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HeyBike Brawn Review, 2023
Apr 12, 2023
A fat tire e-bike with a burly build, a beastly amount of power, and broad range.
Many e-bikes are specifically designed for a singular purpose: some have extended frames for hauling cargo, and others collapse and fold for compact storage. Some, like HeyBike’s Brawn, just want to go fast, come Hell or high water. We’ll take a look at this burly e-bike’s ability to handle itself in those sorts of strenuous situations in our review of the HeyBike Brawn.
With bold, aggressive styling and the power to back it up, the Brawn is made for grit and speed. It is immediately capable of pedal-assisted speeds of 28 miles per hour – something that many other e-bikes require some tweaking to reach.
The bike’s signature headlight and dual crown fork are clear nods to motorcycle design, which add to the bike’s already sturdy and powerful appearance. A single glance makes it clear that this bike doesn’t mess around.
The Brawn is highly capable in its weight capacity too; this is an e-bike made for moving larger people. Its sturdy frame is designed for riders between 5’ 8” and 6’ 6”, and is capable of handling up to a 400 lb payload.
Did the Brawn live up to our expectations for such a robust fat-tire e-bike in our testing?
Does the bike provide good performance in relation to its price point?
Did it take us a few minutes to unclench some muscles after our first exhilarating ride?
Sit down and strap in while we examine our experiences with the bike in this HeyBike Brawn review!
Bike Category:Fat Tire
Unclassified E-Bike:Pedal assist up to 28 mph
***Throttle assist up to 28 mph***
HeyBike Brawn Video Review
The Brawn is wicked fun, and grants access to top speeds of 28 mph right out of the box. Many powerful e-bikes claim to be able to move that fast, but the Brawn is one of the few with enough bravado to deliver it.
The bike’s heavy and aggressive styling match its power and purpose; a single glance tells you what you need to know about it.
This bike feels super stable and solidly constructed. HeyBike claims it has a 400lb weight capacity, and the Brawn feels built for it.
Our testing demonstrated a generous 26-51 mile range from a single charge of the 48V, 864 Wh battery. A 4-amp fast charger can power up a drained battery in just 4-5 hours.
With the HeyBike app, you can tailor the bike’s speed and power to your personal preferences. Top speed, number of PAS settings, and strength of motor assistance can all be easily adjusted.
Fans of many features will be impressed by how many come standard on a bike at this price; the Brawn includes a dropper post, dual crown fork, app integration, fast charger, and more. They aren’t top-end spec, but you’d be hard pressed to find such a “swiss army knife” for less.
The prominent adaptive headlight doesn’t just look cool, its illumination and automatic sensor make it a practical addition.
We appreciate the brakes having a motor cutoff switch for safety, but the longer than usual lag (up to six pedal strokes) after applying the brakes for motor re-engagement could be improved.
The Brawn’s long list of features is cool, but it makes the cockpit feel cluttered
Directly out of the box, the Brawn’s throttle is capable of reaching speeds above the legal Class 3 limit of 20 mph. This can be adjusted through the HeyBike app to meet regulations, but it limits the pedal-assist top speed as well.
ELECTRICAL SPECS & FEATURES
Battery : Samsung 48V, 18 Ah, 864 Wh
Display: B&W LCD multi-function display
Motor: 750W rear-hub
Headlight: Adaptive LED headlight w/ automatic light sensor
Taillights: Removable, charged through USB
Pedal Assist: 5 PAS levels
Range: Up to 65 miles
Throttle:Thumb lever throttle w/ speeds above 20 mph
There are quite a few other “B words” that come to mind when thinking about HeyBike’s fittingly titled Brawn: big, burly, beefy, bold, bitchin’, beastly, boss, and badass. When it comes to speed and power, this fat-tire, off-road-capable e-bike absolutely lives up to the full lot of those adjectives. It’s a strong and weighty e-bike designed to appeal to people who match those B-words too.
We really dig the bike’s commanding presence and overall aesthetic design. Even the military-style lettering of the HeyBike branding on the Brawn’s down tube matches its appearance and intent. While aesthetics tend to be a very personal preference that varies widely between individuals, we think the company really nailed the Brawn’s conception through both its visual design and its name. You expect power when you see its stout frame, huge headlight, prominent dual-crown suspension fork, and massive knobby tires.
With a mighty 750W rear hub motor and a massive 48V, 840 Wh battery to fuel it, the Brawn definitely boasts some serious power. It ships standard with the ability to reach motor-assisted speeds of 28 miles per hour. Plenty of other, similarly-specced e-bikes on the market claim to be that fast, but require some extra steps to unlock – and even then, may have difficulty actually achieving them. The Brawn has instant access to such high speeds and also has the muscle to make it happen.
