If you are looking for a decent, affordable, entry-level e-bike, or if you need to be able to carry your electric bike with you in the trunk of your car, or to stash it in the corner of your office or apartment for storage or charging, then a folding e-bike like the Engwe EP-2 Pro might be just the ticket. It’s not as intimidating as some bigger e-bikes can be, and the price point is just about perfect for dipping your toes into the e-bike waters.
Before I get to the actual review of this latest e-bike, I think it’s important to remember that determining if a particular model of bike is a good fit for you is largely dependent on your own personal habits and needs and goals. An e-bike that is perfect for me, a guy living on acreage at the end of a dirt road in the country who works at home, who has a bit of a thirst for speed and thrills, and who almost never loads his bikes into cars or trucks or trailers, but instead just rides right out of his barn, is most likely not going to be perfect for someone else who may live in a big city, or a tiny apartment, or who has to regularly haul their bike upstairs, in a car trunk, or into an office.
The range-per-charge demands are going to be different for someone who commutes 20+ miles each way and someone who lives within five miles of most everywhere they need to go each day or week. The total cargo capacity — in terms of both weight and size — are most likely going to be different for those with children or pets or many home improvement projects than they are for a single person who may be able to run all their errands using just a simple backpack. I won’t belabor the point here, but will encourage any prospective e-bike buyer to look hard and long at how, where, and why they will use it, and to even consider those oddball times that happen once in awhile which might require a very different bike than the one they may have fallen in love with online. ‘Nuff said.
Disclaimer: Engwe provided the EP-2 Pro folding e-bike to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.
Right out of the box, the Engwe EP-2 Pro e-bike is a bit of a different beast than almost any other bikes I’ve put together, partially because it is a folding e-bike, which means that the handlebar stem setup isn’t as straightforward as a standard bike, though it wasn’t particularly difficult. That said, the hardest things about putting the EP-2 Pro together were 1) installing the wheels, which do not have quick-release skewers, but instead are bolt-on wheels (more on this later), and 2) mounting the rear cargo rack, which didn’t quite line up exactly with the holes on the frame and which required a bit of brute strength and another pair of hands to get it installed.
Because I tend to ride mountain bike-style frames with more of a forward-leaning posture and not an upright posture like many city bikes and cruisers have, when I got on the road, which in my case is a dusty bumpy road for the first half-mile or so before I hit pavement, it took a minute for me to feel comfortable riding the EP-2 Pro. Also, with the combination of the relatively taller handlebar stem and smaller frame and the bike’s 20-inch wheels, it was a bit different of a riding experience, although one that I quickly got used to.
The bike’s 750-watt geared hub motor in the rear wheel had plenty of power for getting me up hills and up to speed quickly, with the lowest pedal-assist level being plenty for a guy my size (~120 pounds) on level ground and the highest pedal-assist level being capable of speeds up to about 22 miles per hour. At first I wasn’t so sure about the stability of this bike on bumpy roads and even off-road trails, mostly due to its smaller frame and wheels and such, but after a few excursions off the beaten path, I found that my concerns were unwarranted, as the four-inch fat tires and front suspension fork went a long way toward smoothing out the ride. That said, I’m probably not going to be bombing downhill or catching air or hitting some technical singletrack on this bike anytime soon, but it’s certainly more than capable for most city riding and the occasional well-traveled bike trail.
The EP-2 Pro folding e-bike has a twist-grip throttle on the right side of the handlebar, which I actually prefer over the thumb throttles that many e-bikes have (often on the left side of the handlebar), as I feel it’s a better way to control the bike’s power, but your mileage may vary. The one interesting thing about the throttle on this bike is that it seems to be governed by the pedal-assist level you have selected, so if you are using level 1 pedal-assist, then the throttle only boosts the bike up the speed that level 1 allows, as opposed to the other e-bikes I’ve ridden, where the throttle has the full power range available regardless of the current setting of pedal-assist level. For example, on my RadWagon (which also has a twist-grip throttle), if I crank it all the way toward me, the bike’s motor quickly ramps up to its full power, and if I only crank it a tiny bit, the bike will just creep forward slowly. But on the EP-2 Pro, you need to put the bike in pedal-assist level 5 to get access to all the motor’s power via the throttle, which may not be a big deal to anyone else but me.
