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Bikes

Zoom away on Xiaomi's Mi QiCycle electric folding bike (hands-on)

We took a ride on Xiaomi's new $450 electric bike in Beijing. Is the Chinese company's recent addition to its ecosystem worthy of the fuss?

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If Xiaomi's cheap-but-great phones aren't enough to help it conquer the world in the very near future, it has plenty of other cards up its sleeve, such as a superthin laptop, a drone and now a foldable electric bike.

The Mi QiCycle is made by Xiaomi and its partner iRiding. It's a three-speed Shimano internal hub bicycle powered by a 250-watt 36-volt high-speed motor, with a range of around 45 km (27 miles). It sells in China for 2,999 yuan, which converts to $450, £340 or AU$600.

Weighing at 14.5 kg (32 pounds), the QiCycle isn't the lightest of bikes. It's actually not too heavy compared to other foldable bicycles, but there are some compromises made to hit this relatively light weight.

For one, the wheels are of the 16-inch variety, similar to Bromptons, which means you'll have to pedal more compared to a larger 20- or 24-inch bicycle. It's not too big a problem, of course, since the QiCycle comes with an electric motor that kicks in for an extra boost to make uphill climbs a breeze and flat roads really zippy.

Testing it out under the hot Beijing summer sun, I found myself merrily whizzing along. The controls for power assist are pretty simple -- you can choose between full-powered assist, eco mode or completely off. Climbing hills was a breeze even in third gear, and I was able to hit 28 kph (17.4 mph) on flat ground without trying. You can connect the bike to your phone via Bluetooth to track your distance traveled.

Xiaomi says the electric motor is rated at a maximum speed of 20 kph (12.4 mph), when you're not pedaling and just coasting along. There's no regenerative braking to help you gain back electric power, and charging to full from flat takes a solid 3 hours.

Key specs

  • Shimano three-speed internal gear hub
  • 14.5 kg (32 pounds)
  • 16-inch wheels
  • Electric motor with up to 20 kph speed
  • 5,800 mAh, 36V battery with 45 km range
  • Bluetooth enabled

The 36V battery is tucked into the frame of the bike, and has a hole for the seat post to hold it in place. I'm not too big a fan of this design, because the QiCycle requires two locks to be opened before you can adjust the height of the seat post.

miqicycle03.jpg

Using two hinge locks for the seat post makes it quite a pain to adjust.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Furthermore, the QiCycle doesn't fold as well compared to Terns or Bromptons. You have to lift up the seat post, then give a nudge to the rear wheel to fold the bike in half, then lower the seat post back down to prop up the bike before folding the fork downwards.

While it sounds easy, it's actually pretty clunky, as you have to keep a firm grip on the bike until you can lower the seat post (or it falls down). Folding a Tern or a Brompton is quicker and easier, that's for sure. You're better off leaving it unfolded most of the time.

Lastly, the front handle bar is a bit too low and more suited for a speedier bike. On an electric bike I prefer sitting upright in comfort without having to lean forward like I would do on a more sporty road bike, since it's supposed to be more relaxing.

Still, at $450 for a really well-built bike, it feels ridiculously affordable. The QiCycle bike will likely be only sold in China until Xiaomi decides to start selling more of its products in other countries, so you'll probably have to be willing to import it.

Where to Buy

Xiaomi Mi QiCycle

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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