BIKE TEST: VELOMINI PLUS

The tiniest and lightest folding bike we’ve ever tested.

Riding the bike is easy and fun. Here Jocelyn Mason takes the VeloMini Plus out for a spin.

 

Two boxes showed up at our office one day. They appeared to be test bikes, but neither weighed enough to seem to be an electric bike. Perhaps it was one bike spread across two boxes?

We opened the lighter of the two first. It contained a suitcase with large wheels and an odd handle. It appeared to be an attachment for a bike that was to be used as a trailer. That made some sense, but what was in the other box? It was heavier, but not electric bike-heavy.

Inside that second box was a tiny, folded-up bike. There was no battery attached, so perhaps it wasn’t electric? On close inspection, it had a motor in the front wheel. This folding bike had to be the smallest and lightest we’ve ever tested.

 

THE BIKE

The bike tips the scales at just over 25 pounds. When you’re used to moving 50-plus-pound bikes around, this bike feels like a feather. Folded, it’s just about 30 inches long. Fully extended, it’s 49 inches. It’s a short wheelbase compared to most bikes, but we’ll talk about the riding feel soon.

The frame is essentially one top tube that extends back to the seat tube. There’s no hinge here, and it sits low to the ground, just above the 16-inch wheels. It also runs through and extends past the head tube. At the front end, there’s an LED headlight integrated into the tube. There’s a gusset tube that extends from two-thirds of the way back to the top tube that bends slightly and joins the top of the set tube. This serves two purposes: it adds rigidity, something most folding bikes desperately need, and it provides a perfect handle for carrying the bike, whether folded or built.

“As small as it is, you don’t feel like you’re riding some kind of circus bike while cruising down the street.”

The battery is housed inside the top tube. It’s not really removable; you’d likely have to disassemble the entire front end of the bike to be able to remove it. The headlight is somewhat obscured by the Medusa of wires, originating at the handlebars but crossing in front of it before entering into the frame right behind it.

 

The rear triangle—actually, mostly the seatstay—is hinged where it meets the bottom bracket. That’s where this bike folds. That’s smart, but we’ve seen other bikes that do this, and the VeloMini Plus does it better. There are no bolts or clasps to attach. Instead, they’ve opted for an elastomer plug that fits into a knob on the back of the seat tube. This provides a level of suspension to take out bumps. It is genius!

Folding the bike is so easy because of this setup. You literally fold the back wheel under the bike, and the rack then serves as a stand to hold the bike up. The bars fold over, and the extra-long seatpost can be removed to make the whole thing very compact.

 

We noticed the chain. It’s unique in that it certainly isn’t a normal bicycle chain. The links are much smaller. This certainly adds to the light weight of the bike, and it develops considerable slack when the bike is folded, becoming fully taut when the bike is unfolded. What concerns us is that if you ever break that chain, or any other part of the drivetrain that moves the chain, how or where can you find replacement parts? With a conventional chain, any local bike shop can replace links or the entire chain. We doubt that any normal bike shop will have the parts needed to repair the Plus if needed.

Marks on the telescoping stem make it easy to set up the bike to your preferences when unfolding it. The taillight has a solar panel on top to keep it fully charged.

 

There’s a rear light mounted on the back of the seatpost. It can be set to show solid red LEDs, or flash in a couple of modes. It needs no batteries. There’s a solar cell on the light itself to recharge it. Underneath the seat there’s the TrackR, which helps in case the bike is stolen. We’ve tested similar devices, and they work best when you’re in an area with a lot of people with the TrackR app on their phone to help locate it. We’re not convinced of how effective these things are yet, but it may provide some peace of mind.

The trailer they sent with the bike is an optional extra. You can use it to carry groceries or the stuff you need for your office. There’s a sticker that warns not to use it to tote people or animals. We can’t imagine ever doing that, but there are always those people who need a reminder of the blindingly obvious. The trailer comes with a visibility flag and a very cool cover to protect it from the elements when not in use. But, the most impressive feature of the trailer is that the bike itself fits inside when folded!

 

WHO IT’S MADE FOR?

This is a great bike for people who commute and need a bike that can be stored in a small space or easily be taken on a train. It might also be great for people with RVs. It has an 18-mile range, but we wouldn’t recommend anyone who rides that distance ride this Plus bike for that.

