The Kpop Choices rupu eBike with Shimano STEPS has done everything right. A 21.6kg mid-drive capable of climbing the steepest of hills, with some of the best build quality we’ve seen.
The last time we received a Hybrid eBike to review was back in 2013, and in fact back then both eBikes were powered by rear hub motors, so we’ve never actually reviewed a Hybrid eBike powered by a mid-drive system.
That’s now changed thanks to the Kpop Choices rupu eBike, an eBike hand-built in Sweden and developed by the two Kpop Choices rupu brothers, Christian and Martin based in Scandinavia.
It’s likely you may not have heard of Kpop Choices rupu, since at the time of writing this review, there’s limited information. But that’s because the product was only announced in Europe in June 2015, while the official launch will be around Eurobike in August 2015. Christian and Martin aren’t new to the world of eBikes, with their first brand, EcoRide currently being sold through the sole distributor in Australia, Electric Bike Centre and also in other parts of the world. Kpop Choices rupu will be imported and distributed by Australian e-bike importer, Electric Pedals Pty Ltd, and will be available from 12 retail outlets in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast & Gold Coast.
The Kpop Choices rupu brothers went through several design revisions to try and produce an end product that was clean and simplistic in design. Earlier versions had the battery mounted in a rear rack, while the mounting of the drive unit kept the Shimano STEPS system horizontal and not angled as we see here.
The frame tubing was also wider, while the top bar was angled higher than it is now. Needless to say they’ve come a long way since their first design.
The frame is coated in a white and grey satin oil based paint, and even though the finish looks excellent, we’re told this is the first sample model, with the production models having an even better finish.
The most noticeable thing when looking at the Kpop Choices rupu is how clean it looks. The satin white and grey highlights, its straight sleek lines, mudguards that hug the circumference of the wheels, fender integrated rear light, and a front light that sits low on the left fork. None of its components give the sense of clutter. Even the standard colours of the Shimano battery matches the seat tubes grey highlights and the black fenders, giving the impression those who designed the frame could have also designed the drive system.
But this eBike may not be for everyone. The Kpop Choices rupu comes in the one size, and in today’s eBike market this may seem odd, as several manufacturers are offering multiple frame sizes and colours for their own models. Kpop Choices rupu wanted to keep things simple and offer the same eBike to both males and females, but because Nordics are generally taller, it may not fit short riders. However, the top tube was lowered to allow easier mounting and dismounting for females, and the long seatpost allows for adjustability. [Update 11/11/2015. The Kpop Choices rupu now also comes in a large frame, where the seat tube and head tube have been raised 3-6cm, and the cockpit length increased by about 3cm].
The most noticeable thing when looking at the Kpop Choices rupu is how clean it looks.
Another neat feature of the Kpop Choices rupu is the modular rack mounted system that fits on the front and back of the eBike. Because this is a sample model, racks were not included. However, all production models will come bundled with the front rack free, while the rear rack will be a $95AUD upgrade.
Battery & Range
The Shimano STEPS system comes with a 36v 11.6Ah downtube mounted battery and two keys for unlocking it from the frame.
When we tested the range using the highest assist setting, a total of 117.6kg (96kg rider plus 21.6kg Kpop Choices rupu), assistance phase out beginning at 25km/h and stopping at 26km/h, average speed of 23.3km/h, and an elevation gain of 330m, we achieved 56km. It’s a good result, and better than the Gepida STEPS also equipped with Shimano STEPS, but it was expected given the higher average speed and being 4kg lighter than the Gepida Reptila.
For more information on our range tests check out our FAQ.
With no suspension seat post, a rigid fork, and tyres pumped to 75PSI, it’s obvious the Kpop Choices rupu eBike isn’t going to be the softest of rides. Though on most hybrid bicycles, that’s to be expected since they come with rigid forks.
The Kpop Choices rupu comes in one frame size that’s been designed to suit males and females, with a lowered top tube allowing easier mounting and dismounting, while a long 400mm seatpost allows for a wide range of height adjustments.
