Just over a year ago, e-bike maker Aventon sent me their first Soltera model to review, and I liked the simple, lighter-weight, slim and affordable profile of the back-to-basics single-speed street machine. It was a sweet, agile, even retro-modern urban traffic splitter with just enough e-boost, and overall, was much more “bicycle” than “e-bike.”
Recently, I’ve been riding the second iteration of the Soltera, the $1,199 Soltera (dot) 2, or “Soltera.2” as Aventon calls it. Odd techno naming conventions aside, I’m happy to report that the newest Soltera retains the positive attributes of the original model while updating some… interesting design and component choices on the original and adding some new bits as well. Is it the perfect e-bike? Not quite, but for many riders looking for an e-bike that still strongly skews towards what cyclings purists call an “analog” pedal bike, it’s getting pretty close to an ideal mix of old-school cool and new-think mobility tech.
Aventon Soltera.2 Tech and Design
As noted, the original Soltera I reviewed last year was a single-speed, 350-Watt Class II hardtail e-bike with a thumb throttle, pedal assist and a very standard-looking dual-triangle aluminum frame. It even came with rim-stop brakes, or what we called “V-brakes” back in the day. They worked well enough (as long as it wasn’t raining), but Aventon also offered the original Soltera with a seven-speed gear set that came with mechanical disc brakes – but that’s not what I tested.
The new Soltera.2 picks up where that 7-speed version left off, and includes the mechanical disc brakes that far outshine the cool but less effective rim scrapers. The electrical power train and the removable battery pack remains the same at 36-volts and 9.6 Amp hours, with power flowing to a 350-Watt motor in the rear hub in concert with the Shimano 7-speed, which retains a bit of ‘90s charm by using a rotating grip shifter. There are four levels of assist (five if you count zero assist with the power system activated), but instead of a cadence sensor, the new Soltera uses a torque sensor to better dole out the electrons. Pedal harder, get more assist, and visa versa. It’s more efficient and also more transparent to the rider. Thus, range gets a small 5-mile boost to 46 miles under optimal conditions.
Aventon has been a leader in making e-bikes more visible on the street, and the Soltera.2 happily picks up their latest LED addition: turn signals. Daytime-visible yellow LEDs ride under the low-mounted dual rear brake lights and are activated by the left/right keys on the small left bar pad. Tap the button to cancel, or the signals self-cancel after 15 blinks. The red brake lights work all the time regardless of whether the light suite has been activated by the rider – but the bike must be booted up for them to work.
The headlight is Aventon’s usual excellent – and very tiny – handlebar-mounted LED that throws a tight beam of light from a small lens. And even though my review bike was painted in an invisible-at-night matte black, the slim but grippy Kenda 700mm tires featured reflective striping for excellent side visibility. A slim, road-bike style SelleRoyal saddle is standard.
A color LCD panel (above) shows speed, ride time, max speed, average speed, calories burned, carbon saved and a happy tree meter. A blue meter shows motor output graphically and a 5-segment battery meter includes a battery percentage display. A USB port is under the display for phone charging, and the brains of the bike includes Bluetooth connectivity to the Aventon app for more fine tuning (and speed limiting, if need be). So far, the display will not show GPS TBT prompts from a mapping app.
I requested a size Large model as I’m 6 foot 1, but Aventon offers the Soltera.2 in a “regular” size standard frame and both large and regular lower-step designs. Along with Matte Midnight Black, the Soltera.2 can also come in an appropriately retina-searing “Citrine” sunshine yellow. Racks and fenders are optional.
After 20 minutes of setup including placing the handlebars, front wheel and adjusting the seat using included tools, I charged up the battery to full and set out on my test route, a 20-ish mile mix of city streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, numerous hills and some curves both broad and technical. There’s also some unpaved sections of road for good measure.
Just to see how the bike feels as a “regular” bicycle, I always start my test rides with the assist set to “zero” if possible but the bike powered up and ready to assist as needed. At 46 pounds, the Soltera.2 is fairly light as e-bikes go, and fairly heavy as analog bikes go, but it’s easy to ride with no assist and for the first five miles in the flat, I kept the assist off while enjoying the turn signals and flow of stats on the color LCD panel. In the flat, pedaling along at 15mph was easy enough with the tires just below max pressure, and the Soltera.2 feels agile since there’s no suspension. As a “regular” bike, it works well. If riders ever run the battery completely out, the ride home will just be good exercise rather than an exercise in futility.
