Putting this sub-$2,000 motorcycle-inspired ebike through the paces
Shopping the Brawn and wanting to understand what it’s like to live with? This is the review for you.
The HeyBike Brawn is a fat-tire hardtail priced at $1,799 USD. It has a potent 750-watt rear hub motor and a unique motorcycle-esque front suspension setup. It’s also a confusing bike, with an odd configuration of components and features that leaves me scratching my head.
Like the Heybike Tyson that I reviewed in September, the Brawn is designed to connect to the HeyBike app, where owners can configure and customize their bike. The app allows you to change units of measurement, adjust the PAS speed settings, remotely lock/unlock the bike, and more. When it works, it’s a slick experience – it even allows you to GPS track/record your rides.
The 77 lb Brawn features a 400 lb maximum weight capacity, which is somewhat unique and much higher than what a typical ebike is rated for. To move all this mass is the powerful 750-watt rear hub motor, which is one of the most powerful hub motors – maybe even the most powerful hub motor – I’ve seen at this wattage rating (and I’ve reviewed more than 30 different ebikes at this point).
In general, the Brawn is well-reviewed, and people seem to enjoy it—fair warning: my review of the Brawn is more critical than what other reviewers are saying. Perhaps our experiences are meaningfully different, or maybe I’m just being finicky – you decide.
For many people, the Brawn will be an accessible entry into the ebike market. It’s a bike with enough under the hood that most people won’t need to upgrade to get more power or improve the range. The Brawn also generally ships with a rear rack and a complete fender setup, improving its daily usability.
But riders intending to ride the Brawn off-road or downhill – as the Brawn’s included hydraulic dropper post suggests you should – will be put off by its heft and the dual-crown forks’ restrictions on the steering. While more than capable of handling light singletrack and off-road trails, the Brawn feels clunky and encumbered in moderate technical riding and on advanced trails. The Brawn also uses OEM hydraulic brakes and a low-end Shimano Tourney 7-speed groupset, which are fine choices for city/suburban riders but will leave off-road riders wanting.
Ultimately, how good the Brawn is for you depends on what you want to do with it. Let me explain.
Warranty: 30-day money-back guarantee, 1-year warranty on the bike and battery
Top Speed: 25 mph / 40 kph
eBike Class: Class 3
Range: Estimated 65 miles / 105 km
Bike Weight: 77 lbs / 35 kg (including battery)
Weight capacity: 400 lbs (181 kg)
Motor: 750-watt rear hub
Torque: Estimated 90 nm
PAS: Cadence, 5 settings (adjustable via HeyBike app)
Brakes: RSX hydraulic brakes with 180 mm rotors
Gearing: Shimano Tourney 7-speed
Battery: 48V 18 Ah (UL 2271 recognized)
Wheels & Tires: 26” x 4” wheels and tires (no-name tires)
Other: Rear brake light, hydraulic dropper post, front headlight, water bottle holder
Unboxing & Assembling the HeyBike Brawn
Overseas direct-to-consumer bike-in-a-box brands have gotten pretty good at packaging their bikes for safe shipping and easy assembly. The Brawn arrived tightly packaged and undamaged, with everything needed for assembly included in the box.
Following the instruction manual, the Brawn took about 30 minutes to assemble. The Brawn comes 90% assembled out of the box, with owners required to wrap up some of the small odds and ends:
Use the key to remove the integrated battery and charge it
Attach the front wheel via the thru-hub axle.
Attach the handlebars and front headlight
Attach the pedals
Inflate the tires to ~20 psi or so
Check and adjust the brakes
Tighten all the screws/nuts throughout the bike
Set the dropper seat height
Configure the bike to your preferences via the HeyBike app
If it’s your first time building a bike-in-a-box, budget about an hour to unbox and assemble the Brawn. Check the fittings, nuts, and contact points; ensure the headset and stem are well positioned and tightened down, and don’t forget to double and triple-check the brakes!
