Jump right at it:
The Unimoke is an e-bike, i.e. a bicycle with an electric motor that helps you pedal. The final assembly of the Unimoke takes place in Berlin, Germany. The manufacturer, Urban Drivestyle, has its roots in Mallorca and offers other vehicles, such as the Swing or the E-Roller Boost X. The manufacturer also has an electric folding bike in its range. The first Unimoke was started via crowdfunding. Urban Drivestyle has retained the general design, but is constantly making adjustments. Currently the Unimoke version 5 is the most up-to-date.
Unlike many other e-bikes, the Unimoke’s engine is clearly noticeable when riding, both acoustically and through its propulsion. Without engine support, which you can adjust in nine stages with the buttons on the left side of the handlebar, the 30 kilo (around 66 pound) steel steed is difficult to move. The 250 watt Bafang rear-wheel motor, however, pushes the pedals hard after less than a quarter turn of the pedals. The sound of the engine always reminds me a bit of one of the speeders of Star Wars. The thick tires on the 20-inch rims have a rather striking and also rather loud rolling noise due to the lug profile. So you’re not really noiseless with the Unimoke.
You don’t have to fear any terrain thanks to the tires. No matter if it’s road, cobblestone, forest path, mud or even sand, the Unimoke takes it all in stride. The seven-speed rear derailleur is very useful for starting off and climbing inclines. The torque sensor in the bottom bracket controls how strongly the engine will support the ride. At the end of the review, it had a few dropouts from time to time, but they are easy to fix.
The 20-inch wheel diameter, measured on the rim and about 23 inches on the tread, ensures that the Unimoke is a fairly maneuverable wheel despite its weight. I always find myself driving in zig zags extensively when there’s enough room, because it’s really fun.
The long seat, which makes the Unimoke look like a mixture of moped and Bonanza wheel, has two advantages. On the one hand, as a driver you can vary the seating position in between and sometimes sit in front, sometimes further back. The optional seat extension is already recommended for taller people. But you can also take a second person with you, no matter if it’s a child or adult. This works very well and makes the Moke a family transporter. Even two children, one front and one back, are theoretically no problem. The corresponding footrests can be mounted at three points on the frame.
At first glance, you’ll notice the unique design of the e-bike. The large lamp provides plenty of light and makes the Unimoke look like a motorbike for cars – people tend to pay more attention than with a bicycle. The wide tires ensure safe driving on all roads. The standing battery provides both a very central low point and extreme stability in the steel frame. The long bench seat offers the option of transporting another person. Attachments such as luggage racks, baskets and the like have fixed, stable points on the frame to which they can be attached. The Unimoke is extremely versatile, even if it doesn’t look that way at first glance.
Especially on the highest gear – and another one you almost never use – the engine of the Unimoke can really go. From the traffic light to the other side of an intersection, the speedometer can report 20 km/h (12.4 mph). Of course, the engine may only support up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph) in public spaces.
The Unimoke also masters the classic bicycle skills. The hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro (type Tektro HD-E350) are powerful yet predictable. The Shimano SL-M310 with seven gears shifts cleanly and directly. The pedals can be folded in for transport. The stand has lost a part during the ride, but always keeps the Unimoke safely in balance. The metal mudguards, which you should buy with the Moke, are stable and of high quality.
In my test, the Unimoke also showed a quality that has become rare in everyday objects: it is fun. Many people have ridden our bike in the past three months, and almost everyone has done so with a big grin on their face. Also on the street, people do double-takes after seeing the bike and ask what it is. It sounds strange, but the Unimoke somehow makes most people smile. Of course, there are also people who don’t like the design, and that’s okay, of course.
First there’s the range. With one battery charge I can cover between 45 and 55 kilometres (28 to 34 miles) depending on the terrain and weight. However, I am not the lightest person even without my bags, so other people may get a little further. With other E-Bikes like the Cowboy or the Ampler, you’ll get further.
Of course, the range also depends on the driving style and the selected level of engine support. However, hardly anyone will use less than the highest level for a long time, because driving the Unimoke with pure muscle power is quite tedious. The bike weighs just under 30 kilos (66 lbs), and the seating position does not necessarily ensure optimum power when using the pedals. With a motor, it doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t have a double load. Ergo: Motor always full throttle, then you are fast and comfortable on the way, just not quite getting as far. Once the battery is completely empty, but you still have a while longer to ride, it gets sweaty.
Speaking of distance: Not only is the Unimoke’s battery not ideal for extreme long distances, but the same is true of the seat. Here, each person has a slightly different pain threshold and a different taste. I like to ride my bike every day, but after a while on the Moke I need a longer break. In general, the Unimoke is not particularly suitable for very tall or small people due to the fact that the seat height cannot be adjusted. The adjustable handlebar and the possibility to sit further forwards or backwards help, but only to a certain extent.
If you want to buy a Unimoke, you have to put 2,890 Euros (about $3,252 USD) on the table – and wait a while, because delivery times can be a little longer depending on the colour. However, you can expect to pay more, because Urban Drivestyle offers a lot of very useful accessories which drive the price up. You want matching mudguards? 99 euros ($111). A seat extension? 179 euros ($200). Taillight? 59 euros ($66). Many of the accessories fit perfectly with the bike and make it even more useful, but it all adds up quickly.
If you can wait a little, you should have a look at Urban Drivestyle’s website and Facebook page. There are regularly offers and discounts, which make the purchase of the Unimoke a little bit cheaper, and thus also more tempting.
If you are considering buying the Unimoke, you should consider three things that should NOT apply to you: You should not be too small (under 1.60 meters, or 5’3″) or too big (over 1.90 meters, or 6’3″) and, above all, not shy. You’l be approached about this e-bike all the time. I’ve been riding the Unimoke to work and back every day for three months now, and on four out of five days someone’s talking to me about what kind of a bike it is. You’re being watched all the time anyway. You have to like that or at least be able to ignore it.
Of course, the Unimoke is not a bike for extremely long tours, nor is it necessarily designed to ride long distances without engine support. But this e-bike feels at home on any surface, whether on the road or off-road. It is powerful, reliable and pleasantly maneuverable thanks to the small wheels. It’s also a very safe e-bike with a good center of gravity, firm brakes and wide tires that won’t slip into a tram rail. But above all, it is a real fun machine. I had actually expected the excitement to decrease after the first days or weeks, but that just doesn’t happen. Even after a good over 600 miles with the Moke, I still make detours, just to sit longer on it and ride around with a big grin on my face. I really haven’t had that on any bike.
By the way: In my first article, I called the Unimoke an “e-bike with a community”, and for good reason. A very committed, funny and colorful community has established itself around this extraordinary bike, in which people help, exchange, support and meet each other, even in real life on joint trips. The employees of Urban Drivestyle are also there to help and advise, every problem is tackled immediately, and in almost all cases, a quick and accommodating solution is found. This community is something very special and somehow gives the Unimoke buyer the feeling of being accepted into a family. If the Unimoke were not already outstanding on its own, with this community behind it, it would be in any case.
Would an e-bike like the Unimoke be something right for you? Let us know in the comments!