You can't expect miracles for eight hundred quid but we're increasingly seeing decent bikes at this price and the Cyclotricity Sahara continues that trend. It has its faults and it's not the most powerful, but if less than a grand is all you have to spend it makes a good case for itself with a good range and a comfortable ride.
The Sahara is a fully specced, Dutch-style electric bike with a low step alloy frame, mudguards, a chain case and a kickstand. It's got a full size 400Wh battery running a front hub motor. You get a bar-mounted display that gives you access to the five different assist levels, as well as giving you ride data, battery level and so on. It's an LCD display and fairly large and easy to read. Gearing-wise the Sahara has a Shimano 6-speed derailleur transmission. It's low-end stuff as you'd expect at this price.
The Sahara is available in two sizes. We tested the larger 20" frame and it's a big old bike, for sure. You shouldn't have any trouble getting comfortable on one of the two sizes, no matter how tall or short you are. A quick-release seatpost clamp means you can easily adjust between riders, too. The swept riser bars give an upright position and the stem is adjustable for height.
The battery sits in the rear rack and it's removeable for charging with a key lock. The battery incorporates a rear light; there's no front light plumbed in to the electrics but you do get a battery light included with the bike for the dark lanes.
The Sahara is running on big 47mm city tyres; they're cheap ones but there's plenty of tread on them. Full plastic mudguards are part of the package too.
This isn't an expensive bike so there are some fairly basic components in evidence to hit the price point. The rear hub is steel rather than alloy, as is the chainset and the seatpost. The Top Gun suspension fork is pretty basic too. Given that the 20" bike is the size of a small barge and there's some heavy components bolted to it, the overall weight of 22.4kg is less than I expected.
Other finishing kit is okay though: the saddle is roomy and well padded and the bar grips match it for colour and are decent quality. Stopping the bike is taken care of by ProMax V-brakes; they're pretty basic but a popular choice at this sort of price.
Dave says: At under £800 the Sahara looks like a good buy on paper: it's got a decent battery, sensible spec, it's available in two sizes to fit pretty much everyone and it's not even that heavy for an electric city bike. Out on the road there's plenty to like about it too. The ride is easy and it's a pretty manageable bike. The 20” bike we tested is huge, easily big enough for me (1.89m, 94kg) to feel at home on. It's a fairly leisurely bike in terms of the ride feel, with pretty slow steering and a long wheelbase that makes it nice and stable. It's not the kind of bike you really flick in and out of traffic, more of a constant pace cruiser. It's none the worse for it, though, and the position, saddle and grips make it pretty comfortable for the length of ride (10km or less, I'd say) you're likely to be doing on a bike like this.
The motor has five levels of assistance, which is one more than it really needs, but you can discern the difference between all of them. Level 1 is such a slight helping hand that I didn't really ever use it. Changing up and down is done from the display which, for the money, is excellent. It shows you the assistance level, battery status, speed, distance and time, and it's even backlit for riding at night. It's better than displays you'll see on some bikes costing twice as much.
The motor itself is decent: it's certainly not the most powerful out there but you wouldn't really expect it to be. On my benchmark hill of Bloomfield Road (1.5km at an average of 6%, with a 12% section) I was having to do a fair bit of the work on the steepest bit. It's still miles easier than chugging up on your own but it's a world away from something like a Bosch or Shimano mid motor bike that both make that climb a pretty academic exercise. It's about equivalent to climbing the hill in Tour mode on a Bosch bike, the second-lowest setting of four: that should give you an idea of how much more power is available with more expensive systems. It's a fairly noisy hub motor too, although even then it's only about the same level of noise as one of the two mid motors I mentioned above.
The motor isn't helped by the gearing: this bike is overgeared. When you only have six gears – and it's not a very wide range cassette – you need to make the best of them. This bike is running a huge 46T chainring which combined with a 12T smallest sprocket gives a gear I could comfortably spin up to about 70km/h. Well, on a downhill, anyway. Whatever: it's a crazy gear to fit when the bike's only designed to be ridden up to 25km/h, and at the other end I was running out of gears very quickly once the road started pointing uphill. And I'm reasonably fit: if you're buying an e-bike because for whatever reason you're not strong enough to pedal a normal bike then on the Sahara you'll be walking on the steep stuff. The gear range needs to be adjusted here for the bike to be right for a casual user in a hilly area. If you live somewhere flat, you'll be fine. But you'd still be fine if the gears were lower: I wasn't using the top two gears on the flat. Change them, please.
Shimano gears work pretty well all the way down to the bottom, and functionally we didn't have any problems with the six-speed system on the Sahara. The thumb shifter isn't an ergonomic masterpiece and it requires plenty of dexterity to change up the cassette, not to mention a fair amount of force. If your hands are small, or weak, or both, you might struggle a bit.
Range-wise the 400Wh battery pack isn't quite as efficient when paired with the hub motor as you might get from a similar battery in a more expensive mid-motor setup, but it's pretty good. When I was testing the Orbea Katu-E recently I managed to get a week's worth of commutes out of a charge, five times up the big hill. The Sahara managed four out of those five before it needed to be plugged into the wall. It's not quite a like-for-like comparison, as the Orbea would manage more hill reps on a power setting equivalent to the Sahara; I tend to stick the bikes in their highest mode for the steep bit and that was certainly necessary for the Sahara. On flatter terrain the claimed range of 25-40 miles (40-64km) is certainly achievable. Anyway, the range is fine for the likely use of the bike. You're not going to be choosing a bike like this for multi-day touring or alpine climbing. It's for the commute, or to make the shopping run easier. It has plenty of capacity for that.
No matter how little you're prepared to spend on an e-bike, and no matter what kind of bike it is, you're still likely to get offered a suspension fork. At the lower price points this is usually a bad idea and that's never more true than here. The Top Gun unit fitted to the Sahara has next to no rebound damping, so it bounces you up off sleeping policemen and tops out with a nasty clunk each time. It also has to deal with 3kg of hub motor attached to the sprung end, which both diminishes the fork performance even further and introduces extra flex under braking. Haul on the front anchor on a dry surface and you can get it to flex backwards an uncomfortable amount. And anyway, this is a Dutch-style city bike and pretty much all your weight is over the rear wheel. Even without a suspension fork the big 47mm front tyre would cope with anything a likely user of this bike will throw its way. For all those reasons you'd be better off with a rigid fork here.
Overall, though, in spite of some faults the Cyclotricity Sahara is a good buy for £799. It has a decent power system with a big battery and it's pretty well put together, notwithstanding the gearing and the poor fork. It isn't the most powerful so it's better on easier terrain, but if you're looking for a bike to take the strain out of a shortish commute or local errands, and you don't have a huge budget, it's certainly one to consider.