The folding feature of this bike allows the EP-2 Pro to be compacted down to about 30″ wide by 32″ tall and about a foot or so across, which means that it can fit into most car trunks — or frunks, as it were — or into a closet or a corner of a room. When comparing this aspect of the Engwe bike to traditional (non-folding) e-bikes, which can take up a lot of space in a room — and which can not fit into a trunk at all, I can now see the use case for folding bikes as I haven’t before. One of the major drawbacks of e-bikes in general is that many of them are heavy — like 60 to 80 pounds heavy, as opposed to half of that or less for a regular old analog bike — and so transporting them via vehicle, whether as a last-mile solution or to a trailhead or bike path far from home, can be a bear. Most consumer bike racks aren’t meant to handle bikes that heavy, and even if they can handle them, lifting the e-bike up onto a rack can be more like powerlifting than just mounting a bike onto a car. And this means that if you own a heavy e-bike and need to be able to haul it by car, you’ll most likely need a heavier duty, hitch-mounted rack, and as my grandad used to say, they ain’t cheap.
All of that is to say that being able to load up an e-bike into a standard trunk (assuming said trunk isn’t already full of
junk stuff) can be extremely handy if you’d like to be able to drive your bike to where you want or need to ride it, regardless of whether or not this type of combined transport is lower carbon or logical or needful. Of course, the other sticky bit about e-bikes — their higher weights — means that even if you have an amazing folding electric bike, you still need to be able to lift its 70-odd pounds fully off the ground and into the trunk without throwing out your back or scratching your car, so take that under consideration before purchasing one.
The bike’s 48V 12.8Ah battery, which slots inside the frame, can be removed for charging or security, and is said to be good for “50+ miles” of electric assist. Just as with EV battery specs and range between charges, it really all depends on your particular situation. A series of steep hills, or a heavier rider, or someone who always rides using mostly the throttle and very little pedaling, will all bring that range down quickly. The integrated headlight and taillight are handy, especially the brake light feature that enables cyclists or drivers behind you to know when you’re slowing down or coming to a stop.
Where the rubber meets the road, the EP-2 Pro’s wheels are different from all the other e-bikes I’ve ridden. They aren’t traditional wire-spoked wheels, but are instead more like motorcycle wheels or BMX-style wheels, in that they are aluminum with 6 rigid “spokes,” so no wheel truing is necessary (or even possible) in the event of an accident. And getting back to the bolt-on nature of the wheels, if perchance you get a flat tire — which used to happen quite a bit to me out here in goathead country until I became a tire liner and tire slime convert — you are going to need to have a wrench with you in addition to a flat repair kit and a pump. But then again, maybe most people don’t know how or care to fix a flat, but instead take it to a bike shop to have it done, which is great for local bike shops, but which could also leave them stranded somewhere and needing a ride home.
As far as the bike’s packaging goes, it came in a much smaller box than many other e-bikes, as its frame and wheels are smaller than a standard bike, but it did include about a bazillion little foam and plastic pieces and zipties to keep it safe during shipping (this is pretty standard practice, in my experience, as these bikes have to travel a long way from factory to doorstep, but the sheer amount of waste is still kind of annoying to me and seems a bit silly to me at a time when we’re finding out that little plastic bits are being found literally everywhere on the planet).
All in all, the Engwe EP-2 Pro could be a good fit as a commuter bike or grocery-getter, especially as it is priced at a very reasonable $1197 (and it looks to be on sale right now for just $929, which is pretty much a steal), and that it can fit where few other e-bikes can.
This article is supported by Engwe. All images by Derek Markham / CleanTechnica.