NIU BQi-C3 Pro E-Bike Review, 2023
Well-hidden dual batteries on this clean, classy-looking commuter e-bike with speed and simplicity.
Visually, this bike presents itself in clean, sleek style. The BQi-C3 Pro hosts TWO batteries that are fully integrated into its step-thru frame, giving it one of the most polished appearances we’ve seen on a dual battery setup. This, combined with the flashy two-tone paint job and a ring-shaped running light around the bike’s headlight, gives the bike a futuristic look that we can’t get enough of.
In addition to looking good, those dual batteries give the bike an incredible range. NIU’s website advertises that the bike can travel between 60 and 90 miles on a single charge, and our testing fully supported this claim.
The bike’s step-thru frame also makes it one of the most accessible e-bikes we’ve seen, with a standover height of just 12.6 inches! This feature makes the bike easier to use for riders with limited mobility or for commuters wearing business attire.
Curious to know how this bike handles and performs? So were we! Continue on to our full NIU BQi-C3 Pro review below.
Throttle speed limited to 20 mph
- Visually stunning! The BQi-C3 Pro’s sleek frame with seamless dual battery integration, halo light, and unique two-tone paint job give it an aesthetic unlike anything we’ve seen before.
- Dual batteries provide amazing range! With a total capacity of 920 Wh, NIU claims a range of between 60-90 miles – and our testing supported it!
- A high accessibility factor. The bike’s step-thru frame design has an incredibly low standover height of just 12.6 inches. This is one of the lowest we’ve measured on an e-bike!
- Tons of safety features and certifications; the BQi-C3 Pro is UL2849 certified, and both its batteries and motor have waterproof IP ratings. Additionally, the bike has a front-facing running light, a taillight with brake lights, and puncture-resistant tires.
- Low-to-no maintenance! NIU claims that the bike’s single speed drivetrain and Gates carbon belt are 33x more durable than a chain drive. This setup also requires no lubricant!
- Speed + Traffic = Safety. The BQi-C3 Pro’s Class 3 speeds allow it to keep up with traffic more easily.
- Nice ergonomics! The bike’s adjustable stem, slightly swept-back handlebars, and grips make for a comfortable ride.
- The bike’s frame, motor, batteries, and more come with a solid 2-year warranty. Coverage on other parts ranges from 3-6 months.
- The bike’s gearing and PAS offer some flexibility over the ride experience, but we’d prefer to see a larger chainring to reduce ghost pedaling at higher speeds, and either more PAS settings or the option to adjust speed within the current three.
- The BQi-C3 Pro is unique, but if we’re being honest, its name is a mouthful. We acknowledge this is nitpicky, but we’d love to see an easier and more catchy name for the bike!
- Battery : dual 48V, 460 Wh batteries (920 Wh total)
- Display: TFT Colorful Display with speedometer, distance traveled, trip time, battery halolevel, assist level, and more
- Motor: 500W brushless, planetary gear reduction motor
- Headlight: NIU ICONIC HALO Daytime Running headlight
- Taillights: Integrated taillight with brake light
- Pedal Assist: 3 level pedal assist with Dual Hall cadence sensor
- Range: 60-90 miles per charge (estimate)
- Throttle:Thumb throttle
- Claimed weight: 70.5 lbs
- Maximum payload: 287 lbs
- Maximum load on rear rack: 66 lbs
- Brakes: Mechanic Disc brake, 180 mm rotors, front and rear
- Fenders: Included, black aluminum alloy front and rear, full coverage
- Fork: Rigid, aluminum alloy
- Frame: Aluminum alloy
- Drivetrain: Single-speed w/ 50T chainring and 22T freewheel
- Grips: Comfortable ergonomic grips
- Saddle: Comfortable ergonomic saddle
- Handlebar: Aluminum alloy
- Kickstand: Heavy-duty aluminum with wide plastic foot
- Pedals: Aluminum pedal with reflectors, 9/16″
- Tires: NIU 27.5″ x 2.4″ puncture-resistant tires
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: E- Bike Overview
But – if you take a closer look, some of the bike’s more unusual features might stand out.
You could observe that the bike’s contiguous down tube and seat tube share the same profile, which is somewhat thicker than you’d expect. Then, it might be more obvious that those frame sections house not one – but TWO – batteries, both fully recessed and highlighted by the swath of red on the V-shape’s interior.
The BQi-C3 Pro’s drivetrain might also catch your eye. It’s a single-speed, which (in our experience) is rare on a Class 3 e-bike capable of pedal-assisted travel up to 28 miles per hour. Additionally, you could notice that the bike comes equipped with with a Gates carbon belt; a feature that’s relatively uncommon on e-bikes with a price tag around $2,000.
