NOKO: You have surely heard of this new brand, that this year has entered strongly into the e-mobility and e-gravel sector with very interesting proposals. Before telling you about the e-Gravel bike that they kindly provided us for a two-month-long test, we want to share the link to their website so you can discover all the details regarding NOKO’s world!
Once I unboxed the package, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that NOKOVULCANO is already assembled and supplied with everything! Just get the e-bike out of the box, loosen the screws of the stem, and align the handlebars. That’s it, you are ready to go! Further note: the pedals are also provided, in case you do not have them; this little detail allows you to have everything, absolutely everything, to leave instantly!
Unboxing NOKO is really quick and easy! The rider does not have to worry about any special assemblies. Customizations are quick and easy, and even the savviest riders can have fun customizing their NOKO (tubeless kit, etc.) even afterward so that the rider can enjoy the first ride exactly 10 minutes after receiving the e-bike. Great idea!
Definitely a coincidence but once on the e-bike the saddle’s height was already perfect for me, so I never felt the need to change the excursion of the seat tube, and I found the right setting instantly on the Prologo Akero AGX saddle; to be emphasized immediately that it was very comfortable, even during the journey at the limit of battery life (those declared 100 km). In this regard, the standard Prologo bar tape is comfortable and well made.
The handlebar for NOKOVULCANO has interesting geometries, in the attack position the rider’s weight is projected forward but not too much, and it transmits great confidence and great control. It takes very little effort to give fast and accurate changes of direction.
Our first ride was also the right time to become familiar with the luminous information that reports to the rider about the assistance levels and remaining battery. The NOKOVULCANO is characterized by a minimal and very clean design that also can be observed in the power-on button of the FSA system, which acts as a warning light to view the assistance level selected and the remaining battery level, all in the same button.
By holding down the button, the NOKOVULCANO hub motor turns on: if the light is steady green we have both the lowest assistance level (ECO) and also an indication that the battery level is between 100% and 80%.
By pressing the button, it switches to ever-increasing levels of assistance which modify the torque released (and therefore available) by the FSA motor towards the rider. There are 5 levels: Green, Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Red (maximum power and greater battery consumption). Similarly, from Green to Red, information on battery life is provided. Every couple of seconds there is a flash of light that reminds the rider how much battery is left, while the steady light always indicates the level of assistance chosen.
Before continuing with the test report a dutiful NOTE is required: The NOKOVULCANO we tested was equipped with “prototype” components, Shimano Dura Ace brakes with 160 mm discs, and a totally prototype transmission with Shimano GRX single-crown crankset and Shimano SLX 11s sprocket set, strictly MTB derivation; the rear derailleur is also a Shimano, GRX group.
This configuration is certainly not a factor that will make a lot of leverage on the test result, because we have been chosen to test a preview of these components, in order to analyze the goodness of the choice and the response of the components in stressful conditions to which the whole NOKOVULCANO was subjected to. Currently, the NOKOVULCANO in its standard configuration is assembled with SRAM APEX 1 groupset, with 11-36 sprocket set, 42t front crown, and 160mm rotors.
Back to the test report, we immediately turned on the NOKOVULCANO and tested the response of the motor in Green and Blue assistance. Very smooth motor with a soft engagement and a manageable delay in multiplying the pedal stroke, which is better than many other motors on the market. All this is made possible thanks to the torque sensor integrated into the hub, unique to its kind.
Already in the phase of transfers in a plain area, with a good workout, you can use the blue assistance level which makes for a soft-pedaling feeling and the on-off effect is practically absent. Talking about the on-off effect, when the 25 km/h are exceeded, you do not notice the usual hit-the-wall effect of the motor when detaching the assistance, and the dragging of the rotary elements, bearings, etc…it’s really minimal. Returning to the assistance mode is just as “gentle” without giving the rider any feeling of being tugged.
Coming back from the shakedown phase, several sensations came to mind: the frame seems super reactive; the brakes needed a further running-in phase because they were not giving yet their maximum performance; the motor is worth discovering; the Vision wheels seemed like blades, and above all even on the cobblestones or on dirt roads we had not felt sensations of high vibrations. At the end of the first laps, we had so many doubts and a great desire to discover…we just have to tell you what we discovered by taking this NOKOVULCANO to the limit!!
UPHILL DRIVING TEST
One of the outings included combining long-distance and a hill with a 20% peak gradient climb, to analyze the ease of handling both electric and rider energies, as well as managing the mechanical shifting and assistance, in the toughest stages!
The secret to the efficiency of NOKOVULCANO when climbing is definitely due to the great setting of the FSA motor. It allows you to maintain a round pedaling with homogeneous and continuous assistance. All this allows the rider to use not too low gears and maintain great traction. The uphill setting is like a real summit charge bike. Just get out of the saddle and push on the pedals, to climb curve after curve.
