E-bike Reviews

Kupper Unicorn Electric Bike Review: A Smart eBike?

smart and versatile, with a more techy approach to operation

The Bike

This is the Kupper Unicorn. If you haven’t heard of these guys, it’s because they’re new to the Australian market, but their parent company Tsinova, is a Chinese brand and have been around for few years now. They’re most notably known for their ION or Alias electric bikes. Now the Unicorn is Tsinova’s entry level bike aimed people who want a sporty hybrid eBike for commuting or for some casual weekend rides.

When you get your first glimpse of the bike, you’ll notice that there’s no display unit. The Unicorn is one of the few eBikes on the market that is entirely controlled via an App. There are eBikes out there that use mobile applications; however few electric bikes offer complete control and typically only provide data tracking such distance and speed. So with this Kupper eBike, when you want to change pedal assistance, you use the app. If you want to see what speed you’re travelling at, you will see it on the app. Even for GPS directions, you use the app. The Kupper application controls everything and provides you other functions as well. You can say goodbye to the traditional LCD meter and controller because your smart phone pretty much does it all.

I can see this being a good or bad thing for some riders. On one side of the argument, you’ll have less components on the handlebars and your eBike is more of a “Smart” eBike which feels more up to date like these Smart Watches and Smart TV’s that we own and use. On the other hand, it means that you’ll need a handlebar mount, changing PAS can be a little bit more difficult, you’ll drain your phone battery even quicker, and if you crash, your phone is on the line. However, there are some solutions. For starters, Kupper provide handlebar mounts to their customers, I just didn’t receive one as this specific Unicorn I got was more of a sample/pre-retail version. With the battery issue, you can charge your phone directly from the eBike while riding. This does add more risks as you’ve got more cables around your bike, but it’s a solution.

I’m a tech savy guy, so having an integrated system that runs all from my smartphone is amazing. Using it was simple and you can get it up and running fairly easily. It requires a short set up which starts off with downloading the app, where you then scan your QR code that’s specific to the bike. This is supplied by the tag on the bike when you unbox it. That’ll connect your bike to your phone via blueooth and then you’re ready to start riding. Everytime you want to ride, you just open the app, press connect, and then you’re ready to go.

Your smartphone will act as the display and controller. What’s really cool is that the whole screen acts as a controller. Using swiping gestures, you can adjust the pedal assistance, which there are 3 of. There are two levels denoted by 1 and 2, then a sport mode. This obviously is for maximum performance which I pretty much used for my whole testing. But the reason why I never changed was because my phone wouldn’t be accessible while I rode. I would usually turn the bike on and engage sport mode, and chuck my iPhone into my backpack because I didn’t have a handlebar mount. So I can’t really comment on how easy or simple it was using the app while riding. I assume it would be fairly start forward because the whole screen acts as your controller, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to get a swipe to register.

Everytime you start a ride, it’ll create a session. Much like Strava, it will record distance travelled and time and display it at the end. It’ll prompt you if you want to save or trash the session. One last thing that the app offers which I haven’t really seen before is the navigation system. So much like COBI’s app, the application for the Unicorn offers navigation. Sort of. Now I didn’t get to play around with it too much since I didn’t have a handle bar mount, but basically it searches your destination within the Kupper App and then opens the Apple Maps for directions. So it’s not entirely an in built feature, but it does make that connection.

Let’s talk about the design of the bike now. It follows the conventional mountain bike design, nothing too flashy. Just a simple sporty hybrid bike with the typical geometry. The alloy frame comes only in one size of 17 inches with only one colour option. I have seen images of a black and green version, but I don’t think Australia is getting that. What we get is the matte black finish with the blue-ish purple ascents all over. On the frame, and even on the spokes, specifically two of them. This bike is definitely a Unicorn. All that’s missing is some rainbow tassels. The battery also comes with stickers if you want even more colour, but I left those aside as I like more of a stealthy battery design.

The specs for the battery are a 36V output with Panasonic cells combined for a 8.8Ah capacity. 36V is fairly standard for street legal 250W system, but the 8.8Ah capacity is a little on the smaller side. The typical battery capacity for eBikes is around 10 to 12Ah. Obviously the higher end bikes are capable of more and folding eBikes are usually less, but the generally speaking, bikes are equipped with 10-12Ah these days. I’m guessing there will be worries that the range will be affected, but from the spec sheet on the website, it states a minimum range of 80km with a maximum of 120km. This is quite outstanding as you’d only expect a minimum range around 50km with that battery size. Kupper actually did tell me the range  they got from their real world tests which was more like 60km and 80km minimum and maximum respectively. I couldn’t get around to doing a complete range test. I’m trying to work this out where I might do range tests for future reviews. We’ll see how it goes.

But even a 60km claimed range is quite impressive. And this is all thanks to the Tsinova in-house team, who have developed the VeloUp system which uses a torque sensor instead of a speed sensor. For those who don’t know, torque sensor equipped eBikes provide motor assistance based on the torque inputted from the rider turning the cranks. Basically, the more torque you put into each pedal stride, the more assistance you’ll receive from the motor – to the wattage limit. This is how ebikes using systems like Shimano STEPS or Bosch work. The alternative is a speed sensor which provides you a set amount of motor assistance based on the PAS level you select on your display unit. Some people prefer speed sensor, some prefer torque sensors. Basically, with this specific set up, the Unicorn feels more like a regular push bike with someone behind pushing you. It’ll just make it that bit easier while climbing or cruising. It’ll only put in what you put in, hence it’s more conservative with the battery.

