RALEIGH STOW-E-WAY FOLDING E-BIKE

£1350 20kg

These days Raleigh is no longer the world leader that manufactured more cycles than any other at it’s Nottingham base around the time of the First World War. Indeed, in 2011 it became part of the Accell Group who are based in the Netherlands.

This isn’t just an irrelevant historical ramble; Accell themselves are one of the biggest bike manufacturers in Europe and specialise in mid to high end e-bikes like Haibike, Koga, Lapierre and Sparta. In other words rather than a home-grown e-bike you can expect one produced by a company that is now part of a group that spans the globe and as such has access to the latest hydroformed frame-building techniques allied with the latest in e-bike systems. Raleigh seem to be promoting e-bikes everywhere these days, from consumer shows to electric bike summits for the industry.

But What About the Bike

The Stow-E-Way is a folding electric bike with 20“ wheels. At 20.15kg (including 1.55kg of battery) and folding down to 89cm length x 66 x height 45cm width, it’s not the smallest or lightest electric bike out there, but there are certainly heavier E-Folders out there, so the weight is respectable, especially given the bike includes LED lights, mudguards, a rack and kickstand. And of course smaller and lighter almost always means more expensive in the E-Bike world and Raleigh have kept the price at a relatively very competitive £1350.

Immediately on getting the bike out of the box a few unusual features stood out for me; the very solid looking rear rack that is actually part of the rear frame i.e. it is welded to the seat stays, the stand underneath the bottom bracket – ensuring a folder can sit on a stable fashion on the floor once folded is an often overlooked part of the design, but seemingly not here and a mounting point on the front of the headset meaning you could fit a compatible front rack.  

The beefy looking curving, aluminium 6061, frame has a single frame member resulting in a low step height – perfect for those who struggle to lift a leg over conventional diamond frame designs. It fits perfectly with the practical spec of the bike and its comfortable riding position – even though this is a one-size frame it should fit a wide range of different sized riders as there is plenty of vertical adjustment on the quick release seat-post and telescopic handlebars.

Although there is no front suspension this is no bad thing; the upright comfortable riding position and the Kenda 20x1.95” slick tyres on strong, double-walled 36 hole rims mean it rolls well over all but the bigger humps and bumps without too much disturbance. Extra suspension, especially on small wheelers, often tends to add weight to little effect.

Raleigh have chosen a TranzX electric assist system. Although perhaps not one of the more familiar names from the world of e-bike systems they are a longstanding and respected manufacturer with design and production facilities in Taiwan, China and Germany and they have been collaborating with Raleigh over the past few years on their more budget priced range of e-bikes.

Raleigh have gone with a rear hub motor and, with the beefy rear rack and battery behind the seat post position, makes the bike a little rear heavy if you need to lift it unfolded.

The TranzX R15 rear hub motor sits very discretely behind the gear cluster and at a stated weight of under 2.5kg will certainly be one of the lighter motors out there and things are kept lightweight with the 1.55kg, 245Wh battery that is key operated and slides nicely in and out of its vertical slotted housing behind the seat-post. This battery configuration adds a bit to the length and so to the folded package, but the plus side is a longer wheelbase which should help make for more stable handling due to the consequent longer wheelbase, other design elements being equal.

Overall this looks a solidly made and very practical e-bike and is backed by Raleigh’s standard e-bike guarantee of 5 years on the frame, 2 years on all electric components and 1 year on non-wearable mechanical parts. 

 

The Folding

Folding is pretty conventional; first break the frame in half using a very solid looking hinge then fold the two halves together to secure them with the magnets attached to the front and rear of the bike. The handlebar post releases via another beefy looking hinge but this doesn’t clip to the frame and swings about when folded, making it easy to catch something with it and making the package more cumbersome than it needs to be, so you might find yourself carrying a small bungee to remedy this. Finally the plastic folding pedals tuck into the side of the folded package. 

The folded package looks quite big but the rear rack provides a good handgrip as does the frame at the front so it is not so much of a handful as you might imagine looking at it. But any 20kg package this size will certainly need a degree of physical strength to lift it to or above waist height. The frame integral stand underneath the bottom bracket does a good job of helping the bike stand on its own when folded.

Overall this looks a solidly made and very practical e-bike and is backed by Raleigh’s standard e-bike guarantee of 5 years on the frame, 2 years on all electric components and 1 year on non-wearable mechanical parts. 

 

The Riding

Almost as soon as you start pedalling the quiet rear motor (max 45nm torque) kicks in and the highest of the four power levels gives a good amount of lovely smooth power up all but the steepest of hills. Whilst the power isn’t as strong as the likes of some of the higher powered crank motors out there (like the Bosh Performance Line CX found on mountain bikes) you wouldn’t expect it to be and it doesn’t need to be. After all this a bike for roads and moderate off-road trails, not every terrain and every gradient.

 

The Stow-E-Way features a motion sensing motor system responsible for delivering the power. As it is a pedelec system there is no throttle and power is delivered in response to the movement of the pedal cranks. Broadly speaking there are two kinds of pedelec system, motion sensing and torque sensing. As the former, the TranzX system uses the usual device of a circular plastic disc embedded with magnets around its circumference. These magnets generate an electrical response as they pass a sensor which is fixed just behind the disc. A wire then leads to a control unit, usually hidden away within the battery or bike frame, which interprets the signal (analysing the speed between the magnets passing and so whether the bike is accelerating or decelerating according to the speed you are turning the pedals).

 

Whilst in reality it’s a little more complicated than that, suffice to say motion sensor systems on e-bikes can vary greatly in quality, with the worst activating the power after what feels like a lengthy time lag once you start pedalling and not cutting out immediately on ceasing. The good news is that the TranzX system is one of very best out there that I have tried and so power comes in and stops almost immediately in response to pedal activity, the result being nice smooth power delivery.  Motion sensing systems tend not to be as sophisticated as torque sensing ones as they don’t respond to pedal pressure, only movement, meaning the best torque sensing systems deliver the most natural feeling ride on an e-bike. But the Stow-E-Way is not really a sports e-bike so this sometimes fine distinction is not critical here. In summary the Stow-E-Way does a nice job of delivering smooth power. 

The power control is found just inside the left handlebar grip and has easily-pressed, tactile up and down buttons for the power control and a nice bright red LED display showing the power level detected.

By the right hand is a twist-grip style gear shifter that gives easy shifting across the eight Shimano Altus gears and braking is via V-brakes. The latter are a functional choice and are perfectly adequate for a leisure bike, if not the smoothest and most responsive, and fit in with the price point too.

There is no on-off button for the lights as they fully automatic, sensing when lighting conditions demand their use. I found they worked well, coming on just as dusk starts to set in and even, briefly, under bridges on sunny days.  

 

Summary

If you a looking for an e-bike that rides well, folds, and can carry a good amount too, then this looks a great choice. It’s decently specced for its brief of leisure rides or commuting, comes with great practical features and is very competitively priced in a market where around £1000 marks the entry point for better quality machines.

Verdict: Ticks a lot of boxes for the commuter and leisure rider, with some very nice touches.

 

Richard Peace

 

https://www.raleigh.co.uk/bikes/electric

PUBLISHED MARCH 2020

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