It's not often that I get to try a bike that so perfectly fits its intended use. Dozens of folding eBikes offer great lightweight design but are hobbled by underpowered hub motors, anemic batteries, and often high prices and a poor riding experience. There are also folders with more power and range that you wouldn't want to lift farther than the trunk of your car, including the wide variety of the very popular 20" fat-tires– often well priced and fun to ride but not very compact and on the heavy side.
Then there is the K-One. Dahon, the company that brought the folding bike from interesting curiosity to practical transportation decades ago, has now done the same for folding eBikes. The K-One is easily the most anticipated arrival of the year. Folding eBikes are a category beset with tough compromises and threading the needle between them has eluded other manufacturers so far. I would like it to be lighter, cheaper, and have more range, but what Dahon did already borders on miraculous. The K-One is lightweight and compact enough to carry up a flight of stairs. It has plenty of torque to easily make it up the 20+% grades that are so common here in San Francisco, and it's an excellent riding experience and not just for a folding bike, I mean for any bike. And, certainly for a sub $2500 eBike. The range is acceptable, and even with the hilly terrain and wind here in San Francisco, you can make it between any two points in the city, like from the Sunset to Caltrain, to your workplace, fold it, and put it under your desk or in a closet. The ride is solid with a comfortable riding position–more upright, and doesn't feel constricted like some other folders. The widish 20" tires took the sting out of the rough pavement, and the ergonomic grips feel quite good. The eight-speed drive chain shifts well, and the handling is reasonably neutral, not squirrely. Riding downhill felt stable, and the mechanical disk brakes did well with no shuddering or vibration. The pedal assist started instantly, which is an excellent feature at intersections eliminating the need to stand on the pedals to get ahead of cars. The torque sensor is responsive, producing a nice natural feel to the assist.
How do they pull off this alchemy? Pairing a lightweight folder with a small (250W) mid-drive motor and a wide-range 8-speed drive chain allows the bike to have ample torque while keeping the battery requirements low. The nicely designed seat post battery is easily removed for charging, has high quality Samsung cells, and at 9ah is on the small side but is enough for a practical range. These features keep the weight down to make the bike portable, and the motor/drive chain is efficient. Overall this eBike is an absolute joy and a breath of fresh air to the folding bike market that is mired with bulky and inconvenient frames.
Written by Eugene Dickey, Founder