Hovsco electric bikes review: The HovBeta and HovCity e-bikes are a blast to ride
Hovsco makes the right sacrifices for an affordable electric bike
When Hovsco pitched its HovBeta folding fat tire electric bike and HovCity e-bike to me, I was initially skeptical. I hadn’t heard of the California-based company before, but after looking at its best e-bikes, it seemed as though there was something there.
With the growing popularity of electric bikes, there’s been a gold rush going on – search Amazon, and you’ll find countless drop-shipped bikes from obscure brands with identical designs for under $1,000. But as with anything, going the ultra-affordable route can be asking for trouble, as cheap motors and batteries can be ruinous for your commute when they break down.
Hovsco, to its credit, appears to have actually custom-designed its frames, and its electric bike prices, while certainly affordable, aren’t bargain bin either. That in itself doesn’t say anything specific about their quality, but that’s why we test these things.
I spent the winter riding the HovBeta and HovCity in my upper midwestern city – trying them out on slick snow and ice, crisscrossing through the streets to run errands and go out on the town. After two months with the bikes as my daily ride, both are a good value for slightly different reasons. But since no one e-bike is for everyone, there are a few caveats worth noting.
Where to buy Hovsco HovBeta and HovCity e-bikes
🏆 Hovsco HovBeta score: 4 out of 5
🏆 Hovsco HovCity score: 3 out of 5
💰 Price: $1,799 (HovBeta), $1,499 (HovCity)
🔋 Battery: 720Wh (HovBeta), 540Wh (HovCity) – Samsung/LG
🛵 Motor: Sutto 750-watt 15aH (HovBeta), Sutto 500-watt 15aH (HovCity)
☸️ Hub location: Rear hub
🚌 Range: Up to 60 miles (40 miles without pedal assist)
✅ E-bike Class: Up to class 2 (class 3 unlockable via app)
🏎️ Top speed: 20mph w/throttle, 28mph w/pedal assist (after app unlock)
⚖️ Weight: 66.4lbs with battery
Tires: 20 x 4 inches fat tire (HovBeta), 27.5 x 2.2 inch knobby tires
🚇 Tubes: Schrader valve rubber tubes
🛤️ Derailleur/Cassette: 7-speed Shimano Tourney, 14-28T cassette
👊 Handlebars: Aluminum, 31.8 x 680mm
👍 Throttle: Handlebar-mounted thumb throttle
🍒 Stem: Threadless, 31.8mm, 7-degree rise
🙆 Headset: Neco sealed bearing threadless
🍴 Fork: Zoom Forgo w/45mm travel
🪑 Seatpost: 30.4mm x 350mm w/quick release collar clamp
🖼️ Frame: Single-butted aluminum alloy
🛑 Brakes: Hydraulic disc, 180mm rotors
💪 Cranks: 165mm (HovBeta), 170mm (HovCity)
⚙️ Chainring: 42T chainring
📺 Display: BC280 LCD backlit
🔌 Charger: 54.6V (HovBeta), 42V (HovCity) 3-amp fast charger
⚡️ Charging time: about 4 hours
⚖️ Weight limit: 450lbs (HovBeta), 300lbs (HovCity)
If you’re unsure about whether you want an e-bike in the first place, see my explainer on why you should buy an e-bike. The short answer is: they’re a fun, more accessible way to get exercise than a normal bicycle, and in many ways, they’re more convenient than a car – you never have to look far for parking, there’s almost no maintenance, you don’t need insurance or a license, if the battery runs out you can still go and the list goes on and on.
If you’re coming at electric bikes from the world of normal cycling, you’ll first notice their weight, especially when riding heavier, long-range bikes like these. The HovBeta is a nearly 70-pound bike, with the battery and without accessories, and the HovCity clocks in at a more commuter-friendly 54 pounds. For perspective, normal road bicycles weigh around 20-30 pounds.
Overall, my impressions of Hovsco’s electric bikes were positive, thanks to their solid build quality and premium features you don’t typically find at their price points – either can be had for under $2,000. I found myself quickly favoring the HovBeta over the HovCity, for some reasons that are obvious, but others less so.
How I tested the HovBeta and HovCity e-bikes
Simply put, I rode them. I took both bikes for regular rides around my neighborhood and across my city, on road and paved trail. I rode with a friend who races bikes professionally, rode with my wife who’s been commuting for even longer than I have and I went to a local bike shop to interview the professionals there and get their take on Hovsco’s efforts. I even looked at Reddit e-bike discussion to see what people like or don’t like about their electric bikes.
