I thought e-bikes were a gimmick, but the $1,350 Schwinn Monroe has changed my mind — here’s what it’s like to ride

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Amazon

For the longest time, I was hesitant to test an electric bike.

For one, I didn’t like the term “e-bike.” It sounded gimmicky, like how everything these days is “smart.” I also ride bikes for exercise – why would I ride one that does all the work for me, and still doesn’t help get rid of my gut?

So, it was with much trepidation that I tried the Schwinn Monroe Single-Speed Electric Bike ahead of its Amazon Prime Day launch on June 15. And I gotta say – I’m a convert. I had a blast on the e-bike, and it only made me as lazy as I wanted to be.

Keep reading to learn what caused me to change my mind.

Specs

Schwinn e bke 2

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Amazon

The Schwinn Monroe 250 gets the “250” in its name from how many watts the hub drive puts out. I thought it was enough for me and my lifestyle, but there are models from other brands with 500 watts should you need more power.

The bike comes in three sizes – small for individuals between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-8, medium for 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10, and large for 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-3. Currently, it’s only available in black with mint lettering and orange accents.

The bike also comes with a battery charger, which you can plug into your wall. You just use the included key to release the battery, then plug the charger into the battery and the wall.

Here are some of the most important specs:

  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Frame sizes: 54 centimeters (small), 56 cm (medium), 58 cm (large)
  • Brakes: Tektro mechanical disc with motor cutoff levers
  • Tires: 35 millimeters wide with Rhino Skin puncture protection
  • Wheels: 700c/27.5-inch
  • Weight: about 45 pounds
  • Assist speeds: 5, or you can choose not to have any assistance

Set-up process

I’ve tried putting bicycles together on my own before, and I’m good at putting the bigger pieces together correctly. For example, I can attach the handlebars, wheels, pedals, and so forth. But I do have trouble with the fine-tuning, which is pretty important. That’s when I turn to my favorite local bike shop – Spin Bicycle Shop in Lansing, Michigan. For $70, they put my Schwinn together and offered to make any tweaks after I rode the bike for a little bit.

Amazon offers bike assembly services depending on your area. Where I live, the cost is $94.99. If that sounds a bit steep or you’d prefer to choose who puts your bike together, consider coordinating with a local shop to have your bike sent directly to it for assembly.

But, of course, if you’re particularly adept at bike assembly – I’m clearly not – you might want to give it a shot yourself and save a few bucks. Keep in mind though you might be on your own since your bike probably won’t come with instructions – at least mine didn’t.

What makes the e-bike stand out

Schwinn e bike 3

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Amazon

When buying a bike, it’s important that it fits you correctly.

I didn’t have the opportunity to try out the Monroe before it arrived so I was going on faith. I was also sent the medium frame version, which was slightly small for me, but fortunately, the build ended up being just right for how I like to ride.

My review bike didn’t come with a user manual so I had to play around with the bike for about five minutes before I figured out how it worked. Basically, the bike turns on once you hold down the power button for a couple of seconds, and the key is meant to release the battery for easier charging – not for ignition.

When I finally rode the bike, I discovered that I couldn’t be completely lazy. You can’t just sit on the bike and have it zoom you around town – you actually have to pedal to engage the electric motor.

There are five speeds that you can adjust on the thumb pad controller by the left handle. The LED display shows you how much assistance you’re getting and how much battery is left. When you want to stop, just squeeze the brake levers and the motor is cut off.

At first, I was nervous about the bike going 20 miles an hour. On my long rides on a hybrid bike, I averaged 15 mph, but once I got going, I realized that 20 mph isn’t a big deal. And similar to how you can change gears on a multi-speed bike, you can choose how much the motor assists you too. If you’re having trouble going up a hill, you can choose more assistance to maintain your speed.

When I pedaled hard, the bike was able to get up to 20 mph in about 10 seconds on smooth, flat surfaces. Going up hills though, it would max out at about 15 mph. Lighter people might be able to get it going a bit faster – I weigh 250 pounds for context.

Despite my weight and the strain it put on the motor, I found that the bike really does have a 45-mile range on a single charge. I didn’t have a chance to precisely time how long the battery takes to charge from empty, but it recharged completely overnight or during a full workday.

Cons to consider

As mentioned above, you have to pedal to engage the electric assistance though you don’t have to pedal much to approach max speeds. Nonetheless, I wish there was a way to zip around town without having to pedal at all – I get lazy sometimes.

The Monroe 250 is also quite heavy at nearly 45 pounds. For comparison, my main bike – the REI Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 – is bigger and weighs a little more than 30 pounds. The added weight makes the Monroe a pain to lug into our basement for storage. Fortunately, when riding, I can’t tell that it weighs more than my other bikes.

The e-bike doesn’t come with the accessories you’d typically want for commuting, such as fenders and racks. But e-bikes don’t tend to come with these extras anyway, so with its comparatively low price, you’ll have extra money to pick out the accessories you want.

The bottom line

Schwinn e bike 4

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Amazon

I really enjoyed testing out the Schwinn Monroe Single-Speed Electric Bike, and once this review is published, I’m going to ignore the emails from Pacific Cycle – Schwinn’s parent company – asking me to return it.

It was just so much fun to ride around. Even with 90-degree heat pounding down on me, I arrived at my destinations sweat-free, which is a real accomplishment for me since simply living usually leaves me drenched.

Should you buy it?

If you’re considering an e-bike, or any bike, we’d recommend taking it for a test drive first.

Fortunately, with many bikes sold by Amazon, there’s a 30-day return policy so you could potentially try it before fully committing. Regardless, I’m incredibly picky about what bikes I like and the Monroe 250 passed my tests. Plus, it’s more affordable compared to others that start at $2,000.

As I was riding the bike, I kept thinking that it’d be a great alternative for people who are sedentary but are trying to get into exercising – this is a good transition bike.

I also think it would be an ideal bike for commuters who have to ride over steep hills to and from work because it has different assistance gears that’ll prevent you from getting too sweaty. If either of the above scenarios sounds familiar, definitely consider picking up the Schwinn Monroe.

Which model should you get?

If you’re between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-8, get the small. If between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-10, try the medium. And if between 5-foot-11 and 6-foot-3, go with large.

At 6-feet tall, I found the medium was a little small for me, but it wasn’t horrible. If you’re on the cusp between sizes, I’d go with the smaller option.

What are your alternatives?

I don’t have much frame of reference for e-bikes since this is one of the first I’ve tried, but we’ve got a list of some of the best e-bikes if you’re looking for options. However, all of the e-bikes in the guide are more expensive than the Schwinn Monroe, and the one exception, the Propella Electric Bike, doesn’t have the range or speed of the Monroe.

Overall, I’m impressed with the Schwinn Monroe and think you will be too.

Pros: 45-mile range on a charge, speeds up to 20 miles per hour, adjustable electric assistance, attractive design, comfortable frame, relatively affordable, lifetime frame and fork warranty

Cons: Heavy, doesn’t come with many extras for commuting, only two-year warranty on the battery and electric-assisted parts

Buy the Schwinn Monroe Single-Speed Electric Bike on Amazon for $1,349 (originally $1,499)