E-bikes don’t usually bring the words sleek or simple to mind. And yet, those are the exact adjectives I’d use to describe the VVolt Alpha.
A relative newcomer to the electric scene, VVolt offers bikes that are affordable, low maintenance, and that don’t look like your traditional e-bike. With a Gates belt drive and stealthy battery, the VVolt Alpha is a perfect bike for the hip urban commuter.
After riding the VVolt Alpha S (the step-thru version of the bike) on my daily errands for a couple weeks, I can attest that it offers pretty much everything you NEED, and nothing that you don’t.
Review In A Nutshell
- Sleek look, not immediately recognizable as an e-bike
- Gates belt drive & singlespeed drivetrain make for a low maintenance ride
- Front thru axle
- Lightweight (for an e-bike)
- Great torque, getting up to speed is easy
- Off-brand components
- Lights aren’t integrated
- Can get spun out on flat roads
Price & Where To Buy:
- $1,399 List
- Buy at VVolt.com*
Finally, An E-Bike That Looks Cool
One of the biggest drawbacks of e-bikes (in my very shallow opinion) is that they look dorky! You usually have either a very large external battery or a very large downtube.
With the VVolt Alpha, neither of those are true. While the downtube is wider than a traditional frame, it’s not immediately obvious that it’s an e-bike.
The bike also lacks some of the dorky “features” of other entry level e-bikes–like extended quill stems, cheap suspension forks or fat tires. Trust me, that’s a good thing.
The VVolt Alpha is the perfect bike for someone who wants a simple, no-frills commuter bike with the extra assistance a motor can offer. Want to get to work a little faster or less sweaty but still in style? This is a great e-bike for you.
Affordable Option That Beats Pricepoint Competitors
The VVolt Alpha is a pretty great bike at any price, but the $1,300 price tag makes it extra attractive. Especially when you compare it to the competition.
At this pricepoint, your options are mostly a bunch of heavy, clunky e-bikes of questionable quality and durability. Most of them I wouldn’t recommend.
One of the closest competitors might be the RadMission, the most entry-level offering from RadPower. While that is a bike I would be comfortable recommending, it lacks the sleek look and feel of the VVolt Alpha, as well as the low maintenance belt drive.
Low Maintenance Drive Train
For most of us who ride our bikes for transportation on a daily basis, reliability is key. That’s why I appreciated that the VVolt Alpha is simple and has few parts that require regular upkeep.
The drivetrain in particular is low maintenance. Rather than a chain, the Alpha has a high-quality Gates belt drive. This means there’s nothing to lube and nothing to rust.
Additionally, the bike is a single speed (i.e. there’s only one gear). As such, you don’t have to worry about skipping gears, a bent derraileur, or frayed cable.
Bike Can Feel Under Geared In Fast Traffic
While the singlespeed design is perfect for keeping things simple and low maintenance, I did find that I felt under geared when riding in fast traffic. Downtown, I like moving quicky so as not to impede traffic and to get the hell out of dodge as quickly as possible. On the VVolt Alpha, I often felt under geared and spun out in these situations.
On the flip side, with the help of the electric assist, I never felt over geared even when riding up the steep hill I live on. As with all singlespeeds, there is always a tradeoff between being over or under geared.
Wheel / Tire Combo Can Tackle A Little Bit Of Everything
While the VVolt Alpha is very much an around town commuter, it recognizes that a work commute can include more than just pavement. If your daily route includes gravel canal path or even a little dirt trail, the Alpha can handle it.
In fact, the VVolt resembles a mountain bike more than a cruiser. It has 27.5 inch wheels, knobby tires, and even a thru-axle (for added safety and stability). I rode it on some sandy local trails, and the bike did great!
Like other components on the bike, the Chaonyang tires are off-brand but seemed good enough.
Hydraulic Disc Brakes Offer Plenty Of Stopping Power
Hydraulic disc brakes offer superior stopping power when compared to v-brakes or even mechanical disc brakes. The VVolt Alpha has Radius hydraulic disc brakes.
The Radius brakes are not brand name, and probably don’t offer the same durability or quality as brakes from big names like Shimano or SRAM, but in testing, they seemed to offer plenty of stopping power. I didn’t have any issues with squeaking or rubbing either.
Like other components on the VVolt Alpha, you’ll notice the price has been kept low by offering these off brand brakes. If you want a higher end build, you need to be prepared to pay a higher end price.
Class 1 Motor Feels Zippy
The VVolt Alpha is a Class 1 e-bike. This means that it doesn’t have a throttle, and is limited to 20mph.
