Action Photos: Pat Carrigan
Over the past few years, bike manufacturers have gone to great lengths to hide the electrical parts of electric bikes, including batteries and motors, to make them look more like their traditional, non-assist counterparts. This can be somewhat limiting to the design. BESV has introduced two radical bike designs, eschewing the traditional for the more interesting and functional. The TRB1 line definitely falls into that category, embracing an almost motorcycle-style look with a faux tank mounted on top.
BESV went back to the drawing board and started with a somewhat traditional diamond-shaped aluminum frame but angled the top tube way down and put in a gusset to lower the standover height. The interface between the seat tube and the bottom bracket is curved and flared. The downtube goes back parallel to the top tube for several inches to allow for the unique battery placement. Part of the tank is clad in plastic, as is the bash guard on the lower end of the downtube.
Starting with the frame’s design, which is accentuated by the voluminous Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires, the bike has a beefy look and feel to it. Added to the frame is a rear rack with a fender mounted on it, a front fender attached to the 100mm-travel SR Suntour fork, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, and integrated tail- and headlight. Cables are routed through the frame.
BESV selected the Brose S mid-drive motor for this bike, and it seems to be a perfect fit. It has a torque sensor, which we always prefer over cadence-only sensors, 90 N/m of torque to get you going, and it uses an internal Gates carbon belt drive, which makes the system very quiet. You’d never know this was a Brose motor by looking at it since there’s just a generic, unbranded cover on the outside.
“Eco is always a good place to start for maximum range, but there are two levels of fun above that!”
The stock battery is 504 Wh, but there’s also an optional 756Wh battery for those who want added range. The batteries are easily swapped by using the key to unlock the top of the faux tank to offer access to the battery, which has a handle on top to make swapping batteries easier.
The Brose display is a reasonably compact one with most everything you’d want to know—speed, battery state of charge, power assist mode—at a glance. It offers a full-size USB-A port in case you want to charge your phone or power other small devices.
There’s also a BESV smart app that can be used instead of the Brose screen. It adds some features, like routing, places nearby, weather, a dashboard similar to the Brose screen, a calorie and exercise timer, and even a way to record your rides. There’s no customization of power curves, however, like in some motor system apps (e.g. Shimano’s E-Tube app).
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
As it says in the name of the bike, it’s an urban/city/commuter bike. It certainly has the range, even with the stock battery, to get most people to and from work or let them ride for fun, fitness or recreation on some decently long rides.
Needing to use the key to turn on the system is interesting. It certainly makes it feel like a motorcycle in that respect. If you tend to keep your keys on a keychain, this will leave keys dangling and possibly scratching the plastic part of the tank when you ride.
The bike starts up quickly, and the display is nice and very readable even in bright daylight. There are only three modes, so there’s not too many choices. Eco is always a good place to start for maximum range, but there are still two levels of fun above that!
Power delivery is very natural, flowing in very smoothly, so it isn’t a jarring takeoff from stops. There’s no shift detection in the Brose system, so you learn to ease off the pedals slightly when shifting, or you’ll hear the strain on the drivetrain. Brose has a freewheel on the front sprocket as well, so the motor still pulls for a split second after you stop or slow your pedaling. If you time it right, which takes practice, you can shift under very little load and keep going.
The 100mm of suspension is good for the bumps in the road, but the aluminum frame isn’t forgiving on the back end of the bike. The big tires do help a little but not enough. The saddle feels like it was carved from a piece of mahogany. Unless this seat fits you better than it did us, for long rides we’d swap that for a better-fitting saddle (check your bike shop) and a suspension post (e.g. Cirrus Cycles Kinekt). Your backside will thank you, especially on longer rides.
BESV also offers a full-suspension TRB1 AM that’s set up as a mountain bike, with better suspension components, no fenders or rack, and knobby tires, which ups the cost by $500. In between, and for the same price as the Urban, there’s the TRB1-XC, a hardtail mountain bike that also lacks fenders and a rack. We like the fenders for rain protection and the rack for carrying stuff to the office or grabbing a few groceries.
The app is really useful, especially for route directions, though you certainly don’t need just GPS. For the fitness equation, being able to capture and save favorite rides, discover new ones, and even connect a heart-rate monitor and connect it to your health app make it ideal for training or just keeping an eye on your fitness.
We thought the TRB1 Urban was a good commuter choice at its original price, but now the original price has been dropped by $1000 (in a time when most other companies are raising prices), so now we’d say it’s an even better deal. The ride quality is fantastic. It can handle fire roads, and it’ll definitely get you where you need to go. We’d love to see a 28-mph version for commuters; some of the other variants of the TRB1 offer that.
BESV TRB1 URBAN
Fork: Suntour XCM34-Boost RL DS 100mm
Motor: Brose Drive S
Battery: BESV 504 Wh, optional 756 Wh
Charge time: 3–4 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: 20–40 miles
Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore GS, 10-speed
Brakes: Tektro HD-M275 disc brakes, 180mm rotors
Saddle: Selle Royal
Tires: Schwalbe Super Moto-X 27.5 x 2.4”
Weight: 60.6 lb.
Color choice: Matte black
Sizes: One size