Introduction

The Evelo Aurora is the second electronic bike I have tried. (See my review of the Vanmoof S2.) Unlike the Vanmoof S2, the Evelo Aurora looks like an e-bike:

The Aurora has a step-through frame and a big obvious battery pack. Since I preordered the bike, I got a discount, and the free carrier bag (shown). However,  the Aurora I received is not quite the Aurora I saw on the Web site, and in the videos. Missing are the studs for a water bottle holder.  And the double kickstand has been replaced by a single one (barely visible). Evelo says that people had problems with the original stand, and that the new one is an upgrade. I also paid to upgrade to the Thudbuster seat post (shown), and added a bell, a rear-view mirror, and a clamp-on water bottle holder on the side of the handlebar extension. The air pump is part of their Commuter Package, and I attached it to the carrier rear riser with zip ties. 

Assembly

The Web site says the Aurora comes "almost fully assembled." This was not the case for my bike, and Evelo is still investigating why this occurred. The front fork, and handlebars were attached to the rest of the bike with zip ties; there must have been 20 of them all told. Evelo has an assembly video, but it assumes that the fork and handlebars are in place. What is worse, both the fork and handlebars are entangled with cables and fluid tubes (for the brakes). It is a real rats nest.

After the fact, Bill Cummings of Evelo mailed me some pictures of the disassembled front headset assembly, which I post here for your edification

PART Numbers

 1    Ball bearings in cage -- this goes in first, with the bearings facing upwards as shown

 2    Dust cover with lip.  Inner lip goes down

 

​ 3    Solid tapered spacer.  Taper (wedge) goes down and will contact the ball bearings

 

​ 4    Split tapered spacer. Taper (wedge) goes down

 

 5   Decorative conical spacer.  Narrow side goes up

 

6–9  Spacers.  You probably only have 3.  Sequence doesn't matter at all.

Parts 1–3 were installed in the headset as shown below. The parts came in the loose cardboard box was inserted into the main carton. It had a hole in it, and I had to fish out the parts out of the main carton. Be careful—I originally ignored part 4 and had to reassemble these parts again. 

I also originally had the cables dressed badly, and had to remove the handlebars again to fix this. Here is how I ended up dressing the cables and tubes:

There is a trick to getting the headbolt in the handlebars tightened properly. You need to press down hard on the handlebars while tightening the top bolt as far as it will go, checking to see that there are no gaps in the head assembly, especially at the bottom. Then, adjust the handlebars to be straight, and tighten the two side bolts. What is very difficult about this process is that without the front fork in place, there is nothing to hold the bike upright and straight. If I were to do this again, I would temporarily install the front wheel so that with the fork in place, you can hold the bike up using the kickstand. The front wheel will not go in place unless you remove a plastic tab from the brake calipers. In the assembly video, it is orange I think. Mine was black. It has a handle like a pop-top ring that you can pull. You will have to remove the wheel to install the front fender. Or get a friendly assistant. 

Riding the Aurora

The Aurora does solve the problems I had with the Vanmoof S2, namely a lack of power and/or gears for steep hills. But it does so at a price—about $1000 and 24 pounds of weight. Wheeling it to my front door required some "horsing" of the rear of the bike to make the sharp turns. But once on the road, this awkwardness disappeared. I have only had a chance to ride 5.5 miles today before the deluge started, so these are very preliminary observations. I will update this post as I learn more.

The control panel is very obvious in its use, and easy to see on this cloudy day. I only tried the automatic shifting mode, but it offered seamless performance, unlike the clunky Vanmoof. When I reached 20 mph (the speed limit I set to avoid needing a license), there was a noticeable clunk as the power assist stopped. But I was able to pedal up all the hills I encountered easily enough. That is a big plus.

The handlebar grips are painful. The diamond rubber hatching digs into your hands. Luckily I had riding gloves with gel pads.

More when the weather clears . . .

I have had a chance to ride a 20- and 14-mile trip in nice weather, together with some shorter trips. 20 miles is the hurt point for my hips. The 14-mile trip is shown below:

The numbers show the progression of my trip
The red numbers are the assist levels I used (approximately) at different parts of my trip.

Along the river, I tried riding with 0 assist since it is flat. A nice feature of the Aurora is that even with the assist off, the automatic (or manual) CVT transmission is still on and usable. So you can ride the Aurora much as a regular unpowered bike that uses a derailleur. However, in manual mode, the calibration is very strange: anything above the third bar seems like an incredibly low gear. I could not pedal fast enough to apply power to the bike. Unpowered, and on flat ground, I generally rode at about 14 mph. With assist level 1, this was more like 19 mph, or even the limited 20.5 mph. But it was a very windy day, and i definitely needed an assist as noted on the map. 

