Wing Freedom e-bike review: city riding that’s affordable and fun

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Staring up the bike path of the Manhattan Bridge on a recent frigid February morning, I feel the familiar dread when confronted with a steep, uphill climb. There are few things more discouraging to a city biker — especially a fair-weather one like me — than an arduous, sweaty ascent in work clothes. But before my thighs can cramp up, I remember that I’m riding a new electric bicycle from a company called Wing.

With just one rotation of the pedals, the e-bike’s battery-powered 350-watt motor kicks in and I zip up the bridge’s incline at a steady 20 mph. I whip past Citi Bike riders with chattering teeth and even a few professional racing-bike types. Within minutes I am on the Manhattan side of the bridge, wondering what the hell just happened.

Electric bikes are becoming a convenient and fun way to commute around a city, but they can be pricey. The average e-bike can cost $3,000, with some models getting up to $5,000 or more. But these prices are dropping, as new models come onto the market — and if you don’t mind giving up some of the glossier, high-tech features like embedded digital displays, retractable cable locks, and and theft tracking and recovery, you can find a really good quality e-bike for under $1,500.

The newest entrant in this lower price category is Wing Bikes, a New York City-based company that launched in 2018. Wing wants to be the affordable e-bike for city residents who are sick of shady ride-hailing services and stalled subways. And if you don’t live in a city, that’s fine too: Wing’s e-bikes could be a realistic alternative to owning a car.

Seth Miller said he founded the company after his first electric bike was stolen from where it was parked in front of the midtown office building where he worked. The company that manufactured the bike had disbanded, so he started researching different suppliers. He soon discovered that a majority of the e-bikes sold in the US are just cobbled together from a variety of off-the-shelf Chinese-made parts found in a catalog. It sounded simple, so Miller figured he’d try it himself.

“We’re going full force at this point,” Miller told me. To start out, Wing is selling three models — the Freedom (in silver and black), Freedom Fatty with extra-large Kenda Krusader tires, and the smaller Freedom S. All are available at a temporarily discounted price of $1,295, and will start shipping in March and April.

Wing Bike’s Freedom
VanMoof’s Electrified S
Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

At first glance, Wing’s e-bikes share some design features with Dutch e-bike company VanMoof’s flagship bikes, most noticeably the elongated top tube (23.3 inches) with embedded front and rear lights. There are differences — VanMoof’s battery is embedded in the frame, while Wing’s is external — but to look at them side-by-side, one could easily conclude that Wing is just a less-expensive version of the VanMoof.

The Freedom’s motor is more powerful than the VanMoof Electrified S — 350w vs 250w — but the VanMoof is technologically superior, with touch-sensitive display, enhanced security system, and an “invisible” lock built right into the rear hub. The Dutch-made bikes are also more expensive: VanMoof’s Electrified X2 and S2 list for a discounted $2,598, while Wing’s e-bikes are available now for an “early bird” price of $1,295; if you order later, it’ll cost $1,695 — which is still almost $900 less than the VanMoof.

“[VanMoof] is a great company, but we drew our inspiration from a number of places,” Miller said. “It’s a cool look. We wanted a battery that you could take off the bike.” (For its part, VanMoof isn’t sweating the design similarities. “Anyone can mimic a design, but not the tech that goes into it,” a VanMoof spokesperson said.)

As is the case with any e-bike assembled from Chinese parts, Wing has its share of clones that can be found for sale on sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. For example, the Danish company Strom Bikes has a model for city biking that also looks incredibly similar to Wing’s Freedom — and is apparently several hundred dollars cheaper too. This is also commonly found with electric scooters, with startups buying Chinese-made models and rebadging them for sale in the US.

There are generally two types of e-bike: throttle and pedal-assist. Throttle e-bikes, common among food delivery workers, don’t require any pedaling, just a twist of the handlebar to get moving. Wing’s e-bike is pedal-assist. The bike’s battery provides a boost while you pedal — up to 20 mph — but if you stop pedaling, the bike slows just like a regular bike.

The Freedom’s motor gives you five different levels of boost, and the 36-volt battery offers up to 35 miles of range. You can track your power level and speed, as well as your battery life, on a digital display mounted to the handlebar. I have to admit I spent nearly all my time on the Freedom riding in the highest level, where I could pedal up to 19 mph to 20 mph without even breaking a sweat.

