Ride an electric bike? No way, not you. You are analog and old school. Pedal assist is cheating. Ebikes are for grandmas and “cyclists”, not serious cyclists. You want the exercise benefit of riding a bike, without sliding on electrons. Ebikes are ugly. Very expensive. It’s not really a “bicycle”. And so on, and so on. I’ve heard it all so many times.
And then what invariably happens is the doubtful/shamed/hardcore biker hops aboard an e-bike I’m reviewing to, you know, “just see what it’s like” and they come back with big smiles and questions and a changed mind. . I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened. It happened again with Fiido’s new $1,599 C21 e-bike, and it’s hard to tell if it’s an e-bike.
Admittedly, in the early days of e-bikes (at least in the US), they were definitely something of a novelty, with unrefined drivetrains, sometimes unpleasant aesthetics, a lot of weight, and not much range or power for the money. In 2023, all of these issues have pretty much been addressed, and one of the more recent entries into the ever-expanding market segment It looks like a regular bike but is actually an electric bike is Fiido’s new C21 and C22 models, which are available for pre-order. -order. I’ve been riding a C21 for several weeks now, which is the standard step-over style frame model.
Fiido started with a crowdfunding campaign around a unique (and unexpectedly capable) magnesium-framed folding e-bike, the Fiido X, which had some trouble early on with a few flaws in the frame. Fiido did the right thing and pulled EVERY bike they had sold and redesigned the frame hinge. They also took the opportunity to touch up some other points on the bike, making it even better. Now, they’ve expanded their offerings with more folding models, some wide-tyre e-bikes, kids’ e-bikes, and some cool e-scooters, among other micromobility products. But the full-size “regular bike” models C21 and C22 represent something of a new tangent.
C21 electric bike technology
The Fiido C21 is a standard style bike – Fiido calls it a gravel bike – that it could be a gravel bike with a few minor changes (handlebars, mostly), but it’s really more of an urban-focused, skinny-tire mountain bike-style bike. It has an aluminum frame, a 250 Watt Mivice hub motor, a 9-speed Shimano gearbox, a bright double LED headlight, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, a 208 Watt-hour battery on the lower frame spar and an LCD display organized on the upper part.
A small three-button controller on the left bar controls the level of assistance, as does a small panel of buttons on the LCD display, which show a simple display of battery and speed or a more weighty spread of ride information. The power is further massaged with a torque sensor that matches the engine’s output to the power in your leg. Best of all, the weight is a lean 39 pounds or a tick above 40 with the included lightweight plastic fenders installed (according to my digital scale).
Fiido C bikes are Class 2 with no throttles and a maximum assist speed of 20 mph in the US. A 208 watt-hour battery is tucked into the bottom spar of the frame and Fiido says it should provide around 80 km / 50 miles of assistance likely set to Level 1 or 2. Fiido sent Forbes.com a photo of a second battery shaped like a water bottle that mounts (unsurprisingly) in a water bottle-style cage and attaches directly to the bike, greatly extending the bike’s range while adding just a few pounds to the weight. It’s a simple but effective upgrade for anyone looking to do more distance – or just have some reserve power available at all times. At the time of this review, neither capacity nor range specifications are yet available.
A rechargeable LED taillight with saddle strap is included along with some tools, fenders and a small charger that will charge the battery in about three hours. Assembly was simple and I was ready to ride the bike about 20 minutes after opening the box. Installing the fenders took up most of the time; the bike itself only requires fitting the front wheel, positioning the seat, installing the handlebars and adding the pedals. I also had to tweak the shift adjusters to get the Shimano rear cassette to shift cleanly, a task pretty typical of any bike you get in a box.
Fiido has a smartphone app, but they’re also gearing up to release a Fiido smartwatch, called the Mate, which automatically launches the C-series bikes when you approach and shuts off when you move away (but that doesn’t include “locking up”). physical the bike, so make sure you protect your bike). Mate will track fitness data from your rides and pair with your phone. For this review, Mate wasn’t available yet, but hopefully we’ll have an example to test out soon.
The best compliment I can give the Fiido C21 is that the riding experience is completely… normal. As the title suggests, this is a perfect e-bike for anyone who never thought they’d ride an e-bike, and specifically if you want an e-bike that really feels like a “regular” or “analog” bike. There are certainly other e-bikes out there that fit that description – the VanMoof S5 springs to mind – but the S5 has a distinct style that might not appeal to riders looking for a low-profile bike that looks like a regular pedal bike. and traditional. . The C21 manages there very well.
At 40 pounds and with the new Shimano 9-reverse derailleur, I started on the C21 with the bike on but the pedal assist set to zero (no assist). The C21 is a Class 2 e-bike with no throttle, only pedal assist. Using just pedal power, it rode as expected, i.e. like a regular bike, but with a touch more weight. After making minor adjustments to the seat and handlebars, the C21 was an easy and comfortable bike to ride, and, as they did with the innovative Fiido X, Fiido gave the C21 a stylish design that appeals to people. I got a lot of questions about “who makes this cool bike” and whether it was even an electric bike. When I said it was, most people commented that they loved the “normal” look.
Fiido calls the C21 an “E-Gravel” bike, but as noted, it doesn’t have drop bars like a typical gravel bike. It’s also a hardtail (no front or rear suspension), but uses deeper tread gravel-style tires and the C21 sport mountain bike-style flat bars, while the C22, with its lowered top tube, uses steeper rear bars. I prefer the more aggressive flat bars, traditional frame and stance of the C21 and had no trouble getting on the pedals on the climbs. Add pedal assistance and the 250-watt motor kicks in without overloading or taking over pedal duties. Driven by a torque sensor, the assist is clearly felt across five levels (or six counting zero), but I was also impressed by just how quiet the motor is – another check mark in the Rides like a regular bike column.
Pointed down a long hill, the C21 maintained its composure as speeds climbed to nearly 40mph and the hydraulic disc brakes slowed it down easily. The C21 got through some quick but difficult sweeps well, but I stayed out of the seat to work on the bumps. On the flat with assistance set to 2, the C21 goes forward at 20 mph. When the hills arrived I just tagged the assist to match.
It’s gratifying to see Fiido expand their offerings and find success after the rocky start with the Fiido X, and in my eyes they have a better sense of style than many current e-bike manufacturers. The C21 is well made, beautiful and precise while riding. I like how it looks – and rides – like a traditional bike, pedal-assist in your back pocket, so to speak. For those looking for a capable yet understated e-bike with sharp styling and good road manners, the new Fiido C21 certainly looks to fit the bill.