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Cero One E-Bike Review – 2023 | A Compact Cargo E-Bike
Feb 28, 2023
Substituting an e-bike for a car for some, if not most trips, is a terrific way to improve our health as well as do the planet a good turn by pumping fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It’s a win-win, for sure. But when we talk to e-bike owners who have struggled to use their e-bike instead of their car, the number one complaint we hear every time is that they have a tough time carrying anything more than a backpack, so stopping at the store to pick up a few ingredients for that night’s dinner doesn’t work so well. Same for dropping kids off or picking them up from school.
The CERO One is a solution to that problem. It’s a cargo e-bike that can carry a rider, a kid and a couple of bags of groceries. In our CERO One review we will take a look at what makes this e-bike different from other e-bikes and what makes it suited to someone whose commute includes a kid and some groceries, not the whole Little League team.
Cargo e-bikes are easy enough to dream up, but much tougher to design. Just how much does it need to carry? Where will the load be carried? How adaptable does it need to be? How powerful does it need to be? The CERO One’s sweet spot is rider + kid + stuff. Armed with a Yepp child seat in back and a front basket, a rider can tote themselves, a child and a couple of bags of groceries and stay below its 300-lb. weight limit.
Bike Category: Cargo
Bike Class: Class 1: PAS up to 20 mph
CERO One Video Review
250W Shimano STEPS mid-drive motor producing 60Nm of torque for excellent power for hauling loads and climbing hills
504Wh Shimano STEPS battery provides as much as 105 mi. of range per charge thanks to the efficient mid-drive motor
5-speed Shimano internally geared hub provides a wide-range of gears in a maintenance-free package.
The CERO One website offers a number of accessories to give the e-bike maximum versatility
Schwalbe Big Ben tires roll quickly on the road and offer excellent flat protection
The lack of front suspension is actually a selling point on the CERO One—suspension would make the handling less predictable and undermine rider confidence in turns
While the 20-in. standover height is helpful for smaller riders, the 23-in. reach to the handlebar will be difficult for riders less than 5 feet 6 inches tall
Two different wheel sizes requires a rider to keep two different size tubes on hand in case of a flat
ELECTRICAL SPECS & FEATURES
Battery : 504Wh Shimano STEPS
Display: Shimano LCD
Motor: 250W Shimano STEPS, producing 60Nm of torque
Headlight: Spanninga Axendo 80 lumens
Taillights: Spanninga SOLO
Pedal Assist: 3 levels of PAS
Range: Up to 105 mi.
Weight & Dimensions
Claimed weight: 58 lbs.
Maximum rider weight: 300 lbs.
Maximum load on rear rack: 55 lbs.
Components & Accessories
Brakes: Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with a 180mm rotor front, and 160mm rotor rear
Fenders: Front and rear included
Fork: 6061 aluminum
Frame: 6061 aluminum
Drivetrain: 5-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub
Grips: Ergon lock-on, ergonomic rubber
Saddle: Ergon Gel
Handlebar: Satori Wien Trekking, 680mm wide w/20mm rise
Kickstand: Massload motorcycle-style double leg
Pedals: Resin, with reflectors
Tires: Schwalbe Big Ben 20-in. front, 26-in. rear
CERO One Review: Bike Overview
What catches someone’s eye when they first spy the CERO One is the combination of a 20-in. wheel in front and a 26-in. wheel in the rear. So why combine wheel sizes in this way? As surprising as this may look, this is a variation on a design that has been in use in Europe for many years.
A small front wheel in the front allows the front rack or basket to be positioned rather low, which helps keep the e-bike’s center of gravity fairly low, which makes the e-bike easier to handle. The small front wheel makes turning easy and that gives the e-bike a nimble feel even when loaded up. This can be very handy when negotiating sidewalks at schools, offices or busy markets.
The larger rear wheel has its own rationale as well. The bigger wheel provides more stability at cruising speed and helps to hold speed better. Because it rolls more efficiently, that helps the CERO One achieve its long-range potential of covering as much as 105 mi. per charge.
To make the CERO One as maintenance-free and easy to use as possible, it was spec’d with a Gates belt, rather than a chain, and instead of a derailleur with a multi-speed freewheel, they spec’d a 5-speed Shimano internally geared hub.