The assist control is very sensitive, and I often jumped up or down by 2 levels instead of one. Practice makes perfect, I guess. If you accidentally downshift to 0, it feels like the bike has suddenly hit a patch of molasses. But in general, the CVT transmission worked flawlessly when I left it in assist level 1, and also when I goosed it up to go up a steeper hill. After I left my street, I turned up the adjacent street (Crestview) which is a steep, long uphill. As I proceeded, the hill got steeper, and I added more assist until I got up to level 4 near the top. This one street took 10% of the battery! I have not yet decided whether it is better to change the assist level, or to push down the power lever while going up hills.

For me, if I avoided the big hill, I got about 25 miles on a battery charge. Your mileage may vary. The hills here eat battery, even when they are not too steep. My battery only seems to charge to 98%. Also, despite the warnings in the manual, don't unplug the charger from the bike once it is charged. Overnight, it lost about 10% of its charge when I unplugged it the evening before. Finally, as you ride, the battery % jumps down 2-4% rather than descending one% at a time. There is a USB charging port on the bottom of the control/display unit, a handy feature if your cell phone runs out of juice.

A nice feature of the propulsion system is that you can press down the left lever to get up to speed very quickly when you start. However, I still have not mastered this process. If I stand with a foot on each side of the bike, I cannot sit on the saddle. If I start with the left pedal halfway up, the right pedal hits me in the right shin. I think that the best method for starting the bike at a light is to dismount on one side (left for me) of the bike, put the left foot on the pedal at its lowest point, and let the motor coast the bike while you swing the other foot through the frame to the right side. I am still perfecting this skill.

The motor system is very quiet—a swishy sound at most. The Vanmoof made a lot of noise compared to the Evelo.

Riding the Aurora with the power assist at level 1 makes the bike feel alive. It is a very invigorating experience. Everything becomes easier to do (except sharp turns). The bike likes to go at about 19 mph on level ground. Even if you stop pedaling, the motor is still working. You will not maintain your speed (at least at level 1), but the slowdown time is much longer than on a conventional bike.

As you can see by comparing this handlebar image to the one at the top of the page, I changed the rear-view mirror. The top one seemed like a good deal, but the mirror is flat, and gives a tiny view of the world. It also moves position when jarred by a bump. The new one is convex, and positions itself high enough so that I see more than just my left hand. Furthermore, my bike path is undermined by tree roots which make riding very bumpy, and this mirror did not move at all, despite a bumpy ride.

Tree roots cause the bike path to get rough and bumpy—a great reason for shocks in the fork, and the Thudbuster seat post.

It is also imperative that the rear-view mirror does not change position due to the bump. The second mirror I bought has a rubber insert under the mount clamp and never budges.

And note the water bottle holder I mounted to the stem. There is no room left on the handlebars, and this location makes it very easy to grab and to replace the bottle. I had to use a zip tie to prevent the bottle holder from flipping over. Finally, because my neck is fused, which prevents me from looking up, I used all 3 stem extenders to get a nice upright riding position. I get a lot of air resistance, but I can see, and the motor keeps me going at a good speed.  The speed-generated wind cools me off, even when it is hot and humid out.

I really like the fluid-assist brakes. They are easy to use, even with just one or two fingers, and stops are quite smooth.

However, I have issues with the pedals. If the bottoms of your shoes are wet when you mount the bike, there is NO grip between the shoes and pedals at all. Several times, both feet slipped off the pedals. This is a safety issue. I may go back to using toe clips if there is a way to remove a reflector from each pedal to attach them. I replaced the pedals with a set of mountain bike ones that have metal studs, and a wider footprint.

In addition, these pedals have studs near the center spindle. I now have a much better grip between foot and pedal, and can now exert pressure forwards and backwards as well as just up and down.

Conclusion

I really like my Evelo Aurora, and I think you will like it too. Contact me for a discount code.


Updates

I took a really bad fall at low speed trying to turn on a thin layer of gravel sprayed out over asphalt by passing cars. Do not turn on gravel! The Aurora was undamaged, but I fell on top of a handlebar and did a number on my chest. I have recovered. It was really nice to have the bike do all the work going home.

You can reset the gearing in the rear hub by holding down the auto/manual switch for 7 seconds while the rear wheel is moving. I tried it twice, but it made no difference. The manual speeds are all much too low except when set at the bottom 2 bars, or when going uphill.

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