In truth, we at Electric Bike Report found the BQi-C3 Pro to (at least initially) be a bit of an enigma; it offers a blend of features that are both common AND unexpected. For a commuter, the bike includes many of the items we anticipate, including its rack, fenders, and lights – but in some ways, those included here are a step up from the norm. And while dual-battery setups are becoming more popular by the day, they are still in their infancy – and none that we’ve seen so far look this good.
We discovered that the bike makes more sense when considering its brand’s established history in the electric vehicle market. NIU was founded in China in 2014, launched its first e-moped in 2015, and has since expanded globally with a full line of electric mopeds and scooters. The BQi-C3 Pro is a hybrid of these things and a more typical e-bike, and the end product is a different kind of machine than we’ve seen before.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper and explain what that means!
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: Circuit Speed Test
Our Circuit test, which you can read more about in the graphic above, allowed us to get a feel for some of the NIU BQi-C3 Pro’s defining elements: primarily its 500W (750W peak) rear-hub motor, cadence sensor, pedal assist system, and single-speed drivetrain.
Due to that last element – a Gates carbon belt-driven system with a 50T chainring and 22T cog – the BQi-C3 Pro was expectedly slow on our first lap with no motor assistance. The absence of a cassette made the uphill segment fairly tough; most of the multi-speed e-bikes we have tested have low gears in the 32T neighborhood, which greatly reduces the amount of effort required to pedal on an incline. But surprisingly, and especially on the flat and straight sections of our circuit, the BQi-C3 Pro was relatively comfortable to use without its motor; it pedaled much easier than quite a few of the other single-speed models we have tested.
When we applied the 500W motor’s power in PAS 1, the BQi-C3 Pro generally became even easier to pedal, although as we expected, the uphill segment still required some work. NIU told us that the amount of motor assistance in this setting is capped at 60% of total motor output, so it’s an appreciable and noticeable level of power. In PAS 2, there was a serious jump in assistance and speed! This setting is capped at 80% of motor output, and while it felt like a big increase, it also felt like an appropriate midpoint between the bike’s other two settings. PAS 3 has no output limitation, and in this setting, the bike seemed to effortlessly reach its max speed of 28 miles per hour.
After experiencing the bike’s three PAS settings, we felt the BQi-C3 Pro’s distribution of average speeds seemed fairly even, but the significant jumps between those settings felt somewhat jarring. For this reason, we would prefer to see an increase to five PAS settings in the future, which would offer more (and smaller) steps between assist levels. More options would also give riders a wider range of speeds to match different environments. Alternatively, the ability to adjust speed limitations in the bike’s current three PAS settings would allow riders to customize their ride experience to fit their own preferences.
We performed an additional lap with just the bike’s throttle, since it seemed plausible that many riders will choose to rely solely on that feature. This functioned well and easily kept the bike at its limited speed of 20 miles per hour, although personally, I think a half-twist throttle would be more comfortable for extended use.
Regardless of PAS setting, we noticed that the BQi-C3 Pro’s motor engaged slowly and smoothly, This is a great safety feature that we always appreciate seeing, because it means that the bike is far less likely to surprise the rider than a rapid burst of speed might.
A less-desirable element of the bike (for us, anyway) was a result of its single-speed drivetrain. Nearly the entirety of our laps in PAS 2 and 3 were spent ghost-pedaling; this means that we were essentially spinning the crankset freely without engagement with the rear cog, because the bike was moving faster than our pedaling could keep up with. We think the BQi-C3 Pro would benefit from a larger chainring to reduce this effect, as it would allow the rider to contribute more to the ride at speeds above 18 or 20 mph.
It’s important to acknowledge that the single-speed drivetrain and Gates belt drive does have some clear benefits over a traditional chain-and-cassette system. Aside from simply being easier to operate (no shifting needed), the belt is far longer-lasting and does not require lubricant. In a perfect world, we’d love to see a higher-end (PRO Pro) model of the BQi-C3 Pro with an internally geared hub and a mid-drive motor. This would combine the benefits of the belt drive with the flexibility of a multi-speed setup for a win-win situation.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
We performed a real-world Range Test to evaluate the BQi-C3 Pro’s dual 460 Wh batteries, which you can read more about in the graphic above. In our eyes, this was one of the most important tests for the BQi-C3 Pro – especially considering NIU’s advertised claims that the bike can travel between 60 and 90 miles on a single charge. This is also where it had the most potential!
Due to the time that it could take our riders to pedal up to 90 miles (or beyond), we decided to perform this test with just a single battery and then double our result. There was a not-insignificant weight difference without the second battery, so this method is likely slightly less accurate than if we were to have used both, but since there are already so many factors that contribute to the maximum range of an e-bike (weather, speed, terrain, rider/cargo weight, etc.), any real-world tests are going to have some variance. We feel that the margin of error was still accounted for with this method.
