It’s the second week of November as I write this. The weather is starting to get colder and it looks like the bicycling season here is pretty much over so this is a good time to look at how my new Vado bike has been doing. I’ve been using this bike just about every day since July and I’ve put about 1,000 miles on it. So I thought this would be a good time to take a look at how well it holds up under long term, real world use.
The Vado has exceeded my expectations in every way. It is heavy, yes, it scales at a bit over 60 lbs. That might be a problem for someone who has to lug a bike in and out of an apartment building or up stairs, but it isn’t a problem for me. When actually riding the bike I never even notice the weight, even when riding it with the motor turned off. The Vado works just fine as a standard bicycle without motor assistance, by the way, thanks to it’s 10 speed derailleur shifter. Having that 10 speed shifting capability, IMO, makes the Vado much, much easier to ride out in the real world when compared to e-bikes that are single speed.
I won’t go into a lot of details here and just hit the high points, looking at it from a rider’s point of view.
The lights, both front and rear, are excellent. The headlight is very bright, more than bright enough to be genuinely useful at night. The taillight wraps around the cargo carrier and is also highly visible even in daylight.
The cargo carrier, a sort of flat pallet rack kind of thing, comes installed on the bike, and a sort of “A” frame extends down bolting directly to the rear axle. Vado claims you can lug 50 pounds of junk on this bike if you need to and I have no reason to doubt that claim. I have a hard sided bag strapped to mine with a tool kit and other stuff tucked in there. I’m thinking of throwing together a complete amateur radio system that will fit in there, with ny Yaesu FT-818, a battery and antenna, etc but that’s I’ll talk about that later if it ever happens.
From the front the bike looks, well, busy, to be honest, with cables for the shifter, the electronics, etc, plus the hoses for the hydraulic brakes looking like, frankly, a tangled mess. But when I’m riding I’m not looking at the front of the bike so I don’t care.
Speaking of hydraulic brakes, this is the first bike I’ve had which has hydraulic disc brakes and I am very, very pleased with them. They are so much better than the old caliper style brakes that clamp on the rim, or even the cable actuated disc brakes that I’ve had on other bikes, that I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to the old style brakes. I didn’t really think they would make that much of a difference but they really do.
The computer display is excellent as well. It’s full color, small but easily readable even in bright sunlight. It shows all sorts of interesting statistics that I’m sure will be of interest to somebody. But not to me. I’ve had that Garmin thingie up there on the left side of the handlebars for more than a year. It has built in GPS, mapping functions and other goodies, talks to my cellphone, and does everything I want, so I just transferred that over to the Vado. The Vado’s computer does what it needs to do, and there is an app for it that I have on my phone that does all sorts of nice things. Never used that, either. I’m a bit perplexed by the emphasis some bike makers and reviewers put on these computers because ultimately they do little or nothing to make a bike any better as a bike. There’s one bike out there that includes a video game on the computer for heaven’s sake. The computer needs to have a few basic function, speedometer, odometer, battery health and state of charge indicators, and, if possible, ways to adjust things like the levels of motor assistance. That’s really all this class of bike really needs because people who are interested in a bike in this price range are almost certainly already going to have something like the Garmin or an Apple watch or similar fitness tracker device independent of the equipment it’s used with.
Let’s talk about battery life. Vado’s documentation indicates the bike has about 40 miles of range on a charge, which is considerably underestimating the results I’ve been getting in the real world. I did a 22 mile ride the other day and when I got home the battery indicator said I had 74% battery capacity left. 74%. Now I’m not an aggressive rider. I keep the assistance level in “Eco” mode, the lowest, and I don’t have a lot of lengthy, steep hills to climb around here, so I’m probably easier on battery life than a lot of other people, but even so that’s pretty damned good. Considering what my riding style is like I suspect I could get 80 – 90 miles useable range out of this bike. And I should also remind you that unlike some e-bikes, the Vado works perfectly well as a standard, unpowered bicycle.
I suppose I should talk about speed, too. This is a Class 3 bike which means it can hit 28 MPH (that is limited by law apparently?) And it will. In 10th gear and pedalling my little legs off I can hit 28. I generally cruise at around 13 – 15 mph though. That’s a nice, comfortable pace for me in “eco” mode, the lowest boost level for the motor. And I should add that doing 28 mph on a bicycle is, frankly, a bit scary. If you hit a stone or a hole or just about anything at that speed on a bicycle chances are good you’re going to end up with a nasty crash.
If the bike has one potential problem, it’s that derailleur and shifter. It has a more or less standard 10 speed derailleur. First of all it is, oh, fiddly, let’s say. It will occasionally not shift properly when moving the shift lever and I have to fiddle with it to get it to engage the proper gear. Trying to get it into 10th gear doesn’t work at all unless I jam the lever all the way over and then pedal backwards for a turn or two. But this has been such a minor problem for me that I’ve never bothered to take it back to the dealer to get it adjusted, which I suspect would take care of the problem. The shifting problems have also gotten much better with time.
Another problem that went away by itself after a couple of weeks was that when in a high gear, let’s say 8th or higher, and in Turbo mode, the highest boost mode, getting up on the pedals and really pushing hard would occasionally cause the chain to jump on the sprocket. Considering the amount of force being exerted on that chain by my effort plus the torque of the motor, this is actually understandable. There is a hell of a lot of stress on that chain so it jumping on a gear isn’t all that surprising. And as noted, that problem went away after the first couple of weeks. As noted, I have 1,000 miles on it and if I was going to have serious issues with the derailleur I’d think they would have shown up by now.
There is one significant issue with this bike and that’s the price. If you want this model bike yourself it’s going to set you back about $4,000. That’s a hell of a lot of money. Is it worth it? That’s going to depend on what you’re going to use the bike for and how often you’re going to use it. To me, it is. When the weather is decent enough to ride, this is the vehicle I use. From everything to just toodling around the neighborhood, to running up to the local store to get snacks, to riding over to Brillion or Forest Junction for lunch, or packing up my camera and drone and running around the countryside taking photos, this is what I drive. It’s handled everything from gravel trails to broken up country roads to city streets without a problem. It’s been 100% reliable transportation for me. And meanwhile my Buick has been sitting in the garage most of the summer gathering dust. I’ve only had to buy gas for the Buick once since July when I got this bike. That’s how much I’ve used it. So for me, the Vado has been well worth the price.