Carrera is making some really good e-bikes for less than £1,000 at the moment, including the Subway E we recently reviewed. Here it has set itself the task of bringing e-road bikes down to that level, and you know what? It’s succeeded. Okay the Crossroad E isn’t perfect but it is a versatile bike that’s quite a lot of fun to ride. For a grand it’s an impressive package, and definitely one to consider if you have a longer commute you want to do more often by bike.
What you get for your thousand pounds is an alloy frame and fork, Suntour’s HESC motor system with a 310Wh battery, Shimano/Microshift 9-speed gearing and mechanical disc brakes. It’s nicely put together; you’re not getting the best quality gear at this price but everything holds together just fine. It weighs in at 19.5kg, which isn’t exactly feathery; the lightest e-road bikes are under 12kg these days. So how does it ride as a road bike?
The first big ride I tried on the Crossroad E was to head out on a Sunday morning on my usual group ride. It’s not generally a ride where everyone’s pushing as hard as they can, but it’s sufficiently quick that plenty of it is above the 25km/h cut-off point for the motor. I didn’t have any trouble sitting in the group on the faster flat bits, and in fact I had to turn the motor off early in the ride so I was working a bit harder on the uphills, because I was too cold!
On the hills the Suntour motor made short work of everyone, without having to trouble the highest of the three modes. I’d say that it feels more powerful than the Fazua and ebikemotion systems; it’s heavier too, of course. The HESC system is torque-sensing, and like I said on the Subway E review, it rewards a bit of rider input; if you’re standing and pushing a bit harder on the climbs you can really fly on this bike. In terms of the way it rides it’s a lot more like the Giant Road E+ Pro than the lighter bikes with less powerful motors. It’s not a match for the Giant: the Yamaha PW-X motor is an absolute beast. But it’s the same sort of approach, a heavier bike with a more powerful motor.
It’s not all good. The aluminium frame and fork are very stiff, and the tyres aren’t exactly supple either, which makes for a harsh ride. That’s exacerbated by the handlebars, which are awful: really cramped and stiff. I could put up with pretty much all of this build, but if I was going to ride the bike long term I’d have to change the bars; I’d probably use the opportunity to fit some thicker bar tape too. The next thing I’d change would be the tyres: swap them out to a more supple 35mm tyre like the Schwalbe G-One or Panaracer Gravel King and the bike would feel a lot more accommodating over rough surfaces.
Carrera says that the 310Wh battery is good for a range of about 40 miles/64km. I’ve found that to be easily achievable. I took the Crossroad E out for a 60km ride with nearly 900m of climbing, and it still had enough juice – just – for a 15km pootle in to work the next day. It’s worth noting that the assistance available drops off considerably as the battery depletes, especially on the last bar of the four, so it’s worth keeping it topped up. The charger requires you to remove the battery for charging. Don’t lose they keys.
Is that a big enough range? Normally I’d say yes, but Carrera is pitching this as a road bike, and you might want a bit more headroom than that if you’re out on a longer road ride with a group. You can ride the Crossroad E on the climbs without power, but I wouldn’t describe it as fun, so best not to explore the limits of the range and run out two hills from home. Talking of hills, the 9-speed 11-32 cassette is fine for most stuff, though if you’re regularly tackling steeper stuff there’s plenty of capacity in the Shimano Acera rear derailleur to fit something a bit wider. The Microshift R9 shifter is a little bit finicky to set up and falls out of sync a bit more easily than more expensive units, but it’s fine most of the time. Coming down the hills the Tektro mechanical disc brakes are pretty decent; they don’t have the power of hydraulics but they’re predictable and reliable.
I don’t think that actual e-road duties are where this bike excels. It’s pretty decent on a group ride, don’t get me wrong, but I can think of much better uses for it. Have you got a long or hilly cycle commute that you can’t face every day? This bike is just the ticket. Get some nicer bars, fit some mudguards (I have some SKS Edge Aluminium ‘guards on it currently), and you have a bike that you’ll be able to ride day-in, day-out. It’s light enough that it’s an enjoyable ride above the 25km/h limit on the flat, and it’ll make mincemeat of any hills along the way. The (slightly Fisher Price) control unit has an option for turning lights on and off, so presumably you could plumb them in too if you wanted an fully-specced all-season commuter.
Overall it’s a likeable bike, handlebars notwithstanding. Once again Carrera is showing the way at this price point. Overall I’d say that the Subway E is probably a more rounded package, but the Crossroad E has plenty to recommend, and will certainly be the better option of the two if you have a longer ride you want to tackle on a regular basis. There’s not really anything to compare it to at the thousand pound mark; if you’re after a drop-bar e-road bike from any other manufacturer you’re looking at twice as much and more. For the money, it’s a very impressive package.