Review: Powabyke X-24 (Summer 2011)
The X-24 is the latest £999 flagship model from Powabyke, a long-established and best-selling brand since the very start of the recent electric bike renaissance. So how does their top model measure up? Read the full review.
Posted by Peter Eland on Thursday 6 Oct 2011
This review appeared in Electric Bike magazine Issue 3. Click the viewer below to read the review with the original print layout - or scroll down for the full text and images online!
The X-24 is the latest £999 flagship model from Powabyke, a long-established and best-selling brand since the very start of the recent electric bike renaissance. So how does their top model measure up?
Powabyke can justifiably claim to be among the pioneers of modern electric bikes in the UK, with their first machines sold back in 1999. Since then they have sold tens of thousands through an extensive dealer network, and they now also have distributors in the USA, the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden.
Specialising in affordable machines with popular appeal, Powabyke doubtless owe much of their enduring success to a fine track record in supporting their bikes even several years after purchase. An online parts shop (for both consumers and dealers) provides instant access to spares and upgrades to fit machines going back many years.
Their range was revamped in 2010 with the launch of the ‘X-Bike’ concept. As you’ll see when we examine the X-24, the key idea behind the X-bike is to use small, handy battery packs rather than one huge one – so it’s easy to carry a spare if necessary. For shorter trips, you’re not carrying extra battery weight around unnecessarily, and of course you only pay for extended capacity (in the form of an extra battery) if you need it. The other concept embodied in the X-bikes, say Powabyke, is modularity. The various electronic components are all plugged into each other, so if any part were to fail then it can be quickly and easily swapped out.
The current Powabyke range consists of the X-24 as tested here (RRP £999), along with crossbar and step-through framed versions of the X-6 (£899, with six-speed gearing). All come in two frame sizes. There’s also the Powatryke Cruiser (from £1024), a three-wheeler with a low step-through frame which is a popular option to provide independent mobility for the less agile, or for anyone with balance difficulties.
Spare batteries for the X-24 cost £299 (36V, 6Ah) and a spare charger is £89. The standard warranty is for five years on the frame and one year on all other parts including the battery, excluding wear items. A three-year ‘total cover’ extended warranty is available for £99.
Our review bike was delivered direct from Powabyke, so we handled the pre-delivery assembly and checks which would normally be done by your dealer. Our machine was the smaller (18") frame size.
» ON THE BIKEIf you like your bikes shiny, then the X-24 won’t disappoint! The mirror-finished alloy frame looks reassuringly substantial, with oversized tubing and the tidy, scalloped joints typical of TIG-welding. It’s complemented by silver components throughout, with the odd bit of black for contrast.
The electrical system is fitted around what is essentially a standard bike frame, so the X-24 retains very much ‘normal bike’ looks and geometry.
The X-24’s electrical system is built onto an essentially standard bike frame, giving the machine ‘normal bike’ proportions and looks.
The motor is in the front wheel, the lithium-ion battery pack is attached to the frame where you might often find a water bottle, and the control electronics are tucked away in front of the rear rack.
The battery is a tidy little thing in its alloy case. It attaches to the bike via a neat alloy mounting, and it’s wedge-locked in place by an unobtrusive Allen-key grub screw – Powabyke provide a suitable ‘key’ for your keyring. Arguably not as secure as a full locking system, but you’d be unlucky indeed to come across a thief targeting batteries.
The 1.79 kg battery is fitted where a water bottle might otherwise go; it’s secured and released via the red-handled Allen key shown above.
The control box is perhaps less of a thing of beauty than the battery: its alloy shell is secured to the carrier rack stays via a simple metal plate and two screws, which on ours resulted in it being noticeably off-centre. The clamp screws also pull the aluminium case out of flat, so there’s a distinct gap between the end plates and the case edges. It’s of no real consequence – hard to see how much water could get in – but surely a more elegant solution is possible without excessive cost.
The components are all joined together by wires fitted with heavy-duty XLR connectors, the only exception being the motor wiring which employs a two-part waterproof connector. On ours, I noticed the insulation on the wire from the controller had split where it entered this connector, which might compromise its waterproofing – but we had no problems even after riding in the wet.
All the cables run outside the frame tubes for easy access, so if any part needed replacing, you’d just snip a few cable ties to remove it before plugging in a new one.
As its name suggests the X-24 has a 24-speed derailleur transmission. Gear changers and handlebar-mounted ‘trigger’ shifters are from Shimano’s mid-range Alivio groupset, a good quality set. The crankset has non-replaceable chainrings and a plastic guard ring.
The V-brakes are likewise Shimano-branded with Alivio levers, and they work against deep-section alloy rims, built with stainless steel spokes into the 700c wheels. Spoke tension was minimal on the front wheel on our bike, but that’s the sort of thing that a dealer would pick up and fix before delivery. The back wheel was well-built.
The two-legged alloy stand and the substantial rear rack are both solid and welcome accessories, as are the fitted mudguards – the front one could be a bit longer perhaps, to prevent muck being thrown onto the chainrings. No lighting system is fitted.
A wide, soft saddle is fitted on top of a short-travel suspension seatpost. A minor niggle is that the box for the control electronics gets in the way when you open the quick-release to adjust the saddle, making it tricky to undo far enough. The seatpost is also a rather loose fit in the frame, although it’s perfectly secure once the quick-release is tightened.
Like the suspension seatpost, the suspension forks are unbranded and have quite short travel – maybe 40mm or so, which is fine for road use. There’s no adjustment to match rider weight.
