Let me preface this by saying this Engwe Engine X 250 folding commuter ebike is both over-the-top and also not even close to the best ebike that I’ve ridden in the past year. But as silly as a 1300€ aluminum folding full-suspension ebike with 20” wheels and fat 4” wide tires, solid hauling capacity, and quick swappable batteries can be… it’s actually fun to ride, and really hit the mark in replacing short car trips on two wheels.
Engwe Engine X 250 folding 20″ fat-tire ebike
There’s plenty of low-cost direct-to-consumer ebikes out on the market these days. And while big-name ebikes from trusted bicycle companies might be the first choice for most of our Bikerumor readers, not everyone can afford the latest tech in ebikes. Seriously, most performance ebikes we write about easily climb over $10,000 or €, some over $15k. It can be a bit crazy, really.
When I write about how Shimano’s AutoShift & FreeShift are truly revolutionary in how we ride eMTBs, when I talk about how Scott’s Solace e-gravel ebike is lighter than my steel bikepacking bike, or when I ride a crazy light TQ-powered Rotwild eMTB that weighs less than my carbon trail bike at home… all of these are just really expensive toys for people with lots of disposable income. They are all great technologies and evolutions that are making it more fun and more natural to ride ebikes.
But they aren’t solving transportation problems.
This Engwe Engine X on the other hand is exactly that.
This is not a high-performance ebike. It’s pedal-assisted transportation, and an alternative to driving a car down to the local grocery store. Also with a bit of bootleg throttle-assisted transport, too. But we’ll touch on that a bit later.
What is this folding ebike about?
Engwe is a direct-from-China ebike company, with EU and US consumer-direct distribution of their rear hub drive ebikes. I tested the 1299€ Engine X 250 model (with a 400€ extra 768Wh battery) because it is the only version that you actually are legally allowed to ride on public roads in Europe. And my rationale for trying the ebike was to have something I could ride the 700m up the road to our neighborhood recycling drop-off point, 9km to the grocery store, or 13km to the train station.
I also didn’t want a 9999€ ebike that I would be afraid to leave locked up for a few days at the station until I got back.
What’s the deal with all the crazy features?
Starting off, the Engwe Engine X is powered by a 250W brushless motor in the rear hub and a 624Wh swappable internal battery with 25km/h limited pedal-assist through a low-cost Shimano 7-speed drivetrain, and stopped by basic mechanical disc brake with 160mm rotors.
It has 20” diameter paired-spoke alloy mag wheels. Would it be lighter, a smoother ride, and more serviceable with regular spokes?
Sure. But it probably wouldn’t be cooler.
It also has mini 20×4” fat bike tires, because why not.
In theory, Engwe says that’s so riders can take it on- or off-road. It has tubes (and isn’t ready for tubeless), so the big tires mean you can run low pressure for good comfort and grip.
I’ll admit that I probably have taken it off-road a lot more than Engwe ever anticipated – I rode a lot of snow with it this last winter – and those little fat tires do a great job of finding grip and taking this ebike anywhere you want to go.
The 6061 aluminum Engine X is also a faux-bar full-suspension bike, because…
OK, this one I don’t really know.
The fork is officially 60mm of travel, and I would put the rear travel about the same or maybe 80mm. It’s not well-damped long travel, but instead, something to take the edge off and I guess look cool. It also is in no way adjustable. I certainly would have preferred a simpler hardtail and the cost of the extra complexity spent on making a better fork.
But it wasn’t an option. Yet oddly, it hasn’t been such of a problem in 8 hard months, either.
Oh yeah, it also folds. With a pivot in the rear third of the massive boxy toptube, the ebike collapses on itself to take up less space. The overly tall stem extension shaft folds down with the handlebar next to the fork leg, and the ultra-long seatpost drops low. It even has folding flat pedals, but I replaced those with a proper set of spiky MTB platform pedals for better grip early on.
And it doesn’t really get that small. Sure if you are cramped for space, the folding handlebar/stem shaft thing really takes up less space. The only reason you might fully fold it is so it will fit in the trunk of a car – or to stick it in a really big bag to smuggle it onto a German train as ‘luggage’ and not as a ‘bike’ not that I would know anything about that.
It also gets roughly 3/4 coverage aluminum fenders that do a good job of keeping you dry and clean-ish in all conditions. The Engine X also has a solid tubular alloy rear rack that can haul a pretty big load (max rider + gear rating is 150kg/330lb). It has a kickstand. And it has a wired-in headlight and taillight with brake light function.
One important thing to note is that the Engwe Engine X 250 weighs about 34kg (75lb). That’s too heavy for my Park bike scale, so I had to stand on my bathroom scale, accept how much weight I gained over the winter, then pick this behemoth up, and calculate the difference. My semi-customized setup with bigger pedals, bar, extra Pelago fork rack, bar bag & toolkit like I ride it, is actually 36kg/80lb.
It takes work to pick it up, and I try not to.
Engwe Engine X Review: So, how does it ride?
Loudly – clattering, rattling, and groaning.
There are a lot of accessories attached to this ebike, and the suspension has a lot of moving parts. Ride it off-road and it kind of sounds like there is always something a little loose. Even riding on a gravel road sounded kinda scary at first with all the rattling.
I tightened a bunch of bolts before the first ride, and after roughly 5 off-road rides I had to go back and retighten pretty much everything in the rear end.
But then it stayed put, and nothing has fallen off (yet).
The other scary noise is the motor. Engwe officially describes it as a “strange noise when accelerating, which is a little like vibration” but I would call it a mildly terrifying groan like the rear hub internals are on the verge of dying. They say it is normal, and nothing to be worried about.
