Many people are plenty happy with the performance of a Class III ebike, which will top out at 28mph with pedal assist – a very brisk clip in city riding. But beyond that velocity lies a gray area of machines that pack speed and power more akin to a scooter or moped – or even a small motorcycle. The new Astro and Astro Pro ebikes from C3Strom Bikes, a brand that has partnered with the Xiaomi tech company, are definitely part of that interesting mix and I’ve been riding one around the Portland area for a couple of weeks now. The bikes will first be available through an upcoming Indiegogo campaign, which is set to go live on May 25. The initial prices on Indiegogo will be $1,699 for the standard 52V20AH 780 Watt-hour version and $1,899 for the “Pro” model which will feature a larger capacity 1040 Watt-hour battery. Otherwise, all other specs will be the same between the two models, per information from C3Strom. Post-campaign, C3 Strom says the bikes will rise by $800 in price.
The Astro and Astro Pro share pretty much identical specs outside of the battery, which is removable and slots into a rail under the top spar of the frame. As you can see, this bike is not outwardly intended to be a utility bike; it’s squarely focused on having some stylish fun. It’s available in two colors – my bike was dark gray but I think the lighter “Future Silver” finish with its increased contrast is the better looking of the two. But overall, this is a stylish choice in either finish if you are into this kind of urban street machine.
Power for the Astro bikes comes from a 750/1,000-Watt Bafang motor in the rear hub, which can likely peak above 1,000 Watts according to my highly calibrated seat-of-the-pants power output measuring device. It also sports a solid 80nm of torque. Wheels are a good looking pair of Bafang 20×4.5-inch thin-spoke types and feature slick but wide road-type tires. A large monochrome backlit LCD display is more akin to a motorcycle display than that of most ebikes, and reads out relative data including speed, assist level, battery level, trip meter and so on. There are front suspension forks with compression and preload adjustment, but no suspension out back. A long, banana-type seat is soft but supportive and allows riders to move around a bit while riding.
A Shimano 7-speed shifter connectes the pedals to the rear hub and works with a left-bar grip shift that is mounted upside-down since it’s designed to be on the right bar, but that’s where the Astro’s twist throttle grip lives along with some buttons and turn signal switches. You get used to the backwards gear shifting after a few rides but really, most of the time you’re going to be twisting the throttle on the right grip on this speedster anyway. Tektro 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes with stylish anodized red piston covers squeeze 180mm discs front and rear to slow things down with good strength and feel.
Lighting is a strong point on the Astro with a very bright, motorcycle-style trapezoidal headlight with an always-on LED halo light and projection low and high beams that really punch a ways down the road. Front turn signals are small “chaser LED” types for even more visibility and the rear LED tail light is integrated into the rear frame loop. At first I thought they either forgot or decided against rear turn signals but I was wrong – they are integrated into the rail light and feature a cool chase pattern that is good for getting attention. A motorcycle-like horn rather than a bell warns drivers and pedestrians you’re nearby. My review bike also included an optional rear rack that will accept standard panniers. Plastic fenders are included as standard.
Range is specified as 50 miles for the base Astro and 78 miles for the Pro with the big battery. That’s going to vary widely depending on throttle use, pedal input and hills of course, but I never seemed to get less than 30 miles out of a full charge including on a throttle-heavy excursion across town. Expect about 5 hours for a full recharge.
It took a bit to get the Astro Pro built out of the box with the included tools, and instructions were good but could be more clear. Things like fenders and turn signals add to the task list but I had the Astro Pro up and running in about 30 minutes.
Charged up and checked over, I hit the streets outside my house and started pedaling the Astro in “no assist” (the “zero” setting but all electronics turned on) and while you can certainly pedal the Astro with reasonable effort, it’s not the most entertaining way to get around – but at least you can pedal it with some degree of efficacy, which is more than I can say some ebikes of this type offer.
With assist engaged, the fun began. Levels 1 through 4 step up the power from 20mph to 28mph, with level 5 adding assist up to an indicated 32mph in “race” or “off-road” mode but you have to be pedaling to hit those speeds in Level 4 or 5. Using only the throttle will get you going 20mph max in the flat in level 5, and you can adjust some of the speed settings in the C3Strom app that connects via bluetooth.
With tires aired up to about 30psi, handling is sharp and I dialed in max preload on the front end (there is no lockout that I can tell) so suspension action was minimal but the Astro is an overall smooth-riding bike at pretty much any speed.
As a large and tall rider, the Astro is a wee bit small for me especially in the seat-to-pedal space, and the seat is not adjustable, but at almost 32 inches, it is fairly tall so short riders should also be aware it’s not adjustable. But no matter, with my feet on the pedals it was plenty comfortable to cruise around on for long stretches, and most people will fit on it just fine.
On my mandatory hill test, the Astro Pro had no trouble powering me up the incline and with pedal assist set at 4, I was going over 12 mph consistently while my 220-pound largess was seated and pedaling with what I’ll call “light effort.” Once at the top, I pointed the Astro Pro down the curving rear section of road and saw speeds close to 40 mph, which made for a few tense moments over some pavement undulations since the Astro uses a hardtail frame and I was sitting down (normally I’d be off the seat on a bike with a “normal” frame configuration). However, control was never an issue and the Astro Pro tracks well in high-speed sweeper turns as long as you’re not dodging potholes or small objects in the road (such as an indecisive squirrel). Given a solid squeeze, four-piston brakes scrubbed off speed quickly as I got to a stop sign at the bottom of a long downhill straightaway.
Outside of high-speed antics and cruising around the neighborhood, I did use the Astro Pro for some light duty work including running some errands with bike panniers on the optional rear rack and it was in this mode that the Astro is more like a scooter than a bicycle. I liberally used the throttle to hop from bike lane to sidewalk to traffic lane, so besides being fun to ride, the Astro also can earn its keep (rear rack recommended).
The Astro Pro is a fun, stylish, solidly built and powerful ebike that tiptoes into the scooter/moped realm. In some countries, you may need to have a driver’s or scooter/motorcycle riding permit to join with car traffic, and with built-in lights and signals, it’s ready for that duty out of the box. Here in the United States, riders can pilot the Astro Pro without a license since in most places, the law is still fuzzy on what constitutes the clear difference between an electric scooter, ebike, moped and bicycle. And those definitions vary depending on what state – or even what city – you’re in, and also if there’s any clarity for law enforcement in that space (most places: not much). While I didn’t ride within car traffic lanes on busy streets, Portland police who I passed by didn’t give me a second look.
Nitpicks? Not many: The open front chainring may try to eat a wide pant leg or dress, and the shifter controller is upside down by necessity, but you get used to it. For such a fast bike I would have liked to have seen a mirror or two included, but that’s easy to add on. Otherwise, the Astro Pro was reliable and a solid performer. Wear components are common, so upkeep should be simplified going forward.
The C3Strom Astro ebikes are launching on Indiegogo on May 25th and early buyers can save about $800 off what the eventual MSRP will be, so if you’re looking for the fun of a small scooter with dash of style and tech, get your deposit in sooner than later. I enjoyed my time aboard the Astro Pro and recommend it.