Electric Bike Action Bike Test: Aventon Level Commuter Bike
Aventon got their start in 2015 making non-motorized, fixed-gear bikes, but they now also have a growing stable of e-bikes. We’ve reviewed a couple of them over the years: the Pace 350, a 350-watt, barebones, basic e-bike for just over $1000; and the Sinch, an interesting, folding fat bike powered by a 500-watt motor.
Now we have the Level. With its fully integrated battery, beautiful styling and a great-looking, two-tone colorway, this is a bike unlike the others we’ve seen from the brand.
The hydro-formed aluminum frame has a reasonably low-slung top tube to provide a low stand-over height. Like the cables, the battery is integrated into the downtube. The SR Suntour Mobie A32 coil-spring fork offers plenty of travel to take out the bumps in the front, but the rest of the shock absorption will come from the 2.2-inch Kenda Kwick Drumlin tires. The seatpost clamp is fairly low, so most riders could add a suspension post to add comfort, especially if you live in a place with imperfect roads.
As a commuter bike, this is outfitted with quite a bit of creature comforts. The saddle is a wide, comfortable, padded Velo saddle with the Aventon name on it. Grips are round and soft, and the handlebars have a nice rise and a very slight sweep. Full aluminum fenders will keep splashes off of your clothes, and they’re probably the perfect material. Aluminum fenders don’t flex and rattle like plastic ones do.
The eight-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain relies on an e-bike-specific KMC chain to keeps things going. Included pedals are aluminum platforms that provide good grip and stability with most types of shoes.
Aventon has gone with a 72-volt system here, which provides tremendous power at your disposal. The Shengyi brushless rear-hub motor is rated at 500 watts at 750 watts peak. It’s rated at 50 N/m of torque, and that is delivered almost right away via a cadence sensor. It takes about 1/3 to 1/2 revolution of the pedals to engage the system, but it’s almost jarring when it kicks in.
Depending on which pedal-assist level you choose, it controls the top speed, not the amount of power. Level 0 is off, level 1 gets you to about 13 mph, level 2 gets you to about 15 mph, level 3 gets you to 18, level 4 to about 23 mph and level 5 will get you to 28 mph.
The difference is the top speed for all of these, as it relies on the pedals spinning, not on the torque input from the rider. If you put no pressure on the pedals but keep spinning them, you’ll effortlessly be driven by the motor up to the top speed of that pedal-assist mode. This is great if you don’t want to sweat on your way to work, but if you’re trying to sweat a little and get some exercise, you’ll have to select a power level lower than the pace you want to hit. You can also set it to level 0 or ride with the system entirely turned off. Other than the weight of the battery and motor, there’s virtually no drag from the motor, and the bike rides quite nicely.
The bike comes with a throttle that can get you to 20 mph in any mode. Depending on the legality of having a throttle in your state, Aventon has designed the throttle to be easily disabled and removed if needed.
“The bike comes with a throttle that can get you to 20 mph in any mode. Depending on the legality of having a throttle in your state, Aventon has designed the throttle to be easily disabled and removed if needed.”
The battery is integrated into the downtube of the frame. It’s a massive 672 Wh, which you would think would give you quite a lot of range. Being a 72-volt system, it pulls power out of it quickly, far more so than a 36- or 48-volt system. That being said, Aventon offers the most realistic range we’ve ever heard from a manufacturer at 40 miles. We found that to be quite accurate with a 160-pound rider, a combination of hills, flat ground and even some strong headwinds.
The backlit LCD is as big as a smartphone and offers information on remaining battery capacity, speed, power-assist level, and your choice of odometer, trip meter, ride time and voltage at the bottom.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Level is a really versatile, inexpensive commuter bike. It’s a Class 3 bike, providing pedal assist to 28 mph, but also offering a throttle that will get you to 20 mph. It can carry up to nearly 60 pounds on the rear rack, and the bike itself is rated for riders up to 250 pounds. With tons of options for accessories (Aventon has a whole section of their website devoted to these), it’s pretty easy to configure the bike for a wide variety of use.
Despite knowing how instant the acceleration is once you start pedaling, it still surprised us a couple of times. The implementation of the throttle is a bit unusual in that it doesn’t engage from a stop. You have to pedal to get it started. If a rider has joint problems, this is a real consideration, as some riders with bad knees or other leg problems, the kind that are helped by using a throttle to get going, may have issues with this.
We always ride test bikes with the power off for a bit to see how it rides as a regular bicycle (or in case we don’t have enough range to get where we are going and have to ride without power). This showcases how well the bike is designed. The Level passes this test with flying colors. It’s a very pleasant ride even without power.
We rode quite a bit in level 5, so getting around was pretty quick. It really likes going 25–26 mph easily in level 5, but 28 mph, like most Class 3 bikes, takes more effort.
The 2.2-inch Kenda Kwick Drumlin tires have enough volume to take out some of the bumps in the road, and its size is enough to roll over even some roots coming up in the street quite easily. They’re e-bike-rated to handle the extra forces demanded of them by an e-bike, and the compound is soft and grippy, so the bike feels planted even in off-camber corners while still offering low rolling resistance.
“Acceleration is instant once you start pedaling, so you have to be ready for it.”
The hydraulic disc brakes use 180mm rotors for ample stopping power, even at 28 mph. The levers have cutoff switches, which is a great thing to have with a powerful, fast motor. The moment you actuate the levers even slightly, the power instantly cuts, making braking more effective. For those that ride with a finger or fingers on the lever, you just have to make sure you put zero pressure on them, or you’ll find the motor cutting out at inopportune times.
Aventon sells direct to consumers, and ships the bike free in the continental U.S. Assembly is pretty simple; it’s mostly put together inside the box, and Aventon has great instructions and videos on their website to show how to correctly assemble and maintain your bike. Aventon offers a one-year warranty on the bike and a lifetime warranty on the frame.
We think the Level is a tremendous amount of e-bike for $1599. A few years ago, a similarly built bike would cost twice as much. It’s a good-looking bike with decent components, and as a commuter bike, it has plenty of range to get most riders to and from work as a daily rider. It’s great that they’ve made the throttle removable for those states/localities that don’t allow throttles.
Motor: 500W, 72V brushless rear hub motor (750W peak)
Battery: 672 Wh, integrated
Charge time: 4–5 hours
Top speed: 28 mph (Class 3)
Range: 40 miles
Drive: Shimano Acera 8-speed
Brakes: Bengal Ares 3 hydraulic disc brakes, 180mm rotors
Controls: M5 LCD Smart Easy Read display with backlight
Fork: SR Suntour Mobie A32 coil spring, thru-axle, 75mm travel with lockout
Frame: Hydro-formed 6061 double-butted aluminum
Tires: Kenda Kwik Drumlin, e-bike-rated, 27.5×2.2”
Weight: 58.6 pounds
Color choice: Earth grey
Sizes: M, L
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