Shiftbikes is a French company based in Normandy, which offers an electric bicycle model designed and assembled on our territory in the factories of the Cycle Manufacture. If the Shift bike is mainly marketed online, the company offers to test its machine in Paris and Bordeaux.
The Shiftbikes VAE is a decidedly urban model in its approach. It has a 250 W motor that develops 43 Nm and is housed in the rear wheel. Power is provided by a 460Wh battery built into the frame, while the drivetrain relies on Shimano Altus hardware to deliver 8 speeds. The Shift also benefits from an open aluminum frame and is only offered in one size for riders between 1.55m and 1.90m tall.
Mudguards, luggage rack, kickstand, anti-theft device and lighting are on the standard menu. Essential equipment for a city bike, but rarely all present. Positioning itself at €1,890, the Shift from Shiftbikes places itself in an interesting segment, between an often limited entry level and more expensive, but better equipped models.
Comfort and ergonomics
For a city electric bike, the choice of gooseneck or open-frame format is usually a no-brainer. Therefore, this type of VAE is easier to manage when carrying a child on the back or when not ideally dressed for leg lifts. On the other hand, the frame loses a bit in rigidity, which takes away a bit of dynamism. However, the upright posture we have when driving the Shift is not in that sporting spirit.
First positive point of this electric bicycle, the integration of its various components is satisfactory. The motor sits fairly discreetly in the rear wheel hub and the battery pack takes place in the down tube of the aluminum frame. This can be easily removed for separate charging, essential if you can’t charge your bike where it’s parked. In general, the level of finish is irreproachable, and even quite good for a bike under €2,000.
With its 26-inch wheels, the Shiftbikes VAE bets on maneuverability more than precision and performance. Arisun Metro Trooper balloon tires offer high air volume with their 2-inch width. This contributes to comfort and partly compensates for the lack of suspension, especially at the front. Better not to inflate them too much to maintain good cushioning. The Shift is an electric bicycle that will logically be more comfortable in the city and on bike paths than on paths and cobblestones.
The comfort of the gel-padded saddle is very noticeable, although we wouldn’t have been against a suspended bar for added cushioning. But these choices have at least one advantage, that of getting a below-average electric bike in terms of weight. The Shift is not ultralight at 23.5kg, but many competitors top out at 25 or 27kg.
The handlebar offers a curved hanger with comfortable ergonomic grips, even on long rides. It allows you to maintain a relaxed position, with your arms close to your body. The stem can be adjusted to position the handlebar more or less forward or raise it a little. Something to slightly modify the position if you want a little more or a little less dynamism.
The equipment of an urban bike cannot be neglected and Shiftbikes has thought of everything, or almost. The Shift can feature a kickstand attached to the rear chainstay, a bell, a chain guard to protect your pants, and a rear rack. Mudguards are also available, essential to avoid getting to work in mud in the event of bad weather. Too bad the one attached to the front is no longer to effectively protect the shoes. On the other hand, the fenders are made of aluminum and provide greater durability than if they were made of plastic.
Too often forgotten, yet so handy for minute stops, the French VAE features an Axa lock fixed to the frame and locking the rear wheel. Pedals are also neglected by many, while their role is at least central on a bike. Shiftbikes offers a pair of very wide, grippy flat pedals that are well made.
The lighting is also provided by Axa. At the front, the headlight emits 20 lux, which is enough to be seen in the city, but lacks the power to do without street lighting at night. At the rear, the red light also makes it easy to identify.
The behavior of the engine housed in the rear wheel hub is not surprising. In the absence of a torque sensor, it activates its assistance as soon as it detects a pedal turn. A behavior that not everyone likes, but here it is quite controlled.
The assistance offers five levels and is controlled via the small screen with three buttons. The operation of the device is very simple: the “+” and “–” keys allow you to choose the assistance mode and the central button is used to start the bike. The screen shows basic information such as the current speed, the distance travelled, the battery indicator or the chosen driving mode. An estimate of the autonomy in kilometers would have been appreciated to have a more precise idea of what can be done.
In the city and on the flat, it is better to settle for the first two or three levels of assistance. They offer the power needed for quick starts, without being dangerous. The slightest twist of the pedal activates the assist and it is better to be able to control this influx of power. As required by law, assistance is cut off above 25 km/h. This speed is reached quickly and it is difficult to launch the French electric bike at more than 27 or 28 km/h on the flat.
Modes 4 and 5 are reserved for the coasts. They provide a power that allows you to overcome climbing difficulties quite easily, without having to break a sweat. On the other hand, the engine depends much more on its power than on its torque, we must not forget to play well with its speeds to get into the right gear and grind to the rhythm.
The Shimano Altus 8-speed drivetrain is decent for urban use. It’s certainly not the fastest or the smoothest, but it provides the essentials when changing gears. It will still be necessary to be careful not to overload it and to mount its reports well on the ribs to avoid premature wear.
Choosing Shimano hydraulic disc brakes is reassuring for two reasons: performance and repairability. In fact, these brakes are capable of stopping a 65kg cyclist traveling at 25km/h in just over 3m on dry ground. A good performance. Braking precision is also satisfactory for smooth decelerations. As Shimano is a very widespread and well-known brand in workshops, it will be very easy to maintain your brakes everywhere.
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