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If you asked me to describe the perfect commuter e-bike, I would say it needed to have the following things: Comfort, versatility, mudguards a pannier rack, lights, an internally geared hub, a good battery range and a decent mid-drive motor.
On first inspection, it seems that the BTWIN Elops 920 E has all these things, plus it comes in at a very reasonable £1399.99. But specification is one thing, how it performs in the real world is another. Read my review below for the lowdown on this seemingly great-value e-bike.
With more and more people taking to commuting by electric bike. This particular sector of the industry is as competitive as ever.
Decathlon has recently been releasing some absolutely brilliant e-bikes. Their BTWIN Elops 920 E Classic has been around for over a year now. How has it stood the test of time?
At first glance, the Elops 920 E has everything you would look for in a commuter bike. A good quality motor, a decent 36v11.6ah battery and even a Shimano Nexus 7 internally geared hub. Not to mention the mudguards, lights and comfortable riding position. All wrapped up in a very cool, retro-looking design.
I have a friend who purchased one of these a few months back to use as a daily commuter, and I have had a little go on it myself. It certainly delivers in a few key areas, but it is far from perfect.
Let’s have a closer look under the skin of the BTWIN Elops 920 E Classic.
Brose Drive T Aluminium
The choice of motor couldn’t have been better really. The Brose Drive T is at the lower end of their motor range and is specifically aimed at hybrid/touring/city bikes.
On paper, the Brose Drive T looks good. It provides up to 320% assistance with a very respectable 70Nm of torque – when compared with the Bosch Active Line Plus at 50Nm.
I had a ride on this bike back in the Spring, and I have to say, I was impressed with the smoothness and responsiveness of the motor. I live at the bottom of a 8-10% climb, that is about a quarter of a mile long, and the motor handled it with ease.
The torque sensing system was very sensitive to pedalling input and the motor provided almost seamless assistance as soon as the force was applied to the pedals.
I have read a few reviews where customers have complained this motor is not powerful enough. I think the reason for this is the weight of the bike. At just over 25kg, it is quite heavy, and level one assist only really cancels out this extra weight. You really need to be in level two or three to really feel the benefits of the motor.
Once you pedal past the 15mph motor cut-off point, the weight really does become apparent. Not too much of an issue on the flat, but I wouldn’t want to run out of battery power and pedal this uphill with no electric assist!
Brose Drive T Conclusion
I believe the Brose Drive T is a good mid-drive motor, it is well-engineered, and manufactured by a German company that has a long lineage in the automotive industry.
Despite the overall weight of the bike, the Brose motor does provide a nice and responsive pedal assist, and I believe it is perfectly suited to an electric bike of this type. So I’m giving it the big thumbs up!
The LCD display has all the functions you would usually expect on a decent e-bike. There are 3 levels of pedal assist plus a useful walking mode. There is a speedometer and battery indicator as well as a trip computer.
It is conveniently located next to the left-hand side handlebar grip, so the controls are easy to adjust on the move.
The 36v 11.6ah (417Wh) rack-mounted battery uses high-quality Samsung cells and should give a realistic range of anywhere between 30 – 50 miles, depending on rider weight, and the power level used.
There have been some customer reports of loose battery connections causing temporary interruption of power. These may be isolated incidents, as my friend has not had any of these issues at the time of writing.
Shimano Nexus 7 IGH
I have ridden many bikes with Shimano internally geared hubs, and the Nexus 7 is a dependable unit. The reason this type of gear system is so well suited to urban riding and commuting is the ability to change gear when stationary.
On a regular bike with derailleur gears, you need to downshift when approaching a junction to make sure you are in the right gear to start pedalling again.
With the Shimano Nexus, this is no longer an issue. You just twist the grip-shift to select the lowest gear (when stationary) and away you go!
The Nexus is also easy to maintain. Apart from periodically adjusting the cable tension, the hub gear itself is virtually maintenance-free.
This is where things are not quite up to scratch in my opinion. The front brake is a mechanical Tektro disc brake, and although it does work, it doesn’t have the confidence-inspiring bite of hydraulic brakes, especially when you consider the bike weighs in at a hefty 25kg!