You can’t deny that the Brawn looks awesome on the go!
The large headlight and dual-crown fork are defining visual elements of the Brawn.
We loved the HeyBike branding on the bike’s weighty down tube.
Here at Electric Bike Report, we often see e-bikes with weight capacities of around 300 lbs, but with many of those, it is often recommended that the full payload be spread out between the rider and at least one cargo rack. There aren’t a ton of e-bikes built to handle large, heavy people, but with no cargo rack to carry anything and a huge, heavy frame, the Brawn looks and feels able to easily carry a significant quantity of rider. HeyBike’s website shows the bike to have a frankly insane 400-lb weight capacity, and we believe it; I’m about half of that limit and the Brawn made me feel feather-light.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (or I suppose background explosions and superhero poses) with the Brawn. We did notice a few fairly apparent flaws throughout our testing that leave some room for improvement – though we still consider the bike to be successful in providing decent bang for the buck in addition to just generally being really fun to ride.
Read on for more detail about the HeyBike Brawn’s specs and components, its performance in our myriad of tests, and the things we’d like to see HeyBike change in the future!
HeyBike Brawn Review: Circuit Speed Test
Our circuit test, explained above, allows us an initial opportunity to get to know an e-bike. We generally need a much longer period of time to absorb nuances and consider a bike’s effectiveness in meeting its own goals, but the major defining characteristics are pretty apparent after five or six miles.
My first impression of the HeyBike Brawn was – by far – its 750W rear-hub motor’s massive amount of “oomph.” To explain that, let’s consider the results of my laps around the circuit.
My first lap, without assistance from the motor, was understandably slow. The Brawn weighs in at a hefty 78.3 lbs, and the tread on its 26”x4” fat tires creates a substantial amount of rolling resistance. For this reason, the Brawn (like most fat tire e-bikes) is not fun to pedal on human power alone. That said, I have to give it some credit; it was easier than I expected it to be.
Once the motor did contribute, in pedal assist system (PAS) setting 1 and above, things improved considerably. Like most of the e-bikes I have tested, lower PAS settings on the Brawn still required a healthy amount of rider input, but even at PAS 3, I was able to get up to Class 2 speeds of 20 miles per hour and beyond. The Brawn kicked things up even more in PAS 4 and 5, where I experienced the true thrill of the bike’s high-speed capabilities.
I have to say that I really liked how the Brawn’s motor behaves: when it engages initially. Its cadence sensor triggers once the pedals get moving, which brings on a healthy dose of power and speed. With some e-bikes, this can be a little alarming, but the Brawn ramps things up in a way that feels smooth and expected – especially when considering the top speeds it can reach.
I must also say that one of the Brawn’s flaws quickly became apparent on my first ride; I found that, while the motor engaged nicely up front, it quickly became much less responsive. To explain: once you pause your pedaling or tap the brakes to cut the motor for any reason (curves, pedestrians, going downhill, etc), it takes 3-4 seconds of pedaling again for the motor to pick back up.
This isn’t as much a problem at lower speeds, but this e-bike isn’t made for lower speeds. At 25+ mph, this lag can be jarring, and in 7th gear, you’re left pedaling that 78.3 lbs for a few full rotations of the cranks before the motor starts compensating again. In the moment, this feels like a LONG time. For this reason, I feel that the cadence sensor needs some tweaking to be more responsive when resuming motor input on the go.
Over the course of my testing, I noticed that the Brawn’s PAS and its throttle speeds were tied together. Usually, this is something I like to see, but the fact that the Brawn’s throttle can reach 28 miles per hour makes things a little trickier. We always recommend being familiar with your local laws and regulations, but in most cases, throttles exceeding the Class 2 limit of 20 miles per hour are typically only legal for off-road use (although in our opinion, it’s still a good idea to stay around that limit for safety). With throttle speeds over 20 mph, the Brawn technically falls outside of the 3-class system.
We feel that it’s important for HeyBike to ship the Brawn as a Class 3 e-bike in the future, with its throttle capped at 20 mph and its pedal-assisted speeds limited to 28 mph. Fortunately, for those who want to use the Brawn on roads with its current configuration, the bike’s maximum speed can be adjusted within the HeyBike app, which we’ll examine more closely later on. Unfortunately, we noticed that adjusting the bike’s top speed there changes both its throttle and its pedal-assisted limits, and also does not cap the initial boost of speed provided by the motor when taking off from a complete stop.
The Brawn feels well-suited to both streets and light dirt trails.
The Brawn’s rear hub motor packs some serious power!
