Rear hub motors have long reigned king as the drive system of choice for affordable electric bikes, but there are signs that paradigm is beginning to shift.
One of those signs is the MOD Berlin, an electric commuter bike that boasts a 350W Shengyi mid-drive motor and priced at less than $3,000. In this MOD Berlin review, we put the bike to the test to parse out how this reasonably-priced e-bike performs in the real world.
The Berlin is a retro-styled electric commuter designed to be sporty, comfortable and fast. It’s a Class 3 e-bike with no throttle, so its mid-drive motor will assist your pedaling to 28 mph, and it sports hydraulic disk brakes and a solid drivetrain that balances affordability and function.
It also features an unconventional front fork (that we found to work very nicely) and it comes stock with a suspension seatpost. But the real star of the show is that mid-drive motor, which performed incredibly well in all our tests.
With its relatively low price point and powerful mid-drive motor, can the MOD Berlin compete with the more expensive mid-drive powered e-bikes? We put it to the test in the real world to find out.
Bike Category: Commuter
Bike Class: Class 3: Pedal assistance to 28 mph
MOD Berlin Video Review
The 350W mid-drive motor suits the bike remarkably well. It feels efficient, lively and plenty powerful for this Class 3 commuter.
The Zoom hydraulic disk brakes performed above average in our brake test.
The bike comes in just one size but it’s designed to fit an extremely wide range of rider heights.
The design is minimalist but strikingly unique. It has an understated but stylish look.
The suspension fork and suspension seatpost combo works nicely and takes the edge off harsh road vibrations without an excessive amount of travel.
It’s overall a very nice feeling commuter that handles well and is notably quick.
Bikes with mid-drive motors typically benefit from lots of gear changes, and the Berlin is no exception. We think this bike would benefit from a nicer drivetrain than the SunRace M4.
The LCD display works great and gives all the relevant information, but it’s visually a little dated.
ELECTRICAL SPECS & FEATURES
Battery: 48V, 12.8Ah (614Wh) semi-integrated
Display: LCD display with USB port
Motor: 350W brushless Shengyi mid-drive, 90Nm of torque
Headlight: Integrated LED, 300 lumen
Taillights: Integrated LED
Peal Assist: 5 PAS levels, torque sensor
Range: Up to 60 miles
Weight & Dimensions
Claimed weight: 54 lbs
Maximum rider weight: 265 lbs (total payload capacity)
Maximum load on rear rack: 55 lbs
Components & Accessories
Brakes: Zoom hydraulic disk brakes, 180mm rotors front and rear
Powering the MOD Berlin is a stout 350W Shengyi mid-drive motor that makes 90Nm of torque and a 48V, 12.8Ah (614Wh) battery that’s semi-integrated into the frame.
One of the highlights of this e-bike is the Shengyi motor, which I’ll dive into in more detail in the next section, but to put it short it’s responsive, grunty and comfortably quick. It’s also surprising to see considering the Berlin’s $2,890 MSRP — mid-drive motors (especially larger ones) are more commonly found on much more expensive e-bikes, but this one is priced notably low.
While MOD clearly invested in the Berlin’s powerplant, we do see some cost saving measures taken at the drivetrain. The MOD bikes we were given for review were spec’d with the SunRace M4 7-speed groupset, which works decently well but is less crisp than some of its competitors, such as Shimano Tourney or Altus. I’d normally spend less time critiquing a bike of this pricepoint’s drivetrain, but the Berlin is a special case. Not only is it lacking a throttle, it’s motor operates based off a torque sensor that measures how hard you’re pedaling and applies power accordingly.
Shifting is important to riding the Berlin; it’s something you do quite often, especially when compared to many of its hub-driven competitors that use less sensitive cadence sensors.
The point is the Berlin’s motor is one of its major strengths and it would probably benefit from a better drivetrain. That said, the SunRace groupset does do the job and likely does save the end-consumer a few Benjamins.
Braking is handled by a set of Zoom hydraulic disk brakes that do the job well. This is another component I’ll dive into in more detail below, but we’ve been increasingly impressed with this brand.
MOD bills the Berlin as a “dual suspension” e-bike, and while there are front and rear suspension mechanisms the bike doesn’t really fit that definition in the traditional sense. At the front of the bike there is a EXA Form S4 40mm suspension fork with the shock absorbing system built around the steerer, which harkins back to the old Cannondale Headshok suspension fork popular in the 1990’s. We still see variations of this design today, particularly on bikes like this one that aren’t designed for heavy off-road use but still need some sort of laterally stiff suspension system to take the edge off rough roads.
