Who is buying ebikes right now? While nearly all the best electric bikes I’ve ridden or reviewed over the years have been aimed at commuters or enthusiasts, research shows that older Americans are the most frequent purchasers of motorized bicycles. Most of these buyers probably haven’t ridden a bicycle in decades and are looking for a cheap and non-intimidating way to get back on the bike. Retailing for under $700 (around £515/AU$970), the Kent Electric Cruiser was created for them.
Kent currently offers three electric models for adults, plus one for kids. Alongside the 27-inch Kent Electric and Kent Step-Through Electric, the Cruiser is more of a unisex offering and is available exclusively from Walmart.
Kent Electric Cruiser review: design and features
The Kent Electric Cruiser is a very pretty bike, with the removable Samsung lithium-ion battery integrated into the frame. Given the fire-engine red color scheme, 26-inch whitewall tires, and swooping handlebars, I felt like a fatter, hairier Pee Wee Herman pedaling around my city.
The Electric Cruiser offers three levels of electric assist, with a maximum boost of 20 mph. A very basic LED display indicates battery and power-assist levels but doesn’t include a speedometer or mileage counter.
Shimano Tourney TX800 8-speed derailleur and shifters are paired with a no-name crank and mechanical disc brakes. Front and rear fenders and a rear rack come standard on the Electric Cruiser, which was a bit of a surprise, given its relatively low price. Most of the people buying this bike will love the wide, padded saddle and upright ride position, but adjusting the saddle angle was next to impossible.
At this price point, you’re going to have to deal with some compromises. I wish the bike came standard with thru-axles or quick-release skewers for the wheels. If I ever got a flat on the road, it’s going to be that much more difficult to change the tire.
The Electric Cruiser doesn’t have a mount to attach a water-bottle cage, and I’m curious if that was a mistake or a conscious decision by the designers.
To turn on the bike, you need to first hit a button underneath the battery, then another on the LED display. The battery’s on button isn’t in a highly visible place but is slightly raised so you can find it by touch. It seems like an unnecessary step.
Speaking of steps, the step-thru frame comes in only one size but should fit most riders five feet and taller.
Kent Electric Cruiser review: performance and versatility
The bike comes about 75% pre-assembled, and I only needed to attach the front wheel and fender, handlebars and saddle. Things started off on the wrong foot when I realized some of the seat post assembly pieces were missing. (Luckily, my local bike co-op was able to hook me up with the needed parts!) But that was really the only major problem with assembly.
I contacted Kent’s customer service about a different issue and an actual human being answered the phone after just a couple of rings. I’m confident if a customer had an issue, they’d quickly try to resolve it.
The Kent Electric Cruiser’s 350W rear-hub motor was more than capable on the flat roads and bike paths around my home, easily reaching and staying at 20 mph. But when the bike was pointed uphill, the performance was much less impressive. With me pedaling and the power assist at maximum, my speed frequently dropped down into the single digits on steep hills.
The 10.4-amp hour battery promises around 1 hour 20 minutes of run time, or around 25 miles, using the electric assist at varying levels over the course of the ride. It takes about 4-6 hours to recharge.
The Shimano drivetrain shifted flawlessly between its eight speeds, and the mechanical disc brakes on the front and rear worked capably in dry conditions.
While the Electric Cruiser was lighter than most e-bikes I’ve tested over the years, I would still hate to have to haul it upstairs or lift it onto a car rack.
Kent Electric Cruiser review: verdict
Kent’s Electric Cruiser has plenty of limitations, but it’s doubtful the people buying this bike will care too much. This is a purely recreational bike for parents to keep up with their sugar-fueled kids on neighborhood rides or for couples getting a little exercise on their local rail trails. If that’s what you’re looking for, the Kent Electric Cruiser will make both you and your wallet happy.
Kent Electric Cruiser review: also consider
Because its battery is mounted underneath its rear rack, SixThreeZero Around the Block e-cruiser has more of that classic beach cruiser look.
For a little more money, the Schwinn Coston DX provides a more complete spec list and a more powerful motor. Schwinn also offers a Mendocino cruiser, though this looks more vintage than beach styled.