A fully integrated 864 Wh battery gives the bike demonstrably solid range.
HeyBike Brawn Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
For our Range Test, we use the process explained in the graphic above to compare an e-bike’s range as demonstrated in the real world to the advertised range that is claimed by its manufacturer. Our tests provide a ballpark estimate; since there are so many factors that influence an e-bike’s range, our experience may differ from yours.
In the case of the HeyBike Brawn, we saw a real world range between roughly 30 and 52 miles. When comparing this to the advertised claim of 65 miles, we do see a slight discrepancy, though HeyBIke has actually provided some details to explain this. In fact, it’s a great example of the huge number of factors that affect the distance an e-bike can travel.
HeyBike performed their own range test on the Brawn, though they approached their trial from a different angle. First, their test was performed in PAS 1. Due to the data we collected in our Circuit Test, we felt that this setting did not provide enough assistance for practical, regular use, so we performed our testing with the Brawn in PAS 2. Second, HeyBike’s test rider was 165 lbs – slightly more than our 155-lb tester. In theory, this would result in our trial demonstrating greater range than theirs showed, if not for one other factor.
HeyBike’s test was performed on flat terrain, while the paths we ride vary between flat sections and small-to-moderate hills. Over the course of the 52 miles the Brawn gave us in PAS 2, our test rider also gained nearly 1,280 ft in elevation. This amount of climbing is definitely not insignificant, and could easily explain the difference between our test results.
As the comparison section of our Range Test graphic shows, the Brawn held up very well against other similarly-specced e-bikes we have tested. Its 48V, 864 Watt-hour (Wh) battery is on the larger-capacity end, but its motor also has a lot of weight to move, so it makes sense that the Brawn wouldn’t reach quite as far as some of its lighter peers. Overall, a range of 30-52 miles is still excellent when considering that most riders tend to keep their travels under or around 10.
The extended periods of time we spent on the Brawn during our Range Test highlighted a few of the bike’s more subtle characteristics that are worth discussing. While I’ll go a bit more in depth later in the review, we found that the bike felt stable and confident on the move, and overall, provided a comfortable ride. One other characteristic was somewhat less impressive, however.
We noticed quickly that (like many e-bikes) the Brawn’s LCD display shows its charge level with a system of bars, and the indicated level of remaining battery life is calculated real-time based on the current level of motor input. While I’m sure its accuracy is something that I could adjust to over time, it was alarming to suddenly see the display drop to one or even zero bars, when a minute prior it displayed three or four. For this reason, we prefer to see percentage-based displays that tend to be a bit more accurate over bar-based readouts.
In our experience, the Shimano Tourney derailleur needed some tuning after the Brawn was assembled to eliminate slipping between gears. I personally noticed that it also seemed to get stuck on occasion, requiring downshifting of two steps and upshifting one to actually end up in the gear I wanted. For those who encounter the same troubles, YouTube can be a great teacher, but the folks at your local bike shop would be happy to help too. Personally, if it didn’t increase costs, I’d love to see HeyBike use the Shimano Altus instead of the Tourney; it’s a small step up in quality but performs considerably better.
HeyBike Brawn Review: Hill Test
Our Hill Test (explained above) gave the HeyBike Brawn’s 750W motor a real challenge. Most e-bikes struggle at least a little bit on the path, especially across a few of the more extreme sections of the trail. E-bikes that make it to the top are also typically much slower when relying on throttle alone to make the ascent.
In this case, the Brawn was not immune to the difficulty presented by Hell Hole, but it did succeed in climbing to the top both on throttle alone and in PAS 5. In our eyes, this makes it a winner! The bike didn’t set any new records or do anything extraordinary, but it did land pretty solidly in the center of the pack when compared to some of the other fat tire e-bikes we have tested.
In my experience, however, the Brawn truly shined on smaller, more average hills.
The bike’s knobby fat tires allow it to handle loose terrain like gravel and dirt confidently.
The Brawn makes use of a Shimano Tourney 7-speed drivetrain.
Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors are always a welcome sight.
Like many e-bikes, the Brawn doesn’t get much assistance from its motor in PAS 1, so uphill travel can still feel difficult. In PAS 2, however, the Brawn was very functional for me on an incline, and provided noticeable assistance while still offering a nice workout. Slopes became even easier as I increased the PAS level, to the point where, in PAS 5, small and moderate hills felt almost no different on flat ground.
It is worth pointing out that HeyBike’s marketing for the Brawn offers no indication of its motor’s torque rating, though the bike did perform comparably to similar e-bikes we have tested with ratings above 50 Nm. We also noticed that the motor displayed no manufacturer name, and reached out to HeyBike for some clarification about the brand. They advised us that the Brawn’s motor was customized by their factory, and promised to get information about the original manufacturer to us, so we will update this review if and when we know more.
