This is a review of the Spark electric bike from Shocke Bikes, which is the trailblazer in this Canadian-based manufacturer’s line-up of high quality, affordable e-bikes. After living with it for several weeks, I give top marks to this bike, because it rides like a bike, yet also offers smooth cadence-based Pedelec electric assistance, plus throttle power for those awkward uphill pull-offs and for getting ahead of traffic.
First impressions of the Spark electric bike
My first impression of this e-bike was that it was good looking and not too big. Some e-bikes just look enormous, and I don’t want to stand out in the bike lane for having an over-sized bike. I don’t mind standing out for having a good looking bike, and this bike does look good – without looking flashy.
My second impression was that the Spark electric bike was not too heavy – I could easily pick it up. It actually weighs in at 48.5 pounds including the battery, which is a respectable weight for an e-bike.
Components of the Spark electric bike
Closer inspection showed that the Spark e-bike has quality components all around. Really surprising at this price point (around US $1.7 K). This is really good news for consumers wanting a good quality e-bike at well under two grand.
Components on this bike include SR Suntour shocks in the front, which really make the bike more useful, as you can go off road and still be comfortable. I have to say that I had a blast testing this bike off-road. I’ve given it back now, and I really miss those off-road bike rides with those bouncy shocks!
The bike also features Shimano components, with 7 Shimano Altus gears that you control with your right thumb. The bike has an all-terrain frame fashioned out of military-grade aluminum. It has good strong tires that grip really well on mud, gravel, and any type of surface, so I felt confident that I would not slide out, no matter where I rode this bike. It also has disk brakes, which I think are essential on electric bikes, to ensure precision braking despite the greater weight and faster speed.
The Spark electric bike arrives fully loaded and ready for you to commute, thanks to having good lights, a strong rack, a VERY sturdy stand, and good fenders. By the way, I have had electric bikes that skimped on the stand, and it’s very unnerving. Most of these bikes weigh at least 50 pounds, so you want a strong stand to hold it up, and you do NOT want it falling on the dog!
The fact that this bike has standard parts such as Shimano components, SR Suntour shocks and Zoom handlebars and saddle is important. It means that you will be able to have the bike serviced and fixed at any regular bike store. Unless of course the problem is with the power system, but in my experience this is extremely rare with a good quality electric bike. These systems just don’t break down much. However, if it did, you would of course need a shop that specialized in electric bikes.
The battery is concealed in the cross bar. I have always liked batteries in the cross bar, as I think they keep the weight nicely centered and balanced. I am sure the clever placement of the battery contributes to the balanced feel of this bike.
In the video below, Ebrahim from Shocke Bikes describes the components of the bike.
I now wish I had seen this e-bike before I bought my last electric bike, which cost a whole lot more money. As it was, I noticed Shocke when I saw their first Kick Starter (which I wrote about here). Since then I have met some of the guys from Shocke, and I find them to be a great crowd of people who genuinely believe in their products, and in their mission of bringing affordable, quality e-bikes to the market.
How to Use the Spark Electric Bike
You control the bike with a small remote device next to your left thumb, and the system gives you information with a 3.7″ backlit LCD display console. Also on the handlebars is a device to wirelessly control the rear lights and turn signal (seen on the left of the photo below). On the console, you get information about what level of power assistance you are in, battery level, time of day, speed, and odometer.
The bike offers you these option: use no power at all and just pedal; use just throttle power; or use one of the five levels of Pedelec assistance while pedaling. For the throttle, you simply twist your right hand back, like a motorcycle. It’s very handy to pull off on an uphill, as there is a two-second delay before Pedelec assistance kicks in. This two-second delay is a safety feature to prevent your bike suddenly rearing forward when you are stopped at a light, if you happen to rest your foot on a pedal. I have had that happen on other e-bikes, and it’s not fun at all.
Here’s a video I made that shows how simple it is to control the Spark bike.
Most of the time I used the Pedelec system to do my test riding. Pedelec systems either use a torque sensor or a cadence sensor. A torque sensor reacts to how hard you pedal, and adjusts accordingly. A cadence sensor simply reacts to whether or not you are pedaling. Once you start pedaling, there is a two second delay, and then the motor starts up. With a Pedelec system using a cadence sensor, the level of assistance is controlled by the level of assistance you have chosen on the console, not by how hard you are pedaling. Torque sensors are more advanced, and some people say they provide a more natural feel while cycling by mimicking your exertion level. However, I can honestly say that the assistance on this Shocke bike felt every bit as natural as the assistance on much more expensive bikes that use complex torque sensors for their Pedelec systems.
Alternatively, you can coast along using only the throttle, even on uphills, as shown in the video further below that I took on one of my test rides.
