Beautifully Flawed – Review Geek

Rating:
6/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $3,500

Superstrata's Electric bike leaning against a wood pillar.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

I first heard about the Superstrata made-to-order bike nearly two years ago and have been fascinated by the idea ever since. A customizable 3D-printed carbon fiber bespoke ebike built to my exact measurements. After spending two months and countless hours on it, I have mixed emotions.

That’s what the $2,800 Superstrata “Classic” (non-electric) model and the Superstrata “Electric” that starts at $3,500 promise. A custom-built bike like no other. After a long Indigogo crowdfunding campaign, it’s finally a reality. And while my electric bike review model from Superstrata wasn’t custom-fit to me, the medium size meant I could easily hop on and ride.

To be clear, this is an entirely 3D-printed unibody carbon bike where the frame is created with a single pass. The bike frame, missing seat post and all, and the fork, are full thermoplastic carbon fiber. There’s no glue, seams, or anything.

It’s an interesting approach, and the result will undoubtedly turn some heads. It’s a beautiful but flawed bike, and here’s my full review.

Here’s What We Like

  • Stylish and unique design
  • Lightweight (for an ebike)
  • Solid battery life

And What We Don’t

  • No throttle or gears
  • Electric bits seem like an afterthought
  • Rough around the edges

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Some Quick Backstory

Superstrata ebike logo and branding displayed on the frame.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Superstrata isn’t the first company to build something from an ‘industrial grade’ thermoplastic carbon material, but its parent company Arevo specializes in exactly that. Printing products for aerospace clients like Airbus. Superstrata’s founder, Sonny Vu, wasn’t initially interested in building a bespoke bike but did it “because he could” to showcase the technology.

Reading between the lines, the company had no plans or desire to build a bike but eventually did for fun, thanks to the rise in ebike popularity. Superstrata realized it could add some electric components and create a unique, stylish, and fun bike unlike anything else on the road using its printing technology. Furthermore, it never planned to make a regular bike either but did because potential customers asked for one. And in some ways, it shows.

Honestly, this review could be in two parts. One review for the 3D printing technology and how buyers get emailed a link to watch it being printed and assembled. And another for the bike itself. Making one is pretty crazy, and the machines are expensive. However, I won’t bore you with that. Instead, let’s talk about this wild and unique-looking bike.

Assembly and Tools

Assembly tools are included by Superstrata.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

First, the Superstrata comes in a large brown box and loads of padding, similar to every other electric bike I’ve ever bought or reviewed. The process is the same for most brands, and that includes Superstrata. Some assembly is required, but it’s easy enough that anyone can do it in around 30-45 minutes.

Depending on the model, some people may have a few extra steps, but don’t worry. It’s easier than assembling IKEA furniture. All you have to do is attach one bolt to fix the front tire to the bike, connect the handlebars, twist on the pedals, tighten the clamp for the controller screen, charge it up, check the tire pressure, then hit the road or gravel.

Thankfully, the company provides a neat carry case for a multi-tool, a cheap little tire air pump, the user manual, and a few other things. You’ll use the multi-tool to thread in the pedals, which are clearly marked for the right and left sides. Drop in the seat, put the handlebars on, tighten everything up, and you’re good.

As you can see from my photos, I got the stunning red Kryptonite color, one of the company’s many different color options. It also offers six standard colors, five accent colors, one premium striped design, or the fancy Kryptonite green and red in my photos, which also comes in gray.

The “Kryptonite” colors each come with a unique design, with no two bikes looking the same thanks to a special liquid crystal solution that grows into the primary color. It’s a long process you’ll pay extra for, but I love how it looks. It did have a few scratches on it, which is a bummer.

The instructions are easy to follow, and a beginner would have no problem putting everything together. Don’t forget to put more air in the tires if needed and charge the battery to full before your first ride. And you’ll need a pump because the included one is as cheap as it gets and didn’t work. So how did my first ride go? Well, pretty great.

My First Ride

Superstrata ebike leaning on a rock at the park
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

The bike has a fairly comfortable position, if not a little high, as the seat only drops so far without a down tube. You can also adjust the seat angle a bit. However, that shouldn’t be a big problem for someone getting it custom-fit to size. I could easily adjust the pedal assist level, reach a decent cruising speed, and enjoy the wind in my hair.

Overall, it’s relatively light for an ebike, coming in around 35-40 lbs fully assembled, depending on the size of the bike you order and its components. And while that’s great compared to my 86 lbs Super73 and most other ebikes that are easily over 70 lbs, it’s heavy for a road bike.

