Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to test some pedal-assisted ebikes around Palo Alto — which was more than enough to whet our ebike palette. That said, we were fairly amped to get our hands on Evelo’s fully loaded Delta — however, this time we wanted to grind it out on our own turf. So, we charged it up and plowed through the not-so mean streets of Portland, Oregon and the steep slopes of the Tualatins to see what the Delta was made of.
Appearance and setup
Right out of the box, the Delta does require a bit of assembly but nothing out of the ordinary. In total, it took roughly 20 minutes to attach the front wheel, thru axle, and handlebars, and to align the stem and set the seat and front shock resistance. Then, we simply took a step back to behold this savage beast.
With RockShox Reba RL front shocks, nearly 3-inch not-quite fat boy tires, and a 750-watt motor, the Delta looks like it runs on the souls of mankind rather than electricity. The Hardtail diamond frame is painted in a matte Space Gray color scheme with bold Robin egg blue splashes along the top/down tube, and vivid orange pinstriping.
Micromanaging the beast
All the controls are set up along the handlebar and rather than perpetually shifting through gears as the terrain changes, the Delta utilizes a NuVinci N380 CVT transmission. This allows you to “roll” through the gears from high-to-low with a simple twist of the right handle.
In total, there are five levels of pedal-assistance (as well as a Walk mode). You can scroll through and select one or none of these via the two-button up/down control on the left side of the handlebar. A central LCD display relays speed, wattage, battery life, and current pedal-assist setting. Simply press and hold the up button to illuminate this display on night rides.
Looking the part
From the get-go, the Delta certainly looked the part but plenty of promising e-bikes can’t stand the heat, so we took it to the streets — and we were anything but gentle. Before we attempted to beat it into the Earth, we thought it prudent to get to know this mobile marauder slow and steady.
It only took a few jaunts to realize the overkill was half the fun.
At 56 pounds and festooned with a pair of beefy Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, we were skeptical about the prospect of the bike functioning outside of the wild — let alone in captivity, especially for anything as tame as a daily grocery-getter. That said, it only took a few jaunts to realize the overkill was half the fun.
Like the eSpin Sport and the Specialized Turbo Vado, the Delta is silent and powerful with a simple overall operation. As the motor sets in, there’s no kick as much as there is a friendly jolt underfoot.
As a commuter
We set the pedal-assistance to its standard setting just to get a feel for things. This backend-assistance gently sets in in as the pedal moves roughly a third of a crank and continues as long as you’re pedaling. It’s important to continually keep up with the transmission via the right handlebar to maximize the pedal-assistance and the battery life.
The assistance quickly eases you into your pace and, depending on the setting, propels you upwards of 25 miles per hour on straightaways. You can also be exceedingly lazy and all out braggadocious by just leaning on the throttle the whole time which sends you flying past other cyclists like they’re standing still. We can’t lie — it felt good.
From door-to-door (abiding by most Oregon Department of Transportation rules and regulations) the two-mile rush hour trip to the Digital Trends office took under 10 minutes — a feat you certainly cannot duplicate in this town via car or public transit. As unnecessary as this amount of power was for the task at hand, it was cartoonishly enjoyable.
The pedal-assistance settings weren’t nearly as noticeably different in the city, although each did have its own merit situationally. The Eco is more than capable of getting you around most flat environments, however, you’ll need more juice on steeper climbs and the Power mode feels like it’s quite literally pulling you uphill.
We found the Power function to max out around 19 mph, so once the ascent is handled, you’ll want to switch to Speed to fully maximize the descent and/or your personal proclivity for general recklessness. We consistently hit 25 mph with the Speed function making it exceptionally handy on straightaways, downhills, or simply keeping up with traffic on streets without bike lanes.
A jumpy display
It’s important to note that as we reached higher speeds — or when we were climbing steeper hills — the digital battery readout became entirely unreliable. The display would chaotically jump from Full to Empty, however, this would eventually even out in a matter of seconds after more strenuous stretches. Nonetheless, it was still a bit unsettling to see our charge nearly depleted especially when we were miles from home.
Fat tires look funny but perform like a champ
The only thing that could possibly make it easier to get uphill would literally be a chairlift.
We originally scoffed at the beefy tires as part of a daily commuter bike but these were actually quite handy on more than one occasion. The fat tires were perfect for that “Oh, shit!” moment when we turned back from checking a blind spot only to see a classic PDX pothole leaving us stuck quite literally between a rock and another similarly not-so-inviting hard place full of cars. The thick tires and square snaggleteeth chewed up these furrows and the front shocks took every bit of the brunt without issue.
In a downtown brimming with uneven lanes and buried train tracks, the wide tires added a welcome dose of stability and peace of mind. Similarly, while larger downed limbs easily redirect skinny road bike tires, on the Delta, this debris simply gave us an opportunity to needlessly crush something into oblivion. At this point, it was safe to say it was time to take this beast into its natural environment.
