Presentation goes a long way when it comes to choosing a new electric bike. Estarli has made some excellent choices to make the e28.8 appear neat and tidy, such as routing cables inside the tubes and wrapping them in a helical sheath when they have to emerge. Ours has built-in lights and a rack on the back too, to discourage untidy things like dangling shopping bags from the handlebars and fitting your own lamps to bits of the frame.
The Estarli e28.8 is broadly similar to the e28 Pro we reviewed previously, but due to Estarli’s iterative approach to bike design comes with a few upgrades. These include a new drive system that provides more power than before; optional hydraulic brakes (£120), racks and panniers; front suspension; new colours and sizes, including the step-through 'Trapez' frame we’ve got here; and polished welds. Sadly, on our review bike at least, the mirror-like finish of those welds, in which we were looking forward to admiring our slack and panting jaw while riding, has been painted over with a striking turquoise paint that sets off Estarli’s black lightning bolt logo nicely. This is probably for the best.
Our e28.8 doesn’t have mudguards, but does come with the additional rear rack (£35) and a neat rucksack that clips nicely onto it. Brakes are of the disc variety, while the T-shaped screen that’s integrated into the top of the stem looks like the vision slit in a Star Wars clone trooper’s helmet.
It’s a well-thought-out layout, with the gear shifter on the right and the power controls on the left, meaning there's a minimum of things sticking out. Again, it’s neat. You can then completely ruin this neatness by attaching a phone holder to the handlebar, and the bike accommodates your act of design vandalism by providing a USB charging port.
Step aboard, and all that neatness resolves itself into an extremely comfortable commuter bike. The 28 in the model name refers to the wheels, while the 8 represents the number of gears. At just 16.5kg, it’s a lightweight ride too.
As you begin pedalling, the rear hub motor, which is a road-legal 250W offering 40Nm of torque, wants to leap away. We tried riding it slowly, to better accommodate some riding companions who weren’t using e-bikes and were also seven years old, and actually considered turning off the electrical assist. We discovered that like its predecessor, it’s a perfectly fine, if slightly heavy ride without the motor assist. We switched it straight back on again of course, because if we made sensible decisions we wouldn’t have things to moan about in reviews.
And yet, the e28.8 itself could be a very sensible decision. It is exactly the kind of bike you’d want when accompanying the kids to the park or going on a family ride down by the canal. It’s entirely possible to go whizzing off if you’re using it for commuting, and it’s a nimble little mover with some excellent stopping power too – the brakes on our review model are the upgraded hydraulic disc models, with Estarli-branded callipers.
The front fork suspension is designed to be almost invisible, only a black rubber concertina visible at the top of forks which have also been kept black so it blends in. There's no on/off switch for the suspension, and once again it’s very neatly put together all the way down to the quick release catches on the wheel hubs (but not on the seat post) and the easy-to-access charging port right down on the bottom bracket.
There is absolutely no consensus among e-bike and chainset manufacturers about how many gears is ‘enough’ for our new-fangled electric transport machines, but the eight-strong set of Shimano cogs on the back of the e28.8 seems like a good compromise, especially when combined with the five power levels available from the motor.
While it’s most at home on flatter roads and paths with only gentle gradients, it’s not going to give up when faced with an actual hill, and the fifth power setting helps to boost you upwards. Using the motor more of course brings down the endurance, but with up to 40 miles on offer from a charge, it’s enough for a few days of the average commute (9.8 miles, stats fans) and you might be able to eke out more if you’re gentle.
A small amount of time must be spent on the Estarli backpack pannier bag, an optional extra but one we’d recommend for two reasons. The first is the way it connects to the rack - you can run with one or two bags, as they only attach on one side. The second is that it’s actually large enough to keep things in. There's enough room for clothes, office kit or lunch; there are straps so you can wear it as a backpack; and it’s fully waterproof. It’s £70, but when this much thought has gone into an accessory that extends the usefulness of the bike, we think it’s worth it. Handlebar pouches and other quick-release pannier bags are also available from Estarli, but none has the same level of usefulness.
Bags aside, Estarli’s refresh of the e28 line has been a success. With its neat presentation and clean design it’s an easy bike to live with, and once you push away from the kerb, the assistance from the motor is immediate and surprisingly powerful.
At £1,625 (or £1,780 in this build with rack and hydraulic disc brakes), it’s slightly cheaper than the recently-reviewed Honbike Uni4 (and has gears) and just a touch more expensive than the Tenways CGO600, another single-speed.
A closer comparison might be the 9-speed Fiido E-Gravel, which has a similar RRP but is often discounted. We took issue with the gearing on that one though and you may also be reluctant to buy from an overseas manufacturer, whereas Estarli’s factory is in Berkhamsted.
The Raleigh Trace is another sleek urban hybrid, but several hundred pounds more expensive at £2,099.
The Estarli e28.8 is an excellent city bike that’s not going to be afraid to take on a canal path or two, and the amount of thought that’s gone into both its design and the accessories is clear.