It’s no secret that the pandemic has brought about a biking boom in the Phlippines that has not been seen in decades. With fitness enthusiasts locked out of their gyms for extended periods of time, and the limited places to travel to around the city due to border restrictions, biking has become a top leisure activity even among hardcore car owners.
Many commuters who don’t drive cars or motorcycles, but are still wary of traveling by public transportation, have also turned to bicycles as a means of transportation.
The pandemic is also boosting the popularity of electric-assist bikes, or e-bikes. Previously a niche sector of the bike market, e-bikes require a cyclist to pedal, but have electric motors that provide extra power.
Nakto is a U.S. brand that manufactures electric bicycles from China that recently entered the Philippine market. Nakto Philippines, based in Quezon City, is the official distributor and service center of Nakto E-bikes in the country.
I got to test out a demo unit of one of Nakto’s e-bikes for a week and here’s what I can share about the experience.
Nakto currently has three e-bike models available for the Philippine market: the Rugged Electric Folding Fat Bike, Steady Electric Folding Fat Bike, and Ranger All-Terrain Electric Bike.
The model I tested out was the Ranger All-Terrain Electric Bike, an e-bike designed for riders who want to power through city streets and enjoy chill weekend adventures.
At first glance, the Ranger looks like a traditional mountain bike with its rugged wheels, low handlebars, and overall sporty design. But the bike actually contains a seamlessly integrated removable and rechargeable battery on the down tube to give users a boost.
The Ranger comes in two colors: black and grey, both of which look very respectable for city use for employees headed to the office, and rugged enough for weekend rides.
The e-bike also comes with an old-school rear rack on the back that you can use for carrying some items (like a change of clothes) as well as a front and rear fender, and integrated light and horn.
Technology & safety
The Nakto Ranger comes with a five-pedal assist system with throttle, integrated battery in-frame design and disc brakes with integrated motor cut off. The left side handlebar has a digital instrument panel that displays gear, power, speed, and the odometer.
You can adjust the gear you’re on just by pressing the S+ and S- buttons on the panel. The “Cur” button controls the lights and Powerwalk function.
One press will turn on the lights, while a long press will let the powerful rear wheel move on its own, providing a boost for when you’re dismounted and you have to walk the bike up steep ramps or uphill roads without the proper momentum.
The motor will do all the work for you, you just have to guide the bike and can cut the motor anytime with the brakes.
According to official specs, the e-bike is powered by a 48V10.5ah battery by Tianneng, which has a battery life of 1000 charge cycles and a charging time of 4 to 6 hours. The rated distance is 100 km if you just use level 1 and 65 km on level 3.
In terms of performance, the e-bike’s bike’s pedal assist ranges from 60-80km while the full throttle range is from 30-40km on a full charge.
The battery is completely removable. With just the push of a key, you can just take the whole battery out and charge it indoors while the bike is parked elsewhere. This is ideal for employees working in offices who need to recharge their rides during office hours.
However, like the battery, the charger itself is pretty large to lug around, so it’s just better if you have enough juice for the day.
While e-bikes are generally considered to be eco-friendly alternatives, they still can’t beat pure pedal power. Replacing the battery after the warranty period runs out can be pretty expensive, so that should also be taken into consideration of potential buyers.
Driving & handling
Driving the Nakto e-bike is literally a breeze on smooth and flat pavement. After initial pedaling to gain a bit of momentum, driving requires little to minimal effort on your part. Companions on traditional bikes will be eating your dust as you effortlessly tackle uphill ascents with ease.
Most cyclists can achieve a speed of 15-18 kph on the average with limited training, which is roughly the same average speed on EDSA for Metro Manila car owners (16 kph) due to traffic congestion.
The Ranger boasts of a top speed of 35 kph, so you can easily overtake other bikers while still having the benefit of using dedicated bike lanes. However, for safety reasons and due to traffic conditions, it’s best to stick to lower gears. I only tested it out up to the third gear, cruising at about 20-24 km kph.
For someone used to traditional mountain biking where you manually control the speed, riding an e-bike takes a bit of getting used to. When using the motor, you have to pay more attention because of the somewhat surprising boosts.
The pedal assist kicks in with power boost even when you’re not pressing the throttle or when you’re not expecting it, propelling you forward. When driving in high-traffic areas, turning, or when at stoplights, you really need to slow down and put the gear to zero, to make sure you don’t lose your balance or have to brake abruptly once you start.
Because of the built-in battery and motor, the e-bike weighs much heavier than traditional bicycles. Starting the bike, especially on uneven or steep pavement feels more difficult than just pedaling on your own. However, once you’ve achieved cruising speed, it’s smooth sailing.
Without the help of the motor, manually pedaling felt generally heavier over trails, rough roads and areas with gravel. While it can be taken on light trails, the Nakto e-bike is more suited for use in urban areas and paved streets.
But aside from daily commuting, the e-bike is practical for neighborhood errands, urban exploration and leisurely food trip or coffee rides.
If your daily commute involves regularly carrying your bike across overpasses with stairs, you’ll find carrying the bike a bit of a burden.
The Nakto Ranger is also a bit on the bulky side and may not fit inside smaller elevators, even if you try and twist it. You could just make use of ramps and park in basement buildings along with other bicycles. Just be sure to lock it up properly and don’t forget to take the key. Nakto does have other e-bike models which fold, for those who are concerned with the size and space.
The Nakto Ranger All-Terrain Electric Bike is an option for daily commuters who need an extra boost to make their urban adventures more fun and less stressful.
One of the major draws of e-bikes in the Philipines right now is that you don’t need a driver’s license or registration to drive one. E-bikers could benefit from the bike lanes and infrastructure being put up to cater the growing number of bikers.
The summer heat has been pretty intense lately, but driving an e-bike won’t cause you to sweat as much as driving a traditional bicycle, which could benefit bike-to-work employees who may not have access to a shower in their offices.
With the e-bike’s pedal assist range from 60-80km and full throttle range from 30-40km on a full charge, with just 4 to 6 hours charging time, the Nakto Ranger is ideal for daily commuting.
You can use the motor for power, but the bike also has pedals that you can use to power it manually. It can still fully function even on a dead batt.
E-bikes do tend to weigh heavier than normal bicycles and can take some getting used to, especially in high-traffic situations. While the e-bike can withstand light rain and drizzle, because of the electric parts, it’s not recommended for use in heavy rain and through floods.
E-bikes like the Nakto Ranger could also be a good option for newbie bikers who want to keep up with physically stronger rider friends without feeling like they are slowing down the whole group, or older bikers who could use the extra boost now and then.
The Nakto Ranger All-Terrain Electric Bike currently has a promo launch price of P49,000 in the Philippines, down from regular price of P55,000. The Steady Electric Folding Fat Bike costs P41,000 while the Rugged Electric Folding Fat Bike is P39,000.