Riese and Muller's UBN Five Touring is a lightweight (sub 20kg) e-bike that comes with full equipment and a reasonably powerful mid-drive. There aren't many e-bikes around that combine light weight, power and full equipment in this way and you know if the bike in question comes from Germany's Riese and Muller it will be made to very high standards. It's a bike that will get you around the city, but it could also double as a touring e-bike if you keep your load within reason and only take it on easier off-road trails and tracks.
R&M have taken an early opportunity to spec the Fazua Ride 60 motor system on their UBN Five Touring model.
Fazua's Ride 60 motor system thinks it has found a niche as (on paper at least) it outpowers lightweight hub motor systems such as Mahle and Mivice but doesn't seek to equal the all-out power of the heavier, top of the line mid-drives from the likes of Bosch and Shimano.
So let's check out some more detail about Fazua's most powerful motor yet and see how it performed around the testing inclines of the Pennines' Calder Valley.
The UBN Five Touring has a classically understated diamond frame with smooth, polished welds and my test bike came with a rigid fork (there is the option of a Suntour air suspension front fork too). You also get 11 high quality Shimano derailleur gears (with an incredibly low 46-tooth bottom gear at the rear) and similarly high quality Tektro TRP disc brakes.
But the heart of the UBN Five is the least obvious, visually speaking: the Fazua Ride 60 mid-drive is barely apparent at an initial glance and the removable 430Wh battery sits underneath the down tube out of sight, so you could easily be forgiven for thinking that this is a 'regular' non-electric bike.
At 19.2kg it's pretty light by e-bike standards and that is in part thanks to the 1.96kg of the mid-drive motor itself. Claimed torque is 60 Newton metres (Nm) which is certainly impressive when you learn that Bosch’s mid-range Performance Line mid-motor has a claimed torque of 65Nm and yet weighs over a kilo more than the Fazua Ride 60 motor.
The minimalist looks continue, as there is no handlebar display, just a 'Ring Control' by your left thumb that lets you turn on, adjust the power levels and turn the lights on and off using one discreet control. It looks very neat and it worked extremely well, but the light plastic construction looks like it could easily be broken if it got a knock.
There is a display on the top tube, but this does not sit alongside any buttons. It's just a line of LED lights that show you battery capacity and power level via the number of illuminated lights and their colour. Again, all very minimalist but extremely well thought-out and functional. Pop it up and you also have access to a USB C charging port.
The rest of the spec is equally impressive with Supernova front and Busch and Muller rear lights, plus a rear rack that also acts as a support for the Curana CLite mudguards, the rear of which cleverly houses the rear light. The UBN gets Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tyres. These are known to be light and fast rolling on tarmac, yet tough, due to in-built puncture protection, while the 1.5” width should smooth out smaller humps and bumps even if you don't opt for the front suspension fork option.
There are plenty of options in the 'bike builder' stage of ordering a bike on the Riese and Muller website - as there are with their myriad other e-bikes. You can opt for hub gears, single speed with belt drive or Enviolo 380 stepless gears. If you want to go on longer rides in comfort and carrying more gear, you can also spec riser bars and a larger capacity rack that will take a rack top bag. Lastly there are three frame sizes, 45cm, 51cm and 57cm.
The UBN Five Touring ridden
Once you've turned on using the Ring Control, power is pretty smooth and quiet and is delivered by a torque sensor somewhere in the bottom bracket area. There is a micro-second delay where it feels as though a clutch is engaging as you start pedalling, but it's barely noticeable. Once underway, power in the bottom two of three power levels is subtle but right up there with the best mid-drives in terms of the way it comes and goes in perfect time with your pedal strokes. The harder you press on the pedals, the more power you get and the transition from powered riding to unpowered riding is smooth and, in those bottom two power levels, barely noticeable.
Overall the power delivery is impressively sophisticated and right up there with the best I have tried. It's a point I keep coming back to - you almost get two bikes in one here: an e-bike that provides a good dollop of pedal assist power when you need it, but which also rides very much like a regular hybrid bike on the flat and downhill with the power turned off or skimming along above the 15mph assistance limit.
Having heard a lot of feedback from e-bike riders over the years, there is certainly a constituency of (often 'sporty' e-bikers) out there who enjoy this kind of riding and who find it a great way to get exercise. With some bigger, heavier e-bikes, you feel like you are struggling to ride against the weight of the motor over 15mph when the power disappears, but that's certainly not the case with the UBN Five Touring.
