China is the uncontested e-bike capital of the world. And whereas the nation is dwelling to plenty of cheap $200 e-bikes, you could be shocked to be taught concerning the premium-level electric bicycles which might be designed and constructed for worldwide export. And also you’ll be much more shocked by the costs, which might are available in at lower than half of European-made e-bikes of comparable quality and spec-sheets.
I used to be lucky sufficient to be invited to participate in a week-long tour of FREY Bike’s manufacturing unit in Jinhua, China.
There I received the possibility to find out how these high-end e-bikes are designed and constructed. After which I received an opportunity to experience a couple of completely different FREY e-bikes in all places from metropolis streets to carved out mountainside trails and even in a well-known downhill e-bike park sometimes called China’s Whistler.
However let’s not get forward of ourselves. Earlier than you may have a blast on a well-made e-bike, you must begin with the fitting design.
And design is one thing that FREY prides itself on.
FREY video tour
Take a look at my video under to see your entire course of of manufacturing a FREY e-bike. Then learn on for all the small print.
The Jinhua-based firm isn’t very outdated, having been based simply three years in the past by husband and spouse staff Xing Xiong Xing and Ivy Wang.
Xing is the design whiz, whereas Ivy brings the enterprise chops to the staff along with her previous expertise working in electrical bicycle firms.
Considered one of FREY’s key differentiators is their suspension design, upon which they maintain a number of patents. Entrance suspension is straightforward, you simply slap a suspension fork on a motorbike. However correct rear suspension is hard. Small modifications within the geometry and linkage have massive results on the dynamics of the suspension efficiency. How a lot does it squat? How rapidly? How do the drive and displacement change over time?
All of those questions and extra have to be thought of on the design stage, which one of many causes that the efficiency of well-designed e-bikes is so drastically completely different from low cost copies. And FREY prides itself on its originality.
Now take note right here that FREY isn’t a big firm by Chinese language e-bike business requirements. The corporate produces between 1,000 to 1,500 e-bikes per yr or solely about 30 bikes per week. The corporate is rising rapidly and has sufficient capability in its manufacturing unit to provide as much as round 5,000 e-bikes per yr. However they by no means supposed to change into a large, cookie-cutter e-bike firm. As a substitute, they’ve targeted on constructing high-performance e-bikes with top-shelf components.
Till the corporate can develop a bit larger although, step one of precise manufacturing takes place exterior of the manufacturing unit. The body and swingarms of the corporate’s half a dozen or so e-bike fashions are produced offsite by a bigger firm, although FREY performs in depth high quality checks to make sure the body is produced to their excessive requirements. From there, every thing else occurs in FREY’s manufacturing unit.
I had the pleasure of watching FREY’s staff constructing bikes on the manufacturing unit. I name them a staff as an alternative of simply manufacturing unit employees as a result of that’s what they’re. These aren’t simply shift employees. They’re precise mountain bike fanatics. They usually don’t simply construct the bikes – they experience them too.
They have been our tour guides as we bombed hills, blazed trails, and climbed stairs on FREY’s complete mannequin line of e-bikes all through the week. However alas, I’m getting forward of myself once more.
These guys hand assemble the bikes three or 4 at a time. A lot of the firm’s bikes are primarily based across the huge 1,500 W peak Bafang Ultra mid-drive motor, although the corporate additionally builds e-bikes with the marginally extra affordable M600 mid-drive motor, which places out nearer to 1,000 W of peak energy. However if you’d like the perfect of the perfect, go for the Extremely motor. FREY doesn’t actually publish high speeds for his or her bikes, however I’ll allow you to in on a bit of secret: I hit 59 km/h (36.7 mph) on flat floor on one among their Bafang Extremely-powered e-bikes.
After the motors go in, the bikes get the remainder of their element load-out. From right here, it’s all high-end elements. We’re speaking RockShox suspension, Magura MT5 hydraulic disc brakes with 203 mm rotors, Neco headsets, Italian saddles, Maxxis tires, Shimano SL groupset… the listing goes on. Principally, these are all high-end mountain bike elements that FREY places on its electrical bikes.
