Weight: 70.5 pounds
Motor: 500W (750W max) rear hub motor, 45Nm torque
Battery: Two 48V, 20Ah removable batteries
Drivetrain: Carbon Gates Belt Drive
Max advertised range: 90 miles (both batteries combined)
Assist levels: Three
The BQi-C3 Pro from NIU welcomes riders of all heights and abilities with a generously deep step-through design. That sets the tone for what the BQi-C3 Pro is all about: ease, comfort, and adaptability.
In keeping with that trend, there’s only one gear — no shifter to contend with. It features a maintenance-free belt drive system rather than the more typical chain drive found on bicycles. And the motor assist offers plenty of power to get you up and over even the steepest hills on your commute. And if you’ve got a long commute, the BQi-C3 Pro offers an incredible range due to the dual battery system.
It’s a simple, ready-to-ride bike for urban commuters. While the single-speed design does lead to a few on-bike challenges, overall the BQi-C3 Pro offers everything an urban commuter needs for daily use over varying terrains and long distances. It's the best electric bike for those who need to travel far, and, at its sale price, one of the best budget electric bikes for the money.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: Price and availability
The BQi-C3 Pro is available for purchase through the NIU website or through Best Buy. The regular retail price is $2,199, but as of this writing, the bike is on sale for $1,299.
You can finance your purchase through Klarna when buying through the NIU website. And NIU offers a 30-day free trial, as well as a 2-year warranty.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: Design
The BQi-C3 Pro features a step-through frame design that makes it easy to get on and off the bike. The seat adjusts up and down as well, making the bike appropriate for a wider size range of riders. The stem adjusts as well to bring the handlebars in closer to the rider, or further away, depending on your needs.
A Gates Carbon Belt Drive replaces the more common steel bicycle chain found on most bikes. The belt drive offers quiet operation and a much longer lifespan than a steel bike chain — as well as almost no maintenance needed.
While the BQi-C3 Pro is heavy for a bike like this at 70.5 pounds, some of that extra weight can be attributed to the dual-battery design. There’s one removable battery in the down tube, and another in the seat tube. This effectively doubles the bike’s range, as it’s quick and easy to swap the batteries when one runs out of juice.
The batteries power a 500-watt rear hub motor that can be engaged by pedaling, with three assist modes to choose from. Or, the motor can be engaged using the throttle mounted on the handlebar.
To slow things down, the BQi-C3 Pro comes equipped with mechanical disc brakes front and rear. Other nice touches include integrated front and rear lights, and an integrated rear rack.
Everything rolls on 27-5-inch wheels shod in puncture-resistant tires. There are also integrated front and rear lights, front and rear fenders, and a rear rack to complement the ride.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: Performance
There’s an awful lot of Styrofoam packaging in the box when you start to build the BQi-C3 Pro. Not exactly environmentally friendly stuff, but it did keep the bike well protected. And building the bike is quick and easy if you have a bit of familiarity with the tools.
Getting on and off the bike is a breeze too, thanks to the very low step-through design. I’m
5’ 11”, and my wife is closer to 5’ 3”. Both of us were able to get on and off comfortably.
The BQi-C3 Pro is fairly heavy for a bike this size, likely due to the dual battery design. Its footprint is small enough to keep it maneuverable, though, and the weight largely isn’t a factor once you start pedaling.
The ride itself is a bit on the stiff side, though I probably could have lowered my tire pressure to get a bit more compliance. I was pleased to see that NIU opted for a rigid fork instead of a suspension fork; most bikes in this category won’t benefit greatly from inexpensive suspension forks, and they can in fact become a detriment to the steering and handling of the bike.
Three assist levels are available to you as soon as you start pedaling. Usually, when I ride a bike for the first time, I’ll put it in the highest assist level to start draining the battery as quickly as I can. I’ll also use the throttle a lot. But in this case, the lower two assist levels were so powerful that I hardly needed the highest assist setting. Getting up to full speed was quick and easy without having to go full-power.
That’s both great, and not so great, depending on the terrain on which you’ll be riding. It’s great if you’re not all that interested in pedaling. The single-speed drivetrain combined with the quick assist means you’ll get spun out pretty quickly. Pedaling won’t do much of anything at that point, so you’ll be reliant solely on the throttle and inertia.
It’s also great if your commute involves a lot of climbs. The BQi-C3 Pro makes short work of them, even in the lower assist levels. If you don’t want to work going uphill, you certainly won’t have to.
There’s one exception: starting from a dead stop on a hill. The rear hub motor struggled to get going, even while using the throttle, when you’re starting from a dead stop on a steep bit of tarmac. Usually in this case, I would shift the drivetrain into the easiest possible gear to overcome this problem. But the BQi-C3 Pro only has one gear, so you may find this more challenging.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: Battery life and performance
NIU includes two batteries with the purchase of the bike. Both batteries are removable and integrate flush into the frame. The combined advertised range is up to 90 miles, with 60 miles as the target for more common usage.
On my first ride over about nine miles, I noticed that both batteries were draining as I rode. I assumed the bike would work through one battery first, then either switch automatically to the second, or require me to physically change one battery out for another. But that wasn’t the case.
Over the course of those first nine miles, both batteries went from a fresh charge (100%) to 90% charged as indicated by the head unit. While I was disappointed to see both batteries draining simultaneously, this mileage still indicates that the bike can come close to the advertised 90-mile range in certain conditions.
One other thing to note about the batteries: NIU advertises them as “lightweight” at 12 pounds each. But that’s not particularly lightweight for an ebike battery, even ones of this size and capacity.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: Accessories
The NIU website offers a wide range of accessories for all its products — which include scooters as well as ebikes. An extra battery is available for purchase for $250, as well as other common replacement parts like chargers, inner tubes, grips, tires, and brake pads. Aside from the electronics, which are specific to the BQi-C3 Pro, however, many of these accessories are easily available at local bike shops.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: The competition
Many bikes on the market today come in two designs: a high top-tube version, and a step-through design. Notably, the BQi-C3 Pro only comes in a step-through design.
Notable comparisons to NIU’s bike include Propella’s brand new 9S Pro V2 step-thru. A review on Tom’s Guide is coming soon.
Another great comparison is the Gazelle Arroyo C8 HMB Elite. The Arroyo comes with many more bells and whistles, including more gears in the drivetrain, a suspension fork, and a much lighter weight. But it also costs far more than the NIU. For the price, the BQi-C3 Pro offers a lot for a barebones price.
NIU BQi-C3 Pro review: Verdict
The BQi-C3 Pro offers a lot of power, range, comfort, and functionality for commuters who will tackle hilly terrain. At the current price of $1,399, it’s a great deal, too.
It’s not a light bike, but that will mostly factor in only if you need to pick up the bike. The weight is far less of a factor when you’re actually riding, and the trade-off of having two batteries makes it worthwhile.
For simplicity’s sake, the single-speed drivetrain is nice for folks who want the least amount of maintenance and operational complexity possible, but the bike would benefit from more gears in the drivetrain, especially if the rider needs to start from a dead stop on a steep hill.
Ultimately, the BQi-C3 Pro is fun to ride, comfortable, and super powerful. The step-through design is a real win, as is the powerful assist.