by Lars Hundley
CERO One Utility Ebike, $3,799
- Japanese style utility bike design with smaller front wheel, front and rear racks.
- Shimano mid drive motor is whisper quiet, perfectly tuned.
- Amazing range of up to 105 miles (depending on assist levels and your load).
- Different rack and basket options for the front and rear, to easily meet your specific needs.
- 77 pounds of cargo capacity, with up to 55 pounds on any single rack.
- Gates Carbon Drive Belt
- Step through frame design to easily mount the bike while loaded.
- It costs more than a low end ebike, but these upgrades are worth it.
After reviewing so many different ebikes, it’s rare for me to get an email from a bike brand and get excited. But when the folks at CERO emailed, they wanted me to review an ebike with both a Gates Drive and a Shimano mid drive motor, along with a Japanese style cargo bike frame design, with a smaller wheel in front. I’ve ridden Gates Drive ebikes before and like them, but still hadn’t tried a bike with a Shimano motor. This was an ebike that was different than anything else I had ridden before in quite a few different ways.
Assembling the CERO One
The CERO arrives in a large bike box, mostly assembled. It’s a matter of attaching the handlebars to the stem, putting on the front fender, the pedals, and then attaching the front wheel. It took me less than half an hour to pull it out of the box and assemble the bike, and it came with good instructions and a step by step assembly video that is useful for visual learners.
CERO shipped two baskets along with my bike, which are optional accessories and came in a separate box. Although they are technically both intended to be different front rack baskets, it turns out that the screws in the smaller basket also fit perfectly on the rear rack to attach it there. I ended up putting on both baskets at once, since I don’t own any panniers and I like the ease of putting things in a basket instead of strapping it to a rack. If you do prefer strapping things down, CERO also offers an optional flat platform rack that attaches in front that would allow you to carry things like boxes with a bungie cord. The rear rack has plenty of places you can attach a bungie as well.
Riding the CERO One
I have ridden a full sized cargo ebike in the past, which I really liked. The only downside to that bike was the weight of the bike itself and the additional length, which made it difficult to carry and difficult to load and fit in a vehicle. The CERO One ebike is significantly lighter and smaller, which makes it much easier to carry up and down stairs. The size also makes it very maneuverable in general. The geometry is well thought out, because the bike is very nimble when it is unloaded, and quite fun to ride. But it still has good stability when you put some weight on it. I fully loaded the front rack of the bike to test it and it’s definitely not nimble when you have 50 pounds loaded on top of the front wheel. But it’s still reasonable to handle loaded, and the big rotor hydraulic brakes give you plenty of stopping power even with all the extra weight.
The Shimano mid drive motor is by far the best ebike motor I have experienced yet. It’s whisper quiet, and amazingly responsive to pedaling. You get three different modes with a the Shimano motor, Eco, Normal and High, each with a higher level of assist than the previous setting. Eco gives you enough boost that it makes the CERO One ride similarly to a very light bike with no assist, when you’re fit. Normal is the medium level, which is probably where most people would keep it set, and High is appropriate when you are carrying a load or you just prefer a little more acceleration. You can ride the bike with no assist at all and it works perfectly, but just feels a little heavy and might be slower to ride up a steep hill.
The Shimano system also includes a special Nexus internal shifting hub designed especially for ebikes with five different gear options that provide a 263 percent range of gears that will give you a comfortable cadence option for any speed. The shifter in front has a gear indicator with a number, so you can always see at a glance which gear you are in without guessing.
The control panel with the Shimano E6100 motor system tells you things like speed, distance, trip time, clock, gear, estimated range, and how much battery you have left. It’s also removable like a regular bike computer, so you can take it inside with you whenever you park the bike. And speaking of basic security, the battery is also removable, and the bike has an Abus frame attached wheel lock on the back that prevents anyone from turning the rear wheel of the bike. Of course you’d want to use a sturdier lock if you need more security, but these are all great options for lower security situations like riding to a cafe and grabbing a coffee inside.
