Bikes > Cycle

The Fiido D21 is a smooth operator

Is the torque sensor worth the additional cost?

You’ll surely turn heads with this e-bike in the streets. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Love them or hate them, electric bicycles are becoming more popular as they make cycling more accessible. Fiido is a Chinese company that makes e-bikes, and the D21 is one of its higher-end electric folding bicycles. The main selling point of this model is its torque sensor. But why should you care when it adds to the cost?

E-bikes have a motor that is actuated by the turning of the pedals. How much power it delivers depends on the pedal-assist system (PAS). Cadence sensors check if you’re pedaling, while torque sensors measure how hard you’re pedaling. Whereas the former acts like a switch that turns the motor on/off, the latter adjusts the output depending on your effort. And this makes the cycling experience much smoother.

The rear-hub motor does the heavy lifting. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The Fiido D21 comes with a standard 250W rear-hub motor with a top speed of 25km/h. It is powered by a 36V, 11.6Ah battery, which is concealed in the seat post. Although the power source is hidden, the sleek and futuristic styling gives away the fact that the Fiido is an electric bicycle.

The aluminum e-bike weighs 17.5kg with the battery, and it rests on 20-inch by 1.75-inch tires. Pedal power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a seven-speed Shimano Tourney, while mechanical disc brakes bring the e-bike to a stop.

The front of the handlebars is messy with all the wiring. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The controller is located on the handlebars consisting of a digital display and two buttons. The top button has three functions. Holding it turns on/off the e-bike. A single press illuminates the front and rear lights. And double-tapping it switches between the trip distance and the total distance traveled. The other button toggles through the pedal-assist levels, while double-pressing it changes the unit for the speed.

There are three levels of pedal assistance (in addition to it being off), ranging from one to three. Fiido gives a maximum range of up to 80km. But take figures like this with a grain of salt since the actual range depends on the pedal-assist level, the road conditions, and the rider’s weight.

On the right side is a thumb throttle. Straight out of the box, it accelerates the D21 like an e-scooter up to a speed of 6km/h, just enough to get you started. However, there’s a trick that unlocks the throttle for maximum power. It’s handy for taking off at intersections, but I don’t recommend using it the whole time if you want the battery to last.

The integrated front and rear lights are convenient. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Mounting the e-bike, the first thing that stood out to me was that the reach is short. I’m 5’7” but my knee can almost hit the shifter with how close the handlebars are. Speaking of those, the height can’t be adjusted, but they can be rotated so that your wrists are comfy. Pedaling the bike without the motor is sluggish as expected.

But once you turn on the pedal assist, it is pleasant and seamless. Even at the max level, it isn’t too strong or abrupt so you won’t have to worry about ‘sudden unintended acceleration’. Riding the e-bike is not completely effortless, but the electric power is just enough to get you moving at a leisurely pace, without having to break a sweat.

If the charger can’t reach the seat post, you’ll have to detach the latter from the bike to plug it in. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

With the small frame and the short wheelbase, the D21 is nimble and agile but it can also be unstable and twitchy at high speeds or on rough terrain. At least the brakes are strong, capable of confidently slowing the e-bike on hilly descents.

Assuming the fit isn’t a problem, the one thing quite literally holding down the D21 is its weight. And you will feel it when going over bumps and potholes. To be fair, it’s light for an e-bike, but it is still too heavy to be brought up the stairs comfortably. The thick tubing doesn’t help when lifting the bike, as it makes gripping the frame difficult. Also, it makes locking the Fiido to a rack difficult.

The author attached a stem bag and a saddle rack for his commutes. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

In terms of cargo storage, there aren’t any mounting points on the frame itself, and you won’t be using a handlebar bag or a front basket with all the wiring up front. A conventional rear rack won’t fit either, so I worked around it with a stem bag and a saddle rack.

The Fiido D21 folds like the rest of its class with hinges at the frame and at the stem. But even with the seat post lowered all the way down, the bike isn’t capable of balancing on its own. So you either need to rest the left pedal on the ground, or perhaps swap the kickstand for a dual-leg center stand.

There are no magnets to hold the bike together when folded. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

With an SRP of P64,900 at Popcycle Ebike Center, the D21 is pricier than other electric folding bikes with 20-inch wheels, usually ranging from P40,000 to P50,000. However, it makes up for the additional cost with the built-in torque sensor.

In spite of its quirks, don’t be mistaken. This e-bike is still fun to pedal, and is a capable commuter. When out in the streets, there’s nothing that stands out in a negative way. But expect to get compliments and inquiries from fascinated onlookers.

An electric folding bicycle could complement a full-size bike. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

If you’re sure that an electric folding bike has a place in your stable, then I can easily recommend the Fiido D21. But if you’re a budget-conscious beginner or are looking for a first bike to get started, it would be wiser to do more research to see if this premium electric folding bike suits you.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.