In Review: The Retrospec Jax Rev Folding Electric Bike

I’m a big fan of electric bikes. New York is, in theory, a bike-able city, but in practice getting from Brooklyn to Manhattan is quite a ride and you definitely need some help from a friendly god — or an ebike — the survive the commute. The Jax Rev is an interesting new ebike from a manufacturer called Retrospec in California. The offer multiple types of standard and electric bike and I found the Jax Rev folding model to be quite rideable and rugged enough for multiple ten-mile trips through the city.

What is it?

This is a folding bike with a hinge at the seat post and a system for folding down the handlebars. The Jax Rev comes with 48V/500W or 750W battery and posts a 25 mile travel distance on the 500W model and 35 miles for the 750W. I’ve ridden it 20 miles straight and saw about half a charge at the end of my trip, although the battery range indicator is a bit primitive. I didn’t have any range anxiety and because the battery is removable and replaceable, you shouldn’t have any issues with the battery or drive train during the bike’s life.

The entire thing is surprisingly rugged with a nice pair of front shocks and disk brakes that stop you solidly (I once almost went over the handlebars thanks to an overzealous application of the brakes.) The bike uses the Key Display KD58C to manage speed and range as well as some basic max speed control for the motor. There are a number of sites that allow you to bypass the speed limiter which, in theory, would void your warranty and send you flying if you stopped too quickly.

The best thing? The bike has a nice little speed toggle on the left handlebar which allows you to speed things and hold your speed without pedaling. It’s a partial pedal assist but this little throttle is great and makes it a very compelling bike.

Is it good?

This is a $1,399 ebike, which is definitely in the mid-range of the series. Retrospec also sells a cheaper $1,199 model that is more in the hipster aesthetic but I liked the Rev Jax for its portability and big tires. As for complete portability this thing leaves a bit to be desired. It weighs in at about 50 pounds so you probably won’t be dragging it up or down any stairs. It’s foldable for easy storage, not for transportation.

The entire thing is very well built although you should go over the bike with a hex key to tighten the handlebars. The unit I test had an unfortunate habit of vibrating loudly when it started revving up but that problem has reduced over time.

Build quality is fine but, again, it is not perfect right from the factory. If you’re not handy I’d recommend getting this thing tuned at a bike shop before you ride it very far. Because it ships in one piece, it’s clear that some of the parts could have jostled in transport. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Should you buy it?

As an ebike fan I can report that this beast is solid, speedy, and pleasant to ride. At $1,399 it’s quite pricey but you’re buying from an established manufacturer with a competent support offering so it might be worth it. I’ve seen similar bikes for about $700 and I’m sure you can spot them cheaper, but the entire package – from delivery to setup to styling – is superior. The company claims this thing is good for off-road riding as well, which I could see provided you locked down the accoutrements. I also like the big pannier frame and carrier on the back. It’s great for a backpack or, with a couple of bungee cords, a computer bag. The ride is smooth even over rough terrain so you won’t have to worry about your laptop or valuables.

I like this bike. It’s big, bold, and fun. It has a few fit and finish issues but that could be a product of rushed deliveries in a post-pandemic world. At $1,399 I’d shop around a bit but I think you’ll be happy if you pull the trigger on this big beast of a bike.

John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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