The two most common electric motor styles used in today’s e-bikes are hub motors and mid-drive motors. The Freedom uses a hub motor, which was located in the center of the rear wheel. Hub motors typically don’t offer the same natural maneuverability as the increasingly more common (and more expensive) mid-drive motors because their weight is concentrated in the rear of the bike. It can be jarring when the motor prevents you from going faster than the allotted speed, especially when cruising downhill, but 20 mph is the legal maximum for e-bikes in the US. (In the EU, it’s even lower: 25 km/h, or 15.5 mph.)

The rest of the bike is equally impressive. Integrated lights in the front and the rear run directly off the main battery, so you’re never replacing coin cells or AAA batteries. And the disc brakes give you plenty of stopping power. The 36-volt battery attaches to the down tube and is designed to be easily removed for recharging. A key-lock at the top of the mount ensures that no one can steal your battery if your bike is left in a public place. And a built-in alarm system, activated with a car-like key fob, is ear-splitting enough to keep thieves away altogether. (Miller promises the alarm’s sensitivity is tuned so it shouldn’t go off if the bike is jostled at a public bike rack, but I didn’t have the bike long enough to test this out.)

My one complaint is the bike’s weight. This sucker is heavy! The aluminum frame looks light, but the the hub motor (4 pounds) and battery (5 pounds) add up. The bike’s total weight is 39 pounds, which is about average for e-bikes but not something you’d want to lug around all day. “This is not a solution for everybody,” Miller admits. “If you live in a fifth floor walkup this is probably not going to work.”

I discovered these downsides when, on my third day with the bike, I got a flat tire and had to carry it onto the subway with me for those last few miles back to my apartment. The cause of the flat is unknown; the bike mechanic who eventually fixed it didn’t see anything wrong with the rims. But the experience of trying to maneuver an almost 40 pound e-bike on and off a crowded subway car during rush-hour is not one I can recommend.

Whether squeezing onto the 4 train or pedaling through Lower Manhattan, I notice a few curious glances at the bike with the big battery in the center of the frame. This is not surprising; e-bikes are huge practically everywhere but the US. According to the latest figures from the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry, e-bike growth in the UK is up from 40,000 units in 2016 to 63,000 in 2017.

Across Europe, where e-bikes were embraced by the public long before the rest of the world, e-bike growth has averaged in excess of 20 percent each year between 2014 and 2017, with a whopping 25.3 percent growth to a total of two million e-bike sales in 2017. Analysts predict that strong growth will continue, with worldwide e-bike sales expected to hit $23.83 billion by 2025. A lot of that growth will be right here in the US.

Having spent some quality time with Wing’s e-bike, I understand why so many people are excited about the growing popularity of electric-powered vehicles like bikes and scooters. They take a lot of the work out of getting from point A to point B, while retaining all of the joy. They can give you more confidence when navigating a treacherous city terrain that prioritizes cars over people. And let’s face it: bikes are cool, and always will be.

Comments

Great piece but just wanted to point out that your 3rd and 2nd to last paragraphs are duplicates.

Fixed it, thanks!

I’m desperate for a VanMoof, but can’t justify the price tag, so thanks for letting me know that the Strøm City existed, that looks like a very interesting alternative (although there’s 31% customs duty and tax on that price within the EU, urgh). Although their IndieGogo page says they’re Danish, not Dutch. (and it makes sense, the Dutch don’t use ø)

LOL yes my American ignorance shines through. Fixed!
And you make a good point about the customs duty and taxes. Since so many of these companies source their parts from China, it could be a big problem in the future.

wish you posted some of the actual specs/parts used.

I don’t expect an electrikebikereview.com level of detail but SOME details would are expected from The Verge, no?
What brand motor? What type of batteries? Do they offer racks/any other accessories in a branded system? Can’t make out from the photos if there is a rear derailleur guard or not. It doesn’t have front suspension, correct?

At the price point they’re at, there are other bikes that offer some or all of these things — sometimes at the cost of weight for sure.

But some comparisons or a paragraph dedicated to how this stacks up against, say, the Rad bikes would be nice.

Stuff I expect to see in a phone/laptop review in terms of the details and comparisons to other products should be here too, that’s all.

I had a paragraph of specs that got cut, but you can check out Wing’s website where they have pretty much everything you mentioned listed out.

I ended up buying one and got answers to these questions from Wing’s customer service.

Motor is made by Bafang which is considered fairly high end and reliable. The batteries are Panasonic/LG which are also high quality.

They have front and rear racks for their bikes which are proprietary to their frame and their smaller bike has front suspension.

