Freway VR-01 E-bike—A Lot For a Little.
So many are becoming people on electric bikes nowadays. As the search for the perfect bike can be an interesting road, too many are thinking only of high-powered, expensive E-bikes. This one from Freway could break that spell, offering you the ride you need, without slamming your budget to pieces. Freway is a relatively new company, yet has a few different E-bikes for the having. The VR-01 could be considered an entry level bike by some, yet might be all you are looking for.
It is in the style of a mountain bike, but like anything you own, once you have it you can use it anyway you like. I did a little trail riding on the VR-01, although staying on the streets and bike paths was mostly how I tested it. It performed well, getting me to each destination as a good bike should. They were able to keep the cost and weight low by keeping the electric-assist portion of the bike close to the European specs, something that may work for you or against you. This is something you will have to decide if you like or not.
In today’s power hungry world, a 250 watt motor could leave you wanting for more, especially if you live in an area with massively steep hills. The truth is that most people don’t have that concern and this VR-01 can handle decent grades when you pump the pedelec control to the max. It is a true pedelec, meaning there is no hand throttle to allow you to get assist when you are not pedaling. This can invigorate your ride and promote a healthier experience, part of the reason you get any bike.
With the handlebar located button you can chose between 3 levels of assist. There is also an ‘off’ setting to allow you to ride as you would a regular bike. With the trim 41 lbs. overall weight, this is a easy option. I have bikes that aren’t electric-assist that push the scales even higher than the VR-01, so having that option of just riding is one you may not get on many of the much heavier E-bikes on the market. The bike world thrives on lightweight machines, something Freway puts forth with the VR-01.
The frame mounted lithium battery is very lightweight. It is also has only a 5 Ah capacity, pretty small compared to its competition. Once again you may embrace or reject the premise that offers. Being that the motor uses minimal amount of power, it should still take you a long way. The Freway website shows a very long battery range (that I kind of think is not fully realistic), yet it should still go far between charges. The display and the battery power left indicator (on the actual battery) seemed to disagree some on my test bike, yet I never did run it all the way down to find out.
Speaking of that, the VR-01 I got for testing is most likely the same bike they had on display at the big CES show in Vegas recently. Being a demo bike, and with all that traveling and show abuse, I blamed that on the display discrepancies. Also, they told me that it takes a bit for the electronics to ’learn’ my riding style and set itself accordingly. The display is very modern with much going on, so that could be the case. It is a touch screen item and even has a settable pin code you need to enter before it comes on for bike security purposes.
A lot of the actual bike pieces seem very nice. I went on their website to find things like frame material and other specs, yet it is slim pickings there. My magnet tells me the frame is aluminum and my eyes tell me the brakes are hydraulically actuated discs. The alloy rims mount 27.5” MB tires front and rear. With a careful count and some simple math I decided there are 27 gears to choose from with nice working thumb shifters. The plush front fork (it is a hardtail) has tension and lock-out controls. And of course, it comes with a ‘racing’ saddle that might be your idea of perfection, yet not mine.
The built-in front and rear lighting are run from the motor battery and you use the touch screen to get them fired up. The display lighting brightness can be adjusted, or you can set it to do that automatically depending on the ambient light. The beefy kickstand could use some thread locker on the bolts, as I had to retighten them several times, yet it meets my needs to keep the bike parked and upright. On the whole, the bike part all seemed to work together for a nice and solid ride.
I didn’t get one with the bike, but they offer a workstation dock that converts the battery for camping and electronic device fun. It has USB outputs, a flashlight and some kind of SOS alarm. I can’t say I’ve seen other E-bikes with this option. Along these lines they claim the bike’s electronics are very advanced and compact.
Well, I rode the VR-01 quite a bit, took it on group rides, let others try it and generally put it through its paces many times. I personally like more of an upright E-bike, yet enjoyed the racy feel I got while in the saddle. Even though I used all the assist levels, I do admit I left it in the maximum setting (#3) most of the time. It doesn’t hit the 20 mph legal speed on its own, but not everyone wants to go that fast. The power is sufficient, yet not excessive. I like the soft-start way the motor powers up making for a smooth rush of power that never intimidates.
I don’t think Freway has many (or any) retail outlets. This almost certainly makes it an on-line item (I could be wrong here and it is possibly changing as I write this). I am mostly against buying E-bikes through the mail. Any electromechanical device needs TLC for assembly, and has both short and long term service and maintenance needs. At the VR-01 buy-in price, it could be worth the risk, your decision. Plus if you are like me you want to gets some hands-on (and saddle-on) time with your new bike before the sale.
When I set up this test with Freway I was fully expecting to get their premium Buffalo model. I do hope to test and review that sometime later in the year. Still I was happy to get this time with the VR-01. I (like many others) get spoiled by the big buck, over-powered E-bikes, so it was nice to get back to my E-bike roots (so to speak) with this inexpensive bike. Like I said above, this might be all you need and want.
Let’s ride, Turbo Bob.
“Ride as much or as little, or as long or short as you feel. But ride.”—Eddy Merckx, Tour de France winner.
Look for Freway on their website and on Facebook.
I took a few videos of the Freway VR-01, check them out.