Detroit Bikes was built on top of the well-worn foundation of decades of American manufacturing in Detroit, Michigan to bring not just American-designed, but American-made bicycles back to the United States. The company takes great pride in its work and not just because of the jobs it creates. Detroit Bikes takes pride in its work because it is designing and building some seriously impressive bikes.
Disclaimer: Detroit Bikes sent the E-Sparrow to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.
The company has developed a wide range of bikes in classic designs that harken back to not only a time when things were made locally, but a time when things were built to last. A time when we used to use not only JB Weld, but we used to re-weld things when they broke.
We would use zip ties and pipe clamps, seam rippers and sewing machines in every home. When I snapped a weld on my bike frame launching off an oversized jump in my teens, we took it to a local welder who quickly put it back together again.
Detroit Bikes builds beautiful bikes that you’d want to repair, and if finally pushed into the electric bike space with an electrified version of its classic bike, the Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow. Starting its life as a traditional human-powered bike, the E-Sparrow carries much of its DNA into its electrified form. A classic triangle frame constructed from premium aluminum alloy forms the foundation of the bicycle, with a single chain-driven gear making the riding experience streamlined and simple.
Out back, a 250 watt Bafang rear hub motor is ready to step in as needed. The E-Sparrow sports one of the most space efficient and effective controllers we’ve seen with a simple three LED display and one lone button. To power the bike on or off, press the button for a few seconds. The three LEDs will light up green to indicate how much power is left in the battery. It’s a rough approximation, but more than sufficient for a no-frills single-speed like the E-Sparrow. As the battery loses its charge, fewer LEDS are lit to indicate a lower charge
Tapping the power button once while the bike is on changes the amount of pedal assist the bike will provide. When the button is depressed, the LEDs turn red to indicate the power level, from one to three. Hanging off the back of the controller is a small tab that serves as a throttle for the bike. Pushing down on the throttle summons the full power of the motor.
The controller is definitely the most compact we’ve seen and the addition of the throttle is a nice touch. It’s a simple yet effective package that keeps the overall look of the bike clean and streamlined.
Riding the E-Sparrow carries the direct connection with the road forward into the world of electric vehicles. It rides like a single-speed bike should, with a sleeper option to call on the motor for an extra push up any hills or through headwinds should they arise. It’s light and fast, a testament to the solid build quality of the Detroit-built bike. It encourages a better connection with the road, with the tires, with your surroundings that is often lost in all the gears and complicated displays common on many bikes today.
Its low slung stance encourages the rider to lean out over the handlebars in a road-style riding stance, but with a set of flat bars up front. The black rubber Velo grips up front provide a very welcome bit of cushion up front with a nice amount of grip to help ensure you’re always in control. I personally found the riding posture a bit aggressive, but that’s likely a testament to my lack of experience on road bikes. I have a strong preference for upright riding and this bike tends to lean in the other direction. To each their own.
The overall look of the bike just screams out that it’s a classic. From the black and gold color scheme to the sporty aluminum frame and svelte 700c road tires, it could easily have been produced 50 years ago. The one major exception to style guide is the battery. The battery is bolted on to the downtube of the bike as if almost an afterthought in the design process.
It’s a massive hunk of plastic that’s simply bolted on. It was likely done this way to minimize the number of changes required to the classic Sparrow frame, but I would have loved to have the battery a bit more seamlessly and invisibly integrated into the overall package. It’s not a large battery, at 7.8Ah, but it’s well-suited for the typical use case for this type of bike. Single-speed bikes typically aren’t used to put a ton of miles on as they are optimized for urban applications.
We toured it around our test route and found we were able to comfortably squeeze out 15 miles of range with a significant amount of hills with what felt like just under half the battery capacity remaining. That’s a solid vote of confidence for its boilerplate 25-mile estimated range per charge. That range is going to vary depending on how much you lean into the battery for faster transit times, the terrain, rider weight, and weather, but based on our testing, 25 miles is fairly easily achieved.
The E-Sparrow shows up mostly assembled in a bike box that opens up completely, leaving the bike laying flat in the box on the ground. From there, it is a simple matter of removing a few zip ties without cutting them (if you’re looking to learn a new skill) to get everything out of the box. Assembly of the front tire, installation of the pedals and the like took us only a handful of minutes and we had the bike on the charger, ready to ride.
Pro tip: Always check the tire pressure on a new bike before your first ride.
The Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow is a solid bike that’s a ton of fun to ride and at $1,499, it makes for a great entry level bike for commuters looking for their first e-bike. For riders with very hilly commutes and those looking for more gearing flexibility, it’s might not be the best fit. For riders in urban areas, shorter commutes, and for single-speed enthusiasts, the E-Sparrow just might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Head over to Detroit Bikes to have a look at the full feature set or to order one today.
Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow Electric Bike Specs
- Motor: 250 watt, 36 volt RMG010 Bafang rear hub motor
- Battery: 7.8 Ah, 280.8 Wh, 36 volt battery built with Samsung cells
- Range: 25 mi (40 km)
- Charge Time: 7 hours
- Top Speed: 17 mph (28 kph)
- Frame Material:
- Seat: DDK Super Soft E-Bike saddle
- Tires: WTB Thick Slick black sidewall 700c x 32 tires
- Brakes: Tektro mechanical disc brakes w/160mm rotors
- Included Accessories: Detroit Bikes floor pump
- Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, & Extra Large
- Small frames will best fit riders 4’11” to 5’4”
- Medium frames will best fit riders 5’3 to 5’9
- Large frames will best fit riders 5’8 to 6’1
- X-Large frames will best fit riders 6’0 and up
- Color: Black w/Golden accents
- Weight: 32-36 lb depending on frame size
- Price: $1,499
All images credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica