Not everyone can afford a premium electric bike, which prices typically start at $ 2,000. But what if you could spend half of that and still grab a good-quality e-bike that is suitable for long city commutes and flexible enough to toss in the trunk of your car, roll on a train, or Walkup home to your fifth floor? That's what I was hoping for with the latest folding e-bike from the Chinese brand Fiido, which has recently been available directly on the European and North American markets.
The Fiido D11 fulfills all requirements: It is available for only $ 999.99, has a range of up to 100 km and can be folded into a tiny transportable package. It looks good too.
But is it good?
- Good value for money
- Throttle with cruise control
- Good range of high-capacity batteries
- Folds quickly and compactly
- Build quality and after-sales support are an issue
- Battery can be a collision risk for shorter riders
- Battery / seat can be stolen easily
- Weak engine, also by European standards
Before the D11, Fiido motorcycles were hard to come by outside of China. However, the company recently set up international operations so buyers don't have to pay expensive import duties that could easily add up to a few hundred dollars at Fiido's cheap e-bike prices. It should also help get parts to Fiido motorcycles in Europe and North America faster when they need servicing … and they will likely be based on my tests (more on that later).
Unpacking an e-bike straight to the consumer, which can only be seen on the two-dimensional pages of Indiegogo, sets the mood for everything that comes after that. The Fiido experience started well enough: I was surprised how small the D11 box was when it was delivered. It's especially small compared to the full size e-bikes I usually get. Opening it, however, revealed a box full of haphazardly wrapped foams and other polluting materials that immediately clouded my already tempered expectations.
The unboxing experience was certainly well below the horizontal bar set by VanMoof … normally, but the D11 also costs half as much.
Freed from the styrofoam shackles and a dozen or so zip ties, I was instantly amazed at how to lift the stem. The English installation instructions are poor at best, and if you followed them one by one, a brake cable would have broken. Fortunately, I noticed that the handlebars had rotated along the way (or while packing), causing tension on the brake line. By rolling back with a push on the quick release, the line became so slack that the handlebars could be lifted smoothly. Next, I attached the pedals and tightened everything up. Then I charged the battery.
What's new about the D11 design is the huge seat post that houses a fairly hefty 418 Wh (36V, 11.6A) battery for such a small bike with 20-inch wheels. The battery charges from zero to full in a slow seven hours. The Cowboy 3, which costs more than twice as much as the D11, is equipped with a slightly smaller 360 Wh battery that charges in just 3.5 hours. The speed difference is likely explained by Cowboys' use of more advanced 21700 lithium-ion battery cells, which pack more energy in less space but also cost more.
The battery / seat post can be used at an unsafe depth.
This long battery creates a very long seat post that can accommodate the D11 for a variety of rider heights. But no. The battery is marked with numbered graduations so that you can insert it to the same depth each time. If you keep the maximum and minimum insertion characters in mind, the Fiido D11 is only for tall drivers – something the company doesn't mention. I'm 183 cm tall and when the seat is on the lowest step I can barely touch the floor with both toes. In my opinion (I could be wrong!) It will safely lower another four centimeters (1.5 inches) before the battery protrudes from the protective frame, which is a potential impact hazard. I tested the seat post at this depth because it was just right for my size. In other words, the D11 isn't really suitable for anyone under six feet. (Fiido doesn't list a minimum / maximum rider height for the D11 – there is only a vague range of saddle height from 80cm to 110cm. For what it's worth, my saddle height is 98cm from the ground.)
The battery / seat design allows the D11 to fold nicely and compactly as the frame allows it to slide almost to the floor instead of sticking out like a flagpole. Other, more expensive folding bikes allow you to carry the battery separately when folded or require a few extra steps to reposition and secure the seat post to meet minimum volume requirements.
There is also no easy way to lock the battery / seat, even with an external bike lock. That said, you either take it with you when you park in front of a shop or coffee shop, or you run the risk of someone opening the quick release latch and stealing the battery / seat which would be an embarrassing and costly drive home.
After inserting the battery, you still need to connect the little pigtail cable that hangs from the bike to the battery on the top of the post just below the power switch and integrated tail light. Now the bike is ready.
The pigtail cable must be connected to the battery in order to provide power to the bike.
Lots of exposed cables hang.
The bike falls in a small package.
The steering is quick and not nervous.
Assembled, the blue D11 looks pretty good. Sure, it's not an icon like the $ 3,499 Brompton Electric, but its folding mechanism is superior. It's not as sleek or innovative as a GoCycle, but you can equip a family of five with Fiido D11 e-bikes for the price of just one GoCycle GXi.
Briefly pressing the power button brings the D11 to life. However, the 250 W motor is only ready to assist your pedal strokes when you click and hold the top left button on the display.
I all smiled on my first ride – it went better than I expected. Yes, the D11 is limited to only 25 km / h, but that's fine as this bike is made for European city commuters. In contrast to the Fiido D4, the D11 speed limit cannot be bypassed with a cheat code. Fiido is clearly hoping that the introduction of its first international bike will not get involved with regulators.
The D11 offers three pedal assist modes as well as a throttle that doesn't require any pedaling at all. Pedal Assist Mode 3 (max) was my preferred setting as it best supported my aggressive driving style. The engine whines, but it's not bad (I've definitely heard worse), and the power transmission can feel slightly jerky at times, even in the lower pedal assist modes. This is because the D11 uses a cadence sensor instead of a more expensive torque sensor to smooth out the power output. The seven-speed Shimano gearbox shifts smoothly and allows for a quick start off the line and speeds well over 25 km / h, as long as you don't mind your quads doing the job.
