There’s only one thing better than bragging about buying a new bike, and that’s bragging about the deal you got on it. The dollar sure isn’t getting more valuable. Most folks want more for less these days. At least that’s the case in the über-competitive electric bicycle market. When today’s high-performance e-bikes go high with seven-figure price tags, others go low, bringing electric mobility to the masses.
One such company is Aventon. The California-based firm started out as a passion project for founder Jianwei Zhang. In 2013, the Chinese-born entrepreneur launched Aventon as a performance-oriented manufacturer alongside collegemate and avid cyclist Augusto Peraza III. The budding brand specialized in track-racing frames, but Aventon ultimately switched gears, introducing its first e-bike in 2019. It hasn’t looked back since.
Offering everything from cruiser-style models to dedicated commuters to folding city bikes, Aventon is all-in on electric. Favoring practicality, the brand now tailors each model to its individual use case. That pragmatic approach keeps MSRPs down, but does it undermine functionality in the process?
To find out first-hand, we lived with Aventon’s new Level.2 e-bike for several weeks. After nearly 200 miles in the saddle, we now know exactly where the wallet-friendly commuter excels and where it falls short.
Bikin’ on a Budget
Looking at the Level.2’s $1,799 price tag, I half-expected half-assed construction and off-brand componentry. As I found out when the Level.2 arrived at my doorstep, Aventon stretches that meager dough like pulled noodles. Lifting the partially-assembled e-bike out of its box, the Shimano 8-speed cassette (12-32T), Shimano Altus derailleur, and Tektro disc brakes immediately commanded my attention. Sure, the Level.2’s parts are far from Shimano or Tektro’s range-topping offerings, but their presence provides brand-name reassurance nonetheless.
|Brushless Rear Hub Motor
|500W (sustained), 750W (peak)
|48V, 14Ah (672Wh)
Equally unexpected, the Level.2 assembly process included intuitive instructions and quality hardware. Utilizing the provided multi-tool, customers should set aside at least 1 to 1.5 hours for set up. I cut down on that time with the assistance of a 10mm socket and a multi-bit screwdriver, but owners with limited tools and wrenching prowess need not fear. A provided QR code directs users to an instructional YouTube video. Following the step-by-step directions gets the Level.2 rolling on two wheels in less than two hours.
On the other hand, owners may need to re-tighten a few fasteners after the first few flights. For instance, the front fender frequently dropped out of alignment, especially after hopping off curbs or pulling a quick wheelie. I can only liken the sound of the sagging mudguard against the rotating tire to a washing machine on spin cycle. Fortunately, a light tug on the fender often remedied the issue in the interim. As soon as I returned home, a quarter turn on the nut eliminated the problem altogether.
Of course, Aventon can't drive an easy bargain in all arenas. While cut-rate, the Zoom Aria fork is a worthy compromise. Particularly in the commuter class, where most OEMs forego suspension entirely, the entry-level front end represents a luxury. The unit’s preload and rebound adjustability only enhance the functionality, even if the softly-sprung fork relegates the Level.2 to highly-groomed trails. As much as the stock componentry outpunched the model’s price point, the e-bike isn’t going far without its electric drivetrain.
Are We There Yet?
Aventon arms its economical commuter with a brushless rear hub motor producing 750W of peak power and 500W of sustained power. A 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) lithium-ion battery sends all that oomph to the back wheel upon the rider’s command. That includes five levels of pedal assist and a thumb throttle at the left handgrip. Aventon reports a maximum range of 60 miles for the Level.2, but users must limit pedal assist to level one and restrict their personal weight to 160 pounds.
Those parameters aren't exactly ideal for most riders, but the model reaches around 40 miles under more reasonable conditions. Using pedal assist alone (levels 1-5), I regularly achieved between 35-40 miles on a single charge. Sweat-averse commuters avoiding pedaling at all costs can expect 25 miles of range when depending on the thumb throttle exclusively. Mixed usage yielded mileage in the low-30s.
Those distances should cover most city commuters, but those with extended routes can bring along the 48V, 3 Amp fast charger. The 5-hour recharge interval should deliver more than enough juice by clock-out time. On the flip side, commuters on the fringes of those ranges should keep a vigilant eye on the Level.2’s LCD screen.
The back-lit, easy-read display ranks as one the model’s best features, relaying not just speed and state of charge but also calculating max speed, average speed, trip time, calories burned, CO2 reduced (trip and sum), and trees saved (trip and sum). Unfortunately, the battery percentage bar’s reliability, or lack thereof, complicated longer trips.
On one occasion, I operated the Level.2 in a single pedal assist setting while remaining in the same gear. Upon stopping, the charge bar inexplicably dropped from 44 percent to 36 percent. In response, I cut the pedal assist completely to ensure that I could ascend the steep hills dotting my route back home. Just two miles down the road, the charge meter jumped back up to 42 percent, prompting me to engage the pedal assist once again. This wasn’t the only instance either.
Gallery: Aventon Level.2
While meandering through town, the LCD panel reported 13 percent of remaining charge. After riding less than a half-mile, I glanced back down to see just four percent left on the gauge. Luckily, I wasn’t far from home and the Level.2 kept delivering nominal power two miles after the battery hit zero percent. I needed every bit of that assistance to reach my front door too. For that reason, I regularly charged the power pack between rides, a habit the removable battery made all too easy.
That story seems to encapsulate most of the Level.2 experience. The Tektro brakes feature 180mm rotors and highly-finished levers but the system also lacks a strong bite and feel. The Shimano 8-speed cassette and Altus derailleur provide reliable gear changes even if the actuation is a little clunky. After all, Aventon can only do so much within the $1,799 MSRP. But, does the Level.2 justify that price?
Aventon’s Chinese-made bikes may give some naysayers pause for thought, but the Level.2 exceeded many of my expectations. From the sturdy 6061 double-butted aluminum frame to the integrated LED lights to the surprisingly nuanced torque sensor, the well-equipped commuter offers a lot for a little.
Detractors will have even less to criticize when Aventon constructs its first manufacturing plant in the United States. Planned for 2025, the new facility wouldn’t just increase the brand’s production numbers but would liberate it from the supply chain woes plaguing most industries in the post-COVID era. If that happens, we can count on even more people buying e-bikes—and bragging about the deal they got on them.
How to Buy:
Those interested in purchasing a Level.2 can visit one of the 200 Aventon dealers nationwide or order directly from the company’s website. Each unit comes with a 14-day return period, a one-year warranty, and optional 1- to 3-year accident protection. If you’re shopping around as well, Pedego Electric Bikes and Rad Power Bikes offer comparable models.