Ride1Up CF Racer1 review: Testing the lowest cost quality carbon fiber gravel/road e-bike

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Ride1Up CF Racer1 review: Testing the lowest cost quality carbon fiber gravel/road e-bike


In the world of electric bikes, the words “carbon fiber” usually means big bucks. Actually, it’s the same in the pedal bike industry, it’s just that e-bikes already start out more expensive. That means carbon fiber electric bikes have always commanded premium prices – at least, until now. When Ride1Up rolled out the new CF Racer1 e-bike, it shook up the electric gravel bike market with a reasonably priced direct-to-consumer model that can scratch that lightweight e-bike itch for more hardcore riders.

Priced at $2,295, the CF Racer1 is around half the price that most other carbon fiber gravel e-bikes start at, let alone the even nicer models whose prices head even further north.

But just because it’s a lower-cost bike doesn’t mean it’s cheap. It may not have the most insanely top-shelf components on it, but it’s got a great mix of quality parts and features to fit the needs of the majority of enthusiast riders. If you’re a pro rider, you’re going to be looking at different bikes entirely.

And since Ride1Up focuses on that larger swath of recreational, commuter, and enthusiast riders, the direct-to-consumer sales model means you aren’t paying a big bike shop markup, either.

See the CF Racer1 in action in my video review below, then keep reading for even more info!

Ride1Up CF Racer1 video review

Ride1Up CF Racer1 tech specs

  • Motor: 250W continuous rear hub motor (42 Nm of torque)
  • Top speed: 28 mph (45 km/h)
  • Range: 16-40 miles (25-64 km)
  • Battery: 36V 7Ah (252Wh) with Samsung cells
  • Weight: 28.6 lb (19.2 kg)
  • Load Capacity: 225 lb (102 kg)
  • Frame: Carbon fiber
  • Brakes: SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic disc brakes on 160 mm rotors
  • Extras: Color LCD display with speedometer, battery gauge, PAS level indicator, two frame sizes available in either road or gravel variants, Rival 1 11-speed doubletap shifters
  • Price$2,295

A different kind of riding

The CF Racer1 is a different kind of electric bike intended for a different kind of rider. If you’re familiar with most direct-to-consumer e-bike companies out there, Ride1Up included, then you’ll know the typical D2C e-bike. We’re talking chunky tires, robust (i.e. heavy) frame, throttle activation, budget shifters, etc. You won’t find any of those parts on this e-bike.

That’s because the CF Racer1 is more of a cyclist’s bike. Those drop bars are par for the course in road bikes, but we almost never see them on common budget-minded electric bikes. Same goes for the SRAM Rival 1 shifters, which you press sideways to upshift or press even harder in the same direction to downshift. They certainly feel new to most casual riders (I find myself on bikes with these types of shifters usually just once or twice a year, for example), but they’re easy to use and give you that quality feel that the cheap Shimano stuff on entry-level fat tire bikes just doesn’t have.

The drop bars allow you to lean more forward and get a tighter tuck, which is useful when you’re trying to maintain that top speed of 28 mph and not fight against your own body’s meat sail. However, I find I’m usually up on the horns to sit taller, as I’m not a huge fan of super tucked riding. And when I really want a taller view of the road, I grip the middle portion of the bars for the most comfortable ride. The three positions are a big plus, though I basically never drop down into the lowest position, so it’s more like a two-position bar for me.

The biggest reason I hang out on the horns most of the time is because I also like knowing those brake levers are ready for me, both in city riding in case of unexpected car behavior, and while trail riding in case I come across an obstacle I wasn’t expecting.

Ultra-light, but at a cost

And then of course there’s the carbon fiber frame, which, along with the modest battery and motor specs helps to reduce the weight of the bike to a mere 28 pounds! That’s a featherweight in the e-bike world, believe it or not.

That low weight means you won’t get crazy power or super long-range riding, though you can still get up to 30-40 miles if you keep the pedal assist in a very low power level. And while the 250W motor is fairly low power compared to most of the e-bikes I ride, it’s not meant to be a hot rod. It’s a modest torque motor designed for folks who actually want to pedal and get a workout. It will still take you up to 28 mph – it sure did for me. But you’ve got to be a part of that process, giving your own muscle assist as well in order for the pedal assist to take you to that top speed. In other words, it’s taking the pain out of the ride but it’s not doing all the work for you.

It feels like a good balance of power though, especially on such a lightweight e-bike.

One more part I wish I could have seen added to the electrical system would be a torque sensor. As it stands now, the cadence sensor works fine for riding, but has a bit of sensor lag when you first get rolling – especially if you don’t downshift low enough at stops. That impacts you more in stop/start riding, but for folks who spend long periods of time at constant speed – which is a lot of what this e-bike is designed for – then you won’t notice the cadence sensor very much.

More than paint deep

There are two colors available on the Ride1Up CF Racer1, known as Clouded Gray and Rainbow Black. The bike I’m testing is the Rainbow Black, which may sound like an oxymoron until the sun comes out. As soon as you get some bright light on the paint, it illuminates with a rainbow array of metal flakes, producing a beautiful spectrum of light reflecting off the glossy surface.

It’s hard to capture in photos and videos, though I did my best in the photo above. You can also see a few good shots in my video review at the top of this page. Just know that in real life, the effect is even more pronounced and is truly beautiful to look at.

On the flipside though, when you’re riding in overcast weather, you’ll find that the paint basically just looks like glossy black.

The take-home message

Here’s the thing: The Ride1Up CF Racer1 is a great e-bike, but it’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. Most of us are more at home on a Portola fat tire e-bike or a Turris trail bike. You’ve got to be someone who already enjoys riding road bikes (meaning you like to pedal), who doesn’t mind the lack of throttle, and who is comfortable with a tucked ride. But if you’re in the market for a gravel e-bike, that’s probably already you.

In that case, this is a killer deal for a super lightweight carbon fiber electric bike. With options for road or gravel (basically different handlebars and tires), you’ve got all of your bases covered.

So yeah, if you’re a pro rider, this isn’t going to cut it for you. But if you’re like most of us – just someone who enjoys riding and wants to get that electric gravel bike experience without shelling out $5k, then this is the bike for you.

ride1up CF Racer1 gravel e-bike

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