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Denago City Model 1 Electric Bike Review 2023
Jan 12, 2023
Every now and then we run across an e-bike that surprises us. The surprise can take many forms. Some e-bikes are an exceptional value. Some have a motor that could power a rider up Mt. Kilimanjaro, or a battery that would last all the way across Texas. Sometimes the surprises—plural—make a bike seem almost too good to be true. Such is the case with the Denago City Model 1 we reviewed: a newer e-bike company that delivered in multiple areas better than we expected.
The Denago City Model 1, the company’s first e-bike, does so much right that we were reluctant to criticize it much at all. Below $2000, we would be pleased to see a bike offered in three different sizes, or sporting hydraulic disc brakes, or equipped with a motor that would laugh at hills, provided it could laugh. The Denago City Model 1 distinguishes itself by giving riders all three of those features—a killer motor, hydraulic discs and multiple sizes.
The obvious question is how Denago managed to create a bike that does so much while competing in the ever-competitive sub $2000 pricepoint. This isn’t sleight of hand. The company made some strategic choices in order to create a bike that is as unique as a fingerprint.
In our review of the Denago City Model 1 we will examine the choices they made and ultimately the trades that were necessary to give the strengths it enjoys.
Bike Category: City / Commuter
Bike Class: Class 3: PAS up to 28 mph, throttle up to 20 mph
Denago City Model 1 Video Review
The 500W hub motor is a strong performer that impresses most on hills
The Zoom hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors offer confidence-inspiring control
They offer two sizes in a traditional frame as well as a step-thru model; very few bikes in this price range come in three different frame sizes
Though it does not come with a rack or fenders, it has attachments for both so that they can be added; that’s part of why this e-bike is so affordable
Rider position comfortably splits the difference between a more aggressive commuter position and a completely upright cruiser position
The Kenda Quick Seven.5 rolls well and offers terrific traction and comfort
We’d like more modulation with the thumb throttle to make it easy to control your speed when throttling
Not sure if this is possible given the current price of the City 1, but we would prefer a slightly better shifter than the Shimano Tourney (however, at this price point, we are very happy with the current shifter)
ELECTRICAL SPECS & FEATURES
Battery: LG 48V, 13.6Ah, 652.8Wh, Semi Integrated
Display: King-Meter K5242 LCD
Motor: Shengyi, 48V, 500W
Peal Assist: 0-5
Range: 51 mi. in PAS 1 and 33 mi. in PAS 5
Throttle: push button
Weight & Dimensions
Claimed weight: 53 lbs.
Maximum rider weight: 280 lbs.
Maximum load on rear rack: 50 lbs.
Components & Accessories
Brakes: Zoom HB875 hydraulic disc with motor cut-off, 180mm rotors
Fork: 6061-T6 Aluminum Alloy
Frame: 6061-T6 Aluminum Alloy
Drivetrain: Shimano Tourney, 7 speed
Grips: Black rubber, lock-on style
Saddle: Velo Plush Comfort with lift handle
Handlebar: Zoom aluminum alloy, 31.8mm diameter, 660mm long
Pedals: Platform, aluminum alloy, 9/16” with reflectors
Tires: Kenda Kwick Seven.5, 27.5 x 2.2”
Denago City Model 1 Review: Bike Overview
The Denago City Model 1 is the first bike from a new e-bike company. It features a 500W motor with more muscle than we expected, a battery that gave it range enough to be useful for long commutes and a frame that comes in three different sizes.
In our experience, most companies’ first efforts leave something to be desired in the form of a sub-par motor or battery, brakes that aren’t powerful enough or a drivetrain that makes a rider suffer on the hills. The Denago City Model 1 is an impressive freshman effort because it lacks any glaring faults.
When we ask ourselves what are the features of a great city bike that matter most and are least likely to be upgraded, our first three features are a great motor, a solid battery and powerful brakes. Once a rider buys a bike, changing any of these can be difficult (or even impossible), so it’s important to purchase a bike that satisfies the rider’s needs in those regards.