More powerful and much heavier mid-drives will get you up the hills a little quicker, but the UBN Five was no slouch at all and in the top level it gives you an appreciable surge in power. Even better, if you keep the Ring Control pressed forward for a few seconds then you are in 'Boost' mode, which Fazua say can deliver a sustained 450W of assistance for several seconds. (While an e-bike motor must have a "continuous rated power" of no more than 250W, peak power can exceed this.)
Why don't they just have an extra power level and why is the Boost mode time limited? Fazua don't say, but I suspect it's to stop the relatively small motor from overheating. There's nothing to stop you pressing it several times in succession to tackle a particularly long and steep climb, but it may well be that there is a thermal protection circuit that would temporarily cut power should you try to tackle Mont Ventoux continuously in Boost mode.
I managed 40+ miles of range over several thousand feet of Pennine climbing which makes this a very efficient motor - another benefit of a relatively light e-bike with a relatively modest-rated motor in terms of power.
If, like me, you like riding fast 'regular' bikes but value some extra help when you need it, you will likely take to the UBN. It gives you more assistance for sure than e-bikes like the Raleigh Trace that use the Mahle hub motor system, but it still feels like a non-electric bike in a lot of riding situations.
Having criticised the Ring Control for being somewhat flimsy, I have to say I was very impressed with it's functionality in use. It's barely noticeable, but controls all the functions of the bike by pushing it forwards, backwards or to the side. It really is a masterpiece of minimalist design - it would just make it even better if Fazua came up with an alloy version.
I didn't miss a display but if you want digital feedback on your ride you can mount a smartphone on the bars and get Riese and Muller's own Connect RX app. It is fairly minimalist in design again, with speedometer and mapping screens. The speedo screen also showed the watts of power contributed by the motor versus your pedal power, which could be a handy training aid if you want to try and maximise your own contribution against that of the motor.
The RX Connect app also has an alarm button which allows you to set an alarm at the tap of your phone screen and I was impressed with how loud it was when activated. (Better than the Bosch Smart system alarm.) The bike is fitted with a GPS-enabled chip that even allows you to track the wherabouts of the UBN should it get stolen. Unfortunately Riese and Muller's ‘ConnectCare’ subscription service - whereby Riese and Muller will make efforts to track down and recover stolen e-bikes - is not avaialble in the UK, but apparently in Germany its success rate is ‘over 70%’.
There is also a Fazua app which you can use, but unfortunately I was not provided with a passcode for this - though no doubt this would come with a newly-purchased UBN. As far as I could see, the only extra functionality it provided was allowing you to change how much power was delivered in each of the levels. The three preset levels worked just fine for me so I didn't feel this was any great loss.
As noted already the UBN can be ordered direct from the Riese and Muller website with various handlebar, gearing and rack options. These could give you comfort or lower maintenance versions and/or a bike with a more capable rack - though note most options would add a bit of weight and some pounds to the price tag. If you find it hard to swing a leg over diamond frames, R&M also make a 'low-step' UBN 7 range with models specced the same as the UBN Five range.
Perhaps surprisingly, the relatively new to the market Ride 60 motor system has been used on quite a number of eMTBs, but not that many urban/hybrid models. Two exceptions are Canyon’s Commuter:ON 8 LTD and Roadlite:ON 8 LTD models with claimed weights of 17.54kg and 15.66kg respectively and with lower price tags compared to the UBN Five Touring.
Other lightweight mid-drives weighing around the same as the Fazua Ride 60 and claiming similar performance have also recently started to appear. Fellow ebiketips contributor Rebecca has tried two of them, the TQ HPR 50 (albeit on a premium eMTB) and Bosch's Performance Line SX and she rated both of them pretty highly.
Previously purchasers of lightweight e-bikes would have had to be prepared to compromise on power output with the use of small rear hub motors like the popular Mahle X35 system. With a new breed of motor drive that isn't too far off the Mahle in weight terms but with the mechanical advantages that mid-drives have over hub drives, it seems the scene is set for a new rash of lightweight mid-drive e-bikes to appear over the next few years. The UBN range is certainly a pioneer in this area and ebiketips will keep you posted as to how other brands respond.