The eTura from fledgling British e-bike and e-scooter specialists Furo Systems will never fail to put a smile on your face when you're simply cruising around town on a sunny afternoon, or making that train with seconds to spare thanks to its super fast fold. Your smile might fade a little when it comes to trying to pump the tyres, get it up an incline steeper than around 10% or get your head around why its left and right indicators are pretty much indistinguishable... but otherwise, it's a right laugh!
Furo describe the eTura as "one of the world's lightest and most compact folding e-bikes", and with the Hummingbird Electric coming in at 10.9kg on our scales, it's definitely not 'the' lightest; we weighed the eTura at just over 12.8kg with the battery pack attached. The Hummingbird is more than three times the price though, and most other folding e-bikes out there are more expensive than the very reasonable £1,499 that the eTura is currently selling for. You're talking a minimum of £2,595 for a Brompton electric, and £2899 for Gocycle's GX.
So what are those compromises? The eTura has a number of cost-cutting measures typical of budget e-bikes, such as v-brakes instead of the more powerful disc brakes that are much favoured nowadays, and quite a small range - the front hub motor is just 200 watts (increasing to 400 watts when accelerating), with a claimed range of up to 50km. The tiny Topology SW102 5 computer unit has graphics reminiscent of an 80's console, but it does the job by simply telling you your speed, trip distance, assist level and remaining battery juice.
You do get a full carbon frame, foldable with just one pop of the lever in the middle. The whole folding job is performed in just three steps, with the handlebars and seatpost folding down so it's ready to carry. There's no clip or magnet to secure the bars which meant I did knock my leg against them occasionally, but they're quite stiff so I didn't find they were swinging around when I carried the bike through the train station. Both pedals also fold, and the comfy flat handlebars are secured with a quick-release lever in the middle, so no tools are needed to adjust the angle. The frame fold was stiff at first and I found myself having to use the back wheel for leverage to get it to move, but it slackened off over time.
The 315Wh battery pack sits behind the seatpost, and it slides off easily when you need to charge. To turn the system on you press a button on the battery pack and on the head unit simultaneously for a few seconds, and you're away.
I was a bit apprehensive about taking on the rough roads and potholes around Bristol City Centre on those diminutive wheels, but the bike was more stable than I expected. I was also anticipating that the front hub motor could make the bike feel too heavy towards the front end, but the brushless DC motor is so small and light it makes a negligible difference to the handling.
The rider weight limit is 100kg; which was of no concern to me with my 75kg frame, but it's worth considering for taller and/or heavier riders.
I wouldn't say the assist is particularly smooth and it doesn't kick in instantaneously; the single gear isn't exactly small either, so getting it moving from a hill start isn't the easiest. If you get started on the flat all is well, although I wouldn't recommend jacking the assist up past around level 3 (particularly in crowded areas) because when it kicks in, it jolts quite sharply on levels four and five.
I found the range was about what I expected - using mostly the lowest setting on my flat ride to the station and back and then ramping things up higher for the hills I encounter on my 3km trip to the gym, I got about 30km out of it before needing to charge again. Being a single speed it's imperative you don't run out of juice if you have any hint of a hill for the rest of your journey, because hauling the eTura up inclines without any assist isn't a pleasant experience at all; in fact, one of the main problems I had was that the motor simply wasn't powerful enough to deal with some of the nastier hills around the notoriously lumpy residential areas surrounding Bath and Bristol city centres. Furo say the eTura "makes hills and inclines disappear while ensuring optimal efficiency and maximising range"; but unfortunately that wasn't quite the case for me.
The eTura on its highest assist setting was no match for Bristol's St Michael's Hill with a max gradient of 17%, and I found I was only just able to keep pedalling on the steepest sections. Bearing in mind I cycle competitively and usually cover 100 miles a week throughout the year, it's not a bike I'd recommend for casual commuters who live anywhere hilly.
The eTura comes with a couple of handy extras, such as a kickstand, small front mudguard, a front light and rear indicators. The front light has flashing and steady settings and is plenty bright enough, while the rear indicator is USB-rechargeable and slots in and out of the battery pack - it's controlled by a simple handlebar-mounted remote. I wasn't expecting top draw quality, but was disappointed and quite baffled why Furo chose the indicating option over just a decent rear light. Being mounted in the centre of the battery pack, from a distance of more than a few metres it's very hard to tell if the LED's are indicating right or left anyway (numerous friends and colleagues confirmed this) so I'm not sure they would serve as anything other than a mild distraction for drivers and fellow cyclists.
If you must have indicators on your bike, clothing or anywhere else there are far better solutions than this; I didn't feel I could use them and be confident drivers were aware of my intentions without also using a hand signal, and stopped using the function altogether after a couple of test rides.
My final gripe - and one Furo are aware of - is that the wheels are simply too small to get decent access to the valves to pump the tyres up! On the rear tyre I just about managed, but with the addition of the motor at the front, putting air in the tyre involved wedging my floor pump in there and getting a colleague to pump while I held it in place, because there wasn't enough clearance to lock it off. Furo tell me they're working on this and "realise access can be a bit difficult with some pumps", so are looking at supplying the bike with replacement inner tubes that have angled valves (mostly seen on kids' bikes) in the future.
Living in Bristol and working in Bath - two very hilly cities - my motivation for buying an e-bike would be to flatten hills... and unfortunately the eTura isn't the one to deal with the most severe inclines where I live and work. You can safely say there isn't anywhere in central London where you will find things tough going with the eTura's top assist setting, but for inclines of 10% plus it's not ideal. If I had this kind of money to spend on a folding e-bike I'd be looking at something like Raleigh's Stow-E-Way (£1,350) with 8 speeds and a 250W motor; and if I stuck with Furo, I'd absolutely be spending the extra £250 on the Furo X with nine gears, disc brakes and a 250W motor.
Where the eTura excels is on short, mostly flat trips where you want to arrive sweat-free and don't want to spend more than a few seconds folding your bike away when you reach your destination. I had a whale of a time running errands and commuting back and forth from the station, and the simplicity is appealing. If I could budget for a bike specifically for these use cases, the eTura might be a bike I'd add to my wish list.
All in all, I mostly had good fun on the eTura and would recommend it for train/tube commuters who want something fast-folding with a bit of an acceleration boost between the station and home. It's also fine for nipping round town, and is just about light enough to carry if you haven't got a decent lock with you. A solution for getting air in the tyres needs to be sorted sooner rather than later, and I'd suggest a redesign of the rear lighting. If Furo addressed these issues and made a more powerful version, it would come with a much bigger seal of approval.