Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow review: an affordable electric bike with quality parts


DETROIT BIKES E-SPARROW – Key Specifications

Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow

(Image credit: Detroit Bikes)

● Size range: small, medium, large, extra large

● Motor: 250 W Bafang rear hub, geared

● Maximum speed (motorized): 17 mph

● Power supply: Samsung 280.8W lithium battery

● Control: thumb throttle and cadence sensor pedal assist

● Electric bike classification: Class 2

● Speeds: single speed

● Brakes: Tektro mechanical disc brakes

● Frame material: aluminum

● Fork material: aluminum

● Wheel size: 700C

● Weight: 32-36 pounds (14.5-16.3 kg)

● Range: 25 miles

Bikes on their own tend to get expensive, especially if you want quality build that you can count on over the years. Adding the expensive electronics and battery to an electric bike only increases that price. For example, the US-based Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow offers a tempting product for $ 1,099 / £ 795 / AU $ 1,472. Also note that even if they ship overseas, it could cost almost as much as the bike to do so.

It might not seem that cheap, but it’s still pretty affordable for e-bikes. That said, the Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow sticks largely to the basics. It’s a simple option especially suited to novice cyclists looking for a commuter bike to replace where a small city car could have done the job. There are cheaper e-bikes on the market and many more expensive models that offer more advanced features or premium components, so read on to see how the Detroit Bike E-Sparrow fits in the market.

Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow

(Image credit: Detroit Bikes)


Detroit Bikes aims to lower the barrier to entry for new riders. The E-Sparrow comes almost completely pre-assembled in its shipping box. It’s always a good idea to make sure everything is tight, but other than that, just unpack everything, squeeze the pedals, and hop onto the front wheel. Detroit Bikes also includes its own foot pump in the box.

The E-Sparrow is something minimalist from its hybrid aluminum frame shape to its all-black styles. It’s a single speed bike, so no front or rear derailleurs to deal with. There is also no ATV-type suspension to maintain. Even the rubber grips are simple cylindrical grips. The only fancy element of the bike is its Tektro mechanical disc brakes. Detroit Bikes does offer a few extras, however, including a simple bell and a kickstand that attaches to the base.

Keeping it simple has helped keep it on the lighter side at 32-36 pounds (14.5-16.3 kg) depending on which size you choose. The additional electronics add significantly to the weight, however, as the non-electric Sparrow weighs 22 pounds (10 kg).

One omission interferes with the E-Sparrow’s ability to function as a flexible commuter bike. There are no solders for a rear rack other than the type of rack that hooks onto the seat post, which limits your options for transporting gear. The absence of tension adjusters for the horizontal dropouts of the rear wheel also makes it difficult to put the wheel in line. Since the transmission and engine put considerable torque on the wheel, it may need to be straightened regularly, so this is something that would have been nice to see and inexpensive to include. Anything that simplifies maintenance would also be a big plus.

Detroit Bikes has gone for solid parts. The aluminum frame, fork and steerer proved solid throughout my ride, although the ride can be stiffer despite the soft saddle. While this product is priced below many competitors, it doesn’t use off-brand parts where it counts. The rear hub motor is from Bafang. The tires are WTB Thick Slicks. The 280.8 Wh battery, one of the most expensive components in an electric bicycle, uses Samsung battery cells. The battery is packaged in a Reention shark style case which is pretty typical for e-bikes and uses a locking bracket on the down tube, taking the place of a water bottle mounting point. This mount could be sleeker, as it’s a bit unsightly and squeaky at times, but the E-Sparrow is actually a mod of the non-electric Sparrow, so we’ll consider it lucky enough just to see some of the wiring routed through the Frame. .

A throttle lever controls the electric motor. This control also turns on the engine and allows quick adjustments between three assist settings. The bike uses a pedaling cadence sensor to provide assistance.

As the E-Sparrow is a new model, Detroit Bikes can still solve some of the problems with the assembly process. The first test unit I received occasionally turned off the electronics while I was driving, although Detroit Bikes quickly replaced the unit with a second that didn’t do it once. The second unit, however, came with part of the front brake attached upside down, which did not allow the caliper and disc to overlap completely. Any bike you order for delivery will likely require a bit of tinkering to get into shape, and the company’s return policy would cover these issues, but it’s worth making sure you’re comfortable with it. do this DIY and know enough to make sure everything is in place. order before you take a ride if you are going ahead with a purchase.

Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow

(Image credit: Mark Knapp)


So what happens when we take this design and these features and throw them on the sidewalk. I took the bike on a bunch of commutes and rides in the streets of Chicago and discovered it.

It’s amazing what a little help can do. You won’t really find bikes that offer motors under 250W, so the E-Sparrow sits at the very bottom of the spectrum. But, this 250W Bafang motor makes it quite easy to reach the speed of 17mph after which it stops – it is a class 2 electric bike, so it cannot continue to offer assistance. beyond this limit.

The three different assist settings fundamentally change the speed at which the motor will stop assisting. The lowest setting just gives a boost when starting from a stop, and it has hardly helped. The middle setting hits around 12mph before letting my legs do all the work while the high setting hits that 17mph limit.

While the engine is assisting, cruising is smooth. The straights are easy, and small hills and bridges are a cinch to navigate without slowing down too much or seeing the pedaling difficulty increase – good news given that the bike doesn’t have the extra gear to shift to. attacking the hills.

On the other hand, there is a little more difficulty when the engine is not assisting. The gear ratio is not great for starting from a standstill. And, since the bike uses a cadence sensor, the motor won’t start until I’ve done more than one full turn of the pedals. This makes starting a little harder then a little jerk when the engine starts. There wasn’t enough jerk to throw me even while standing, but it can scare off novice riders who are still getting used to riding in general. However, it accelerates quickly, which helps get out in front of cars and other bikers at intersections.

In the low and medium assist settings the bike behaves a little bit oddly as well. I almost feel like the engine is fighting me when I’m on the cusp of its speed limits in these settings. This may be because the gear hub stopped helping but did not disengage.

On the positive side, the thumb throttle provides a way to avoid these issues. You don’t have to rely on the cadence sensor to start from a standstill, as the throttle can give the engine a boost right off the bat. And, rather than struggling with the engine to get past that cusp in the lower settings, I can just accelerate past that point and then navigate freely. The throttle is placed within my thumb’s reach, which made it easy for me to turn around when I’m looking for that extra boost to get through a traffic light that’s about to change. The throttle has a bit of range for precise control and it offers some resistance, so it’s not that easy to accidentally push forward. All of these electronic components are also easily cut for safety, as even a slight pull on the brake levers cuts power to the motor.

Thick Slick wheels provide a smooth ride on flat ground, but they don’t absorb a lot of bumps in the road, with potholes, cracks, and bumps sticking out all the way to the handlebars and saddle . It should be borne in mind that they do not have a tread and are not so pleasant on loose gravel or stone. I got out on wet roads after a bit of rain and found they had enough grip to keep riding as usual, and the disc brakes held up better to the moisture than the brakes on rim.

With a low horsepower motor, the E-Sparrow doesn’t get a ton of power from its battery, and I’ve seen it cover a considerable distance. It’s rated at 25 miles, but I was able to stretch it to 32.7 with mixed use and a good deal of my own sweat. For many city dwellers, this will likely be more than enough for a few trips before needing to be recharged – a process that takes a few hours.

I think the E-Sparrow can take a lot of shifting effort off for many riders, but one aspect of the design made it difficult to sell for seasoned commuters used to putting in a bit more effort: the gearing. While the gear ratio isn’t ideal for starting, it’s even worse at speed. Cycling is so easy to pick up speed, but staying there becomes a chore. Rather than pedaling harder at high speed, I have to pedal at an uncomfortably fast cadence. It’s much better suited for riding around 15mph, which will likely be slow and relaxed for seasoned riders. New commuters will likely be comfortable at this lower cruising speed, but that relegates the E-Sparrow as a bit of a starter electric bike.

Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow

(Image credit: Mark Knapp)


The Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow is a solid bike. It can roll at a decent pace and is still nimble enough to squeeze through traffic. The motor helps get up to speed, but it could have been better suited to maintain that speed. It will certainly make commuting easier for new commuters, but seasoned riders will likely struggle to find a reason to choose this over a non-electric bike, especially when there are much more tempting options for a little more money. like the class. -3 Ride1Up Core-5, which has a 5-speed cassette and uses a 500W motor powered by a built-in battery to achieve a top speed of 28mph.

Detroit Bikes E-Sparrow

(Image credit: Mark Knapp)


Wiley C. Thompson

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