I spent ages reading specs and reviews of e-bikes and watching videos when I was looking to buy my first e-bike. I found several favourable reviews of Riese and Müller’s Roadster Vario and decided it was the bike I wanted. The reviews were by all by people who owned bike shops though and I really wanted a review my someone who was using the bike day in and day out. Now I’ve been cycling my Roadster to and from work and all over the place for the past month I thought I could write the review that I had been looking for before. As this is the only e-bike I’ve ridden for longer than a test ride, I can’t really compare it to other e-bikes, but hopefully my general thoughts on the bike will be useful and interesting.
Most of my cycling is to work and I bought this bike as a commuter bike. On different days I work in different places meaning I have a commute of 5, 10 or 15 miles. The 10 and 15 mile commutes are both quite hilly and can take longer than is ideal on a day when I have lots of things to do. This is where I hoped the e-bike would help me over my normal bike.
I wanted a bike that was both light and powerful. On power I’ve not been disappointed. I’ve found that the Roadster has enough power to get me up all the hills that my hilliest commute throws at me. I can keep the bike at 15 mph even on the steepest one if I put the bike into the highest setting, Turbo. To challenge the bike further I went up the steepest nearby hill. On my normal bike, it almost kills me. On the Roadster I was not able to climb it at 15 mph, but I was able to stay at around 10 mph, which is a huge improvement on how fast I could get up it on a normal bike. So I’m very happy with the power and how the bike performs going up hills.
The weight seems a fair compromise for this power. It is not the lightest bike, but it’s lighter than many e-bikes with this amount of power. I can’t easily carry it upstairs, or lift it onto a car roof rack, but I can get it up the small set of stairs to get to my back garden without half killing myself. While cycling I’m mostly not aware of the extra weight, but this is possibly down to the motor. I’d like it to be lighter, but I would not trade this for a less powerful motor.
Going up hills and accelerating away at traffic lights is the strength of the roadster. While going downhill or cycling on a reasonably flat smooth road I sometimes wish there was a higher gear. On the flat the motor quickly accelerates you up to 16 mph and then cuts out and leaves you to keep the bike at that speed or push it up further. I’m normally in the highest gear by this point, and sometimes it would be nice to have a higher gear available to push the bike a bit faster. So I’d say the available gearing is good for a comfortable commute, but it’s be nice to have a more challenging gear available for when you feel up to it.
I have found on a reasonably hilly route it knocks about a third off my time. On flatter routes I’m still slightly quicker. I might be able to achieve a slightly higher top speed on my standard bike, but the quicker acceleration and assistance up hills more than beats this. As saving time on my commute was the main reason I bought this bike, this is a big win.
Heavy riding and the salty winter months punish the chain and cogs of a bike and I sometimes struggle to keep them maintained adequately. I was excited about the belt drive of the Roadster Vario and trying a bike that didn’t have any cogs to get covered in dirt and salt. Now I’ve been using the bike for a bit I have mixed feelings about it. I’d really like to test the bike with a normal chain to see how they compare. It feels different to pedal and I’m not sure if this is down to the belt drive, the motor or the extra weight of the bike. At lower speeds there is more resistance, but as the bike gets faster this goes away. The motor more than makes up for this and I only notice it when I use the bike with the motor turned off. I love how clean it is though and winter is coming and I’m hoping it will deal well with the high levels of grit on the roads. I think they’re perfect for e-bikes and if it lasts as long as they’re supposed to then I’ll be very happy. However I’m not sure I’d want one on a normal bike as I think some of the resistance at lower speeds is down to how tight the belt needs to be.
