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Volt Connect 2020 Review

With a crank-driven, torque-sensing motor, this well-specified electric bike is ideal for anyone looking for a bike for longer rides or regular commuting.

Should I buy the Volt Connect (2020)?
For commuting and touring, the Connect is a fabulous electric bike. The hard saddle is the only real complaint!

Price When Reviewed
  • £2399
Volt has been producing electric bikes for almost a decade and - as you might guess by the name - that's all it does. This means its bikes aren't simply standard frames with a motor bolted on: they're designed from the ground up to be electric.

And while current technology doesn't yet allow for an electric bike to look as sleek as a regular bike, the new 2020 Volt Connect is still pretty good looking with its curved top tube, glossy mudguards and integrated LED lights.

It's based around the Shimano Steps system, which means the motor drives the crank and isn't built into the rear hub as with many cheaper electric bikes. It's a well-regarded system that delivers power with a much more natural feel than the somewhat jerky delivery you get with hub motors that don't use torque sensors.

Price & Availability
You can buy a 2020 Connect from Volt's website. At £2399 it's £300 more than the 2019 model which has almost identical specs, but the design has been updated and the frame made slightly smaller - 19in versus 20.2in.

The only other differences are that the 2020 model has Tektro hydraulic brakes instead of Shimano, and Schwalbe instead of Kenda tyres.

It's possible to get a decent discount through Cyclescheme if your employer is signed up.

Features & Design
The Connect is very much a touring bike and although it's possible to ride off road, the asphalt is where it's happiest. There's a Suntour suspension fork for soaking up the humps and potholes, but you can lock it out if you prefer.

Mudguards come as standard, as does the panier rack and the front and rear LED lights. There's also a sturdy kick stand and an integrated Abus 5850 Pro Shield which is a built in lock that stops the rear wheel turning and requires a key to unlock.
Volt sells a £30 chain lock which plugs into the integrated lock so you can secure the Connect to a post or bike rack, and this meets the Secure Gold standard of locking systems. You'll still need to insure the Connect and you get 15% off if you take out a policy with PedalSure, which costs around £10 per month and has no excess fee if your bike is stolen.

Wheels are Alexrim DP21 with Schwalbe Marathon 26 x 2.00 semi-slick tyres. I'm not a fan of the hard saddle: I'd replace it immediately with something more padded.

Although the Shimano Steps E6100 can be entirely auto-shifting, with the Connect you have a 9-speed rear cassette which is controlled manually. That means you still need to remember to put it in an easier gear before coming to a halt as (thanks to current UK regulations) electric bikes no longer have a throttle to help you start off.

At a shade over 21kg with the 418Wh battery (the standard one) onboard, the Connect is a heavy bike, so unless you're 6-foot-plus and built like The Hulk, you're going to struggle to carry it up a flight of steps.

On the same note, you'll notice there is but one frame size and all you can do is adjust the saddle up and down using a 5mm allen key. I'm 5ft7 on a tall day, and had to put the saddle almost to the bottom of its travel. So I wouldn't recommend the 2020 Connect to anyone shorter.

The bottom line is that most electric bikes are heavy and this one is a little heavier than the lightest models you'll find.

Performance
Thanks to Volt's selection of only top-quality components, riding the Connect is a joy. Once you've got used to the size, weight and geometry, you'll appreciate the extra stability you get from a heavier bike: it feels sure-footed even when flying downhill at high speeds.

Of course, the main attraction is the Shimano Steps system. As I mentioned, this drives the cranks and not the rear wheel directly, and uses torque sensors to decide how much assistance to give you.

It works beautifully, dishing out power smoothly even in High mode. That means you never feel like you're about to be thrown off as you start rotating the cranks, and power increases as you pedal harder.

In Normal and High modes, you can very quickly get up to speed without much effort and that's especially welcome when commuting in a city with lots of traffic lights and junctions.

Best of all, it knows when you're attacking a steep hill, and ramps up the power to maintain speed without you having to pedal harder.

The display (which is removable) has a bar which shows how much assistance you're getting, and it's simple to switch between the three modes (Eco, Normal and High) while riding. A fourth mode is Off, which lets you cycle without assistance when you either feel like it or want to conserve battery power.
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A fully charged battery can take you up to around 90 miles in ideal conditions (in Eco mode) and that's reduced to around 40 in High mode. Again, this could be less if it's particularly cold and you're touring the Peak District.

A full charge takes around 6.5 hours, and you can use the same key as for the built-in lock to remove the battery from the bike and charge (or simply store) it indoors.

If there's one niggle, it's with the UK law which says EPACs - electically powered assisted cycles - must be limited to 15.5mph. That's about 5-10mph slower than you ideally want to keep up with traffic in towns and cities. It's no fault of Volt's but it's always disappointing when you pull away and really feel the motor cut out when the speedo reaches 16mph.

One other thing to know: the Connect has a two-year warranty which covers the motor, battery and all other non-wearing parts. The lights and charger, however, only have a one-year warranty.

Plus, for the warranty to be valid you must get the bike serviced at least once a year or when you ride 1000 miles.

Verdict
If you're in the market for an electric bike for commuting or touring, the 2020 Volt Connect is a great choice. It isn't cheap, but the cost is justified by the quality components.


Specs
  • Motor: 250W Shimano Steps E6100
  • Max Speed: Assisted Motor Speed: 15.5 mph or 25 km/h
  • Location of Motor: Central Crank
  • LCD Display: Showing Speed, Distance, Battery Power and gear
  • Frame: Aluminium 6061 T6
  • Weight: 18.5 Kg Without Batteries / 21.1Kg With Standard 418Wh Battery
  • Max Person Weight: 100 Kg
  • Max Weight: (rider + luggage) 100 Kg
  • Frame Size: 19in
  • Wheel Size: 26 inches x 2.00
  • Wheels: Alexrim DP21 Double Wall Reinforced
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon
  • Seat: Velo Sport Comfort Saddle
  • Seat Post: Zoom
  • Gears: Shimano 9 Speed Deore
  • Brakes: Tektro Auriga E-Comp Hydraulic
  • Lights: Front and rear Spanninga LED (battery powered)
  • Front Fork: SR Suntour NCX
  • Handlebars: Zoom – Adjustable
  • Battery Type: Sony Lithium battery
  • Battery weight: 2.65kg
  • Distance: 70+ miles under Eco PAS (depends on level of assistance)
  • Lifetime: 1000 charge-discharge cycles
  • Charge Time: 6.5 hours
  • Warranty: 2 years

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