With a single battery and the bike in its max assist setting, PAS 3, the BQi-C3 Pro traveled a total of 28.9 miles, which we can double to arrive at a low-end estimate of about 57.7 miles. On the high end, with the bike drawing minimal power in PAS 1, our result was 48.3 miles – which we can double to arrive at a whopping 96.6 miles!
These fantastic results were great for a few reasons; first, and most importantly, it validated the claims made by NIU. It’s relatively rare (in my experience) for our results to line up quite this closely with the advertised range. Again, we’re shooting for a ballpark figure, so we expect some amount of disparity between numbers – and we’re usually happy with about a 10-mile difference in either direction.
Next, such an extended number of miles means that it’s possible to either travel a very long distance in a single trip, or if your commute is short, go many days before needing to recharge the batteries.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning just how much this range bracket sets the BQi-C3 Pro apart from many of the other commuter e-bikes we’ve tested. This is the first dual-battery setup we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate on a dedicated commuter, although we expect to see a greater influx over the coming months/years as this feature becomes more popular. It’s clear when we compare data between bikes that, while many of them demonstrated excellent performance on a single battery, the BQi-C3 Pro is (at time of writing) in somewhat of a league of its own.
We noticed during our testing that the BQi-C3 Pro makes use of its dual batteries at the same time; the bike’s display shows a separate charge reading for each. We appreciated seeing a percentage-based readout here for the sake of better accuracy (compared to a bar-based meter), and we also liked that the batteries seemed to deplete consistently.
The bike’s batteries also feature a patented battery management system (or BMS) with an impressive 14 types of protection. This means that the batteries themselves comes with firmware to increase safety, with features includes Overcharge Protection, Temperature Protection, and more.
With so much time on the bike in this test, we were able to get a good feel for its ease of use and general comfort level. I’ll discuss more about that later in this NIU BQi-C3 Pro review, but we greatly appreciated the bike’s ergonomics. It was comfortable even after hours in the saddle, and its interface was very user-friendly!
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: Hill Test
The NIU BQi-C3 Pro performed as one of the better commuter e-bikes we have put through our Hill Test (see the graphic above for more info), but it also fell short in some ways. Let me explain.
To evaluate the uphill capabilities of e-bikes, we specifically chose our location for this test due to its extreme nature. It’s unlikely that riders will encounter something this challenging in the wild very often, so by pushing the bikes we test to their limits on this path, we can speak more confidently about how they’ll perform in more average conditions.
When we first tested the BQi-C3 Pro using just its throttle, the bike was unable to complete the climb. Considering the nature of the Hell Hole trail, this is not unexpected, and this is certainly not the first bike to have failed the initial portion of our Hill Test. In fact, it is common for e-bikes to have far slower results when using only throttle power.
In PAS 3, the bike’s results were far different; the BQi-C3 Pro cruised to the top of the hill in one minute and ten seconds, with an average speed of 15.5 mph. This is a great result that is clearly on the far opposite end of the spectrum when comparing all of the commuter e-bikes we have tested – and it’s far better than we expected to see after our first attempt with just the throttle!
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: Safety and Brake Test
The NIU BQi-C3 Pro demonstrated an average stopping distance of 21’-9”. This result is within our expected range, but it is slower / longer than our running average of the commuter e-bikes we’ve tested. That average is (at time of writing) about 19’ even, so the BQi-C3 Pro’s performance exceeds that number by nearly three feet. To be clear: this might sound like a lot, but it does not seem like much when you’re actually on a bike that’s moving!
In this case, we attribute the bike’s results to the fact that it uses mechanical disc brakes with 180mm rotors. The rotor size seems plenty appropriate for the bike’s length and weight, but the mechanical system is naturally going to be less responsive (and slower) than a hydraulic system. We typically like to see hydraulic systems for this reason, though there are tradeoffs with cost and maintenance requirements.
Overall, the BQi-C3 Pro’s performance is decent, but considering the fact that it is capable of traveling up to 28 mph and has a cargo rack capable of carrying over 60 lbs (the addition of which will slow performance down further), it would be nice to see hydraulic brakes with better stopping power in the future. If we put the bike in context with its price, however – the $2,000 price range is great for an e-bike with two batteries and such a sleek design – the current brake setup is a good compromise to save on costs.
The bike includes some other great safety features to balance things out, too. As I mentioned previously, the bike includes a large, prominent headlight with a halo-shaped running light that rings the main LED. This light is always active as long as the bike is turned on, which adds to the rider’s visibility on the road. The bike uses taillights with brake light functionality as well, though it doesn’t have turn signals; these would be another welcome addition in the future for such a cool-looking commuter.
Puncture-resistant tires help to keep the BQi-C3 Pro safe on the go with a 1.5mm layer of Kevlar behind the tread! This is an awesome feature on any bike, but especially nice on one that could make a difference on city streets with broken glass or other debris.
