ProSa

New Member
Region
USA
My name is Steven and I live in Michigan. I’m 6ft tall, 200lbs and in my mid 50’s. I also keep pretty busy and consider myself somewhat athletic.

My ebike journey:
I originally was looking at purchasing the Zen Samurai but it didn’t have a throttle and I wasn’t sure I would want an ebike that I couldn’t ride like a “motorcycle“ if I felt the desire. 😎 Ravi convinced me that the Photon would fit my “wish-list”: a bike capable of 28+MPH, a throttle, hydraulic brakes, integrated lights with a brake light, fenders, a rack (2 of them!) and preferably under 65lbs. I like to go fast and I wanted a quiet ride as I live close to a state park and enjoy getting up early and riding into the park to see the wildlife. I was told that the motor is really quiet and the bike was just under 70lbs. I had never ridden an ebike with a belt drive or anything with internal gear hubs like Enviolo and I really liked the idea! I was a bit hesitant as my wife and I travel a bit and we do bring our bikes with us but the Photon being at 70lbs, that was right at my limit for lifting it into my truck.

To put things in perspective I had owned 3 Ebikes previous to this; an Aventon Level hub drive with a cadence sensor which I thought was cool as hell when I got it… until I rode a torque sensor bike. I sold the Level and bought a Bolton Blackbird. The Blackbird is a super fast 52V 1000W hub drive system capable of low to mid 30’s top speed with an inverted fork and all the other “wish-list” goodies as described before. It was a blast to ride but it is a BIG, tall bike. After 6 months it got old trying to get on and off of it easily. It was at this time that I came across a “deal” I couldn’t refuse; a Trek class 1 ebike at a great price that was hardly used. I sold my Blackbird almost immediately as the Trek is so quiet and smooth and pretty much indistinguishable from a non-motorized bike. There were a couple things I was missing though; the top speed (Class 1, Trek cuts off at 20), no throttle and no brake light. BUT (that’s a big “BUT”) the Trek is under 55lbs! That’s a big difference from the Aventon and the Bolton... so much easier to maneuver and load/unload.

I found that after a few months that I was really missing the top end speed so I restarted my search for the “perfect” ebike which led me to Zen…



My Zen journey:
Like I stated previously, I started out looking at the Zen Samurai. I really liked the looks and specs of the Samurai but there was one thing missing, no throttle. I’d like one but no biggie if I can get the top speed and keep the weight down. After discussing this with Ravi he brought up a new bike they had just released, the Photon. It hit everything on my wish-list and then some except for the weight. But if I remove the battery I should be good. I decided that even though the price was above my budget (I really wanted to stay under 3k) it was worth the extras and placed the order in August, 2023.

I took delivery of the Photon Sept 20, 2023. It went together pretty easily and I was ready to ride after charging the battery. There was a minor issue initially with the internal gear that was easily rectified with a phone call to support. In fact I’ve had to use the support line a couple times and they were GREAT! I wish all companies were this responsive. And Ravi will always make himself available if needed! 👍

My initial few rides were under 10 miles. I’ll describe the bike as “smooth power”. It’s a delight to ride. The suspension and suspension seat-post do a nice job smoothing everything out. The belt drive and Enviolo hub are really cool. Honestly for me the old fashioned chain was never an issue but I do have to say that this is the way to go! I do like the step through as I’m not getting any younger but I don’t care for the looks… the extra thick step-through tube screams “look ma, I’m an ebike“ to me. I prefer the stealth look but that’s just me. I do think it looks cool for what it is. Unfortunately I was only able to put about 100 miles on before the snow came so my review is somewhat limited.

Overall I think it’s a fantastic ebike but there are a few things that I’m not exactly thrilled with...

First off; the weight. It’s not entirely true that the bike is under 70lbs as I was told. Once you add the front rack and add a rear bag with the few essentials it tips the scales at around 80lbs! Ouch. I know that seems to be close to the weight of other e-bikes but I was thinking that if I remove the battery it will be manageable. Well, barely and I don’t look forward to it. In fact there have been a few times that I’ve taken the Trek over the Photon when traveling… that wasn’t my initial intention.

Also the motor is a bit noisier than I had anticipated. I suppose the 52V 500W high torque motor is going to make noise but I was lead to believe that it was barely audible. The fact is that I hear it at any speed. I don’t think I’ll be sneaking up on a deer or fox too easily with this bike.

Third and last; the throttle. While it works, it is anemic. When starting from 0 you might as well make a sandwich as you’ll have enough time before you hit 20mph. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but my wife’s $1000 bike with a hub motor kicks my ass using the throttle only. In fact every other hub motor ebike with a throttle smokes me.

If you’re ok with the slightly negative things that I mentioned you can’t go wrong with the Photon. And I didn’t even mention the range and battery technology! Ravi and his team are cutting edge and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again.

All and all the Zen Photon is a GREAT ebike with a few caveats... I guess you can’t have EVERYTHING 🤣.
 
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Good to know about the weight and throttle, thanks. I hope you have a great biking season!
 
Thanks for reviewing the bike and sharing your thoughts on the bike and our support. We greatly appreciate it.
The throttle response has been consciously kept at the 10-15A current range to encourage people to pedal more. There is another reason for it. Since this bike has a mid-drive paired with a belt drive and internal gear hub, if anyone guns the throttle in the wrong gear, it could lead to overheating of the controller.
Our hub-drive Photon Pure has a more powerful throttle response, and geared hub motors are generally stronger in that department.

For those who like a lighter bike, we are actually building a Photon Pro Lite with a Bafang M410 motor, a 3-speed automatic gear hub, and a lighter battery. This bike will be approx 21kgs as opposed to 32+ kgs of Photon Pro.

The Photon Pro was designed to offer the highest range and excellent pedal assist with an option for throttle.
 
Thanks for reviewing the bike and sharing your thoughts on the bike and our support. We greatly appreciate it.
The throttle response has been consciously kept at the 10-15A current range to encourage people to pedal more. There is another reason for it. Since this bike has a mid-drive paired with a belt drive and internal gear hub, if anyone guns the throttle in the wrong gear, it could lead to overheating of the controller.
Our hub-drive Photon Pure has a more powerful throttle response, and geared hub motors are generally stronger in that department.

For those who like a lighter bike, we are actually building a Photon Pro Lite with a Bafang M410 motor, a 3-speed automatic gear hub, and a lighter battery. This bike will be approx 21kgs as opposed to 32+ kgs of Photon Pro.

The Photon Pro was designed to offer the highest range and excellent pedal assist with an option for throttle.
Ravi, do you have any pictures or more specs for that Photon Pro Lite? Any idea on the price or when you will be releasing it? The Lite may be more up my alley than the Pro. It's been hard to find a mid-drive, IGH, and carbon belt with throttle.
 
Great review. Ordered mine and cannot wait to get it.
I'm not too concerned about the weigh, but the noise may be an issue. I guess that's just the price to pay for a powerful motor.
Maybe future iteration gives us Brose motor as a choice. Those are pretty much silent.
 
@ProSa, what do you think of the display?
My wife hates hers'
She says it's very hard to read on a sunny day.
Zen does have a better display in the works and she'll definitely buy one to replace the one she has.
 
I haven’t had any real issues. I know wearing polarized sunglasses doesn’t help. I’m wondering if a quick fix would be to buy a non-reflective screensaver and cut it to fit the display???
 
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