Finally, the handlebars. They’re supported on an angle-adjustable stem which puts them high enough to achieve a comfortably upright riding position. The combination of riser bars and ergonomically-shaped grips make for a comfortable ‘cockpit’, although the grips rely on friction to secure them to the bars – so they gradually twist away under palm pressure. ‘Lock-on’ types with a clamp would be better. The twist-grip throttle is activated by your right hand.
Adjustable stem and ergonomic grips are both welcome features.
The X-24 comes with a compact, silent charger which is light enough to take with you. It plugs straight into the battery pack, either on or off the bike. On the bike this would be easier were the pack a little further up the frame: it’s a tight squeeze to get the plugs in and out against the downtube. It would also be good if the XLR socket on the battery were the other way up, so that you can see and more easily press the little tab which releases the plugs.
» ON THE ROADThe X-24 has a throttle to control the motor, and it’s activated after a couple of pedal strokes. The key switch on the controller (it’s a captive key by the way, so no putting it on your keyring…) has two ‘on’ settings: in the first the motor cuts out after a moment if you stop pedalling (assuming you keep the throttle twisted). In the second, the throttle keeps working even if you stop pedalling, so you are pulled along without the need to pedal.
Braking doesn’t cut the motor, incidentally. What does is taking your hand off the throttle to indicate right! Once the motor has stopped, in either mode you’ll need a few more pedal strokes to start it up again.
The motor response is certainly powerful, whisking you up to speed swiftly. There’s a whine from the motor which is clearly audible but not excessive, changing note as you go through the speed range. The motor’s speed is quite easy to modulate using the throttle, so you don’t have to charge around at top speed all of the time (unless you want to!).
Talking of top speed, our X-24 had rather a high one. On the flat and under electrical power alone, no tailwind, the motor didn’t cut out until almost exactly 30 km/h – whereas the UK’s legal limit is 25 km/h (15 mph). I measured it several times to be sure. Powabyke looked into this and found that our review bike was set up for the USA market; UK retail ones all have the correct 25 km/h limit, they say.
The motor is also impressive on hills: the sound deepens a bit as it works harder, but it pulls along well as long as you keep the speed up. The 24 gears are probably overkill for all but really hilly terrain, where they’ll be particularly good on hill starts, but for flatter areas, the cheaper 6-speed option should be more than enough. As with many electric bikes, I found you actually use relatively few gears in normal use – a lowish one for starting off and a higher one for cruising near the cut-out speed.
The trigger to shift the rear gears is somewhat awkwardly placed, well inboard of the throttle grip, so even with my big hands it was a bit of a stretch to the levers. But as above, the gears weren’t really an issue on my mainly flat commute.
My journey to work is five miles each way, just the sort of trip the X-bikes are made for (and realistically, aside from real cycling enthusiasts, few will commute more than five miles or so by bike). Even though I’m a heavy rider, the X-24 would comfortably manage a one-way trip relying mostly on battery power. But it would then need a charge before the return trip: attempting a ten-mile stretch on one charge was touch and go to have any power left at the end.
Lighter riders and those who put in more pedal effort will get better results, of course. But even for a modest commute, it does mean carrying the charger with you and being punctilious about setting the battery on charge after each ride – it’s good practice to do that with all lithium batteries, anyway.
Unassisted, the X-24 was fine to ride for get-me-home purposes, and in this state the gear range did receive a bit more of a workout than when under power. The brakes were fine.
As is often the case, I wasn’t convinced how much difference the suspension forks and seatpost really made to the ride quality, but the comfy saddle certainly made a major contribution.
» SUMMARYThe Powabyke X-24 was an interesting machine to review. It’s a straightforward throttle-type machine in many ways, with a powerful (but not especially quiet) motor and a rare-nowadays no-pedalling mode. I also very much like the modular design, so that parts (easily available via Powabyke’s online shop) can simply be swapped out if necessary, even by a non-technical user.
I did pick up on a number of design/build niggles. Powabyke do say that this, the excess speed and other issues I mentioned will be checked and/or fixed in future bikes, and to be fair none of them really make all that much difference to the usability of the bike.
At £999, the X-24 comes in under the £1000 limit for the ‘Bike to Work’ incentive scheme for UK taxpaying employees, and if your journeys are generally short, it’s a machine which will pull you along with some power, pedalling or not, and it’s also reasonably lightweight to lift, and normal-looking to boot. There are bikes in the same price-bracket with more range, certainly, but they may not have the X-24’s other qualities. As ever, which approach is best for you is simply a question of where your priorities lie.
If you’re not as mechanically picky as I am, then I doubt you’ll notice the niggles: the X-24 will do the job, and the backup of a company which has sold perhaps more (in the region of 40,000, I’m told) electric bikes than any other in the UK has to be a reassuring encouragement to give it a try.
SpecificationWeight overall (inc batteries): 22.09 kg
Battery weight: 1.79 kg
Bike only weight: 20.3 kg
Charger weight: 0.38 kg
(inc. mains cable)
Battery type: Li-Ion
Battery capacity: 216 Watt hours (6Ah 36V)
Gearing: 24-speed Shimano Alivio derailleur gears. 28/38/48 T rings, 11-32T sprockets. Ratios 24-120"
Brakes: Shimano Alivio V-brakes
Other accessories fitted: mudguards, carrier rack, stand, bell.
Price as tested: £999
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