What’s more, I took them into harsh conditions – rides in the snow, on ice, and in single-digit temperatures. The HovBeta, particularly – being a fat tire bike, it’s made to grab traction where an ordinary bike can’t, and in the Midwest, fat bikes are particularly popular as winter options, thanks to their wide, knobby tires that can, with lower pressure, contact more of the road (or snow, as the case may be) and keep you upright where an ordinary road tire would slide out from under you.
Why you should trust my electric bike reviews
I’ve been a daily commuting cyclist for about 13 years. My commutes have ranged as far as 11 miles one way, and I use a cargo bike regularly for errands. Not only that, but I’ve held two different jobs as a cyclist – in my early 20s, I worked as a pedicab driver, and in my early 30s as a basic mechanic and bicycle tour guide. I also wrote and edited copy for a short-lived local bike ‘zine in my town and helped our local cycling advocacy group with event planning. I even left my wedding on a bike. In short, I care about bikes.
But I also care about technology, or I wouldn’t be here at The Shortcut. I want to know if the bikes’ electric power is all it’s chalked up to be. I’m new to e-bikes, having only ridden them briefly in the past when friends and acquaintances wanted to show them off. This is my first e-bike review, hence the lengths I went to in getting others’ takes on them – I wanted to make sure I’m considering everything I can when it comes to reviewing a bike for you.
That said, I’m sure I’ve missed some things. Feel free to let me know in the comments or on our Twitter account if there’s something you’re curious about when it comes to Hovsco electric bikes, or e-bikes in general, and I’ll do my best to get to the bottom of it.
HovBeta and HovCity review: Assembly
The Hovsco HovBeta and HovCity e-bikes each come mostly assembled in large boxes. If you have experience with building up a bike, you’ll be able to put them together. As a nice little touch, Hovsco included a small toolset with its own tool roll, so you won’t even need your own.
It took me about 40 minutes to put each bike together, and I might’ve been faster had I not been out of practice. Out of the box, both needed some minor adjusting – the brake levers were rolled back a little too far and the derailleurs needed to be tweaked for smoother shifting. But the wheels arrived true (that is, they showed no wobble when spun) and that’s no guarantee when having a bike shipped to you.
That said, if you’ve never put a bike together, take it to a bike shop. An experienced mechanic can identify potential safety issues and get things dialed in just right, and usually for less than $100.
HovBeta and HovCity review: The ride
Update (February 19, 2023): I neglected to include details in my original review about the unlockable 28mph top speed. That’s been incorporated below.
Both the HovBeta and HovCity are nice rides, but I quickly found a preference for the HovBeta, which I didn’t expect based on my past experience with foldables. Part of that is my aging hips – it’s just easier to swing my leg through the middle than over the HovCity’s angled top tube – but part is probably lessons the company has learned since the HovCity, its first e-bike, introduced in 2019.
The HovBeta also has a lower center of gravity, thanks to its step-through design, which makes it easier to keep upright and more fun in turns, as it’s easier to lean into them. It’s also a delight to ride fat tires, which give the feeling you can roll over just about anything (because you basically can), especially with the adjustable suspension forks (the HovCity also has suspension forks, but they’re non-adjustable).
The HovCity, being lighter, feels like a nimbler ride and is easier to move when you’re off the bike and trying to park it in awkward situations.
Even so, the HovBeta folding fat tire electric bike feels more natural to pedal, thanks to its torque sensor, which is an uncommon feature in sub-$2,000 e-bikes. What does an e-bike torque sensor do? It senses how much power you’re putting into your pedal and adjusts the motor’s output to compensate – if you push harder, it does, too. It also won’t surprise you by jumping quickly from a start. Whereas the HovCity, with its simple cadence sensor, can take off too quickly when you’re unprepared, and pedaling at all, even if you’re not actually powering the wheel, results in acceleration, which can feel strange.
If you prefer using only the throttle, the bikes both feel zippy, but the power disparity is evident – I drag-raced a friend up a gentle hill and he was able to quickly pull ahead of me on the HovBeta at 20mph, while the HovCity struggled to get above 16mph with my 220lb frame. Both bikes use a thumb lever to throttle, rather than a twisting grip like a motorcycle, which lets you keep your arms and wrists straight as you ride.
