VoltBike Yukon 750 – Bug-Out eBike
If you were to ask us about electric bikes 10 years ago, we likely would’ve just laughed. They looked downright silly, had pitiful range, and cost more than a motorcycle. Fast-forward a decade and technological advances have now made these oddities a viable mode of transportation — possibly even a bug-out vehicle.
As with any mode of transport, ebikes have their pros and cons. At this moment you’re likely asking, “What about EMPs?” Unlike with a gas-fueled motorcycle, a bicycle-style electric bike can still be human powered, whether it has any juice in its battery or has been hit by an electromagnetic pulse. [See Issue 19 for our debut Debunked column, which tackles this very topic.] War, fire, flooding, and economic collapse are far more likely to shut down your wheels than an EMP. After all, these other things are happening daily around the world already. For the ebike haters out there, consider this: If you rig up some solar panels or your bug-out hideaway is set up for solar power, you’ll have an almost unlimited fuel source for your ride.
Having said that, we reviewed a VoltBike to see if it can simultaneously be a cost-effective means of locomotion and a practical platform for bugging out.
Unlike conversions or purpose-built gasoline motorcycles, electric bikes make little sound. This means you can spirit yourself away and not draw the attention of the have-nots who want your supplies.
Range: The VoltBike Yukon 750 uses a 750-watt Bafang motor to propel you up to 20 mph for about 25 miles on throttle-only mode. Under pedal assist you’ll get closer to 50 miles. (Mileage will vary based on a rider’s weight, cargo, and terrain.) These aren’t stellar numbers if you’re trying to flee a massive tropical storm. But they’re more than adequate if you need to evacuate a city center to get to your hidden survival cache in the outskirts of suburbia.
The 750 watt Bafang hub motor.
Controls: Throttle mode controls the bike much like a motorcycle, while the nine levels of pedal assist adjusts to how fast you’re peddling and uses the motor to give you that extra push. This allows you to go much further than you could on your own. It also means climbing hills or negotiating rocky terrain requires comparatively less effort. You most likely won’t rocket up a steep incline on throttle only; some peddling will still be required. The bike comes set with levels 1 to 9, meaning that you’ll always have some assist with the bike powered on. The manufacturer can help configure a level 0, providing you with speedometer and odometer readouts sans electric boost. (No word yet on whether the motor goes up to 11, though.)
Acceleration on a conventional bike can be slow because it depends on human leg power. However, on the Yukon, if you forget that you’re on level 9 and begin pedaling, you could be caught off-guard and thrown off your electric steed. Make sure to heed manufacturer’s instructions.
LCD control panel lets you pick one of nine levels of pedal assist, among other features.
When navigating downhill, the Tektro Novela brakes cut power to the motor to assist in deceleration. These aren’t hydraulic disc brakes, so applying them won’t send you flying over the handlebars, but they still provide sufficient stopping power when you need them most.
Holding the “minus” key down on the pedal-assist controller gives you push assist — a great feature when walking the bike up a steep hill. At nighttime, holding the “plus” key down activates the screen’s backlight and the bike’s front light.
Power Plant: We were impressed with the battery (Sanyo UR18650ZY cells), which performed as advertised. Also, it has a USB charging port to boost small devices like a phone or GPS unit. However, the cover for the battery-charging port failed to stay closed. A screw-on cap would’ve been a better idea than the finicky small rubber plug. The battery can be removed with a key, letting you place it closer to a charging setup or swap it out with a fresh battery if you’ve purchased an extra.
While it’s possible to rig up a DC charging system that’ll draw from solar or other renewable sources, a factory charger that offers input regulation would be a boon for preppers.
Wouldn’t it be nice to just plug this right into the solar panels for more juice on the run?
