The Charge XC is a well-rounded ebike that folds flat for storage

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there’s no reason why bikes, even full-sized ones, need to take up so much space. Bikes are mostly super-thin devices — except for those pesky handlebars.

Charge, a respected bike company that ironically only began selling electric bikes a few months ago, seems to feel the same way. The company’s svelte lineup of three quite-different ebikes maintains one crucial feature: the handlebars and pedals fold, allowing the bikes to occupy a footprint just a few inches wide.

To illustrate, here’s how much space the bike takes up normally:

And here is in ‘folded’ mode:

I have no idea why more bike companies don’t do this, but it’s just one of the ways Charge tries to tackle its goals of making cycling more accessible and getting more people riding.

I’ve been able to test drive the Charge XC, the company’s most expensive (but still reasonably priced) model, over the past couple of months. With knobby tires and relatively beefy suspension, the bike is built to handle “gravel roads and dusty trails all day long.”

Instead, I opted to review the XC in normal city streets because, at $2,299, it’s actually one of the cheapest bikes you can buy with a high-end mid-drive motor and a decently large battery — in this case, a Shimano Steps E5000 with a 504 Wh of lithium juice. The Shimano Steps in particular system is known to provide some of the most efficient power delivery on ebikes, and getting a motor from any of the big four — Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha, and Brose — often means spending upwards of $3,000, especially if you want a decent set of accessories and components.

And yet a decent set of accessories and components is what you get. Bright lights, full fenders, a beefy rear rack, hydraulic disk brakes, and Goodyear tires with puncture protection are included. The 100mm Suntour coil suspension is nothing fancy, but it has a fair bit more travel than typical suspension forks on ebikes. Perhaps more importantly, it offers both preload adjustment and lockout options to allow you to tweak comfort to your preference.

Speaking of comfortable, the XC’s stock saddle is amazing. Bike seats can be much like shoes, but this one’s the first I haven’t swapped for my trusty Brooks Cambium. And in another thoughtful touch, the company even throws in some pressure indicator caps for your tires to let you know when you need to top up. It’s a small freebie that can add a lot of peace of mind for first-time ebike buyers.

Of course, the main selling point is those folding handlebars again. The two-step process is intuitive while feeling completely sturdy; I never felt like my ride quality suffered for the folding handlebars. The folding pedals are the plasticky kind you might find on folding bikes, but they get the job done while cutting down the size even more. The bike isn’t the lightest around at 55 lb, but I’ve seen similarly equipped bikes cross 65lbs.