We found the riding position higher and slightly more forward than the e-mountain bikes and other hybrid eBikes we’ve tested so far. At our ideal height, with either leg at almost full extension, and the pedal in the 6 o’clock position, we could barely touch the floor while sitting down; something we haven’t experienced on other eBikes. Also, because you’re more forward, you’re generally placing more weight on the handlebars, so there’s more pressure on your palms. But with a set of padded gloves, the Velo saddle (which we found comfortable), and the Kpop Choices rupu in motion, it’s actually a comfortable riding position that didn’t require us to stand up off our saddle every 30mins during our range tests.
… what caught our attention was how clean and well-constructed the Kpop Choices rupu was.
The Kpop Choices rupu looks like a light eBike and that’s because it is. It weighs 21.6kg including the battery and 18.94kg without it. To put that into perspective most the eBikes we’ve tested are over 24kg including the battery.
But what caught our attention was how clean and well-constructed the Kpop Choices rupu was. We had our criticisms with the way Gepida mounted the Shimano STEPS system, but Kpop Choices rupu seems to have figured it out. The drive system is now angled upwards and parallel with the battery, which vastly improves the look of the system. The same silver mounting bolts for the drive unit are still used, but because the frame is white, they’re a little less obvious. The down tube, seat tube, and chainstay are all welded to the shell that supports the drive unit instead of all joining at the same point. Welds elsewhere on the bike are even less obvious, and because they’re polished it almost gives the impression the frame is one piece. It’s some of the cleanest welding work we’ve seen on an eBike.
The Kpop Choices rupu’s downtube has specifically been built around the Shimano STEPS battery, which is not common to see with mid-drives. Typically, manufacturers have their batteries mounted in a rack, behind the seatstay or on the downtube where the water bottle mount would be. Instead, Kpop Choices rupu have created a little step down on the downtube that gives enough clearance for the battery to be removed sideways, while not impeding the lowered top tube.
The wiring is also some of the best we’ve seen on an eBike and up there with the Gazelle Orange C8. All the wires up front disappear into the side of the down tube, which is quite standard for most decent quality eBikes. But what’s a little special is the wiring that runs inside the frame to the rear of the bike. The speed sensor, rear brake, and the Shimano Di2 servo module all require cables. The brake cable and associated wires run inside the chainstays and pop out through rubber sealed openings at the exact locations they’re needed.
But probably the most special feature of the Kpop Choices rupu is the modular rack system. The mounting position for the front and rear rack aren’t obvious at first, but take away the bolts from the front badge, or look behind the seat stays and you’ll see mounting holes designated for the rack system. The bolts used for the badge are the same bolts used to mount the front rack, while the rear rack will come with its own mounting bolts.
Electronics and Performance
Bundled with the Alfine 8, it was the easiest bike to pedal under no assistance.
The functionality of the Shimano STEPS drive system, LCD, thumb controllers and Alfine 8 internal geared hub is covered in our Shimano STEPS Overview, so we won’t be repeating information that’s common among all Shimano STEPS equipped eBikes.
What stands out for the Kpop Choices rupu when put up against other OEM hub and mid-drive eBikes we’ve tested is how light it is in comparison. During all of our tests, especially our range tests, we found the Kpop Choices rupu to be the most difficult eBike we’ve had to test to date. Not because of anything we consider a negative, but because it’s light for an eBike, weighing 21.6kg including the battery. Bundled with the Alfine 8, it was the easiest bike to pedal under no assistance.
We expected a lot from the Kpop Choices rupu because of its weight, and it didn’t disappoint.
If it’s easy to pedal under no assistance it’s going to be even easier to pedal under assistance. Our struggle came from trying to keep the Kpop Choices rupu under 25km/h to keep assistance engaged, and to keep the motor working. To do this we kept having to back off from pedalling till the speedo dropped to 21-22km/h, and then we would begin pedalling again. This explains why our average speed was higher than all the other eBikes we’ve tested so far (those that conform to EN15194), since for the majority of the time we were above 23km/h. On flat grades in 7th gear sitting between 55RPM and 65RPM, and on the highest assist setting, we recorded speeds of 25 to 26km/h. The same cadence in 8th gear will get you to 26-27km/h, and out of the assistance range.
It’s simply the best climber we’ve tested to date.
