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Surface604 Shred Review – 2023
Jan 01, 2023
Electric mountain bikes are not known for being inexpensive, and there’s a lot of reason for this: Building an eMTB that isn’t just fun on trail, but is durable enough to withstand the repeated impact and rigor off-road riding entails is difficult. It requires lots of engineering and careful parts choices; which requires a lot of investment from the brand; which, in turn, means consumers should expect a larger price tag for a capable eMTB.
But as technology and eMTBs have aged and advanced, the price tag for quality appears to be slowly inching down. Brands have become more innovative and cost effective in how they design eMTBs, which is good for those of us who don’t want to shell out $4,000 or more just to get on a trail.
In this Surface604 Shred review, we take a deep dive into one such eMTB that’s pushing the envelope of low cost and off-road performance.
With a MSRP starting several hundred less than $3,000, the Shred is a (compared to mainstream eMTBs) very affordable option that takes the frugal rider’s approach to a trail-capable eMTB. In this review, we dive into the bike’s spec sheet and parse out how Surface604 made some careful component selections and utilized a torque-activated hub motor to keep costs down while still keeping an eye on performance.
Bike Category: Electric Mountain Bike
Bike Class: Class 2: PAS/Throttle assist, up to 20 mph
Surface604 Shred Video Review
Surface604 did a very impressive job making an eMTB that is capable but doesn’t break the bank.
Though more geared towards off-road applications, Surface604 made the Shred’s geometry a little more laid back and friendly towards older riders or those who don’t want a bent over riding position.
The component package is spot on. Cheap traditional MTBs have existed for decades, and Surface604 did a great job of selecting affordable yet trail-specific components for this bike.
Our review bike was equipped with an upgraded Wren suspension fork, an upgrade I’d highly suggest for those looking to use this bike for more serious trail riding.
The 960Wh battery (another upgrade) is enormous and gives the Shred an equally enormous range.
The use of a finely tuned torque sensor was crucial to making the Shred work off-road. It helps the hub motor feel more harnessable and responsive.
Though cost effective, the use of a hub motor does shift the bike’s weight distribution rearward. For those focusing on light trail riding, this shouldn’t be too noticeable, but it can make the bike feel off balance in more technical situations.
The power delivery of the hub motor is almost immediate thanks to the torque sensor, but it still doesn’t feel quite as good as a mid-drive for trail applications.
ELECTRICAL SPECS & FEATURES
Battery: 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) OR 48V, 20Ah (960Wh) | Our review model was equipped with the larger battery
Display: Color LCD
Motor: 500W Bafang rear hub motor
Headlight: Buchel integrated
Peal Assist: 5 pedal assist levels, torque sensor
Range: Up to 65 miles (claimed)
Throttle: Thumb throttle
Weight & Dimensions
Claimed weight: 65 lbs
Maximum rider weight: 285 lb weight capacity
Maximum load on rear rack: N/A
Components & Accessories
Brakes: Tektro E-350 hydraulic disc brakes, 180mm rotors front and rear
Fork: SR Suntour XCM, 130 mm of travel OR Wren inverted suspension fork | Our review model was upgraded with the Wren fork
Frame: 6061 aluminum
Drivetrain: Shimano Alivio 9-speed
Grips: Rubber lock-on
Saddle: Selle Royal
Handlebar: Alloy riser bar
Pedals: Wellgo Alloy
Tires: CST Patrol 27.5”x2.8”
Surface604 Shred Review: Bike Overview
The Surface604 Shred is a bit of a unicorn in the affordable eMTB category, and that’s for a few reasons.
The first is the fact that it uses a 500W rear hub motor as opposed to the more common mid-drive motor. Hub drives are more commonly associated with commuters and electric fat bikes, but in this case it’s powering a slimmed down and relatively capable eMTB.
Second, it’s unique for the price. We don’t often see e-bikes billed as electric mountain bikes for this cheap. With an MSRP that’s several hundred less than $3,000, the Shred is angling for that rider who wants to ride some singletrack without coughing up $4k or more for an eMTB.
