A plethora of e-bikes have come and gone through Kickstarter’s crowdfunding pages. Some a great, some not so great, and a scant few were excellent. The Freway is an excellent one. The Freway folks took into account all the things that other e-bikes did wrong and added to that all the features they got right, plus a few improvements to boot. While most other e-bikes are made for city slickers, the Freway can brave a little off-roading in addition to commuting and touring.
First, it’s built on tech usually reserved for mid- to high-end mountain bikes. The Freway frame and fork is make of X6 aluminum alloy, but the Suntour anti-shake fork has shocks, leading to a comfier ride and significant vibration reduction through the bars. What that means is it’s easier on the wrists and elbows than hard-fork bikes.
The disc brakes are another mountain-bike feature. Rim brakes work by applying pressure to the rim of the wheel to slow it; they aren’t as effective in wet conditions, since the friction drops when the rim inevitably gets wet. Disc brakes work by attaching to the hub, and use harder pads (ceramic or metal). That type of braking system won’t be affected by a dinged rim or a muddy ride, which makes the Freway’s Tektro Draco oil disc brakes more likely to retain traction rough city streets and slick downhill trails.
When you’re pedaling under your own strength, the 27-speed Shimano Alivio gearing (nine cogs, three chainrings) will get you up and down hills without too much strain or huffing and puffing, but let’s be honest: What’s the point of getting an e-bike if you don’t use the assist on the hills?
The electric specs are pretty darn good too. The 36-volt 5200mAh battery will take you 60 miles (to put it in perspective, Manhattan is about 23 square miles), and recharge in a little under three hours. The battery cage is water-resistant (it’ll hold up to a downpour, but don’t take it down a water slide).
The battery itself has a neat add-on that can be purchased with the bike, or separately later, if you want to use the Freway as a trail touring bike on a camping trip. The battery fits into the “Freway Workstation,” which has a built in flashlight, two USB ports for charging your various gadgets, a separate laptop charger port, and even an SOS button to help rescuers locate you in an emergency (or to deafen anyone within earshot).
When you’re on-bike, the battery supplies the rear-drive motor for e-assist and the FVS (Freway Vigor System), the touchscreen mini-tablet that mounts to the bars and allows you to control some Freway features. Front and rear lights and motor control are accessible on the four inch touchscreen, as well as metrics for you, like mileage and calories, and metrics for the bike, like power and battery level. It’s not as water-resistant as the batter pack (the battery is rated IP 67, while the FVS is only rated IPX6), but it’ll resist the rain.
The total weight is 43 pounds, hefty by comparison to regular mountain rigs, but on the lighter end of the e-bike spectrum. Again, this isn’t a top-of-the-line mountain bike, even though it looks like one. It’s a top-of-the-line e-bike, as it will remind you any time you have to lift it up.
The Freway was fully backed on Kickstarter — and fast, climbing to $150,000, $50,000 over the requested amount. All the early birds are gone, but you can still save $400 over the $1,000 price tag that’s set for its market release. It’s set to ship the end of September.