Assembly How-To Video
Let’s Start With the HeyBike Brawn’s Strengths
Good Value, With a Big Battery
HeyBike has bundled a lot of value into the Brawn. Perhaps most important is the large 18 Ah (864 wh) battery, which affords the Brawn an excellent 105 km / 65 mile claimed maximum range. In my experience, the Brawn will give you around 85% of that if you keep it at PAS 1 or 2 and pedal along while you ride. You can ride the Brawn all day and still have some power to spare when you get home!
The battery is housed inside a thick and heavily branded downtube, which helps give the motorcycle-style forks and headlight some visual oomph. The Brawn looks pretty good overall, with the accented downtube and big tires acting as a consistent crowd-pleaser.
One area of mixed reception is the headlight, which feels on the cheap side. It looks okay when mounted, and certainly is bright enough for night riding, but I don’t think it adds much to the bike’s look. Removing the garish grill would go a long way in improving its aesthetic contribution. However, style is subjective, and it’s effective at doing its job.
There’s Lots of Power: This 750-Watt Motor Pulls
It’s fortuitous that the Brawn has the muscle to match its namesake. The motor on this ebike is indeed brawny. Twist the throttle, and you are rewarded with immediate torque that briskly accelerates the bike. I was so impressed with the motor that I tried it alongside a few other fully-charged ebikes to see how it compared:
2023 Himiway Cobra Pro – With a mid-drive Bafang M620, the Cobra Pro destroyed the Brawn… as it does basically every other “lesser” motor. This isn’t a fair comparison, but it was fun all the same.
2023 Himiway Zebra – The Zebra has a 750-watt hub motor, so this was an apples-to-apples comparison. The Brawn leaves the Zebra in its dust, with tangibly better throttle response.
2023 T4B Victory – The Brawn accelerated much faster than the Victory, also sporting a 500-watt hub motor.
2021 HeyBike Tyson – The Tyson also has a 750-watt motor, but it was no match for the Brawn. The Brawn accelerates almost immediately when you twist the throttle, whereas the Tyson has a second or two of a lull before the motor engages.
Thanks to the power on tap, the Brawn is very fun to scoot around on. A big part of the fun factor is how the motor is tuned: precisely, that the motor responds the instant you manipulate the throttle, whereas most hub bikes have a lull/waiting period that ranges from one to several seconds.
The Ride is Comfortable Thanks to the Suspension & 4” Fat Tires
At 6’2”, I find the riding position reasonably comfortable. The mixture of comfort and power makes the Brawn a nice bike to cruise around on, and its big tires mean that you can take it a lot of places.
The Brawn sports adjustable coil front suspension and 4” thick tires that ride soft. Set to 15 psi, the ride is positively plush. Inflate the tires to 20 or 25 psi and the ride is more firm but still comfortable.
You can adjust the preload and rebound on the front fork, allowing you to dial in the feeling right for your ride.
One thing to keep in mind due to the dual-crown design is that these forks are heavier than others you’ll see on bikes at this price point, giving the Brawn a tangible front-wheel weight bias that is noticeable when declining hills.
Keeping the forks on the stiffer side made for a more predictable ride, with negligible downsides for ride quality.
The HeyBike App Gives You Quick Control of the Brawn’s Functions & Features
The app is both a good and a bad thing. I like how intuitive it is to use, and compared to manipulating an ebike display via a control pad, the app is lightyears ahead of most ebikes.
The HeyBike app allows you to:
Change display units
Track where the bike goes
Adjust pedal assist settings (PAS speeds can be customized)
Lock/unlock the throttle to the current PAS speed limit
Turn the bike on/off
And a bunch more…
On the whole, the app is easy to use and pretty straightforward. A few minutes is all it takes to change the behavior and performance of the bike meaningfully.
The HeyBike Brawn’s Downsides
The design and component choices make for some natural downsides. The Brawn feels built well and safe to ride. Still, it is also confusing because it pairs a hydraulic dropper seat with forks that restrict maneuverability, all while weighing 77 lbs and sporting narrow handlebars – not exactly an ideal configuration for downhill riding.