If ever there was an e-bike that really needed a mid-drive motor, a cargo e-bike is it. Who wants to climb on an e-bike and try to get moving when weighed down with a kid and groceries only to have the motor not lend any assistance until after the first pedal stroke? With its active torque sensor, the motor kicks in the moment the rider begins to pedal. It is utterly lag-free.
The CERO One includes a motorcycle-style kickstand that holds the e-bike upright, making it easy to load and preventing a squirming child from tipping the e-bike over during loading.
Let’s dig into the CERO One’s details and see how it performed in our battery of tests.
The smaller front wheel of the Cero One gives it added maneuverability when zipping around town.
The small basket for the CERO One mounts easily to the front of the e-bike and is big enough to hold a couple bags of groceries.
The aluminum fork contributes to the CERO One’s nimble and predictable handling and it comes with mounts for additional racks.
CERO One Review: Motor Performance, Speed and Acceleration
The CERO One cargo e-bike is long on utility, so while it has some muscle, this isn’t an e-bike that is meant to impress with its acceleration or top speed. And as a true Class 1 e-bike, it has no throttle.
The Shimano STEPS e6100 motor produces just 250W but because it’s a mid-drive motor and can must 60Nm of torque, it provides an immediate kick to a rider’s pedal stroke. Many, if not most, of the e-bikes we review offer five levels of pedal assistance to the rider. With Shimano’s STEPS system, there are just three levels of assistance: eco, normal and high.
In our circuit test our rider averaged 11 mph one our 1-mile, four-corner loop with a 40-foot hill. It’s not a bad result, especially given that pedaling a mid-drive motor when the motor is off lacks some efficiency. In PAS 1 (eco), the CERO One gave a solid performance of 13.4 mph. From there, it jumped to a 14.8 mph average on our look in PAS 2 (normal) and then climbed to 16.1 mph in PAS 3 (high).
We found the Cero One to be comfortable and super fun to ride!
The 5-speed, internally geared Shimano Nexus hub offers a wide gear range and the Gates belt eliminates marks on clothes from the chain.
The Shimano STEPS motor produces just 250W and 60Nm of torque, but as a mid-drive motor it offers terrific performance on hills.
When we perform this test, we do our best to pedal with a consistent level of effort. With hub-drive motors, the result we see primarily reflects the speed the manufacturer has set the controller to achieve. Pedaling a little harder or a little easier won’t change that speed by much.
E-bikes with mid-drive motors are different thanks to their torque sensor. The average speeds on our circuit test are the result of our test rider making a modest effort, not a big one. Had our test rider pedaled harder, those average speeds would have been higher. Anyone concerned that the CERO One might not present enough muscle in PAS 3 is encouraged to bear in mind that a bigger effort results in more speed.
CERO One Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
For anyone who was concerned that the CERO One’s 250W Shimano STEPS motor might be a liability for the e-bike, our range test shows us just what an advantage a smaller motor can be. We were, admittedly, a bit skeptical of the manufacturer’s claim that the CERO One could travel more than 100 mi. on a single charge (105 mi., to be exact).
We made sure our test rider was well-fed because he was on the road for more than five hours—5:08 in fact—and logged a whopping 116.5 mi. Our rider’s average speed was respectable as well, ticking a 14.6 mph average speed.
So how many buyers of the CERO One will be keen to spend all day on their e-bike? Not many, obvs. That’s not really the selling point behind this e-bike’s massive range. Where it really matters is once the e-bike is loaded with a rider, a little person and a couple of bags of groceries, not to mention a backpack with a laptop and other office essentials.
Range shrinks pretty dramatically when an e-bike needs to move 250 lbs. of riders and stuff, rather than a 180-lb. Rider. The CERO One can be counted on to cover more than 50 mi. even with 300 lbs. aboard.
CERO One Review: Hill Test
E-bikes with mid-drive motors tend to be very capable on hills. They put their power into the drivetrain before the gears, not after them, so they can capitalize on the mechanical advantage gears offer in the same way that the rider does.
However, the performance of e-bikes with mid-drive motors on our hill test up Hell Hole, can be deceivingly modest. The ⅓-mi., 12 percent climb has humbled many an e-bike, but the CERO One ascended it in just 96 seconds (1:36). This makes for an average speed of 11.3 mph.
What this test doesn’t show is that our test rider never broke a sweat on the hill. We always conduct this test seated and pedaling at a pace we could maintain all day. Had our test rider been making a bigger effort, the CERO One would have scooted up the hill even faster.