For getting above 20mph, there’s a bittersweet upgrade option after you get one of Hovsco’s e-bikes. With the app (discussed further down), you can opt to go up to 28mph with pedal assist. That is, so long as you’re pedaling, you can go faster than the default 20mph the throttle will get you to. However, the highest gear, a 14-tooth cog, isn’t quite small enough to help you reach that speed easily.
Upgrading the chainring (the large cog between the pedals) to a larger one would fix this, as would swapping the cassette out for a compatible 7-speed Shimano with a faster high gear, but if you want to be able to comfortably go that fast out of the box, I’m afraid that’s not possible unless you’re really good at spinning.
I thought the bikes were also perfectly rideable without e-assist on. You won’t want to do so in a hilly area without upgrading the drivetrain, particularly with the short 165mm cranks on the HovBeta, but if you live in a flat part of town, they’re little different than riding a regular bicycle.
On fresh snow, I was very pleased by the extra traction afforded by the HovBeta electric fat bike’s big, knobby tires. It glided over 2-inch snow with ease, where my normal bike with 700x35c tires would struggle through it, instead. Deeper snow was a challenge, but the added torque made it possible (though I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a seasoned veteran at riding in the snow).
Overall, the HovBeta makes for a nicer ride. But if you don’t need the extra power (and it’s honestly not that much extra in practice), don’t normally pedal on your e-bike and you prefer a lighter weight, the HovCity is a great, and significantly cheaper, alternative at $1,499 to the HovBeta’s $1,799 (at the time of this writing).
HovBeta and HovCity review: Components
For all the fun I had with the bikes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lower-grade components found throughout. Probably part of the reason these bikes are so affordable, the derailleur, pedals, cranks and forks are all either entry-level branded parts – see the Shimano Tourney derailleur and shifter and Zoom forks and brake levers – or they’re unbranded, which often means they’re the cheapest you can get. The pedals are particularly unimpressive, with stiff bearings that make them stubborn to spin, and I could feel bearings in the HovCity pedals grind against one another while pedaling.
That’s not to say things are terrible here; everything worked just fine when I rode, but you’ll notice shifting isn’t the smoothest or fastest, and the brakes and derailleur can require more frequent adjustment over time than higher-quality components. I haven’t noticed the wheels going out of true, but 36-spoke wheels like those on these bikes, while heavy, have the benefit of holding their line well.
Besides, having low-grade components means you can justify replacing them with the ones you like. I’d recommend swapping the pedals and derailleur when you can, making sure you match the latter to the existing Shimano 7-speed cassette. The brakes and fork worked well enough that I would keep them until they’re worn out (unless you’re planning on trail-riding, then swap the forks ASAP), and the seats are reasonably comfortable, so the same there.
Both bikes come with a rear brushless motor hub made by Sutto, a sub-brand from Bafang, which is a more well-known and reliable e-bike hub motor brand from China. The most consequential differences (besides the torque sensor mentioned above) between the two lie in that hub: the HovBeta gets 750 watts of sustained power to the HovCity’s 500 watts. It’s enough of a disparity to be noticeable side by side, but subtle enough you might not notice it when riding one or the other solo.
Under load in very cold weather – the coldest I rode in was below zero, though I don’t remember how far below – the bike definitely loses power and there is noticeable noise from the hub motor. That said, Hovsco recommends against riding in sub-zero temperatures, as do most e-bike manufacturers, so you probably shouldn’t do it if you care about battery longevity.
The HovBeta gets the bigger battery of the two, but both offer the same range of up to 60 miles when you’re using pedal assist. I didn’t ride either to complete exhaustion, as I prefer to keep my batteries charged above 50% if I can, but on both, I managed to get about a week of daily riding at least a couple of miles before I felt I needed to top them up again. Both batteries charged quickly within a couple of hours from about 50%.
One very nice feature of the batteries is the integrated LED light bank, which is super bright and has three brightness levels and a flashing setting – useful if you break down at night or take the bikes on camping trips.
Last but not least, both the HovBeta and the HovCity come with a built-in LED front light and bike computer. The headlamp is bright, but I wish it had a wider beam, rather than the focused square it projects in front of you, though that does help spot potholes, which is key on the busted neighborhood streets that surround me. Neither bike comes with a built-in tail light, though my HovBeta did at least ship with a very basic clip-on battery-powered light.
The computer is simple, showing easy-to-read, large letters that I found legible even in daylight, with information on the battery power, assistance level, speed and total trip mileage. It shows the same details whether you’re using e-assist or not, and with the handlebar-mounted controls, it’s easy to operate with one hand. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.
