Testing a Japanese driveshaft electric bike with a neat look

The award-winning multiple Honbike is about as steep as it gets compared to typical e-bikes. Having tested hundreds of different e-bikes, the Honbike is unique in so many ways that it marks a refreshing new entry into the market. Now launched on indiegogowe got to test the revolutionary new driveshaft e-bike in advance to let you know if it’s worth a look.

Spoiler alert: it definitely is, *if* you’re a city dweller.

While there’s a lot to take from the Honbike, the biggest technical difference between it and all other e-bikes is the driveshaft drivetrain.

There’s no chain or belt drive on this one – just a rotating shaft sealed inside a protective case.

They say it will keep you running maintenance-free for 25,000 miles (40,000 km), which is probably longer than anyone will actually own the thing. Assuming a 10 mile drive five days a week, that’s 10 years of driving.

But it’s more than just a driveshaft e-bike. Check out all the awesome features that make this electric bike unique in my test video below. Then read on for my full thoughts on the Honbike.

Honbike video review

Technical specifications Honbike

  • Motor: 250W front hub motor
  • Top speed: 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
  • Vary: 40 km (25 mi) claimed range
  • Battery: 36V 6Ah (216Wh)
  • Weight: 20.8 kg (45.9 lbs)
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
  • Supplements: Drive shaft, pedal assistance with three sensors (gyroscope, torque and cadence), LCD display with speedometer, battery gauge, PAS level indicator, odometer, trip odometer, light status indicator, LED lights forward and reverse, 5 speed settings, bell, fenders included as standard

Updated Japanese design

The Honbike originated from a Japanese design that won several international awards and has now been reworked for European and North American audiences.

In fact, the Japanese model has been so successful that some companies have apparently hijacked the design to rebadge it internationally, trying to beat Honbike to the punch.

Motor power has been increased from the Japanese version of 200 W to the European limit of 250 W (there is no more powerful version for the US market).

It’s also received a few other upgrades, like a triple sensor for pedal assist (more on that in a bit), increased height in the seat tube for taller Westerners, and foldable pedals with a new foldable stand. .

Lots of technology in a small electric bike

The little Honbike is surprisingly tech-savvy.

That three-sensor pedal assist I mentioned makes the e-bike very responsive. There’s not only a cadence sensor to measure pedal speed and a torque sensor to measure how hard the rider is pedaling, but there’s also a gyroscope sensor. This gyroscope is used to measure hill inclination and apply additional power when attacking a hill. This is something we’ve only seen on high-end e-bikes before, and even then it’s not very common.

More than electronics, the electric bike presents an innovative design.

The Japanese engineers must have taken an origami influence, as the bike folds nice and tight. It also has a small folding stand to support it in the folded position (separate from the normal kickstand to support it in the unfolded position).

The wheels are supported on one side only, which is part of what gives it that unique look. The front wheel receives a “righty” fork, while the rear wheel is supported on the left side. There’s no suspension, but it’s very much an urban e-bike, so suspension wasn’t necessarily a requirement.

The lack of suspension helps keep the bike quite light, at just 20 kg or 44 lbs. Compared to many folding e-bikes, it’s a solid 25-50% lighter than what we’re used to seeing.

Then there are all the unique components on the bike. Check out this saddle. I don’t know why they needed to reinvent the saddle, but it looks pretty awesome, in a fun, quirky way. I thought it would be weird, but to be honest, it’s okay. There is no knot between your thighs, which will probably be nicer for some people. It’s more like sitting on a stool. Sure, it takes a day or two to get used to it, but then it feels pretty normal.

The brake levers are also new and take some getting used to. They have their fulcrum on the opposite side, which means the longer part of the throw is more towards the center of the bars. Since I like to brake with one or two fingers, it works pretty well.

Performance is decent, nothing groundbreaking

The real winner of the Honbike is the design and folding, not the performance. Performance is good, but nothing more than a typical folding e-bike with European-level specs.

Speed ​​tops out at 15.5 mph, the European standard of 25 km/h. It would be nice to have an American version that went faster at 20 mph, but maybe that will come in the future. As it stands, 15.5 mph isn’t bad for city driving, especially when you have a nice bike path or trail. If you’re trying to share the lane with traffic and keep up with cars, 15.5 mph seems very slow.

The driveshaft means it’s singlespeed, and I have to imagine the 20mph speed would get your legs spinning pretty quickly.

The range is also poor due to the small battery. The 216 Wh battery is tiny, which is good when you want to carry it around in your bag without taking up too much space. But if you use the highest power level, it will drain quickly. You can get the advertised range of 25 miles (40 km) if you stick to the lowest level of pedal assist, but most people will end up somewhere in the middle, which means you can’t drive that far.

Again, this is an urban e-bike. Most people don’t go more than 10 miles around town, so the Honbike certainly has more than enough capacity for that. A bigger battery would mean better long-distance cruises for leisure or recreational riding, but I just don’t see anyone getting this specific e-bike for that use. There are too many other recreational e-bikes out there.

So for the type of riding it’s designed for, the Honbike makes a lot of sense. It has urban specs to get you around easily, as well as a maintenance-free transmission. Included mudguards, bell and other niceties also increase utility for city riders.

But the real winner here is price, at least with Indiegogo presales. While the Honbike’s MSRP of US$2,399 seems a little steep, there’s a $1,100 discount if you pre-order on Indiegogo. At $1,299, it’s a much better deal! There’s an additional US$100 shipping charge (or €100 charge in the EU), but it’s still a bargain for a unique and innovative electric folding bike, if that’s what you’re looking for. .

I already know there will be people in my comments section who say “why don’t you buy a faster e-bike for less money?” but that’s a bit off the mark.

No one is claiming that Honbike offers the best $/watt ratio here.

That’s the beauty of having such a diverse e-bike market. If you want something unique, lightweight, easy to fold and easy to use, the Honbike does it for a song. If you want to hit 30 mph or climb over potholes on big tires, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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