The BQi-C3 Pro’s also includes a handful of excellent safety certifications! Most notably, the entire e-bike is UL 2849 certified, meaning that its motor, batteries, and charger system have been inspected to meet electrical and fire safety standards. This evaluation is done by a third party that has provided an explanation of their methods for UL 2849 testing. Additionally, the bike’s motor are certified waterproof, with the batteries earning an IP67 rating, and the motor graded as IP65. For more information, see this article about IP ratings and what they mean.
Finally, the BQi-C3 Pro’s battery, charger, frame, motor, and other components include a 2-year warranty. Other elements of the bike come with a 3- or 6-month warranty, the specifics of which are available on NIU’s website.
Many of the aforementioned features are things that we don’t commonly see on the bikes we test, and we are very happy to see that NIU went the extra mile (or three) in this case. There is an abundance of e-bike brands from Asia, and it can be difficult to sort out the proverbial wheat from the chaff; things like this inspire confidence and are likely some of the reasons why NIU has had so much success outside of the US (and hopefully will here as well).
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: Ride Comfort & Handling, Cockpit, and More
Overall, I found the BQi-C3 Pro to be very comfortable to ride and operate, in large part thanks to its contact points and associated elements. The bike’s custom saddle was well-padded and nicely shaped, and its pedals were large and accommodating. The handlebars, however, were by far the best part; they have a relaxed sweep and feature soft but supportive ergonomic rubber grips.
The BQi-C3 Pro’s cockpit layout was generally straightforward, though I greatly appreciated its unique color LCD display. This was a unit I had not seen previously, and it appeared to be a custom NIU interface with a clean layout that looked high-tech and easy to read.
The bike’s left bar hosted its small button pad and a trigger-style bell integrated into its front brake lever. The thumb throttle was mounted near the right grip and was the only other feature on that side other than the rear brake lever. Overall, this layout worked very well, although as I mentioned previously, I’d have personally preferred a half-twist throttle to the thumb lever for easier use on lengthy rides. I think this would also be appropriate considering how user-friendly this bike is for riders with limited mobility.
Additionally, the bike’s step-thru frame makes it incredibly accessible for riders of all types. The bottom bracket is kept low, which gives the bike a standover height of just 12.6 inches – one of the lowest we’ve ever seen. This allows for effortless mounting and dismounting, making the BQi-C3 Pro perfect for commuters in less-flexible business attire. This, combined with the throttle, makes it equally suitable for those aging riders with limited mobility I mentioned previously, who might not be able to lift a leg over the saddle.
In regards to handling, the BQi-C3 Pro does well; its 27.5”x2.4” tires feel smaller (and more nimble) than they actually are. I was pleased by it’s predictable maneuverability. The bike does take turns a little bit wide at slower speeds, but at least for me it never felt out of character.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro Review: Summary / Where to Buy
The BQi-C3 Pro was designed to be stylish (two integrated batteries isn’t something you see everyday), safe, functional, and easy to use and maintain. A single glance will undoubtedly confirm NIU’s success when it comes to visual appeal. In regards to safety, the bike’s tires, lights, and plentiful certifications make a bold statement, although I think it would benefit from hydraulic brakes instead of its currently-equipped mechanical ones.
Regardless, its current brake system, single-speed drivetrain, and Gates carbon drive belt make for a very low-maintenance setup, and some of those same features combined with the bike’s highly accessible frame design and 3-stage pedal-assist system make it distinctly easy to use.
There are some ways we feel the NIU BQi-C3 Pro could be improved. We acknowledge that the bike does currently present both tremendous range and a user experience with a handful of options. Riders can pedal with or without engagement with the single rear cog, or use the throttle for completely effort-free travel – but its current system is limited.
The simplicity of the bike’s drivetrain is appreciated, but with the absence of a multi-speed cassette, we would prefer to see a larger chainring to help reduce the ghost-pedaling we encountered in two of its three PAS settings. Also, considering the bike’s Class 3 speeds – which do inherently make it safer when traveling alongside motor vehicles – we think an increase to five pedal-assist settings would offer riders greater flexibility for picking their speed, or the ability to just assign desired speed amongst the current three would be a good compromise.
The big takeaway here is the NIU BQi-C3 Pro largely meets the needs of riders who might want a flashy, affordable e-bike with a fantastic range and the ability to carry a significant amount of weight. It’s a cool-looking ride that’s sure to turn heads when traveling to and from work, school, and while running errands.
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 NIU BQi-C3 Pro.
Peter Duysings says
Lots of detailed data makes for a great review of this bike. I would not buy an e-bike without hydraulic brakes, compression forks, must have minimum 80Nm torque for climbing, and 5 levels of assist.
John S. Bozick says
Thanks for the compliment! Personal preferences are everything. This is a unique e-bike for sure.