MAD’s electric bike relies (much) too much on its looks

At the very end of last year, the Le Vélo brand updated one of its flagship products, the Sport. Big technical and aesthetic update, the new Sport 2 is displayed at a price of less than 2000 euros. At a time when bicycle prices are soaring, it seemed interesting to us to look into the case of the French brand which offers an accessible bicycle that is constantly improving. However, is it a good choice?

A bike that relies a lot (too much?) on its appearance

Although the brand Le Vélo Mad has taken the original design of its Sport for its new version, several notable modifications are worth highlighting. The first and most important of these is the complete integration of the battery into the downtube. Indeed, the Sport2 and Sport+ have made a significant effort to melt the battery into the tube instead of superimposing it as was the case on the original version. On the other hand, unlike the Sport+, the Sport 2 still opts for a rear hub motor which is not without consequences on its performance, as we will see. But it is also this choice that allows it to be priced at 1,990 euros, since its alter ego with a central engine is sold for 2,490 euros. The two cycles are otherwise identical.

For the rest, the Sport2 uses the design elements that have made it successful, that is to say a Brooks saddle and grips, wide WTB Horizon tires and a very compact frame. If the choice of Brooks is not open to criticism in itself, the manufacturer’s products being particularly appreciated, it is possible to wonder about their impact on the price of the bike. Wouldn’t it have been better to opt for a saddle with less cachet, but for a more powerful engine? Spoiler alert : if. Among the more substantial, but no less significant improvements, note the replacement of the huge central display by a more modern and more discreet model. Ditto for the assistance level selector which looked like a child’s toy until now and which is gaining in quality of finish on the Sport2.

Finally, a quick word on the marketing that has accompanied Le Vélo MAD for years. The brand played on the proximity between its name, MAD and the mention made in France (made in France). However, apart from the design and assembly carried out in the excellent MFC (French cycle factory), there was not much really « franchouillard » in the parts used (none are manufactured in the ‘Hexagon). Fortunately, with Sport2, this communication is evolving towards greater transparency. Le Vélo still communicates about its partnership with the MFC but no longer claims to sell “Mad in France” bikes.

An engine and assistance that are two years behind

If the design has evolved, this is not the case of the engine and this is undoubtedly the greatest fault of this Sport2. First of all, we could blame it for its format. A rear hub motor is certainly an economical choice, but not the most appropriate in terms of performance and safety. Especially since the price argument holds less and less as affordable models equipped with mid-engines spread. On this subject, we invite you to reread our test of the Nakamura Crossover XA, at the same price as Le Vélo, but equipped with a more efficient motor and placed at the level of the pedals. Moreover, for comparison, the entry-level model in the Crossover series at Intersport, the only one equipped with a hub motor, is sold for 999.99 euros.

Failing to change the location of its engine, Le Vélo could at least have renewed it. However, the French brand seems to have opted for the same version as the Sport that we tested in 2018. The problem with an engine that is more than four years old is that the assistance it offers is at least as dated. However, in recent months, other engine manufacturers have made enormous progress in offering more suitable and above all more natural assistance modes. The trend is therefore no longer a stupid on/off mode and assistance without subtlety.

However, given what we have just mentioned, the Sport2 is simply incapable of offering assistance other than basic. Just touch the foot pedal to activate the motor which sometimes gets carried away wrongly. An example: it can happen when you walk next to your bike and it is still under tension that a slightly energetic descent from the sidewalk is interpreted as an acceleration. In these cases, it is better to have good reflexes…

Too sensitive, the Sport2’s Bafang engine is also incapable of nuances. Indeed, there is the possibility of navigating between an “eco” mode, another “sport” or even a promising “turbo” but these do not necessarily modify the behavior of the bike, they only limit the torque. At a time when electric bike motors integrate torque sensors and maps capable of adapting the assistance to the type of effort of the cyclist, that of the Sport2 simply appears to be outdated.

Autonomy: in the good average

Now let’s move on to the autonomy chapter. In this regard, the Sport2 is subject to the same constraints as the other electric bikes we test. That is to say that it is impossible to precisely advance an exact score of autonomy. Like every bicycle, scooter or even electric car, autonomy is dependent on a series of external factors.

There are the most obvious of them, namely the size of the cyclist and the type of route (the more hilly it is, the less the battery appreciates). But there are also other range variables such as the weather (more specifically the outside temperature), tire pressure and even the rider’s pedaling cadence.

In order to give an idea of ​​the autonomy that it is possible to achieve with the Sport2, Le Vélo Mad puts a simulator online on its site. The user can choose a reference weight (60, 70 or 80 kg) and one of the four levels of assistance to obtain an estimate of the range of the bike. Thus, if you weigh 80 kg and only drive in “Turbo” mode, it would be possible to reach 60 km of autonomy. Indeed, during our test, we were able to drive for 57 km in this precise configuration. The 3 km less will you tell us? The most likely hypothesis is that one of the other factors had an influence, most likely the topology of the course. Less certain but not impossible: maybe we should have avoided swallowing a burger before hitting the road.
Be that as it may, the brand’s indications in terms of autonomy seem rather plausible. Thus, for a light cyclist (60 kg) who would ride only in “eco” mode, the 460 Wh battery of the Sport2 could carry it for nearly 100 km (95, announces the simulator). Finally, on the charging side, the battery performance is also respectable. Thus the 0 to 80% is done in 1h30. For the last 20% and therefore a full recharge, it is necessary to count on 2h30.

If the autonomy of the Sport2 is rather good despite a battery that is not necessarily impressive (for comparison, the largest accumulators from Bosch display 750 Wh), it is mainly thanks to the weight of the bike. Indeed, for a VAE, the Sport2 is particularly light with its 18 kg on the scale. This contained weight also has another advantage, on driving this time.

Riding the Sport2, what does it look like?

The luck of Sport2 is that it is once on the road that it erases a good part of its faults. Compact and light, it is not comfortable for a penny (we advise you to avoid cobblestones in particular) but is very dynamic and playful. Some might even find satisfaction in its easygoing assistance mode when it comes to clearing the road as quickly as possible or clearing a path. In this sense, for sporty driving which would consist of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, the Sport2 will do the trick. Because in addition to its compactness and weight, Mad’s VAE also offers a sport-oriented geometry, quite close to a Cowboy frame for example.

On the other hand, regardless of the Brooks saddle (which requires a few weeks of work on the buttocks to become welcoming) and the wide tires, the VAE suffers from the absence of a dedicated suspension. As a result, if it’s a touring bike you’re looking for, the Sport 2 will struggle to satisfy you.

At 2,000 euros, is the Sport2 too expensive?

Finding a high-performance and safe electric bike for less than 2000 euros is not an easy task. The prices of VanMoofs and other Cowboys have skyrocketed on their latest versions, leaving this segment of “entry-level” bikes depopulated. This is where Vélo Mad’s strategy lies, displaying the Sport2 in its catalog even though it has a mid-engine Sport+ sold for 500 euros more.

For our part, we chose to compare the Sport2 to the Nakamura Crossover XA. Not only are they offered at the same price, but they are also assembled in the same factory. Clearly, the Intersport model is superior in almost every way, starting with support. The only criteria where the Sport2 holds the comparison, it is on the design (subjective) and on certain equipment such as the saddle and the Brooks grips. For the rest, the verdict is final and in favor of Nakamura.

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