For this price, it’s a great deal. Their components are quality and they have a ton of unique features: lightweight, alarm system, removable battery, electric horn, USB port to charge your phone will you ride, built in lights and a very cool look.

"If you live in a fifth floor walkup this is probably not going to work."

Great, thats literally me.

I live on a 4th floor apartment, but the staircase is big and circular so that I can carry my slightly heavier 23kg e-mountain bike up without any issues. It’s not so bad once you get used to it. It’s not the best if I’m carrying other stuff on top of it but in those cases I will take my bags up, come back down for my bike.

Just think of it as a weight lifting exercise on top of your daily light cardio I just take off the battery, pad my shoulder with my beanie or cycling gloves, and lift it on my shoulder. On the way up i’m working my right side, on the way down I’m working my left side… I may develop a lopsidedness to my shoulder in 10 years, but maybe I’ll just work the left side a bit more when I hit the gym.

I do envy my friends who live in apartments with lifts though, it would be easier on those days, when you just don’t wanna- but just think of it as a daily struggle worth doing! No need for busses, yay!

On the city bike (the Freedom), it’s a 36v/350 watt Bafang motor and 8.8 ah battery. Probably not bad for a place that’s pretty flat or where you’re trying to avoid a bike that’s over 55lbs (many of them). I f you like the looks of this bike, you might want to look at the Biktrix Courier as well. It’s $999 and seems to weigh slightly less. That said, it only has a 7ah battery (built in the frame), and 250 watt motor with 350 watts peaks. Although to be fair, we don’t know from the specs on the Wing bike whether their motor is 350 watts nominal or 350 watts peak.

Freedom Specifications:
Frame & Fork: Lightweight Aluminum, Smooth Welding AL-ALLOY 6061
Gears: Shimano 7-Speed 11T
Shifters: Shimano Standard
Handlebars: High polish ergonomic curve
Stem: High polish alloy stem, 90mm length with optional extension
Seatpost: High Polish Alloy, 27.2
Brakes: Disc
Crankset: Custom, High Polish Alloy 54T
Rims: Double Walled Al-Alloy
Tires: Kenda tires (26 × 1.75)
Battery charge time: Approx 4 hours
Battery: Lithium ion 36V/8.8AH (317wh), Approx. 5 pounds
Range: Up to 35 miles per charge
Display: Custom LCD
Electric motor: 36V/350W Bafang
Top Speed: Up to 20MPH
Weight: Approx. 39 pounds

Really glad to see someone giving Wing some love. I took home one of their demo bikes on the cheap in November and have been loving this bike. Aside from upgrading the seat, this is the best bike I’ve ever owned. The pedal assist is smooth but powerful when you want it and the lights are super bright at night, which is great for me since I do most of my riding at night. Love that I can remove the battery to charge at my desk, and the alarm feature definitely comes in handy for the few times I lock up outside. Would definitely recommend ordering, their early bird pricing is a great deal. I pre-ordered another one for my girlfriend who keeps stealing my Wing!

Great article! Finally a great looking, lightweight ebike, with great specs, helpful/unique features, without the absurd pricing. Your article is timely, I have been researching for weeks and no one else has the features I need (built in lights, removable battery, alarm, excellent battery options, and an attractive look, without braking the bank. I was surprised to see your comment about these being heavy. These are lighter than 90% of all ebikes.

A removable battery is a pro, not a con. Aside from the aesthetics, it means you can park your bike outside and bring in the most expensive part. If it gets stolen, at least you don’t have to buy a battery too. It also allows you to hot swap additional batteries if you want more range or larger capacities.

I’m inclined to agree. Same goes for off the shelf parts. If Wing were to go under and take whatever proprietary designs with them, their bikes would rapidly become garbage. With off the shelf parts, if something goes wrong, I can just get more parts. And I don’t have to go to Wing to get them.

Really the only two cons that I can see are the lack of integrated security (alarms are an annoyance, not a hindrance), and the weight. That said, I have a big ol’ lock (that I’ll probably leave at home most of the time because I can ride straight in to my office), I’ll be getting security nuts for mine, and I’ll be looking in to puncture-resistant tires.

I also can ride right into my office so I’m less concerned with security. I also chose to have regular bikes converted to e-assist in part because of the parts issue. You end up getting much better components for the same money when you do it that way too. E-bikes have huge markups. Of course, they don’t look as tidy, but I’m not willing to spend an extra $1000 so my bike looks "cool".

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