At the hill portion of my test route, I activated Eco mode as the incline began, and the power came on smoothly thanks to the torque sensor, with only a slight whir from the now activated hub motor. As the grade increased, I moved up through Tour, Sport and finally Turbo mode, which had me ascending a steep section at 15 mph with some relaxed pedaling – a solid clip. At one point I switched off the assist and dropped to low gear and stood on the pedals, and it was only here the bike’s heft became apparent as my progress slowed. Ticking the assist back in quickly solved that issue and at the top of the long ascent, the battery had only dropped to 84%.
On the descent, I again set assist to zero and quickly ratcheted up through the seven rear ratios as 25, 30 and finally 41 mph showed on the speedo, the wind howling in my ears. A series of broad turns bisect the downhill section, and the road is rough, so I eased on the brakes to scrub off speed. Braking power is very good and easily modulated, but the cable-actuated binders don’t have the better power or finer control of hydraulic units, and I made a mental note to adjust the front brake for less lever travel. I also reminded myself to remove the kickstand, which rattled over the road’s bumpy sections. No proper urban scalpel such as the Soltera.2 should have one anyway (in my opinion).
After another climb and descent and a quick brake, seat and bar controls adjustment, I felt I had the Soltera.2 dialed in for my size and riding style. Back in the flat, I ticked the assist to Turbo and eased on the throttle, and the Soltera.2 quietly whirred for several miles down the bike lane at a constant 20 mph, the motor effort meter hanging in the middle most of the time. Slight rises scrubbed off a couple MPH’s, but adding in just light pedaling quickly had it back to top (assist) speed.
In a technical section of turns, the Soltera.2 is lithe and neutral, and I found the Tour setting the best bet for adding in power with a minimum of abruptness as I moved from pedaling to coasting through the corners. Back home, the battery sat at 33% after two solid hours and 21 miles of mixed riding. It was the first of many fun rides as the warm Oregon summer waned.
I’ve been reviewing Aventon e-bikes for several years now and if anything, they are consistently good bikes that are capable, comfortable, solidly built and fun to ride. They don’t sport any high-profile name-brand componentry (save Shimano) and so far, rather than venturing into hyper-lightweight materials or unproven tech exotica, Aventon has remained focused on making reliable, affordable, well-built bikes that should last if taken care of. The Soltera.2 isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind with novel tech or flyweight numbers. It really just is what it is: a somewhat simple, somewhat lightweight, well-built urban e-bike that looks good, rides well and performs as expected. I enjoyed every ride I took on the Soltera.2, and appreciated the seven rear gears, excellent lighting, comfy ergos and solid build quality.
I’d like to see Aventon upgrade the brakes to hydraulic and maybe go with a bit flatter handlebar; the stock riser bar is a bit too close to the Aventon Pace commuter bike for my tastes. Since Aventon doesn’t run their cables through the bar, owners should be able to easily swap it out if they wish to. Otherwise, the Soltera.2 is pretty easy math for anyone looking for a fun, stylish and versatile ebike. The simple but sharp style may even tempt long-time “analog” pedal-only cyclists into contemplating their first e-bike experience. From even a short distance, it’s tough to tell the Soltera.2 is an e-bike at all (at least in black). I know that appeals to a lot of people.
Even though I often ride and review a lot of much more expensive and exotic e-bikes, I still enjoyed every ride I took on the Soltera.2, and appreciated the seven rear gears, excellent lighting, comfy ergos and solid build quality. You can absolutely commute on it but for me, it was most fun strafing downhills or rolling through Portland’s city streets and bikeways with light pedal input – or none while using the thumb throttle on the left bar. It also got more than a few compliments and questions from onlookers unsure if it was indeed an e-bike.
And as an end note, a quick shout out to Aventon for their ongoing commitment to making their e-bike packaging highly recyclable. There’s no styrofoam in the box, even the ties used to secure parts during shipping are recyclable. Only a few very small parts went into the bin. Sustainability is a big part of cycling for myself and many other riders and I applaud Aventon’s efforts along those lines.
XNITO Logan Retro bike helmet. Designed specifically for e-bikes, the XNITO Logan is NTA-8776 approved and rated for crashes up to 28 mph – far more than most all other bike helmets. It features a red LED rear light and white LED front lights for better visibility day or night.
I also wear cycling gloves and eye protection whenever I ride.