Aldi might be one of the first big stores to offer an ebike for under $1000, but overall we found the experience quite average. The bike is awkward to put together (further hampered by incomplete instructions), it has poor power to go up hills, and it doesn't go very far on the small battery it comes with. While it might suit someone only going on small trips without hills, after you factor in the extra assembly costs, you might as well research a bike from a specialist store and take advantage of the instore expertise.
Price: $599 ($720–750 with a professional install)
There aren't too many electric bikes available for under $1000, so when we saw one at Aldi it was cause for both alarm and excitement. Could Aldi have cracked the code? A foldable electric bicycle that's more accessible to those with a lower budget?
As seems to be the case with most big-ticket items sold cheaper by major retailers, for all the pros there are certainly cons.
The bike's smaller 270Wh battery means the charge will last for a shorter period of time before requiring recharging - depending on the riding environment - and this will deplete the lithium-ion technology quicker as a result.
Aldi also isn't known for keeping a stock of replacement parts, which makes us think this will be a short-lived disposable electric bike, so it isn't the most sustainable choice. And forget the bike if you're over 100kg as this is the specified maximum weight limit.
Aldi's folding electric bike comes in one big box that's quite heavy, so make sure you've got two people to carry it home. When you open it, it seems quite complex but actually just folds out into a small number of pieces – the main (already folded) bike, the handlebars, and the seat. It also comes with the all-important Allen key and a wrench for attaching the pedals.
The box and instructions basically tell you that you need a skilled bicycle mechanic to put the bike together, or a "competent person". We assume this "competent person" is a definition known only to Aldi, as it's not in the instruction manual. However, given our tester's experience with servicing bicycles and putting them together, we figured we met the definition.
If you aren't across servicing or assembling a bicycle and the tools involved, budget an extra $120–150 for a bike service person to put it together.
Around 80% is the recommended charge, but with no percentages on the readouts, how are you supposed to determine that?
Taking off all the packaging that protects the bicycle pieces is laborious, so set aside a chunk of time to do this. Each step is complicated by the labelling on the bike itself being black on black, which makes it a little awkward to read.
Unfortunately there's a step missing in the manual which is quite annoying, as it took us a few minutes to figure out how to split the handlebars so we could tighten the mechanism to keep the handlebars from coming out of their aligned position. Aside from that, attaching the seat post, handlebars and pedals was relatively painless.
As the bike is delivered with partial charging, it only took three hours for it to get up to maximum. Around 80% is the recommended charge, but with no percentages on the readouts, how are you supposed to determine that?
Fully charged and ready to go, we thought we should see how it folds, which took three quick releases and some awkward handling due to the weight of the bike (which is about 24kg). The instructions seem to be missing a crucial step here as well – a small button needs to be pushed in to release both the handlebar stem and the main fold.
This won't be an issue if you've put the bike together yourself as you would've experienced that frustration already, but if you've had a professional put it together, it might take a little while to puzzle it out.
You'll need to practise this a few times to get used to the awkwardness in case you're rushing to get on a train or head off to work. It's not exactly a neat folded position, but it stays upright so it's handy if you're travelling by train and need to put it somewhere. It's very awkwardly portable, but given the price range this isn't unexpected.
So you've got your ebike assembled and you're ready to go, but if you're used to any other electric bike, you're likely to notice some missing features. For example, the ebike claims it'll reach 20–25km/hr, but there's no way to know as there's no speedometer on the bike, which is a common feature on many other electric bikes.
The battery indicator is pretty basic, with three LEDs on the right handlebar to indicate how empty it is as you ride. Normally a more expensive ebike would give you more gradations to assess how close to empty you are. There's an indicator on the battery itself which is marginally better, but still not as precise as we might like.
Ultimately for a cheap electric folding bicycle, it's a nice looking bike, even if it's a bit annoying to put together
The bike doesn't come with any personal safety gear, so you'll need your own bike helmet (conveniently – and opportunistically – Aldi was selling them at the same time) and any other safety gear like bright or reflective clothing so you stand out in traffic. It does come with front and rear lights that are easily activated with a button on the left handlebar, just below the button for a horn sound that is very good at attracting attention.
Adjust both the seat height and handlebar height dependent on your height – again, a professional installer should do this for you.
You'll also need to grab (or buy) a pump, as the tyres are very low to begin with. If you've had it put together by a professional, they should do this for you, but you'll need one anyway for future top-ups or tyre repairs.
Riding Aldi's folding electric bike is OK. There isn't a lot of shock absorption, so be prepared to be a little achy from rides unless you live in an area with absolutely level roads. The pedal assist is reasonably smooth and equivalent to other electric bikes.
Foldable bikes tend to have small wheels, so if you're used to a regular sized bike it might take some getting used to as you reduce your revolutions per minute. It's a single speed bike, which means less complexity, but more reliance on the electric pedal assist which works seamlessly.
Speaking of pedal assist, if this is your first time on an electric bike, you're going to want to take a look at riding it in a non-trafficked area to get up to speed on how electric bikes work – our electric bikes buying guide can help.
The throttle, which makes the electric bike go without pedal assist, is great for helping you push a rather heavy bike reasonably easily, but the instruction manual specifies you shouldn't use the throttle while on the bike – a little bit like showing chocolate to a toddler then telling them not to eat it.
The good thing about throttle is that if you start off on a hill it allows you to get up to speed so you can use the pedal assist, but throttle can be a little surprising because of the mild jump it has when you activate it (by twisting the handlebar), so we can understand why Aldi have put this exclusion in the manual.
We put the electric bike through its paces (using a lot of hills) and managed to get to around 30km before the battery pack was in the red, at which point it's advisable to recharge (Aldi recommends maintaining the charge between 20–80%).
This isn't a great range but would be suitable for someone just doing local trips. The power and range is reflected in its specifications, at 7.8Ah and 36V, or 270Wh. This means it has a little difficulty getting up steep hills, which plays out practically, and the range is shorter than many other electric bikes on the market.
On level ground and a full battery you might get substantially more kilometres out of this bicycle than we found. But everybody's road will be different, which is why manufacturers and retailers are reluctant to put max travel distances on bikes (or why they include them with a good deal of caveats).
CHOICE tip: Like many chargers recommend, don't leave the ebike to charge unattended or overnight with no one to monitor it.
Ultimately for a cheap electric folding bicycle, it's a nice looking bike, even if it's a bit annoying to put together (it's worth saving yourself the trouble and getting it done professionally if you've never assembled a bicycle before). It doesn't sit neatly folded like a Brompton, but it also doesn't cost several thousand dollars and has an electric motor.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.