What’s interesting is that the motor supplied is from Aikema, a Chinese company that specializes in electric motors. It does have a VeloUp sticker, but I think the motor itself was designed and built by Aikema. I have seen this motor on other eBikes before. I would’ve thought they would opt for a VeloUp motor, but I guess Aikema could be the supplier for VeloUps motor. Anyway, this hub motor sits on the rear wheel. It’s a 250W motor, meaning it’s street legal and capable of 40Nm of torque which is the typical figure for a hub drive of that power. So it’s not a torque beast, but it’s like any other street legal eBike. So it’ll help you up most hills.

As you may have noticed, the Unicorn is equipped with accessories and extras. These include the bar ends which helped with climbing. I actually used them a fair bit. They are add-ons for the flat bar, so if you’re not a fan you can remove them pretty easily. You’ll find a bell and mud guards as well which I evidently struggled fitting. I never got these on. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the correct fittings because the bolt supplied was too long to hold the bracket into the fork’s arch. The manual also didn’t illustrate how to install them which didn’t help. I mean it’s a fairly simple and straight forward task, but a list of the supplied fittings would’ve helped, so I know I wasn’t missing any nuts or bolts, or if they were incorrectly sized. I didn’t really mind anyway, at least I had the rear guards on. But for those really care about mud guards, if you don’t get supplied the correct fitting, you can always go down to Bunnings to grab a bolt to fit.

The Ride

I’ve been testing the Kupper Unicorn for a couple weeks now and I think one word to describe it is versatile. But is it too versatile? So the bike rides great, but I feel a little conflicted when I ride it. So with anything that is versatile or a hybrid there are compromises. With this bike, there a few. When I ride using the bar ends and on the road, I feel like the bike feels too sluggish. Locking out the forks does help, but I think some more road friendly tyres would help it a lot. I would lean more towards Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Maxxis Overdrives. Just something with less rolling resistance. I think that small change would go a long way. But in saying that, that will affect your off-road experience. This is the same with the chainring size. I can’t find specific details, but I think the chainring size could be larger. I’m guessing they used something like a 42 or 46 teeth chainring. I personally would’ve liked to see a 52 teeth like a Stromer ST2 for that higher top speed. Since my phone was always in my bag while I rode, I could never see what my maximum speed was. But I did feel like I could go a little faster. So that is one thing to note, if you’re an enthusiast commuter looking for speed.

Motor delivery was strong but not exactly the smoothest out there, but not because it’s poor quality components or a bad design. While riding, the bike will feel like it’s not providing power sometimes. This was normal, and happened because of the torque sensor set up. Be mindful of this, as I know some riders prefer that consistent power output. With the Unicorn, like I said, the harder you pedal, the more power you’ll get from the motor. So when there are brief moments you let off the cranks a bit, the motor will reduce its output almost instantly. This is because of the three torque sensor VeloUp system which calculates inputs and outputs in milliseconds.  I definitely prefer something like this on a mountain eBike for off road trails instead. Just be mindful of what you like, and if you can, test ride the electric bike.

One thing I forgot to mention is that this Unicorn comes with regular Shimano hydraulic brakes. They perform well and are a great choice for a budget set up, but they aren’t eBike friendly. This means the motor won’t cut off when the brakes are engaged. I’ve ridden electric bikes without brake sensors before, and normally I would say it’s fine, there are sometimes where this bike jumped. For example, when I’m stopped on the side of a footpath and I accidently crank the pedal, even just slightly, the bike will jump and I’ll be too slow to grab the brakes, or if I did grab them, the bike will still sightly jump. When I’m riding though, the delay between me braking and stop pedalling to the motor cut off is fairly quick. I guess this all a result of the quick VeloUp system. Bottom line though, is to turn your pedal assistance to off when stopped on the road or footpath.

The Conclusion

The Kupper Unicorn currently retails at $1695AUD which is a very well priced ebike. It’s a budget electric bike, but definitely does not feel like one. It’s well integrated with the app, the build quality is great. It’s fitted with what I believe is a better electrical system than other budget eBikes I’ve seen and it’s jam packed with extra accessories. It is very versatile and can cater to every rider, but with some compromises. Do these compromises outweigh the benefits? The answer to that is up to you. I know riders that want a do-it-all bike and this would be perfect for them. I would categorise this bike as more of a casual eBike that can be used for some light commuting or fun weekend rides with the family. If you like this but want more commuter friendly, you can still get this this, but add a rear rack, trekking tyres and lights. And then you would be set to go.

Breaking it down, the Kupper Unicorn is great at; being a versatile bike which include most of the accessories you’ll need for a bike, looking fabulous with that Unicorn blue and purple decals all over, and lastly, it’s comfortable. Although it was a little small, I still felt comfortable on my rides on the road. However it’s weaknesses are; the smaller one frame size with a short seat post, and it’s top speed performance on road.

Check out or buy this bike if you’re tech savy, and want a unique looking eBike with decent build quality for a great price! See full specifications below.

TYRESTaiwan CST Tyres
BATTERYPanasonic Cell 8.8AH
CONTROLLERVeloUP! Smart System
CHARGERVeloUP! Charger
RANGE80KM-120KM (official statistics)60KM-80KM (Actual Measurement)
WEIGHT20KG with Battery
WARRANTY1 YEAR Warranty ON Electric Parts

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