Surge are a relatively new, UK-based e-bike brand and currently have only one model, the Traveler P5e - though apparently more are in the pipeline. Their website description is commendably free of hype, clear and informative so let's start by quoting it in full.
"Our ambition for the Surge Bikes Traveler P5e was to create an easy to ride, practical, adjustable and low maintenance folding e-bike for both commuters and motorhome or boat owners, at an affordable price and with sufficiently strong and durable parts to provide years of service."
Let's look at that summary in a bit more detail and see what the Traveler P5e consists of and how it performs.
Surge Traveler P5e - what you get
Again, Surge were quite honest when they delivered the bike to me and chatted about how it came to be. They say it's a generic frame with standard hinges and other parts that should ensure replacement parts are easy to come by. With VanMoof collapsing into insolvency recently leaving many buyers worried how their e-bikes full of proprietary tech can be kept on the road, Surge's deliberate use of widely-available technology looks an extremely wise one.
The frame itself looks strongly made and even if it does look familiar due to its fairly generic parentage, it has high quality elements, such as frame-routed cabling, as well as nice practical touches like a carry handle welded low down on the frame to make it easy to pick up quickly with one hand.
The rest of the spec looks commendably solid, practical and low maintenance. There's a Bosch Performance Line motor - one of our favourites for its quiet, powerful efficiency - accompanied by a 500Wh PowerPack that sits behind the seat post. This can be removed with the same key that sits in the ringlock until it is closed (just remember not to leave it there as it's a chance for an observant thief to steal the battery).
There's also Enviolo Trekking stepless gearing and a tough Gates Carbon belt drive, along with a 25kg rated and MIK-compatible rear rack. Schwalbe Big Apple 20x2.15" tyres, powerful hardwired LEDs, SKS mudguards and a sturdy kickstand complete the package.
Ironically, in choosing a stepless gearing system in the form of the belt-driven Enviolo Trekking rear hub, Surge have come up with a unique e-bike. It's the only e-folder that uses this system alongside a Bosch mid-drive and it looks like a unique combination of low maintenance and powerful hill climbing ability in a single quick-folding package.
Surge Traveler P5e - how it performs
The Traveler has a one size frame with plenty of height adjustment on the bars and seat post. Surge say it should suit riders between 1.48m and 1.95m. I'm 1.76m and it gave me a comfy and stable ride, though the seat-to-bars reach is pretty small so bigger riders might feel a little cramped.
Max rider weight is 100kg and gross weight capacity 125kg. Overall it felt stable at high speed downhill, while the short wheelbase meant it was ultra-manoeuvrable at low speeds. There's no suspension, but the large volume tyres give a reasonably comfortable ride on easy off-road tracks (such as decently maintained railpaths and canal towpaths).
The fold is simple and pretty impressive. Break the strong-feeling central hinge open and swing the two halves together and they stick together pretty firmly with a magnet. (I prefer something with a solid locking action, but as 'magnet folds' go this is certainly one of the best). You then drop the seatpost, fold the bars and pedals and that's it.
There are two metal projections just behind the bottom bracket which act as a pretty stable stand for the folded package.
At 24.5kg, it's not a bike you'll want to lift off the ground if you can avoid it, but you can easily extend the seatpost and roll it along, which is a very useful feature. It's aimed at motorhomers and other similar leisure users so regular train-bike commuters will most likely want something lighter and more compact - but I would happily use it on trains from time to time.
I've reviewed the Bosch Performance Line mid-drive in countless bikes, so there's not much to say about it other than it's one of the quietest and most effective mid-drives out there and Surge have sensibly paired it with the basic but easy to use Purion display.
Climbing was extremely effective on our standard hill climb tests and you really don't need to plump for an e-bike with a more powerful Bosch motor (ie the Performance Line CX) unless you want a truly off-road capable e-bike or a full-on big load carrier. Again Surge have specced the bike perfectly for its intended use.
The Enviolo Trekking gears are designed so that twisting the gripshift makes it easier or harder to pedal - the idea being it's impossible to get out of gear and for the gears to become 'unindexed' as can happen when there are definite steps to the gears as with other conventional systems.
It works particularly well with the belt drive to deliver an easy to use and virtually maintenance-free system which again fits in well with the 'everyman/everywoman' character of the bike. The gripshift has to be turned a lot to get from bottom to top gear and it also has to be done in stages (unless you have an extremely flexible wrist joint).
Personally I'd like to see an electronically actuated push button system which I feel would be a little more user-friendly. Still, the gears worked exactly as they were supposed to, topping out at around 22mph and letting you drop the ratio to climb the very steepest of hills. They should go on doing that for at least a few thousand miles before any workshop tune-up or belt replacement is needed.
Surge Traveler P5e - value and competition
The Tern Vektron Q9 is the same price as the Traverler but it lacks the rock solid Enviolo gears with belt drive and has a less powerful motor and smaller battery. Stiffer competition comes from Cube's Fold Hybrid 500 which has hub gears, a belt drive and the same motor as the Surge as well as a similar price tag.
In short, there is very little to dislike about the Surge Traveler and it's a high performance, solid value debut that promises much for their future e-bikes.