With both front and rear racks, the Cero One can carry just about anything you need to bring with you.
The low profile tread of the Schwalbe Big Ben tires made for quick and efficient rolling as well as a comfortable ride.
Shimano hydraulic disc brakes have excellent stopping power and a light touch with terrific modulation.
E-bikes with hub motors will try to maintain whatever pace the controller is set to go at its max. PAS level and it will continue at that pace provided the motor can generate the torque necessary. The rider’s level of effort won’t make a big difference in the e-bike’s overall performance.
The bottom line here is that our 96-second performance would be notably shorter had our test rider ridden hard enough to suffer.
CERO One Review: Safety, Brakes and the Brake Test
One of the questions we ask ourselves with any e-bike we test is just how safe we felt on it. This isn’t a matter of whether the brakes worked well or the frame was well-made. Those factors enter into our considerations, but also how the e-bike handles at speed, if the drivetrain shifted reliably and if our weight was evenly distributed between the wheels.
The CERO One is a quality e-bike. Some of the components we see on e-bikes in the $1500 and under price tier are serviceable and work well enough, but aren’t built for someone who plans to ride 2000-3000 mi. per year commuting from home to work. The CERO One will stand up to that kind of use and more.
Among the touches that impressed us with the CERO One is how the Loden rear rack bolts to the frame. This required CERO to design its own rear rack as well as include the rack attachment points on the frame. Anyone who has ever wondered if their rear rack was truly strong enough to hold their child in a Yepp child seat will be impressed by the CERO One.
Regarding the brakes, we like that the CERO One uses Shimano hydraulic disc brakes front and rear. They are easily serviced and offer terrific power. What surprised us about the brakes on the CERO One was that they paired the 20-in. front wheel with a 180mm rotor and the 26-in. rear wheel with a 160mm rotor. Smaller wheels are easier to stop, so 20-in. wheels are often spec’d with 160mm rotors. And some e-bike companies spec a larger rotor with the front wheel than the rear wheel because most of a bike’s stopping power lies in its front brake. What CERO One did was put a 180mm rotor on the front wheel and a 160mm rotor on the larger rear wheel. This means the front brake is much more powerful than the rear brake and may cause some riders to want more power at the rear brake.
The setup isn’t unsafe, but the disparity in power could take some time to adjust to.
In our brake test, the CERO One performed admirably. Our test rider pedaled up to 20 mph and then braked to a full stop three different times. We take those three distances and then average them to get our result.
Since changing our test procedure to one where the rider remains seated and not executing a full panic stop, the CERO One has delivered one of the best results we’ve seen. Its average stopping distance was 17 feet 7 inches.
Again, we return to the fact that the CERO One is designed to serve as a cargo e-bike and a bike with a heavier load will take longer to stop. Our result tells us that even when fully loaded, this e-bike will be easy to control.
CERO One Review: Ride Comfort, Handling and Cockpit
We see a great many e-bikes with tires that 3 and 4 in. wide. Wide tires, when pumped to appropriate pressures (less than 50 psi), can do more for a rider’s comfort than suspension, a gel saddle or fancy grips. That said, wide tires cut down on an e-bike’s efficiency, decreasing range.
In an effort to balance both efficiency and comfort the CERO One was equipped with Schwalbe Big Ben tires that feature a very low-profile tread and a 2.15-in. width. The Ergon gel saddle and Ergon grips also contribute to the rider’s comfort, but this is an e-bike with no suspension.
There’s a good reason why the CERO One has no suspension fork: Suspension forks must be adjusted to the rider’s weight. A fork set up for a rider who weighs 180 lbs. will work well until a kid and groceries are added, and then the fork will sink through most of its travel. A rigid fork like the aluminum one found on the CERO One will provide secure and consistent handling.
The Ergon saddle has a smaller profile than many saddles, but it offers a pressure-relief channel to increase rider comfort.
The Shimano STEPS display is mounted at the stem for easy viewing and the LCD screen shows plenty of stats.
The Shimano STEPS selector features a short reach and big buttons that can be distinguished by feel alone.
The Shimano Nexus hub uses a twist shifter that doesn’t require the rider to move their hand or even loosen their grip.
