For starters, it’s built around a 250W mid-drive motor from MPF Drive, an Austrian motor maker that until the Vvolt, I hadn’t ridden before. That motor makes 80Nm of torque and, though it comes stock as a Class 1 e-bike, this particular model has been upgraded to Class 3 speeds through an upgrade Vvolt calls “warp core,” which changes the bike’s max motor assisted speed from Class 1 (20 mph) to Class 3 (28 mph).
We’ll dive more into motor performance later, but this motor’s speed was very impressive. It didn’t quite have the sensitivity of some of the more high end mid-drive commuters I’ve reviewed, such as the Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0, but it certainly had no issue maintaining comparable speeds.
Even beyond the inexpensive mid-drive, there’s a lot more to this bike that makes it a good choice for commuters.
See, a good commuter is hard to make; I’m not just talking about an e-bike that’s nice to ride and can carry some things, but a bike that’s thoughtfully made with features and an ease of use that, added all together, make a compelling argument for day in and day out use. A good commuter should be able to convince you that it can be used in lieu of your car. That it’s just as convenient, just as comfortable and, maybe most importantly, more pleasant to use than something with a combustion engine and a roof — that’s what’s hard to pull off.
But it’s what Vvolt has managed to do with the Proxima.
For starters, its drivetrain is made of a Gates CDX belt drive paired to an Enviolo CVT internal hub. Not only are these just cool and unique parts, but they’re extremely functional in the context of daily commuting. The Gates belt is grease free, so you don’t have to worry about messing up your pant leg, and it also requires virtually no maintenance. That means no lubing or cleaning your chain.
Less obvious at first glance is the Enviolo rear hub, which, as opposed to a traditional derailleur and sprocket bicycle drivetrain, is entirely sealed inside the rear hub. It’s a continuously variable transmission, so as opposed to selecting specific gears your shifting is stepless and feels more akin to adjusting resistance than changing gears. You simply rotate a twist shifter to change your gear ratio (the Trekking model on the Proxima has a 380% gear range), allowing you to fine tune your gearing for any environment.
Again, a cool piece of tech, but one that is specifically useful for commuting applications. Like the Gates drive, it requires very little maintenance and is better protected from the elements. You also don’t have to be pedaling to shift, which is useful for stop-and-go traffic.
There’s also a set of Radius hydraulic disk brakes with 160mm rotors front and rear, a brand we hadn’t seen until reviewing this Vvolt e-bike, but still performed well.
Vvolt bills the Proxima as a “high-performance all-terrain hybrid,” which I think is a good elevator pitch for the bike, but after spending time on the Proxima, I’d describe it more as a slimmed-down commuter. It ships sans racks and fenders, but it can accept both should you want to add them. (The folks at Vvolt specifically recommend a rack like the Topeak Explorer, should you have some things to carry.)
The frame geometry, tire choice and cockpit setup all lend themselves to commuting. The bike is supremely balanced in corners and is very friendly to pedaling, making the bike more efficient feeling than many others I’ve reviewed in the affordable electric commuter category. The 40c Kenda tires have a light tread that can handle some dirt (think unpaved bike paths) but are still very optimized for pavement.
Finally, I’m just a really big fan of the Proxima’s look. I’m a sucker for slimmed down e-bikes that are comfortable, fast and handle really well. All traits this bike has in spades. The best part of all? The price. You’re likely going to be hard pressed to find a more affordable e-bike that looks this good, rides this well and is equipped with a mid-drive.