The GLEWEL Elite packs a serious amount of all-terrain performance into a foldable electric bike. This 3-in-1 electric bike covers all the bases with fat tires, full suspension, and a collapsible design for easy storage or transport. With high hopes for this supercharged model, I tested the GLEWEL Elite to find out if it’s truly a diamond in the rough or just another electric bike. Keep reading to see how this EU-compliant workhorse fared out on the open roads and off-piste routes.
The GLEWEL brand currently offers a fleet of four ebikes that are made in their factory warehouse in Poland. This allows for fast shipping within Europe and the brand is planning on expanding beyond to additional regions soon. The Elite model specifications follow EU guidelines that are a bit more restrictive than those in the US, including a maximum speed of 25 km/h, a 250W motor, and no throttle mode. The Elite currently costs €1,699 (or around $1,850) which lands it squarely within the entry-level ebike price range. Glewel doesn’t offer any brand-specific accessories, but the 2-year warranty and free shipping are decent perks.
What Style E-Bike Is This?
It’s difficult to classify the GLEWEL Elite because it combines several types of bikes. It’s a fat tire mountain bike with full suspension that’s also foldable and electric. If that mouthful of functionality appeals to you, this is the bike for you! But I was initially apprehensive, thinking it might have to make big compromises in certain areas at the expense of others. During testing, the ultra-smooth suspension and fat tires provided an impressive amount of comfort while cruising along with the five levels of pedal assist.
The bike was much larger than I expected— especially considering its folding design and relatively small-diameter 20” tires— with a riding position that’s high off the ground. It gave the impression of riding a motorcycle or moped which many users will enjoy. GLEWEL recommends the Elite for riders between 5’1” to 6’9”, but I’d say the model is too large for riders on the shorter end of the spectrum. The comfortable, upright riding position makes it easy to maneuver despite the hefty tires and offers great leverage to steer in technical or tight spots. I like the sleek orange and black paint job which has a great finish to it, adding to the overall premium feel of the ebike. At such an accessible price, the Elite has an impressive build quality that’s noticeable right away.
When it comes to collapsibility, don’t expect this bike to fold down small enough to carry on the metro or upstairs. The large frame folds in the middle and at the handlebars to significantly decrease its footprint, but you’re still left with nearly 40 kilograms to lug around. That said, it’s plenty compact enough to fit into a car trunk or save space in the garage during the off-season. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hinges and how simple it was to pull the levers and fold the bike half. The middle hinge requires some strength to pivot the heavy bike but the connection is super solid. The foldable mechanisms probably add some heft to the bike but, for specific users, that extra functionality will come in handy often. The pedals also fold into the crank, but I would have liked to see them made from metal rather than less durable plastic.
250W Rear Hub Motor
The GLEWEL Elite is powered by an EU-compliant 250W rear hub motor with five levels of pedal assistance. Regulations require that there’s no throttle mode and the top speed hovers around 25 km/h. The acceleration is very quick with no lag which helps the Elite to really move, even on steep inclines.
While testing, I was out with a friend on a standard bike and it was honestly difficult to hold back and not blast ahead of him on inclines, even on the lower assist levels. One negative, however, is the lack of a torque sensor as the ebike relies on a cadence sensor to deliver the right amount of power. This means pedaling with the right gear ratio is key to making it up tough climbs or starting from a standstill. I also noticed (or rather almost didn’t notice) that the motor was pleasantly quiet while riding in all assist levels.
The bike’s battery is integrated into the frame and can only be removed when the middle frame hinge is released. The 13Ah battery has enough juice to last between 60 to 80 km on a single charge which I would say is an accurate estimate based on the tests. The battery also powers the well-designed, full-color LCD display at the center of the handlebars with two modes for visibility during day and night. Also included are the front and rear lights— the headlamp is super bright and the independent taillight features a few different flashing modes.
The Elite’s built-like-a-tank design extends to most of its mechanical components. The Shimano Altus 8-speed drivetrain shifts smoothly and the Rapidfire trigger shifter is a big upgrade over the SiS shifter used on many modern ebikes. The 45mm front suspension fork and EXA Form rear shock combine for a buttery smooth ride over bumpy terrain, potholes, and curbs. I wasn’t expecting such a responsive suspension package since the Elite has so much else going on, but users can feel confident riding rough terrain in tricky conditions.
The mechanical disc brakes, on the other hand, were a letdown. I had to spend a significant amount of time adjusting them during assembly and they aren’t as strong as hydraulic brakes which are better suited for large ebikes of this weight. The unbranded disc brakes were still a bit finicky during initial tests and I would have liked to see at least some Shimano or Tektro model. The 20” wheels have Kenda Krusade Sport 4” fat tires that can run ultra-low pressures and I liked the grippy tread that’s knobbier than what’s on most rival ebikes.
Riding this behemoth electric bike is even more fun because of the smaller included touches. GLEWEL did their research and chose high-quality grips that are actually ergonomic with the palm paddle design— and they are lockable to avoid any accidental twisting while being easy to swap out. The other contact point is the Selle Royal saddle which looks sporty and was plenty comfortable. I would, however, have appreciated a lift handle behind the seat to help with pivoting or folding the heavy bike, which is something that several ebike brands do. That said, grabbing onto the hefty rear rack can work as well.
The wide rear rack felt sturdy and we tested rolling around with an adult passenger perched on the rack. The recommended maximum payload is only 120 kg so you probably don’t want to do that too often, but if you do, I suggest pumping up the fat tires a bit more. There are full-coverage plastic fenders that do the trick and the side-mounted kickstand is plenty strong to support the bike’s weight. Another detail was that the shipping box came with several quality tools to assist with assembly (you just need to install the front wheel and front fender) and a few extra ones that are welcomed additions to my workbench for any future maintenance that may come up.
The GLEWEL Elite ($1,799) is a multi-purpose ebike with a sizable footprint that’s a hoot wherever you ride. Its all-terrain capabilities mean you can ride down stairs, hop curbs, and explore rugged paths with confidence. But the unique, seemingly contradictory reality of an extra-large foldable bike isn’t for everyone. I still find myself thinking about what or who exactly is this brawny ebike really built for. Overall, I’d say for people who want a do-it-all electric bike that can still fit in the trunk of their car, the Elite is a fast and comfortable ride that won’t disappoint.