HovBeta and HovCity review: phone connectivity
Hovsco bikes all come with Bluetooth phone connectivity, and with that, you can track your rides and review stats not just for your own edification, but you can also see how you rank to others with Hovsco bikes around you. It’s nice to have, but given it won’t connect to services like Apple Health, riders are better served by the best Apple Watch for e-bike ride tracking.
You’ll need the app for one important reason though: speed. Without connecting the app, you’ll be limited to pedal assist up to 6mph (you can pedal the bike faster, of course). Once connected, you’ll unlock e-bike class 2 speed up to 20mph with or without pedal assist, and you can further unlock class 3 functionality, getting you up to 28mph with pedal assistance only.
If you do use the app, it lets you see how you rank against other Hovsco e-bike riders around you – though there don’t seem to be any in my area, or if there are they don’t use the app. Still, it’s a nice idea.
HovBeta and HovCity review: accessories
There’s a small number of bike accessories on Hovsco’s website, including a rear rack, front basket, fenders, extra batteries, chargers and tail lights. I tested the rear rack and basket for the HovBeta, and came away very impressed with their sturdy construction, and I liked how they connect to the frame, bolting directly into the top edge of the seat stays and head tube. The rear rack is particularly nice, and Hovsco says it’ll support up to a whopping 115 lbs. However, I don’t like the lack of standard bicycle brazon placement – brazons are the connection points that let you attach things to your bike – this means ordinary bike racks aren’t compatible with Hovsco’s bikes.
It also means you have to spend $89 each to buy racks and baskets from Hovsco or get less reliable clamping ones (that said, the company sometimes has promotions that include those accessories with the purchase of a new bike, which is worth looking out for). Their price is reasonable for the quality though, so you won’t be disappointed if you buy them.
The battery, as you might imagine, is probably the most expensive replacement part on the bike, and Hovsco’s LG and Samsung batteries aren’t even cheap by that measure. Its cheapest – the 36-volt, 15-amp battery used on the HovCity – retails for $399.99 on the site, while the 48-volt battery for the HovBeta comes in a 15-amp variant for $449.99 or a 20-amp one for $499.99. With batteries, I’d rather err on the side of expensive for safety reasons, so let’s hope the batteries measure up to Hovsco’s claims of 80% capacity after 1,000 charges.
HovBeta and HovCity review: design
I don’t think the HovBeta and HovCity are going to win any beauty contests, but they’re reasonably well-designed bikes. More importantly, both bikes feel very well-built at their core. The aluminum alloy frame is sturdy and the welds where the tubes join are mostly smoothed out, indicating more care than you might see with other, cheaper e-bikes.
The batteries are integrated into the frame, which is nice for a few reasons, among them being they’re not as easy to steal, particularly with the keyed locks on the side. I was worried about water ingress, but Hovsco says the bikes can withstand rain – I didn’t get a chance to test that claim, but at the very least I didn’t notice any water accumulation in the battery compartment from my rides on slushy post-snow streets.
It’s easier to get the battery in and out of the HovBeta as it has the mount on the top of the downtube, whereas the HovCity battery mounts on the underside. Thankfully, there’s a clip for holding it in place while you fumble for your keys to lock it in, so you don’t necessarily need to worry about locking it if you’d rather not.
Neither bike has a particularly aggressive stance. They both feel very upright, with handlebars close to you as you ride, prioritizing comfort over athleticism, and I think that makes them ideal for commuters. I speak from experience when I say a more aggressive riding position can be hell on your shoulders, wrists, neck and back after a few years of daily commuting, whereas riding hard enough to negate the pressure that causes those problems can still be as bad for your knees and hips without a proper-fitting bike (and even with).
Thankfully, the included padded saddles are nice and wide, making for a comfortable ride. There’s even a little bar for attaching a small bike seat bag if you want, at least on the HovBeta’s saddle.
Should you buy the Hovsco HovBeta folding e-bike?
✅ You like fat tire bikes
✅ You want a torque sensor motor for less money
✅ You’re going to swap in different components anyway
❌ You don’t want a heavy bike
❌ You prefer an aggressive ride position
❌ You like technical trail riding
Should you buy the Hovsco HovCity e-bike?
✅ You want a quality e-bike for less than $1,500
✅ You primarily use the throttle or don’t mind normal cadence sensors
✅ You want a lighter e-bike
❌ You need a more powerful motor
❌ You want brand-name stock components out of the box
❌ A cumbersome battery mount is a deal breaker
Published: February 16, 2023
Updated: February 19, 2023