The electric bike is hardly prominent in looks. those chunky battery packs have got to go somewhereEventually, and manufacturers usually just bolt them on wherever it fits. Not so with the Honbike Uni4: Its lithium cells are completely stolen inside its curvy tubular frame, rocking an attractively asymmetric form.
This urban commuter is designed to be as maintenance-free as possible, with no gears, integrated lights, and a hub that swaps out the sleek chain drive for an entirely cleaner belt drive. This is the way that put the Vanmoof S3 on top of our best electric bike list For what seems like eons. The Honbike omits some of the features seen on its competitor – but is a little easier on your wallet as a result. Does this make it an ideal ebike?
Design and Setup: Fully Tubular
While the matte black Uni4 looks like something Batman would ride, the glossy white version we were sent to test is more Apple-esque than stealth bomber chic. With minimal branding, internal brake cables and distinctive six-spoke magnesium wheels, it’s quite the head-turner – and that’s before you look at the three tube frame. It’s offset asymmetrically to make plenty of room inside for the battery, but you can’t tell once you’re on board – it all feels perfectly balanced.
The frame is made from aluminum (aircraft-grade, according to Honbike), with curves being the order of the day. There’s barely a 90-degree viewing angle, and no sharp edges anywhere. At 20kg it’s no featherweight, but still a lot lighter than conventional electric bikes Momentum Transcend E+, so we were able to carry it up a set of stairs without too much strain. The kickstand also has no trouble keeping it securely in place.
The flat handlebar is the first major clue this is a bike built primarily for commuting. The bar and stem are a single part, with a built-in LCD display in the center and a headlight up front. There are also buttons and a bell (mechanical, not electric) on the left and a thumb throttle on the right. Other notable inclusions are front and rear mudguards and an integrated kickstand.
The bike mostly comes complete; We simply had to fit the front wheel, screw in the pedals and attach the front mud guard using the supplied hex key and nut wrench. You’ll also need to adjust the seat based on your height, which takes a few minutes of work. We quickly realized that we had mounted the mud guard backwards, after a wet ride the frame had splintered a lot more than we expected. The instruction manual could have been clearer here.
Features and Battery: Fold and Go
Hold down the power button with your left thumb and the LCD display comes to life. It’s a simple affair, with a speedo front and center (in your choice of mph or kph), a battery indicator and Bluetooth connectivity, assisted walking mode, and icons to show whether the headlights are on. A rear light can be fitted as standard, but is battery operated and has to be turned on manually.
The green, blue, and red icons represent the Eco, City, and Sport power modes, each of which lets out a bit more juice. Plus and minus buttons on the handlebar controls make it quick and easy to swap between them. A built-in gyroscope also knows how to deliver a little extra oomph when tackling hills, even if you don’t change modes, and there’s an option to ride with pure pedal power if you prefer. This leaves the display on and means you can continue to use the headlights.
Ebike rules they have in Europe, it is unusual that one is sold here with a throttle. Honbike has used a lever design that you depress with your right thumb. US-based Uni4s can hit 20mph without pedaling, but here it will max out at 3.7mph. However, it’s still useful for drawing a traffic light with a minimum of effort.
Built-in Bluetooth means you can connect the bike to Honbike’s smartphone companion app, which can record rides using your phone’s GPS and get a good idea of how many calories you’ve burned, even with the power assist may indicate. Even exporting to third-party services like Strava is a cinch. There’s no generic Bluetooth ANT+ support here, though, which means the different bike computers aren’t compatible.
Honbike promises a maximum range of 62 miles from the battery, depending on which power mode you use. We clocked closer to 40 with a mix of City and Sport modes, which isn’t a huge distance – but it means it’ll manage the typical UK commute, in either direction, without the need to plug in between legs.
The one downside to a fully integrated battery is that you’ll need to get the whole bike close to a plug socket when it’s time to charge; Other ebikes let you detach that battery and just put it in instead. A full charge takes just over four hours, so when the cable was of sufficient length so we could hang it outside a window, we felt safe bringing the bike indoors for the duration.
Ride and Performance: A comfortable ride
Out on the road, the Uni4 delivers its power smoothly and efficiently, allowing you to get up to speed quickly. Electric assist is limited to the UK standard 15 mph, anything above that depends on your leg muscles (or downhill gradients). When really pushing we were going about 21 mph, so you weren’t easily chasing down professional athletes, but the hills were suitably flattened and the stop-start traffic Light was a breeze.
The Uni4’s disc brakes had effective stopping power in a mix of conditions and on a wide variety of surfaces. The chunky tires are just as at home on gravel tracks as they are on tarmac roads, and work well with the magnesium wheels to absorb shock. It doesn’t have suspension, but we didn’t feel the need for it. This is thanks to the seat, which is fully padded for medium-distance travel, and the palm-friendly handlebar grips that suit an upright riding style.
Those wheels don’t require spoke tension adjustments, and the Gates carbon drive belt system is as low-maintenance as it gets, with service intervals of 11,000km. Most of the consumable parts are user friendly, with Honbike being able to provide replacements for everything. Just hose it down from time to time, pump up the tires and you’re ready to go.
Honebike Uni4 Verdict
With sleek looks, attractive integrated display and enough range even for extreme commuting, the Honorbike Uni4 is a great ebike. It’s comfortable to ride for hours at a time, and significantly lighter than many rivals. It is priced lower than similarly stylish bikes, yet doesn’t skimp on the features, and also keeps the maintenance to a minimum.
The internal battery lets you stay incognito instead of announcing to the world you’re being assisted by electrons. This means it’s a poor choice for flat and apartment dwellers, and the fixed gearing limits its touring appeal for anyone looking for a true do-it-all bike with a peloton -With is able to work and bring them back.
If your leisure riding rarely goes beyond the Uni4’s maximum range in a single session, though, it’s an otherwise superb all-rounder.
Honbike Uni4 Technical Specifications
|top speed (assisted)||15 mph|
|range (assisted)||100 km (max)|
|charge time||4.5 hours|
|shifter||N/A (Fixed Gear)|
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