The Honbike E-bike is a new folding electric bike that gets rid of one of cycling's biggest annoyances: the chain. Honbike hasn't just replaced it with a belt drive, either; instead, the e-bike has a fully enclosed drive shaft that means no risk of slipping or jumping, and practically no maintenance.
For everyday commuting, a drive shaft makes a lot of sense: it's light, quiet, and (perhaps most importantly) needs far less maintenance than a conventional drive system. While a chain typically needs maintenance after 300 miles including lubrication and tensioning, and a carbon belt will need attention after 12,000 miles, Honbike says that its drive shaft will only need servicing after it's completed 25,000 miles.
The Honbike was first launched in Japan, and is now available to order in the US through Indiegogo for an early bird price of $1,499 (about £1,140 / AU$2,000), with shipping due to start in June 2022. That'll rise to $2,399 (about £1,800 / AU$3,200) when the bike goes on general sale.
That's very reasonable for any e-bike, let alone one with a folding mechanism and non-standard drive system. For context, our current top-rated folding e-bike, the Gocycle G4 (2022), sells for $4,999 / £3,999 (about AU$7,000).
This is a class-one e-bike, which means there's no throttle and the motor will only engage while you're pedalling, but the bike will automatically detect when you hit a hill and give you an extra boost. The steeper the gradient, the bigger the helping hand. If the bike tilts more than 30 degrees while you're riding, the motor will cut out to reduce the speed and help you recover control.
There's no awkward ride computer standing out from the handlebars, as there is with some budget e-bikes. Instead, the Honbike E-Bike has an LCD display and control system at the top of the head tube, with an ambient light sensor so the brightness adjusts automatically for visibility in different conditions.
The Honbike E-Bike has a range of 24.8 miles, which is on the lower end for a folding e-bike, and at 20.8kg it's not the lightest model around (despite its extra-small hub motor). Nevertheless if you're looking for an easy way to reduce reliance on your car, it's definitely worth investigating, particularly at this price.
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Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)