by Lars Hundley
Aventon Soltera Ebike, $1,199
- Weighs just 41 pounds, so it handles like a regular bike
- 350 watt rear hub motor that assists up to 20 mph, with 5 levels of assist at varying max speeds
- Hub motor is well tuned, so it accelerates smoothly without “jumping” forward
- Up to 63 miles range in a best case scenario with level 1 assist, up to 22 miles throttle only and no pedaling at all. Probably around 40 miles range for average use case.
- Only takes a few hours to fully charge the removable battery.
- Integrated rear brake lights are extremely useful and look awesome
- Hits a very competitive, low price point that’s comparable to a regular bike
- Comes as a single speed, or as a 7 speed for $100 more.
- No fenders or rack (but hey, that’s why it’s light and sporty!)
- Rim brakes instead of disc brakes, but they work great (and bring the overall weight down)
How obtained: Manufacturer provided the ebike at their cost for review.
The more ebikes I review, the more I am pleasantly surprised by their individual advantages and the differences between them. I guess it only makes sense, as there is also a large range of specific regular bikes like road bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes, etc.
Up until now I’ve mostly reviewed commuter style ebikes with racks and fenders. What I liked about those bikes is the utility factor. Although they were often quite heavy if you picked them up, it didn’t seem to matter that much, because when you’re riding them the motor makes up for the extra weight.
With the Soltera ebike, Aventon went in a totally different direction. This bike is designed to meet two specific goals — a low weight, and a low price. And they nailed it on both goals.
To bring the price and the weight down, they dramatically simplified Soltera. Why give it gears if you have a motor to help you pedal anyway? (If gears matter to you, you can pay $100 more and get it as a 7 speed.) Do you really need a rack and fenders if you don’t ride in the rain and are not actually strapping things to your bike?
The Soltera is a bike that’s designed more for the joy of riding, rather than lugging your groceries home perched on a heavy duty rack. Because let’s face it, how many people are really using their ebike in this way compared to just riding around for fun? Commuters often use a backpack anyway.
The low weight of the Soltera ebike was noticeable as soon as I lifted it out of the box for the first time. Whenever I go out my front door with a bike, I have to carry it down the stairs from my front porch. The Soltera is about as easy to carry down the stairs as a mountain bike, at just 41 pounds. So if you lived in an apartment or condo where you’d regularly carry it up and down more than one flight of stairs, this would be a major plus.
It turns out that the low weight is a great feature on the road too. Many ebikes feel kind of “dead” or tank-like if you ride them with no motor assist, because of the weight. And they feel heavy when you’re at a stop light with one leg on the ground, leaning the bike over. The Soltera, on the other hand, does not feel substantially heavier than a low end regular hybrid bike or cruiser, which often weigh in the 30s.
Ebike manufacturers tune the motors of their electric bikes in different ways, and use motors with varying top speeds and varying amounts of wattage and battery size. With the Soltera, Aventon tuned it just right. A 350 watt motor might not sound like a lot of power, but it’s a significantly lighter bike and it’s pretty much perfect. There is plenty of power to assist you up steep hills even with just a single gear. The pedal assist kicks in very smoothly and doesn’t jerk you forward and surprise you like I’ve experienced with some ebikes.
I had no problem accelerating up to the 20 mph top assist speed, at a reasonable rate that won’t frighten a person who isn’t a hardcore cyclist. I’ve let my non-cyclist wife ride several of the ebikes I’ve tested in the past, and she has often found the more powerful ones to be a little scary when they accelerate and would generally only set them at the lowest level of assist and wasn’t comfortable at speeds over around 15 mph. The smoother power curve of the Soltera is very well thought out and feels great.
The Soltera offers 5 levels of motor assist. You can choose to ride it without any assist at all like a regular bike, or you could ride it with no pedaling at all if you’re feeling lazy because it has a throttle option too. The throttle can be nice if you’re at a stop light that’s on an uphill and you’re trying to get started, so it’s not just for lazy people.
The lower levels of assist will generally give you a lower top speed. So a level 1 assist would be good for pedaling around the neighborhood at around 10 or 12 mph, while the level 5 would assist you up to the 20 mph max speed. The throttle also will take you up to the max of 20 mph.
Aventon’s site has one of the best range estimators I’ve seen for ebikes. Range is a little like gas mileage, in that it can vary a lot between drivers. How much a rider weighs and how much motor assist a rider is using is going to give your range a lot of variation. In a best case scenario you can get up to 63 miles with a rider who weighs around 160 pounds and uses the level one assist. The same rider using full throttle at the max speed and no pedaling at all can still go an impressive 22 miles. That means that your typical rider might expect around 40 miles before needing to recharge. It only takes a few hours to recharge fully from an empty battery.