The paddle switch with ridges is the throttle.
If you hold down the throttle stick, cruise control will eventually be activated, but not until the maximum motor-assisted speed is reached. You can then let go of the button and just enjoy the ride. You can pedal faster and the engine will eventually click back into place when you slow down. It's a super handy feature.
Unfortunately, the D11's engine is quite weak even compared to other 250W engines commonly used in Europe. It's fine in the apartments, but the tiny Xiongda rear hub motor really does fight smaller hills and even moderate winds. In my test device, the bike indicated that the motor switched off at 24 km / h, not the specified 25 km / h. But it felt even slower, so I measured the pace on a Garmin smartwatch that reads 22 km / h. If I had to guess, I'd say the Garmin was more accurate. Nevertheless, this motor delivers enough torque to bring my 82 kg body on level surfaces in about 12 to 15 seconds from a standstill to top speed with just the gas.
Some other things to consider:
- During my range test, I covered 49 km of mostly flat city bike paths. My lazy driving was probably 90 percent accelerator and 10 percent pedal assistance. Fiido claims a range of 40 to 50 km (25 to 31 miles) in all-electric mode (gas) and 80 to 100 km (50 to 60 miles) in pedal assist mode, which sounds about right.
- The taillight built into the seat post / battery is also a brake light that brightens up and then flashes when one of the brake calipers is pulled.
- Lights, two mechanical disc brakes, an electric horn, and a stand are standard, but fenders are not. These fenders add 29.99 USD / 25.79 EUR to the total price.
- The steering is agile without feeling too nervous.
- The handlebar stem cannot be extended, which means that the driving position is sportier than upright, especially for taller drivers.
- The handles are tough and transfer bumps right into your hands.
- The saddle comfort is good for short trips or occasionally long journeys.
- The display is fine at night, but it can also be washed out quickly in cloudy conditions. However, you don't have to keep checking this.
So, with the Fiido D11, you get a number of decent features for your money. But they also give up a lot of things that premium bike owners enjoy:
- The D11 weighs 40 pounds (13 ounces), which is nowhere near "ultra-light" as the Indiegogo campaign claims, as you won't be driving it without a battery / seat. The $ 4,599 Gogoro Eeyo 1S weighs just 11.9 kg by comparison, while the collapsible Brompton Electric e-bike weighs just 14 kg.
- Features such as folding pedals or locking mechanisms that hold the handlebars and frame tightly together are missing from the D11, making it unwieldy to carry a trolley or to carry it with one hand when it is folded.
- High-end e-bikes have a clean design with cables snaking through the frames. The D11 has a lot of exposed cables that look ugly and can get tangled.
- The D11 has a Shimano seven-speed shifter, while the premiums often have automatic transmissions and internal-geared engines.
- The D11 has a messy, exposed chain and derailleur that require more maintenance than the simple belt drives found in high-end electrics.
- Premium e-bikes often offer theft protection in the form of built-in locks or GPS / GSM location tracking and recovery services. But at least you can carry your Fiido into the house or office at night.
- Everything from the D11's packaging to the thick welds, the tire choices to the battery cells chosen is inferior to the superior build quality of bikes over $ 2,000.
- The better e-bikes have apps developed in-house that track your travel history, help the company to remotely monitor the condition of the bike, and allow the owner to tweak the riding settings. Fiido doesn't offer an app at all.
- Premium bikes offer better after-sales support, wireless software fixes, and first-party or third-party agreements that allow the bike to be serviced or repaired even where it breaks. Cowboy owners are even offered a free crash detection service.
Fiido says it's ready for Europe. Hopefully that's true.
At $ 999.99, the D11 is cheap for an ebike that you might use every day, but it's still a big bundle of money that sets expectations for durability. Unfortunately, I have some concerns here. I already have a problem with the saddle after just two weeks of testing: if I come across a bump, the seat tilts up a notch abruptly and uncomfortably, even though I pull it as tightly as possible. And because the saddle is built into the battery, the bracket isn't a standard part that I can get at an old bike shop. The rear wheel rubs against itself with a slight metal-on-metal sound. It doesn't seem to be an issue with the disc brake alignment so I'm guessing this has something to do with the drag introduced by this rear hub motor. It is audible when you are pushing the bike and then only heard periodically as you ride as a high-pitched squeal that comes and goes.
The email addresses no longer exist
When I reached out to Fiido to report the issues, my messages went back to the company saying the email addresses no longer exist. These are the same Fiido.co.cn employees who sent me the test bike. Four days after the loss of contact, at the time of publication, I had not yet been able to reach anyone in the company.
As a newcomer to the international market, it would probably be a challenge even in the best of times to make warranty claims for the motor, controls and electronics and to obtain spare parts for the Fiido D11. The pandemic makes things even more complicated as the high demand for generic parts for e-bikes like the D11 is scarce and couriers are overwhelmed with deliveries. I learned to live with the things that require servicing on my D11 test, but I wouldn't be so calm if I paid $ 1,000 and needed assistance with my two week old bike.
At face value, the Fiido D11 is a neat little collapsible e-bike that gets even better with its price of € 859.99 / $ 999.99. But like most things in life, you really get what you pay for.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge
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