Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: If you're looking for a reliable folding e-bike that doesn't look too futuristic, you'll get your money's worth with the Raleigh Stow-E-Way.
The best electric bikes are getting more sophisticated. Some e-bikes are lighter than racing bikes used to be even ten years ago, and it's getting harder to tell whether a bicycle is a standard bike or an e-bike. Batteries are often integrated into the downtube to make them almost invisible to the naked eye. In essence, modern e-bikes are pretty cool.
Then there is the Raleigh Stow-E-Way. It's by no means a cool bike; the Stow-e-Way very much looks like a classic Raleigh bike with a battery slapped on the frame and not even a small one. Don't get me wrong, the bike is not an eyesore, but it won't turn any heads on the streets.
Should you buy this cheap e-bike? Read on to find out.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: Price and availability
The Raleigh Stow-E-Way is available to buy now from Raleigh for a recommended retail price of £1,699. Included in the price are the front and rear lights, mudguards, kickstand and integrated rear carrier.
Compare this with the starting price of the Brompton Electric Bike, which is £2,995. The Brompton is a quarter lighter (15.5 kg) and folds up neater than the Raleigh.
Please bear in mind before letting anyone sit at the back of the bike that the weight limit (rider and cargo combined) is 110 KG.
Raleigh currently only ships to the UK; US and AU prices and availability TBC.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: Assembly and build quality
The Raleigh Stow-E-Way comes pre-assembled; all you have to do is pop the pedals on and tighten the central steering column, the latter of which I completely forgot to do before I headed out for a ride. I'm sure you can benefit from a cycling shop looking at the wheels and the frame before the first use but in general, setting the bike up is a hassle-free process.
Once the Stow-E-Way is all assembled, it's time to charge the battery. I doubt anyone would have difficulty locating the battery; it sits inconspicuously behind the seat post. There is a flap on the side; you lift that, plug the charger in and wait. The battery level indicator is at the top of the unit and is clearly visible while charging. It takes four hours to charge the battery from 0 to 100 per cent.
The Stow-E-Way is a folding e-bike but also a sturdy one. Once unfolded, the low-step alloy frame holds its shape without any issues – I never felt unsafe when riding it during testing. What gave me even more confidence was the fact that it wasn't me who put the bike together. People in the Raleigh factory probably know a lot more about assembling bikes than I do.
The battery powers the TranzX F15 36v 250w Brushless Quick Stop Motor located at the rear (see picture above). In full power mode, the motor is forceful enough to carry you up even on incredibly steep hills. I tested the motor using some rather unusual methods (more on this later), and not once was I not satisfied with the output.
There is a seven-speed 14-34T freewheel cassette at the back for those who need gears on an electric bike. I guess it could come in handy if the battery is flat. Speaking of flat batteries, the Raleigh Stow-E-Way has a 30-mile range that is nothing to write home about, but it'll get you to wherever you need to go. If you want to use the bike for commuting, you might have to charge it twice a week, based on my experience.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: Operation
The battery I/O switch is located right next to the battery level indicator LEDs on top of the battery. You have to press this first then turn on the control unit. The latter is ergonomically placed just under the left thumb, and it's combined with the TranzX DP15 PST Display, which shows you basic information assist levels (there are three plus a walk function).
Just like assembly, operating the Raleigh Stow-E-Way is a straightforward ordeal. There is a '+' and a '-' button on the control panel that either increases or decreases the assist level. Unless you're riding uphill, I doubt you'll need to switch to the most aggressive assist mode; the low or medium assist modes are plenty powerful enough in most cases.
The alloy front and rear V-brakes did a good job stopping (or slowing down) the bike even in max assist mode. Again, nothing to rave about but reliable enough for you to feel safe on the saddle.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: The riding experience
I rode the Raleigh Stow-E-Way in and around Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, mostly on tarmac. Both areas have some pretty steep hills which would be a real pain to climb using non-electric road bikes but the Stow-E-Way flatten them significantly.
