by Lars Hundley
Vvolt Proxima Ebike, $2,699
- Mid drive motor, a Gates belt, a Class 3 level 28 mph top speed for under $3,000 is a great value.
- Enviolo rear hub has “stepless” shifting (no distinct gear changes) and a 380 percent range.
- Hydraulic brakes with 160mm rotors, good tire clearance up to 42mm for gravel adventures.
- 20 to 40 of miles range depending on assist levels.
- Ready for fenders.
- Easiest to assemble ebike I’ve ever seen! Put on front wheel, attach pedals, ride.
- 250 watt (500 peak) MPF motor and LG battery cells with 375wh capacity.
- Feels a little weird with no distinct gear changes, but it’s easy and fast to twist and change it.
How obtained: Manufacturer shipped the ebike at their cost for review and paid for return shipping afterwards.
Vvolt is an ebike sibling brand to the terrific Shower’s Pass apparel company that we’ve reviewed quite a few times on RBR in the past. Knowing the quality and attention to detail with their apparel, I was excited to see what they might do with ebikes. It turns out that they have done a lot.
Vvolt shipped me their Proxima model ebike, to be returned after review. This is an exciting bike to me because it had three different cool features that I was excited about that I had never personally tried before. The ebike has a mid drive Taiwanese motor from MPF, which sets it apart from most of the other bikes I have ridden that have hub motors. Mid drive motors are often only found on more expensive ebikes that cost more than $3k, so finding it on a $2,700 bike was impressive.
But the mid drive motor was only the first cool feature. The second one is the Gates Belt drivetrain instead of a chain. I’ve always wanted to try a bike with a Gates Belt but had never gotten the chance. Unlike chains that get greasy and filthy, Gates Belts are carbon fiber reinforced and stay grease free, rust free and hassle free.
More importantly for ebikes, Gates Belt tech is rooted in motorcycles and is extremely sturdy under the peak loads of an electric motor, which means it will last a lot longer than a chain. Gates has done high load stress testing where their belts lasted more than 10,000 miles, when ebike specific chains only lasted a few hundred miles under such a stressful overload. In the real world your ebike won’t ever experience that kind of load so you can imagine that the belt will last a long time.
The third cool feature about the bike is the rear hub shifting system from Enviolo, a Dutch company. Maybe you’ve heard of them, or maybe you’ve heard of the different types of hub shifting systems from Rohloff or Shimano. What sets Enviolo apart from those other two brands is its stepless shifting system. There are no specific gears that click, just a range. It’s like the volume knob on a radio. There’s a twist knob sort of like a motorcycle throttle, and you get a 380 percent ratio range from the easiest to the hardest setting. With a hub shifting system, the parts are internal to the hub, so they are protected from the elements.
The Enviolo system allows you to shift while pedaling, while coasting or while completely at a stop. It was a little confusing to me at first to figure out how my gears were set, but then someone explained to me that the little display on the handlebars that I thought was just a branding graphic actually moves and changes. It shows a rider on a steep hill when you have it in an easy gear, and the road goes completely flat when you have it in a hard gear, making it clear to even non-cyclists if they are set somewhere appropriate for their surroundings.
Building the Proxima
I have built quite a few ebikes at this point, so it is notable that Vvolt had the simplest assembly of any ebike I have ever had to put together to date. The handlebars were already attached and turned sideways so they fit inside the box. The box itself is designed with a cardboard tray in the bottom so that you pull the bike out from the side rather than having to lift it from the top of the box.
Once you pull it out, you just have to straighten the handlebars, attach the front wheel and put on the pedals. That’s it! They include a multitool, and there are also printed instructions and a video that walks you through the steps. Anyone who has spent much time working on their own bike will not need to look at the instructions at all, but they’re right there if you need them.
Riding the Proxima
When you order the Proxima, you can choose from a 20 mph top assisted speed as the standard build, or a full Class 3 28 mph top speed for $100 more, which they call the Warp Core Upgrade. They sent me a Class 3, faster version.
