While my experience unboxing and assembling Surface 604’s $1,800 Rook e-bike left a lot to be desired, after the local bike tech performed a few tweaks, I’ll go on record and state that for the type of riding I prefer, this is my favorite electric bike to date. The step-thru frame design makes the Rook easy for shorter or older riders to mount/dismount and the thumb-operated throttle delivers a buttery smooth experience.
While my video review is located a few paragraphs down, I’ll cut to the chase and state that if you’re shopping for a modern, civilized, step-through design e-bike that’s worthy of being called a “daily rider,” I can highly recommend the Surface 604 Rook. But, this buy rating comes with an asterisk. Read on…
Professional Assembly Recommended
If you watched my Rook unboxing video, you’re probably surprised I’m recommending this model. In the video it’s evident this bike was a confusing task for this non-mechanical person to assemble and the out-of-the-box experience was lackluster at best. Much of that was due to the method in which the bike was packaged at the factory in China. When combined with the challenge of shipping an oversized, heavy bike box from the factory to the distributor and then to the consumer, it’s not that difficult to understand the importance of well thought out packaging. Not all e-bike packaging is created equally and I can only hope this is something Surface 604 works with its overseas factory to improve.
This is one of the pitfalls of bypassing a local bike shop and buying direct from a distributor…
Please note, packaging and box-handling issues are not uncommon in the direct-to-consumer e-bike industry. My experience in attempting to assemble the Rook showed that some of the sections of the bike that should have been secured with zip ties and cushioned materials were not performed properly and this error resulted in loose parts floating around the box. This is one of the pitfalls of bypassing a local bike shop and opting to save a few bucks by buying direct from a distributor. In most cases, when you purchase locally, repairs are made prior to delivery and are transparent to the consumer.
On a positive note, the Rook is the most sophisticated model I’ve purchased to date and to be fair, items such as the adjustable handlebar system, hydraulic brakes and 9-speed shifter required tweaking that was above my pay grade.
The moral to the unboxing story is: You can’t judge a Rook by it’s cover.
While I did my best in attempting to put the pieces in the right places, the support materials were basically non-existent and the online video did not address topics such as the proper insertion of items such as the bearings. By the time I completed the assembly process the bike was far from ready to ride. Not only was the handlebar assembly wobbly, the brakes and shifter mechanism required tweaks that were beyond my pay grade. However, after having Dave with Buena Vista Bike Repair do his magic with the Rook and after logging more than 80 miles of seat time, I’m happy to report that I’m a big fan of this bike. The moral to the unboxing story is, you can’t judge a Rook by it’s cover.
A Great Choice For The E-Bike Rookie
I’ll go on record and state that if you’re seeking a step-thru style model that behaves in a civilized manner and one that incorporates attractive, upgraded features, the Rook deserves strong consideration. Due to it’s slanted frame design that balances the weight while cleverly protecting the battery, this e-bike is ideal for both female and male riders and offers easily adjustable riding positions. I’ll add that unlike some step-thru models, this one doesn’t have the visual stigma of being a “girls” bike as the design is truly one for the times. Considering that the majority of e-bike purchases are made by buyers over the age of 50 with riders entering the e-bike world for non-impact exercise, Surface 604, in my opinion, has a winner with the Rook.
The asterisk to my “buy” recommendation is that unless you’re a seasoned bike mechanic, obtaining a professional assembly is a necessity. But that’s true with most electric bikes today and and an area where the direct-to-consumer online e-bike sellers have much room for improvement. Personally I would prefer to support my local bike shop and have my bike setup by in-house professionals. However, my local shops seem to still be focused on enthusiast models and have yet to carry a notable assortment of e-bikes.
Without straying too far off topic, during a recent visit to Santa Cruz, CA I had the opportunity to spend time with Mike Ahern at his Current eBikes shop. This e-bike only specialty boutique carries a wide assortment of e-bikes, offers setup and maintenance services and has an enthusiastic and well informed staff. Unlike online bike sellers, Current eBikes gladly offers test rides with a variety of in-stock models. If there was a shop of this caliber in the Central Florida area, I most likely would avoid the temptation of lower prices online, bypass the online ordering process and ensuing setup and purchase locally.