While I’ve often missed having a throttle on heavier e-cargo bikes, the VVolt Alpha is light enough that I didn’t miss the throttle at all starting out. It gets up to speed VERY quickly and feels quite zippy.
The bike has a 350w Acer Xplova hub motor. This is significantly less than the 500w motor on the RadCity for example, but I never felt underpowered. Again, this is likely due to the light weight.
Speaking of light weight, at only 44 pounds, this is a bike that you can bike home if you did run out of battery life. (Ride an e-bike long enough and this is something that will happen at some point). I’ve ridden plenty of other e-bikes that are impossible to ride without the motor turned on, but I had no problem cruising flat roads with the motor turned off on the Alpha.
The battery is also off-brand (Celxpert), but the cells inside are actually LG–a well known, and respected brand. It offers 375wh, and is advertised as 20-40 miles per charge. With the assist turned up all the way, I found the 20 mile range to be about accurate.
Charging the bike simply requires plugging in the battery. It can be attached to the bike (how I charged it), or removed and brought inside.
There is an indicator light on the downtube to show charge status. When the battery is charged, the light is green. When it’s not, it’s red. Easy, peasy.
Computer Is Small But Does The Job
Compared to most e-bike computers, the display on the VVolt Alpha is tiny. It shows your speed, assist level (there are five), distance, and battery life.
It also has a USB port for charging devices, so you could plug in your light or phone on the go.
Bosses For Racks And Bags
The Vvolt Alpha doesn’t come with a rack but has bosses so you could add one easily if you’d like. There are also bosses on the front fork where you could add water bottle cages or something like the Salsa Anything cage and bag.
Traditional Or Step Thru Frame
The bike I tested is the VVolt Alpha S which has a step thru frame. This definitely makes getting on and off the bike easier when cruising around town.
That said, the frame did not have the extreme slope of the Radpower RadCity, for instance. This makes it not as good of an option if you’re looking to wear a skirt to work, for example.
If you don’t like or want a step thru frame, the VVolt Alpha also comes in a more traditional frame design with a higher top tube.
Comes With Lights But They Aren’t Integrated
What about lights? The VVolt Alpha comes with rechargeable front and rear lights, but they aren’t integrated.
This was one of the only “extras” that I was sorry not to have on the bike. It’s great to have integrated lights on those occasions where you get caught unexpectedly in the dark. I’m also not great about remembering to take my lights off and charge them. (This might not be an issue for you).
Super Simple Out Of The Box
The idea of buying a bike online can be intimidating. Fortunately, the VVolt Alpha was incredibly easy to assemble out of the box and even the most mechanically disinclined will be able to handle it.
The bike slides out of the side of the box–no heavy lifting required. Another small box inside (“the party box”) holds the pedals, lights, and included allen wrench set.
You do have to install the front wheel and pedals and set the saddle height, but it’s straightforward and there are instructions.
A Note On Sizing
Unlike many e-bikes that are one size fits all, the VVolt Alpha comes in two sizes–S/M and L/XL. I’m 5’5″ and tested the S/M.
While the S/M has a standover height of 27″ and an advertised height range of 4’9″ to 5’8″ I do think it would feel too big for women on the smaller side of the spectrum. At 5’5″ I felt very comfortable on the bike.
If you plan on sharing the bike between yourself and a partner, it’s also worth noting that there is not a quick release collar on the seatpost. This means you’ll need an allen wrench (included with the bike) to raise or lower the seat when you swap the bike.
Other Stuff Worth Mentioning
- Kickstand. The bike comes with a sturdy one sided kickstand. Many e-bikes will come with a dual sided kickstand which is sturdier, but probably unnecessary on the Alpha since it is so light. I never had an issue with the bike tipping.
- Bell. The Alpha has a sweet little bell. It makes a nice loud ring, and was helpful for passing on paved paths.
- Grips. I enjoyed the off-brand ergo-style grips. Much more comfortable than smaller diameter grips for commuting.
Bottom-Line: An Affordable, Simple, And Sleek E-Bike Option
At the pricepoint, you really can’t beat the VVolt Alpha. It is simple and doesn’t offer all the extras (integrated lights, racks, or a wheel lock for example), but that’s what has kept the price down. And you might not need those extras anyhow.
In addition to the attractive price, the aesthetic is enticing as well. The frame is sleek, cool, and doesn’t scream “e-bike.”
If you’re looking for a low maintenance and simple commuter bike, the VVolt Alpha is probably exactly what you’ve been hunting for.