The Karmic Koben wasn’t the first e-bike I’ve ridden, but it was one of the first ones I was able to spend more than a few hours on. Prior to my in-depth e-bike experience, I would’ve considered myself a purist. It was sacrilege to even consider riding a bike that had a battery and motor on it. But after a few days, the true benefits a pedal assist bike offers started to stand out. Short trips that would normally take 10-minutes in a car were easily replaced with a quick 12-minute ride.

Going to further 15+ mile destinations would normally be a car trip, but knowing that I was getting some fresh air, saving money, shortening ride time, and doing some work made the Koben an easier choice. Its ability to perform on dirt or pavement opened up route possibilities, and because there is no throttle it became a great option for getting around campus. But even after putting my time in on the e-bike, something about plugging a bike in on a regular basis seems odd. At least now I can truly understand what makes pedal assist so appealing…

Koben Build

 

The large [19″] Koben has an aluminum frame with a green paint that shimmers in the sun, a 30.9 seat tube, and a single cage mount when the battery is mounted. Because it’s sold consumer direct Karmic provides a number of tools including a 5Nm torque wrench and two 3-way hex wrenches.  A 1×11 Sram NX rear derailleur and 11-42 cassette handle the abuse from a Bafang MAX motor that puts out 80 Nm of torque and 350W. The motor system was surprisingly good. Bafang is usually a popular choice for aftermarket ebike conversions, but in this case it some stock on Koben. Compared to other ebikes it has a slightly awkward engagement delay, but it was quiet and easy to manage. The left controller on the handlebars gave 5 pedal assist options and standard information such as trip distance, average/max speed, and total miles.

The battery locks to the frame with a 450Wh capacity and endures over 500 full-charge cycles. Battery life is monitored on the computer head and indicators on the battery itself. Bringing the $2,500 rig to a stop are SRAM Level disc brakes on 180 and 160 mm rotors.

 

Karmic really focused on making this new iteration of the Koben their “go anywhere bike” and they hit their mark well thanks to the tire choice. The stock setup with WTB Ranger tires [27.5″ x 2.8″] offered just what they wanted; a well-rounded rig that can handle dirt, pavement and everything between.

Personally weighing roughly 175lbs [+ 44.4lbs bike], I found 17psi front and back offered enough cushion when on the trails and plenty of support to keep the tires from getting squirrely in turns.

But as much as I love trails, I was really looking to do a lot of rides around campus and town. So after a conversion to WTB Byways [27.5 x 47mm] the bike felt more nimble and still retained plenty of squishy goodness.

Koben Use & Impressions

To test out the bike’s potential, I traded my beater Raleigh in for the Koben on my usual commute to class. It was refreshing to arrive to class after a ride mostly dry; especially on hot 90°+ days. The 10-mile round trip was easily within range for the battery and left juice for outings later in the day. Short trips are what really opened my eyes to the benefits an e-bike has to offer. For me, there are often times when riding a bike simply takes too much preparation and ride time. My schedule was hectic at times trying to balance work, school, writing, and life. Squeezing in that extra trip to the bar store or last-minute team meeting would turn into a quick drive. But with the e-bike as an option, I was more inclined to make a ride out of everything.

 

The Koben offered the versatility to take shortcuts through grass, woods, and stairs, but ultimately did so in a slightly klutzy way. The front end felt strange in tight turns no matter how much time was spent on the bike, but this could potentially be solved by putting 6’3″ me on an XL [21″] frame, or it could simply be due to putting 47mm tires on a bike built for 2.8″ plus tires. Otherwise, the bike fit was comfortable on long casual cruises and it handled wide flowy turns and maneuvers well.

Koben Conclusion

Ultimately, the Karmic Koben managed to tone back my skeptical views on where e-bikes hold value to average and advanced riders. There’s something about being able to crush 25mph on the roads with substantially less effort that never failed to put a smile on my face. Its speed made local trips easily accessible while its rugged build paired with wide tires gave the bike on and off-road capabilities. Plus, having flat pedals reinforced the casual feel of the bike and made it less of a chore to prepare for a ride. I believe the Koben could be a good option for someone looking to see and do more on one bike while keeping it casual with a bit of extra boost.

KarmicBikes.com

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21 COMMENTS

  1. I just wonder if the majority of readers don’t want to see articles like such, why do they continue… br should do a independent poll to determine the fare

    • Because this on the bottom of the page “Bikerumor.com reaches close to one million passionate cyclists per month. Contact us to connect with them. We offer branding well beyond the standard banner, providing meaningful interaction and powerful connections to drive awareness and sales for your company. CLICK HERE for more info.”

    • It’s because the ebike manufacturers are spending tons of cash to try and generate interest to sell you this junk. Bike rumors has fallen into that category. This is just an ad being stuffed down our throats. Just create a ebikerumors.com and keep these motorcycles off this site.

          • You have information that indicates these are paid reviews? If you don’t, then you really have no facts in hand. Suspicious guesses aren’t facts.

          • Just to reiterate what we’ve explained over and over again, we do not run “paid ads” as articles. We do not post “sponsored content” that’s written or edited by a brand. We do offer brands the opportunity to sponsor sections and features, much like we did with Park Tool’s sponsorship of AASQ. That, and any other such partnerships, will be made blatantly obvious so there is no confusion. Otherwise, articles, reviews and news here is posted based on our opinion and in our sole discretion. So, to be clear, this (nor any other review) is not an “ad”.