Into the wild
As anyone who has done their fair share of mountain biking can attest, the overall experience is a tale of two treks: The wonderful descent and the grueling, albeit necessary, ascent. The uphill can be exhausting, while the mere prospect of it is what determines the end of the afternoon trip — even if we still have one more freefall left in the tank. The Specialized Turbo Vado easily surmounted the steepest hills Silicon Valley had to offer but could the Delta handle the rigors of the Tualatins? We were determined to find out.
Plain and simple: The Delta performed just as well on the trail as it did in the streets and when fully charged, the bike showed absolutely no power fade even on near vertical climbs in Forest Park. The Power setting proved more than capable of chauffeuring us uphill and even the Eco mode fit the bill (albeit at a slower speed). Though, sometimes it was nice to just sit back and take in the views as the Delta’s full throttle did all of the grunt work. The only thing that could possibly make it easier to get uphill would be an actual ski lift.
On the downhill, we often chose to turn off the pedal assistance. The last thing you really need going full inertia down the side of a mountain is an unexpected jolt, especially when cornering. However, while completely unnecessary, it was a blast to settle into the Speed mode and punch the throttle barreling into a jump at 20 mph, just for the hell of it. Clad in denim and flannel rather than even the most moderately appropriate of mountain biking attire, we never even broke a sweat on this juggernaut.
The internalized transmission again showed its value on craggier and overgrown trails. On bikes with traditional external chains, derailleur, and sprockets, these components can easily snag and be snagged. Simply sliding them into the frame protects them from the elements and adds a clean general aesthetic to the rig.
The good, the bad, and the glitchy
In total, with a mix of trail and city commuting, we were able to trek about 22 miles on a single charge. As the battery begins to empty, the pedal-assistance does become a little spotty. Unfortunately, for the last couple of miles, this assistance would sputter in and out before quitting all together.
Although completely unnecessary, it was a blast to punch the throttle barreling into a jump just for the hell of it.
While the eSpin Sport, the Specialized Turbo Vado, and other more slender ebikes operate like a regular bicycle without the power-assistance, the 56-pound Delta is simply too heavy to function at all as a mountain bike — let alone a daily commuter — without the pedal-assistance. Once the battery is dead, you’re better off walking, unless you’re really trying to get in a workout.
We also encountered a series of seemingly sporadic firmware glitches. Over the course of our testing, the bike shutdown on three separate occasions for no apparent reason. The Evelo customer support team overnighted us a cable to connect the bike to our computer to update the firmware. After downloading the executable file from Dropbox and a series of error messages, even this weird network patch didn’t shore up this bewildering ebike bug.
However, there is a quick manual hack to reset the system. When the Delta would shut off, simply removing the 48V Lithium-Ion battery and putting it back in place would start the bike right back up. This literally takes one second to do but it doesn’t make this process any less inconvenient or annoying. A $4,000 bike shouldn’t need a “blow on the cartridge” fix to function.
The Evelo Delta comes with a 4-year, 20,000-mile warranty covering defects in materials or workmanship on its frame, motor, controller, and display. The battery is covered for two years and after that period, Evelo uses a sliding scale to determine the replacement cost. The other components, such as the NuVinci drivetrain, suspension forks, and wheels are covered by the individual manufacturers for 24 months.Our Take
Without question, the Evelo Delta is one of the most exciting products we’ve ever tested. The bike left cars and bikes alike in the dust, launched us down the trail, and easily lugged our lazy selves up the side of a mountain. However, as much as it pains us to say so, the Evelo Delta now only exists as the technological equivalent of the flawed hero.
Even though the Evelo Delta is mechanically sound, the bike is currently mired by its own firmware. Unfortunately, this means the only thing holding back the Delta is itself. Perhaps with the next iteration (or software update), Evelo will truly unleash this beautiful monster. And when that day comes, the Delta will reign supreme over the scorched earth beneath its treads — or, at the very least, it’s ebike competition.
Is there a better alternative?
The burgeoning ebike market is ripe with competition. As for a better alternative, the Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 is a much better bet at the moment. While the Vado isn’t nearly as rugged or powerful as the Evelo Delta, the Vado easily holds its own on the trailhead — and in the city — without the bugs at just a modest price jump.
How long will it last?
It’s always a little tough to gauge how “futureproof” an item like this will be. The warranty alone should give you a plenty of protection for a few years. Beyond the fine print, the fact the overall Delta system itself can be updated and optimized — even if the current update didn’t necessarily fix the problem — is promising.
Should you buy it?
As much fun as we had destroying planet earth with this badass bike, in its current iteration, the bugs cast a pall over the product as a whole. That said, knowing the few systems glitches going in, do buy the Evelo Delta if you’re in the market for a pedal-assist model more than capable of chewing up even the steepest hills you’ll come across. Don’t buy the Evelo Delta if you’re expecting a flawless product. While the bike is easily reset without much hassle, it’s difficult to justify this process after shelling out nearly four large.