Beginning with the good, we found the bike generally comfortable to ride. The saddle and ergonomic grips made the upright riding position feel relaxed and enjoyable. At 5’-11”, I could tell that I was nearing the high end of the bike’s accommodation range of 4’-11” to 6’-3”, as my hand position seemed somewhat low and my legs were not as extended as I usually prefer. Taller riders may want to take note, but those of shorter-to-average height should feel right at home.
The Ranger felt more nimble than we expected based on our prior experiences with cargo e-bikes. This made more sense when digging into the bike’s geometry; at 47” or 1194mm, its wheelbase is shorter than that of similar bikes we have reviewed, all of which were well over 1200mm. The difference in dimensions is relatively small, but the effect on the bike’s handling was noticeable.
While the shorter wheelbase has the side effect of reducing the size of the cargo rack, I personally think the tradeoff for improved handling is worthwhile. Many other cargo e-bikes I have tested felt long and awkward to ride without added cargo, but the Ranger behaved and responded much like a shorter utility e-bike.
The Ranger’s total payload capacity is 350 lbs – which is slightly below what we commonly see (400 lbs seems to be the norm for a full-size cargo hauler) – but still quite practical. The bike includes bamboo foot/running boards to make it possible to carry passengers, and while two kids may feel slightly cramped, the Fence accessory should help to keep little ones contained. The brand also offers a front and rear basket to hold groceries, gear bags, or anything else.
It was great to see the included running boards, though prospective owners should be aware that we found it necessary to remove these components along with the rear fender when taking off the rear wheel to change a flat. With the right tools, the task was simple enough, though it is not something we’d prefer to do on the side of the road.
We liked the overall power and responsiveness of the motor; the bike could feel punchy when increasing PAS levels but was generally more reserved. With a cadence sensor, the motor activated and re-engaged in roughly ½ turn of the cranks, which we feel is good for a bike in this price range. When traveling on flat ground with no added weight, the bike did ghost pedal in its mid-to-high range of settings, though this was improved on hills and when carrying cargo.
One element we’d like to see changed, however, is the motor’s engagement on the top end of the bike’s speeds. When riding in PAS 5 at the 20 mph Class 2 limit (19.9 mph as shown in our Speed Test above), the ride became somewhat jerky as the motor turned off and on to maintain but not exceed its top speed. The experience could be somewhat jarring, so we would suggest that KBO examine the cause and find a solution to smooth out the ride.
While we liked the bike’s overall maneuverability, one portion of its handling also had some room for improvement. When testing the bike, I experienced a noticeable amount of frame flex around the bottom bracket area that led to a “slippery” feeling when cornering. When comparing the Ranger’s frame design to similar e-bikes, it seems to lack some larger structural members to stiffen the junction of the seat tube, down tube, and chain stays. Again, we encourage KBO to consider making changes for added stability.
Otherwise, we liked the 20”x3” CST street tires. They provided a good balance between stability and maneuverability without the added weight of wider 4” tires. The rigid fork may initially appear to be a downside to some riders, but we have found the absence of a suspension to be a benefit for improved handling when carrying cargo.
The simplicity and straightforwardness of the bike’s cockpit layout was also appreciated. With a twist throttle and over-the-bar thumb shifter on the right bar and a small control panel on the left, the Ranger was easy to operate.
Ultimately, while there is certainly room for improvement, the KBO Ranger does many things correctly. It was a fun bike overall, so we hope that KBO continues to upgrade some areas to make the foundation even stronger.