FREY’s line of e-bikes principally fall within the vary of $3,000 to $3,800, relying simply how loopy you need to along with your element alternative or battery rely. And these bikes can compete with the perfect of the European electrical mountain bikes that price over twice as a lot.
I do know this as a result of I rode them on some loopy terrain throughout China. We hit the slopes at Courageous Peak Bike Park (usually referred to as “China’s Whistler”). Whereas I used to be completely happy getting inches of air, I watched a few of my using companions getting toes of air. It was like watching ballet as they soared by means of the air, making the heavy e-bikes look weightless. Over the following few days, we then continued on to trails all through Jinhua, China.
We rode previous temples carved into mountainsides the place the monks smiled and waved as we glided by. We rode by means of locations the place the paths appeared to finish and we wound up simply using by means of dusty village alleys and down outdated, stone-carved stairs and easily traversed something that received between us and the cardinal route we have been headed.
We didn’t simply experience down stairs, Kevin demonstrates using again up them too!
We rode highways, and we rode switchbacks, and we rode overlooks.
Principally we rode every thing.
We even by accident popped out of a forest close to a Chinese language army base on a mountain high and spent a tense couple of minutes deleting GoPro footage on the route of a soldier on patrol (don’t fear, we nonetheless had tons extra as you may see within the video on the high of this text).
Principally, we rode in all places and did every thing – issues I by no means would have thought I may do on an e-bike. One of many issues that amazed me essentially the most was how properly I may experience up and down stairs. I’d by no means ridden stairs earlier than in my life. I had all the time thought that was one thing higher left to the skilled stunt riders. Because it seems all it takes is 2 issues. A motorbike with high-quality suspension and a little bit of confidence. And happily for me, the previous was conducive to the latter. I began small with units of three steps. Then instantly I used to be doing 5 steps. An hour later I used to be using down units of 20 steps carved right into a mountainside. I couldn’t consider it! I used to be performing feats on a bicycle that I couldn’t have dreamed of only a week prior.
However alas, practically as rapidly because it had began, my week-long go to to FREY had ended. I mentioned my unhappy goodbyes, each to the buddies I had made and to the bikes I had ridden. And ever since coming dwelling, I’ve had an itch for a motorbike just like the FREY fashions I rode. I’ve been on some really fun e-bikes since, however nothing has fairly touched that have. Not but.
In truth, I’m critically contemplating getting my very own FREY bike to fill the full-suspension top quality electrical bike-shaped void I now have in my life. Which brings me to the final attention-grabbing twist on this saga. Small firms like FREY have discovered it considerably troublesome to succeed in a global viewers, regardless of how superior their e-bikes are.
FREY truly has a couple of country-specific sellers within the UK and Switzerland, in addition to others probably coming aboard (with every one thus far being a contented FREY buyer that in the end noticed an opportunity to assist unfold these bikes into their dwelling nation). However by and enormous, FREY has been utilizing Alibaba to promote their bikes internationally, which is the place FREY’s website will direct you in case you resolve to order. Whereas Alibaba is a staple of life within the East, it’s not a quite common buying platform within the West. And it additionally implies that transport generally is a bit pricy when sending a single bike by airmail to an deal with midway all over the world.
To assist resolve this, FREY is rapidly working to broaden its native sellers in addition to organizing group buys. For instance, the corporate currently has a group buy open for the US, the place Individuals can order bikes that may all be despatched as a bunch in a sea container. From there the bikes might be forwarded to every US buyer’s deal with. It takes longer as a result of sea transport however can minimize an $800 transportation charge right down to round $300, which seems to be round a 15% low cost on your entire order.
As FREY expands, anticipate finding extra native choices. Till then, you’ll be a part of a rising neighborhood of followers eagerly awaiting their very own FREY field to reach at their door.
If you wish to be taught extra about a couple of of FREY’s particular fashions, keep tuned to Electrek. I’ll be again with a couple of extra movies displaying extra in-depth evaluations of particular fashions.
And lastly, an enormous because of FREY Bike for inviting me out to China, displaying me your manufacturing unit, and letting me spend every week making an attempt to interrupt your bikes and my physique. By some means I managed to interrupt neither.
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