed to battery level to PAS mode at-a-glance. There are five levels of pedal assist, and one that is throttle only. The throttle can be used at any time on any power level to bring the bike up to full speed.
Speed can also be controlled by the PAS level—level 5 will get you to 20 mph, 4 goes to about 17, 3 goes to 15, 2 goes to 13 and level 1 caps at 11 mph. There’s a power indicator on the display that shows how many watts are being used at a given time, and there’s a significant difference between the power levels. That power level also affects how fast the battery is drained. In level 5, it peaks at over 900 watts.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The hardtail Delta is good for entry-level riders who don’t want the added weight, expense, upkeep or complexity of full suspension. Even with the massive 3.0-inch tires, it’s made more for unpaved roads than singletrack trails. Thanks to its abundance of power, it will climb darn near anything you attempt.
Even with a medium-sized frame, the bike feels a bit tall. Overall, ergonomics aren’t bad. The saddle is comfortable, the bars are wide enough to offer excellent control, and, for cruising dirt roads, the geometry is fine.
Interestingly, there is no torque sensor, only a cadence sensor. Torque sensors are more expensive, which is why the better bikes have them. With a cadence sensor only, you can ghost pedal. That is, just keep the cranks spinning and you’ll get the full power of the level you’ve suggested. Some riders like this, but we prefer the more natural and bicycle-like feeling of torque sensors.
We recommend starting off in level 1 or 2, then turning the level up gradually. Starting in level 5 is jerky, especially when taking off. We were surprised more than once at how rapidly the bike takes off, sometimes before you’re ready for it!
Battery life isn’t great, but it isn’t awful, either. We liked the power and weren’t shy with it, but the only way to control it is by changing the PAS level because of the cadence sensor. There would be some battery savings with a torque sensor.
Perhaps a little more battery savings could come from switching to a more traditional gearing setup instead of a CVT. The CVT offers some unique features, though. Because of its glissando shifting, there needs to be no temporary motor cut to save the chain. Less sudden stress on the chain could mean longer chain life.
The indicator for the CVT is a stick figure of a rider on a bike, on a road. As you twist the right-hand grip shifter, the road gets steeper or flatter. A steeper hill on the indicator means an easier gear, and a flatter hill means a higher gear and more speed.
We aren’t always fans of CVT drivetrains, but once we got used to this one, we did really like it. It’s very simple to use, and if you come to a stop and forget to downshift, you can do it without pedaling. Or, you can bump up your PAS level and let the motor help you out from the stop, or just press the throttle.
We did notice some flex in the fork. Evelo says we have a pre-production bike, and the final spec will be the same fork but with steel stanchions instead of aluminum, which should correct
We liked the Delta. For its price point, it’s a solid bike. Good spec, and a one-of-a-kind e-MTB with both a throttle and a CVT. If you’re looking for your first e-MTB and you aren’t planning on any aggressive riding, it’s worth considering the Delta. Do pay attention to where you’re going to ride it, as it is a Class 2 bike, which may or may not be allowed on your local trails. For street, it should be fine.
SPECS EVELO DELTA
Motor: 750W Bafang mid-drive
Battery:Li-ion, 48V 11.6 Ah
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Drive: Nuvinci 380 CVT
Brakes: Tektro Hydraulic w/ cutoff switches, 180mm rotors front/rear
Controls: DPC 18 full color display
Fork:RockShox Recon RL Solo Air
Frame:6061 hydroformed aluminum
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskin, tubeless-easy, folding, 27.5×3.0
Weight: 49.5 pounds
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