Think of London and you naturally think of a land of opportunity, filled with welcoming people, where everything is affordable. As if to reinforce that idea, the Volt London ebike, from Volt ebikes of London Bridge, gives you practically everything you could want from an electric bike. it doesn't look stupid, it rides like a dream, it has a handy luggage rack and phat tyres and gives out an overall vibe of being stylish, at least by ebike standards, and practical. Also, although crime is essentially non-existent in London, it has some integrated locking features that make it easier to insure and at least slightly harder to steal.
There's no doubt this is one of the best electric bikes I've ridden and it's also perfect for the city it's named after. It's probably perfect for any UK city but realistically, I don't think anyone outside of London will buy it, because it is called 'London'. Perhaps Volt could just rebrand it for Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and all the rest of Britain's lesser cities, so they'll have one less thing to moan about.
I recently wrote about the BirdBike, which is a competitor to the VanMoof S3 and Cowboy 4 and various other urban ebikes. Also the soon-to-arrive, upgraded VanMoof S5. However, where all those bikes are rather self-consciously 'futuristic' in design and have a very hipster kind of urban feel, Volt's new ebike just looks pretty much like a bicycle and has a more practical air to it.
That's partly thanks to a built in rear lock that operates not via a smartphone app like its rivals, but by means of what forward-looking tech fans are calling a 'key'. There's also a small fob on the same keyring that must be used to disable the immobiliser built into the Volt London's electric drive system before it can be ridden anywhere.
The lock is made by Abus, which is an excellent brand, and sits above the back wheel. When the key is in place, it can be pushed through the spokes of the wheels to render the bike unrideable. Unlock it and it pings back like a scorpion on the attack though, so mind your fingers. The same mechanism also allows you to plug in a chain – also provided with the bike, so you can lock it to something. Most of these integrated locking systems on ebikes tend to just immobilise – this is the first one I've used that also lets you lock it to something.
I would definitely use it with a U-Lock as well, personally, but an interesting thing here is that insurers consider this locking system enough of a deterrent to cover you if it's stolen. Specifically, Volt has confirmed this with bike-specialist Pedal Sure, who also offer 30 days of free insurance as an introductory offer. Hopefully you won’t need it quite so soon.
Having used it, I can definitely say it's visually a good deterrent, which is all you need when dealing with all but the most determined and well-equipped thieves. Sure, it probably won't stand up to an angle grinder for long, but if it's nicked, at least you know you did enough to protect it to ensure that your insurers will cough up (eventually).
The electronic immobiliser is a very useful addition here. Hilariously, Volt says that thieves have brought London bikes back to their shop complaining that they are 'broken' because they can't get the motor to start. The clots! Needless to say, this sets up a visit from the local constabulary, and the bike goes back to its rightful owner.
None of this would matter much if the Volt London wasn't worth stealing in the first place. However, I can say with some certainty that this should be one of the most sought-after ebikes in town. It rides very well, has enough power to deal with all the 'hills' in London (nb: there are no real hills in London, except Highgate) and is beautifully simple, thanks to the absence of any gears.
I'll have a full review soon, but Volt London is certainly among the top 10% of ebikes I've ridden in actual London. It's easy to love but hard to steal. What more could you want?
Volt London: price and availability
Volt London is available from Volt, in London, and also through its website. At £2,199 I'd say it's extremely good value. Volt ebikes are designed and made in the UK and as far as I can tell, they are not available anywhere else at present. However, if they were, that pricing would equate to US$2,700 and AU$3,900.