We've previously looked at the funky and distinctive D11 folder from China-based budget e-bike specialists Fiido. Its successor, the Fiido X was supposedly a new and improved version but subject to a recall - though now redesigned and seemingly back on sale without problems. The company also looks to be on much more solid ground with the traditional diamond-frame of the E-Gravel C21. This is the company's take on a torque-sensing hybrid e-bike and features the wonderful Mivice motor which we've already tested on single speed models from Tenways. Although these brand names might seem strangely quirky to English ears, Fiido have generally done the Mivice proud, and come up with a practical, fun, fast and efficient ride. The E-gravel has its quirks which we'll get to, but I didn't think any of them were deal breakers.
Direct from the manufacturer - what does it entail?
Some potential buyers might be put off from buying directly from a manufacturer with an HQ thousands of miles away. Of course it all depends on the backup provided by the company concerned, so as with all purchases that don't involve a 'bricks and mortar' bike shop there is some risk involved.
It can however be the same sales model for some major European e-bike brands. It's just that greater distance means that logistics and language challenges can magnify supply chain difficulties from which the industry is still recovering.
I'm not singling Fiido out here, just highlighting the fact that there is some in-built risk with all 'distance selling' as opposed to buying from a local bike shop.
A more specific concern with buying 'unseen' is ensuring you get a bike that fits you and is comfortable to ride. I found the medium size frame perfect for my 5ft 7in height and pretty easy to swing a leg over (being light - for an e-bike - at 18kg also helps in leaning it over to get on and off).
Fiido say the large frame option is suitable for riders up to 6ft 4in. Much smaller riders may well be better with the step-thru variant (E-Gravel C22) which only comes in a small frame size (the C21 diamond frame option I tried has no small size).
Lastly, there may be some assembly involved - in the case of the Fiido E-Gravel quite a bit. Whilst you get all the tools needed for the job included, I found it time consuming - and as someone who reviews lots of bikes, I normally find this stage of it fairly straightforward.
The time needed was because the job was fiddly rather than difficult. The fitting of the display and the mudguards proved most fiddlesome as I needed to get the bike up pretty high to see underneath the handlebar stem in order to connect the small, delicate leads there. Once fitted, the mudguards had little clearance and I ended up packing the mounts out with washers to lift them away from the tyres.
On the Ikea flatpack scale of difficulty it's a 5/5, but on the bike shop mechanic scale a 1/5. Again, you'll either be happy to accept this extra time as part of the lower price or you won't.
You've assembled it, now what?
The result of all your hard assembly work is a sleek and sporty looking lightweight e-bike. With the rear hub motor pretty much hidden behind the gear sprocket and disc brake rotor and cable runs largely frame concealed, you could fall back on the e-bike journalist's cliche list and call it a stealth machine if you like. The almost invisible welds on parts of the frame just add to the svelte effect.
The geometry and ride position are sporty and it gets a decent list of equipment given the attractive price tag: 9-speed derailleur gearing with a strong looking alloy body, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, front thru-axle, hardwired front LED lighting (and battery powered rear lighting), 40mm wide CST gravel tyres with a pretty aggressive tread, plastic mudguards of a good length and a kickstand. Oh, and the seat is surprisingly comfy for a sporty e-bike too.
Three things strike me as potential weaknesses. The battery is small in capacity at 208Wh, the chainwheel oversized at 52-teeth, and the lovely clear and crisp handlebar stem integrated display is great for looks and in use, but it means you can't swap out the stem for a different bar position.
For me these certainly wouldn't be deal breakers as the system turns out to be super efficient in use, resulting in decent mileage (and apparently a range extender will be available in due course), whilst the chainwheel looks like it can be easily swapped for a smaller one and if you want a more relaxed riding position you could always fit riser bars.
You don't get a rear rack, but Fiido offer it as an optional extra. I managed to wangle my old alloy one onto the seatstay mounting points, even though it was really too narrow for the rear 145mm frame dropouts.
On- and off-road
In short, this is a lovely e-bike to ride and when you're in the saddle it feels like a pricier one. The bottom bracket torque sensing delivers power smoothly and proportionately and it's a great little hill climber too, posting a respectable time up our standard hill climb - though it starts to find its limit on hills with much more than a 15% grade.
I rode over pretty hilly country using mainly power level one and occasionally resorting to two on much steeper hills. There are five levels, but the top three don't actually seem to add any extra climbing power.
It's nice to pedal on the flat without power too and it swoops down descents, all giving you the feeling this a fast and free-running design, electric elements aside.
The range test returned a figure of around 30 miles - pretty astounding for such a small battery. That said, had I needed to resort to level two much more I'm sure the range would have dropped significantly, so if you are going to be loading much weight onto the bike or using it in mountain ranges then 20 miles might be a better benchmark.
The 40mm CST gravel tyres felt fast on the road and pretty good off it, though the rigid front fork and very stiffly-made frame mean it's definitely a bike more suited to easy-going trails, such as forestry commission roads and rail and canal paths and the like. If you could do without the mudguards you could probably squeeze in slightly wider tyres to make it a bit more off-roady.
Both hydraulic disc brakes and the rear derailleur worked well - but that big chainwheel meant I only ever used the lowest few gears. A smaller chainring would also likely have helped its climbing prowess on our local 20% plus test gradient where it did struggle.
A great ride for a great price
That was my conclusion after putting a good number of on- and off-road miles on the E-gravel C21. That said, it feels like Fiido have been a bit like the pupil who rushes an exam in order to do the best they possibly can, fearful of not completing the task in time. For example there will be an app (that promises such features as proximity unlocking) but it doesn't seem to be widely available yet, while the Fiido website advertises the pre-order price in US dollars only - see the pricing note below.
In terms of competition the nearest thing to the E-Gravel I have ridden is the Raleigh Trace. That's several hundred pounds more, but it's a bit lighter and sleeker and feels a bit better made. However the Mivice motor actually feels punchier and more responsive than the Mahle system that features on the Trace.
If you live somewhere not excessively hilly the single speed Tenways CGO600 gives you the benfits of the same motor, a low maintenance belt drive and costs in the same ballpark. The Juicy Ticket is another strong contender in this area but it has risen to £1,865 since our review and was marked out of stock at the time of writing.
I feel rather mean giving The E-Gravel only 3.5 stars, but a smaller chainwheel and a firm UK price (see below) would have upped the mark to at least 4 stars. In short it delivers a sophisticated ride worthy of much pricier e-bikes.
Pricing note: Prices on the Fiido website are quoted in US dollars and when a purchase is made that is converted into pound sterling at the current exchange rate by the purchaser's card issuer or by Paypal. The above figure of £1,300 is based on the exchange rate at the time of writing, but the rate can and will fluctuate over time.