I’ll add that with most online electric bike companies, it can be hit or miss when it comes to the lead time between ordering and delivery. With Surface 604, this was a hit as the bike was in stock and delivered from Vancouver, BC to Central Florida in seven days. The freight was included with its $1,800 (yeah, they state, $1,799…but I don’t use 99’s in my reviews).
While the video below will tell the rest of the story and provide my opinions of the various features and functions of the Surface 604 Rook e-bike, my list of pros and cons of this model appears below the video.
Because the ergonomics of this bike fit me so well and due to to the easy shifting nine-speed gear setup as well as the bike’s ability to ride so smoothly, I found I was peddling more and using the throttle quite a bit less than on my other e-bikes. Also, because I live in the flatlands of Florida, using the electric motor only to get started from a stop, to achieve an initial higher speed that I would maintain by peddling, or when performing tight maneuvers where just a bit of power assisted in maintaining momentum, I used very little of the battery capacity. I’m accustomed of charging my e-bikes after approximately 12 – 15 miles of riding and I can honestly say that I had at least a 50 mile interval before charging…and the battery was still showing a 2/3 full charge. If you live in a hilly area or if you’re heavy on the thumb-throttle, surely you’re mileage will vary.
Video: The Gadget Guru Reviews The Surface 604 Rook Electric Bike
Pros and Cons
(When I say “cons” it’s my way of saying it could use improvement)
- Step-Thru Design allows for easy mounting/dismounting.
- 17.5″ frame (as tested) was ideal for this shorter rider.
- Adjustable bars and seat height makes it easy to fit a variety of riders.
- Everything’s Included and pre-assembled: Fenders, rear rack, lighting.
- Both front and rear lights are powered by the built-in battery and activated with a single button.
- Includes hydraulic brakes (desirable feature).
- 9-speed shifter.
- Upgraded shift mechanism
- Chain guard is effective and incorporates a large side reflector.
- Paint (on the white model) is top tier and features a pearlescent look.
- Non-torquey, smooth ride.
- 2.1″ wide tires effective for most road surfaces.
- Available in either a 17.5″ or a 19″ frame. The smaller frame is promoted to fit riders as short as 5′ 2″. (Note: I’m 5′ 6″ tall and with the seat lowered and the bars pulled back, it delivered an ergonomic, upright riding position).
- Assembly confusing. If you’re not familiar with bikes, have a professional assemble it for you.
- Packaging arrived damaged and the components were not properly secured.
- Instruction manual not available online.
- Controller wire may require an extension or rerouting.
- Personal Preference: Throttle speed is limited by the pedal assistance level (Addressed in video).
- Personal Preference: For a comfort bike, a wider, cushy seat should have been included.
- Personal Preference: No key is required to start/stop the motor.
- Head Scratcher: Two additional reflectors included, but there’s no place to install them.
- No tools included. At this price, it’s reasonable that basic tools required for assembly should be included.
- NO BELL INCLUDED. Yes, it’s a pet peeve for a street bike.
The Bottom Line
This Bike Is For You If…
…you’re seeking an electric bike that is buttery smooth with a frame design that’s easy to mount/dismount, includes all necessary features including fenders and the desirable hydraulic brakes and offers various riding positions for all sized riders. It’s one of the few electric bikes tested that is comfortable when peddling for exercise or when operating under power. It’s 20 mph max electric speed is more than ample for this type of comfort bike. Depending on your build, you may consider replacing the seat with one that is a bit wider with more cushion.
Don’t Buy This Bike If…
…you’re looking for a hot rod style e-bike that delivers a high level of torque or plan to do a lot of off roading as while its 2.1″ tires are wider than most street bikes, it’s not designed for beach or dirt riding.
Yes, I like the Rook and am looking forward to monitoring advances with Surface 604 models in the future.
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