Well hello, Vello. This electric bike – full name: Vello Bike+ – is a folding number, and it has a couple of clever tricks up its alloy sleeves that aim to solve some of the problems associated with ebikes. It draws on KERS-style technology – as used in Formula 1 – with regenerative braking helping to recharge the battery as you cycle along. That's pretty smart, but there's a simpler innovation that makes this one of the more enjoyable electric rides I've had.
Like the Eeyo bike and a few other premium ebikes, Vello uses a lightweight hub motor, housing the motor and battery on the back wheel. I always have some doubts about the longevity of this approach, but it allows for a way lighter bike overall, compared to the traditional approach, which puts an often very bulky battery on or in the frame, wired to a similarly hefty motor on the wheel or cranks. The result, in the case of the Vello, is one of the best ebikes I've ever tried, and a clear and present danger to the Brompton Electric and GoCycle G4.
However, never mind all that for now. Will you just look at the folding mechanism of this thing.
The video above is produced by Vello – I've only had the bike a few days and there's no way I could get it folded that quickly as yet, but once you've mastered the knack it is clearly an impressively fast fold. Admittedly, once folded it looks like a bike that's been run over by a truck, but you won't worry about that as you're lifting it onto a bus then storing it under your desk at work or in a small space at home.
The fold is certainly not without its practical eccentricities, admittedly. The front wheel is secured with a kind of metal peg hanging on a chain – you remove it in order to start the fold. I can't say I've ever seen that on a bike before and it is not exactly the last word in elegance. The way the handlebars can be divided in two like a pair of short tent poles is also pretty bizarre looking, although it does allow for a remarkably compact fold.
Overall it's not as elegant as a Brompton fold or as simple as the GoCycle one, but it is a pretty amazing feat of engineering to go from the first image below to the second one, in under a minute.
While the foldiness may be a key USP of Vello Bike+, it's by no means its only skill. I've been riding it around for the last few days, and the combination of a compact hub motor, chromoly steel frame and 20-inch wheels – that's the same as GoCycle and bigger than Brompton's 16-inchers – make it feel incredibly zippy for an ebike. Contrary to popular belief, most ebikes are distinctly sluggish once they're past their 15.5mph/25kph legal speed limit, and no fun to pedal without electrical assistance. Not so the Vello Bike+.
When I first took the Vello for a spin, along the Thames embankment and up to the Waterloo Bridge, as that's the nearest thing I can find to a steep hill in central London, I was genuinely impressed with how it's teeny tiny motor coped with everything. Because it's only 13.9kg and the two-speed gearing is pretty well chosen, it doesn't require as much effort from the motor.
The range is quoted as 30 miles/50km but also 'theoretically unlimited'. How can this be? That's the regenerative braking, self-charging tech I mentioned earlier. This is another odd but excellent feature of this lovably eccentric bike. All you have to do is pedal backwards when coasting, and the battery is charged. Well, I say 'all you have to do' like that is perfectly straightforward. It is actually another new technique that you'll have to learn when using the Vello, and back-pedalling also brakes the bike which is, uh, initially challenging let's say.
Obviously the best place to use this recharging tech is when going downhill, so if you live or commute to somewhere hilly, this could be a game changer for you. I cycled back down from Waterloo to the Savoy and back again a few times and sure enough the battery gauge – visible on an app on your phone via Bluetooth – barely budged.
Obviously for most commuting purposes 30 miles is going to be perfectly adequate anyway, and of course another great thing about the hub motor's battery being relatively small is that it presumably charges quickly when you plug it in. Since the battery has barely gone down in the couple of rides I've taken on the Bike+ so far I can't confirm that for certain, but that seems logical.
Another 'fun' quirk of the Vello Bike+ is that its higher gear – or 'speed drive' as Vello calls it – is activated and deactivated by pressing studs on either side of the crankshaft. Again, this is just about the weirdest way to do this that I have ever heard of. You have to kind of whack it with your boot and then, wahey, you're in turbo mode. I'm finding this a little awkward so far, but going into speed drive mode does feel suitably… speedy. Vello quotes a 40kph/25mph top speed for this, although obviously that depends on how fast you can pedal. Luckily, I can pedal pretty damn fast. Oh yeah. And that's why it's also good to know that its hydraulic disk brakes are suitably effective.
So my overall take on the Bike+ so far is that it is a bit crazy, a lot of fun, and I think I am rather in love with it. As ever with ebikes – any product really – the big question is how long it will last without needing servicing. My answer to that is that I have no real idea, but given its premium price and seemingly very good build quality, I would expect it to last. The fact the gears are internal, there is no wiring of any kind, and the drive is a carbon fibre belt rather than a chain should all help with reliability and longevity.
Vello Electric Bike+: price and availability
There are multiple options available. A single-speed Bike+ will set you back €3,290. Opt for the Speed Drive Bike+ or Mountain Drive versions and you're looking at €3,590.
Oh, you want the Titanium version? That will be €4,490 or €4,790 depending on what gearing option you prefer. There's something for everyone. My bike was kindly loaned and delivered by About The Bike (opens in new tab) of Dalston.
The Vello is not available in the USA or Australia at this point in time.
- Find out more at Vello's online store (opens in new tab)
- Visit UK distributor About The Bike (opens in new tab)
- Also available from Humancycle.cc (opens in new tab)