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There is a conundrum to solve at the heart of designing folding e-bikes, which is that slapping a heavy battery on a bike that’s meant to be as portable as possible is counterproductive. This means you often end up with folding e-bikes that strap on lighter, weaker batteries which give a tiny range of around 20km, so they have to be recharged most nights to avoid running out of juice mid-commute.
Pedibal has leaned towards the other extreme with the Navigata. It is a chunky beast at 19kg, which makes it impractical to carry around for long even when folded. It can be folded into a position where you can wheel it along by the saddle, although if you’re going to roll it you almost might as well leave it unfolded and push it along unless you’re navigating a crowded train platform.
That said, I still think Pedibal made the right call by accepting the extra weight of a bigger battery, because the range on the Navigata is one of its biggest selling points.
Even when moving up and down between the levels of assist regularly, I found I could get through 45-50km without battery concerns. As with all e-bikes, you have to be a little wary of relying too much on the battery indicator, which drops sharply when the motor really kicks in as you ride up a hill before gradually refilling when you’re back on the flat – but unless you spend the whole time in the top level of assist you’ll probably make it through a week of commuting with only one charge required.
It takes around five hours to charge the battery, and there is a handy USB port on the Navigata if you want to charge your phone or whatever else from the battery in an emergency.
Although this wasn’t available on the bike I tested, the Navigata does have a front light that’s powered by the battery, but not a back light. This is presumably because a back light would get in the way of folding it up, but the Volt Metro – another folding e-bike we’ve reviewed – did manage to have both lights, which is a very useful feature.
Of the Navigata’s five levels of assist, I’d say most riders will never use level one and even level two doesn’t provide enough support to bother with. I tried a commute in level two alone and it felt like I was moving in slow motion. The sweet spot for general riding is level three, or four if you hit a hill.
The motor on the Navigata kicks in smoothly when you start pedalling so you’re not bucked off your seat, and although it’s not immediate when you turn the pedals, the assist does arrive fast enough that you don’t hold anyone up at traffic lights.
The ride is as comfortable as you can expect from any folding bike, which is not all that comfortable. But this is a bike designed primarily for short rides under 10km and you’ll breeze through those merrily enough.
The Navigata is easy to fold, and built-in magnets hold it in place when folded, making it easy to store even in a small flat. Style is always a matter of opinion, and mine is that the Navigata is not especially good-looking in either white or black. You may well disagree.
The Navigata is a solid all-round option for commuting, and considering its price of £999, it offers excellent value compared with other options on the market. Even ignoring the very expensive forthcoming Brompton Electric (£2,500 and up), the Navigata is cheaper than most similar e-bikes – including the Volt Metro (£1,299) – and it’s not because Pedibal has skimped on parts or features. The Navigata has Shimano gears, disc brakes, solid-puncture resistant tyres and an excellent range. If you’re after a leccy-powered folding bike with a good range, you should have no concerns about opting for a bargain in the Navigata.
£999, pre-order on pedibal.com
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.