The Avadar C3-City electric bike is an excellent “drop-in” replacement for a mountain bike-style ride for those looking to get a little more oompf on their trail rides, errand-running, or commutes, as it doesn’t really handle or feel any different than a regular old analog bicycle. However, thanks to its mid-drive electric motor and 16 gearing combinations, the C3-City e-bike lets you ride it like you stole it, but without all the heavy breathing and thigh cramps.
After the last few years of riding a number of high-powered (but heavy) electric bikes, my first impression of the Avadar C3-City was rather lukewarm, just going off of the specs of the bike itself. In fact, I may have been overheard muttering, “The motor is only 250 watts! What the heck is that gonna do for me?” But once assembled and on the trail, I found that my expectations were pleasantly shattered by this e-bike, as it seemed to have more in common with my trusty old (non-electric) mountain bike than it did with my other daily
driver ride, a longtail cargo e-bike — which I love, but which is also kind of a heavy beast to shlep around when it’s not under power.
Disclosure: Avadar provided the C3-City e-bike for the purposes of this review.
At first glance, it’s not very obvious that the C3 is an electric bike, other than perhaps the size of the downtube, where the battery pack is located. It’s got a pretty straightforward hybrid mountain bike style, with standard tires and wheels (27.5″ x 2.1″) instead of the ubiquitous fat tires so prominent on e-bikes these days, a front suspension fork, and a decent gearing range in its Shimano components (2 chainrings up front and 8 cogs on the rear). The C3-City model also came with full fenders on both wheels, as well as a rear rack, and the integrated headlight, which runs off of the bike’s battery, is a nice touch.
Once the C3 is powered on, however, the differences between it and my old Kona mountain bike are immediately apparent, as the mid-drive motor, though rated at only 250 watts (as compared to the 750 watt hub motor on my other e-bike), kicks in seamlessly as you pedal, giving you an invisible boost that is not “pushy” as some rear hub motors can feel. It honestly just felt like I got instantly stronger and had more stamina, even though I knew it was electrons doing the work and not some newly discovered superpower within myself.
It’s worth taking a minute to talk about mid-drive motors versus rear hub motors, as there is a distinct difference. Whereas a rear (or front) hub motor spins the wheel itself, a mid-drive motor spins the crank, which in my opinion gives the rider an advantage in choosing the right gearing for the terrain. One of the learning curves on an e-bike, as opposed to a non-electric bike, is getting comfortable with choosing the appropriate pedal-assist level and gear combination for whatever the trail or road has to offer, and sometimes that’s a delicate dance — too high or too low of a pedal-assist level, and getting rolling, especially up or down a hill, can be tricky, and too high of a gear ratio can make it equally as challenging when navigating hills or tight corners or bumpy sections.
With a mid-drive motor, the weight is better distributed on the bike itself, as both the battery and the motor are at or near the center of the bike, whereas a rear hub motor adds unsprung weight to the rear wheel, and can, in the case of thumb throttle usage, lead to losing traction on sandy or muddy terrain. Plus, changing the tires on a mid-drive e-bike is dead simple, whereas changing a tire on a rear hub motor is a bit more involved, and a rear hub motor takes up a lot of space in the frame, which kind of limits your options for gearing and/or wheels. However, a rear hub motor can be retrofitted into a non-electric bike frame with minimal modifications, whereas a mid-drive motor is not nearly as simple to add onto an existing frame. That being said, both motor options have their pluses and minuses, so it’s really up to the rider and their chosen terrain as to which is best for them.
Because the C3-City weighs quite a bit less than a number of other e-bikes I’ve ridden, I found that I could ride it just like I do with my other mountain bike, which is to say pretty aggressively and always looking for all the little grade changes and bumps that allow me to briefly go airborne, as well as riding hard into the turns and flying down the hills. This aspect of the C3 were pleasantly surprising, and had me reconsider my first impression of the bike, because while I do enjoy riding some of the more powerful electric bikes with big fat tires and a thumb throttle, it’s also a different experience — more akin to riding a motorcycle than pedaling a bicycle — and I know that I’m not alone in this. Die-hard cyclists generally don’t want a motorcycle-like riding experience from a bike, as they tend to like the feel of the trail underneath and sweet feeling of the pedaling cadence, so I believe that this e-bike would be a great “drop-in” replacement for those types of riders.
As far as the other features of the Avadar C3-City, the LCD display/controller offers 5 pedal-assist levels (or no pedal assist, if desired), and shows the current speed, assist level, and mileage, all in an easy-to-read format. The bike also includes both torque and cadence sensors, which is a step above many other entry-level e-bikes with just a cadence sensor, and the motor cuts in and out smoothly, without any of the jerkiness or abruptness that some e-bikes have (which can be surprising or disconcerting to a newbie cyclist, and can be the reason for some e-bike accidents, especially at higher power levels). The aluminum frame is sturdy, with none of the wobble that some of the cheaper and heavier e-bikes can have, and its pretty standard low-rise handlebar is comfortable to ride (assuming you like that style of bar, and not the high-rise city bike or cruiser-style of bars).
Another great aspect of the C3 is that because it is lighter in weight than many new e-bikes (about 57 pounds), it can easily go on a standard rear car rack — and be easily lifted up onto the rack, which cannot be said for heavy e-bikes — and although it is still heavier than an analog bicycle of the same size, toting it up stairs isn’t an issue.
The Avadar C3-City e-bike currently retails for $2180, although the company is currently offering a good discount when ordering two bikes.
-Pedal: Mid-drive Motor 36V/250W
-Derailleur: 6 Speed Front & Gear
-Brake: Hydraulic Disc Brake
-Display: Color LCD, backlit
-Electric Assistance: 5 Levels
-Integrated Lights: Front LED; rear reflector
-Torque: 80 Nm
-Battery: 36V/10Ah, 2500mAh
-Max Speed: 45km/h 28mi./h
-Rim Size: 27.5 inch
-Tire Size: 27.5*2.1 inch
This article is supported by Avadar. All images by Derek Markham / CleanTechnica.
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