Buffalo Electric Bike by Freway—Singletrack Sweetheart.
It’s been close to a year since I reviewed the Freway VR-01, and even at that time there was talk of this upgraded offering. It was a long wait, yet well worth the months that passed. Electric mountain bikes aren’t number one on my list of favorites (maybe yours though), but I did have some big fun on this Buffalo. With a distance glance they might seem much the same, yet let’s see what makes this bike better and nicer than the VR-01.
I guess the biggest factor here is more power. With a 36 volt 350 watt motor, it climbs and rides with much better authority. This is a great feature as more grunt and speed was one of the things I desired in their other model. It also has more battery capacity so longer rides are in the works at any given time. Sliding the lithium battery into the curvature of the frame makes for a sleeker look too. They also added a USB output that many will just love to have.
Although the control system stays much the same, the control buttons and display are completely different. With no hand throttle to add power, all your assist comes when your pedaling triggers the motor into action. Three levels of power assist (and an off setting) allow you enough choices for most any kind of ride. I am a big fan of having a throttle, yet the lack of one makes this a class 1 E-bike with less restrictions on riding locations (in California at least). Plus, many like a true pedelec as they give a more authentic bike riding experience for the people that expect it that way.
The display is a mini unit on the left side of the bars with two buttons that control all the features. This might seem like a downgrade, yet for the bike’s purpose I think it works well. With the rough and tumble life of a mountain bike, the display is well protected. Plus not having that big display front and center, it leaves more room on the bars for lights and other accessories. The bike comes with a nice lighting system (front and rear) that runs off the motor battery, but when you are really pushing it, you will need some serious accessory lighting at night.
The Buffalo moves to a 1 X 8 drivetrain as opposed to the VR-01’s 3 X 7. I like this change (8 gears instead of 27) and having a single front chainring makes big sense to me. For the serious climbers the missing extra low gears might be an issue, but the motor has more pull, so it felt like a even trade off to me. The shifting is quick and simple with a well placed thumb shifter. There is very little delay with the application of motor power, so all the dirt banging around I did felt great.
Before we talk more about this bike, I want to cover the company some. They have been around a couple years and seem to have two bikes in their line-up at the moment. I saw a catalog of future bikes and they have some beauties coming out soon. I understand their main US facility is in the Los Angeles area, although they might have more than one. This Buffalo should be shipping any day now (30 days and it seems it will be a Kickstarter?). They have a couple retail locations, but for the time being most all transactions with them will be online. I do hope to see more places where Freway E-bikes can be test ridden and purchased, as choosing a bike in person is a desirable way to move forward.
I am lucky to be fairly close to their offices, so getting a chance to ride and test the Buffalo was a breeze. I made sure to put it through it’s paces quite a bit during this week so I can relay the results here for you. I enjoyed the VR-01, yet this bike just has so much more to get you down the road. It is still a generally inexpensive E-bike in the scheme of things, so expecting too much wouldn’t be wise, yet it did everything I asked of it every time I mounted up for a brisk and fun experience. The fit and finish is impressive too.
Hydraulic disc brakes are becoming the norm nowadays and this Buffalo is no different. They work strong and were easy to modulate on the low traction surfaces I rode. I continually am pushing towards 2 finger levers for these types of brakes, the Buffalo has the smaller ones, yet more like 3 finger. If you pull too hard on the levers of hydraulic brakes you risk an incident, so the shorter levers are key to bike safety. The ones on this bike are on my approval list. Up front is a ok working front suspension fork, yet like the ones on most E-bikes, it doesn’t stand out as exceptional in the real rough stuff.
Even though the Freway Buffalo is a mountain E-bike, that doesn’t mean you can’t ride it anywhere and anytime. The Kenda tires are just a touch or two more aggressive than street tires, yet not the all out backwoods type on the real racers. The rims, gears, frame and brakes all seem beefy enough to do dual duty, so when I had it on the trails I felt confidence that I was going to have some solid riding with no twisted body or bike parts. I didn’t ride the battery to the end of the charge even once, yet I could tell it has a long range you would expect from a 11 Ah battery on a 350 watt bike.
Freway has put together a nice package here. Looks wise I have no complaints, and once in the saddle I got the same feeling. Unlike most mountain E-bikes, it has a big kickstand that will help it keep looking good for a long time, and help it from getting all beat up when you are parked (I see people fling their bikes to the ground all the time—not good for any part of the bike). The lights work nice and the rear one even blinks (my preference, although most I’ve tested don’t). The power was more than enough for all but those giant San Francisco type hills. For street riding I would swap out the saddle (normal 1st up-grade), yet for the most part this Buffalo has what you need to ride.
Singletrack or street, I kept smiling as long as the wheels kept turning, Turbo Bob.
“Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds.”—Louis J. Helle.
You can find Freway on Facebook and their website.
I shot these two videos during my time with the Buffalo.
Here is a link to the review I did on the Freway VR-01