What I really love about Aventon bikes and the Soltera are the integrated brake / running lights in the rear of the frame. If the headlight is turned on, then the rear lights operate as running lights that get brighter when you hit the brakes. If you have the headlight turned off, the rear lights stay off too and only light up when you brake. The integrated lights look very cool, and they also add a higher level of safety.
The control display for the Soltera ebike is also very nice, with a color LED panel. The controls are very easy to understand and use at a glance, without instructions. There is a plus and a minus button to raise or lower your assist level, which appears on the screen. There is a headlight button to turn your lights on and off. There’s a button to cycle through the various screens to see things like your max speed, current speed, your trip distance, how much battery you have left, etc.
When you open up the box, the Soltera is mostly assembled inside. You’ll just need to attach the handlebars and the seat, put the pedals on, attach the front wheel and you’re ready to ride. It took me under 30 minutes to assemble it. I did not need any instructions, but it did come with a manual and also a link to their very good YouTube video that explains every aspect with clear video step by step instructions if you need help. You don’t need to be an advanced bike mechanic — it only takes basic skills to assemble.
The bike is extremely well packed to avoid any damage during shipping.
No tools? No problem. Aventon includes everything you need to assemble the ebike, including a wrench for the pedals and front wheel and a multi-tool for everything else.
The Soltera I test rode was a single speed model, but a 7 speed is also available for $100 more. The battery is well integrated into the down tube so that you can barely tell it’s an ebike when you look at it.
The battery can be charged while connected to the bike. You can also use the included key and remove the battery completely from the ebike to charge it inside. Or just bring it inside for extra security when you lock it up somewhere, because it’s less appealing to steal with no battery. When you click the battery into place, it is locked until you release it with the key.
The bike comes with flat pedals that have a large enough platform and enough grip that they feel safe and comfortable when pedaling in regular shoes.
A very sturdy kickstand is attached to the bike so that you can park it without leaning it against something. The kickstand is well designed and does not rattle when you’re riding.
The Kenda tires are 35mm, so you’ll get plenty of cushioning and grip, but they still roll faster than the huge, heavy-duty tires on some ebikes. The reflective strip around the tires is also a very nice touch for safety.
My favorite feature of the Soltera is the integrated brake and running lights. If the headlight is turned on, the rear lights operate as running lights that get brighter when you hit the brakes. If the headlight is off, the lights work as brake lights.
The sidepull brakes on the Soltera have plenty of stopping power and also save weight compared to disc brakes, which is one of the reasons the entire bike weighs just 41 pounds. They are also very easy for a home mechanic to adjust and cheap to get worked on at the bike shop.
The Soltera ebike comes in two different frame sizes, S/M and M/L. Pictured is the M/L, which is suitable for riders from around 5’7″ up to taller than 6 feet. The seat height is easy to adjust, with a quick release lever. The SelleRoyal saddle is comfortable, and it’s great to see a brand you recognize on an ebike in this price range.
The controller and throttle for the bike is self explanatory and easy to use at a glance. There’s a power button, a plus and minus button to give you higher or lower assist levels, a throttle you can use with your thumb, a button to turn on the headlight and to scroll through your control panel screen options.
I did not expect a lot from an ebike that only costs $1,100, so I was surprised how much I like the Aventon Soltera. The things that make the Soltera less expensive turned out to be things that also make it much more fun to ride. The simplicity of a single speed means that you just pedal and go, and the lack of fenders and racks gives the bike a sportier look and brings the weight down to only 41 pounds, making it easy to carry up and down stairs. The integrated brake lights and color LED control panel screen are something I haven’t seen on some ebikes that cost more than twice as much, so Aventon did a great job of making the bike lighter and less expensive without making it cheap. The 350 watt motor gives you plenty of boost with 5 different assist levels, a 20 mph top assist speed and also a throttle option where you don’t have to pedal at all. The 36v 10 ah LG cell battery gives you a respectable average range of around 40 miles, with a best case scenario of more than 60 miles.
David Stihler says
Gads, 41 lbs is not light and sporty.
Gary G says
My Surly Long Haul Trucker didn’t weigh a whole lot less!
“……20 mph top assist speed, at a reasonable rate that won’t frighten a person who isn’t a hardcore cyclist.”
