Retrospec’s Folding Ebike Is Attractive, but Far From Perfect

Have you ever ridden a bike without a pedal? It’s not fun. It’s especially not fun on a 63-pound bike without any electric assistance. I had to angle my foot on the pedal’s crank arm, and when it inevitably slipped off mid-rotation, my leg swung wildly and kicked off the ground, as if I was riding a skateboard. I have the Jax Rev from Retrospec, a $1,600 folding fat-tire ebike, to thank for this predicament.

A few days earlier, I was riding the Jax Rev at 2 am on a dark street in Brooklyn. I was cruising at the 20-mph top speed, when suddenly—Clank! I rode over a large pothole. The bottom of the frame smacked the road; it took a few seconds for the vibrations rattling through my bones to dissipate. I was physically fine, but I quickly realized something was wrong: The bike lost power. 

It was dark, I was tired, and I couldn’t figure out exactly what happened to it. The battery was still operational, but the ebike wouldn’t turn on. I couldn’t get any of that sweet electric assist. Oh well, I only had 10 minutes left in my trip to get home. Pedaling such a heavy bike without any assistance is, frankly, exhausting. That brings me to the broken pedal. I was huffing on it while heading to a bike shop to see if they could fix it when the pedal broke off the crank arm. Great. 

Ticking the Boxes

Retrospec ebike
Photograph: Retrospec

All of this happened toward the tail end of a three-month testing period with the Jax Rev, which has been an otherwise fine class 2 ebike. I can’t speak much about the setup process as the bike was fully assembled when it was hand-delivered, but I was happy to see it came with all the accoutrements you’d want, such as a rear rack, bell, front and rear lights, and fenders. 

It has the same pitfall as other fat-tire ebikes I’ve tried: It’s freaking heavy, so good luck carrying it up and down flights of stairs. The folding process is easy, but due to the weight, it can be unwieldy. You also need to raise the kickstand so that the two halves can stick together. Still, it’s a little more elegant than the folding process on the more affordable Lectric XP.

That elegance is evident in other parts of the bike. The battery is easier to remove, though you may need to twist the saddle out of the way (you don’t need to remove it to charge it). You do need a key to turn the battery on and ride the Jax Rev, but it’s situated right under the saddle, not awkwardly under the ebike like on the Lectric. 

It’s also attractive, rivaling another fat-tire ebike I tested. The Jax Rev comes in a pleasant olive green or plain black. I had the former, and at least three strangers stopped to tell me how pretty it looked. 

There are five levels of pedal assistance to choose from (with level 5 offering the most assistance), and there’s a little handlebar-mount display with buttons you can use to toggle through the levels. You also get a throttle, which is handy for when you quickly need to move at a traffic light, or when navigating past bumper-to-bumper traffic on narrow roads. 

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