Review: SWFT’s BMX Ebike Finally Brings The Juice To A Cycling Icon
I began my bicycling career at age four in the 1970s, shakily piloting a ratty kids bike down the driveway at first and then around the neighborhood with friends, same as many of you.
But when I turned 10, I went to a police auction of recovered bikes with my dad (who had pledged to meet me halfway on cost) to hopefully score an example of the hottest bike a kid could ride in those days: a BMX bike. Mission accomplished: I outbid everyone in the place for a chromoly-framed Mongoose of indeterminate model for the princely sum of $22. Dad held up his end of the bargain with a wink and parted with $11, freeing up my cash (I had saved up about $40) for some improvements as the bike needed proper BMX handlebars, a tuneup and a new seat.
Properly fettled, I rode that Mongoose for years, and it was my first taste of wheeled freedom as my parents slowly played out the leash on where I could go and for how long, provided I stay out of trouble (that they knew of). Being in the local unofficial BMX club introduced me to all kinds of new activities, and countless colorful characters. It was a great part of growing up.
But my most enduring impression of that shining Mongoose was just how tough it was. Unlike the flexible flyer of the bike I had before that seemed to need near-constant care, the Mongoose endured endless jumps, crashes, wheelies and even submersion in a local pool (don’t ask) without complaint. I kept the chain oiled and tires inflated, and that was about it. I literally could not break it.
But going into high school, the Mongoose sat still ever more in the garage, especially after I got a driver’s license. Eventually I sold it to a neighborhood kid for $50, likely my first successful vehicle flip. From there, it was on to 10-speed road bikes, then mountain bikes, and eventually, the verboten motorcycles when I escaped home to attend college. Hope forward a few years (er, decades), and ebikes are suddenly the rage, spurred on by a perfect storm of technological cycling fusion, the pandemic, and advances in battery technology.
Ebikes, as you are likely aware, now come in every shape and size – including some innovative new ones – but until recently, I had not seen a true-to-form electric BMX bike, although Juiced Bikes’ RipRacer comes pretty close (and is a very fun bike). Just before Christmas, I was contacted by SWFT, an ebike maker that issued one of the first really sharp single-speed electrified urban roadsters, called the Volt, that I had seen. Sleek, slim and fast, the Volt was fun to ride and remains a category standout. Now, they had a real-deal electric BMX bike, and would I like to give it a go? To be honest, my BMX days were long behind me, and I felt I should pass. But I have a teenage son who likes to ride (mostly mountain bikes), so hey, why not?
Kickstands can get you teased by the cool kids, thankfully it can be removed. Overall, the SWFT BMX … [+] looks just right.
The $999 SWFT BMX ebike is a curious creature. From a distance, it’s hard to tell it’s an ebike at all, much like its Volt sibling. It certainly looks the part, with that squashed frame geometry like my old Mongoose, except in a more sinister black. A small 350-Watt motor hides in the rear hub, and there is just one gear, as it should be.
Rear end is busy with pegs, hub motor, and a proper single-speed setup.
The bars are correct (nothing to buy!), the pedals are modern, and instead of a coaster brake like my old ‘goose, a cable-operated rear disc brake easily locks the rear wheel for those sliding skid stops. It rides on 20-inch spoked wheels shod in street-tread tires, and a battery that gives a stated 18.6 miles of range is in the slim lower downtube of the tubular steel frame. Looks good, is good.
Small backlit LCD keeps it simple but informative.
But unlike those bikes of yore, the e-BMX has a few ebike features that stand out, including a twist throttle for free-wheeling without pedaling up to 20 miles an hour, a small LCD display and controller buttons on the left handlebar, and two very bright LED headlights in a small housing attached to the front of the frame.
Standard two-beam headlight is very bright.
The 39-pound BMX also includes four metal stunting pegs for the wheels. There is no tail light, but it does come with a kickstand (immediately removed as I didn’t want to be shamed by the other BMX kids).
Back in the day, BMX racing, wheelies, jumping over garbage cans, your friends’ bikes or brave local kids (not advised) was a thing; today, BMX riders perform physics-defying tricks off vert ramps and all else, spinning their bodies and bikes like whirling dervishes. Because the SWFT BMX has brake and throttle cables, bar-spinning tricks are not in its repertoire, but hang time and other fun stunts certainly are.
Still fun after all these years, BMX bikes combine toughness with simplicity. Luckily, the SWFT … [+] electric version keeps this core value.
As noted, my teenage football-playing son, now 5 foot 10 and bench-pressing more than I ever could, took to the SWFT BMX first. On a weekend at the local high school, he rallied it around the grounds, catching small air off some berms and going from concrete to ball field turf to baseball diamond dirt. It was the depths of an Oregon winter, so it was cold and damp, but that didn’t seem to diminish the fun factor. He buzzed around on throttle alone, and played with the pedal assist levels. Finally, after I took some of the photos seen here, he hopped off. “Your turn,” he said with a grin.
I put on a full-face adventure motorcycle helmet (I’ve had a few bad crashes) and raised the seat just enough to be useful (lower is cooler, FYI) and set out. I was expecting a time warp to open and suck me back into the halcyon days of my BMX-crazed youth, but instead it just started raining harder. Still, some of those old impulses returned. Slide skid? Smooth as silk. Curb hop? Still got it, albeit at a lower altitude. Wheelie? Eh, not so much. And why did I have this sudden urge to get a Coke/Mountain Dew/Dr Pepper Big Gulp at the 7-Eleven? Some things are better left in the past.
But the most fun part was the BMX ebike option. Back in the day, I used to ride to the top of the tallest hills I could access in Portland and then tuck into the wind as I sped down the grade, imagining myself aboard my own motorcycle. Now, it was just a turn of the the BMX’s right grip, and off I went, 7-Eleven beckoning in the distance. Off the throttle, the BMX kicks in some help as I pedal; how awesome that would have been as a kid. Hey, it’s still pretty cool as an adult kid.
At first I was a little freaked out not having a front brake, but my Mongoose didn’t either and I don’t recall running into anything. Plus, the rear disc is huge improvement in braking power over that old coaster brake, and it looks pretty trick as well against the contrasting black hub and frame. Sweet, dude. And those LED headlights? Hella bright. We had nothing like them back then. I think I taped a flashlight to my Mongoose’s frame at some point in a DIY attempt to have some after-dark safety. That was then.
I rode the SWFT BMX a few more times before some other ebikes arrived for review, and my boy took it out a few times as well. It’s still fun, but as we all know, things change. BMXville is a nice place to visit, but I don’t live there anymore. But it is great to see SWFT make this bike, and to watch those crazy kids do the unthinkable (over and over) at the X-Games and even the local skate park. Hopefully, the SWFT electrified BMX finds its way in the hearts of new riders, it certainly seems as tough and fun as my old Mongoose, with a little extra sumthin’ thanks to modern technology. If you’re a young rider – or still a kid at heart – I recommend it wholeheartedly.