FREERIDER TAROKO AND NAPA
When a scooter company breaks into the bike market
FreeRider is a company that has been specializing in folding mobility scooters, but has expanded into making its first electric bicycles. They’re making a pair of them—one for commuting, one for the occasional off-road jaunt. Considering their knowledge of small electric vehicles, the move to the popular bike categories makes sense.
Their target market is that of the Specialized Turbo Tero or Trek Powerfly 4, which they have better specs than either in terms of battery capacity, range, weight and price. It seems as though they’ve done their homework.
The Taroko name is derived from one of the national parks in Taiwan. It means “magnificent and beautiful” in the Truku language from the aboriginal people in Taiwan. The Napa is simply named for the Napa Valley in California, alluding to its tasty wines and beautiful vineyards.
Both bikes start with an aluminum frame that integrates the battery into the downtube. The Uding air fork is different on each bike, with the Napa commuter bike running with 80mm of travel and the Taroko offering a more off-road-friendly 100mm.
You’ll find a Shimano Altus 1×9 drivetrain with an 11-34t cassette used on both bikes. The Napa has integrated lighting and a sturdy rear rack to make it easier to carry up to 33 pounds of groceries. The Taroko, too, has lighting, but it’s rechargeable, not integrated, and suggested mounting points are the seatpost and handlebar. Brakes all the way around are Bengal Ares 3 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors. They are more than adequate to stop the bike and offer good modulation.
FreeRider spec’d their own 250-watt mid-drive motor that offers 80 N/m of torque and gets you up to the 20-mph top speed quickly without feeling abrupt. On some occasions we did notice that the motor would lurch the bike forward right after stopping, and we learned to hang onto the brake lever a couple of seconds after stopping.
The 630Wh battery sounds like it should have good range, and we were impressed (see below), but we call shenanigans on their claimed 150-mile range in Eco mode, even if it was using the hilarious industry standard for that claim—a 110-pound rider on flat ground with a slight tailwind. The charger is definitely set up for overnight charging, taking up to eight hours to reach full charge if the battery is fully depleted. And if you have a long commute to work, you may want to bring the charger with you to charge the battery while you’re at work.
The battery is removable from the frame using a key if you prefer to charge it off the bike or store it separately. As we always like to remind, make sure you have a way to keep an eye on the battery when charging it. They’re generally safe these days, but we always tell people to err on the side of caution.
The 4-inch monochrome display on either side shows you power level, actual battery voltage, speed, mileage and more at a glance, and is easy to read in bright sunlight. It isn’t backlit, however, making it harder to read at night.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Napa commuter bike is just that—a city bike aimed at commuters and tourers, especially those who want something with a fairly long range. It’s definitely a capable bike for going long distances if you like to take your bike with you when you travel. The mountain bike is much more aimed at casual off-road riders who spend part-time on-road and part-time off. It’s not a truly serious mountain bike, but it is certainly capable on fire roads and gravel paths.
We were skeptical about the claims of the Taroko being labeled a “mountain bike” just by having 100mm of suspension travel and slightly bigger knobby tires. We thought we’d put it to a test on a real trail that includes a steep climb that’s been a great way to test just how much range is in a battery. In fact, a few previous test rides have ended at the trailhead itself with a spent battery.
We were kind to the battery for the first few miles, riding in Eco mode. The voltage slowly dropped as we rode, but we felt confident that it would make it to the trailhead. Surprisingly, when we cranked up the power, even the small-ish 34T gear was plenty enough for the steepest parts of the climb. We not only got to the trailhead, but up the first steep climb before the battery lost its first bar. This was impressive.
The bike climbed every dirt hill with relative ease, then we took it on the jump line. The bike handled the incredibly dusty soft stuff with ease, perhaps the thinner tires helped a bit with that. The one thing that was disconcerting was that every time we got the front wheel off the ground, the fork would slam to the bottom of the travel immediately, giving a loud, “Thunk!” No adjustment we tried would fix that.
Like the Napa, the Taroko was a great on-road bike. We liked the utility of the Napa, it was a relatively smooth ride, even on some of the poorly paved streets we often ride on. Power delivery was smooth, and we could comfortably do our rides at almost 20 mph with ease, knowing that we had plenty of range and enough gears to make each venture out more enjoyable.
Considering these are the first bikes from the scooter manufacturer, they are quite good. Both bikes are spec’d with a variety of components (fork, brakes and wheels) from brands we’ve never heard of, which is one way to save costs. The Napa is a solid commuter bike, which we think is a good value for the price, especially considering there’s currently a $900 manufacturer’s rebate on the purchase of either bike. The Taroko is also a good value, but usable only within a relatively small range as a true mountain bike. To make it more off-road-worthy, you’d at least have to swap out the fork for something with more travel. Range on both bikes was outstanding, and they really have proven that they know how to get the most out of a motor system. There’s a five-year limited warranty on the frameset and a two-year warranty on the battery.
FREERIDER TAROKO AND NAPA
Price: $3850 (Taroko), $3750 (Napa)
Fork: Uding, D6 100mm (Taroko), TK700 80mm (Napa)
Motor: Freerider 250W mid-drive, 80 N/m
Battery: 630 Wh
Charge time: 6–8 hours
Top speed: 20 mph (Class 1)
Range: 150 miles (claimed)
Rear derailleur: Shimano Altus, 9-speed
Brakes: Bengal Ares hydraulic, 160mm rotor
Rims: RJA 700C 20mm
Tires: CST 700Cx40C (Napa), CST 27.5” x 1.95” (Taroko)
Weight: 41.8 lb. (Taroko), 46 lb. (Napa)
Color choices: Red/black (Taroko), blue (Napa)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL