The Emu Mini is a vesatile little bike with a pretty compact fold. The motor is powerful enough to be useful – so long as you don’t go very far – and it’s light enough to be a genuine contender for a mixed mode commute. You can’t expect miracles for this money and the range and some of the kit is ordinary, but overall it’s a good package if you’re looking for something portable and stowable.
The Mini is built around a single beam frame and 16” wheels with big-chamber Kenda tyres. It’s a one-size bike which will be fine if you’re up to about six feet tall; any taller than that and it’ll start to feel a bit constricted. It’s not a bike that you’re going to be riding for more than a few miles at a time, and it has a motor, so a precision fit isn’t really essential, but it’ll work better if you’re, well, normal-sized.
You get a Shimano three-speed hub for gearing which is simple and well-proven, and Shimano mechanical disc brakes for stopping. Folding flat pedals are included, and the bike has integrated lighting and full mudguards, so it’s fully all-weather ready out of the box.
The Mini uses a front hub motor system, with a bar-mounted LCD display, and the battery is located in the seat tube. This works well: it’s out of the way so it doesn’t affect the fold, and it’s removable for charging indoors. Emu offers two battery sizes, 187Wh and 245Wh. Neither is huge, but this isn’t a bike designed for long journeys.
The motor system works pretty well. There’s five levels of assistance, but realistically one and two are basically redundant as the power is too low to be useful. Up in maximum assistance mode the motor has a fair bit of grunt; coupled with the three speed hub gear there was enough help to get me up my benchmark hill (1.5km at 5%, with a 12% section) without too much sweating or swearing. It wasn’t a free ride, but it wasn’t too difficult either. The Shimano Nexus three speed is hugely underused on e-bikes. It’s simple and very hard wearing, it almost never goes out of index, and it gives a decent range (186%) which is enough for a useful climbing gear and a top gear that’s plenty for 15mph cruising.
One climb of the hill was enough for the Emu, though. It’s not designed to take you on long escapades but I was surprised you could effectively flat the battery on a single 4km climb. If you live anywhere hilly then you’ll probably want to spend the extra £100 on the bigger battery to be on the safe side. The Emu doesn’t feel like a particularly efficient bike, to be honest, and that’s borne out in the range. On the flat it’ll happily tap out 20km, which is a lot more than you’ll ever want to do in one go. It’s not an uncomfortable bike, but neither is it designed for long periods in the saddle.
The Emu feels pretty nimble in traffic with its short wheelbase, although the handling can be quite twitchy and takes a bit of getting used to. The small wheels and forward-weighted ride position mean you need to be fairly sparing with the front brake as it’s easy to unweight the rear, and grabbing a handful will easily have you over the bars. The brakes are very effective, though, and offer plenty of stopping power in all weathers.
The mudguards do a good job of keeping your feet and bottom dry, and the lights are fine for around town. You wouldn’t want to rely on them for riding too quickly in dark lanes, but they’ll get you seen on urban streets and do as a means of lighting your way in a pinch.
The Emu folds in a fairly traditional way. There’s a hinge in the main frame member and the handlebars pivot down, with a magnet holding the two sides of the bike together. You can drop the seatpost to make the package more compact, or you can leave it up to use a s a sort of handle to wheel the bike around. It works pretty well and the bike packs up pretty small, into a shape that’s not far off being as wide as it is tall and high. That means it’s nothing like as compact as, say, a Brompton, but it’s pretty good and it’ll easily fit in the boot of a medium-sized car. The process doesn’t take long: it’s about half a minute of unclipping and folding and you’re done, and it gets easier with time once you learn the sequence.
The bike weighs about 17kg with the smaller battery. That’s not light exactly, and if you’re slight of build you might still have issues lifting into a car or up the stairs to an apartment, but it’s certainly not bad in the scheme of things and it’s the lightest fully-powered folder we’ve tested, although bikes like the Brompton Electric are a good deal lighter. And more expensive.
The bike held up well during testing. the fold magnet had started to rust, and the cheap brake cables had lost their shine and started to oxidise a bit, but everything still worked fine. For the money you can’t expect top-dollar finishing kit but there’s nothing on the Emu Mini that feels particularly sub-standard. It’s cheapish kit, but functional. The transmission, based around the excellent Shimano hub, should last a long time.
Overall I think the Emu Mini is a solid buy if you need a folding e-bike for short journeys. You can easily fold it for train journeys, or to store in an apartment, or to bung in the back of your car to do the congested bit of your commute on two wheels. There’s range enough for most people’s daily use – although you’ll need to keep on top of charging if you’re doing even a medium-length commute – and it’s easy enough to ride, if a bit twitchy at times and limited in the size of people it’ll fit well. The drivetrain is excellent and the finishing kit is decent for the money. If you don’t have far to go, or you only want to do part of your journey by bike, it’s well worth your consideration.