The Vello Plus Is Here
First some history. The Austrian made Vello was brought to my attention by a friend and Strida expert Chris in Vienna, now three years ago. Designed in Vienna Chris had first hand knowledge of this new folder named Vello. Skip ahead to two years ago I found myself in Vienna visiting Chris and meeting the folks at Vello. The Vello Plus was not yet in production but I did get to try a prototype. Also the fine folks at Vello lent me two standard Vello bikes for an extended stay in Sopron Hungary. You can read about it here.
The Vello Plus has been in production for a year, but the demand has been good and supply limited. Thinking head to next year, this summer I ordered two Vello bikes. One the Vello Plus E-bike and a Vello Alfine 11 non electric. The Vello Alfine 11 is equipped with the Alfine 11 speed internal gear hub, a Gates carbon belt drive and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. The Vello Alfine is the most popular non electric Vello bike.
First Impressions of the Vello Plus
Before riding the Vello Plus prototype in Vienna I had no previous experience with electric assist bikes. And that first experience was limited to a few minutes around a large court yard. And I will admit to a bias against E-bikes, why would I want a electric assist bike when I am quite capable of pedaling a bike myself? So now after two months and 200 km I know the Vello Plus a little better.
First the controls for the Zehus Bike + Drive are found in your phone after you download the app. This works for me as I am never too far away from my phone, but I understand this may not work for everyone. When you attach your phone to the handlebars you then have your speed, battery use and many other options including a map. But once the Zehus drive has been set you can use the bike without your phone and the last setting will be employed when riding. This set up can also be accomplished with a tablet.
Electric Assist Modes
There are several operating modes of the Zehus Bike + Drive. I haven’t found an easy to understand description in the manual or the Zehus website. This may be a translation issue, or for others maybe it is more evident. Here is a link to the power modes and use information on the Zehus website.
- On the phone display you will find a bike icon, this is for no e-power just leg muscle, the bike is easy to pedal with no power.
- The next is a rocket or tall house icon, this is the highest level of power rejuvenation, and it works. On the display you can see the power going back into the battery. With a tail wind on about a 5 km stretch I increased the battery strength by 10%!
- The mode I have used the most provides a push up the hills but nothing else on most of the flat riding. I was successful in riding the Vello + for 50 km over several short trips and maintained a fully charged battery.
- The Turbo mode, the circle with a thunder bolt, provides the most electric assist.
Other Things I Have Learned
Folding the Vello Plus
With a little practice I have become comfortable folding the Vello. Because my only other experience with a folding bike is with the Strida folding bike I will be comparing my Vello experience with my Strida experience. The Strida is a simpler fold than the Vello. The two bikes fold into a very different shape, the Strida slim and long, the Vello short and fatter. The Strida will stand folded in a corner, the Vello will fit under a desk or in the trunk of a car easier.
For me the Vello is a very stable handling bike. But I have very little varied small folding bike experience to compare with. Almost all of my experience is with the Strida. The Strida does not have a good reputation for riding stability. But to be fair to the Strida once a rider’s brain has become adjusted to the difference in the geometry of a Strida, the Strida is very easy to ride. The wheel base of the Vello is very similar to a full size bike as is also the geometry.
The riding position of the Vello is similar to a full size bike with one’s body leaning forward, neck bent and weight on the wrists. I have had riders demo the Vello and are OK with this position, they have also been younger than me. I prefer the upright riding position of a Strida bike, but Vello have an answer for this with an optional longer stem. The optional longer stem raises the handlebars 11 cm, not quite as upright as a Strida but comfortable.
The Vello is controlled with an app in your phone. It is very slick and works well. I initially had difficulties connecting my phone to the bike. I then realized that I needed to have my Bluetooth and my location turned on before opening the app. Since then all has gone well. There are eight operational modes that can be selected and each of these modes can be customized, except for one, the bike or no power assist mode. The turbo mode provides the most power assist and the recharge mode the least. But I found an assist mode that works for me. I receive an assist on hills and when I am starting from a stop but otherwise I am either using no power or actually charging the battery as I ride.
