There’s a glut of e-bikes on the market in 2023, many of which are more moped than bicycles. Heavy, reliant on a motor, and sometimes equipped with a throttle, it’s hard to call many of them “bicycles” at all.
But the Velotric Thunder 1 ST is an e-bike, with the “bicycle” part first. It weighs just 36 pounds — on par with some full-suspension mountain bikes. That means that even without electric assist, it rides reasonably well.
I put this relatively light, affordable e-bike to the test over a month of commuting to work for this review.
In short: The Velotric Thunder 1 ST is a cyclist’s e-bike if such a thing exists. It looks like a bicycle and rides like a bicycle — with a healthy boost from an electric motor. At a retail price of $1,300, it’s an excellent choice for a commuter or biker who wants the speed from electric assist while still pedaling. It has a barebones but good feature set, including simple controls and compatibility with Apple Find My for tracking in case of loss or theft.
Velotric Thunder 1 ST
- Weight 36 lbs.
- Torque sensor Yes, PAS sensor
- Top speed 20 mph (25 mph unlocked)
- Max range 52 mi.
- Clean design with internal wire routing
- Good disc brakes
- Good components for the price
- The battery cannot be removed for charging
- Sometimes jerky motor engagement
Velotric Thunder 1 ST E-Bike Review
Opening the box and assembling the Velotric Thunder 1 ST was a great experience. The bike came packaged nicely and was easy to remove from the box. I set it up using the included tools and attached the charger in about 15 minutes.
I was immediately impressed with the bike’s build. Having tested several of the best e-bikes, I often felt they had a somewhat shoddy build or cut corners. Not so with the Thunder 1 ST. It looks sleek and well-designed, and all the parts and finishes are nice. Everything fit together perfectly right out of the box.
After giving it a full charge, I hit the road. And from the first few pedal strokes, I knew this bike was meant to feel like a bicycle, not a moped.
A Great Budget E-Bike
Throw a leg over the Thunder 1 ST, and you will plop onto a very nice, firm saddle. The upright handlebars lead to nice, wide grips. Under the right hand, you’ll find mountain bike-style shifters that drive an eight-speed Shimano derailleur through 11- to 32-tooth rear cogs. The crankset drives a single chainring. You’ll find a simple + and – control for electric assist and a bell on your left hand.
There is no screen on the Thunder 1 ST reviewed here. Instead, a quarter-sized on-off button on the top tube glows in various colors to indicate the level of assistance. Several small lights below the button indicate battery life.
And that’s about it. Get on the bike and start pedaling. If you’ve ridden cruiser bikes, you’ll feel right at home.
But, the electric assist will also quickly bring a smile to your face. I mostly rode in “sport” or “turbo” modes, meaning the most aggressive assist, and that made the bike quickly jump to its top speed of 20 mph. Then, a modest amount of effort will keep you rolling at 20 mph easily, although I did find myself working a little.
For context, I wore my Suunto Vertical sports watch while riding to work a few times. One ride’s profile was a top speed of 23.8 mph and a max heart rate of 121 beats per minute. The point is, I rode fast relative to a non-e-bike, but my heart rate barely got out my zone 1 of aerobic intensity.
In other words, you can ride fast and barely break a sweat. To me, this is ideal for a commuter bike.
What I Love, What I Don’t
There’s a lot to love about the Velotric Thunder 1 ST. It looks great (strangers complimented me on more than one occasion). The sleek, simple design just looks right.
Next, at 36 pounds, it’s relatively light. Many e-bikes weigh 70 pounds or more. This makes them cumbersome and unrideable without electric assistance. It also makes them horribly difficult to carry up or down stairs or to load onto trains or buses.
For the commuter, this really matters. I have to climb two sets of stairs on every commute. With the Velotric, it was a breeze. Not so with many other e-bikes.
Another major plus — the price of this bike is reasonable. While it retails at $1,500, I’ve seen it selling around $1,300. That is less than half of many other good e-bikes.
Now, the downsides. While I loved the integrated battery for its appearance, removing it for charging was impossible. That means you must park the bike near an outlet to charge the bike. If you have a garage or other easy spot to park it with an outlet, it’s not a big deal. If not, it may be worth considering.
Next, I noticed somewhat inconsistent power from the motor. I don’t know how to describe it other than it was jerky. At times, it seemed not to engage firmly; then, it would come on unexpectedly. It wasn’t very noticeable and generally wasn’t a big deal. But it did lead me to my final concern.
Also, I didn’t know about the long-term durability. So far, the bike has done great, but I rode it less than 100 miles. How will it ride after 1,000? 10,000? And beyond? Long-term maintenance of e-bikes is a very uncharted area as of now.
Historically, bicycles have lasted literally for decades. I’m currently selling a 1988 Trek 330 if you’re interested. At 35 years old, all it needs is a bit of light maintenance.
Will we say the same thing about a low-priced e-bike in 35 years? Time will tell, but I suspect it’ll be hard to find a replacement battery in 2058.
But ultimately, the Velotric Thunder 1 ST is a great budget e-bike. I’ve enjoyed riding it and look forward to many more zippy, pleasant commutes. As long as it holds up for a few years, I’ll have paid for itself in gas, good times, and fresh air in spades.