Review of Leitner Berlin Cruiser Electric Bike

In September 2019 I purchased an e-bike online.

The make was Leitner, and the model was the Berlin Cruiser.

Here's the link:

Leitner is an online-only bike retailer, which feels a bit weird from a first-time customer perspective. It's a very lean operation. They have no physical stores, and no workshop service. Without these expensive overheads, it means that they can keep the cost of their e-bikes relatively low.

The bikes are made in China, flatpacked, and shipped to Leitner's depots in Australia. If you live near a depot you can arrange to pick you order up in person. This is what I did in the suburb of Dandenong, Victoria. Their website doesn't state where their other depots are. I assume they have one in Sydney, and maybe other Australian cities.

If you wish to try-before-you-buy, then the only way is to find a happy customer of Leitner near you who has kindly volunteered to help out. Leitner calls these people 'Ambassadors', and their contact details are (slightly cheekily!) listed on the 'Shops' page on their website:

At time of writing (August 2020) I am one of these ambassadors. Why? Three reasons:
  1. Another ambassador was kind enough to let me test-drive his Leitner e-bike.
  2. I like to "pay it forward".
  3. I like to help people to get out and about more, with the help of e-bikes.
Remember: ambassadors have no financial arrangement with Leitner. They're not paid commissions, and they're not professional sales people. Be nice to them, and they'll be nice to you!

Leitner's reviews on the Product Review website are excellent:

They're so excellent that it's easy to be suspicious that some of them are fake. But the more I read, the more I got the feeling that most, if not all, of them are genuine.

E-bikes are generally quite heavy beasts. Doubtless the weight (and price) will come down over time. But right now, unless you've got mega-bucks to spend, then you should expect your e-bike to weigh at least 20kg. (note: Leitner's newest 2020 model, the 700c, weighs just 17kg. More on that later). My Berlin Cruiser weighs in at 25kg with the electric battery, 22kg without.

What got me over the line to buy a Leitner bike online?

  1. The ambassador who let me ride his bike was genuinely enthusastic about his Leitner Dual Suspension Mountain Ebike.
  2. I believe that the reviews on the Product Review website are genuine.
  3. The budget e-bike being sold by my local physical bike store also weighed 25kg, but for double the price of the Berlin Cruiser.
Note that I decided to pay the extra (about $250) and get the 16Ah electric battery, instead of the default 10Ah electric battery. This increases the range of the bike from about 50km to about 80km on a full charge. I recommend that this is a smart investment, if you can afford it, for the obvious reason that it enables you to go on bigger trips without needing to re-charge it. Note that if you're cycling up and down lots of hills, i.e. leaning heavily on electric assistance on a trip, then the effective ranges will be reduced significantly (perhaps 35km & 60km?).

I rate myself as "averagely mechanical" when it comes to bike maintenance. Leitner's FAQ reassures you that it's relatively easy for a novice to self-assemble their new e-bike. I'm pleased to report that this is true. All the complex bits (gears, brakes, electrics) are pre-assembled for you. All you have to attach are the saddle, front wheel (quick release), front mudguard, handlebars, pedals, and (removable) battery.

That said, the printed manual isn't that great. It's one of the few areas that Leitner need to lift their game. I made a couple of silly errors during the assembly which added about 10-15 minutes to what would otherwise have been a 25'ish minute build time. I reckon could get that below 20 if I did again. 

I took the opportunity to take a time-lapse video of my self-assembly experience. Enjoy!

So how do I like my e-bike?

I love it! It's excellent fun. It flattens hills, and it makes cycling into a headwind a breeze (pun intended). The power/assistance level has 3 settings - low, medium and high - which you set on the left side handlebar. The assistance kicks in (not too aggressively!) after about 1.5 revolutions of your pedals. Applying the breaks, or stopping pedalling, cancels the assistance. Easy!

Bearing in mind I'm no bike expert, I consider the overall build quality to be good and solid. Even though Leitner bikes are priced at the budget end of the market, nothing about my bike feels cheap or flimsy.

The saddle wide and soft, which helps to take the edge off the lack of rear suspension. Me, I've never owned a bike with rear suspension, so perhaps I'd don't know what I'm missing? 😃

Ignoring for a moment the slight battery locking mechanism misalignment (see below), the removable battery slides in and out very easily. So it's a no-brainer to slide out your battery when you want to charge it.

