When I first saw the Wing Freedom X, I wondered if it was going to be a cheaper take on the Dutch VanMoof S3. I was walking to meet a friend and happened to pass by Wing’s showroom, and I did a backward-walking double-take to peer in the window. Both electric bikes look very similar, and by that I mean they have tall, straight top tubes that overhang their tires for mounting a headlight and taillight. Both also have swept-back handlebars.
But appearances are really only skin deep. The Freedom X is a very different bike, at a price that’s more palatable for most people.
It’s brisk. That’s thanks to the Bafang rear hub motor that measures 350-watt continuous output and 550-watt peak output.
You get five levels of pedal assist, but I usually kept it on level two, the second weakest. With the seven-speed mechanical gearing, I rarely needed more power. A few rotations of the pedals on level two assist, even from a standstill, shot me to 17 mph. It didn’t take much more effort to top out at 20 mph, the ebike’s official top speed.
Through the display—there’s no companion smartphone app—you can unlock the bike to reach 24 mph. It’s one of the Freedom’s coolest features, but it does technically make it illegal for use on most multi-use paths and trails. I’d just stick to the default if you’re in a city. If you buy the optional throttle for $80 extra, the Freedom X goes from a Class 1 ebike to a Class 2 because the throttle works even if you’re not pedaling.
Honestly, I didn’t like the throttle. It’s scalable, meaning that rather than being an on/off button it’s a lever that lets you select power along a continuum. Even when pinning it to its maximum, there was a lengthy delay before the bike would move. It was frustrating at stoplights, so I rarely used the throttle at all. It also didn’t add much oomph to the bike when it was moving. Flinging it to 100 percent throttle didn’t do anything the pedal assist wasn’t already doing, so it’s not like a boost button that’ll pour on extra power. Not all throttle are boost buttons, but it’s worth pointing out.
Stopping is more of an issue. The cable-actuated disc brakes feel weak, even on a relatively light 39-pound bike (that’s lightweight for an ebike). New York City puts the panic in panic-braking, and I often deal with my fair share of hard stops thanks to impatient drivers, oblivious pedestrians and, once, a man playing cards in the bike lane.
The Freedom X’s brakes always stopped me before certain doom, but I often felt that I was using every last bit of braking power to come to a halt in those situations. Hydraulic brakes offer better stopping power, though they’re not common at this price. Cable brakes aren’t necessarily bad, but I’d have liked to see stronger ones here.
They also squeal like two pigs with a bellyache. I chalked it up to my particular bike until I read review after review of Freedom owners reporting the same, so it seems like Wing’s choice of brake pad might be to blame. You may have to swap out the stock brake pads for your sanity. It doesn’t cost much and it’s not hard, and it’s not a reason to avoid the Freedom X.
The X Factor
I tested the Freedom X ($1,449), but there’s another very similar model Wing offers called the Freedom 2 ($1,299). The X’s upgrades are a torque sensor for the pedals instead of a cadence sensor and a display nicely integrated into the top tube, which shows information such as speed and battery level.
Cadence sensors only register whether you’re pedaling or not, and they’ll only tell the motor to give you no assistance or a set amount of assistance. Torque sensors, which are unusual in ebikes under $2,000, measure how hard you’re pedaling and respond with similar amounts of power. Pedal lightly and you’ll get a light boost from the electric motor. Pedal like a maniac and it’ll lend you more power.
Torque sensors tend to be less obvious when the electric motor adds power. It’s supposed to feel more seamless, as if you’re still pedaling the bike but have subtly gotten stronger legs. But the Freedom X’s torque sensor didn’t feel much different from a cadence sensor. It still took me half a rotation of the pedals to get any assistance from the motor at a standstill. And at higher speeds, sometimes I’d be gently free-spinning the pedals forward while the electric motor whirred away and provided a disproportionately high amount of boost … just like a cadence sensor.
The high top tube on both ebikes may be an impediment to shorter riders. I’m 5 feet 10 inches and had no issues mounting the Freedom X, but if you’re 5 feet 7 or less, it’ll be a stretch to swing a leg over the 30.7-inch-high bar. There’s a more compact Freedom S 2 with a lower top tube for $1,499, but I haven’t tested it.
There are three battery options for the Freedom X. The standard is an 8.8ah battery that promises up to 35 miles. For another $200, you can spec a 10.4ah battery for up to 45 miles of range, and for $350 over the base price you get a 14ah battery for up to 60 miles of range. The battery integrates nicely into the frame, and you can remove it to charge it.
When the battery is mounted on the bike, you use a key to lock it away from battery thieves. Along with the physical key, there’s a key fob-operated alarm that comes standard. It chirps loudly if jostled, and the sensitivity is just right. Not too touchy, but nobody is going to be able to mess with the bike and not set it off.
It’s the Little Things
I compared the Freedom X to the VanMoof S3 earlier because they look alike, but they ride very differently. The Freedom, with its battery mounted low, is more agile than the top-heavy VanMoof and it pedals easier because of its skinnier tires. It’s not a corner carver, but it’s not cumbersome either. The swept-back handlebars are a hybrid between a banana-shaped beachcomber style and a flat handlebar.
For a city bike, I prefer the agility of a flat-bar bike, but the Freedom’s handlebars feel a wee bit closer to flat-bar than beachcomber when maneuvering between potholes and lamp posts. I also like the well-cushioned seat. Sure, it’s not a Brooks B17, but it was more comfortable than the saddles on most other ebikes. The white contrast stitching makes it look sharp.
The ergonomic grips are also nicer than what I was expecting. Leaning over and putting your upper body weight on perfectly round grips can lead to painful aggravation of the ulnar nerves over time, but the Freedom alleviates that with its flattened-out grips that offer a wider surface area.
There’s also the option for a set of pre-installed, thick plastic fenders. I’d have liked to see more tire coverage, especially on the rear fender. Fenders work best when they’re close to the ground to block road spray and pebbles. I won’t complain that I didn’t have to ride in any rain during my time with the Freedom, but the fenders on this tester did a decent job of keeping dirt and pebbles away. For $40 they’re a good deal if you don’t feel like messing with installing aftermarket fenders.
It’s unfortunate that the included warranty is only for 90 days. Other ebikes in this range like the Propella offer a standard year, and Aventon offers five(!). You can add more to your warranty, but it’s costly. One year is $49, two years is $149, and three years will set you back $259.
I think the Freedom 2 is better value over the X. Just spec it with the small or mid-level battery and skip the throttle. It’s basically the same bike, other than the different pedal sensors and displays. It sucks to lose the X’s integrated display screen—the Freedom 2 has an off-the-shelf display unit tacked onto the handlebars—but it’s not worth the $150 premium when the X’s torque sensor is the only other perk. Regardless of which model you go with, you’re getting a lot for your money.