SMAFO are a bike brand based in Paderborn, Germany, aiming to provide easy and smart mobility for urban areas. For the past five years, SMAFO have been offering straightforward ebikes with user-friendly configuration options at a competitive price. We recently tested the SMAFO 4 Wave Limited Edition, priced at € 2,299, to find out if the bike is as smart as the name suggests.
Five years ago, SMAFO, which stands for SmartForward, made their debut in the ebike scene with a subscription model for ebikes. Since 2020, the SMAFO bike has also been available for direct purchase. Instead of offering a broad portfolio like other manufacturers, SMAFO have specialised in just one bike model with two frame sizes that bears the same name as the company: The SMAFO. While there are minor variations in equipment packages and the option to choose between a step-through wave frame and a classic diamond frame, the company basically sells just one bike.
The SMAFO 4 Wave Limited we tested is a celebration of the company’s fifth anniversary, as indicated by the 5 YRS emblem on the head tube. SMAFO have also departed from the bike’s traditional black and white colour palette to celebrate this milestone with a champagne-coloured design. Rather than offering an extensive range of equipment options, the company opted for simplification and a greater emphasis on subscription-based connectivity features. The young company aim to make ebikes more accessible by offering all of this at an affordable price point, lowering the barrier to entry for potential ebike riders. Are SMAFO just another ebike company following the latest urban mobility trend, or is there more to this one-bike brand based in the heart of Paderborn?
Who is behind SMAFO, and who are the potential competitors for this young brand?
SMAFO didn’t initially focus on selling bikes, but instead started with an all-inclusive SMAFO ebike subscription model, eliminating subsequent costs for maintenance or inspections. From April 2018 to 2020, founders André Thiele and Sven Schneider successfully launched the SMAFO subscription model in major German cities from East Westphalia to the Ruhr region. However, they eventually expanded their offering to include bike sales, mainly due to demand from satisfied subscription customers. Since then, the SMAFO bike has gone through three generations to keep it up to date, starting with the SMAFO 2 and culminating in the current SMAFO 4. In the € 2,000 to € 3,000 price range, SMAFO face stiff competition in the highly competitive market for affordable urban ebikes. Among their competitors are large direct suppliers such as Vanmoof with the X3 and ROSE with the Sneak+, as well as smaller brands such as Lemmo or the still rather unknown brand Hepha with their Trekking 7 Ultra.
Der Markt von günstigen urbanen E-Bikes ist hart umkämpft und so tummeln sich in der Preisspanne von 2.000 bis 3.000 € auch einige schwer zu knackende Nüsse in Sachen Konkurrenz von SMAFO. Darunter große Direktanbieter wie VanMoof mit dem X3 oder ROSE mit dem Sneak+, aber auch kleinere Konkurrenten wie etwa Lemmo oder die noch etwas unbekannte Marke Hepha mit ihrem Trekking 7 Ultra.
Simple, simpler, SMAFO – What makes the SMAFO 4 Wave so special?
The SMAFO isn’t out of this world. Not a spaceship, not a new galaxy, not an alien. It’s a down-to-earth city bike with a wide range of features. What really sets it apart is its clean and minimalist design with a high quality level. The welds on the upper part of the bike, particularly around the head tube and seat tube, have been meticulously polished and the tubes merge seamlessly. This is particularly notable on the diamond frame version. As mentioned earlier, SMAFO have consistently kept to a colour palette of no more than two options: black and white, with the distinctive SMAFO logo on the down tube in the inverted colour and the battery cover always remaining black. However, the Limited Edition introduces a third colour choice. SMAFO have cracked open the bubbly for their anniversary and have opted for a champagne-coloured finish. Add the 5 years emblem on the head tube and the Exclusive Limited Edition is complete. The special paintwork comes at an extra cost of € 100, while the black and white models are priced at € 2,199.
Even more subtle than the champagne colour is the Bafang RM G.20.250.DC hub drive that powers the ebike. The motor is discreetly concealed behind the cassette in the rear hub, and the slim 522 Wh battery fits neatly into the deep but slim down tube and is easily removable from above. On the new fourth generation, the motor is equipped with a torque sensor in the bottom bracket, providing more natural support than motors that only respond to the signal from the speed sensor. However, the battery capacity has been reduced to 522 Wh, 90 Wh less than its predecessor. Nevertheless, it should still have a good range, potentially up to 120 kilometres. This estimate is probably attainable in Eco mode and under favourable conditions, such as on the flat terrain around Paderborn, maybe with a helpful tailwind. In the hilly terrain of Stuttgart, however, it proved difficult to achieve this range. On a positive note, the high-contrast black and white display and user-friendly remote control make a good impression. The display shows five different assistance modes, remaining range, speed and battery charge.
SMAFO 4 Wave Ltd
Motor Bafang RM G.20.250.DC 45 Nm
Battery Bafang 522 Wh
Display Bafang DP C245.CAN
Fork SR Suntour NEX e25 63 mm
Rear Shock mm
Brakes Shimano 180/160 mm
Drivetrain Shimano Altus 1x9
Stem ErgoTec 100 mm
Handlebar ErgoTec 600 mm
Tires Schwalbe Big Ben 2
Weight 26,3 kg
Perm. total weight 130 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 113 kg
Trailer approval Ja
Kickstand mount Ja
If that’s not enough digital features for you, the SMAFO Connect app offers a comprehensive package of bike-related software. For € 150 per year, the SMAFO Connect + Care package includes GPS tracking, ride history that also calculates CO2 savings during your rides, a digital service booklet for workshop visits, and comprehensive bike insurance. If you don’t want to sign up for the paid subscription, you can still use the digital lock feature, which allows you to secure your ebike with your mobile phone, preventing unauthorised activation by strangers.