Suspension and Tires: Electric bikes don’t always include shocks. VoltBike listened to customer input and outfitted every Yukon with a TGS T10 alloy suspension fork, which has 90 mm (3.54 inches) of vertical travel. Having front shocks, combined with the Kenda Juggernaut Pro fat tires, gives a comfortable ride while still providing excellent control. The advantage of fat tires is increased traction over terrain like snow and sand, which can be daunting for conventional vehicles let alone regular street bicycles.
How To Get Perfect Gear Shifting On Your E-Bike
Seating Arrangement: A stock bicycle seat is analogous to the factory insole in most boots — it gets the job done, but there are far better options out there. The Yukon comes with a half-decent seat, but we opted to try out something considerably more ergonomic for long-term riding comfort. The Spiderflex seat we added has two individual butt cushions and leaves out the long nose in the center, which can cause a numb crotch after a long ride … and possibly erectile dysfunction after years of use.
The tradeoff with this type of nose-less saddle is the slight loss of steering precision when you might have to use one or no hands. But, hey, we’re happy to give up that up as long as we don’t have a numb nether region.
The author swapped out the stock seat for this ergonomic Spiderflex saddle.
Cargo Storage: We sewed up a frame bag to hold our tools, Lezyne Micro Floor Drive pump, patch kit, and tire levers. The frame bag is dedicated entirely to what’s needed to keep the bike running. We also added some Arkel Dry-Lites saddlebags on the rear rack, although we had to make two small tabs to attach the bags on the bike so they had something to hook into at the bottom. The VoltBike rack didn’t include these, but a few minutes with a drill, grinder, and some files resulted in our own handmade adapters. There are commercial versions available, as well.
A bicycle isn’t as roomy as an SUV, so any gear attached to the frame that isn’t intended for bike maintenance is extraneous. And any gear you can’t live without should be carried on your back. This may seem odd, until you have to ditch the bike and any gear attached.
On top of the rear rack sat a Grey Ghost Stealth Operator Pack. We tucked the straps into the hydration area, and then used the mouse trap-like hinge on the top of the rack to hold it in place. The bag runs into the seat post and requires grabbing the bag from the side to remove it. The top bag had a bigger tarp and some extra tools.
Staying Dry: The last things attached to the bike were some Beaver Guard mud guards. These were inexpensive, attached with zip ties, and very lightweight.
The only two concerns for this bug-out ebike when it comes to inclement weather are the sensors on the Wellgo pedals and the battery. On traditional bicycles, you wouldn’t even bother glancing at the pedals after use. But on these, you might need to wipe them down occasionally to keep the sensors clear and in top survival shape. And, it goes without saying that you should avoid getting water on the battery. Some duct tape and a garbage bag can provide rain protection, although we plan to make a silnylon cover in the future.
Swft Volt review: Price and availability
The Swft Volt went on sale in the fall of 2021, and costs 999, though you can find it for less during the holiday season.
The Volt is designed as a road bike, with the rider in a forward-leaning position. The company also says that it’s best for people who are 5’ 10” and taller. If you’d prefer a more laid-back bike — or if you’re not as leggy — the Swft Fleet (also 999) is built in the beach-cruiser style, and is meant for riders 5’7” and up. That’s still pretty tall, though.
From the outside, the Volt looks like any other bike, albeit one with a much thicker downtube; the bike’s battery is hidden there, but unlike the Fleet and some other electric bikes (including the Swft Fleet), it’s not removable. Swft keeps the Volt’s wires hidden fairly well; you wouldn’t necessarily know this is an e-bike just by a quick glance. The Volt’s throttle is a simple grip-twist built into the right handlebar.
The Volt’s display, while functional, is much smaller than you’ll find on other ebikes. Still, you get the basics: Speed, distance traveled, and battery life remaining, plus, it lights up automatically in the dark. Buttons let you adjust the level of pedal assistance you want, and turn the bike’s headlight on and off.
The Volt is a fixed-gear bike — no shifting here — which is one of the compromises you’ll need to make. Unlike pricier electric bikes, such as the Rad City Rad 5 Power, which have a 7-gear shifter, you’re going to struggle to get the Volt going uphill without pedal assist or the throttle.
