A “city bike” can mean many different things. It might be cheap so there’s less fear if it’s almost bound to be stolen. It could be easy, with fewer gears and add-ons because the commutes are short and relatively flat. Or maybe it’s a lighter bike that’s easier to tow up a curb or up home or office stairs.
Vanpower’s City Vanture is cheap and light only compared to other e-bikes (it retails for $1,750 fully assembled), but its belt drive, internal hub, and five-level assist make it somewhat basic. It’s also limited by a lack of accessory mounts and a transmission and engine configuration that make it difficult to frequently start and stop in traffic or climb steep hills. For the right kind of rider it could be a good choice. But you should take a close look at the City Vanture before choosing it for your commute around town or on the trail.
Oh, and you can build it yourself if you want to save a few bucks. This bike is a collection of interlocking tubes held together by mortise and tenon construction and stud collars. You put the tubes together, run the cables through them, bolt on everything else and put the wheels in. More on that in a moment.
The City Vanture comes in one size, a 21-inch (53 cm) step-over frame that weighs 34 pounds. The “ideal rider height” is between 5ft, 8″ and 6ft, 3″. Ars science editor John Timmer is 6ft 2 tall and found the Vanture to be too small for his long-legged build. “My knees feel like they’re up to my ears,” Timmer said after an easy 15-minute ride. I’m also 6-foot-2 and felt the ride in my shoulders and core muscles more than on bikes that were better suited to my height. Your experience with body proportions will vary, but I’d be cautious if you’re tall. (See more specifications at the Geometry section of the product page). A Vanpowers representative said the company is working on offering more model sizes in the future.
When purchasing the City Vanture, you only have two main options: color and whether you want to assemble the bike yourself to save $90 or have it shipped mostly pre-assembled. I went the DIY route. Her color choices are the relatively serious “Infinite Silver” and “Shining Black,” the two-tone “Chalk Blue” and “Ruby,” and the eye-catching purple/pink/aqua/seaweed “Neon.” Purple.”
Your only other option is to add accessories – a custom rack, frame bag, anti-theft horn, and an extra water bottle-style battery that increases range. If you are considering a rack for this bike, you should buy it from Vanpowers. Due to the way the bike is mounted and the lack of traditional accessory mounting points (it doesn’t even have bolts for bottle cages), I’m not sure third-party racks would match the City Vanture’s bolt size and location. There’s also very little clearance above either tire, and Vanpowers doesn’t offer their own fenders. Lights are all you can strap on.
The bike that arrives (or eventually is built) has a motor rated at 36 volts, 350 watts and a non-removable 252-watt-hour LG cell battery pack. Both are controlled via three buttons near the left grip and a waterproof display mounted between the head tube and handlebar. Vanpowers lists the maximum assist speed as 25 miles per hour and the standard range as 50 miles (80 kilometers) or 80 miles/130 kilometers with the bottle battery. These numbers appear to be accurate; I rode 44 miles before the display showed one or two out of five bars alternating between low and high assist.
The motor runs on a cadence sensor that activates when your cranks start turning instead of generating power. That choice, coupled with the gearing of the hub/motor combo, is my main complaint about this bike. More on that in a moment.
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