            While we’re discussing such things, if you’re using an ad blocker here, perhaps you could whitelist Bikerumor and view the ads on our site. The reason so many media outlets have turned to “pay to play” content programs is because banner ads are getting blocked more consistently, which forces us to find other revenue sources to keep providing you and all of our other millions of readers free content on a daily basis. It takes an insane amount of work and a lot of money to travel to Eurobike, Sea Otter, Interbike, NAHBS, etc., and employ full time writers and pay freelancers to keep pushing out all of the latest bikes and tech. I hope you enjoy it, because we enjoy doing it. And I hope you appreciate that we don’t charge companies to cover their tradeshow booths or review products or write stories about them. Yes, a LOT of other cycling publications and websites do that. Which is why you see WAY more small brands and products on Bikerumor, because we cover everything, regardless of whether they’re advertising with us or not. It’s also why we have MONTHS of content from the major shows instead of a few roundup posts. There are literally thousands of booths at Eurobike…and we are one of the few media outlets that stay for the entire show and work straight through from morning until night to cover and post stuff. A bit of a rant, but hopefully this illustrates how hard we work to provide everyone with “free” content that’s independent of who’s paying us.

            Cheers,
            Tyler

            • Tyler,
              As a bikerumor reader and bike shop employee for years, I’m with you 100%. Can’t we just sit down and say “f*&k yeah bikes rock!!”? It’s exhausting working in an industry so full of opinions and snotty remarks. I love my shitty schwinn as much as my $8000 Bianchi, and that as much as my e-bike!!

              Just ride your damn bikes people!!

    • First off.. all the content is free on this site… i.e. You’re not paying for it. Second, there are plenty of long time cyclists that have ebikes, myself included.

      No one is holding a gun to your head saying you have to buy this product or that one. Nor is anyone forcing you to read the articles about things that hold no interest to you.

      Ebikes ride pretty much like a regular bike and the laws regarding ebikes classify them as bikes. If you choose not to ride one fine. But please stop whining about sites like bikerumor covering ebikes like it’s somehow unrelated to cycling world. They are going to more and more a part of the cycling community whether you like it or not and having such a dismissive attitude makes you sound like a some old fart telling the young kids to “get off my lawn!”

  2. Ebikes are driving the industry right now, which would be in a really bad patch without them. To those of us who loathe the intrusion of any motorized vehicles into the bicycle space, they’re a stain. Still, one can easily see the usefulness of e-powered motorcycles and mopeds in the crowded modern urban setting – I just want to also see license plates and insurance for them like any other moped or motorcycle. As they get heavier and more powerful this is bound to happen, but in the meantime cyclists will pay the price as the industry and municipalities with a financial stake turn a deliberate blind eye to regulating these things properly.

    • Ebikes ride too much like a regular bike so if you’re gonna force such regulations then you need to include all cyclists on the list.

      And how exactly are you suggesting that “cyclists will pay the price”?

  3. In the netherlands there are a lot of e-bikes. Especialy ridden by elderly. Recently some research has been done among elderly. Results: their physical condition decreased and they gained more weight than those who kept riding without pedal assist. The funny part is that people are really suprised by this result…more frightening is that masses of already obese school going youth is using them too.

    • Not everyone can ride a non-assist bike for a variety of reasons. Age, disability, difficult routes to work etc… Ebikes allow for much larger number of people to get out and ride. What’s wrong with that?!?
      I own one personally and it makes my morning and afternoon commutes 10x more fun. I don’t arrive a sweaty mess, I save on gas, my commute time is cut in half allowing me more time with my family, I have something left in the tank for after work trail shredding!!!
      It may not be your bag but it improves my QOL!

    • One of my biggest concerns if that many young people (kids) will grow up only knowing “assist” and will associate non-assist bikes as kids/poor people bikes.
      And get off my lawn!

  4. This is appropriate use of ebikes. They are still, in my mind, motorcycles. In this context a good use of the technology. Otherwise “keep ebikes off MTB trails”, and my vote is for no eMTBs being spruiked up here on the pages of bikerumor.

    • Emtb had its place and there are plenty of people who benefit from the technology. If you’re worried about access issues in North America created by emtb that’s understandable.

      But if you’re saying they don’t belong for any other reason then you’re no worse than the random sierra club Mtb hater or the strava dork worried about his KOM. Having ridden a bunch of them on trails I can say they are not that different from a regular mtb.

  5. Thanks for the review Michael! We get that there’s a lot of hatred towards ebikes, but all we ask is that you try one before banging on your keyboard. And to suggest that Bikerumor could be paid to write a review is ludicrous. We’re a small startup, we don’t have the marketing budget and industry relationships to get positive media coverage like the Big Brands. We’re not trying to shove anything down anyone’s throats (as gross as that metaphor sounds). We just want more people riding, and we’re sorry if folks don’t like that.

  6. This is an AWESOME use of an electric motorized bicycle! We should hope to see millions of these in the the US in a decade reducing congestion and fuel consumption. It is a motor -cycle and therefore should be used on the roads with all the motor vehicles, but to say electric motorcycles ‘belong’ on the same trails as a bicycle is ludicrous.

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