"But e-bikes are so ugly!" was a retort you used to hear a lot, back when the technology was in its infancy, motors were huge and batteries even more so. These days an e-bike can look just dandy though, and the Raleigh Spirit E is a fine example. Based on their classically-style Spirit city bike, Raleigh have added a TranzX motor system and improved the spec to offer a good-looking and competitive urban e-bike. "Looking good doesn't have to be hard work!", they say. And it isn’t, most of the time: this is a good mid-range e-bike that’s suitable for riding that isn’t too challenging.
With a deliberately retro look, the Spirit E looks like a classic steel city bike. It's not though: the frame is Aluminium alloy, which helps to keep the weight down to a reasonable 22.8kg. The low-step design means it's easy to get on and off, and the frame is double braced to keep things nice and stiff. The frame is basically the same as the non-powered bike, save for a channel behind the seat tube that's used to house the cables for the electrical system. It’s a good-looking bike and the electric system is unobtrusive, especially if you stick some panniers on the colour-matched rear rack to carry your shopping and hide the battery. But it’s not all about looks. How does it ride?
Pretty well is the answer. It’s a nice, upright position and most of your weight is over the rear of the bike, keeping the steering light and meaning that bike certainly doesn’t suffer for lack of a suspension fork; bikes like this seldom do. The 40mm CST tanwall tyres aren’t the highest spec but they’re fairly big and add a bit of comfort. The alloy V-brakes are plenty powerful enough to stop you, although the pads feel a bit cheap and scratchy. Swapping them out for something a bit better when they wear out will help.
Raleigh have opted for a Shimano Nexus 7-speeed hub gear, and that means a static chain line, and that means you can have a full chaincase. And they've gone the whole hog, with a colour-matched, pressed steel chainguard with the words 'Raleigh' and 'Classic' cut into it. It really gives the bike a classy look, as does the Heron-design chainring. Nice work. Less nice work on the actual gearing, though, as this bike, like many, is a bit overgeared. It’s not as bad as some we’ve tried, opting for a 42-tooth chainring when others have specced a 46 or even a 48, but I still would have liked the gears to be a bit lower for the climbs. If you live somewhere that’s less hilly than where we are in Bath, or the hills aren’t as steep, it’s unlikely to be an issue, but it’s worth considering.
Power is applied via the newer TranzX F15 motor unit. TranzX claim 40Nm of torque, which is good for a hub motor, and the gunmetal grey finish is unobtrusive. The motor is controlled by a small bar-mounted display. That gives you control over the four assistance levels, and shows you the state of the battery. The USB port in the side can be used to charge devices; it's also used by TranzX for bike diagnostics.
I found the level of power available to be useful for general riding, and not quite enough when it came to hitting the steep stuff. That’s not unusual for a mid-range hub motor bike; the 40Nm claimed torque is nominally similar to a Bosch Active Line motor but it’s certainly a rung below that, as you’d expect given the price difference between the two. The motor modes are pretty well-spaced, although there’s probably one more than is really necessary, and power application is pretty smooth and consistent.
The battery is held in the rear rack. At 400Wh it's a pretty standard size for an urban bike like this, and should give a decent range; Raleigh claim the bike's good for 50-80km, and on the flat it probably would be. Add in some hills and you tend to find that the range on a bike that’s cadence-sensing rather than torque-sensing gets hit a bit harder. That’s the case here: My commute is a round trip of 9km with about 150m of climbing, and the Raleigh was good for three commutes before range anxiety set in, which is one less than I’d expect from a 400Wh bike. Even so the bike has plenty of usable range for the sort of riding you’d expect to be doing on a bike of this sort: short commutes, shopping trips and the like.
Lighting is integrated into the Spirit E, and it's automatic: the lights come on when it starts to get dark. So there's no forgetting them, and no forgetting to turn them on either. On top of that, the front light is a pleasing chromed unit that matches the look of the bike perfectly. They’re decent enough in terms of the beam: plenty to get you seen and just about enough if you have to venture out past the street lights. The colour-matched mudguards do a decent job, although they could stand being a bit longer, and the big retro bell has a nice loud ding-a-ling.
Overall it’s a thumbs-up for the Spirit. It’s a nice bike to ride, it looks pretty and the motor gives a welcome shove. For flatter city commutes it’s certainly one to look at, if you’re after something to tackle bigger hills then it’s probably better to set your sights on something a bit more powerful.
Raleigh Spirit E full spec
||Threaded 1" 1/8th silver
||Shimano Nexus 7-speed twist shift
||Alloy V-brake with cut off quick stop function.
||Shimano Nexus 7-speed
||KMC Single speed
||Comfort Pedals with Anti Slip
||Double Wall rim 36 hole 700c
||CST Zeppelin 700 x 40c with tan side wall
||Alloy quill stem
||Raleigh Comfort Handlebar Silver
||Selle Royal soft grip
||Selle Royal Milo + women's brown
||Alloy micro adjust
||Steel colour matched
||Raleigh full chain cover
||Alloy carrier with Luggage strap
||Raleigh Steel trekking fork for E bike
||Alloy forged 170mm, 42t
||124.5 MM Square taper
||TranzX Motor hub
||Shimano 7 speed Nexus
||Double Wall rim 36 hole 700c on TranzX F15 Motor hub
||Double Wall rim 36 hole 700c on Cassette hub
||New TranzX F15 36v 250w brushless Quick stop motor
||TranzX 400wh 36V 11Ah Battery
||TranzX DP16 PST Display, 3 assist levels with Walk Function
||TranzX Speed Sensor
||TranzX F15 motor cable
||Front and Rear Lights Powered by TranzX system