Swft Volt review: Assembly
Unlike other electric bikes I’ve tested, the Volt needed a bit more work to get up and running. For one, the front brakes were misaligned, and the wheel was also slightly out of balance. I have a bit of experience adjusting these things, but those unfamiliar with bikes may need to bring it to a shop to get it fine-tuned.
From there, it was just a matter of charging the battery (it takes 6 hours to go from empty to full), strapping on one of the best bike helmets, and then off I went.
Swft Volt review: Performance
Unlike pricier electric bikes which use cadence sensors to incrementally adjust the level of assistance, the Volt merely senses when the crank is turning, and applies power. It definitely took a little more work at the outset than other electric bikes I’ve tested, but once I got going, the Volt provided steady power throughout my ride.
For the most part, I used pedal assist, but would activate the throttle when starting, going through intersections, or heading uphill. The Volt’s 350W rear hub motor was up for most tasks, but struggled a bit on inclines, where I would slow down to around 6-7 miles per hour.
Contrast that with the Van Moof S3 and Rad Power RadCity 5, which powered me up hills with aplomb. The Volt’s motor was also a bit noisier than on pricier ebikes; while it’s not obnoxious, you do hear a whine when using the throttle.
Overall, though, I found the Volt to be a pretty enjoyable ride. There’s no shock absorbers, and coupled with the bike’s relatively thin tires, you’ll definitely feel the bumps. Still, my only real gripe was with the handlebar grips, which dug into my palms a bit too much for my liking. That’s easily resolved, though.
Swft Volt: Battery life and range
The Swft Volt has a 10 Ah, 36V battery that the company says is good for up to 32 miles of range — not spectacular, but not horrible given the bike’s price. I rode the bike at the top power-assist level and used the throttle on bigger hills and when starting, and estimate that in my use, I’d get around 20 miles before needing to recharge it.
On Amazon, you can find a number of electric bikes that cost less than 450,000, but the majority are from no-name companies and have somewhat clunky designs.
Among more reputable brands, the Rad Power RadMission 1 also costs 999, comes in a variety of colors, and has a removable battery. It also has a larger, 48V, 10.5 Ah battery, and a 500W geared hub motor; like the Swft Volt, it’s also a single-gear bike.
If you’re looking for something more compact, the Lectric XP 2.0 also comes in under 450,000, and can fold up; however, it’s pretty heavy for its size.
Volt London ride impressions
Bafang’s Spintech system has at its heart a very quick-to-react torque sensor, which means as soon as you pedal, the motor kicks in. On inferior motor systems, this can result in jerks and jolts as the power jumps in, but the London feeds the power in smoothly, matching your efforts. On most singlespeed ebikes I’ve tested, I came away knowing they were urban runabouts for relatively flat rides. The London, in spite of its name, is capable of more than rolling around city centres in its single gear. My local test rides and my lengthy commute to the office aren’t exactly what you’d call flat, but the Volt even coped well with the steeper inclines. I ended up using the motor power as surrogate gears. In the ‘low’ setting, the bike is perfect for keeping you at a brisk pace on the flat, ‘normal’ adds a bit more of a push that is great for more rolling terrain and the ‘high’ mode gives you a good shove of rear-hub power that will help you get the better of most hills. An out-of-the-saddle excursion up one of my steepest local climbs resulted in a spirited effort from me – but not one that left me gasping for air, while keeping the speed impressively high. For super-steep inclines, there is a ‘power’ mode, which offers everything the Spintech has to give. The bar-mounted display/controller also has a trigger at its base. Flick this and it engages the Walk mode, which is great for pushing the bike up a steep ramp.