As mentioned above, I tested the Stow-E-Way's power output using – shall we say – unconventional methods. I asked my fiancee Sophie (pictured above) to pull me while I rode my skateboard along the Weston beachfront. The walkway is slightly cobbly so I thought it would be a good way to see how powerful the TRANX motor is.
To the surprise of both of us, the Stow-E-Way had no issues pulling me along. Better still, Sophie had no issues turning the pedals; according to her, it felt like she was just riding along on a regular bike with no effort. From my vantage point – squatting behind the bike – I could see exactly when the motor kicked is as the battery's LED indicator lit up.
This experiment made it clear that the max assist mode is completely unnecessary when the surface you're riding on is flat or on a slight incline. On hills surrounding the Weston seafront, I had to crank up the power output but those hills are seriously steep.
PLEASE NOTE: I'm not suggesting anyone should give this a try. I made sure I wore a cycling helmet and elbow/knee pads while riding my skateboard, just in case things go south. This stunt was designed to test the motor, not for entertainment. although I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy being pulled around. But still.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: Foldability and commuting potential
The Raleigh Stow-E-Way is a folding e-bike, as mentioned above, so in theory, it can be used for commuting. However, I would like to draw everyone's attention to the name of the bike: it basically says the bike can be stowed away which to me means it can be shoved out of the way when not in use. Indeed, the foldable nature of the bike makes it easy to store it in small living spaces, especially flats/apartments.
In terms of using the Stow-E-Way for commuting... well, it's not the most ideal commuting bike, at least in my opinion. For one, it's too heavy (20 KG) to carry up and down the steps of the train. Secondly, the folding mechanism is not nearly as smooth as a Brompton. The seat doesn't fold, although you can drop it down when it's folded so it takes up less space.
The biggest issue is the magnet that holds the bike in the folded position. It's not quite strong enough so it keeps getting undone; really not ideal when you're trying to navigate with a 20-kilo bike under your armpit. A clip or something might be a better option here.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: Verdict
The Raleigh Stow-E-Way is a decent cheap folding e-bike that offers a hassle-free riding experience. It's not as snazzy as other e-bikes on the market, but for people who need a reliable commuter bike for a reasonable price, the Stow-E-Way might be one of the best options.
The bike is okay for commuting as long as it doesn't involve public transportation. The magnet holding the front and rear sides of the bike together is flimsy and often unclips when the bike is being carried around, making it difficult to transport the bike on and off trains and the Tube. That said, the same foldability is perfect for storing away the bike at home; once folded, the footprint of the Stow-E-Way is comparatively small.
The battery is a bit bulky, but it can offer plenty of support when riding uphill. I had to dial down the assist on multiple occasions as it was just so powerful. If you live in a hilly area, you'll appreciate the almighty TranzX motor. The control panel is ergonomically placed and easy to read and understand.
With the Raleigh Stow-E-Way, you get what you pay for: a simple, inexpensive foldable e-bike that can take you from point A to B with ease. It's reliable and provides a decent ride, no more and no less.
Raleigh Stow-E-Way review: Also consider
The VanMoof S3 is a lot of fun to ride and cuts a dash with its urban styling. It handles really well for a big bike but feels reassuringly sturdy, and you can get it up to a decent speed. It has a longer range than the Raleigh and charges pretty fast, too; 50% in 80 minutes, with a full charge taking four hours.
The Gocycle G4i feels fast. It can't go faster than other e-bikes but thanks to its lightweight construction, the bike feels less sluggish than other foldable electric bikes. The design is more futuristic than the Raliegh and takes up even less space when folded.
The Xiaomi Mi Smart Bike looks very – err – distinctive so if it's the looks you're after, choose this e-bike over the Raleigh. The sacrifices Xiaomi has made in terms of aesthetics mean that its electric folding bike is very compact and folds down very effectively. It's also a light bike (15 kg) which is on par with Brompton's Electric bike.