The Connect uses the popular Shimano STEPS motor, which reads information about how you’re riding and delivers power appropriately in real-time, resulting in a ride that feels completely natural. Or at least that’s what its makers claim. With Shimano also supplying the brakes and gears, the rest of the components are also of solid quality, including Schwalbe tyres, SKS mudguards, and Spanninga LED lights. But how will it add up as a complete package?
Looking over the Volt’s spec list, there are plenty of big-name brands along with all the accessories you could hope for. With upright handlebars and every extra conceivable, including kickstand and rack, it’s perhaps a little nerdy looking compared to the others on test. But that’s no bad thing. The ever-reliable Shimano STEPS system provides assistance via three well-judged modes. Pootling off down the road, we could almost have been in Amsterdam, if it weren’t for the London traffic.
On the road
The STEPS motor is a little whinier than some, its whirring more audible than proprietary alternatives on the VanMoof or Specialized. Still, it provides a good range and is widely serviceable. Pushing the bike along, it easily makes up for the increased weight. This extra mass is in turn dedicated to providing all of the bike’s accessories-and you get the lot.
Centrally powered lights, mudguards, suspension seatpost, kickstand, nurse’s lock and rack. And they’re all good quality-although we tested the bike in summer, those SKS mudguards will certainly last many winters and should prove invaluable when the rain starts falling. Flip down the kickstand and the bike will happily sit by itself- a much better proposition than resting its not insubstantial weight against a wall.
Similarly, pull into a coffee shop and the nurse’s lock bolted to the rear of the frame is enough to stop someone riding off on it. For further security, an included loop lock can be added, allowing the Connect to be tethered to even the most oddly shaped street furniture.
While the front of the bike itself is moderately tall, the addition of a suspension fork and adjustable stem jack the front end up to an even greater height. The Connect’s ride position is correspondingly upright. With a clear line of sight over the top of any traffic, it’s good on the commute and suited to relaxed touring-style rides at the weekends. Emphasizing comfort over pure speed, with the motor providing a good chunk of the forward impetus, this makes sense.
Similarly, with the power switched on, the bike’s increased weight isn’t an issue, although when using legs alone or in eco mode, it’s noticeable. Having grown used to the wider tyres on the other bikes, we did at times notice the narrower width of the tyres on the Volt, particularly when navigating along unsurfaced canal towpaths or rolling over cobbles.
In fact, we’d probably swap the suspension fork for wider tyres given the choice. Still, on smoother terrain, the Connect proceeds along in a composed manner and isn’t afraid of a bit of gravel either.
Available in one 20in frame size, the Connect’s swooping tubes provide a little extra standover. Neatly put together, its top tube is fairly rangy, allowing plenty of space to move about within the front of the bike, along with scope to play about with the handlebar position.
With the Shimano STEPS battery piggybacking on the down tube, the motor itself is housed in a chunky-looking shell welded where the bottom bracket junction would normally be. Sitting inside a conventional 1in head tube, an SR Suntour NCX suspension fork provides a few centimeters of movement to even out rougher terrain.
Capable of being rendered rigid with the flick of a switch on its crown, it adds a little to the bike’s overall weight. Both the fork and frame employ standard dropouts. Housing regular 9mm quick-releases, these make popping the wheels off easy when the need arises. Given the bike’s upright riding style, any lack of stiffness compared to a bolt-through alternative is likely to be irrelevant to most users anyway.
Shimano’s Alfine hydraulic disc brakes are very good. So good it’s hard to justify spending much more. Similarly, its 9-speed Deore derailleur might lack the final gear and the chain-retaining clutch mechanism of its younger siblings, but is still likely to give thousands of miles of solid service. Found here in single-chainring guise, the groupset’s narrow 11-32 cassette could prove a little skinny, although when coupled to the motor assistance it provides ample range. Just make sure you don’t find yourself at the bottom of a steep hill with a fiat battery.
The cushy, yet well-formed saddle is likely to prove popular with most occasional riders, while adding even more comfort is the suspension seatpost, allowing it to move independently and soak up bumps coming through the frame. Powered directly from the battery and activated via the computer on the handlebars, the Spanninga front light and rear tail lamp keep you visible while providing some forward illumination. Equally practical are the included SKS mudguards and pannier rack.
The latter’s integrated clasp and bungee cords make securing your luggage easy, although are perhaps a little dorky looking. For what is quite a heavy bike, it’s very welcome to find a sturdy looking kickstand bolted directly to the back of the frame. Up front, the bars are perhaps a shade narrower than we would have liked. Held in place by an adjustable stem this nevertheless makes getting them into the right spot a doddle.
The Connect uses 700c wheels, shod with 38mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres. Smaller in volume than some balloon-style alternatives, and with a more pointed profile, they’re less happy when the going gets choppy. In fact, they caught us out a couple of times by getting caught in ruts the other bikes had sailed over. On the plus side, we know them to be some of the most puncture resistant tyres around. The AlexDP21 double wall rims are also likely to be tough, just what you want on a bike to use day in, day out. Employing a full complement of 36 spokes to boost durability they spin around basic Quando-brand hubs.
Frame: Lightweight Aluminium, 6061T6
Groupset: Shimano Deore 9-speed
Brakes: Shimano S700 Alfine Hydraulic
Chainset: Shimano STEPS, 42T
Cassette: Shimano HG50-911-32T
Bars: Shallowrise 640
Saddle: Velo Sport Comfort Saddle
Seatpost: Zoom Suspension
Wheels: Alex DP21 Double Wall, 700c
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon, 38mm
|Size tested: One size||Weight: 23.20 kg|
|Top tube (TT): 592 mm||Seat tube (ST): 515 mm|
|Stacks (S): 590 mm||Reach (R): 410 mm|
|Chainstays (C): 450 mm||Head angle (HA): 70°|
|Seat angle (SA): 73°||Wheelbase (WB): 1110 mm|
|BB drop (BB): 70 mm|