The £1,900 Honbike HF01 is a folding e-bike with a sleek, eye-catching design and some cutting edge technology. It’s very good in a lot of ways, with an unusual drivetrain that you don’t need to service or maintain, and a general feeling of top-notch build quality.
However, it also has features that won’t suit everyone. We found its power assistance delivery a little inconsistent, hills are hard work and its use of proprietary components makes it hard to customise if there’s something you don’t like. This is definitely a bike to try before you buy. (Review by Phill Tromans.)
- Urban commuters
- Short, flat journeys
- The style-conscious
- Unique look
- High-quality build
- Shaft Drive system is smooth and quiet
- Virtually maintenance free
- Unusual saddle design won’t suit everyone
- Single-speed drive system means no gear options
- Not happy on hills
- Very little scope for customisation
As a riding experience, the Honbike HF01 is reasonable. Although the uneven power assistance grates a bit, and it’s not at all happy on hills, the shaft drive system works well, it feels like it’s made from quality materials and it handles well.
Its unique, futuristic design is clever in lots of ways, and will turn heads. But the almost-experimental nature of the HF01 also gives cause for concern.
So much of it is proprietary to Honbike that if you don’t like it out of the box, you can’t do much about it. You can’t change the brakes or the handlebars, you can’t upgrade the gearing and if you don’t like the saddle choice then you’re a bit stuffed. If something gets damaged there aren’t many bits that you can quickly get from a local bike shop or a next-day delivery service. You’ll have to go to Honbike and hope they can get you the part ASAP.
|Components + build quality|
|Safety + security|
|Performance & handling|
|Comfort + practicality|
|Overall star ratings|
All of this means that while we applaud Honbike for some out-of-the-box thinking, the HF01 feels like a very niche option. More than most other bikes, we’d urge you to come into our London Bridge test centre and try it before purchasing and make sure you’re happy with things like the pedal feel, the brake position and the saddle.
Oh, and make sure your journeys aren’t too long or hilly. At £1,899 the HF01 is not the cheapest of folding e-bikes, and that’s a lot of cash to spend on something you’re not happy with.
|Battery||Lithium-ion 36V 6Ah (removable)|
|Charging time||3.5 - 4 hours|
|Motor||250W front hub motor|
|Max Speed||25km/h (15.5mph)|
|Electric power range||40km|
|Max load||120kg (luggage included)|
|Folded size||990 x 455 x 850mm|
|Color||White / Black / Red|
|Frame||Die-cast, aluminium, unibody design|
|Waterproof rating||IP65 electrical parts; IPX4 other parts|
|Braking system||Brake lever|
|Display screen||Integral LCD|
|Function||Speed / km and mph / walk mode / pedal assist level / mileage / light / error indicator|
|Riding modes||Hill start assist|
|Light||Front and rear LED|
Honbike HF01 in detail
The Honbike HF01 comes with a 250W motor in the front wheel hub, fed by a removable 216Wh battery stored under the frame.
You can choose from five levels of power assistance using Up and Down buttons mounted next to the right handlebar, and a black-and-white display integrated into the stem shows what setting you’re on, as well as your speed, a trip meter and whether your lights are on.
While there’s plenty of power available, the way the assistance is delivered sometimes feels rather unbalanced. At higher speeds, with maximum assistance selected, I almost felt like my legs were spinning too fast with hardly any pushback from the pedals. I found myself dropping down the assistance level to keep my legs moving at a comfortable cadence.
Some of our testers rather liked this quirk, as it takes so little effort to cruise along, but I never got used to it. Conversely, on inclines it feels like you really have to work; this was an area where I wanted extra help, or the ability to drop down a gear or two.
But there are no gears. Unlike most bikes and e-bikes, the HF01 eschews a chain or a belt drive and instead uses what Honbike calls a Shaft Drive system. This uses a metal driveshaft, much like a car’s propshaft, to transmit power from the pedals to the back wheels via right-angled bevel gears.
The whole system is a sealed unit, designed to be very efficient and maintenance-free; Honbike says it’s proven over 50,000km and you’ll never need to oil or clean it.
We found it to be very smooth and virtually silent, but as with any fixed-gear bike, you don’t have the flexibility of being able to select a different gear when you want to, say, climb a steep hill or hit faster speeds on a cycleway.
The battery is rather small compared to a lot of e-bikes, but that keeps the overall bike weight down to 20.8kg – not exactly light, but not as heavy as some other folding e-bikes. It’s a lot to lug up stairs, however.
Honbike says you’ll get around 25 miles of assistance on a full battery, and recharging takes between 3.5 and four hours. Keep in mind that if you use higher levels of assistance, that range will drop to around 15 miles. While other bikes will give you more range, the HF01’s intended use – urban environments and city commutes – means it’ll be just about sufficient for most.
But be warned; when the battery gets low (around 10%), we were surprised that the assistance starts to disappear, even though the integrated display claims otherwise. And without the extra electric grunt – or gears – we found the HF01 seriously hard work to ride.
Comfort and Handling
On the move, the Honbike HF01 feels like a quality piece of kit; it’s solid and free from the creaks that can plague some folding bikes. Handling is stable at higher speeds up to 15.5mph (the maximum speed for power assistance under EU and UK law) and it feels agile in corners and easy to thread through tight gaps in traffic.
The HF01 rides on one-piece 20-inch magnesium wheels, rather than traditional wheels comprising separate hub, rim and spokes. This, in theory at least, makes it very strong and resistant to knocks that could take a traditional wheel out of alignment. The own-brand tyres are supple enough to massage away even the cobbled surfaces outside our review centre and the hand grips offer plenty of support over longer rides to avoid pins and needles in the palms.
The saddle is a curious design that some colleagues in the Electroheads office really liked, but to me felt very uncomfortable, hard and unergonomic. It typifies the downside of the HF01’s unique design, which is that there’s very little flexibility to it.
Honbike does make a more traditional saddle option for the HF01, but if you want to change to a third-party seat, then tough luck. The saddle is often the component of any bike that gets changed first, so this very limited choice could be a deal-breaker if the supplied perch doesn’t match your behind.
Folding the bike is straightforward, with a big clip to release in the centre of the frame and another on the steering tube. Once folded, it takes up a space of 99x84x45.5cm and a fold-down stand means easy freestanding storage.
The HF01’s design quirks continue with the brakes, which are mounted and hinged at the end of the handlebars. We found them perfectly easy to use, but if they’re not at the right angle for you, then… well, tough. You can’t adjust them, and you can’t replace them with third-party units.
The brakes themselves are mechanical discs, which perform far better than traditional calliper brakes, but don’t quite have the progressive feel of (more expensive) hydraulic discs. Again, you’re out of luck if you want to upgrade them. For the vast majority of riders, though, they’re absolutely fine.