THE RIDE 

The amount of adjustment on this bike is impressive—from the seat height to the handlebar positioning, with marks so you can consistently set it to the right height after unfolding. Unfolding and setting this bike up are the fastest of any bike we’ve ever had.

 

Once you have it adjusted, the low step-through height makes climbing aboard easy. Turning the system on isn’t the simplest in that you have to first turn on an on/off toggle switch on the right side of the handlebars, then turn on the display on the left side. The display has five red LED bars/lights to indicate the amount of battery remaining and three blue LED bars/lights to indicate what power level you’re in—low, medium or high. If none of the blue lights are on, the power assist is turned off.

 

The motor is in the front wheel, and with the tiny 16-inch wheels, it feels like it has all the torque in the world. If you’re off the bike and pull the throttle, the front wheel will spin in place very easily. When you’re on the bike, there’s a good whoosh of power when the motor first kicks on. You feel it, but it’s not jarring. It’s a 250-watt motor, which isn’t thrilling, but it’s plenty to get you going.

 

The VeloMini Plus is technically a Class 2 bike, as it has a throttle. That said, it tops out at 14 mph. It’s plenty of speed to get you to work or the next leg of your transportation without breaking a sweat. You can even just use the throttle. Or, if you want to look like you’re doing some work without actually doing any, you can “ghost pedal” the bike, since it has a cadence sensor, not a torque sensor, so it gives you full power if you’re even turning the cranks slowly. Do keep this in mind, however, because it can work against you. Once the bike is moving under motor power, any movement of the cranks will bring you a boost. That can be disconcerting when trying to come to a stop. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like the brake cutoff switches work.

The brakes themselves are rim brakes, and they don’t seem to work well enough to stop you quickly when you’re rolling fast.

 

The tiny chain operates very smoothly and keeps weight down, but we aren’t sure what you’d do if it breaks.

 

It’s a single-speed bike, but even when using the motor and rolling downhill, it’s geared high enough that you don’t run out. Sometimes it is helpful to use the throttle when moving away from a stop because of the tall gearing.

The ride is very stable, the bike is long enough when extended, and the forks have enough rake to make it feel very natural and normal, not twitchy like you might think with the small wheels. Running the Kwest 16×1.5-inch tires close to the maximum pressure of 65 psi keeps rolling resistance low and the ride really smooth.

The yellow elastomer clicks into that knob on the frame to keep the bike unfolded and provides a sort of suspension. It’s a very innovative solution.

 

We rode one day in a heavy headwind, and the VeloMini made easy work of it. The wind and even reasonably steep hills didn’t faze the bike. It’s very capable on a short ride, but the fun factor goes way down on a longer ride. The cutoff at 14 mph means you’ll likely never keep up with any friends on a full 20-mph bike, or even a normal-sized traditional bicycle with gears.

As small as it is, you don’t feel like you’re riding some kind of circus bike while cruising down the street. You might look a little like it, but the bike feels so smooth and rides so well, you won’t care. The suspension took out the bumps in the road nicely.

Shirley had a blast hauling groceries around the neighborhood in the trailer. It works so well that you forget it’s even there.

 

THE VERDICT

This bike is inexpensive, not cheap, for what you get. The suspension and folding mechanism are brilliantly designed. If you ride a mile or so to work or to take a train or bus to get to work, this bike is perfect. It’s so tiny yet really stable that it’s easy for most people to carry up stairs, especially if weight is a consideration. If you are looking for a bike to ride long distances or for sightseeing, you may find that this bike falls short. This bike is best suited for short-distance rides and owners who need a bike that takes up almost no space when folded for storage.

 

SPECS: VELOMINI PLUS 

MSRP: $1295

Motor: 250W, brushless, direct drive motor

Battery: 24V, 10Ah

Charge time: 5 hours

Top speed: 14 mph (with assist)

Range: Up to 18 miles

Drive: Single-speed

Brakes: V-brake rim brakes

Controls: VeloMini

Fork: Aluminum

Frame: Aluminum

Tires: Kenda 16”

Weight: 25.5 lb.

Color Choices: White

Sizes: One size

www.elvmotors.com