Building The Vanpowers City Vanture E-Bike

Vanpowers’ City Vanture e-bike is utterly unique in the world of e-bikes, bringing a real sense of “DIY,” build-it-yourself appeal to the process of assembling your ride that most other e-bikes, which ship 99% assembled, just can’t match. And, if you’re not quite able to read between the lines on that one, let me spell it out for you: you need to build this bike.

In case you think that’s an exaggeration…

Vanpowers City Vanture

Image by the author.

… yeah. It’s not.

Unlike bikes from NIU or Aventon or GEN3, to name a few, the Vanpowers City Vanture ships without a factory-fresh frame. And this, dear readers, is absolutely part of the appeal of the thing — with the flat-pack, “you build it” angle forming the cornerstone of the company’s original Indiegogo campaign last summer.

The frame, instead of being welded together the way every bicycle you’ve ever owned, is bolted together in a mortise and tenon style that should be familiar enough to any woodworkers out there. Since that’s probably not enough of you to count for this review, however, Vanpowers has put together this handy-dandy video explaining the concept.

City Vanture: What is the Tenon-and-mortise Structure

“In the City Vanture, the frame’s 6061 aluminum top tube, down tube, seat tube, seat stays, and chain stays all have tenons at either end (basically just smaller-diameter sections of tubing),” reads the official Vanpowers copy. “These slide into round mortises at the frame’s junction points, where steel bolts are used to clamp the mortises firmly around the tenons … by using this technology, the safety of City Vanture is significantly improved. Even if the frame is spliced, the security and stability it can achieve are far greater than that of the ordinary one-piece frame.”

I, for one, wasn’t so sure about all that — lacking any time of equipment to test torsional rigidity at the house, however, I had to just put the bike together and see how it felt.

It Feels Just Fine, Thanks!

City Vanture Assembly

The Vanpowers City Vanture went together easily enough, and the clearly labeled parts combined with fair to average instructions kept headaches to a minimum. Even if you’re new to bike building, you should have no trouble here — the bearing in the headset was a bit of a pain for me, I’ll admit, but that had more to do with skipping ahead of the instructions “because I know what I’m doing” than any fault with the bike.

That said, bolting this bike together is an “all afternoon” sort of affair. Once you’re done, too, you’ll want to take a minute to torque everything down a second time. And Maybe third.

Once put together, I have to admit that the combination of the City Vanture’s satin black paint and shiny machine bolts and fasteners gave it a very “stealth fighter” sort of look to my eyes, and with the e-bike’s “hidden” battery pack — picture a bunch of D batteries one after another — tucked into the top tube it hardly looked like an e-bike at all. Only the bike’s excellent and easily visible display gives it away.

Vanpowers digital display.

Fresh out of the box; image by the author.

It’s a typical “Class 1” e-bike, in that you have to pedal it (there is no throttle), but the various levels of assistance (1 to 5) deliver noticeable increases in electronic assistance. The bike uses a cadence sensor, instead of a load sensor, to decide how much assistance to provide — a feature that’s been derided by “purists,” but I found that even in level 2 or 3 maintaining a top speed high enough to feel safe on urban roads is a breeze, and maximum assist makes pedaling at all seem like the formality it is.

Overall, the Vanpowers City Vanture is a great-looking, relatively affordable (at “just” $1699) urban runabout that casual riders can have a ton of fun with, and one that offers an additional sort of “spiritual” connection that you can only really have with something you’ve built yourself. And, for all its competence and utility, that’s really what this is. It’s a DIY e-bike, and I enjoy riding it that much more for it.

What’s more, the City Vanture ships with a quick-release front axle, which makes getting into our vehicles for transport super simple on both our Volvo XC90 and Hyundai IONIQ5 — which isn’t always the case, even with folding bikes. In fact, the whole bike is packed with positive little surprises. The Gates belt, LG battery, and Wellgo pedals are all the same components you’d find on bikes costing twice as much, and the full color TFT LCD display, simple and generic as it may be, is among the best in the business for a no-BS communication of the state of the bike.

If I have to find something to complain about, I’ll say that the black on my tester, provided by Vanpowers for the purpose of this review, was a bit fragile. I would have preferred something a bit more durable (maybe a powder coating instead of paint, for example) but I imagine buying the bike in “Infinite Silver” would solve that problem well enough. At the end of the day, though, I think the City Vanture is a great way to spend $1699 on an e-bike!

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