Whenever you go out for exercise or official business these days (we are, after all, still in a pandemic), it’s hard to ignore the proliferation of bicycles on our thoroughfares. A lot of people have turned to cycling both for leisure and as a means of transportation given the uncertainties of public transport during this time. It’s liberating and enjoyable, and I would personally urge you to give cycling a chance if you still have not tried it out.
But, you may say, what if you have an injury that prevents you from cycling, or you just feel unfit to pedal that far? Pedal-assist electric bicycles are touted to be the solution to these woes, but their price tags often feel criminally expensive.
Enter the Nakto Ranger. It’s a budget electric bicycle that looks and performs just as advertised, so long as you temper your expectations.
The Ranger is a budget e-bike, and it shows. It uses a rear hub motor with a crank sensor, in contrast to the (high-priced) mid-drive e-bike offerings from the likes of Bosch and others, which makes it feel more like an electric scooter rather than a pedal-assist bike. Turning the pedals when your assist and gearing are not tuned properly makes the whole affair feel like you’re turning on a switch rather than being assisted throughout your pedal stroke.
Shifting feels adequate, and the hydraulic-mechanical hybrid brakes that come as standard feel alright as cable-pull brakes with the benefit of self-adjusting calipers. The forks are mediocre, but adequate for city riding. There’s nothing special about the entry-level Shimano drivetrain either, but it’s more than enough given that pedal assist takes care of the slack. A small LCD control display shows you your current speed, battery, and trip information, and allows you to set the assist level, turn on the lights, or activate walk mode.
Granted, the Ranger performs pretty well on our city streets, with the electric bits giving you plenty of power and acceleration. If any part of the bike leaves you wanting or is due for repair, it’s still mostly a bicycle that uses standard bike components. This makes it rather easy to swap out components to suit your needs better—likely simply taking an afternoon at Nakto or at your local bike shop for most components. Do note that some parts have to be e-bike-rated, and it may be best to do some research before pulling the trigger on an upgrade. Within the first year or two of ownership, I would personally recommend upgrading to either a solid or a more reliable suspension fork alongside full-hydraulic brakes, to help with stability on bumps and improve brake modulation and performance.
It’s easy to find fault in a budget offering, but barreling up the Ortigas Avenue incline on the Ranger without breaking a sweat in midday heat shows you where the bike truly shines. It takes some additional work with keeping your gearing and the assist level in sync, but get it right and your pedal strokes feel effortless. If you desire truly zero effort, a throttle is provided to allow for manual actuation of the electric motor. On electric power alone, the Ranger gets to its top speed of 35km/h relatively briskly, sometimes leaving motorcycles in the dust when the traffic signal turns green. Its haste is in part thanks to a 48V 10.5Ah battery pack coupled with a 500W geared hub motor, both of which are very welcome upgrades compared to what is available stock in other markets.
While it’s fun to whiz around on electric power alone, the throttle is best used when starting from a standstill as the Ranger will make all of its 24kg known when you try to pedal off before the assist kicks in. When you do run the battery down, you can charge its easily detachable battery on or off the bike using an included adapter. It takes around 4-6 hours to fully charge, with a claimed range of 100km on Level 1 pedal assist. We managed to get around 40km on our unit with more than half of the battery remaining, so the claimed range does sound plausible.
The Nakto Ranger is not without its faults. If you can accept the clunky nature of its assist system and relatively budget stock parts, the Ranger proves to be a formidable choice for its price given its looks and spritely performance. P49,000 may seem steep for a bicycle, but it is relatively cheap compared to other electric bike offerings out there. For the fun and the capability it offers, I’d say this price is a steal.
If you’re looking for a bicycle to feel the essence of cycling, then you may want to look at either mid-drive e-bikes or the good old non-assisted flavor instead. But if traveling is more important to you—either to commute, keep up with your cyclist friends, or experience new destinations on two wheels—then budget e-bikes like the Ranger may fit your needs rather well.