I had only ever ridden one other Class 3 ebike in the past. I test rode that one in a parking lot, and it felt alarmingly fast, with a high acceleration rate. But Vvolt really thought out how they wanted their bike to ride, and I completely agree with how they tuned this bike.
By using a reasonably powered, mid drive 250 watt motor (with peak 500 watts) that has a smooth acceleration curve, you don’t get the sense that the bike is jumping off too quickly from a start. And even better, they designed it so that it doesn’t just accelerate right up to 28 mph as soon as you put it on the level 5 assist. To go faster than around 20 mph, you have to keep a faster cadence for the bike to keep accelerating.
There is a good reason for this kind of tuning. It prevents a rider from going too fast unintentionally. If you let a friend ride it around the block, you don’t have to worry that an inexperienced rider is going to give it full throttle and put themselves in a bad situation because they don’t realize how fast they are going.
You have to pedal a smooth cadence of faster than 90 to make the bike continue accelerating to the top speed. The acceleration is steady and smooth and requires a pretty good stretch, so you won’t find yourself bombing through your neighborhood at high speeds unless it’s a long straightaway. But if you’re out on the open road and really want to ride at the maximum speed, you can.
I think this system sort of replicates what it feels like to ride fast on a regular bike, where you only ride that fast if you really mean it.
The Proxima handled well, and the Gates Belt drive meant that I never had to worry about getting chain grease on my pants when I rode around the neighborhood in regular clothes. The 42mm Kenda tires had enough air volume that the ride was comfortable, while also giving you enough rubber on the road to corner well with the bike.
The twist shifter of the Enviolo reminded me of a motorcycle throttle, because it turns but doesn’t click. Turn it one way and it goes into a harder gear, or turn it the other way and it gets easier. There are no distinct shifts, so you can adjust it to exactly the cadence you like. With a big range of 380 percent between the easiest and the hardest gear, you can definitely put it in a granny gear easy enough to pedal up a hill without the assist, or a hard enough gear to pedal at the 28 mph assist limit.
The bike weighs around 52 pounds, which is still reasonable to carry up stairs if you have to take it somewhere and light for this price range.
The Proxima drivetrain is a triple threat with its mid drive motor, Gates Belt drive and Enviolo stepless hub shifting. It really compares very well to much more expensive bikes with these types of features and specs. Vvolt did a good job of keeping the price very competitive by selling direct.
The operation of the bike is dead simple. One button turns it on. A button that turns on the assist and raises it from level 1 to level 5, and another that brings the assist level back down. You can see your speed and the battery level, as well as your odometer.
You can see from the Enviolo controller that I have the ebike set in an easier gear, suitable for riding uphill. The little orange line gets steeper and looks like a hill or goes flat, depending on where you have the gear set.
You can recharge the Vvolt by plugging directly into the bike. When it is charging, you’ll see the green light come on.
The battery locks to the bicycle so that no one can take it off without a key.
If you tend to keep your ebike in the garage or you commute to work, you can always remove the battery and take it inside with you. This makes the bike less appealing the steal if you lock it up outside, and it makes it easier to charge if you don’t have a space to bring the whole bike inside.
The bike comes with a rechargeable removable headlight and clip on rechargeable taillight to keep you safe in traffic or while riding in the dark.
The Proxima uses big 160mm rotors for powerful stopping ability, along with hydraulic brakes rather than just mechanical. Hydraulic brakes are usually only found on significantly more expensive ebikes, so it is impressive that Vvolt managed to include them on the Proxima.
The Proxima saddle is a real cyclist’s saddle with a pressure relieving channel in the center and not an overstuffed sofa cushion style of saddle that you can sometimes find on ebikes.
Vvolt chose a recognized brand name for their tires, with a durable, well treaded 40mm tire that’s wide enough to give you stability and traction even on gravel bike paths or roads, and enough air volume that you’ll get a comfortable ride.
The Vvolt Proxima is a cool looking ebike with all the specs you really want like a Gates Belt drive, stepless rear hub shifting and a mid drive motor, at a price that’s still under $3k. The assembly is so simple that you just have to turn the handlebars, attach the front wheel and pedal and you’re ready to ride.