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Afreda S6: A tilting and folding e-trike that turns heads

A different take on the e-bike/e-trike category

Doesn't it look like it's ready for exploring on Mars? PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Even with the looming ban on e-bikes and e-trikes on major roads, personal electrified mobility is here to stay. Efficient and economical public transportation is still a dream, and many commuters have resorted to taking matters into their own hands.

Heck, in our subdivision where a 2km trip by tricycle costs P50, households have invested in e-trikes because they’ve already done the math and figured that even a disposable machine is better than spending P100 a day (not to mention having to wait for a ride).

Whenever I have to fetch or pick up my kid from school, half of the parents and grandparents use e-trikes. It doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as (1) it saves on gas because they can leave the car at home; (2) it fits three to four; and (3) it has enough range for their short hop.

Three people can actually ride on it. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The Afreda S6 is quite an, um, interesting machine. Afreda is a US-based company founded in 2015, financed by crowdfunding through Indiegogo. Here in the Philippines, the local distributor is Starbike, which is primarily focused on motorcycles but is now pivoting to electrified transportation.

Since the S6 is a tilting three-wheeler, it’s technically an e-trike, but not one in the conventional sense since it’s the front that has the two wheels. Like the Yamaha Tricity and the Peugeot Metropolis, the S6 touts the value of having two wheels up front by offering independent suspension on either side and having two contact patches, thus offering more grip than a single tire.

The suspension can tilt up to 40°. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The Articulated Quadrilateral Suspension is a minor engineering marvel as it enables up to 40° of lean angle, as well as offering more stability on uneven surfaces.

If, for example, you run over a small obstacle, it’s possible that only one tire needs to roll over it and not both, thus giving you a more stable front end. If you don’t like the leaning sensation, you can lock the front suspension and thus rely solely on turning the handlebar to change direction.

The two front wheels measure 14 x 1.95 and run tubes, while the rear tire measures 14 x 2.125 and is tubeless.

The suspension lets each front wheel move independently for better ride and handling. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

As an e-scooter, a 500W motor hub drives the back wheel and is powered by two 48V 7.8Ah lithium-ion batteries for a total of 15.6Ah.

A switch at the bottom of the box that holds the batteries functions as an on/off switch and toggles between the left and right units. An LCD display on the right handle shows basic information such as power, speed, mileage, and ride mode.

The bicycle components are basic: a no-name leather seat with shock absorption, aluminum alloy wheels and handlebar, and hydraulic disc brakes. Two cushioned pads ahead of and behind the main saddle will theoretically seat two more passengers.

I’ve seen this done by many commuters, so it’s very much possible—just not comfortable, though. It’ll make you look like a circus act, but commuters gotta commute.

Two lithium-ion batteries give you enough juice for up to 50km. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Finally, a big tab below the seat post lets you pull the bike up so it folds into more or less a cube for easier storage. You need to lock the suspension first with a handy latch, ensure that the seat post is low so it doesn’t jam up against the frame, then pull up.

With practice, you can get this done in one second and impress your friends with this Transformers trick. And with a simple “please,” your friends will also help you stow it in your car because at 31kg and not much leverage, it’ll be tough to deadlift on your own. The frame is made of aluminum 6061, giving it a futuristic, high-end look that stands out from the cheap metal commonly used on e-bikes.

It will fit in a hatchback or a small crossover once folded. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

As for the actual riding part, the S6 is pleasant and mostly well sorted out. With the drive mode in the fastest setting (Mode 3), the S6 has sufficient verve to get you rolling faster than on a bicycle, but the top speed is modest enough that you won’t be seeing red mist.

For a person weighing less than 70kg, the top speed in Mode 1 is 19km/h, Mode 2 is 31km/h, and Mode 3 is 42km/h. If you’re 70kg or heavier, the top speed in Mode 3 is 37km/h on a flat road. With just myself on board, the S6 has enough torque to eventually get you up a steep hill.

The total weight capacity is 200kg, and performance and range will naturally decline the heavier you get. The total range in Mode 1 is 60km, while Mode 2 is pegged at 50km. It’s not clear how far you could go in Mode 3 because this assumes a lot of riding at wide-open throttle (or what could pass for it), so the range may vary.

However, my son used it for a week for his daily ride to and from school (a 3km round trip), and the range display only lost two bars. He still preferred to use his mountain bike, but he had to admit getting to school was a lot easier with the S6 since his backpack weighs 6.8kg.

The display shows basic information. The paddle below is your 'accelerator'. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Charging it will be a bit of a challenge. The batteries are sealed in a plastic case, requiring you to remove two screws with a Phillips screwdriver if you want to take them out.

Otherwise, you’ll have to park the bike next to a standard wall outlet so you can plug it in. The whole charging process takes several hours depending on how flat the battery is.

In reality, you’ll never completely drain the batteries and will just periodically recharge every few days if your daily commute is not especially far.

A small LED light and a horn are included. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Being 5’8”, I found the riding position to be awkward. The seat post was already at its minimum insertion length, and I still found it too low. The BMX-style handlebar felt flimsy, and the trapeze-style footrest took some getting used to.

Then again, I’m used to riding my gravel and race bikes all the time, so maybe I just needed to recalibrate my expectations. It is fun to take the S6 over rough pavement, and just rumble over everything while in complete control. Eleven inches of suspension travel will do that for you.

Starbike even claims that the S6 can be ridden down a staircase. If you ever feel the need to ride down the Mount Kamuning overpass, for example, you might be able to do it with this one, although I wouldn’t recommend that stunt.

The red latch lets you lock the suspension so it can stay upright when parked. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The suspension rattles and buzzes when it’s busy at work because there are many moving parts, but the ride is remarkably stable when a more conventional e-bike would already be bouncing all over the surface. Stopping power from the no-name brakes is just adequate, but still better than the cable-actuated mechanical brakes on cheaper e-bikes.

I would swap these out for better Shimano units if a mechanic could figure out the three-rotor-and-caliper setup. I’d also get a Brooks saddle, a carbon seat post, and a stem to shed a few grams here and there, and then I’d look at swapping out the rear ‘seat’ and having a basket fabricated so my dog can ride along with me.

Or you can fabricate the back end to suit whatever you need for your hauling needs since it’s on the outside when folded and won’t interfere with the operation.

It's not for everyone, but therein lies the charm. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

And that’s the beauty of this P94,450 e-trike. With a price that ensures not everyone will be able to afford one, it has an air of exclusivity in a market where cheap e-bikes and e-trikes are the norm.

Spend a couple thousand pesos more for component upgrades and customization, and the S6 will really come into its own: a personalized, handy, and highly useful personal mobility device that looks like no other.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.