HeyBike Brawn Review: Safety and Brake Test
Great braking capability is important on any e-bike, but absolutely critical on one traveling at 28 miles per hour. Fortunately, the folks at HeyBIke clearly considered this, and included Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm on both the front and rear wheels of the Brawn. In fact, these are the most obvious high quality components on the bike.
We gathered data on the stopping power of those Tektro brakes in our Brake Test, where we pedaled the Brawn up to 20 miles per hour (which is the standard motor-assisted speed limit of Class 2 e-bikes) and applied the brakes for a quick but controlled stop. We repeated this process three times, gathered a measurement of the bike’s stopping distance each time, and averaged the results. While the Brawn is capable of higher speeds, keeping our velocity for this test the same across the board allows for comparison between e-bikes that have similar specs but that fall into different categories.
For the Brawn, those quality brakes really paid off. Its average stopping distance was 20’ 9”, which is just slightly above our current average across all of the e-bikes we have tested. When comparing the Brawn to some of the other heavy, fat-tire bikes we have data on, its data looked even better, ending up below the average.
One important note about the Brawn’s braking is that its rear wheel does have a tendency to lock up and slide a little. The frame’s weight and fat tires give it enough stability that this isn’t anything to worry about – seriously, this e-bike feels rock solid – but it is something to keep in mind. In my experience, the sound of the rear wheel’s skid was the biggest tell that this had even happened.
In addition to great brakes, the Brawn has a few other cool and practical safety-related features. First, that huge motorcycle-style headlight has a light sensor, and automatically kicks on when its surroundings are too dim. The headlight isn’t quite as bright as I personally would like to see, but it does a decent enough job of increasing visibility.
The Brawn also has a taillight system mounted beneath the saddle. It’s a removable unit that can be charged through USB and then connected to its mount for use. I’m glad to see that this comes with the bike, but the placement of the system wasn’t my favorite. I tend to use the saddle as a gripping point to help move the bike around when I’m not riding it, and I ended up grabbing and flexing the light unit when doing so. It didn’t break, which I was happy about, but I feel like that easily could have happened with slightly more pressure.
Instead of the standard handlebar-mounted bell, the Brawn has an electronic, button-activated horn. Its sound is loud and unusual enough to get the attention of other nearby people, though in my experience, it seemed that it could also be frightening to pedestrians. I made more than a couple of people on the path ahead of me jump and spin around in surprise. Personally, I liked the idea and uniqueness of the feature, but I don’t think many other people I encountered on my travels did.
HeyBike Brawn Review: Ride Comfort & Handling, Cockpit, and More
The Brawn’s cockpit layout certainly has a lot going on. In addition to a brake lever, the left handlebar hosts the bike’s main control pad, an additional button pad for the headlight and horn, and an under-the-bar lever for the saddle’s hydraulic dropper post. The right side accommodates the second brake lever, throttle lever, and Shimano Tourney over-the-bar thumb shifter.
A quick side note here: while we understand that the Brawn is marketed to those looking for some off-road adventure, hydraulic dropper posts are typically only needed and included on mountain bikes (MTBs) and eMTBs that do a lot of uphill and downhill riding. At face value, it’s a cool feature, but in our opinion, it might be a bit too much. Most fat tire e-bikes like the Brawn won’t be tackling the same off-road paths where this feature is needed. We’d personally rather see HeyBike opt for a suspension seat post instead, or just default to a rigid post and pass along some cost savings.
The Brawn packs quite a few features on its narrow 620 mm handlebars.
A nicely padded HeyBike saddle with a detachable taillight makes for a comfortable ride.
26” x 4” fat tires with plenty of tread allow for good traction and comfort on dirt.
We really liked the soft and textured ergonomic grips.
The main control pad turns the bike on or off, adjusts the PAS setting, activates the centrally-mounted LCD display, turns on a backlight, and cycles through quite a few data sets that are shown there. I’m the type of person who loves lots of information, but even I found the Brawn’s display to be a bit intense. I’ll elaborate:
In addition to a speedometer, the display can be set to show average and max speeds. The odometer area can also display current trip distance and current motor wattage output. There’s also a bar-based battery indicator, a readout of the battery’s current voltage output, PAS setting display, backlight icon, and a reading of the current trip time. That’s a lot of info!