Because it effectively works like a mini-throttle, I also found it great at traffic lights when setting off from a standing start. Here, it’ll give you a little boost up to around 10mph, ensuring you get out ahead of traffic. The display does suffer from the occasional oscillation in the battery level, rising a step on the battery graphic mid-ride for no apparent reason. That means it’s not the most accurate when it comes to gauging your remaining range. The battery is quick to remove and is reasonably compact, and the chunky charger will get it from empty to full in just shy of four hours. The battery’s 504Wh capacity is larger than most of its rivals. Volt claims a range of up to 60 miles and on my longest run I managed 59.25m/95.5km with 2,226ft/678.5metres of hill climbing. On a flatter route, I would easily have exceeded 60 miles. The performance of the motor and the London’s light handling result in a bike that’s nippy. Ride in a comfortable but not overtly relaxed position and it’s a bike that will appeal equally to both seasoned and new riders. The equipment included is all decent stuff, and takes in solid SKS mudguards, a quality kickstand and even a frame lock. The lights are powerful and bright, though I do have an issue with the position of the front light. It’s mounted on a bracket built into the stem – so far, so good – but the London comes with a cool and practical porteur rack mounted on the front.
When I strapped my bag to the rack, it completely obscured the beam from the light. Even using the rack to pick up a pizza for a Friday-night treat meant the light was blocked from hitting the road just in front of me. I know it wouldn’t look quite as neat mounted onto the front of the rack, but it would be far more practical. There is one more significant drawback to the Volt London – it’s only available in one size, based around a mountain bike-derived 19in frame. That was fine for me at 6ft 2in, but I’m probably at the upper height limit, and riders under 5ft 10in or so might also find it a struggle. Sadly, that’ll be quite a limiting factor in the London’s broader appeal.
Volt London bottom line
The Volt is a great-looking bike with a polished aluminium frame. It’s well equipped for the price, with a range of equipment that’s well selected for the purpose, plus it’s a smooth-riding machine. The singlespeed drivetrain makes it very much an urban rider’s tool. The Bafang hub motor is punchy enough to make up for any gearing shortfalls when it comes to short, steep inclines, but the battery-level fluctuations can be a little irritating, especially because the Volt has proved it has a decent long range that should be more than enough for most commuters.
The lack of a size range will limit the appeal of the Volt London, but if it fits you, it’s certainly worth considering this smoothly assisted operator.
The battery on the Vvolt Alpha is off-brand called Celxpert. However, the cells inside are actually LG – a well-known, and respected brand.
This battery offers 375Wh and is advertised to reach 20 to 40 miles of range per charge. With the assist turned up all the way, the 20-mile range is about accurate.
The electric bike law that HAS to change
Charging the Alpha simply requires plugging in the battery. The battery can be attached to the e-bike or removed and brought inside.
There is an indicator light on the downtube that shows charge status. When the bike’s battery is charged, the light is green, and when it’s not, it’s red.
Hydraulic disc brakes provide superior stopping power when compared to mechanical disc brakes or v-brakes. The VVolt Alpha features Radius hydraulic disc brakes.
The Radius brakes aren’t a brand name, and probably don’t offer the same quality or durability as brakes from big names like Shimano, but during the testing, they seem to offer plenty of stopping power.
Like other components on this electric bike, you’ll notice the price has been kept low by providing these off-brand brakes. If you want a higher-end build, you need to be prepared to pay a higher-end price.
Post Test Summary: Vvolt Alpha Pros And Cons
While some of its parts meet the standard of the electric bikes, some components come from off-brands. For 1400, this is a more-than-decent e-bike that’s made to be ridden on asphalt around the town.
The first thing I love about the Vvolt Alpha is the weight. This e-bike weighs 44 pounds which is pretty light for an electric bike. Also, the design of the Vvolt Alpha is really sleek, and offers two different possibilities for the top tube.
This electric bike comes in two variants. one with a step-through frame and the other with a traditional frame. So if you aren’t a fan of one of these, you can choose the other!
Another thing I like about this electric bike is that it features a high-quality Gates belt drive which is extremely low maintenance.