Gotta throw the BS flag on that one. Riding 20 mph is a WHOLE ‘nother level than tooling around at the 10-12mph most cruiser/hybrid are used to riding. My biggest gripe about e-bikes is that they allow (encourage) too many unskilled riders to ride at speeds they cannot handle. I have NO problem with older, experienced roadies getting an e-bike to help them keep up with their younger buddies. But I’ve been on FAR too many open club rides where e-bikers pose a danger to other riders with their lack of bike handling skills at speed. And one of my older neighbors crashed her e-bike badly at speed after many trouble free years riding her cruiser bike. No coincidence IMHO.
Road Bike Rider says
I was really making the same point, because I described how my non-cyclist wife was not comfortable at speeds over 12 to 15 mph. At lower assist levels, there is a lower top speed. That means that riders can ride the Soltera at speeds within their comfort level and capabilities.
What I was describing in your quote is the rate of acceleration. Some models of more powerful ebikes accelerate very quickly and kind of jump forward as the motor kicks in, which is scary for a non cyclist. The Soltera has an acceleration curve that was not scary. I was writing about that as a separate issue from the top speed.
A 20 mph ebike is in the middle category of top speeds. There are Class 3 ebikes that will assist you up to 28 mph.
I fully understand how some e-bikes accelerate differently as the power assist kicks in, and that the top speed of e-bikes varies significantly across Classes. And I mean NO disrespect whatsoever to the Aventon being reviewed.
My point was that smoothness of motor acceleration can give some riders a false sense of security and lull them into riding at speeds and in settings they cannot safely handle. Pardon me for being direct here. IMHO- The power assist kick-in on any e-bike I’ve seen (except CL 4) should not be unsettling to any cyclist of even basic-to-moderate skills. If it does, that person really should be riding a regular bike until they gain adequate riding skills.
FYI- There is evidence that while pedal bike injury rates are decreasing, the rate of e-bike injuries has been INcreasing (and those e-bike injuries tend to be more severe).
Safety first. E-bike injuries, and bike injuries in general, do not help support bicycling.
Dave Minden says
I’m curious about the single speed. Not a single/fixie rider, but I have a hard time imagining a bike that is comfortable going 3mph and 20mph with the same single gear.
Road Bike Rider says
The Soltera has a pretty big gear, so you have a relatively slow cadence at low speeds so that you aren’t spinning out if you want to go with the max assist at 20 mph.
I haven’t ridden a lot of regular singlespeed bikes, but my guess is that you’d probably choose a smaller gear if you didn’t have a motor, because you’d have trouble getting started or going up hills. Which means that you are going to have to have a pretty high cadence at speed with most non-motorized ones.
But with an ebike singlespeed, the motor assists you so you don’t get bogged down on uphills and starts, and the bigger gear they used seems like a good choice to me.
I got slaughtered by a guy on a singlespeed in a cyclocross race this season, on a difficult course with short steep hills. I also remember a guy from Dallas who rode the Dirty Kanza 200 the same year I did. He rode the whole thing on a fixed gear singlespeed and had a respectable finish time somewhere in the top half. I doesn’t sound very fun to me for racing, but some people are really into it and do well too. Choosing your gear is probably a big part of it with no motor.
Cynthia Johnson says
Newbie here.. I’ve been a long time Colorado bike rider and would like the benefit of some exercise under my own power with some assist.. Would a single gear offer me that or should I consider the 7 gears? I live in a very hilly area and have not ridden for years due to many hand surgeries and feel this might be the answer for me. I like the light weight of this bike. I am nearing age 70 🙂 Does this bike allow for a rear fender to be added? Can I ride dry dirt roads such as Griggs Road near Daniels Park? Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you, C
Road Bike Rider says
Yes, there are many fender designs that would probably work with this bike, as there are even fenders that work with pure road bikes.
The tires are wide enough for gravel paths or packed dry dirt roads for a cyclist with basic skills, such as you already had the ability to ride that road in the past comfortably. As someone else pointed out in the comments, you want to stay at a speed that you can control the bike at all times and not just go faster because the bike is able to.
Very hilly and Colorado means I would probably go for the gears so you can have more options for pedaling cadence.
Why not offer hydraulic disc brakes for a little more!
Russ marx says
The assist level selected will be constant. The mother does not “kick in”. If you select a high level of assist at a low cadence there will be surgeing. This would be a problem with a 1 speed.
My e-bike is a 10 speed & often I am searching for the gear it doesn’t have to match my preferred cadence to the speed of my friends.