Review: Kudos Cycles Tourer Nexus-8 (Summer 2011)
Newcomers this year to the electric bike industry, Kudos Cycles are keen to make waves with their 2011 range. Among their launch offerings is the Tourer, which we reviewed in its £925 hub-geared version. Read the review in full.
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!
Kudos Cycles Tourer Nexus-8 (Summer 2011)
Newcomers this year to the electric bike industry, Kudos Cycles are keen to make waves with their 2011 range. Among their launch offerings is the Tourer, which we reviewed in its £925 hub-geared version.
Kudos Cycles launched earlier this year, and they’ve come to market in a full-hearted fashion, offering a range of 11 bikes. The operation’s parent company, Rally Design, is a successful car parts supplier which has been trading now for 38 years, and is still family-owned and run. Both operations work from a base in Swalecliffe, Kent, where their warehouse was recently extended to accommodate the stock of Kudos bikes and spares. Test rides are available by appointment, and at many events which Kudos attend.
The machines cover a wide range of styles, from cruiser to folder, modern to retro. Kudos operate a comprehensive online shop with every spare part for each model. For all bikes, the warranty covers frame and battery for two years, while controller, charger and all other non-wear parts are covered for one year.
Kudos claim to offer unusual value for money when it comes to specification by buying in bulk and selling direct to consumers and via a select dealer network. If you buy direct, the bike arrives fully checked, with the only assembly required being to re-fit the handlebars.
Our bike is the Tourer, a model which comes in two versions. The ‘Deore-9’ version uses derailleur gearing and costs £845, while the one we tested, the ‘Nexus-8’ version, uses hub gearing and costs £925. Kudos actually sent us both models, and as you’ll see elsewhere in this issue, we’ve taken the opportunity to explore some of the differences between the two drivetrain types. But this review will concentrate on the hub geared version.
Only a single frame size and colour is available, about an 18" frame. Spare batteries (36V, 10Ah) cost a reasonable £208.80. All prices include VAT.
Our review bike arrived direct from Kudos rather less assembled than a customer’s bike would, but after a short spannering session it was ready to go.
» ON THE BIKEThe Tourer is an interesting mix of influences: the alloy frame and the handlebars both show their mountain-bike heritage, while the chaincase, wide saddle and frame lock remind me of a Dutch town bike. Kudos market this bike as ‘designed for long range touring’, which it will do, but it looks more like a commuter bike to me. Either way, it’s smart enough in a bold white colour scheme for the frame, and black or grey for just about everything else.
Kudos have bucked the trend for electric bikes, even the very cheapest, to use suspension forks and seatpost, instead providing relatively lightweight, rigid items for both. To my mind, lack of suspension is in this situation a positive bonus: the cheap units never work well anyway, they introduce play and ‘brake dive’ which makes the handling less precise, and they can sap your energy as you pedal. Plus suspension is heavier and requires more maintenance.
That’s not to knock good (usually more expensive) suspension: it can make a real difference to comfort – but if a bike’s parts budget is tight, then I’d suggest that suspension isn’t a priority. Most electric bikes are used on roads, which may not be perfect but do tend to be essentially flat…
In any case, both tyres and saddle provide a suspension effect on any bike. The Tourer’s saddle is wide and supportive, and the 700c wheels are shod with 40 mm wide Kenda tyres (with welcome reflective sidewalls, which illuminate in the headlights of cars approaching you side-on). There’s masses of clearance in both frame and fork for wider tyres if you did want a little extra comfort.
A nice wide saddle, the frame-mounted lock for the rear wheel and the luggage elastics are all good features.
The handlebars are MTB riser type, supported by a fixed-angle stem, and with round rubber grips which unfortunately (as on several other bikes I’ve reviewed recently) ‘squirm’ under palm pressure, rather than being properly locked onto the bars. The round profile isn’t very comfortable to hold, either – I’d upgrade to ergonomically-shaped ones which support your palms.
For me, a fairly tall rider at 6' 2", the riding position is moderately leaned-forward. An angle-adjustable stem would have been welcome, so that I could have raised the bars up and towards me. One could be added cheaply enough if your taste matches mine. Then again, for longer rides many would prefer to be a little more leaned-over; it’s more aerodynamic and it also tends to make climbing a bit easier.
The major contributor to easy climbing is the motor, a well-proven Bafang unit, fitted into the front wheel. A connector behind the fork joins it to the bike: the cable then joins the other wiring which passes through the frame to the battery and controller which are mounted at the rear rack. The various wires which leave the handlebars (for control console, light switch, brake lever cut-outs) are all tidied using some rather basic-looking heatshrink tubing: one length had already split under the strain. Not the neatest wiring I’ve seen, perhaps.
The battery pack on the other hand is a tidy unit, slotting into the rack via a metal guide rail, and locking into place. Kudos have chosen lithium iron phosphate packs for their bikes, saying that while this type is not at the cutting edge when it comes to capacity per unit weight, it is safer in the event of damage or short circuit, more environmentally friendly and also expected to last longer in use than most lithium-ion or lithium-polymer types. The unit fitted here is a 36V, 10Ah pack. There’s a charging socket and four-level charge display hidden under the fold-out handle, so you can charge on or off the bike. The charger is silent and fairly compact.
The handlebar control unit offers five levels of power assist, and a clear display of speed, distance and battery state. There’s a backlight for night use. The button labelling might be clearer perhaps, but it’s of no matter – you very soon get the hang of using it.
