I was very excited to be reviewing the 2019 model of the Katu-E 10. After testing the Tern GSD I am looking for new bikes that can replace as many car journeys as possible...
To replace the car, you need your bike of choice to be great at load-carrying. One way I’ve been able to do this is to take a conventional e-bike and adding front panniers to balance the weight; however most practical hybrid-style city bikes now have ‘touring’ suspension forks, which are not designed for front-load carrying. The Katu-E by Orbea is specifically designed for front-load carrying, with the large basket attached to the frame. Now all I needed to do was test its rear-load carrying capability…
This bike, like the Tern, has 20” wheels and the super powerful Bosch Performance line CX drive system; however, it is a beautifully compact frame and much more lightweight. The acceleration on this bike is exceptional and I can honestly say that it’s been one of the most fun bikes to ride. I love that it looks like a quirky 21st century shopping bike but that you can accelerate away from cars, bikes and even some motorbikes from a standing start! This has given me many big smiles over the last few weeks.
The bike comes with mounting points for rear pannier racks, but there were very few pictures and no reviews where people had loaded the rear of the bike. We mounted a conventional sturdy rear rack and used our biggest panniers. I was worried the frame would be too short and there would be heel interference with the bag, but there was no need to worry! This set-up worked perfectly, and I managed to do the same weekly shop that I’d managed on the Tern (see photos of the Tern in the review here). The bike was beautifully balanced, and the power from the motor system was so good I could still get up major hills fully loaded at high speed. The Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes worked really well in all circumstances. The full-size rack does look a little strange with the 20" wheels and it seems a shame that the company has not designed a special rear rack for these bikes. I have seen discussions on forums of people looking for small wheel racks, which would fit well on this bike. Personally, I would put a full-size rear rack on it like we did, as this clearly positions and mounts the large panniers very well with the top surface of the rack being perfectly horizontal.
Now to the compromises, which the designers appear to have made between the desired geometry and the differentiating ‘top end’ components. I noticed quickly that the cranks felt short – and it turns out they’re just 152mm. I don’t understand why they have chosen these, as the other Katu-E’s have 170mm cranks.
The SunRace 11-Speed (11-40t) cassette and rear derailleur (Shimano XT M8000 GS Shadow Plus) provide a lovely riding experience; however when it first arrived, the derailleur was close to rubbing on the rear tyre and needed some small adjustments. When the derailleur is extended in the bottom gears, the gap between the tyre and the inside of the derailleur is very small. I’ve not seen this kind of design problem before. Another rubbing problem we found - but have not been able to solve by fine-tuning the set-up - also occurs when in the bottom gear. The top of the chain rubs on the plastic cage of the motor. None of these problems would occur in any of the other Katu-E models, as they have hub gears.
The kickstand is another high-end component, although I’m not sure it’s the best option for a small-wheeled bike. It is fully adjusted to be as short as possible, but the bike doesn’t quite lean over sufficiently for stable loading and unloading of panniers. The other Katu-E models have a double kickstand which keeps your bike perfectly upright when you park it, which is a better choice in my opinion. It’s worth saying that the front basket is so practical and generous in size that I expect many people may not even consider the need for a rear rack and panniers. The basket fitted my work bag and my sons school bag inside, both day-sized rucksacks.
I didn’t get to test this bike in the rain or at night very much, so can’t say a great deal about the mudguards and lights. Two spokes broke in the front wheel in the first few days, but I’m guessing the spoke tension would normally be checked by any supplier prior to delivery – it’s certainly not a fundamental problem with the bike.
I really enjoyed riding the Orbea Katu-E and I think in the black colourway, it would make a supercool urban statement with its design and acceleration performance. I’d say the large front basket, the powerful drive system, the quick lock and compact nature of the bike make it a super-efficient bike for running errands and generally buzzing around town. Despite the component problems, I still loved it!