I chose to get the Nyon Display with the bike and really love the big display. I’m used to a small LCD bike computer and this is much nicer. I’ve customised the screens and plan to play about with them more to show what I’m interested in. Being able to navigate the screens and change mode with the handlebar controls is nice and easy and means you can easily change screens without taking your eye of the road and your hands off the handlebars. Getting feedback on the bikes speed and the amount of pedal assist you’re getting is really useful. I am disappointed by the sat nav. It’s not awful, but it’s nowhere near as good as the car sat navs that I’ve got used to. If you stick to the route it wants you to, then you’re normally fine, but it really struggles to recalculate a sensible route (and sometimes just gives up) if you miss a turning. The ‘scenic route’ option also does not seem to really understand what scenic routes are bikeable. Ever since it tried to take me over a very high stile I’ve decided to stop using this feature. It did manage to get me from York to Leeds following what seemed a fairly sensible bike route, but when I’ve used it to get to places I know, it sometimes takes me a way that seems a bit odd. So I may use it occasionally, but I don’t completely trust it and would rather know where I was going.
The assist modes on the bike are Off, Eco, Touring, Sport and Turbo. The mode you use coupled with how hilly the route is has a big impact on how far you can travel on one charge of the battery. I’ve been trying to strike a balance between keeping the bike above 15mph and using the lowest level of assist possible. Depending on how tired I am this means starting off with the Eco or Touring mode and increasing the assist level if I’m unable to keep the bike’s speed above 15mph. Having both the gear and the assist level as levers to change to get the most out of the bike takes a bit of getting used to.
I am enjoying the fatter tyres and front suspension of the roadster. I sometimes get pins and needles in my fingers on medium to longer rides from all the vibrations and this has not happened to me on the roadster. They also make the various potholes, bumps and small off-road bits I travel more comfortable. I don’t think I’d want them to be any fatter as I like to get a bit of feedback from the road and these tyres strike a good balance.
The disc brakes are ones made specially for e-bikes and are really good. I don’t think the wheels on my hybrid bike would be able to take them, but if it could I would use the same brakes on that bike too as they feel like an improvement.
How long the battery lasts depends largely on how hilly the roads are and what level of assist you use. On flat roads sticking in eco mode I think you could get over 80 miles, but with lots of hills and generous use of turbo it could be as low as 30. I’ve been charging the battery about twice a week while doing about 90 miles, but I don’t let the battery get to empty.
I discovered to my surprise on a long ride that the motor turns itself off when at 5%. I think this is so it still has enough power for the lights. I was on my way home, but still about 4 miles away. At least with an e-bike, even when the battery does go flat you can still pedal home, be it more slowly and with more effort.
The price of the Roadster Vario is the one thing that would stop me recommending the bike to anyone. I also pushed the price up by adding the Nyon screen and a rear carrier. It was features like the belt drive, enviolo hub, Bosch Performance Line CX 85NM motor and hidden battery in a sleek looking frame that pushed me towards the Roadster Vario, but at more than £2000 more than many perfectly good-looking mid-range bikes, I sometimes wonder if I’d have been equally happy with one of those. I bought the bike using the cycle to work scheme and am paying for it in 12 monthly instalments. With the current sudden rise in UK energy bills I’m looking forward to finishing these payments. At least I am saving money (and the environment a little) with my reduced use of the car. If I was paying the full price without the cycle to work tax savings and I was paying for it all in one go then I would not have been able to afford this bike.
The Roadster is a good-looking bike and for someone who really likes bikes, it follows the aesthetics of a traditional bike and ticks all my bike design appreciation boxes. It’s subtle, sleek and unassuming which are all things I like. While waiting for the bike to be built and delivered I kept looking at different e-bikes and came to appreciate more the ones that don’t look like traditional bikes. In particular I became more interested in the various types of cargo bike which can carry more load. With a motor you don’t need to be constrained by the weight and other design considerations of traditional bikes and this can open up a world of car replacing opportunities. If money was not an object I would get one of these too, but most of the time I’m not carrying enough stuff to need one so the convenience and versatility of a lighter e-bike fits with my life better.
In summary I do not regret buying the Riese and Müller Roadster Vario and absolutely love it. The Roadster is a great looking, powerful and versatile e-bike. My longest standard 15 mile commute now takes me an hour, rather than an hour and a half, meaning I’ve been able to drop using the car for virtually all of my regular journeys. I’m enjoying my commute again and with winter coming I think the belt drive and ease of maintenance is going to come into its own.