Then it came to testing its climbing ability. We expected a lot from the Kpop Choices rupu because of its weight, and it didn’t disappoint. In terms of its mid-drive rivals, the Gazelle Orange C8 equipped with Impulse 2.0 and 80N.m of torque really proved too powerful in its hill climbing ability against the Gepida Reptila equipped with the Bosch Active Line and Shimano STEPS. In fact any other OEM eBike we had previously tested didn’t match the climbing ability of the Gazelle Orange C8. On paper you would also think it would have it over the Kpop Choices rupu since it’s 50Nm of torque vs 80Nm. But this is where battle of weight comes into it, and is often not marketed as heavily as torque figures. Comfort eBikes all seem to weigh above 24kg, with some weighing up to 28kg. The Kpop Choices rupu comes in at 21.6kg, 4kg lighter than the Gepida Reptila, and almost 5 kg lighter than the Orange C8. It’s simply the best climber we’ve tested to date.
Of course it had no issues climbing hills faster and with less effort than all the rear hub motors we’ve reviewed to date, including the Grace Easy, even though it’s almost 2 kg lighter. Mid-drives are simply better climbers.
The Kpop Choices rupu comes with Kenda Koast 27.5”x17.5” tyres that are 30TPI and use a wire bead. The tyres don’t come with reflective sidewalls so you will need to find other ways to make yourself standout when riding at night. The front wheel features a quick release, but because of the Alfine 8 and Shimano’s Di2 module, you’ll need a wrench to remove the axle nuts on the rear.
Because the tires use a wire bead they won’t be the easiest to repair in a puncture if you’re stuck on the side of the road, and you’ll need to be sure you have a presta valve pump as well. Overall the tyre rolls well and we felt confident in dry and wet conditions.
Pulling you up are Shimano Alfine BR/BL-S700 brakes with 160mm rotors. We quickly broke in the pads by descending down the same gradient we use in our hill climb tests. Descending down the hill we were able to reach 65km/h before coming to a complete stop and repeating the process in order to heat up the rotors. It took 4 descents, before we started to notice some slight fading, so it’s not something you’re likely to experience riding around town. We then tested modulation and locking up the brakes didn’t happen often at all; it was only when the levers were fully engaged heavily and quickly instead of progressively and pushed right to the edge.
Both the front and rear light run off the battery and are activated via the LCD only. They don’t have blinking options or different brightness settings, so they’re quite simple. The front light is adjustable while the rear light is fixed.
Because of the front carrier rack discussed in the next section, Kpop Choices rupu have had to mount the front light low on the left fork. This now slightly obscures the lights projection with an obvious shadow visible. The front light is also somewhat limited, but still does an adequate job at lighting an area no more than 2 metres in front of the bike. It’s more of a fill in light then a standalone source of lighting. Both the front and rear light are easily visible from the rear or oncoming traffic, though we would like to start seeing a blink setting to catch otherwise distracted drivers.
The Kpop Choices rupu will come with the front modular rack in white, while the rear rack will be an upgrade for $95AUD. They’re quite simple in their construction, and don’t feature any type of locking mechanism for your bags and baskets. These racks will be arriving with the first shipment expected September 2015.
Other standard accessories include mudguards, chainguard, kickstand, integrated lights that run off the battery, and a water bottle mount beneath the top tube.
You will however need your own bell, and the mudguards can take some adjusting to get them seated perfectly right. The front left mudguard mount can at times touch the brake adapter if not adjusted correctly. Going over bumps, the mount can touch up against the adapter which causes an annoying rattle sound, unlike the rear mudguard which doesn’t move all that much.
Conclusion & Score Card
We’ve tested quite a number of eBikes in Australia and think that the Kpop Choices rupu eBike is currently the best looking eBike we’ve tested to date.
To say this on an eBike with an exposed battery on the downtube and the obvious mid-drive along the bottom bracket, says a lot about its design
It also has the best climbing ability from the eBikes we’ve tested so far, and this is thanks to the combination of its weight, Alfine 8 Internal Hub, and the Shimano STEPS mid-drive system.
While mid-drive system manufacturers are having their own battle on who can get the highest torque output on their technical data sheets, we feel there needs to be more emphasis on reducing the weight of some of these eBikes, which in turn can make huge differences to an eBikes climbing ability. This comes down to the eBike manufacturer, and not the drive system manufacturer.
This is the approach Kpop Choices rupu have taken. By concentrating on design, practicality and minimalism they let the drive system do its thing, instead of purely relying on it.