That mindset appears to have informed the design of the Denago City Model 1 because it enjoys a terrific motor, solid range and its hydraulic disc brakes give it terrific stopping power.
This is a city bike, but compared to some of its competitors, this is a more stripped-down version. Most city bikes are equipped as all-season commuters, and as such, come with fenders, a rear rack and lights. Denago took the view that each of these accessories are just that—accessories—and can be added at the time of or after purchase, depending on the rider’s needs and budget. By leaving off fenders, a rear rack and lights, Denago is able to present a value-packed e-bike for less.
So why skip items like fenders and lights? Riding in the rain or before the sun has risen is the stuff of only the most dedicated riders. Not many of us really enjoy that. The Denago City Model 1 squares off against the notion that a bike should be equipped to be ridden 250 days a year, rain or shine.
After all, if someone is going to skip riding when it’s dark or raining, why spend money on accessories intended to ease riding in those conditions? And if someone does decide they want to be a dedicated commuter, well all the accessories necessary—fenders, lights, rear rack, saddle bag, etc.—can be purchased with a few mouse clicks.
This is a Class 3 e-bike with a maximum assist speed of 28 mph and the 500W hub motor hits well above its weight class; we found its performance to be unexpectedly strong, especially on hills. Its five PAS levels are well-differentiated and provide noticeable bumps in performance.
As we mentioned before, this is a great bike, but it isn’t a perfect bike. We have an issue with the shifter’s performance and we think the throttle lacks some finesse. We’ll get to that soon enough as we go through the performance section of our Denago City Model 1 review.
A bike that feels stable at slower or high speeds, we were largely impressed with tha handling of the Denago City Model 1.
Hydraulic disc brakes aren’t all that common on bikes that cost less than $2000.
The City Model 1’s display was large and easy to read at a glance.
Denago City Model 1 Review: Motor Performance, Speed and Acceleration
What’s most readily apparent about the Denago City Model 1 is that this e-bike can really go. Lots of e-bikes claim Class 3 performance but don’t have a motor powerful enough to really hit 28 mph. With this e-bike the only limiter to its speed was our ability to pedal fast enough to hit top speed.
We were impressed that the acceleration is firm without being head-snapping and upon encountering a hill the City Model 1 summons its torque angels and climbs with an unyielding pace.
Very few bikes in the $1000-$2000 price range climb as well as the Denago City Model 1, which is part of why its price caused some eyebrows to rise.
The Denago hub motor uses a cadence sensor to govern its performance and brake cutoff switches to curb acceleration should someone still be turning the pedals slightly as they begin braking. The motor doesn’t kick in until a rider has executed slightly more than one half pedal stroke. The delay can seem interminable if someone is starting in too big a gear, like five, six or seven. But in the lower gears, less muscle is needed to get rolling and that first half pedal stroke is over much more quickly. By downshifting before stopping, a rider can avoid having to start in too big a gear.
In our circuit test we found the Denago City Model 1 made solid use of each of its five PAS levels. In my first trip around our circuit I averaged 11.5 mph – the typical clip for a heavier commuter bike with no motor help.
At PAS 1 my average speed made a substantial jump, up to 16.1 mph. With PAS 2 it climbed to 18 mph, while PAS 3 was 20.3 mph. PAS 4 seemed like the bike’s real sweet spot, taking me around our circuit with an average of 21.5 mph. Our result for our PAS 5 lap—22.7 mph—is deceiving. Why is it deceiving? Because I stopped pedaling well ahead of turns and at a couple of points on the downhill when my current speed seemed plenty fast. This e-bike is capable of making that lap even faster than we recorded.
The Denago City Model 1 is powerful enough that it will do 24 mph up gentler hills, and it seemed somewhat immune to changes in rider size; Justin and Griffin turned very similar times up Hell Hole despite a 50 lbs. of weight difference between the two of them.
The e-bike’s performance on hills is so good that this is a bike we would encourage bigger riders to consider too.
The 500W Shengyi (Denago branded) motor provides a good punch when needed.
We found the 500W hub motor to be surprisingly potent.