And while many affordable hub-driven e-bikes try to sell an image of off-road capability that they can’t quite back up in real life, the Shred can.
The Surface604 Shred is a hardtail eMTB with geometry, componentry and a ride quality that, all added together, makes for a versatile e-bike at home most anywhere you’d like to ride it. It’s not a thoroughbred eMTB in the sense that it wouldn’t be at home on a bike path or city street, but the Shred’s natural habitat is going to be smooth singletrack trail or dual-track fireroad.
While the 500W rear hub motor may be an unconventional choice for an e-bike built specifically with an eye on trail riding, Surface604 has made it work. Much of this is due to the Canadian brand’s choice to use a torque sensor over a cadence or speed sensor, which gives the motor’s power a much more malleable feel.
Diving into the bike’s componentry, we see lots more evidence that this bike was designed for off-road use. Much of this bike’s stock specs are on par with an entry-level to mid-tier eMTB, but should you choose to up your budget a little bit, Surface604 offers a host of upgrade options that make the Shred even more trail capable. Our review model of the Shred came with a few of these upgrades, including a suspension seat post, an upgraded Wren inverted fork and a huge 960Wh battery.
The Surface604 website says this bike comes with a SRAM X5 9-speed drivetrain, but our review bike arrived with an equivalent Shimano Alivio 9-speed setup. These two drivetrains are direct equivalents from two name-brand competitors, so the substitution, in my opinion, is no big deal.
Smoothing out the rough stuff is an inverted suspension fork from Wren. As I mentioned before, this is an upgrade option over the stock SR Suntour XCM suspension fork, and it’s probably one of the most significant improvements you can make to this bike should you intend to really spend time on trail.
Rounding out the component package are hydraulic disk brakes from Tektro, some more aggressive CST Patrol tires and a SR Suntour NCX suspension seatpost, which, like the Wren fork, is also an upgrade option.
Lastly, Surface604 said they really wanted the Shred to look the part of an eMTB. Many affordable eMTBs on the market today have weird styling or component choices, such as the inclusion of floppy plastic fenders or odd frame shapes. Surface604’s bike, in contrast, is slimmed down for off-road use. Though, if you wanted racks and fenders, Surface604 does make a few options designed specifically for use with the Shred.
Surface604 said it was very important to them that the Shred looked the part of an eMTB. I think they nailed it.
The Shimano Alivio 9-speed drivetrain is a slightly different spec than the advertised SRAM X5, but the two groupsets are extremely comparable.
The CST Patrol tires have proper eMTB tread that hooked up nicely in our mixed terrain of slickrock and sandy dirt.
Surface604 Shred Review: Motor Performance, Speed and Acceleration
Though all the e-bikes in Surface604’s current lineup use 500W rear hub motors actuated by torque sensors, the motor laced into the Shred’s rear wheel is the torquiest and was specifically chosen because it’s quieter and more tolerant of higher speed.
The Bafang unit makes 65Nm of torque, which is useful on steeper terrain, and I can attest that it seems quieter than many other hub motors I’ve ridden. But, considering this e-bike is designed specifically for off-road use, arguably the most notable motor component is the bike’s dropout-mounted torque sensor.
This little piece of metal, which most people likely wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know what to look for, takes the characteristically on/off power delivery of the hub motor and makes it feel very smooth, quick engaging and enormously harnessable. The torque sensor — effectively just a strain gauge — measures how much (or how little) force a rider is applying to the pedals and applies motor power accordingly. This is opposed to a cadence sensor, which simply detects whether you’re spinning the cranks or coasting and tells the motor to turn off or on.
For the purpose of the Shred, the torque sensor makes the humble hub motor — a drive system usually reserved for on-pavement commuters and electric fat bikes — into a far more capable off-road tool.
But why not just spec the Shred with a more common and higher-performing mid-drive motor? The answer is simple: Cost.
Mid-drives aren’t cheap, so to keep with the Shred’s mission of balancing off-road performance and cost effectiveness, Surface604 took on the challenge of taking the cheaper option and squeezing as much performance out of it as possible.