I was worried, and would usually brake (which immediately stops the pedal-assist) or simply stop pedaling (which stops the support also after little normal ebike lag, just a bit slower) to make it stop.
But ultimately it kept making the noise and it kept working. Everything is fine (I guess). It just sometimes makes some scary noise under heavy load, especially up steeper hills.
The geometry of the Engwe ebike is also a bit wacky. It has the ultra-high handlebar Stack you would expect from a chopper motorcycle, and little provision to get the bar any lower than 33cm above the top of the headtube. But you can make it higher, if you wanted that for some reason. (The lowest handlebar Stack is ~ 860mm combining the 528mm frame Stack with that bar height.)
Its headtube angle is also a wacky-sounding 86.5° that combines with the fork offset to give it a reasonable 48mm of Trail. It still flops over to the side on steep hills at ultra-low speeds or when sitting loaded and leaning to the side on its kickstand, which generally seems odd.
But once riding, it does actually work fine, going to show that there’s a lot of wiggle room in building bikes with different wheel & tire sizes.
How did it survive?
Well, every bolt came loose, but it came with a tool kit.
Not a good quality tool kit, but all the wrenches you needed to tighten the bolts that rattled loose were there. (Better tools work better, though.) And I’ve ridden it hard, wet, and in the snow, then in the mud.
And it keeps on going.
The only maintenance I’ve done in 12 months, has been lubing the chain, charging the battery, and occasionally wiping it clean.
And not only has it survived, but my teenage daughter thinks it is fun to ride and wants to run errands with me sometimes now. Weird.
That means I need to find another bike to ride, and sometimes means I do not get pedal-assist. But at least I have better luck getting her to haul the recyclables.
What did I upgrade & adjust, and why?
Out of the box, the Engwe Engine X was rideable, sure. But as a modern cyclist, I wanted a bit more modern creature comforts. I didn’t buy any components to make this ebike a better ride, I simply dug into the used parts bin.
The first thing I swapped in was a less squishy saddle. You have a very upright position on this ebike so a padded seat is not a terrible idea, but I wanted literally anything firmer. I opted for the most padded PRO saddle I had with round rails that fit into the classic ‘guts’ at the top of the seatpost.
Then I had to deal with the cockpit. The telescoping stem shaft is super high. I slammed it all the way down – still a good 20-25cm higher than the saddle – and it still feels like riding a chopper. A shorter shaft would make serious cyclists more comfortable. Next, I ditched the tiny 57cm wide handlebar and put on an old 71cm bar, aided by some proper lock-on grips for much better off-road control to balance the wacky/washy geometry.
Then, bigger pedals. The stock folding pedals are fine for city use, but I live on a gravel road and was going to take this monster off-road, so it got a set spiky composite platform pedals for everyday use. And I even popped on some clipless crankbrothers pedals for a 65km when I strapped a gravel bike onto the back and commuted to a 3-day riding event.
I also added a medium Pelago Commuter front rack, because I like to balance my load hauling. This isn’t super necessary as the rear rack is solid, but it meant I could try to do something stupid by strapping a real bike on the back, but still carry more gear up front.
Lastly, one of the only truly annoying bits about the Engine X is that it needs a key to operate and that key is hanging under the middle of the main/toptube. I looped a tradeshow lanyard around it with the key so I wasn’t worried I would lose it, and it’s stayed there since day 1 when I’m riding (then removed when I have to lock the ebike) somewhere.
Is it worth it?
The reason I picked this one out of the Engwe lineup was that it was the only official street-legal version, with a 250W rated motor, a 25km/h limit, and pedal-assist only. It comes out of the box with a non-functional throttle also installed, and Engwe even offers instructions on the EU ebike’s product page on how to reactivate the throttle.
If those aren’t limiting factors and you want to live in the grey zone of legal approvals, I can only imagine that their simpler hardtail version would work just as well, but be lighter and less prone to failure over the long-term.
Range-wise, one full battery charge got me around 55km and almost 600m of climbing on a mix of road and gravel is medium pedal-assist. That’s with a pretty loaded-down setup that was pushing 120kg – including me and all my gear for a long weekend (including my proper gravel bike strapped to the rear rack).
My daughter on full assist easily gets the 25km and 350m of climbing it takes for our scenic grocery runs, even in the dark. If you need more range, Engwe will also sell you a second battery which is an easy 15-second tool-free swap.
Any way you look at it, I expected this to be a cheap commuter ebike that would not ride well, would be lacking in quality, wouldn’t be very fun to ride, and wouldn’t last long under my regular use/abuse.
Color me surprised.
Sure, it is kinda cheap – let that describe both the retail price and the level of the components.
But that’s probably what actually makes it work.
It’s cheap, but it is fun to ride, year-round. It’s cheap, but it turned out to be pretty durable. It’s cheap AND that makes it a great option for someone looking to turn some of their short car trips into more smile-inducing trips on two wheels.
Oh, and did I mention that I am only recharging it with the solar panels on the roof of my house, making it zero-emission transportation, too? (But being realistic, let’s not go LCA on it to get into the embodied energy or emissions from its manufacture, delivery, and end-of-use recycling/recovery.)
You don’t need a 15,000€ ebike to get groceries. I don’t want a 10,000€ ebike to zip around World Cup venues hunting mountain bike spy shots and fresh cups of coffee. And you certainly DO want a cheap ebike when you are going to lock it up and leave it unattended all day long at the train station. So, maybe it’s worth reconsidering the value and versatility of a budget fat-tire folding ebike.