I think there is a distinction between folding e-bikes and e-bikes that fold. Electric Bromptons like the ARCC version and the official Brompton Electric are folding e-bikes with an unbeatably compact fold, but some ride compromises due to the smaller 16” wheels. They are also expensive compared to budget folders like the Stow-E-Way. The Stow-E-Way is an e-bike that folds; in other words it doesn’t have the world beating practical fold of the Brompton but it is a little more bike like on the road – and will leave less of a hole in your pocket.
Tern are the ‘best in class’ 20” wheeled ‘e-bikes that fold’ so a quick comparison is useful. Whilst the Stow-e-Way has 20” wheels like Tern e-bikes it is some £1000 cheaper than Tern’s cheapest 2019 model the Vektron D8 (and £1200 cheaper than the 2020 version). Whilst it lacks the power of the Tern’s D8 Bafang mid-drive, has less powerful braking and a smaller battery, in practice it could be pressed into service to do many of the shorter leisure and commuting rides that the Tern would. And as both are fold in half, 20” wheel models they both fold down to a similar size (the Raleigh a bit bigger) and weigh about the same (the Raleigh being a bit lighter).
Folders and especially electric folders are all about balancing compromises. Folding down to 89cm long x 66cm high x 45cm wide the Stow-E-Way’s folded size is about par for the course. The weight of 20.15kg is rather more impressive given the bike includes LED lights, mudguards, a rack and kickstand.
The geared rear hub motor system looks a pretty standard offering but several other features stood out on an initial inspection. The very solid looking rear rack is actually part of the rear frame (i.e. welded to the seat stays). Another sturdy looking feature was the stand underneath the bottom bracket, helping the folded package sit level on the floor. A further practical feature is the front rack mounting point on the front of the headset.
Decent quality is evident throughout the rest of the spec too as you would expect from a reputable bike company like Halfords. There is a very sturdy looking aluminium 6061 single frame member resulting in a low step over height. There is plenty of vertical adjustment on the quick release seat-post and telescopic handlebars meaning it should suit a wide range of rider shapes and sizes.
I found the bike gave a comfortable upright riding position and wide Kenda 20 x 1.95” slick tyres rolled well over tarmac humps and bumps and moderate off road surfaces like well made forest roads and, allied with a broad, soft and supportive saddle, gave a relaxed ride feel ideal for leisure trips.
Raleigh have chosen TranzX electric assist systems over the past few years on their more budget priced range of e-bikes and, whilst not as familiar to many as names like Bosch and Shimano, they are a long-established multinational company with a good reputation.
The TranzX R15 rear hub motor looks neat and small and its stated weight of 2.5kg is pretty light. The bike’s weight is also kept down by the 1.55kg, 245Wh battery. It is key operated and slides smoothly in and out of its vertical slotted housing behind the seat-post. This battery configuration adds a bit to the length and so to the folded package, but the plus side is a longer wheelbase which should help make for more stable handling.
This is an e-bike that shouts well made and practical on first inspection and is backed by Raleigh’s standard e-bike guarantee of 5 years on the frame, 2 years on all electric components and 1 year on non-wearable mechanical parts.
Folding is of the conventional break the frame in half type. First pull the frame catch open on a very solid looking hinge, then fold the two halves together to secure them with the magnets attached to the front and rear of the bike. The handlebar post releases via another beefy looking hinge. The seatpost drops into the frame and the plastic folding pedals fold fine. It’s all pretty straightforward and the build quality of the hinges gives you confidence they will stay locked solidly in place when it is unfolded and being ridden too.
It does have a couple of weak points. The biggest is the fact the handlebar post does not clip to the frame and swings about when folded, making it easy to catch something with it and making the package more cumbersome than it needs to be, so you might find yourself carrying a small bungee or quick release zip-tie to remedy this, but that really shouldn’t be necessary. Also I found the magnets attaching the two halves could be much stronger or an alternative stronger catch system might also have been looked at to help the whole thing stay together, especially when being lifted at an angle.
Although the folded package is bulky and it’s not something you’d want to be folding and carrying several times a day (as you can easily do with a Brompton), the rear rack does provide a good handgrip as does the frame at the front so it is not so much of a handful as you might imagine looking at it. Still, lifting any sizeable 20kg package any certainly requires a degree of physical strength. If you don’t need to lift it near waist height the whole folded package suddenly becomes much more manageable as seat and rack holding points mean its much easier to carry it by your side.
Some folding bikes are a pain to set down on the floor when folded but the Stow-E-Way’s integral stand underneath the bottom bracket does a good job of helping the bike stand on its own when folded.
The Stow-E-Way uses a crank motion sensing system – those who have ridden very cheap e-bikes know that these can be very crude, the motors taking ages to come to life once you have started pedalling and continuing to run on after you have stopped. At best this takes some getting used to and at worst for the uninitiated it can be downright dangerous.
I was delighted to discover the Stow-E-Way is not like this at all; almost as soon as you start pedalling the quiet rear motor kicks in and goes off quickly when you stop. It’s probably the best motion sensing system I’ve come across, albeit not on a par with the best of the usually much more expensive torque sensing systems. This smooth power delivery should also help conserve your valuable battery power, doubly important with a relatively modest-sized battery (Raleigh says spares are available for an extra £400 should you be venturing out on all day rides).
In the highest of the four power levels the bike romped up all but the steepest of hills. Whilst the power isn’t as strong as the likes of some of the higher powered crank motors out there (like the Bosh Performance Line CX found on mountain bikes) you wouldn’t expect it to be and it doesn’t need to be. After all this a bike for roads and moderate off-road trails, not every terrain and every gradient.
The power control just by your left hand has easily-pressed, tactile up and down buttons for the power control and a nice bright red LED display showing the power level detected. In keeping with the rest of the bike, simple, easy and accurate.
Shimano Altus gears are changed with an intuitive rotary changer. The V-brakes, if not the smoothest and most responsive, are adequate for most typical uses of such a bike and fit in with the price point too.
The LED lights are fully automatic with no on/off button, sensing when lighting conditions demand their use. I found they worked well, coming on just as dusk starts to set in and even, briefly, under bridges on sunny days.
If you a looking for an e-bike that rides well, can fold if needs be and can carry a decent amount too, then the Stow-E-Way should certainly be on the list. For shorter leisure rides or commuting it seems totally dependable and offers a comfortable ride to boot. The combination of a good range of practical features and overall build quality really make it stand out as great value, if you can live with the folding and small battery size compromises.