The 500W hub motor’s power is divided up between five levels of pedal assist. To get an idea of how the bike rides in each PAS level, we put it to the test around the official Electric Bike Report test circuit. What we found was a rounded off power curve, with a large jump in speed in PAS 1 that ebbs off the higher you go.
There’s a lot of indication in our motor test that the 500W Bafang unit can go much faster if we would have let it. We kept the Shred at its stock Class 2 speed setting for testing, but Surface604 says the bike can indeed be adjusted to Class 3 speeds.
The leveling off of average speed in our circuit test chart lends evidence to the Shred’s Class 3 speed. We’d wager the chart would look a whole lot more linear, especially in the upper PAS levels, had we done the test in Class 3 settings.
Despite more weight in the rear end (due to the motor), the Shred flies pretty well.
The 500W geared rear hub motor makes 65Nm of torque and, according to Surface604, is the torquiest motor specced on any e-bike they make.
Powering the 500W rear hub motor is either the stock 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) battery or the upgraded 48V, 20ah (960Wh) battery. Both of which are semi-integrated into the frame.
Surface604 Shred Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
Our review model of the Shred came with the upgraded battery pack, which hopped up the amount of power available from 672Wh to a whopping 960Wh.
That’s a lot of energy.
As you’d expect, that larger-than-average battery yielded a larger-than-average range. We did two range tests on the Shred, one in PAS 1 and the other in PAS 5.
In the first test, PAS 1, our test rider saw a range of 62.41 miles before the battery died. In the PAS 5 test, which I performed, the Shred lasted for 44.21 miles before giving out. Both of those results are exceedingly far, which is to be expected considering the size of the battery and the judicious output of the 500W rear hub motor.
So, considering the 960Wh battery we tested is an upgrade option, is it one I’d personally spend my money on? Maybe. It depends on how you think you’d use the bike.
In my opinion, there are going to be two camps of e-bike riders interested in the Shred. The first are those who are going to like the bike for its off-road looks and versatile build, but are primarily going to use it for path riding and commuter-like excursions. The second are those who are going to use the Shred as an off-road machine for exploring trails.
I’d recommend the larger battery to those in the first camp, who may be a little more likely to use their bikes on longer-haul rides where battery range might become a concern. For those in the second camp, a more than 44 mile range is exceptionally far on trail or double track. My suggestion would be to choose the stock 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) battery which would save some weight.
We did two timed laps on the Shred up our test hill Hell Hole, the first using just the throttle and the second using PAS 5. Despite the comparably modest 500W hub motor, the Shred put up times in both tests that go toe-to-toe with e-bikes that, on paper, are more powerful.
In the throttle only test, the Shred cleared Hell Hole in 1:27.00 with an average speed of 12.5 mph. That’s one of the best throttle-only times we’ve seen among off-road style e-bikes we’ve reviewed, not to mention that most of the bikes with similar times have 750W hub motors.
In the PAS 5 test, the Shred put up a 1:07.00 with an average speed of 16.2 mph. That’s the eighth best time up Hell Hole to date among all of the e-bikes we’ve reviewed. It’s a remarkable feat considering the Shred is just one of two 500W e-bikes in the top ten, the other is the Shred’s sister model, the Surface604 Quad.
We do have hill climb data from when we reviewed the previous model of the Shred, but I’m hesitant to make any direct comparisons because a different Electric Bike Report reviewer, who is lighter than me, did those tests. But it is worth noting that this model still went faster despite the weight difference, so it’s safe to say the new version of the Shred is a very capable climber.
The Shred’s 500W motor may be smaller than some on paper, but rest assured it punches above its weight class.
The Tektro HD-E350 hydraulic disk brakes do a great job for both on-road and off-road applications.
Though the Shred is a little more trimmed down, the cockpit looks and feels very similar to your standard affordable e-bike. It even has an integrated headlight.
Surface604 Shred Review: Brakes and the Brake Test
Continuing with the theme of “the Shred is a very high-performing e-bike,” it fared very well in our braking test, too.
