Bikes from up north
When we think of Sweden, what do we think of in terms of transportation? Cars, usually, like Volvo or the recently defunct Saab. If you’re a real car nut, you might think of Koenigsegg, the supercar/hypercar manufacturer.
But do you think of bicycles when you think of Sweden? If you’re like us, probably not—until now. Although we haven’t had much experience with Swedish bicycles, the Walleräng is a new e-bike manufacturer that is designed and hand-built in Högsbo, Gothenburg, Sweden, that has now reached American shores.
“The front rack is rated for carrying up to 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and the rear rack a whopping 66 pounds (30 kilograms). That’s a lot of sacks of potatoes.”
GREAT LOOKS AND FUNCTION
The bike is matte white, with gray and black accents from the battery to the controls to the tires. With very smooth lines and just the right amount of straight edges, we thought the Walleräng M.01 was a beauty to behold. The welds on the hydroformed frame are almost unnoticeable as some are polished smooth. Cabling is mostly through the downtube, and the fenders match the tires and are so close that you almost don’t notice them. All these details make for a very simple, attractive and clean-looking bike.
The top tube is set intentionally low to make for easier step-over. They’ve then raised the seat tube several inches, with a smooth gusset to allow plenty of options for seat height. The bottom of the seat tube curves, giving a consistent and flowing look to the frame.
There are bolt-on front and rear racks that turn this into a great cargo or touring bike. The front rack bolts to bosses on the head tube, so your cargo weight doesn’t affect steering. When you remove the rack, the attractive Walleräng nameplate bolts on to maintain a clean and technical look. The front rack is rated for carrying up to 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and the rear rack a whopping 66 pounds (30 kilograms). That’s a lot of sacks of potatoes, or about 20 extra bricks if you’re a bricklayer and need to run out and pick up a few you forgot.
Pedal assist is provided by a Shimano STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System) mid-drive, which can add an impressive 50 N/m of torque. The 7-pound mid-drive unit is clean and fully weather-sealed. The controller is amazing. There’s an easy-to-read display on the handlebars that can show you all kinds of stats, and it can be mounted in the location and position on the handlebar that each rider prefers. We saw two sets of thumb controls—one on the left side of the handlebars and one on the right—each with a column of three buttons.
Obviously the one on the left is to control power level, and the one on the right is to shift the internal eight-speed rear hub, but why three buttons on both? You can shift between manual shift control or fully automatic.
Automatic doesn’t seem important if you’re a cyclist. You know instinctively when to shift—when it’s too hard or too easy to maintain your cadence—but that is something hard to learn for people with less cycling experience. However, it turned out that experienced cyclists also fell in love with the automatic shift control. It’s not perfect, but it takes the effort out of riding, especially if you’re hauling a week’s worth of groceries.
The front and rear lights run off the battery and don’t seem to provide much of a drain. They’re not the brightest lights, but sufficient to be safe for night riding.
We rode the Walleräng M.01 for a while with the electric assist off, and the feel of the unassisted bike itself was fantastic. Add in the electric assist and it’s just plain fun. The automatic shifting was so good that we used it most of the time. It’s intuitive but not the smoothest. It generally shifts down to second gear when you come to a stop, then shifts up two gears at a time—from two to four to six—which is really abrupt. Shifting to 7 and then 8 are done individually and feel a lot less jarring. Overall, we found that it shifted too early, making it harder to pedal than we thought it should.
Shifting seems more dependent on speed than torque, and, interestingly, as you slow down it automatically downshifts—again, also two gears at a time.
It is possible to manually change gears in automatic mode, similar to using a paddle shifter on a car when it’s in full-automatic mode. It will acquiesce and shift to that gear for a moment, but then it will shift back to where it thinks it should be. STEPS does this, and that’s fine. Would you really want an automatic transmission to stay in the wrong gear the entire ride?
Due to the combination of the bike not having an external freewheel and the STEPS motor, the ride is remarkably quiet. Between that and the tire choice, nobody will hear you coming unless you tell them.
The 27.5-inch Schwalbe Big Ben tires held the road on all kinds of conditions—from smooth pavement to rougher surfaces to sandy beach paths. They’re the only suspension on the bike, unless you step up to the M.01x version of the bike with a suspension fork. The overall ride wasn’t bad, even over bumpy streets—something common in a rigid, all-aluminum frame. Braking is important, especially on any bike that might carry heavy cargo, and ample power was provided by Shimano Alfine hydraulic disc brakes, which were sufficient for heavy cargo and rider loads.
With the battery mounted on the downtube and the mid-drive at the bottom bracket, center of gravity is kept low, and that makes for a stable ride, even when you’re carrying cargo. The removable cargo racks are very sturdy and have many places to carry packages, briefcases or even mount panniers for touring.
The battery provides great range and charges from empty to full in just about four hours. Walleräng claims a 70-mile max range, but we estimate that more at 55 miles and less if you ride a lot of hills, carry heavy payloads (rider plus cargo) or otherwise use high levels of assist.
The Velo saddle is quite comfortable and generously padded for any length of ride. Saddle height is adjustable for nearly any size person, and the bike frame is available in two sizes: medium (44cm) and large (48cm).
Though the M.01 is marketed as unisex, there’s also an M.02 version with a low step-through frame and an M.02x version with a low step-through frame and suspension fork.
The Walleräng is a great-looking, utilitarian bike that’s fun to ride. For a European-built bike, the price is really impressive. The STEPS system is really good, whether you’re an experienced cyclist or a beginner, with plenty of power and range as a commuter bike or grocery-getter.
Motor: Shimano STEPS
Battery: Shimano STEPS Li-Ion 36V 11.6 Ah, 418 Wh
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: Up to 55 miles, depending on riding style, load and terrain
Drive: Shimano Alfine Di2, 8-speed
Brakes: Shimano Alfine hydraulic disc
Controls: Shimano STEPS SC-E6010
Weight: 47 lb.
Sizes: Medium and large
Color Choices: Matte White