Die-hard cyclists who nit-pick every component to make a bike as light as possible will want to look elsewhere. Still, it is light enough to take up or down some apartment stairs easily. The frame itself is a little over 4 lbs.

The 250W motor and invisible 252wh battery are strong enough to reach decent speeds easily, but it limits the bike to 20 MPH. It’s a Class 1 ebike, so there’s no throttle, which means you’ll always need to pedal a little bit. And honestly, that’s fine because biking is about exercise, after all. My model doesn’t have gears, which is a bit of a letdown. Remember that Superstrata sells a model with a gear set, and I’d highly recommend you go with that upgrade.

Superstrata ebike at the park
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Speaking of the battery, where is it? Well, it’s hiding inside the lower part of the down tube or frame. It’s inside the bike and non-removable, which helps make this look like a regular bike compared to most electric bikes on the market. On the flip side, this means when it inevitably stops holding a charge later in life, it isn’t user-replaceable, and you’ll be out of luck.

While riding, the motor pairs nicely with the pedals and gives you enough assistance to get up and go, maintain decent speeds, or zip around the streets. There are five pedal assist levels, which are more aggressive or faster as you pedal as you increase the level. I opted for level 4 the most but to each their own.

Considering there’s no throttle and only one gear, I struggled to go over 18 MPH. Then even when I did reach those speeds, pedaling doesn’t do anything other than keep the motor engaged, as you’re already at the limit of the single gear. So you’re pedaling with zero resistance.

Superstrata ebike controller display
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

This is especially true while going downhill, where pedaling is too easy. However, I reached 28 MPH while going down a hill, and the bike handled it perfectly. I’m confident I could have gone far faster if I had more gears. Just know that you’ll want the extra gear set unless you plan on riding on nothing but flat paths and roadways.

As shown on the controller display above, I hit a top speed of 26.8 MPH on one ride. I went about 6.7 miles and still had 88% battery remaining. Remember that your battery life will vary depending on your pedal assist level. On a longer 14-mile ride using the highest level 5 assistance, I got home with about 58% battery life. As for charging times, a nearly empty battery will fully charge in 4-5 hours.

Overall, it rides pretty great, handles well, feels sturdy and durable, and the hydraulic disc brakes work great. I’ve been on ebikes with mechanical disc brakes that struggle, but Superstrata definitely used decent components on this bike. There’s a mix of Shimano and Tektro components throughout.

Beautifully Designed

Superstrata ebike leaning on a post
I sure wish it had a kickstand. Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Make no mistake. It’s a beautiful bike. From the unique design, missing seat tube, and crazy red Kryptonite color, it’ll turn some heads. Several people kept looking at the bike, and two different people asked what brand it was. It’s a conversation starter, that’s for sure.

I love the design, even if it’s a bit odd, and Superstrata made sure to balance everything out, too. The integrated battery is perfectly placed for weight distribution, the fork has a sleek look, and the large squared-off area below the seat with the “S” logo easily stands out at first glance. And while it looks neat, I do wish it had a seat tube for further adjustments.

The company ditched the seat tube “because they could” thanks to the printing technology. And while that’s neat and all, it favors looks over function. Sure the bike is fit for you, but no one else can ride it if the seat isn’t adjustable.

Superstrata ebike charging port location.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Unless you know what to look for, like the rear-wheel electric hub motor, you’d never know this is an electric bike. The design is that good. You’ll find a small charging port on the bottom of the frame, and that’s the only other indication.

Speaking of the design, Superstrata says the bike can handle riders up to 275 lbs. And without any suspension, I wouldn’t risk going above the weight limit or going off any curbs, just to be safe.

You can actually get it in three different overall design styles. After you customize the bike to fit your exact body measurements, you’ll get to choose from three different handlebar setups, including a wide setup like mine, a rounded road bike profile for aerodynamics, or a stylish “speedster” design.

Stay on the Pavement

Superstrata electric bike on a trail in the desert.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

It should go without saying, especially when you buy a “road bike” with these tires, but stay on the pavement, sidewalk, or paved pathways. This bike has no suspension, and you’ll feel every bump in the road. I hit a little bump and almost went flying, but that’s my fault.

Plus, you’ll be able to focus on pedaling and taking advantage of the motor rather than steering around obstacles. The small tires and lack of suspension mean that this bike isn’t meant for anything other than cruising around town. I don’t know if I’d take it on a gravel road again, as that wasn’t a very pleasant experience. It’s a stiff 100% carbon frame designed to look good and cruise easily. It certainly rides smoothly, as long as you’re on a smooth road.