In the event of a long ride, you can also remain seated and take advantage of a higher assistance level to have more comfort. On dirt roads, the pedaling roundness and the absence of unexpected tears allow the rider to be effective, focusing on the obstacle, as if it were just the rider and the e-bike without the motor, all to the advantage of riding pleasure. Overcoming obstacles and roots with an e-bike with a response so homogeneous, with a precise but not nervous frame, allows you to have a feeling of pleasure in driving which, in the absence of suspension systems, is the purest and most primordial thing there can be. The true feeling of the dirt road!
DOWNHILL DRIVING TEST
We mentioned the great sensations at the first NOKOVULCANO shakedown. For this reason, we decided to break the rules and try the NOKO e-bike in extreme conditions. Fast single tracks typically rode in MTB, jumps (we really jumped), drops of small entities, fast flat corners, a mix of everything of what in general can be found on typical MTB terrain. We knew the frame would respond really well. Obviously, you have to put in a lot of driving techniques, change some habits and make adjustments, especially during jumps.
But NOKO did not bat an eyelid, on the contrary, the wheels held up well to the stresses and landings, as well as the frame which has an impressive capacity to absorb shocks and impacts that can only be truly appreciated by driving it.
After two outings of 50 km each, the brakes entered their optimum operating window with the rear brake even more performing than the front. To emphasize the great feeling of Vittoria’s tires, which give the rider an elevated feeling from the very first outings, excellent grip when exiting corners and during the journey, with an incredible ability to be effective both on paved and dirt roads. Despite being for DRY terrain, even in wet conditions, the Vittoria wheels defend themselves well, as they are very predictable they never put the tester/rider in crisis. A great choice by NOKO’s technicians.
In the perspective of a 2.0 version of the NOKOVULCANO, we did recommend the possibility of including a telescopic seatpost in order to apply, of a great deal, the racing character of the frame, increasing the maneuvering space and the possibility of getting out of the saddle on a steep trail, allowing the rider to shift his weight towards the rear, and thus avoid dangerous overturning.
BATTERY TEST/LONG DISTANCE TEST
The main objective was to verify the declared 100 km. We can confirm that with assistance level 2 (Blue) it is possible to cover the declared range of action of 100 km, considering a 250Wh battery, an exceptional combination of performance and power consumption, thanks to the FSA hub with great torque
Asking for more in terms of assistance it’s easy to reduce the range to 70km or 60km, but we’ve really pushed the limits in terms of torque and motor assistance.
The battery is also a crucial point in terms of design cleanliness and its effectiveness allows to reduce its size, and therefore its encumbrance. Combined with high smoothness, with this mix, it is possible to have a great package in terms of driving pleasure and mileage.
A full charge takes 4 hours, as declared, with a practical and compact charger; the excellent insulation system protects the charging port when crossing fords, in case of rain or water, in general, that could dangerously reach the connector area.
ACTION! HOW FAR CAN NOKOVULCANO GO?
At the end of the test, the conclusions that we draw about NOKOVULCANO are: a frame with a great feeling, generous and that does not put the rider in crisis, on the contrary, it immediately allows you to find driveability and comfort over long distances, even at high speeds. A versatile e-bike that can be used in an urban context, on the road in a mixed context, or on many trails typically designated for classic MTB.
Management is careful on the electrical part, with a set-up and a “dialogue” between motor and battery almost as a reference. The transmission, although experimental, has kept the stress well and with further improvements and refinements, it can enter, by right, into the technical specifications of the subsequent models, maintaining a good compromise between transmitted power and overall weight.
The keywords in this test are discovery and fun. An e-gravel that pushes you to give more and more, to discover new limits, to go even further, and not fear almost any type of ride. The motor is very “human-power-feeling”, a term that we feel we can coin, interacts naturally with the power that the rider requires, and is in harmony with the cadence. We talked about “primordial energy” and it is the concept that sums up the NOKOVULCANO, manageable power but that makes you go back to the origins of off-roading: have fun, go fast, go far, get out of the saddle uphill and have a lot of “fun riding” downhill; with the right technique, flat corners, jumps and drops are exploited (all related to the type of e-bike). It is not an enduro MTB, of course, but to be an e-gravel – and an e-gravel from a newborn brand – it knows how to have its say, and it can be a nuisance to many models of the “big” in the sector.
The price is premium, but in line with the market, and commensurate with the care and manufacturing quality.
As for the weight, speaking of the configuration tested, a weight of 15.2 kg without pedals was detected! As anticipated, the weight is well distributed even with the solution of the motor in the hub and allows the NOKOVULCANO to maintain a marked agility and lightning-fast reaction times when changing direction.
Stay tuned since we will make other important tests of the NOKO e-bikes, in terms of research and development. Therefore, as always, stay connected on mtbworkshop.com for all the updates, tests, and news on the world of mountain biking at 360 °!