Test Riding the Spark electric bike
I did my first test ride of this bike on road and off road, starting off on the extremely steep hill that I live on. The riding position is somewhat hunched forward, about midway between an upright position and drop handlebars. This would suit a cyclist who likes an involved, intense kind of ride, reflecting the subtle aggressiveness of the bike’s design. Here’s my video of the test ride. The bike did really well!
Notice in the video that after climbing three steep blocks I was breathing heavily – enough to feel I had got some exercise, but not enough to feel uncomfortable. That sentence sums up in a nutshell why I love e-bikes – you get some exercise, but you don’t have to kill yourself. Also, of course, they make it possible for me to get up hills that I could not possibly bike up on a regular bike.
Also note on the video that you can change the level of assistance with just your left thumb, as the controller is handily situated right next to your left hand.
This Spark e-bike passed the acid test of getting me up my steep hill without too much discomfort, and of course, without the embarrassment of having to get off and push. I did have to pedal – Pedelec assistance absolutely requires pedaling. The minute you stop pedaling, the motor stops assisting. The notion that an electric bike is a free ride (like a motor cycle or a car) is just not true. Also, when the hills get really steep, you are going to have to help a LOT. On the other hand, you will go up minor hills like they are nothing at all, if you use a high level of assistance.
The Spark electric bike rides like a regular bike
Apart from having enough power to help me get me up steep hills, the other important factor for me in assessing an e-bike is this: Does it feel like a bike? By this I mean that I don’t want to ride something that feels heavy or unbalanced, as if it was a moped. It must have that light, well-balanced “bike” feeling that all good bikes have. It must feel nimble and light, so that I feel like an athlete (even though I’m really not).
This bike definitely passes that test. I rode it around a park, enjoying its responsiveness and its great cornering. It felt perfectly balanced, and I was easily able to ride it with no assistance, even on up-hills. You always want to have that option, in case your battery runs out. However, this bike has a claimed range of 44 miles (70 km), so you are not likely to ever run out of battery. That brings me to the power specs.
Motor and battery on the Spark electric bike
The Spark e-bike has a 350 watt toothed, brushless, high-speed hub motor, powered by a 36 volts 11 amp hours lithium ion battery. As I mention in my book on How to Buy the Best Electric Bike, it’s best to have an electric bike setup in which the battery capacity in watt hours is equal to or greater than the motor capacity in watts. Watt hours = amp hours x volts. So in this case, you have a bike with a very generous 396 watt hrs in the battery, which should power that 350 watt motor for a very long time!
To power up the battery, you use a key to remove it from the frame of the bike and then charge it with a dedicated charger. As with all electric bikes, a full charge takes several hours.
Special features on the Spark electric bike
The lights on this bike are very special, and are in fact the part of this e-bike that has my wife thinking of buying a Shocke e-bike for herself. The bike comes standard with front and rear lights. The front light runs off its own power and is switched on and off with a button, so that’s pretty standard.
Where this bike really stands out from the pack is with its rear lights, which are unique to Shocke. First, the rear lights offer a laser option, which is essentially dual red lines that run behind the bike, warning any one coming up behind you that there is a bike ahead that is taking up a share of road space. You can have these lights steady or flashing. I would recommend using the flashing lights when sharing road space with motor vehicles. When on a separate bike path, you would be better with the steady light, as I think some cyclists would find these flashing lines on the road disturbing or distracting.
Related content: When to use flashing bike lights
Second, the rear lights also have remote wireless left and right turn signal indicators, which you can control with your left thumb on a wireless controller. This is a really great idea. There are so many times when I really need to signal a turn to a vehicle behind me, but I cannot let go of the handlebars if I am going downhill on a bike. These would be great in those situations, and really in most night-time cycling situations where you want to be as predictable as possible to other road users.
Bottom Line on the Spark Electric Bike Review
I often get inquiries from readers about where to find an AFFORDABLE, quality electric bike, ready to commute with. This bike is the answer to that one! Overall, the Spark Electric Bike is a great commuting bike that you can take on or off road. It is good looking without being flashy and overpowering, and includes well thought out safety features, especially the lights. The Spark offers a great riding experience, whether you are cycling with no power for exercise and the sheer love of that cycling feeling, or whether you are using maximum power to get up really steep hills.
Finally, the option of instant throttle power is excellent. I believe that the ability to get up to speed quickly is a big safety feature for those who cycle in mixed traffic. There are many traffic situations where you just need to get out of the way of buses and other large vehicles as quickly as possible once you leave an intersection, and you can do this much more easily if you are riding an e-bike with a throttle option.
I would recommend this Spark electric bike to anyone wanting to get into the world of e-biking without breaking the bank!
Thinking of buying an Electric Bike? Check out my new 2017 edition of How to Buy the Best Electric Bike! Buy it here.
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