On top of that, the rear Nexus hub is not disc brake compatible, so rear braking is left to some fairly basic v-brakes, which are mounted on the chainstay, close to the bottom bracket.
I really think at this price, having a good hydraulic brake on the front would have been a good idea.
This is another important area that has been overlooked. When you look at Decathlon’s excellent Riverside 500 Electric bike that is £400 cheaper, you see fairly robust Suntour NVX hybrid forks, that have 63mm of travel and can be locked out and adjusted.
The BTWIN branded forks on the Elops 920 E are the kind you would expect to find on a bargain basement hybrid bike, and certainly not fitted to an e-bike at this price. There is no adjustment of the lock-out feature either, which is disappointing.
This concern has been echoed in some of the customer reviews. Although my friend has said he is happy enough with their performance. I personally felt they were okay at soaking up smaller holes and road debris, but I wouldn’t want to take it too far off the beaten track.
Wheels and Tyres
The wheels seem sturdy enough. 28″ with double-walled alloy rims and 36H on both wheels. The alloy finish suits the retro style of the bike nicely.
The tyres are branded BTWIN and are a nice retro tan colour with reflective strips on the sidewalls, this suits the general style of the bike. They seem to have a reasonable level of puncture protection, although my friend has replaced the originals with a set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres.
You don’t want to be removing the rear wheel, as it can be a tricky process due to the internally geared hub.
The 20 lux LED headlight that is built into the front of the bike is powered by the battery and can be turned on and off using the display. There is also a rear light as well. The headlight is okay at night in well-lit city streets, but not particularly powerful riding dark country lanes. I would recommend additional lights for that purpose.
As you would expect with a fully-fledged commuter bike, the BTWIN Elops 920 E has all the bells and whistles. Front and rear mudguards, chain guard, kickstand and a robust pannier rack that can take up to 27kg in weight and baby carrier. The rack is also compatible with attachments for self-locking panniers.
The handlebars, stem and seat post are all made of polished alloy, which complements to look of the bike.
The gel saddle is quite comfortable and should provide enough cushioning for most.
The Alloy frame is finished in a nice retro metallic green colour, that may not be to everyone’s taste. I personally quite like the retro look of this bike. The pannier rack is welded to the frame as is the front headlight housing.
There is also internal cable routing, which is a must on a commuter bike, to keep the cables protected from the elements.
Who is this bike aimed at?
If you’re looking for the classic ‘sit up and beg’ riding position, with Dutch-style handlebars, this bike is for you. It is a commuter bike through and through and is also suitable for leisure riders who want a nice and comfortable e-bike to ride on the weekends.
I wouldn’t feel too comfortable taking this bike on anything but the mellowest of off-road trails though, due to the poor front suspension. It should be perfectly fine for canal towpaths though.
So, is the BTWIN Elops 920 E the perfect commuter e-bike? Unfortunately not. It could have been if a little more thought went into the finer details.
There’s so much to like about this bike, but it does disappoint in a number of areas. The front suspension is not particularly good, it would have been far better to fit a decent set of Cromoly steel rigid forks.
The brakes do not inspire confidence. Something that is needed on a bike of this weight. It would be easy enough to upgrade the front brake to hydraulic though. But my friend seems happy enough with the braking performance.
The Brose Drive T motor is the centrepiece of this electric bike and it performs excellently in combination with the Shimano Nexus 7 hub.
One thing I will say, though is when the assist cuts out at 15mph you really can feel the weight of the bike bogging you down. This is definitely not one for the speed demons out there. I had to work hard to maintain 16-18 mph on the flat.
When compared to the cheaper Riverside 500 (which has a hub motor fitted), this did feel very sluggish with the assist switched off. In assist level one, it felt like there was just enough power to overcome the weight penalty and level the field. It wasn’t until assist two and three were used that things started to become a lot easier.
I think, if you’re not in a hurry, and you are just after a good workhorse that will carry some panniers and keep you at a very comfortable 15 mph average speed on the flat, then this isn’t a bad bike. It has quite a pedestrian feel to it, but as a form of transport to get you from A to B in relative comfort, it does its job well.