But none of the Brawn’s downsides are apparent unless you’re riding it hard in places where precise control is needed, such as on downhill trails, technical declines, or tight singletracks.
The Heavy Motorcycle Style Forks Don’t Make Sense On a Bike With a Dropper Post
You put dropper seats on bikes when you want to maneuver the bike better and control your center of gravity, such as when dropping down a steep slope or navigating bumpy downhill routes. Unfortunately, the Brawn isn’t very good at riding on the terrain where a dropper post really comes in handy, making its inclusion a bit of a head-scratcher.
The Brawn is perfectly capable of navigating novice trails, where its fat tires and beefy motor can flex their muscles a bit. But the Brawn’s riding performance falls apart when the trail gets tight and complicated.
The dual-crown configuration extends higher up on the fork than a more traditional fork style, making it easy to hit the frame with the bars when turning. To prevent this, HeyBike has fit the Brawn with rubber stops that touch the frame at turning radius extremes (instead of metal on metal), defining the turning limitations of the bike.
This keeps the frame looking good, but also prevents you from turning the bars really deep. As a result, the Brawn feels clunky during off-road riding and low-speed maneuvering.
It’s Heavy… Really Heavy
Heavy ebikes aren’t uncommon, especially when those bikes have fat tires and big batteries (the bigger the battery capacity, the heavier the battery, after all).
The HeyBike Brawn weighs 77 lbs, which is about 20 lbs more than most ebikes and 30 lbs more than the typical pedal bike. The Brawn is one of the heavier ebikes on the market.
You don’t notice this much when riding the Brawn on smooth terrain. Once you get going, the Brawn is easy enough to manipulate, turn, and stop.
However, its heft becomes very apparent when moving the bike around in the garage. I have to three-point turn the Brawn in my standard-size double-car garage because I can’t turn the front wheel enough to back out in a single go. In situations like this, the annoyingly restrictive handlebars and the Brawn’s weight combine to make the bike a little unwieldy.
HeyBike’s App Still Has a Few Bugs to Work Out
Unfortunately, I encountered a few bugs with the app related to the transfer of settings from the app to the bike. Most of the time, restarting the app, reconnecting with the bike, and reapplying the settings did the trick.
One feature I was stoked to see was the PAS speed limit throttle lock. This allows you to tie the throttle to the PAS speed limit, which is adjustable. For example, if you have PAS 1 set to 10 mph / 16 kph, you can set the throttle to be locked to the speed limit (10 mph) or unlocked with no speed limit at all.
The bug is tied to this function. When the throttle speed limiter is disabled, the Brawn’s pedal assist always accelerates to max speed on every pedal assist setting, regardless of what the PAS level’s speed limit is set to in the app. No matter how softly I pedaled or what level of pedal assist I was in, the Brawn accelerated at full speed as long as the throttle speed limiter was disabled.
Re-enabling the throttle’s speed limiter also re-enabled the pedal assist level settings I had created. Updating the app and bike did not fix the bug.
The Brawn is perfectly functional without this feature; it just means that your throttle power is always tied to the power you set the PAS to, which is annoying but not deal-breaking. This situation does show the downsides of having important bike functions tied to an app, especially when you consider the amount of development and upkeep required to support the various smartphones on the market today. It remains to be seen how well-supported the apps/bikes will be in the long term.
Build Quality & Components
The Brawn is a slick package from a build quality perspective, with wiring carefully thought through and hidden where possible. The Brawn is a mix of non-name/generic components, such as the RSX hydraulic brakes, forks, and tires, and brand-name components like the Shimano Tourney 7-speed groupset.
Handlebars & Display
The handlebars are narrower than what you’d expect to see on a hardtail mountain bike, which is a style choice to help the Brawn inspire motorcycle vibes. I found the narrower riding position comfortable, but it has a noticeable difference in control.