The rubber lock-on grips were very comfortable and the throttle and PAS selector were an easy reach.
Denago City Model 1 Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
Most e-bike companies discuss range in very round terms. They won’t say much about the conditions in which they did their testing or anything about the rider(s) who did the testing. Denago’s web site is unusual in that they give site visitors the results of five different test rides with four different riders and a variety of environmental conditions. It’s some of the most thorough self-reporting we’ve seen and they deserve kudos for being so forthright.
None of our test results exactly mimicked theirs, but in giving the results from five different runs, we can see that even though our riders were different in size, our results were in keeping with the level of performance they reported.
Our 130-lb. test rider covered a bit more than 51 mi. in PAS 1. That’s solid performance for most any bike, but given how well this bike tackles hills, this figure is yet another surprise. The 653Wh battery is even more impressive when the bike is ridden in PAS 5. Our test rider rolled a whopping 33 mi. at an average speed of 19.2 mph on our min PAS range test.
Since this bike can absolutely fly at higher PAS levels we do need to note that we toned down the speed to be courteous to other riders out on the bike paths. Typically we leave it set to the 28 mph max. Since so few 500W hub motor bikes actually achieve those speeds it’s not something we change, but this one blazes on pavement with the best so we did lower the max speed to 22 mph.
Denago City Model 1 Review: Hill Test
Of the many ways in which the Denago City Bike 1 impresses its most obvious strength is going uphill. On our hill test Hell Hole, a 1/3 mile with a 12% average grade, using the throttle alone our tester ascended the hill in 96 seconds for an average speed of 11.3 mph; there are plenty of bikes that don’t even pass this test on throttle. In PAS 5, the Denago City Model 1 was even more impressive, making the climb in 76 seconds, a full six seconds faster than our average ebike, for a zippy average of 14.3 mph.
In plain English, this is one of the better hill climbers we’ve encountered amongst affordable commuters. Not only did it do well on the massive climb that Hell Hole presents, but it isn’t the type of bikes the needs to be put in PAS 5 to handle your typical hill. You’d be surprised what it does in PAS 1 even.
On lesser hills, if we were riding in PAS 5, we found that we needed to stop pedaling well ahead of any turn in order to be more comfortable carving the turn. While an aggressive rider looking to squeeze all the performance possible, will notice some slowing on hills. However, more casual riders will appreciate how the bike seems to go uphill just as fast as it is on the flat. Neat trick.
The Denago City Model 1’s battery will leave the majority of commuters with miles in the tank to spare.
The Shimano Tourney 7-speed drivetrain gave the bike plenty of range on the hills.
The Kenda Quick Seven-5 tires rolled quickly and had terrific traction.
Denago City Model 1 Review: Brakes and the Brake Test
Hydraulic disc brakes aren’t yet standard on e-bikes in this price range, so following all the other delights of this e-bike, their presence on the Denago City Model 1 we reviewed is another clear indication of this bike’s value.
The brakes offer terrific power as well as the benefit of a cutoff switch—after a rider stops pedaling the motor will continue to run for the better part of another second; the cutoff switches in the levers can be activated by pulling the brake levers only slightly, not enough to actually engage the brakes, giving a rider another way to subtly control the bike.
In our brake test the Zoom hydraulic discs with 180mm rotors, the bike needed 20 feet five inches to come to a stop. This figure may seem longer than some e-bikes we’ve praised in the past for solid brakes. The fact is, we are changing our method for doing this test and rather than doing an all-out panic stop, we’re going to be doing what we expect most riders will do: braking seated and not to the point of skidding. As a result, faithful readers will notice that braking distances will be longer in the future.
We were satisfied with the performance of the Zoom hydraulic discs, they have become more commonly spec’d on e-bikes since the pandemic began. Should they need to be serviced, bleed kits are inexpensive and it would be easy to order one online and have it on hand to drop off with the e-bike when being serviced.
