The Bristol Bicycles S’Park Street puts in a very good performance. The hub motor is good for the money and the bike as a whole is sensibly specced and rides very well. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a more expensive mid motor bike then the S’Park Street is well worth considering as a daily workhorse.
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The build: customisable for your needs
One of the nice things about the S’Park Street is that it’s customisable. Bristol Bicycles is using the same framesets that they use for their non-powered city bikes, and on the website you can pick the bits you want. You can change the stem length and the crank length to get the right fit, and there are six different handlebar options. Tyres, lights, mudguards and brakes (rim brake or hydraulic disc) can all be swapped. Our build came to just over £1,300 but the bare bones bike can be as little as £1,145.
The frame is a simple but well-built aluminium alloy construction available either as a diamond or a step-through. The fork is steel, and both are designed to take either rim brakes or discs. There’s an eight-speed derailleur transmission with a triple chainring up front, giving a very wide range of gears, and Shimano rapidfire shifters make for easy gear control.
The ride: firm but reassuring
The S’Park Street is an easy bike to ride. It doesn’t harbour any surprises: the ride position is upright without being unusually tall, and the geometry is well suited for city riding. There's a big stack of spacers at the front if you want to tune the position. You’re placing a good deal of weight on the saddle, and I didn’t get on with the supplied perch on longer rides, but that’s easily swapped.
Without any front suspension and with an alloy frame and seatpost the S’Park Street is a firm ride. The 35mm tyres feel a bit unyielding and they’re the one component I wouldn’t choose again; Bristol Bicycles offers a 42mm tyre, which would probably add a bit more comfort, for an extra £10. The bike isn’t uncomfortable though, especially for the type of trips you’re likely to be doing on it: short hops around town. I’ve ridden the bike the 40km from Bath to Bristol and back with no real issues (save for the fact I didn’t really get on with the saddle), and for shorter journeys around town it’s perfectly well behaved. The hydraulic brakes, although they’re a £100 upgrade from rim brakes, are well worth the extra, giving very easy control of your speed. My test bike had a swept city bar that was wide enough to feel comfortable and composed without being too wide to sneak through gaps in traffic. A flat bar would give the bike a sportier feel, and there’s a euro-style butterfly touring bar as an option that gives plenty of hand positions.
The motor: one of the better hub systems at this price
The S’Park Street uses a rear hub motor, with a 400Wh battery in the rear rack. If you prefer you can specify a down tube battery for the diamond frame. The system is controlled by a bar-mounted LCD display, which gives you access to five levels of assistance and shows you speed, distance and battery state. A bottom-bracket-mounted cadence sensor decides when the assistance kicks in. It’s not the quickest on the uptake, taking a second or so to work out that the pedals are turning, but it’s not the worst I’ve tried either. There has to be a bit of a lag with cadence systems to avoid false firing the motor if you accidentally kick the pedals, so given that it’s probably about right. Changing the mode requires removing one hand from the bars and the buttons are small and not too easy to find, so it's not the easiest system to use on the go, but it's okay. Five modes seems like overkill, really; three would probably be plenty.
The rear hub motor is good. It’s not the equal of a decent mid motor in terms of the power available, but it’s a genuinely useful amount of assistance for flat and hilly riding. My benchmark hill is on my commute; it’s 1.5km long at an average of 5%, with a 12% section. Generally it’s steep enough that a hub-motor bike will start to struggle, but the S’Park Street made easy work of it. Partly that’s down to the fact that the hub motor has plenty of torque, and the assistance doesn’t drop as your speed starts to slow, which can be a problem with hub motors at this kind of price. Partly it’s down to the bike having a very wide range of gears. There’s a triple chainring up front and eight sprockets at the back, and the result is that there’s always a gear you can spin in, whatever the road is doing.
Range: enough for the type of use it’ll be put to
It’s worth keeping the battery topped up because the bike is noticeably more powerful when it’s running from a full battery. With a 400Wh power pack in the rear rack (a downtube battery is an option on diamond frames) Bristol Bicycles, to its credit, gives a pretty conservative estimate of the bike’s range of between 40 and 64km. That’s very realistic, assuming your commute isn’t just coasting down a big hill and then grinding up it, like mine is.
I’d expect to get three full commutes out of a hub motor bike and that’s what you get here. That’s only around 30km of riding but it’s three commutes that make the hill a lot easier than most of the hub-powered bikes I’ve tried. The third one is a bit more work as the battery starts to deplete, but really the performance is easily on point here. Mid motor bikes tend to have a slightly longer range due to the way they apply power – with a torque sensor rather than a cadence sensor – but the S’Park Street acquits itself very well. It has plenty of range for the sort of city-based riding you’re likely to be doing.
The battery display on the LCD is a bit prone to being affected by motor load, so on a long climb it’ll dip down and then refill once you’re coasting on the flat. You get used to reading it, but it’s not quite as reassuring as something like the Bosch system where you know you’re getting a pretty linear depletion of the five bars and there’s not going to be any surprises.
Overall: a really good package for the price
Bristol Bicycles hasn't tried to do anything particularly clever here, and what you end up with is a sensible and well-specced e-bike for not a great deal of money. There are plenty of cheaper e-bikes out there but if you’re looking for something for daily duties then this bike feels like a really solid buy. It’s a really good all-rounder that feels like it’ll last.