I have also discovered that how the electric assist works really depends on how one rides. If I take is easy and ride slow the assist is more responsive. If I push hard and go faster, then the assist is not as responsive. Also a little back pedal before a sprint seems to help activate the assist. The electric assist motor is quiet, but there is a noticeable noise when the motor is pushing or charging.
Vello Plus Self Charging
For me the extra effort to charge the battery when riding is not noticeable as the Vello + is light and easy to pedal. Back pedaling the Vello + while slowing or stopping increases the charge and acts as a brake. What is really cool is that the rate of power or charge is displayed in your phone. If you hop on the Vello + without your phone, no problem, the Vello operates with the last mode selected and it still tracks your kilometers ridden. Again I have no other experience with an electric assist bike, but to describe the experience, it is like learning to ride and having someone providing a gentle push from behind.
Is the Vello Plus Self Charging? After much thought I would say the description of self charging is misleading. The Vello Plus is a e-bike that because of it’s efficient design and light weight is rechargeable during use, but this will depend on how the rider uses the bike and how much energy the rider is able or willing to contribute to the charging of the battery. From my experience and riding preferences I think I could ride the Vello Plus and seldom need to use the charger provided to charge the bike.
Is it just me but do most folding bikes look awkward? The Strida is more unusual than awkward and many of us Strida fans like the Strida’s unusual design. Not surprisingly many of my Strida customers are in the arts or design fields. But for me other folding bikes with their long seat post, very low bottom tube, small wheels and long steer tube look awkward and unstable. I think the Vello design with it’s slanted two parallel bottom tubes is just the opposite. For me the Vello looks stable and it is a very stable bike. The Vello, like the Strida is a bike that I want to photograph, I like to use the Vello to complete an interesting photo. But apart from the Vello’s aesthetics the Vello is a very well designed, award winning folding bike with a quality build and finish.
The Vello + bike components are all standard bike parts and a competent bike shop will have no difficulty providing service. The electric assist motor, batteries and controls are manufactured by the Italian company Zehus. The batteries are sealed in the hub along with the motor. Because the Zehus motor and batteries are connected to your phone and your phone is connected to the internet, service and diagnostic can be performed online. At the time of writing this there is not a authorized Zehus service center in North America. If there is a warranty issue with the Zehus that can not be resolved online then Zehus arranges a courier service to the Zehus location in Italy.
Need to Know and Links
Vello has published several information videos and a detailed Q&A, here is the Vello Support link. Zehus also have a good website with user information and manuals for download. Here is a link to the Zehus download page.
The Vello Plus with the Zehus electric assist provides electric assist up to a speed of 25 kmph. There is no assist above 25 kmph and there is also no recharging above 25 kmph. Because of this when I go down a hill I need to keep the speed below 25 kmph to recharge the battery. The 25 kmph is because of the speed restriction of electric assist in Europe. In Canada it is 32 kmph. For me and how I ride the Vello having electric assist greater than 25 kmph is not important, but having recharging above 25 kmph would be nice.
The Vello plus standard is a single speed bike that preforms very well between 0 and 25 kmph. Vello state the electric assist will work well up to an 8 % grade. I have ridden hills much steeper than 8 %, up to 20 % and have found the single speed and the assist works well. With the very steep grades I do need to stand on the pedals and push hard. But with my favorite hill climb, 2.75 km average 7 % grade and 13.1 kmph, I was able increase my speed from an average of 8 kmph with a non electric Vello.
For the riding I do there is one thing missing for me with the Vello Plus, and that is a higher gear. I am able to pedal the Vello comfortably up to 25 kmph with or without the electric assist but more than that and my cadence becomes too fast to maintain. There is an option available that I haven’t tried and that is the Schlumpf two speed drive. And there may be soon another option and that is the Efneo three speed drive. The Vello Plus is designed for urban commuting so comfortably maintaining speeds above 25 kmph may not be an issue for most users.
I am still considering selling the Vello Plus in Canada. If you have questions or thoughts you would like to share please contact me.