Cyclotricity's Revolver packs a lot of bike in at at a very low price point: Just £649 gets you a full city spec with a hub motor and a 324Wh battery. It's a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the usability and the ride, but if your budget is really limited then you'll get good use out of it around town.
Every now and then we'll get someone ask us: what's the minimum you can build a decent e-bike for? The lower the price point, the harder it is to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together and come up with a workable machine. We've tested a few bikes at around the £800 mark and generally we've found that's the point at which the benefits of a bike being cheap aren't outweighed by any major compromises. The Cyclotricity Revolver comes in at some £150 below that mark.
It's not the only sub-£800 bike out there and indeed the b'Twin Elops 500e that we had a go on a couple of months back is even cheaper than this bike, at £599, and first impressions of that were pretty good. The Revolver is a a bit of a different beast: the b'Twin's 210Wh battery will limit its range a bit whereas the Revolver gets a 36V motor system with a 324Wh battery, which should mean you can go further for your money.
The Revolver shares the same five-assist-level motor system that we've tested aboard its sibling, the Cyclotricity Sahara. The motor is a 250W front hub unit; it's bolted into a Zoom suspension fork and you get cable disc brakes front and rear for stopping. Cyclotricity reckon the motor system is good for 20-35 miles of assistance.
The Revolver gets 6-speed Shimano Tourney gears, and for a bike that's so cheap, you're still getting a heap of finishing kit. There's mudguards, front and rear (battery) lights, a kickstand and a rear rack: you don't need to add anything out of the box. Getting the bike built to the £649 budget does mean some component compromises, of course: there's quite a lot of steel where you might normally find aluminium alloy, including the seatpost, rear hub and chainset. That's adding a bit of weight to the package as a whole.
Dave says: The Revolver is pushing the boundaries of what you can build a decent e-bike for, and in places it's pushing them a bit too far. It's still a decent bike to ride and the motor system is good for the money but there are some spec decisions that really work against it, and a little bit of re-allocation of the build budget would go a long way to making this a better machine.
Let's deal with the motor system first. It's not the most powerful out there but neither is it the worst I've tried, and I've ridden bikes costing twice as much as this that have performed less well under power. It's a simple cadence sensor, front hub motor and frame-mounted battery and it works pretty well. There's a bit of lag as you get going but once it kicks in the motor does a decent job of helping you on your way. There are five levels of assistance, which is at least one (and probably two) too many, but switching between them is easy from the bar-mounted display, which also gives you basic computer functions (speed, distance, etc) and battery status.
The state of the battery is one thing that cheaper bikes tend to deal badly with. More often than not you have a battery indicator that doesn't work independently of the load on the motor, so when you're working hard in a high assistance mode the battery indicator goes down, then springs back up again when you're at the top of the hill. There's no real issues with the Revolver, which has a pleasingly linear battery depletion meaning there's much less range anxiety.
So the motor system, for the money, is good. Also good are the chunky alloy frame and the cable discs: they took a bit of bedding in and they certainly not as good as hydraulic ones, but they work pretty well, in all kinds of weather, so for £649 they're good spec. The mudguards, though flimsy, do a decent job of keeping you dry, though the front one could do with being longer. It's good to get a rack included at this price, too. Cyclotricity will sell you a set of panniers for it (£24.99) but I haven't seen them so couldn't specifically recommend them.
While there are good things on this bike, there are bad things too. The front fork is essentially undamped meaning it fires you up in the air over speed humps, landing you with a clunk on the other side. It's also flexy, which is exacerbated by the weight of the hub motor. And there's a lot of friction between the inner and outer stanchions meaning it's not good at soaking up bumps anyway. I've talked to many e-bike manufacturers, who consistently tell me that people demand suspension forks on city bikes. I don't really care whether they want them or not: At this price point a fork doesn't really work, and a rigid fork would make this bike better.
The seatpost is bad too. It's a two-piece steel one that's a bit too small for the frame, meaning you need hulk-like closure force on the quick release to stop the seatpost moving when you ride. The seat clamp is also poor, meaning the saddle often slips when you hit a pothole.
The other thing that's wrong, rather than bad, is the gearing. The huge 46T chainring gives you a couple of time trialling gears, which you don't need, and no climbing gears, which you do. A simple swap out to a much smaller chainring (about 38T) would give a much better range of ratios for general use.
The ride of the Revolver is decent enough, those issues notwithstanding. It's a bike that's happy to cruise along on the flat and the riding position is very good for city trips. There's enough air in the tyres to take the sting out of the poor UK road surfaces, although bigger rubber wouldn't hurt one bit. The riser bars give a good position and the grips are comfy. The saddle isn't bad either; you're unlikely to be doing much more than a few miles at a time on a bike like this, and it's fine for that. Range-wise I was getting three commutes out this bike before starting to get a bit itchy about the state of the battery. That's about 25km, so at the lower end of Cyclotricity's estimates, but I'm a big rider and the commute is up and down a big old hill. On flatter terrain, where you're spending less time in the high assistance modes, you'll probably manage double that. Given the likely use, the range is fine.
The bike has an adjustable stem but it doesn't really need one: it uses a quill stem, so you could just fit a standard stem with a long neck to adjust the height at the front. That would save a little bit of cash, as would swapping out the fork for a rigid one. Spend that saving on a decent micro-adjust alloy seatpost, bigger tyres and a better kickstand (the one supplied is pretty weedy) and suddenly the Revolver would start feeling like a much more considered bike.
Funnily enough, that's more or less what b'Twin have done with the Elops 500e, which is £50 less than this bike. It doesn't have the same battery capacity but it does pretty much everything else better: rigid fork, alloy finishing kit, more sensible gearing and even integrated lighting. I've not done enough riding on that bike to give it a full review (there'll be one on ebiketips soon) but if it was my money I'd probably be looking that way rather than this. The Revolver has a promising motor system and good frame but it's let down by some component choices that don't really work at this price point. That doesn't make it a bad bike: for knocking around town it's decent, but it could be better if the money for the build was allocated in a slightly more intelligent way.