At the rear of the bike, we find an EXA Form 525 suspension seatpost also with 40 mm of travel. There’s no linkage or flex-based rear suspension system we’d typically expect to find on an e-bike billed as dual suspension, but the suspension seatpost and fork combo do suit this road-going e-bike very nicely. Suspension systems, especially more traditional full suspension systems, can be a little much on commuter bikes such as the Berlin built specifically for pavement commuting. They tend to be heavy, expensive and run the risk of adding unwanted flex into the frame if not designed very carefully.
FInally we come to the frame, it’s a retro themed bike that straddles the line between Euro city bike and 1950’s brutalist architecture. It’s a minimalist design that meshes rounded and square tubing into something that looks unique and functional. The Berlin is sold in both a high-step and mid-step design and MOD was nice enough to send us one of each.
The bikes are largely identical aside from different standover heights and handlebar shapes (the high-step has a MTB-style riser bar and the mid-step has swept city bars), but I found myself really digging the look and feel of the mid-step bike.
The diamond frame variation of the MOD Berlin in brushed aluminum. It’s a classic styling that’s right at home in urban settings.
The step-thru frame still technically has a top tube, making it more of a mid-step bike than a true low-step. Regardless it’s more accessible and easier to get on and off of.
MOD’s bikes are simple but certainly have a unique look.
MOD Berlin Review: Motor Performance, Speed and Acceleration
As I mentioned before, the MOD Berlin’s mid-drive motor is its biggest highlight. The Shengyi-made powerplant makes 350W and 90Nm of torque, impressive numbers considering 250W is often cited as being plenty large for this type of motor.
It’s wonderfully responsive, with virtually no delay between the moment you start pedaling and when the motor kicks on. And on hills the motor’s torque rating really shines, easily clearing our test hill and anything else we threw at it.
Compared to a hub-drive motor, which is far more common at this pricepoint than a mid-drive, the Berlin’s power feels more malleable and accessible. It’s extremely sensitive to changes in your pedal stroke and its power delivery is very smooth. Like most mid-drive’s, the Berlin does require you to pedal — at least a little — to really access its power, but it doesn’t take much.
MOD also spec’d the Berlin with a shift sensor, which cuts power for a fraction of a second when you change gears to protect the drivetrain. Powerful mid-drive motors are notorious for wearing out drivetrains, but this sensor helps mitigate that issue by reducing the amount of torque and power being transferred through the drivetrain at the moment when it’s most vulnerable.
The Berlin is a Class 3 e-bike with no throttle, five pedal assist levels and a max motor-assisted speed of 28 mph. We sampled the Berlin’s performance in each pedal assist level around our test circuit, plus one lap with the motor off. What we found was a true speed pedelec with a high cruising speed and a nice breakdown of power in each of the five PAS levels.
The MOD Berlin rides like a classic commuter, but with the added boost of a 350W mid-drive motor.
The Berlin’s 350W Shengyi mid-drive motor.
The 48V, 12.8Ah (614Wh) battery is removable and semi-integrated into the frame.
MOD Berlin Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
Powering the MOD Berlin is a 48V, 12.8Ah (614Wh) battery that’s partially sunken into the downtube of the frame.
We did two real-world range tests on the Berlin to see how its battery stood up, and we got some solid results. In PAS 5, the bike’s highest assist setting, we rode 29.29 miles before the battery gave out. And in PAS 2, the second-lowest assist level and the first in which the bike really felt like an e-bike, power lasted for 51.88 miles before running out.
These are some great results that really demonstrate the efficiency of the mid-drive motor system. Since they require less wattage, mid-drive motors can operate off smaller batteries than their hub-drive counterparts. In this case, we’re seeing a nearly 2:1 battery to motor ratio (a 614Wh battery and 350W motor), which helps give the bike it’s great range.
Uphill the MOD Berlin’s 90Nm of torque and pedal-forward riding position makes it a solid performer.
On our test hill, the aptly-named Hell Hole, we set the Berlin to its max power setting, PAS 5, and let it rip. It cleared the top in 1:22.00 with an average speed of 13.2 mph, a roughly mid pack result.
