I fell in love with the NIU BQi-C3 Pro electric bicycle the first time I laid eyes on it. The U-shaped frame and the vibrantly contrasting red and white color scheme created a comfortable-looking yet playful design that I knew I would have to test out myself.
It took longer than I had hoped – I continued to drool over it at more than one industry show after its debut – but the day finally came when I got to test it. And now that I’ve put several good weeks on the BQi-C3 Pro, I can finally share my thoughts on this unique e-bike.
This isn’t NIU’s first e-bike model, but it’s also not the brand’s main claim to fame. You’re probably more familiar with the company’s seated electric scooters that have helped propel NIU into a global leader in the electric scooter market.
You may have even seen the brand’s electric kick scooter line that has proven over the last couple years to be a growing segment of NIU’s diverse transportation lineup.
But the BQi-C3 Pro is new territory for NIU, both in terms of design and components. Check out what it’s like to ride such an interesting e-bike in my video review below. Then keep reading for my complete written review after the video.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro video review
NIU BQi-C3 Pro tech specs
- Motor: 750W peak-rated rear hub motor
- Top Speed: 45 km/h (28 mph) in unlocked Class 3 mode
- Battery: Dual 48V 10Ah batteries for 960Wh total
- Range: Up to 145 km (90 miles)
- Weight: 32 kg (70.5 lb.)
- Load capacity: 130 kg (287 lb.)
- Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
- Extras: Color display with individual battery battery readouts, kickstand, integrated rear rack, LED headlight and tail light, included fenders, internally routed wiring
What makes it different?
There are a lot of new e-bikes out there, with several additional product launches coming seemingly every week. While many are simply rehashed OEM e-bike designs, the NIU BQi-C3 Pro is finally something quite refreshing.
It’s not totally new – we’ve seen low step-through frames before. But it’s an interesting combination of parts and design with a fairly respectable component list, all at a reasonable price. With two batteries, a Gates carbon belt drive, and a top speed of 28 mph (45 km/h), it’s really ticking a lot of my boxes.
That being said, there are also a few areas where I can see some real room for improvement. But let’s start with the positives.
Performance and connectivity
The two biggest advantages of the NIU BQi-C3 Pro are probably the performance and the smart features.
A fast e-bike that can hit 28 mph (45 km/h) is a wonderful commuter tool, especially in North America where sub-par cycling infrastructure often means that cyclists need to share the road with faster moving car traffic. The ability to keep up at city speeds is the difference between owning the lane or getting dangerously passed on the shoulder.
The 750W motor offers plenty of torque to get up to speed quickly, while the dual batteries provide 980 Wh of total capacity. That’s enough for a claimed 90 miles (145 km) of range on pedal assist. And unlike most dual battery e-bikes, it actually looks good! Many dual battery e-bikes look like someone simply tacked on a couple bulky black battery packs wherever they’d fit. The NIU BQi-C3 Pro shows what having a scooter design background can do for a company as it expands into new markets.
Speaking of that design legacy, anyone who is already familiar with NIU’s electric scooters will enjoy seeing many of the same smart features encompassed in the brand’s e-bike as well. It’s more than just a similar design language with recognizable components like that halo headlight. It also comes down to connectivity with an intuitive app giving riders control over the bike’s features, trip planning, data recording, map functions, and more.
The app is great for extra information, but even the bike’s own built-in color display already provides plenty of detail, including separate battery gauges for each of the two packs. I think this is the first time I’ve seen that on an e-bike, as most dual battery e-bikes use a single indicator on the screen to represent both batteries. Knowing if one of your batteries is nearly empty because you forgot to charge it is a big benefit when you’re about to head out on a longer trip.
Highs and lows when it comes to components
The NIU BQi-C3 Pro scores some wins when it comes to component selection. I’ll always drool over a nice Gates carbon belt drive, which is superior to chains in so many ways. From less noise to less maintenance to less mess, it’s truly a “less is more” situation.
The heavy-duty rack is a great addition, as are the grippy street tires and the nicely adjustable handlebars. Even the saddle is surprisingly comfortable.
I can look past the lack of suspension since this is a city e-bike, and it’s designed for riders who are used to non-suspension city bikes. I know some people consider suspension a necessity. And to those people, I say look elsewhere. But at the same time, other people (usually seasoned cyclists) see suspension as a needless waste of extra weight and one more part to eventually break.
So while I can look past the lack of suspension, it’s the lack of hydraulic disc brakes that seems like a major omission to me – at least on an otherwise very nicely designed e-bike like this. There’s nothing inherently wrong with mechanical disc brakes, and the ones included on the BQi-C3 Pro are just fine. But on what feels like a more premium bike, especially one that can hit 28 mph (45 km/h), I would have expected higher quality and lower maintenance hydraulic disc brakes.
And while I’m finding fault with component choices, I have to wonder what is going on with the gear ratio. As a belt drive e-bike, the only way to offer multiple gears is with an internally geared hub (IGH). The BQi-C3 Pro lacks an IGH since the 750W hub motor is mounted in the rear. That means that with a fairly low gear ratio that allows riders to have a fighting chance at getting rolling on a slight incline, there’s no way you’ll be able to add any pedaling support at the bike’s top speed. Even the mid 20s of mph are basically a no-go when your feet are flying like a salad spinner. At that point you’re simply using the cadence sensor in the pedal assist system to trigger the motor to take you up to top speed.
You can see what I mean in the video above, where 28 mph (45 km/h) pedaling looks almost comical.
I understand that NIU was avoiding a mid-drive motor to keep cost down, which meant a hub motor was necessary. But putting it up front would have allowed a simple 3-speed IGH in back. Front hub motors of course have their own disadvantages, but I’d argue that it would have been worth it to allow usable pedaling at higher speeds.
Sum it all up
In conclusion, despite there being a few head scratchers in the design, I’m quite happy with what NIU has built here. It’s not just an attractive e-bike, but also one that packs in fast speeds, long range, high power and smart connectivity, not to mention the joy that is a Gates belt drive system.
The MSRP of US $2,199 is a tad high compared to other commuter e-bikes, but the Gates belt drive contributes to that price tag, as do the smart features, dual batteries, and two-year warranty. You can easily contribute a few hundred bucks to each of those bullet points, and combining them all together results in a more expensive e-bike, unfortunately.
With the price occasionally dropping by several hundreds dollars though depending on current sales (it looks like it’s at US $1,999 right now), you start to get into serious value territory considering everything this e-bike has to offer.
While the NIU BQi-C3 Pro isn’t perfect, there’s enough to love here that I consider it a solid buy for someone looking for a bit more than the average budget e-bike.
Read the full article here