Rough Around the Edges

Superstrata bike standing in a rock garden.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

While this bike is easy to ride and easy on the eyes, it’s not without a few faults or rough edges. For starters, the initial bike promised integrated headlights and tail lights, which looked absolutely amazing on the website and Indigogo campaign. However, those flush lights didn’t pass EU inspection, and the company had component shortages during the pandemic and scrapped the idea entirely.

As a result, it comes with a snap-on battery-powered red light you can see below my seat. You’ll have to turn this on manually, and it’s a bit clunky. The white headlight is even worse. It’s a cheap wired or battery-powered light you can find on Amazon, and it’s huge. I had to mount it above the handlebars, and it simply looked out of place.

These days most ebikes have integrated lighting you can control with the LCD, functional brake lights that illuminate as you brake, and more. Instead, these are all afterthoughts that diminish the experience. When you’re paying around $4,000 for a beautiful bespoke carbon fiber bike, the last thing you want is a crappy bolt-on light. It should be perfect.

You’ll also notice the paint was rough around the edges in parts, like around the crankshaft and pedals. Or, if you flip the bike over and find the integrated battery tube, you’ll see where the company cut a hole in the carbon fiber frame, added the battery, then glued the cap back into place. It’s not ideal, and again, it makes the electric aspects feel like an afterthought.

I was happy to see quality disc brakes with oversized rotors, Shimano parts, and Tektro hydraulic brakes, but the wheels are anything but fancy. I was expecting carbon wheels (rims), and the company has some neat rims on the website. Instead, these are no-name unbranded aluminum wheels. Or at least it appears that way.

Superstrata's bike stem looks dangerous.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

The Superstrata doesn’t have the usual Schrader valve that you’ll find on most bike or car tires when you’re adding air. Instead, it has high-end Presta valves that many premium bikes offer. However, it looks like someone cut a hole in the bike rim to shove the valve through. It’s unfinished, sharp, and could cut someone. I was worried it could somehow puncture the tube stem and leave me with a flat tire. I’ll probably remove it and sand down the sharp metal, but I shouldn’t have to.

Even Schrader valves on a regular wheel would have been more acceptable than this. Both the front and the back looked this way. I ride tubeless these days but have never seen anything like what’s pictured above. How janky!

Remember that Superstrata is a new manufacturer, and this is its first bike ever released. There are bound to be growing pains, shortcomings, and improvements as the company grows and learns from its mistakes. I’m sure pandemic shortages didn’t help, and any bike enthusiast will tell you the last few years haven’t been easy on the industry. Still, look at that valve. Just look at it. I was so frustrated I couldn’t hold still for a clear picture.

Should You Buy One?

Superstrata ebike leaning on wood posts in a park.
Cory Gunther / Review Geek

So, should you buy one? Well, honestly, that’s a tricky question to answer. I guess it depends on what type of bike and experience you’re looking for. Is it a suitable ebike for personal transportation around town or for someone trying to save on gas? No. If that’s what you’re after, get a city cruiser from another brand.

If you love ebikes and want something truly unique, one-of-a-kind, fun, and interesting, get yourself a Superstrata. It’s a bike built for cyclists, but also not for cyclists. At least that’s what the CEO told me, and I’m not sure what that means.

Any casual cyclist that owns a few pairs of skin-tight biking shorts and wants to try an ebike will likely love it. However, bike enthusiasts that go above and beyond to shed weight with fancy components, wear the perfect gear, and own a few Garmin bike computers will probably find a few faults with the Superstrate E.

In conclusion, this is a beautiful bike that’s unlike anything else you’ll find, can be customized to your exact body size, rides decent, and is truly unique. It’s as boutique as it gets. I really want to love this bike, and in some ways, I do. However, I can’t help but feel like Superstrata overpromised and under-delivered a little bit. Yes, you can upgrade to a multi-gear setup and buy better lighting, but at this price, most bikes have all those details built-in and fit to perfection.

But again, this is the first Superstrata bike ever released. I can’t wait to see what the company does next.

Rating: 6/10

Price: $3,500

Here’s What We Like

  • Stylish and unique design
  • Lightweight (for an ebike)
  • Solid battery life

And What We Don’t

  • No throttle or gears
  • Electric bits seem like an afterthought
  • Rough around the edges


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