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This article was published on April 27, 2021


Review: The Priority Current ebike is my new benchmark for smoothness and power

A buttery-smooth ride that easily hits 28mph at a sensible price

Review: The Priority Current ebike is my new benchmark for smoothness and power
Napier Lopez
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Napier Lopez

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Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

The more I test ebikes, the more I realize how much it matters to me that the ride a normal bike. Not because I’m an avid cyclist — I hadn’t ridden a normal bike in years before I started testing ebikes — but because a smooth, responsive ride is just more engaging.

Unfortunately, some of my favorite bikes in this regard also tend to be weaker on power delivery. I usually don’t mind a motor with less power, but sometimes I do miss the extra oomph.

The Priority Current is one of the few ebikes that can deliver on both fronts. Priority has built up a reputation for minimizing maintenance on its ‘acoustic’ bikes, and the Current follows that trend with a series of sensible design choices. It’s one of the most well-rounded, natural-feeling ebikes I’ve tested that also has oodles of power, and it goes a long way to justify its $3,299 price tag.

Yes, that’s a bit on the pricier side, but more than reasonable against comparably spec’d 28mph ebikes — although the price is a bit harder to swallow when I remember the bike launched at $2,699. Still, here’s what you’re getting for that price:

  • A 500-watt mid-drive motor rated at a massive 140 NM of torque
  • Torque-sensing pedal assist (5 levels)
  • 28mph max speed (Class 3) though it ships limited to 20mph
  • Gates carbon belt drive
  • Removable 500 Wh battery rated for 30-60 miles of range
  • Hydraulic disk brakes
  • E-bike-specific Shimano Nexus 5 internal gear hub
  • An adjustable stem
  • A large LCD display with USB port for charging devices
  • Nice fenders
  • integrated bright headlight and tail lights
  • A mid-step frame in three sizes
  • Cushy 650B tires
  • 54 Lb weight

Those are solid specs, and though I’m sure there’ll be comments on how *insert ebike here* has more watts and a bigger battery, it’s simply rare to find a Gates belt drive with a 28mph mid-drive motor under $3,500. In any case, reviewing so many ebikes has made it clear basic specs rarely tell the full story. You can’t know how a motor’s power curve is tuned from a spec sheet for example, nor how effective a bike’s pedal assist sensor is. Meanwhile a bike’s geometry, gearing, and component choices all factor into the ride in often unpredictable ways.

Taking all this into account, there’s one word that comes to mind above all when riding the Priority Current:

Smooth. Oh so smooth.

The Current is ebike equivalent of silk pajamas — if those pajamas gave you Hulk legs. Unlike the majority of ebikes I’ve tested, there is virtually no jerkiness to the ride and almost no delay between moving the pedal and the assist kicking in. Whether you’re in assist level one or five, the torque sensor, mid-drive, and acceleration curve make for a super-natural ride. You know the motor is putting in the work because you can fly up inclines while the motor makes a light hum, but it is among the subtlest pedal assist systems I’ve ridden, at least among those with this much torque.

I love it. I had some initial reservations about the ride quality of the motor, which isn’t one from one of the ‘fancy’ mid-drive companies like Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha, or Brose (it is Priority branded and tuned by the company, but appears to be some variant of the Wuxi Truckrun motor). Any worries disappeared after riding it; the Current’s motor is as smooth as any that I have tested — especially for one which puts out so much torque and reaches 28 mph. Bikes from the ‘big 4’ can be very fast and powerful too, but you’ll usually have to pay more once you get into 28 mph class.

Granted, this kind of tuning isn’t for everyone. Some people like having an ebike that launches like a rocket, and this probably isn’t the best bike if you don’t want to actively use the gears. If you’re starting on a hill from a dead stop, for example, the bike won’t just catapult you to the top in gear 5. Priority actually provides an alternative firmware that provides a bit more torque from a stop for those who live in hillier regions — and I do prefer it to the default tuning slightly — but even then, the acceleration curve is smoother than most.

Priority’s motor may not be from a big-name brand, but it performs right along with the best of them.

At first, this approach made me somewhat question the claimed 140 NM of torque — a huge figure that’s hard to truly verify — but it’s clear the bike’s motor is simply tuned differently from most ebikes. Rather than putting all the power into initial acceleration, I really felt the motor’s power once I got up to speed — past 10 mph or so. As a heavier rider, most 28mph ebikes struggle to actually allow me to reach that speed without me running out of breath, while the Current manages to get me there at a comfortable effort level. The Current made cruising alongside traffic a cinch, even when stuffing a trailer-full of groceries.

The choices made for the mechanical components contribute to the smooth vibe too. Chief among these is the Gates Carbon Drive — a super strong belt reinforced with carbon fiber that replaces the usual metal chain. Its primary claim to fame is increased durability over a chain, able to survive thousands of miles without a hitch, but it also means no grease on your pants and an extremely quiet and smooth ride. I never realized how much I appreciated a quiet drivetrain until I took the Current on some trips outside the city — being at one with nature and all that.