As we mentioned in the opening of our review, the CERO One is based on a design that has been very popular in Europe for, well, decades. Among the many ways bikes like this are used is by the French postal service, whose letter carriers ride similar bikes (though theirs lack motors—oof). The advantage to the design is that the small front wheel helps keep the wheelbase short and the e-bike nimble in close quarters. In an urban setting where there may not be much room to park or turn around, a short e-bike like this will be easier to manage than one of the longer designs.
CERO says that riders between 5 feet 2 and 6 feet 4 should fit the CERO One thanks to its adjustable stem and stem extension. While we do think that this is an e-bike that could offer a very comfortable fit for riders above 6 feet tall, we have reservations about the reach from the saddle to the handlebar for riders 5 feet 6 inches tall, or less.
The back-swept bar is comfortable and will offer most riders a reasonably upright seated position. The Ergon grips are very comfortable, thanks to the extra support they offer the hands. The selector is an easy reach for the left thumb and the buttons are large.
The Shimano STEPS display mounts at the stem, making it easy to see with a quick glance. The LCD is reasonably large and plenty of data can be spied in a look down. And while we don’t always talk about this, one of the reasons we love hydraulic disc brakes is the feel they offer at the lever. It’s much smoother and the touch lighter than with cable-actuated brakes.
CERO One Review: Summary / Where to Buy
Despite their utility and close-quarters maneuverability, bikes similar to the CERO One didn’t catch on in the United States. It may be that there was never much of an effort to popularize their use or, more likely, the sprawl of American cities made their use impractical … until a motor was added. Moving at 11 mph isn’t a problem if the rider is only going a mile and parking at either end of that trip is difficult. But in the U.S., distances between destinations can be miles and parking at both ends can be plentiful, so riding somewhere at a relatively slow pace may not seem to offer many advantages beyond fresh air.
E-bikes, of course, changed the math on the use-case for a bike like the CERO One. At nearly $4000, this is a premium e-bike equipped with premium parts, and rather than rolling at the pace of a jog when loaded, the CERO One can zip around faster than a car in heavy traffic can. Justifying such a spend is much easier when the e-bike can serve as a reliable substitute for a car.
CERO has assembled a nice selection of accessories for the One. They offer a platform front rack for the e-bike, as well as two different baskets, a lock, panniers, security nuts for the seatpost and front wheel and a child seat. So many options to customize the CERO One makes buying one feel like it’s made to order.
The CERO One’s combination of a mid-drive motor, Gates belt and a Shimano 5-speed internally geared hub come together in a way to make this e-bike as reliable and ready-to-go as a car, and just as most cars need little more than gas in a year, the CERO One will need little more than an extension cord.
As much as we like the CERO One, this isn’t a perfect e-bike. The fact that it comes in just one size puts smaller riders at a real disadvantage. The reach from the saddle to the handlebar will be problematic for any rider with a short torso and/or arms. Considering the premium nature of this e-bike, two sizes doesn’t seem like a big ask.
We love that CERO offers the Yepp Maxi Child Seat on their website, rather than making the buyer find one elsewhere, and/or wonder if it will really fit. Yepp was purchased by Thule, so any concerns about just how good the child seat is should be satisfied by the stamp of Thule’s approval. Now, that said, CERO doesn’t offer an option for carrying a child once they outgrow the Yepp Maxi Child Seat. Having a child outgrow an e-bike’s utility will be frustrating, especially with other e-bikes offering more child-carrying solutions. It is conceivable that CERO could design a bench seat and handlebar for a kid too big to fit in a Yepp seat. We hope they add that to the mix.
We see increasing numbers of Millenials forego the purchase of a car in favor of transportation that isn’t nearly as expensive to finance or maintain. Not only does an e-bike like the CERO One not have a car payment, it doesn’t require insurance or $70 gas purchases. The question is, why should the Millenials have all the fun?
The look of the CERO One is intriguing and inspires questions wherever we take it. And unlike most other e-bikes, a simple stop at the store for a gallon of milk doesn’t cause a moment of consternation. The CERO One owner never has to ask, “Okay, how do I get this home?”
Whenever we review an e-bike, one of the first questions we ask ourselves is what that e-bike can do, how it is meant to fit in the owner’s life. The best e-bikes are the ones that answer questions as fast as they can be asked. With the CERO One, just one look answers many questions.
‘Happy Riding, make sure to let us know if you have any questions down in our comments section or if you think we left anything out in this review of the CERO One.