Though on paper that result blends somewhere into the middle of the bikes we’ve tested on Hell Hole, it really only tells part of the story. The ease with which the Berlin climbed even the steepest sections of the hill, some of which pitch over 12 percent, was impressive. The bike asked little of my legs and instead let the motor do most of the talking, all I had to do was keep turning the cranks.
As the motor transfers its power through the drivetrain, I did have to pay attention to which gear I was in and shifted several times up the hill. But other than that it was impressive how little input I had to give the bike to get the result it did.
The Berlin is a wonderful climber. The motor makes 90Nm of torque and the geometry makes for easy pedaling.
The step-thru version of the Berlin features slightly swept handlebars, which I personally preferred.
The faux leather grips are lock-ons, meaning they won’t spin.
MOD Berlin Review: Brakes, Handling and Cockpit
The MOD Berlin performed better than average in our brake test, coming to a stop at an average distance of 15-feet-10-inches.
MOD specs the Berlin with a set of Zoom hydraulic disk brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear. Zoom is a brake brand we’ve seen increasingly often over the past year as parts shortages have made more common brands — such as Shimano and Tektro — harder to source.
Despite their newness, Zoom brakes have proven consistent performers and the sets on our MOD Berlin review bikes are no exception.
While the Zoom brakes were a known factor going into this test, I did have questions about how well the narrow CST commuting tires would perform under hard braking, especially once the wheels inevitably locked up and the bike began to skid. I was pleasantly surprised that they performed very well, helping me control the skid and bring the bike to a stop quickly and safely.
MOD Berlin Review: Ride Comfort, Geometry and Extras
Overall, I’ve been a big fan of how the Berlin rides. MOD bills the bike as a thoroughbred electric commuter, and I think they’ve hit that mark on the dot.
Though in general the Berlin is a relatively upright, comfortable and efficient-feeling commuter, the riding experience does change slightly depending on if you choose the traditional diamond frame or mid-step frame.
The diamond frame comes with MTB-style riser bars, which puts you in a slightly more forward, slightly more athletic riding position. This in turn quickens the handling and generally gives the bike a more physical ride quality. In the mid-step variation, a pair of swept-back handlebars places you more upright into a more relaxed riding position.
The differences between how the two styles ride are subtle, but I found myself gravitating towards the mid-step frame style more. I like the feel of the more swept handlebars and I have a fast-growing appreciation for step-thru style e-bikes.
Comfort wise, the Berlin scores high marks from me. The suspension fork and suspension seatpost combination works well, taking the edge off most road vibration and major bumps. It’s not quite the plush magic carpet ride you’d get from a true full-suspension e-bike, but I think MOD has struck a nice balance between weight, efficiency and comfort. It’s certainly more comfortable than a rigid commuter but it doesn’t feel wallowy, I like it.
As for extras, the Berlin comes stock with a set of integrated front and rear lights, alloy full-coverage fenders and a rear rack rated for 55 lbs. That rack is also compatible with child seats, such as the super popular Thule Yepp Maxi.
MOD’s LCD display is functional but leaves a little to be desired.
The Berlin’s comfort saddle and suspension seatpost.
The included rear rack is rated for 55 lbs and is compatible with child seats such as the Thule Yepp Maxi.
The ZOOM brakes performed well in our tests. We also dig the red accents.
MOD Berlin Review: Summary / Where to Buy
In many respects, the MOD Berlin is another option in a growing sea of well appointed and well priced commuter bikes. But while the components, ride quality and looks are on par with its competitors, the Berlin has a trump card: It’s motor.
Powerful mid-drive motors have long been a feature only found on e-bikes with prices much loftier than the Berlin’s. It’s exciting to see that technology trickling down to more affordable e-bikes.
The Berlin itself is a very comfortable and nice looking e-bike that’s going to suit die-hard commuters and city riders well. It’s fast, efficient and smartly equipped. I also cannot stress just how impressed we’ve been with the Shengyi motor, which feels notably torquey and boasts a responsiveness that would compete with some of the best mid-drives on the market.
I do think the motor justifies a nicer drivetrain and I also think the display could be more visually appealing, but I’m overall incredibly impressed with the Berlin. It’s an e-bike that punches above its weight class; that I think can reasonably compete with mid-drive equipped e-bikes that are much more expensive.
If you like the MOD Berlin it can be bought online on the MOD website from the button above and shipped to your door or delivered (fully built) by a bike courier service like Velofix.
‘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 MOD Berlin review.