Opposite the display on the bars is the twist grip for the hub gears, a Shimano Nexus 8-speed. The whole chain drive is concealed (and protected from dirt) by a three-part plastic chaincase, which comes apart easily for maintenance or rear wheel removal. Of course the chaincase also completely removes any risk to your trousers from grease marks or getting caught in the chain. More bikes should have them.
Shimano Nexus hub gears are good to see at this price, as is the full protective case around the chain. That finned ring beyond the hub is the cooling disk for the roller brake.
Brakes are in the form of a Shimano roller brake at the back, and V-brakes at the front. The roller brake rear is great – smooth if not overly powerful, and works well in all weathers. The V-brake has a bit more power, but can suffer more in the wet, so it’s not a bad combination.
Also fitted are good mudguards and an excellent stand, which swings out way to the side to provide stable support. There’s good bright LED lighting front and rear, running from the main battery (even if ‘empty’ for motor power) and controlled by the red handlebar-mounted button.
I’ve seen neater routing for the wires and cables. The LED lights are good, though.
Mounted to the frame at the back is a frame lock: very popular overseas, this is a device which lets you lock the back wheel in an instant, with a steel bar passing between the spokes. It’ll immobilise the bike, but not prevent it being carried away. A handy bit of extra security.
Finally, the Kudos comes with a set of black panniers which drape over the battery pack and rear rack, secured there via straps. Not perhaps the most robust, capacious or waterproof panniers ever but hey, they’re free, and will be useful for quick errands. But the main reason they’re included is again for security, to conceal the battery and make the bike less obviously electric to the casual onlooker. Not a bad idea at all.
» ON THE ROADThe Tourer’s electric assist is fairly simple: you choose one of five power levels, then once you’ve pedalled a couple of turns the motor kicks in at that power, propelling the bike until you either squeeze a brake lever or stop pedalling. This does mean that instantaneous, fine control of the power isn’t really possible: changing the power level involves repeated button presses, not easy to do in a hurry.
In practice, though, you swiftly adapt and learn to anticipate the motor power. The Bafang motor gives its usual hum, audible to passers-by if there’s no traffic, but not particularly annoying and very hard to hear over traffic noise.
A Bafang motor, as seen on many an electric bike over the years.
It pulls you up to speed well, and will maintain the pace up modest hills. If the speed does drop below around 12 km/h or 8 mph, though, you can hear it starting to strain and it’s best to help out with some pedalling. I wouldn’t say this is a hillclimb specialist bike, but it does have enough gears to get up almost anything if you can provide moderate pedal input.
The system does favour letting the electrics pull you along, I think, rather than encouraging pedalling. If you want to contribute meaningfully to acceleration you need to actively change gears to keep up. Instead, it’s far easier to stay in a lowish gear for those initial unassisted moments, then just keep your feet moving so that the motor doesn’t cut out, as it drags you up towards 25 km/h. Going much faster (by pedalling) than ‘assist speed’ involves so much extra effort that it’s very easy just to stay just below and let the motor do the work.
Unpowered, I found the bike rode well. It’s when you have no power that you particularly appreciate the lack of excessive suspension: your work’s all going towards motion, not bouncing up and down. Only my hands and wrists suffered at all from bumps, under power or not, and that’s more due to the uncomfortable grips than any lack of suspension.
I did sometimes feel the handling was a little ponderous, and I suspect this may be the result of that fairly heavy battery, placed high up and to the rear. It’s also quite noticeable when wheeling the bike around. Like all such things, you quickly get used to it.
The accessories fitted to the Tourer really do increase the ease of use – especially if, like me, you just tend to ride in ‘normal’ clothes. The chaincase means there’s no need to even tuck in a trouser leg, and the side stand makes it easy to prop the bike up wherever you are.
One minor niggle is that the bulk of the battery makes it a bit difficult to attach certain panniers to the rear rack – there’s not much room behind the rail for the hooks. But it’s hard to be too critical about this when Kudos have provided a set of panniers free with the bike!
» SUMMARYThe Kudos Tourer makes many design choices with which I would agree, going for simplicity over complication. I’d probably make a few changes to the stem and grips to make the riding position more comfortable for my taste, and eventually change the tyres for fatter ones, but nothing’s an urgent upgrade.
Overall it’s well equipped for the money, and some of the details are excellent, such as the backlit display.
That said, it isn’t a silent bike, some of the cosmetics and details aren’t flawless, and it’s not an especially light machine. But at a price of £925, the Tourer is a definite and worthwhile step up from the cheapest bikes around, and its low-maintenance design, complete with full chaincase, rivals bikes considerably more pricey.
It’s good to see a two year battery guarantee, and replacement batteries are also very reasonable as these things go. The availability of a full set of spares online is also a reassuring sign.
Overall the Kudos put in a very solid performance: if you’re looking for a sub-£1000 all-weather, all-year round ride, it should be on your shortlist.
SpecificationWeight overall (inc batteries): 27.7 kg
Battery weight: 4.72 kg
Bike only weight: 22.98 kg
Charger weight: 0.66 kg
(inc. mains cable)
Battery type: Lithium iron phosphate
Battery capacity: 360 Watt hours (10Ah 36V)
Gearing: 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear. 38T ring, 16T sprocket. Ratios 34-104"
Brakes: V-brake front, Shimano roller brake rear
Lighting: front LED, rear LED
Other accessories fitted: full chaincase, frame lock, mudguards, carrier rack, panniers, stand, bell
Price as tested: £925
Available from:Kudos Cycles: Tel 01227 792 792 or see www.kudoscycles.com
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