Tenways' e-bike debut blends value with style

In the age of electric mobility, the trusty bicycle has played a surprisingly low-key role; scooters seem to grab all the headlines (and app rental dollars). Instead, the e-bike has become the preserve of those that can afford one. A decent conventional bike already costs a bit, so adding a motor understandably only adds to that cost. Enter Tenways, a new player in the e-bike world that’s trying to buck that trend. Its debut model, the CGO 600, is currently available on Indiegogo for around $1,400 and despite its relative affordability, it doesn’t scrimp on features.

© James Trew / Engadget Tenways CGO 600 e-bike review.

Now, the usual disclaimer: With Indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms, there’s always an inherent risk. But Tenways states its production is already underway and given that the review model they sent appears to be full and final hardware we were somewhat assured that things are ready to go.

The CGO 600 is clearly a city bike with its thinner tires and classic diamond frame. It’s powered by a 250W battery which is discreetly hidden in the downtube, to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell that this bike is electric at all. The rear hub motor is visible, but also small enough to not catch the eye. That motor offers a max assistance speed of 15mph in Europe or 20mph in the US which are the maximum allowed in those territories. The claimed range is around 80 miles per charge (though this seems optimistic) and it’s all bundled into a package that weighs around 15 kilograms (around 33 pounds).

© Provided by Engadget

Beyond the key specs, the motor uses a torque sensor for fast, smooth acceleration with three levels of assistance. The bike has no gears, so the motor acts as either regular assist or can be used like gears when going uphill. The brakes are hydraulic for easier maintenance and the carbon belt transmission should mean no oily fingers or pit stops to set it back in place. The CGO 600 can be fully charged in about 2.5 hours, and there’s a small LCD display that acts as an onboard trip computer and power button.

I won’t lie, the specs were pretty impressive at this price point, but what initially drew me to the CGO 600 was the understated design. While it looks great in all the five colorways, there’s something about the black and green model that looks stealthy. The fact that it doesn’t scream “e-bike” makes it feel less of a lure for thieves and just all round makes for an attractive object. In many ways it reminds me of the Cowboy (€1,990 or roughly $2,198) but with a little less aggressively modern design.

Your first task will be putting the bike together, but it’s not too much of a challenge and I was all set and done in less than an hour with a tea break and work interruptions along the way. Once you have it together, you can download the companion app if you wish (it’s not essential unlike on the Cowboy) and get out there on the road.

There are two frame sizes on offer are 50cm (19 inch) and 54cm (21 inch) with no step-through option if that’s your preference or if the available sizes are too big for you. I’m a fairly average height and find the 50cm version I tested to be comfortable. The riding position is a little forward-leaning, but not in a way that bothered me.

© Provided by Engadget

The very first thing you’ll notice is both how fast to engage and how smooth the motor is. When at a standstill at stoplights, it only takes a fraction of a second for the assistance to kick in. It’s smooth enough that it’s not jarring but powerful enough for you to instantly feel the benefit. Once you’re up to speed, it sometimes feels like the assistance isn’t really helping as much, but you only have to turn it off and have the bike in manual mode for a few seconds before your thighs remind you you’re running on your own steam.

It’s when you’re going uphill that you’ll really feel the benefit. The torque sensor means that the amount of assistance immediately responds to the intensity of the ascent. I found that even on fairly steep inclines I didn’t need to get up off the saddle; just fire up the highest level of power and work the pedals.

The torque sensor is also magnetic rather than pressure-based, meaning you can happily ride the CGO 600 entirely on your own leg power without any resistance or burden from the motor. This is great if you’re worried about it being less useful if the battery runs out.

About that: Tenways’ claim of 80 miles of assistance per charge is hard to gauge. I certainly haven’t ridden 80 miles on it yet. But on one full charge I’ve covered just over 22 with 58-percent battery remaining. On a crude calculation, that means I am on track for about 45/50 miles on a single charge. That’s much less than the advertised 80, but I also really enjoy the full power assist, so if you only rode on level one, you’d likely eke more miles out of it. Either way, 50 miles or so would cover a 5-mile commute back and forth over a week without charging.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s no throttle mode here. That’s fairly typical of e-bikes in this style, but in case you were hoping for it, now you know. That said, if you press and hold the down button on the odometer, the bike will creep along on its motor, but it’s only about three miles an hour, so more of a gentle start or a lane splitter’s tool than anything like a motorbike mode.

© Provided by Engadget

In keeping with the stealthy looks, that motor makes nary a sound. It’s not entirely silent, but certainly you’re not going to hear it while riding around town. I love that the hub motor is barely visible and that the battery is so well hidden. Though, of course, that does mean there’s no option to buy spares/swap them out. But it also means you can breeze past serious cyclists on their racers while barely breaking a sweat and enjoy their curious glances as you do so.

One last comment on how it rides: It’s definitely not an off-road bike. That is fairly obvious from the design, but worth mentioning. The CGO 600 lives for asphalt. I took it over some less friendly terrains (potholes, gravel and a decked pathway) and while it handled it all fine, the suspension is pretty hard so you’ll feel every teeth-clattering bump.

The onboard computer is useful but simple. The default screen has everything you need to know at a glance (speed/battery/distance etc.). Then there are sub-screens that are accessible with a tap for more detailed information like average speed and range. This is also where you can add some security via a passcode for the motor. This obviously doesn’t prevent someone stealing your bike, but it’s a small deterrent perhaps?

© Provided by Engadget

At only 15kg, the CGO 600 is definitely one of the lighter e-bikes in this style. Lighter than both the Cowboy (16kg) and the VanMoof Electrified S2 (19kg, $2,298). This makes it a more manageable option if you need to lug it up stairs or, like me, man-handle it into an elevator each time you want to head out. It also makes manual mode a little easier on the legs should you prefer to go on human power (or if the battery runs out).

On a more practical note, Tenways included an integrated front light that’s bright enough for those darker sections of your nighttime city commute. How it fares in more rural settings is likely a different matter. There’s also a rear light included, but it’s an accessory you attach with its own battery, so something you’ll need to check regularly if you don’t want to get caught out.

The humble city e-bike has evolved greatly in the last few years, but still needs a little push to bring it into the mainstream as a viable commuting option. Companies like Cowboy, VanMoof and Brompton have been chipping away at the remaining resistance points and now Tenways is here to show you can take most of the features from those models and package them in a more pocket-friendly way. The $1,400 price will likely go up once the Indiegogo campaign ends, but expect it to remain competitive even at retail prices.

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