Many e-bikes with simple cockpit layouts can be controlled without much more than a quick downward glance. However, during my rides on the Brawn, I found that the bike’s combination of so many input buttons and elements on the LCD display caused me to spend an unusual amount of time looking down. Our other testers agreed. I don’t consider this a problem in and of itself, but anyone planning to use the bike around lots of traffic or other people may need to be more conscious of how often (and for how long) they take their eyes off the road or path ahead.
That critique aside, the Brawn’s contact points were great. I really liked the shape and texture of the grips. The 620mm handlebars initially seemed too narrow for an e-bike with off-road capability, but I found that I actually really enjoyed their compact feel. Their reduced width was balanced by the bike’s 26”x4” tires, and made for pretty agile handling. The saddle, too, was well-shaped and comfortable (for me), even over longer periods of time.
Our testers agreed that the Shimano over-the-bar thumb shifter was not the most comfortable or responsive. It does its job, and is par for the course at this price with all of the other included gizmos and gadgets, but in our opinion, it does not seem to fit the theme of the bike; something faster and more ergonomic like the Altus under-the-bar trigger shifter would be a better match (and like I said before, would likely fix the shifting problems we encountered too).
Considering the Brawn’s lean toward off-road travel, it was nice to note that HeyBike included a hydraulic front suspension fork, though A) this is a bit of a misnomer considering it uses compressed air; and B) they do not specify its travel distance. I personally found the fork to feel a little stiff even after some adjustment, though I did appreciate the fact that it was nice and quiet. The dual crown fork obviously looks great, and this is clearly the focus; but overall, it doesn’t perform much differently than a standard spring suspension fork.
Let’s discuss the HeyBike app in more detail. With some tweaking, the app allows multiple users to pair with the bike. Each person with their own profile can set individual preferences which the bike will “remember” and adjust to based on whose app is connected to it. Super cool! The app does some other great but relatively expected things like displaying a map, tracking ride data, and adjusting top speed (which we have already discussed). It does more unique things too – some better than others.
I like that the app can adjust the number of PAS settings. The ability to switch from 3 settings to 5, for example, is a great idea in theory, but I’d love to see it work more intuitively with the top speed adjustment. As it is, bringing the bike’s top speed down can completely nullify higher PAS settings. I think it would be much more practical to see a PAS system that divides the set top speed into even increments. Similarly, the ability to adjust the speed at which the motor provides assistance is also cool, in theory. In practice, the difference between settings is relatively subtle, so I’m not sure how useful a feature it is.
Finally, the app can turn the bike on and off through a button, or through a setting called “Close to Start”; this means that if you are close (near) to the bike and have the app open, the Brawn will automatically turn on. Additionally, if you close the app, the bike will remain on for a set duration of time and then automatically turn off. As a minor critique, this terminology (close) highlights a failing of the English language; “near to” and “exit out of” are two different meanings of two different words with the same spelling – so I think the app could use a few tweaks here for the sake of clarity.
HeyBike Brawn Review: Summary / Where to Buy
Around the EBR office, we’ve started to compare the HeyBike Brawn to a buffet, though it is packed full of features instead of food. It has something (or even quite a few things) for just about everyone, but also perhaps a little too much for just one person. And while some of the items on the buffet are of great quality, there have to be some tradeoffs to make the meal affordable.
All in all, the Brawn is a fast, fun, and extremely capable e-bike. It looks absolutely wicked, and it really does have the speed and power to match. Additionally, this accommodates larger riders who might otherwise be unable to find an e-bike able to handle them. I think HeyBike landed on the best possible title they could have given for the bike, too – it really does have loads of brawn.
The HeyBike app is also a nice pairing that expands the Brawn’s functionality. The level of customization is great, and the fact that two or more riders can each set their own preferences for the same bike makes it that much more amazing. I’d love to see HeyBike enhance some of the app’s features, but it’s still highly functional as-is.
That said, I stand by my points of critique. Considering the Brawn’s marketing and target audience, it is important for such a heavy e-bike capable of off-road travel to have a motor that responds quicker to its rider after tapping the brakes. A slightly less cluttered display and cockpit in general would greatly improve user-friendliness, and a more accurate and reliable percentage-based battery life indicator would make those off-road adventures extra fun and worry-free.
The Brawn does provide solid performance and a ridiculous amount of features for its price point currently between $1,500 and $2,000. HeyBike could honestly ask more for everything they have included here and we wouldn’t be surprised. However, we think that it might have been better to cut a few of the Brawn’s bells and whistles – primarily the saddle’s dropper post – in exchange for a lower price or perhaps a few better quality components (like a Shimano Altus shifter/derailleur or branded cassette).
In summary: if you want an affordable e-bike that looks tough and goes fast, this bike is for you – but you probably already knew that just by looking at it.
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 HeyBike Brawn.