Smartmotion e-bikes - How to use them properly

 

I had the chance to extensively test the Smartmotion x-city and e-city during my time in Vietnam and rode over 1000km on the e-city in the span of one month. The build quality of the bikes is amazing and the motor is powerful and responsive. It's easy to ride this bike in heavy traffic and the throttle response and breaking is excellent. Changing the level of pedal assist is intuitive and the bike glides along smoothly without any sudden jerks. The tires are high quality and the inclusion of regular mountain bike shifters make it very easy to keep a steady cadence. 

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The only issue I had with the bikes was the lack of clamp tension on the seat-post. I found that my seat-post would get loose very easily while riding and sometimes drop all the way down which could cause an accident. I think this bike is great for city riding but it becomes a bit more uncomfortable on long rides. I also couldn’t imagine riding the bike home without help from the motor in case the battery got drained on a long ride. It’s far too heavy and you wouldn’t be able to get further than a few kilometers. 



I’m quite happy with the product overall but you’ll have to decide for yourself if the 1620$ price tag is worth it. I think it gives a comfortable ride in most terrain and also in bad weather. You can be confident that the battery, motor and other electronics will not get damaged. It’s very easy to swap out the battery for a new one and it charges quite fast. The LED taillight and headlight also look awesome!



Overview

  1. Display

  2. Pedal assist system

  3. Battery and range

  4. Charging

  5. Lights

  6. Normal and power mode

  7. Speed limit

  8. Throttle

  9. How to turn on the bike

  10. How to lock the bike

  11. How to shift gears

  12. Brakes

  13. Adjust seat height

  14. Bell and kick stand

  15. Instructions on How to stay safe in Hanoi traffic

  16. FAQ’s 





Display

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Pedal assist system

There are 5 levels of pedal assistance. Use 1 & 2 in the city and you’ll get maximum range. The pedal assist system will only function while you are pedalling. The bicycle doesn't have to be in motion for you to change the level of assist. Please put the assist level on 0 while descending or if you don’t want the motor to get activated.


Battery and range

The battery is designed to give a real world range of about 65 km. (Using PAS 1 & 2) with minimal use of throttle. Expect it to run out faster if you are going off-road or doing some climbing. Keep the charger on hand in case you’re likely to run out of juice. It’s not very pleasant to ride this bike without a push from the motor. 


Charging

The battery release lock can be found just below the front left corner of the battery. Use the hinged key to unlock the battery and pull the battery out horizontally. Open the port on the side of the battery and plug it in to the wall charger. The battery will usually reach full charge in about 4-6 hours. 

You can check the battery charging status by clicking the ‘test’ button on the battery after switching the battery on. If the green bars extend all the way to the end then this means that the battery is fully charged. (This can sometimes be hard to see in bright daylight)



Lights

The bike has both front and rear LED lights. You can turn them on by clicking on the power button once. This will also activate the screen’s backlight.


Normal and power mode

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Double tap on the power button quickly to toggle between Torque sensing (“Normal”) and Cadence sensing (“Power”) 


Speed limit

The top speed of the mid city bikes has been limited to 30 kmph and you won’t be able to go above 32.5 kmph even if you tried to pedal hard. (best not to try aggressively overtaking any busses or other vehicles)


Throttle

The throttle is meant to be operated with your left thumb. It gives you a boost of power while you are pedalling. It takes a few seconds to cut off, so make sure you aren’t too close to anything. Use the brakes or stop pedaling to control the boost. It’s not meant to be used while the bike is stationary or locked. This could damage the motor quite easily. 


How to turn on the bike

Press down on the bubble at the rear of the battery to turn it on. (Make sure the battery is charged before you head off)

Click the power button once and wait a few seconds before the screen comes to life. Use the + key to put it into PAS 1 or 2 before heading off.  



How to lock it

Use the non-hinged key to lock and unlock the bike. The lock is located just below the rear fork of the bike.


How to shift gears

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The bike has a standard 8-gear mountain bike shifting arrangement. The power assist adjusts itself as you change gears. Make sure you always stay in a gear that is comfortable for you and allows you to pedal freely.

Brakes

The hydraulic disk brakes are very powerful. Be gentle while braking especially on sandy of wet surfaces.


Adjust seat height

Use the quick release on the seat-post to adjust the seat height. There is a shock absorber right under the seat that will compress while you are seated, so you might have to set the height a couple of cm higher than you normally would.


Bell and kick stand

You can strike the bell using your right pointer finger. Make sure it’s within reach and properly aligned before heading into traffic. You’ll also notice that this bike has a centrally mounted kickstand. 


Instructions on How to stay safe in traffic

  • There are no bike lanes in India - make sure to be alert while in crowded areas. Watch out for other vehicles - especially for the SUVs and busses.  

  • Motorcycles and bicycles keep right while cars drive on the left. Always look over your shoulder before overtaking or taking a turn. 

  • Make sure to keep safe braking distance while riding in a group - Leave a gap of 3m between you and the rider in front of you while travelling at speed. 

  • Keep both hands on the handlebar at all times (No clicking picture/taking video while riding)

  • Stop only on the side of the road in crowded areas. Watch out for pedestrians.

  • Never leave the bikes unattended when they are not locked.

  • Hand signals - Stop or slowing down, right turn, left turn

  • Please stay with the rest of the group (Inform the tour leader if you need to go somewhere) 

  • Please make a not of the shop address and contact information before leaving




FAQ’s

When should I recharge the battery?

The battery can be charged after every ride, or when it is flat. Lithium batteries don’t discharge much at all over time. And small charges are fine too. No need to fully discharge before each charge. Lithium batteries actually prefer shallow discharge, so top up charging after each use is a good habit to get into.


Can I ride in the rain?

Yes. Smartmotion ebikes are weatherproof, but are NOT waterproof. Riding through deep water that submerges the motor will cause the system to fail.


What is the difference between pedal assist and torque sensor assist?

Pedal assist is the system used on SmartMotion bikes. A sensor mounted on the pedal crank senses when you are or are not pedalling, and how fast you are pedalling, and supplies motor power to suit…   it is a little like cruise control on a car.

Torque assist works by detecting how hard you are pedaling and rewards you with assistance relative to your effort.



Does the motor slow me down when not in use?

No, the SmartMotion electric bikes have brushless motors and an internal freewheel so the motor is stationary when not powered. This means when you are not using the motor, there is no resistance from it…   your bike performs exactly like a bike as there is no extra friction.



Does the battery recharge going down hills?

No, SmartMotion electric Bikes do not have regenerative charging. They researched this in depth and came to the conclusion it was better to go for a high capacity lithium battery and a motor with an internal freewheel. This means you have plenty of capacity  and a motor that does not drag when not in use, so your electric bike still rides like a normal bike down hills or freewheeling, or motor off.



How does the energy used by a bicycle compare to that used by a car?

An electric bicycle uses approximately 0.03MJ per KM. By comparison, an average car (10l/100km) uses 3.3MJ per KM. This is a difference of approximately 100 times. A bike gets the equivalent of 1270km per litre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lakshman handles planning and operations at BeAnimal. A free-spirit and dreamer since birth, he is on a mission to revolutionise the way we humans live with the natural environment. With experience in the natural sciences and a degree in Architectural technology and construction planning from VIA University, Denmark, he is well prepared to design a new wave of sustainable buildings for the world. He is interested in permaculture, sustainable technology, design, riding his road bike and almost everything in between. You'll find him out in nature enjoying the bliss.



BeAnimal is a non-profit working with environmental education and wildlife preservation in India