The CERO One is a Class 1 ebike, which means that there is no throttle and you pedal to make the motor work. The assist goes up to 20 mph. It’s a smooth end to assistance when you hit 20 mph. I’ve borrowed an ebike in Germany where they have a much lower speed limit for ebikes, and it was a very noticeable cutoff when you hit the limit. Shimano did a great job with making things feel more natural when you hit the maximum.
Lots to see in this photo. The CERO One has a heavy duty, motorcycle style kickstand that keeps the bike steady even if you’re loading up the racks. Notice the high friction platform of the flat pedals, which I loved because they worked so well with regular street shoes. My feet felt comfortable and secure. The bike has a single chainring in front and uses a Gates Belt drive, which holds up to the power of an ebike motor far better than a chain. Gates Belt technology was originally designed for motorcycles, so it is extremely sturdy, with a much longer life than a chain. The mid drive Shimano motor sits right in front of the cranks.
The frame-attached Abus lock is an extremely fast and simple option for locking your bike up in low security situations. The lock prevents the rear wheel from moving so no one can ride or roll the bike away. It’s always there, so you’ll never forget it.
If you’re a mountain biker, you might already be familiar with the well designed Ergon grips for flat handlebars. These give you a great platform for the palms of your hands, giving you increased comfort and control.
The CERO One ebike uses a Shimano Nexus hub based shifter system that’s built specifically for ebikes. You just turn the grip a click at a time to switch between five different gear options. This gives you the ability to pedal the bike at your preferred cadence on hills and on the flats.
The Shimano E8010 battery is removable so that you can carry inside to charge and don’t have to bring the entire ebike inside with you if you don’t want to. You can also charge it attached to the bike. The battery has a high capacity of 504 Wh, which is why the bike has a range of up to 105 miles in an ideal scenario. Ebike range always depends on things like the assist level you are using, the fully loaded weight of the ebike with rider and any cargo, and how hilly it is where you are riding. One cool detail in this photo is that you can also see that the CERO logo is reflective and operates as an additional reflector on the bike when you’re riding.
I have the optional big basket installed on the front of the bike. You’ll notice that the rack always points forward, straight ahead. The small wheel underneath turns freely. Most ebikes that allow a front rack have a fairly low capacity, but the frame design of the CERO One has a sturdy reinforced platform that allows you to carry up to 55 pounds in front.
The beauty of a mid drive motor ebike in this price range are details like the very nice Ergon saddle, which is very comfortable and includes a channel.
The Shimano Nexus shifter turns like a motorcycle throttle and clicks between five different gears. You can easily glance down and see which gear you are in and don’t have to guess. The Inter-5 Nexus hub itself is ebike specific, so the gear range is appropriate for an e-assisted bike, and the hub is built to a higher tolerance to handle the additional force of motor assisted pedaling. The hub is also built to be weatherproof.
The Shimano control panel can be removed from the bike so that you can take it with you when you leave the bike somewhere, making it impossible to turn on. The control panel also allows you to turn on the headlight and taillight.
The CERO One ebike uses large rotors and full Shimano hydraulic brakes and levers, for excellent stopping power and modulation. This bike will stop easily, even while fully loaded.
Another great detail about the CERO One is the adjustable stem. I liked the default position just fine, but if you wanted to tune it and put the handlebars up higher or lower, there are lots of adjustment options, with 70 mm up and down 90 degrees of tilt.
The headlight and taillight of the CERO One lets you see and be seen when you are riding in traffic, at dusk or dawn or in the dark.
CERO went with a major tire brand, Schwalbe, for the bike. Note the reflective sidewall strip, to help keep you safe and easy to see when a car headlight shines on the bike.
I really loved this ebike. The Shimano E6100 mid drive motor system is the best ebike motor I have ridden yet, and the potential range of this bike with up to 105 miles is also very impressive. Even though it’s designed as a cargo ebike, it’s still very reasonable in size and weight, so it’s a nimble bike that I carry up and down the stairs to the porch of my house. I had a great time just riding this bike around the neighborhood for fun, yet it was also designed for the utility of carrying things and very practical too.