Bearing in mind that Leitner don't have a sales showroom, or any workshop facility (and I'm sure don't intend to), you might be nervous that spare parts and servicing might be a problem. Don't be! It's a bicycle, and there are thousands of bicycle makes and models out there, new and old, electric and non-electric. I'm no expert, but I'm not aware of any single component of my Leitner bike that can't be easily replaced, or upgraded, by any run-of-the-mill bike repair shop. For example, the gears are Shimano, and the electric battery is Samsung, so it's clear that extremely popular brand name parts are being used. Unless you're keen to DIY, then just like any bike, I (and I'm sure Leitner) recommend getting your e-bike professionally serviced at least once a year at your local bike shop. I recently had the brakes on my e-bike professional serviced/adjusted at my local 99 Bikes shop, no problem at all.

I didn't buy it just for me. I bought it as a family bike. My wife and kids like riding it too. My youngest, aged 11, is fairly tall for her age, and is able to ride it easily with the saddle right down, and no other adjustments. Below is a photo of her and our e-bike on the highly recommended Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail.

The trail is approximately 40km one-way. I rode on my regular bike, and my daughter on the e-bike.

We'd planned to catch the public (hourly) bus back from Warburton to Lilydale, but couldn't quite fit the e-bike in the bus' storage compartment. (Note to self: take the front wheel off in advance, next time!). But hey, we had the 80km range battery, so back we rode, another 40km, no sweat! Actually, towards the end of the ride the battery was cutting in and out, and was flat as a pancake when we got back to our car.

What's not to like?

Not very much! Let's give it a go:
  1. The manual could be more user-friendly.
  2. There's a metal strip onto which you slide/mount the electric battery. On this metal strip is a small hole which aligns with the locking mechanism of the battery. There's a tiny design flaw where the hole in the metal strip doesn't perfectly align with the locking mechanism. I pointed this out to Leitner, they sent me a new metal strip, but it was exactly the same. Here are two workarounds:
    i. Use a rasp file (also known as a rat's tail) to make the hole a little bigger at the top (see the before and after photo below). OR
    ii. Break a matchstick in two and put the pieces at the base where the metal strip sits down against the frame.
  3. Getting a puncture in the rear tyre isn't fun. Unlike the front wheel, the rear wheel isn't quick release (but the correct spanner is of course included in the supplied toolkit). And you have to unplug the electric cable before you can remove the wheel. So it's all very fiddly getting the wheel off and back on again after you've repaired the puncture or replaced the inner tube. Therefore I invested $100 in a pair of highly puncture resistant tyres (Michelin Protek Cross Max) to replace the standard tyres, and replaced the inner tubes with more heavy duty ones. So far, so good! That said, Leitner might want to consider looking at tubeless tire options, maybe even as standard.
One more thing... there is a throttle on the right handlebar grip. In the default setting for the bike, you can use this throttle to power the bike forward up to a maximum of 6km/h, i.e. walking pace. This is just enough to provide welcome assistance when pushing your bike up a hill or a steep driveway. There is the option to convert the bike such that the electric assistance is 100% controlled by the throttle, and no longer associated with pedalling. It's just a matter of pulling apart two wires in the control box. I tried this for a week, but then reverted back to standard pedal-assisted mode. I prefer the "no-brainer" of the pedal-assisted mode, and feel that this is simpler for the rest of the family too.

Caution: removing the pedal-assisted mode might be illegal or restricted (for road use) in your jurisdiction, because you're basically converting your e-bike into a moped. More on that here

Final words

  1. Ironically, getting into e-biking has reignited my passion for non-e-biking! In February of 2020 I invested in a new "regular" mountain bike to replace my old faithful 23 year-old one. I love both!
  2. I *love* the look and specs of Leitner's latest model, the 700c. This came out in 2020. Unsurprisingly, and no doubt pandemic-assisted, it sold out rapidly. It's just 17kg (brilliant!), and I don't mind at all that the electric battery is internal, not external. So if the battery power runs out, it's not a tank of a bike to keep on riding, like my Berlin Cruiser is. I don't mind admitting that this is the e-bike I would have bought, if it had been available at the time. I predict that this bike will be wildly successful for Leitner. Congratulations!
  3. Get an e-bike. You'll 💖 it!

Below are the before and after photos for where I used a rasp file to increase the hole size at the top. Just a millimetre or two makes all the difference between the locking pin fitting, or not.


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