For those who also want to protect their bike physically, the full kit includes not only mudguards, lights, a kickstand and a rear rack, but also a built-in frame lock. For added security, you can also use a chain with it to lock the bike to an object.
What does the SMAFO 4 Wave do best?
The SMAFO 4 comes in two frame versions: the Classic, a one-size-fits-all diamond frame for riders from 175 to 200 cm, and our test bike, the Wave, a step-through frame for riders from 160 to 195 cm. The first time you swing your leg through the low step-through of the Wave, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to get on and off. However, the riding position is a little too stretched out.
Despite tester Juli’s height falling almost precisely between the recommended 160 and 195 cm range, the riding position is unexpectedly sporty. You would expect a more upright riding position from a compact step-through bike. Even with the angle-adjustable stem already pointing upwards at an angle of 30°, pulled relatively close to the body, you are still leaning forward quite considerably, thus putting more pressure on your hands. We would definitely recommend to test ride the SMAFO to see if the one-size-fits-all frame suits your personal proportions. When you switch on the bike by pressing the middle one of the three buttons on the remote control, you are immediately greeted by a cool animation of the SMAFO logo on the display, and then the 45 Nm Bafang hub motor is ready to go. On level terrain and gentle inclines, the motor provides robust and efficient support, letting you accelerate quickly, navigate stop-and-go traffic with ease, or cruise around town without too much physical effort. On steep hills, however, the hub motor’s support comes to an abrupt end if you fail to shift down in time. This is because the speed of the hub motor closely mirrors that of the rear wheel, and low speeds are less favourable for electric motors. The gear ratio of a mid-drive motor can partially mitigate this problem, but a hub motor lacks this ability.
That’s why it’s so important to maintain a high pedalling speed and carry as much momentum as possible when climbing. Equipped with a Shimano ALTUS 9-speed drivetrain, the SMAFO offers sufficient range and a suitable low gear to tackle steep climbs, but if you find yourself stuck on an uphill gradient, the bike’s walk-assist mode comes in handy, although it can only be activated when the assistance mode is set to “Off”. If you’re riding with the highest level of assistance, it takes six clicks on the remote before the bike starts to move autonomously at 6 km/h – not exactly a seamless process. The slender frame of the SMAFO city ebike soon reveals another weakness. Probably due to its slim profile, the bike starts to develop speed wobble just above the 25 km/h limit. This problem gets worse with luggage. Weighing 26.3 kg, the SMAFO ebike can carry a maximum payload of just under 104 kg, including the rider. However, you’ll want to distribute the weight evenly between you and the bike, or you can simply attach a trailer. The bike has trailer approval and you can find the appropriate rear axle adapter on their website. This modification will help reduce the wobble and allow you to take full advantage of the maximum payload.
SMAFO are popping the corks with the Limited! For their anniversary, you get a clean look, solid features and clever app integration at a fair price.
If you keep a firm grip on the handlebar, the SR Suntour NEX E25 suspension fork with 63 mm of travel at the front and the 2″ wide Schwalbe Big Ben tires help keep the bike planted on the road. The fine tread pattern makes them ideal for the light gravel paths often found in city parks. However, the suspension creates a comfort imbalance between the two ends of the bike, so we recommend you consider adding a suspension seatpost. As the only customisable component on the SMAFO 4, for just an additional € 29, this upgrade should effectively restore the comfort balance, even when navigating bumpy cobblestone roads on your way to the farmer’s market.
When you’re riding the SMAFO 4 Wave Limited in the dark, there’s no need to reach for the handlebar remote – the light has a sensor that automatically activates in low light conditions. And thanks to its position on the fork crown, it also turns with you as you navigate corners. The lack of a high beam may be acceptable in city traffic, but it should be a consideration on unlit forest paths – an additional light might be useful here. The 2-piston Shimano brakes, with 180 mm discs at the front and 160 mm at the rear, are very effective even in the event of sudden braking.
Tuning-Tipp: Suspension seatpost for balanced comfort
Who is the SMAFO 4 Wave Limited for?
With the 4 Wave Limited, SMAFO are clearly aiming at price-conscious buyers or those looking for a second bike for urban commuting alongside their trekking or e-mountain bike. Priced at € 2,299, the SMAFO 4 Limited presents itself as a style-conscious city bike with good digital safety features via app connectivity, giving other manufacturers a run for their money in this category. The bike has a high quality standard of craftsmanship and features. If you are not deterred by its shortcomings while riding and would like to try it out for yourself, you can test the bike for 30 days (or 20 km) via a dealer or a trial order. If you’re not satisfied, you can return it free of charge.
- polished weld seams provide a clean look
- sleek, subtle ebike look
- high contrast display
- good connectivity via app
- app features only fully functional with subscription
- early onset of speed wobble
- motor lacks torque on climbs
Conclusion on the SMAFO 4 Wave Limited
At first glance, the SMAFO 4 is undeniably appealing, with its stylish and sleek design. A closer look also reveals its remarkable level of connectivity through its own app and subscription model. This smart city speedster is undeniably in tune with current trends and offers a worry-free urban commuting experience. If you’re prepared to make some concessions on comfort, the SMAFO 4 Wave Limited is a stylish bike in a distinctive colour, at a very reasonable price.
More information via SMAFO.com
Words: Julian Schwede Photos: Simon Kohler, Jan Richter, Antonia Feder, Julian Schwede