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Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review: A graceful electric bike

This is one refined ride

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review
(Image: © Gazelle)

Our Verdict

One of the more sophisticated ebikes on the market for people who demand the best and just want to put on a helmet and go.

For

  • Excellent ride
  • Frictionless electric power
  • Top combination of accessories

Against

  • High price
Gazelle Ultimate C380: Specs

Battery: 500 Wh
Max estimated range: 43 miles
Max assisted speed: 20 mph
Motor: Bosch Performance Line 3.0 65 Nm mid-drive motor
Gearing: Enviolo 380 stepless gear system
Wheel diameter: 28 inches
Weight: 54.6 lbs. (with battery)

True to its name, the Gazelle Ultimate 380 may be the most graceful ebike to hit the road yet.

It's also proof that ebikes can't simply be reduced to a list of specifications. There are ebikes with bigger batteries and bigger motors, to be sure. But there is no ebike that is more thoughtfully designed to give the rider a better drive than the Gazelle Ultimate C380.

With a Gates belt drive and seamless Enviolo shifter that allows you to change gears in the middle of a hill, this luxury cruiser delivers incomparable comfort in a nearly maintenance-free package. It’s one of the best electric bikes we’ve ridden, but all of this comes at a cost.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB Review: Price and Availability

Gazelle has been building bicycles in the land of the bicycle (The Netherlands) for more than 125 years. And that experience imbues every model it produces, from touring bikes like the $2,499 Gazelle Medeo T9 up to the top-of-the-line luxury model we tested, the $3,999 Gazelle Ultimate C380. If you've ever been to Amsterdam (or seen it in the movies), a Gazelle is what you picture the Dutch riding along the banks of the city's canals.

The company offers more than a half dozen different ebike models, most of which have an integrated battery, step-through or low-step design and an easy, upright riding stance. And while the company offers traditional 10-speed derailleurs on many models, it has taken its traditional upright designs and added Gates belt drives to several. Gazelle also sticks to its strengths: these are city and country touring bikes, so if you're shopping for a mountain bike, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB Review: Design

The design of the Gazelle Ultimate C380 focuses on two goals, delivering the ultimate in comfort along with ebike convenience. Its low-step frame is topped with a Selle Loire Gel seat with an internal compression post to soften the ride. The aluminum frame also has an internal front fork suspension system and built-in (but removable) battery to keep the whole design as svelte as possible.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Gazelle Ultimate C380 is a pedal assist bike, meaning that it does not have an all-electric power throttle. The system uses a smooth as glass Bosch mid-drive motor with monochrome display that lets you cycle through four power modes: Eco, Touring, Sport, and Turbo. Better still, Gazelle has made this model as close to maintenance free as you can get these days. It uses a sealed rear hub with a continuous Enviolo Trekking shifter, so there are no gears or fussy derailleurs to tweak or worry about. And there's no greasy chain to maintain. The Ultimate C380 employs a Gates belt drive that uses a carbon fiber reinforced notched belt instead.

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Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review

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Finishing it off, Gazelle includes full mud guards, a metal belt guard (to keep your pants clean), kickstand, lights front and back, a rear rack with a built-in stretch bracket, and even an Axa Defender lock that immobilizes the rear wheel when you snap it shut and remove the key. All you need to remember to ride this bike is your helmet. What could be more convenient than that?

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB Review: Performance

As its graceful name suggests, whether you're bounding downhill on a dirt road or being buffeted by passing truck traffic on a two-lane, blacktop, the Gazelle stays steady and true. It was unwavering when we were doing more than 30 mph downhill; the Ultimate C380's four-piston hydraulic brakes made us feel confident that we weren't overstepping our bounds on the road.

We found ourselves coming up with excuses to go for a ride.

The Gazelle is a pedal-assist only bike, meaning that it doesn't use a throttle to run under full electric power. That means you're always pedaling to propel yourself forward. The Bosch drive has a raft of sensors, so that it applies additional power precisely when you need it. The smooth application of torque meant that we generally did not miss the electric-only mode.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We were able to start off from stop lights and at the bottom of slight hills without trouble; the electric assist was enough to get us going without too much effort. On the other hand, some steep dirt mountain roads presented a challenge, although we did manage to get all the way up our test hills without getting up out of the saddle (a point of pride around here). But you will feel the exertion after a long hilly ride.

We should note that the continuous variable throttle-style shifter is a godsend in such situations. With the carbon fiber belt drive, you can shift in the middle of a hill if you realize you can't continue in a particular gear. That's a no-no with traditional derailleurs but perfectly acceptable with the Gazelle — and it's silent. No clicking and clacking from the gears biting against the strain.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Gazelle Ultimate C380 was also lots of fun. Indeed, we found ourselves coming up with excuses to go for a ride. Bread? Why don't I cycle over to the bakery? Check the mail? I'll go for a quick 4-mile ride to the mailbox and back. Need a quart of milk? I'll go get it at the local farm stand....13 miles away.

It's thanks to all the fine touches to the design that Gazelle has made to the Ultimate C380 that lets you forget about riding a bike or switching gears and just focus on enjoying the day. In fact, the only flaw we could find was the mechanical bell. It could be louder — or electric for better warnings. But by this point we were struggling to find some weakness.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB Review: Competition

There are now other touring ebikes aiming to supplant Gazelle in this section of the market, but they are going to have a tough time of it. Most of the competition comes from small, boutique companies like Bluejay Bikes trying to capitalize on the ebike craze. But the big companies are taking note of the luxury touring market, too.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB review

(Image credit: Gazelle)

Trek, for example, has its Verve+ 3 line of ebikes that start at about $3,150 but don't come with conveniences like the belt drive and continuous shifter. Meanwhile, Specialized has launched its $4,800 Turbo Como SL 5.0. The Como is a slick design and uses a Gates belt drive, as well, but the price premium is not insignificant.

Gazelle Ultimate C380 HMB Review: Verdict

Gazelle has focused on a market segment it understands perhaps better than anyone else: the daily bike rider who needs a solid, reliable instrument that won't let her down — and is comfortable, day in and day out. The Gazelle Ultimate C380 will satisfy such riders, whether you have to wear a 3-piece suit to work or can show up wearing cutoffs and a Slayer T-shirt. (Okay, maybe the band shirt would be a bit much, but you get the point.) Did we like this bike? You bet we did. It pretty much encompasses all the state-of-the-art features you would want for weekday commuting or Sunday sightseeing. We just wish it were more affordable so that more people could enjoy it.

John R. Quain
John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.