As much as we love our pedal assist electric bikes and their ability to share the beautiful gospel of cycling with nearly everyone, they aren’t without their faults. Between the additional complexity of an electric assist, a screen that dominates the handlebar, and the motor’s propensity to bring its rider along for the ride, there is plenty to distract from a quality riding experience. The best design takes complicated technology and makes it easy for everyone to use. What if there were an e-bike that took state of the art technology and made it easy enough for both novice and seasoned cyclists alike to use? Enter the Orbea Gain Carbon e-road bike.
Orbea is not new to the pedal-assist road bike game, as they released the Gain alloy to Europe just under a year ago. With the release of the Orbea Gain carbon e-road bike, Orbea has decided to share their forbidden fruit with the US market, and we got an early look at their newest bike. The Gain carbon takes the alloy Gain’s excellent base and adds a lightweight carbon frame and fork. How does the Orbea Gain carbon, or specifically this 2019 Orbea Gain M20i, achieve it’s goal of being a more rewarding electric bike? It starts (and largely ends) with a push of a button.
Look just behind the stem on the top tube, and you’ll see a LED-backlit button neatly embedded into the top tube. Called the iWoc ONE controller, this button controls assist levels and shows how much battery life is left. Not enough information for the data-hungry among us? Ebikemotion offers a companion app that not only offers battery life and power output, but turn by turn navigation and auto-uploading to Strava.
IWoc ONE controls the heart of the bike, the Ebikemotion X35 drive motor. This hub-based drive motor is light, offers reliable support up to 15.5 mph (EDIT: it’ll do 20 mph of assist in the US) with 250 W power and 40 Nm torque, and is drag-free when the motor isn’t in use. All of this is powered by an internal 250 Wh Panasonic battery hidden in the downtube, which combined with the controller and motor, weighs in at under 8 pounds. The whole application is streamlined and intuitive, and rids riders of potential distractions that can take away from an otherwise excellent ride.
The rear wheel motor features 20 magnets within the cassette lockring which determine assist based on power output. Simple. Removing the rear wheel is also a cinch; disconnect cable on the non drive side chainstay and it takes only a 6mm allen key to undo the bolts. This cable connects to the battery, as well as a charging port found close to where the bottom bracket, seat tube, and downtube meet.
The Orbea Gain is a whole family of bikes in both alloy (denoted by a D in the model variation) and carbon (denoted by an M) framesets, split into road, all-road/gravel, and urban models. Carbon and alloy frames are the same regardless of road or allroad distinction. Just about every all-road model features a one-by drivetrain and 40c tires. The lightest models weigh in at just under 25 pounds with a Mavic carbon wheelset, while our bike weighed in around a pound more. Orbea claims that the Gain Carbon is the lightest e-road bike on the market, and there’s little reason to doubt them.
What’s the Gain like to ride in the real world? We got an early US preview of the Gain Carbon, and even though the motor was a prototype, it felt plenty refined. The motor is quiet; in use, it’s just a slight hum that is easily drowned out by conversation, headwinds, or even whatever sounds you might make while pushing up a climb. The drive motor only offers assist up to 15.5 mph, so the real gains to be had are when climbing for an extended period. It felt akin to having a slight tailwind behind you, or having someone motor pace you up the mountain; you’re working hard, but it feels like the universe is there to support your every need and ensure you succeed.
The bike’s low weight (around 26 lb) and low-slung battery mean that handling is very stable, and it’s pseudo-endurance geometry means the bike can be comfortable all-day. Orbea doesn’t claim a general range on the battery, but many have seen a minimum 60 miles on a charge with juice to spare.
Truth be told, I was a bit sheepish about the Gain’s end goal immediately after riding the bike. The assist seemed too subtle, and it didn’t feel special enough to warrant the additional motor. I then did the same ride two days later, and I noticed a substantial difference in how I attacked the climbs on my standard road bike. The Gain Carbon satisfied just like the standard road bike, but the motor was the helping hand I needed when I felt bogged down.
It’s surprising how impactful intelligent design can be. Similar to the iPhone when it was first released, the Gain takes a whole tour de force of technology and makes it uncomplicated enough for cyclists of all backgrounds to enjoy. The motor felt near-seamless in use, and with the Ebikemotion app the Gain offers customization like few other e-bikes we’ve seen. Combine that with a starting price of just $2999, and the Gain makes a ton of sense both as a training tool as well as a means of pleasure.
That leads me to a question that’s yet to leave my mind: if an e-bike is just as enjoyable and rewarding to ride as a standard road bike, what’s stopping everyone from embracing bikes like this Orbea Gain M20i with open arms? The Gain is a quality road bike that happens to make you feel like a stud on the climbs, and its motor never makes itself known if it’s not called upon. Compared to just about every other pedal assist electric bike, this design is perhaps the most organic and natural application of electric assist yet, and an experience more rewarding than anything e-bike related we’ve seen on the road.
The Orbea Gain will be available for shipment in the United States later this year. Have any questions about the 2019 Orbea Gain electric road bike? Feel free to give us a call during business hours, or shoot us an email any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.