Once you ride on the Gates carbon drive, it’s hard to go back to a chain.

I also like the use of internal gears (a necessity on the Gates system anyway), which add to the maintenance-free and quiet experience. While the Shimano Nexus 5 isn’t quite as fancy as the stepless Enviolo hub the bike was originally available with, the gear range covers almost every situation you’ll need — especially with a motor in tow.

I’m a big fan of the choice 650B tires; these are a similar overall diameter to normal (700c) road bike tires, but go on smaller wheels, meaning you get a lot more air volume without quite being a ‘fat’ tire. It allows you to run the tires at lower pressures, which in my experience smooth out the road more than the cheap suspension forks you’ll find on most entry-level ebikes while minimizing unnecessary weight.

The bike delivers on the range front too. Priority claims you’ll get 30-60 miles, and in my experience, that seems realistic. My review unit actually came with a faulty charger that could only charge the bike to about 80%. Nonetheless, was able to ride the bike 35 miles mostly on assist level 2 with another 20% to spare. My normal exercise route is about 17 miles long and since getting a fully functional charger, I’ve been able to make that trip without going below 50% battery.

Assuming you’re a lighter rider, reaching over 50 miles on the lower assist levels seems totally doable, although of course riding on the highest assist levels or in hillier places than NYC will cut range significantly.

It’s also worth noting the bike is very much rideable without assistance, as I was happy to see during my more exercise-oriented rides. The mid-drive motor has no noticeable drag, and on one flat stretch of road, I was comfortably pedaling along at 18-ish mph without realizing I’d accidentally turned off the bike’s assistance (which again goes to show how smooth the bike’s assistance is as well). And because I don’t know where else to put this in the review, the hydraulic disk brakes work provide reassuring stopping ability too.

I personally prefer a more minimal display, but the Current’s screen is large and easily legible in daylight.

Bike aesthetics are subjective, but I dig the Current’s looks. The downtube is too thick to be what I’d truly consider a ‘stealth’ ebike, but the integrated battery means it doesn’t scream ebike either. The welds are smooth, the gloss finish is gorgeous, and unlike so many ebikes with generic frames, the Current looks quite different from other bikes on the market. The Current feels every bit like a premium ebike from some of the bigger name companies.

This specific bike aside, I also feel the need to highlight the fact the Priority seems to treat its customers right. As a reviewer who inevitably gets some special treatment, it can be hard to gauge what the after-sales experience is like for the typical buyer, especially for companies like Priority that mainly deals in online sales (they do have a physical location in Manhattan, where I picked up my review unit).

To help deal with my rose-colored reviewer lenses, I always join forums and Facebook groups for each brand’s customers to follow the discussion around the company’s bikes. I can’t guarantee your experience will be positive, but let’s just say Priority fares far better than many of the internet direct companies I’ve researched. The Current is also backed by a 5-year warranty on the frame and 2-year warranty on all components, which again, is better than what you’re usually getting with the cheaper direct sales companies. Indeed, the bike feels like it’s really built to last.

All this being said, I do have a few criticisms.

The WTB Horizon tires are super-comfortable, but given Priority’s emphasis on minimizing maintenance, I’d have liked to see something with a more proven puncture protection layer. Schwalbe’s Big Ben Plus comes to mind, and WTB even sells a version of the Horizon with an additional anti-puncture layer.

Granted, I didn’t get a puncture in the few hundred miles I rode the bike before this review, and Priority says it’s had success sourcing these tires with minimal punctures, but I’d personally prefer the added peace of mind.

Being a little more nitpicky:

  • Priority sells a rear rack for $35, but it’s pretty rare to not have one included on a city-oriented ebike.
  • I wish the bike frame had mounts for a front basket or rack. Priority sells these too, but front cargo is much more stable when supported by the frame rather than your handlebars or fork, which are constantly turning.
  • I’m picky about my bike lights, and the one on the Current is brighter than most, but I’d prefer something with a more directional beam pattern that cuts off at the top so as to not blind oncoming cyclists (I’ve been spoiled by using STVZO lights).
  • I don’t care about having a throttle, but it’s worth noting this bike does not have one.
  • Some kind of a bell would’ve been nice.

But these criticisms do little to mar the experience of riding the Current. It is simply a fantastic execution of an ebike, one that I’m comfortable recommending for both the impeccable performance and the customer-friendly company behind it.

It’s not an ebike for those who want to coast along with a throttle or who prefer beastly acceleration to a natural ride feel. But for those who’ve been looking for an ebike that balances a buttery-smooth pedaling experience with ample power, the Priority Current may just be my new benchmark.

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