Our review model of the Shred came with a set of Tektro HD-E350 hydraulic disk brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear, a brakeset we see often on e-bikes that we trust quite a lot. But as braking is an amalgamation of several different components working together — the brakes, tires, geometry and more — we put the bike through five full-power stops from 20 mph to get an average braking distance.
On average, the Shred came to a stop in 11-feet-3-inches, which is far above the current average of 16 feet.
Not only do the Tektro brakes stop well, they have the added benefit of being a name brand that most local bike shops are going to recognize. That means that if the brakes ever need service (they likely will), your local shop will likely be able to house.
Surface604 Shred Review: Ride Comfort, Handling and Cockpit
Handling wise, the Surface604 Shred is nimble enough to handle tight trails while remaining stable and predictable in tough terrain.
Like much else on the bike, Surface604 says quite a lot of thought was poured into the Shred’s geometry. Unlike some other affordable e-bike makers, the Shred’s frame was engineered in-house by a designer who actually rides — and that difference shows. It feels very at home on trail.
While the handling is solid, there are some eMTB-specific handling idiosyncrasies brought on by the hub motor. One of the advantages of the more expensive mid-drive units is they position the motor’s weight — one of the heaviest components — low and centered on the frame, which helps keep the bike balanced. A hub motor, on the other hand, moves all that weight to the rear of the bike.
On trail, this rearward weight distribution is most noticeable when you get the bike in the air, while negotiating really rough terrain and in situations where you need to lift the rear wheel up and over an obstacle. In any of those situations, the extra mass in the rear end can come as a surprise, but I did find myself figuring out how to compensate for that mass the longer I spent on the bike. In my opinion, it’s a small price to pay for the Shred’s affordability.
There were many upgrades on this bike that differ from stock spec, but by far the most impactful was the Wren suspension fork. The SR Suntour XCM fork is fine for most light-duty off-road use and paved trail riding, but the Wren fork is what made this bike capable on the rocky trails we have here in Electric Bike Report’s home base of southwest Utah. It’s plush, stiffens up the front end, and seemed to handle the repeated abuse of our trails in stride.
Though it’s billed as an off-road e-bike, Surface604 did a great job at making it versatile for those who may still want to use it for other purposes. There are bosses for racks and fenders, and the geometry is friendly to a broad spectrum of riders. The riding position is balanced and upright, with a relatively tall headtube and low standover height. You can even get it fitted with a swept handlebar if you want it even more upright.
The Shred’s full color LCD is bright and functional.
The Wren fork is a worthy upgrade for the Shred. It’s what made the bike feel very capable on our rocky trails.
The Selle Royal seat and SR Suntour NCX suspension seatpost (another upgrade item).
The Tektro HD-E350 hydraulic disk brakes are always good performers, but they served this e-bike particularly well.
Surface604 Shred Review: Summary / Where to Buy
Of all the types of e-bikes sold today, I’d bet the toughest to design and execute is likely the affordable electric mountain bike. I’m not talking about a cheap e-bike that sells the image of off-road capability, I mean an eMTB in the truest sense of the word; something that can handle the abuse of day-in-day out trail riding and do it well.
But I think Surface604 may be onto something with the Shred.
For an e-bike that costs less than $3,000 and utilizes some unconventional componentry (like a hub motor instead of mid-drive), the Shred sure can rip some single track. I’m sure there are other e-bikes out there that can compete with the Shred’s balance of affordability and off-road performance, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head; let alone any I’ve personally ridden.
The bike’s handling is remarkably balanced, its power delivery feels usable for trail applications and its component package is smartly chosen. Best of all, though, is its starting price, which I think will agree with the budgets of e-bike newcomers looking to dip their toes in the dirtier side of e-biking, but who may not be ready to commit to the $4,000-plus price tags of eMTBs from big-name brands.
I also like that Surface604 kept the Shred relatively versatile. It’s got bosses for racks and fenders, and a geometry that’ll be friendly to a very broad range of riders. It’s a bike that can wear many hats, but deep down, it just wants to put some miles in on the less beaten path.
For those reasons and more, I really like the Shred and would absolutely recommend it.