Some e-bikes attempt to challenge the speed and torque of a motorcycle. Others pack so many “smart” features that their spec sheets look more like the latest flagship phone than a commuter. But the more I test and experience with e-bikes, the more I appreciate designs that emphasize everyday practicality and ride quality over excessive power and overwhelming connectivity.
Few e-bikes fit that description as well as the Aventon Soltera, a lightweight and sleek e-bike starting at just $1,199.
At this price, this is my choice of Goldilocks e-bike. I’ve ridden cheaper, more powerful, more futuristic, and lighter e-bikes before, but none balance each of these qualities with as much finesse as the Soltera. Considering Aventon has been making bikes since 2012—as opposed to the last crowdfunded startup with questionable longevity—there are few caveats to raise an eyebrow.
Granted, none of the bike’s specs immediately stand out. You get a 350W motor for support up to 20 mph (32 km/h) by default. The removable 365 Wh battery is rated for a range of 32-101 km (20-63 mi). The bike comes with integrated front and rear lights, a colorful display, and Bluetooth app connectivity. It also uses the typical pedal cadence sensor as opposed to a more responsive torque sensor, but comes with a throttle for when you need an immediate power boost.
Mechanically, the Soltera is available in single-speed ($1,199) and 7-speed ($1,299) configurations — the former with rim brakes and the latter with mechanical disc brakes. It is also available in high pitch and low pitch frames, each available in two sizes and a variety of colors.
These specs are typical e-bike fare, but the Soltera ends up feeling like more than the sum of its parts.
On the one hand, these components add up to a surprisingly low weight. The single speed weighs 18.5 kg (41 lb), while the 7 speed weighs 19.5 kg (43 lb). It’s pretty light by typical e-bike standards, especially here in the US, where the most popular e-bikes tend to weigh 25 kg (55 lb) or more. Again, I’ve tested lighter e-bikes, but these either have smaller batteries that can’t be easily removed, or they’re much more expensive.
By comparison, NYC’s popular rideshare Citibikes weigh around 20kg (those without electric assist). Even if your battery runs out, the Soltera offers a reasonable “acoustic” bike experience, and it’s relatively easy to climb a flight of stairs or two.
The Soltera certainly looks nicer than a Citibike. It somehow manages to grab attention while not drawing too much attention to itself compared to typical e-bikes. The paint job and welds look clean, and the battery is tucked neatly into the downtube to avoid attracting undue attention.
But by far the coolest detail is the pair of brake-activated taillights built into the seatstays. It’s a design touch I’ve only seen on much more expensive e-bikes before, and it helps Aventon offer a bit of pizzazz to differentiate itself from similarly priced competitors with generic frames.
The headlight isn’t as well integrated, but it’s still more efficient than many e-bikes in this price range. I liked that it was mounted on the handlebars, which made riders more visible at night, and that it had a focused beam that provided clear illumination of the road rather than a blob of indescribable light.
Aventon’s display is also superior to those of the majority of e-bikes I’ve tested. The high-resolution color panel provides plenty of information and allows the bike to connect to Aventon’s Bluetooth app, where you can track stats and change the bike’s top speed.
Despite these premium touches, I’m grateful that Aventon largely eschews proprietary parts. Almost all of the bike’s mechanical components can be serviced by your typical bike shop, and the bike’s sleek design and minimal weight mean you (probably) won’t get the eye of a purist bike mechanic when it comes to bike mechanics. will raise it on the repair bear.
I also appreciate that the bike comes in multiple sizes and stepper configurations – too often I review a great e-bike that only comes in one size, which severely limits its potential audience.
If you’re wondering about the effectiveness of mechanical rim brakes on an e-bike; they are very good for the single-speed model I tested. Motor power cuts out every time you brake, and 20 mph isn’t an outrageous speed for decent rim brakes to be able to handle anyway, even in the rain. Rim brakes also have advantages; you lose some stopping power, but they’re just a lot easier to service in a pinch.
Still, if you prefer extra stopping power, you can always opt for the 7-speed Soltera.
Continuing the practicality theme, I also appreciate the removable battery, which is rare to see in such a sleek and lightweight design. It’s good to know that if the battery loses capacity or fails on the road, replacing it is as easy as turning a key and inserting the new battery. You can also buy a second battery for $360 and double your range, something that’s just not an option on most e-bikes with built-in batteries.
The Soltera would challenge some of my favorite e-bikes at twice its price were it not for the aforementioned torque sensor. The base cadence sensor takes about half a turn of the crank before it engages, which always reminds you that there’s a motor behind your pedal strokes, rather than making you feel like you have superhuman legs as a good torque sensor setup would. The lag can also be a little annoying at a red light or down a hill, especially on a single-speed bike.
But it’s not really a knock against the Soltera. Torque sensors are almost unheard of at this price and are rare under $2,000. The cadence technology here is at least implemented with a smooth rise in power, and the thumb throttle allows instant access to more power, offsetting some of the practical benefits of the torque sensor. It’s just not as pleasant.
I wouldn’t have bothered with a belt drive setup either, but a good old chain works great too.
Those caveats aside, there’s almost nothing to complain about with the Soltera. It has enough power for most riders, it looks great, the range is solid, and it’s almost as usable as a regular bike. The fact that the bike comes from a company that already has a foothold in the market and is likely to stick around adds substantial peace of mind, and the frame’s lifetime warranty (1 year on components) makes no difference. bad either.
This adds up to an e-bike that does very little harm and a lot of good – one that’s probably the easiest to recommend e-bike I’ve tested to date. The fact that you don’t hurt yourself picking it up is just a nice bonus.