When new e-bike brands pop up out of nowhere with bikes of dubious quality just to make a quick profit, it’s encouraging to see a domestic brand trying to produce a quality e-bike at a fair price.
Enter, Vvolt - a Portland, Oregon, based electric vehicle company. The company is the brainchild of Kyle Ranson, who you might know as the founder of Shower Pass - an incredibly successful cycling apparel brand.
The guys and gals from Vvolt have made it their mission to produce affordable, innovative, and high-quality e-bikes. And golly gosh, they did it!
At least the innovative and high-quality part - the price, not so much.
That said, the price is fully justified when you look at what you’re getting.
The Centauri Vvolt’s the fifth bike so far, and it comes with loads of cool features, including a mid-drive motor and Gates belt drive.
What are those, I hear you ask? Keep on reading to find out!
Centauri is one of the sleekest commuters I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Every frame line simply oozes style.
There are no unnecessary accents or details, no overly thick tubing, and all the cabling is neatly tucked inside the frame.
The only thing Vvolt could improve on the frame is the weld lines. Don’t get me wrong, Centauri won’t brake even if you drop it from the roof of a four-story building, but a light sanding would make the welds much cleaner and give the bike that much style.
Style aside, Centauri is built for speed, which is why it's pretty lightweight - only 51 lbs.
Even if you add accessories such as saddlebags and cargo racks, it won’t add more than 6/7 pounds, so you’ll still have little trouble lugging this thing around.
Another cool thing about the Centauri’s frame is that it comes in two sizes - small/medium and large/extra-large.
So, whether you’re short or small - you’ll have no trouble enjoying this marvel of EV engineering.
I only wish Vvolt had added front suspension. I understand that this bike is designed for city commuting, but the pavement isn’t always pristine.
That’s especially true for my area, there are some parts of my town that are rougher than offroad trails, and having a suspension would make traversing those roads much more comfortable.
Centauri comes with a motor you don’t usually see - a mid-drive motor.
Why is that so special? Well, for a number of reasons.
For starters, mid-drive motors are famed for their high performance and torque compared to rear-hub motors.
The key reason for this is that the motor drives the crank, which allows for better power multiplication from the crank to the gears.
They’re also incredibly simple to maintain. The only thing that’s keeping the motor attached to the bike is a couple of bolts. Unscrew those, and the motor pops out so you can touch it up or repair it.
When it comes t Cenauri’s motor, it can produce 650W and a whopping 80 Nm of torque. You have more than enough power to reach the top speed of 19.5 or 28 MPH (depending on the class of the bike you choose) in a matter of seconds.
Why does Centauri have two top speeds? That’s because it’s available as a Class 1 or a Class 3 e-bike.
The default Centauri is a Class 1 bike with a max speed of 19.5 MPH. But you can get a free upgrade to Class 3 by adding the Warp Drive Upgrade. The upgrade is free, and if your state allows for class 3 e-bikes, I recommend you go for it.
While you might think that this motor is a bit underpowered, you need to take into account that Centauri doesn’t come with your basic drive train.
This bike features a revolutionary Gates belt drive. Instead of a chain-derailleur combo, Centauri has a belt and a somewhat complicated gearbox.
The gearbox uses a system of ball bearings and gears that seamlessly switch the gear ratio as you’re twisting the dial shifter on the handlebars.
This is a pretty robust system that doesn’t require any lubing or maintenance. Some people have had this system for 12 years without breaking.
And even if the gearbox breaks, this bike is covered by a three-year warranty.
Centauri comes with a 36V 10.4 Ah battery that’s integrated into the frame.
The battery is pretty high quality and uses LG cells with a total capacity of 375Wh.
Some of you might’ve already spotted an issue with the battery - it’s pretty underpowered. On a full charge, you’ll be lucky if you squeeze out 40 miles of range.
If you’re planning on using this bike daily, I recommend you get a 500 Wh battery.
The upgraded battery is not cheap, but it will nearly double your range.
And when you deplete it, you always pop in the old battery and ride the bike while the other one is charging.
The battery is fully removable and is secured with a lock. Taking it out is as simple as turning a key and sliding it out.
When it comes to charging, you can charge the battery while it’s on the bike since there’s a charging port, or you can take it out and charge it somewhere more convenient.
Centauri is by no means a budget e-bike, and it’s natural it comes with some high-end brakes.
To be more precise, this e-bike features CStar Radius Hydraulic disc brakes with 160-mm rotors.
Their brakes provide ample stopping power no matter the terrain and weather conditions. Moreover, they come with an automatic motor cut-off system, so the second you press the lever, the motor will turn off so you can safely slow down.
I especially like how easy they are to adjust. There’s an adjustment bolt right next to the leaver stem you can loosen/tighten to adjust the amount of travel of the leavers.
Wheels & Tires
Continuing with the high end theme - Centauri features 27.5-inch Kenda Koast tires.
These tires provide ample grip for terrains such as pavement, concrete, and light gravel. I’m pretty sure they could handle light off-road trails, but I would be really careful about that.
When it comes to the rims, they’re built out of aluminum and are pretty durable. It won’t warp or crack if you run into a pothole every now and then.
Centauri is a damn comfy bike, even though it doesn’t come with any suspension. The best word that could describe the riding experience is stable.
What do I mean by that? Well, there’s no wobbling when you’re at full speed and you the tires provide more than enough grip for sharp turns.
And since the bike is so light, there’s almost no road shock. However, you will miss the suspension if your town doesn’t have the best-maintained roads.
What I Like About Vvolt Centauri
The guys and gals at Vvolt have really outdone themselves with the Centauri. Sure, it’s a bit pricey, and you don’t have the best range, but the quality you’re getting is simply amazing.
For starters, you’ll never have to worry about the drivetrain system. The belt doesn’t require any lubing, and the gearbox will last you for decades without maintenance.
Then you have a pretty solid motor. Sure, it can only churn out 650 watts of power, but that’s more than enough for this mid-drive motor to generate a whopping 80 Nm of torque. That’s more than enough power to get you to the top speed in a matter of seconds.
What I Don’t Like About Vvolt Centauri
Unfortunately, there are a couple of things that irk me the wrong way.
The most annoying thing about the Centauri is its underpowered battery. For a bike in this price range, a 350 Wh battery is simply not enough.
Then there’s the lack of any suspension. I know Cenauri is designed for city commuting, but not all cities have well-maintained roads. So if you ride over a rougher road, you’re definitely going to feel the bumps.
Advice To Consumers
Centauri should be on your shopping list if you’re looking for a sleek, fast, and high-quality commuter. Unfortunately, you will have to spend a little extra on a larger battery and accessories, but the expense is pretty much worth it.
Our Rating - 91/100
Sleek, fast, and stylish - Vvolt Centauri is one of the best city commuters I had the pleasure of reviewing. It comes with some pretty impressive tech such as the mid-drive motor and a unique belt drive.