Author Scott Alexander
Highs Powerful folding e-bike with fat tires offering stability when leaving the pavement.
Lows Handlebar height has limited adjustability; not the best fit for smaller riders.
I’ve always been curious to ride a folding e-bike. I like the idea of being able to break the bike down and throw it in the back of a car. No need for a bike rack rated to handle the heft of a typical e-bike. But… I’m not going to lie, they also look weird. Super weird. Fortunately ever since I turned 40 looks are no longer a factor, and when TurboAnt sent over the Swift S1 I was excited to put it through its paces.
TurboAnt is a consumer direct brand so the Swift S1 was delivered directly to my house. The bike weighs in at about 63 pounds, so the box was heavy but sturdy, and not too difficult to move around. Assembly was straightforward. All the necessary tools are included and honestly, there wasn’t much to assemble — one of the benefits of a foldable bike design I guess. You’re mostly just putting the front wheel, front fender, and pedals on.
Once the bike was built I got straight to work testing the limits of its off-road capabilities. We’ve been having an extremely wet fall in the Pacific Northwest and I needed to do some work out on a property that’s only accessible by dirt road. The road was in such bad shape that it wasn’t passable in my 2WD van. Instead I used the Swift S1 to shuttle light equipment back and forth all weekend. I have nothing but good things to say about using the bike in this setting. The high volume knobby tires give the bike a very capable feeling on the rough roads. I think most people will be looking at these bikes for primarily urban use, but it’s also a great option for quick access to areas not reachable by car — hunting, fishing, trail building, etc.
The remainder of my test period was spent in a much smoother urban environment. Primarily running errands and embarrassing my kids at school pickup. I was surprised by how much I wanted to pedal the bike, even with the half twist throttle option. The geometry supports my normal seat height extension, making it very comfortable to pedal. I found myself settling in at pedal assist level 3 and rarely using the throttle.
The Swift S1 is spec’d with common entry level components from trusted manufacturers like Shimano, KMC, Tektro, and Kenda.
Brakes — The Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes with 180mm rotors are powerful and provide good stopping power for the heavy bike. As a safety feature the brakes are integrated with the motor — when applied, power to the motor cuts out. There’s also a small bell on the left lever which has a nice action/sound and the integration is super clean.
Gearing — The seven speed Shimano drivetrain shifts reliably and provides a very low gearing range. This means you’ll have plenty of gears for climbing up hills but will also find yourself starting to spin out in the highest gear at 18–20mph.
The Swift S1 is powered by a Bafang 750w brushless rear hub motor. The pedal assist level can be adjusted from 0–5 and provides a max assist speed of 20mph. The rear hub can also be controlled using the half twist throttle on the right side; no pedalling required. The half twist throttle can be disabled using the red button underneath.
Being able to turn the half twist throttle off and turn the pedal assist down to zero is a really nice touch, especially for new riders. It provides the opportunity to get the feel of the bike without any chance that the rear hub motor will engage, which can be quite surprising if you’re not accustomed to riding e-bikes.
TurboAnt boasts up to 60 miles of range on a single charge. The battery can be charged in the frame or removed with the supplied key. I find the key requirement common on these style of bikes a bit annoying. I’m not sure what protection it provides… who would steal just your battery and not your whole bike? However, I rarely find the need to take the battery out for charging so it’s not a major inconvenience.
The three button display and controller is very simple and easy to operate. The primary functions are
Folding the bike is a simple two step process. There is a lever on the steerer tube that you open and fold the stem down, and a lever in the middle of the frame that you open and fold the bike in half. You can even save a bit more space by lowering the seat and collapsing the drive side pedal. There is a stand built in beneath the bottom bracket allowing the collapsed bike to balance.
Moving the collapsed bike is still a bit awkward. It’s over 60 pounds and it’s easy to pinch your fingers when you’re picking it up. I’d say the foldability feature of this bike is amazing for infrequent car trips, but it’s not something I’d want to break down and carry every day on my bus commute. It’s just too heavy and awkward.
The Swift S1 is offered in a single size and TurboAnt specifies the bike should fit riders from 5’3”–6’3”.
I found the limited range of the handlebar height to be surprising. I know that this style of bike often has a very upright rider position but I’m 6’1” and my saddle was 23 cm (9 in) beneath the bars on their lowest setting. I was able to cut the stem insert down to reduce the height by an additional 5 cm.
I expect many riders out there will see this super upright position as a feature, but I’d still like to see the option for more range in lowering the bars, particularly to benefit shorter riders.
I had a lot of fun riding the Swift S1. I still think it looks weird, but being able to transport it makes it worth it. I’m looking forward to more off-road utilitarian adventures on the TurboAnt.
We’d like to thank TurboAnt for sending the Swift S1 for review.
Shimano Tourney rear deraileur.