The display is a monochrome LCD unit, which is rudimentary compared to many ebikes at this price point. However, the display is also easy to see and use. Since you use the app for all the fancy functions, the fairly basic display isn’t much of a downside.
On the left side of the bars you have the display input pad, light switch, an (obnoxious) electric horn, and the dropper seat lever. On the right bars are the gear shifter, throttle, and “auto” button that enables the auto-sensing lights.
Wheels & Tires
HeyBike is using tires from Chao Yang, a Chinese OEM brand. These aren’t the best tires on the market, but they fit the price point and they are good enough for most people.
Inflate them to 15 psi for off-road riding, such as on beaches, rocky terrain, or bumpy grassland. Try 20 – 25 psi for paved or gravel trails or other smooth surfaces.
The 26”x4” sizing will allow the Brawn to mount on any fat-tire-specific bike rack, such as the Yakima On-Ramp 2 I use.
The RSX two-piston brake calipers are clamping down on 180 mm front and rear rotors. This setup brings the Brawn to a stop relatively quickly, with good feel through the levers and not much performance degradation after repeated brake stomps on flat terrain.
The brakes rubbed a fair bit immediately after assembly, but a trip to my local bike mechanic and a few dozen heavy stints on the brakes got them feeling great.
These brakes emulate a Shimano design, and while time will tell to see how reliable they are, their initial performance is pretty good.
However, the Brawn is heavy, and downhill or aggressive riding will get the brake rotors hot quickly. Be mindful of your brakes when riding, especially if taking the Brawn downhill.
HeyBike is using a Shimano Tourney 7-speed groupset on the brawn, and it is geared better for pathways than for trails or hill climbing. This groupset is a fine entry-level setup, but it’s down on gears if you want to take it off-road, and the Brawn will rely heavily on the motor for hills as the gearing limits how much pedal power you can provide.
The Tourney shifting lever on the right bars is not my favorite design, as I don’t particularly appreciate having to stretch my fingers so far to get into higher gears. Aside from that preference, there’s little here to complain about: the bike shifts quickly, and a gear display is always welcome.
Conclusion: The HeyBike Brawn is a Powerful Long-Range Cruiser With an Interesting Seat
As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about the Brawn. On the one hand, I like its big integrated battery, powerful motor, and, for the most part, the ease of use and customization offered by the HeyBike app.
On the other hand, the mix of off-road features with a bike designed for on-road and pathway riding is confusing. The Brawn’s weight and restricted maneuverability will prevent downhill and technical trail riders from taking the Brawn for those types of rides, making these off-road features superfluous.
Most of my criticisms stem from the fact that the designers of the Brawn focused on designing a cool-looking bike with a few neat features vs. focusing on a cohesive and complementary design.
If you don’t plan on taking the Brawn on some serious off-road rides, you’ll find a lot about the Brawn to like. Its long range is among the highest in its class and price point, with a powerful motor paired with excellent throttle tuning. The Brawn will easily tear up pavement, hills, and urban/suburban obstacles. Plus, its huge weight capacity means that it’s accessible for just about everyone of all shapes and sizes.
The Brawn is a confusing bike, but not a bad one. Whether it’s right for you depends on where you intend to take it and how you want to ride it.
HeyBike Brawn Review
The Brawn is a confusing ebike. On one hand, it has plenty of power and a good motorcycle-inspired look. On the other hand, it’s heavy and ill-suited for off-road and technical trail riding, making the inclusion of a hydraulic dropper post a little confusing. It offers a solid “Jack of All Trades” value proposition, and it's priced affordably.
Design & Style
Value for Money
Huge 18 Ah battery and 100 km / 65 mile range
Good stopping power from the hydraulic brakes
400 lb weight capacity means almost anyone can ride it
Very powerful 750-watt motor is ACTUALLY very powerful
The required HeyBike app makes it easy to customize the Brawn
77 lb curb weight + a dropper post… who’s downhilling this bike?
Motorcycle-style forks add weight and reduce turning ability