Denago City Model 1 Review: Ride Comfort, Handling and Cockpit
The rider’s position on the Denago City Model 1 splits the difference between the forward-leaning position of the typical city bike and the straight-backed position of the average cruiser. Thanks to its slightly back-swept bar the rider position isn’t quite as aggressive as some commuters.
The saddle is firm enough to provide good support, making this a bike someone could ride for several hours and not regret their choice.
One of our peeves with many e-bike makers is that they will make an e-bike that comes in just one size. Such a bike will fit people within a five-inch range reasonably well, but everyone who falls outside of that range will have a difficult time finding comfort on that e-bike. That this bike comes in two sizes of traditional frame as well as a step-thru design means that a very wide swath of consumers could potentially buy this bike, which makes a very compelling argument to us for recommending such a bike. People who are comfortable on their bike ride more.
One of our typical concerns with Class 3 e-bikes is how they handle at 28 mph. Many e-bikes that feel nimble at slow speeds feel unstable at high speeds; the Denago City Model 1 does not suffer that. At top speed, the bike felt secure and predictable.
There were times when going faster than 24 mph seemed, well, gratuitous, that it was more speed than was necessary. Not that the bike seemed unstable or anything like that, but the bike felt best balanced around that speed. With less air pressure in the tires (we ran them at 50 psi initially), the slight bouncing feel that can happen with large tires inflated to high pressure decreases some and that makes the bike feel even better above 20 mph.
Our single biggest knock against this bike is Shimano’s Tourney thumb shifter. Thumb shifters that force a rider to curl their thumb above their fingers in order to move the shifter went out with the first Internet boom.
The Tourney shifter does improve upon old-style thumb shifters in one important way; there is a release button for upshifts that makes for a more natural-feeling shift. Additionally, given the speed this bike can do having some under bar trigger shifters would be a scooch safer too.
The shifter isn’t a huge issue, but we often see shifters we like on bikes in this price range and a better shifter would improve the ride experience some.
A thumb shifter isn’t the easiest to use, but it was effective and reliable.
The slightly back-swept bar struck a balance between the flat bar found on many city bikes and the curved bars on cruisers.
The Zoom hydraulic disc brakes were surprisingly powerful.
We found the Velo saddle to be offer great support and it included a handle to make moving the bike easier.
Denago City Model 1 Review: Summary / Where to Buy
Here’s the bottom line of our Denago City Model 1 review: we see a lot of very well-produced e-bikes. It’s a pleasure to look over an e-bike and see just what the company was trying to accomplish with their design. Be it a capable commuter, a ripping MTB or a summer afternoon cruiser, e-bike makers tell us their priorities in their choices.
With the City Model 1, Denago clearly established that performance is what matters with this e-bike. A rack, fenders and lights can be added to a bike, but once someone commits to a bike, the motor won’t be changing, so why not start with a spunky motor?
The rider position on the Denago City Model 1 splits the difference between a city bike’s forward lean and the upright posture someone enjoys on a cruiser. Part of why this bike works so well is that in putting the rider in a slightly forward-leaning position some of the rider’s weight is shifted forward onto the front wheel, which helps the bike feel more stable at speed by calming the steering. If the rider sat perfectly straight the resulting loss in weight on the front wheel would cause the bike to feel unstable once its speed rose above 20 mph.
As much as we love the Denago City Model 1’s motor, not far off that is our affection for the fact this bike is offered in three different frames. Bicycle fit is more important than most e-bike makers want to admit. Multiple sizes is all the more impressive when we remember that this e-bike is still on the affordable side and three frame sizes typically aren’t seen until you’re shopping closer to mid-tier options.
The Denago City Model 1 is an e-bike that would seem nice enough around $2000, but when positioned against other e-bikes we’ve reviewed in the $1300-$1700 range, this e-bike seems destined for success. Some bikes don’t seem all that great until you see the price. Other bikes seem terrific until you see the price. The Denago City Model 1 looks great on paper and only gets better once someone considers its price. And out on the road it’s a delight.
If you would like to know more about the Denago City Model 1 you can check out their website at the button above, and should you want to buy one, they’ll send it straight to your front door.
‘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 Denago City Model 1.